What I read in 2016

Yeah, I know. What do you care about 2016? We are way past the end of year posts – but well, bare with me. This is hopefully a way for me to start blogging again.

At the very least, I’ve started reading again after a very long hiatus and well, when I read, I also want to write about what I’ve read. Hence The Literary Bunny. I’ve read 6 books so far this year. Actually, I’ve read 6 books during April and May. And I’m loving it. And compared to the 10 books I read all of 2016, 6 books is a lot.

But enough talk about this year. Let’s look back and see what I did get read in 2016.

raising_steam1Terry Pratchett: Raising Steam (Discworld #40). 3 stars.
I love Terry Pratchett, I love Discworld and I love the character Moist von Lipwig. That said, this was not one of my favorite Discworld novels.
After having created both the post service and a proper banking system, Moist now has to deal with transportation – with trains.
Still, even though this is not the best Discworld novel, there are as always plenty of things to enjoy – like these quotes:
‘Is there something in the word ‘tyrant’ you do not understand?’
‘The Queen appeared as innocent as one of those mountains which year after year do nothing very much but smoke a little, and then one day end up causing a whole civilization to become an art installation.’
‘Don’t force me to draw my own conclusions. I do have a very big pencil.’

333293Stephen King: Song of Susanna (The Dark Tower #6) and The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7). Both 5 stars.
The Dark Tower series has been a presence in my life for a very long time. When I was a teenager and started going to the library on my own, I read Christine and Cycle of the Werewolf among others and kept eying The Dark Tower series – but kept waiting for it to be finished before I started reading. I regret not reading it back then but I’m glad that I have now finally read it. I started reading it back in 2012 (!) so it’s actually taken me 4 years to finish the series.
the-dark-tower-stephen-king-2011-a-pThese are so good books! They have so many qualities and I love the alternative reality elements where King himself suddenly shows up in the story and actually incorporates his real life traffic accident and the entire meta layer of Roland v. King. Who actually calls the shot? Fictional Roland or fictional King – or real King?
‘What we’re playing for, Roland, is the ages.’

 

9781922070005Félix J. Palma: The Map of the Sky (Trilogía Victoriana #2). 5 stars.
The second book in the series – and just as mad a ride as the first one. I love the mixing of alternative reality with fantasy elements. This one, starring both Edgar Allan Poe and H.G. Wells, is similar in many aspects to the first one but is still it’s own thing. The plot twists may not be quite as clever as in the first one but this might just be because I’m now more familiar with his writing style and crazy creativity. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series.

41fCzBniKSL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Marjorie Celona: Y. 5 stars.
Oh man, I wish I had taken notes when I read this book. I remember loving it and thinking it was quite different from the other books I’ve read this year but I can’t quite remember that many details from it. And that makes the book perhaps seem not worth reading which is not my intention.
It goes into some quite heavy subjects – is it ever the right thing for a mother to give up her daughter?
It was a good read!

s-l400Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (I read the Danish version: Rosens Navn). 4 stars.
I am a big fan of reading the book before watching the movie – or tv series (still haven’t watched Game of Thrones!) but in this case, I watched the movie years ago and only now got around to reading the book. So my book had Sean Connery in it – which is not surprising for anyone who has watched the movie, I guess. And it is a great story. The killing of monks, the danger of knowledge, the clever old monk, the not so clever young monk. It is a great story. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is, that I feel it is a bit heavy. It’s a demanding read and at some points, it didn’t quite keep my attention (which might say more about me than the book, actually).
11174642._UY200_Deborah Harkness: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1), Shadow of the Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) and The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3). 4 stars, 4 stars and 5 stars respectively.
One of my colleagues got me reading this series. She absolutely loves it and actually owns several copies of it.
I bought the first volume some time ago but never got around to reading it. Finally I started to read it – and then had to pick the two next volumes up so I could read them, one immediately after the other. It has become quite a thing I do  – to buy the first volume in a trilogy to see if I actually want to read it, and then be annoyed later on and not start to read it because I only have the first book…
17270883I preferred the first and third volume though. The second one was a typical middle part of a trilogy and just not quite as interesting to me, despite it’s taking place in Shakespeare’s England. But I did like the time traveling elements and the chance it gave for Diana to know Matthew’s past.
I liked how Harkness introduces her vampires and witches into a modern setting and letting them just be a part of our world.
I adored Diana’s family house and her family and how the house kept secrets and things until it deemed it time to release them. And also Matthew’s family!
510BYyiGPdL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_The entire story of how to come into your own and learn who you are at the same time as you struggle with coming to terms with a love that is not supposed to be and which many people have an interest in preventing – and will go quite far to stop, actually – was very enjoyable and I think Harkness succeeded in creating a modern day version of a vampire story that is actually quite good.
I’m looking forward to the movie, whenever it might be out – and also the next book in the series, out later this year, supposedly.

9780007448036George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1). 5 stars.
As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet – which is actually quite an accomplishment! And something my boyfriend hates me for because I’ve made him wait alongside me until I finish the books… So finally, I started. And of course, I enjoyed it. I wish I had read it earlier before knowing so much about the plot but it still captured my attention very much.

These are the 10 books which made my 2016. Mostly great reads. Mostly fantasy – which is my genre of choice, especially when I’m not reading much and trying to get back into reading.

So except for the low number of books, it was actually a really good year!

 

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Terry Pratchett: Making Money (Discworld #36) (review)

terry_pratchett_making_moneyDiscworld is a funny and very creative fantasy series written by Terry Pratchett. He has written some 40+ books in the series, all taking place on a flat disc floating in space on the backs of 4 elephants standing on the back of a huge turtle who swims through space. While being set in this fantasy world, Pratchett’s books comment on this world, our world. There are several story lines in this universe – the wizards, the witches, the watch, Death and more. This book is about Moist von Lipwig, a former conman whom we previously met in ‘Going Postal’.

As a Discworld fan, you know that things can’t go wrong when a book involves Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari and Moist von Lipwig. von Lipwig has the worst (or best) name and we’ve only had one book about him before, Going Postal, which I really liked. In that book, von Lipwig was saved from the gallows by Lord Vetinari who saw some potential in him. In Going Postal, he was given the task of saving the postal service and ended up re-inventing the whole system. When we meet up with him again in this one, he is bored out of his mind (not literally, although that could easily be the case in a Discworld novel). So he is breaking into his own office, climbing walls and picking locks to try to get some excitement in life.
Of course, Vetinari knows this. Vetinari knows everything. So he decides to introduce von Lipwig to Mrs Lavish, the lady in charge of the Royal Mint and the bank – and to the chair dog.
And luckily he does so (well, I’m not all that sure that Vetinari believes in luck), because shortly after this, Mrs Lavish dies – and her last will puts von Lipwig in charge of the bank and the Mint. As von Lipwig previously introduced stamps, he now sets out to introduce paper money because gold is a bit old-fashioned and not really necessary for modern banking. This of course does not go smoothly. Change never does. In this case, one of the issues is that the only artist clever enough to make the art for the new money, is about to be hanged – after von Lipwig himself has testified against him previously. Now, a hanging is not anything that stops anyone in Ankh-Morpork so this is just a minor incovenience that has to be dealt with.
The continuing struggle with the Lavishes, the owners of the bank, as well as Mr Bent, the Chief Cashier, who always dresses in black, never smiles, and is extremely good with numbers, is the main issues von Lipwig has to overcome; that, and Lord Vetinari who of course will not allow anyone to get too much power in his city. And when von Lipwig’s girlfriend suddenly shows up with a army of goblins, only von Lipwig can control, serious trouble arise!
In some ways, the plots of Discworld novels is only an excuse for Terry Pratchett to get to play with language. I simply adore reading the creative uses of language, he puts into the text every chance he gets. Writings like this: ‘I know exactly what you never said. You refrained from saying it very loudly.’ (p. 124) and ‘He’d reached the point where he was so wet that he should be approaching dryness from the other end.’ (p. 214) and ‘The only reason that her words came out at the speed of sound was that she couldn’t make them go any faster.’ (p. 314). Oh, and of course this one which reminds me of a quote from Doctor Who: ‘That is a very graphic analogy which aids understanding wonderfully while being, strictly speaking, wrong in every possible way.’ (p. 266)
I really liked this novel even though it was not quite as good as Going Postal – probably in part because it is somewhat the same story. But still, the additions of the chair dog Mr Fusspot and his very special rubber toy, Lord Vetinari and his crossword puzzles, the Department of Post-Mortem Communication at Unseen University, the Lavish family in it’s entirety and especially Cosmo and his Vetinari obsession, make this it’s own novel, quite capable of standing on it’s own two feet. And I’m definitely looking forward to Raising Taxes, the third von Lipwig novel, when that is published at some point.

Oh, and in the basement of the bank, there is something like this. Except the Discworld version is run by an Igor. And it isn’t just a model.

  • Title: Making Money (Discworld #36)
  • Author: Terry Pratchett
  • Publisher:Corgi Books
  • Year: 2008 (original 2007)
  • Pages: 480 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

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If you like Terry Pratchett, you might also like Neil Gaiman and China Miéville! Both have a way of writing that reminds me of Pratchett as well as somewhat similar ideas and themes.

Books as self-portrait

Your library is your portrait.

– Holbrook Jackson

I saw this quote recently on the @fridayreads twitter feed and it really got me thinking. I like the thought. My books are so important to me so the idea of me creating a self portrait with every book I buy, is just beautiful. And not just because of my love of book shopping (see The never-ending to-read pile). No, I really like the idea that when people comes into my living room where my book shelves take up an entire wall, they’re not only able to see that I really care about books but also learn something about who I am as a person by looking at the books that line my shelves.

Now first of, I have to say that I don’t take full responsibility for all the books on the shelves. For some reason, I never thought twice of allowing my boyfriend to also have his books on the shelves. So all the books with maps of battle movements and about the crusaders – they’re not mine. So let’s set them aside and just focus on the books that are actually mine.

So what do we have? First of, we have a lot of contemporary fiction. Contemporary fiction is probably the genre I read the most and what I’m most able to relate to. In this category, we find most of my favorite authors – ie. John Irving, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami and Stephen King. I have several books by each of these authors (both my King and Oates collection can actually be seen on the picture above). I don’t know where to start mentioning other authors in this category since there’s just so many…

There’s also a lot of Classics. I like the thought of being well-read. I want to be well-read. And to be that, you have to read the Classics. I want to be smart and clever and intellectual so yeah, you’ll find Proust, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Joyce. As well as Austen, the Bronte sisters, Flaubert and more. I don’t want to brag about what I’ve read but I do like knowing things. I like winning in board games, I like recognizing inspiration in newer novels. And besides that, the Classics are Classics for a reason – they’re good!

I think the third biggest category is the fantasy novels. I also have a bit of science fiction and steampunk. I know it’s not quite fair to view these as being in the same category but a lot of book stores do it, so why shouldn’t I? So in this category we have Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Gail Carriger and more. Since I fell in love with the fantasy universe by reading Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss’ lovely DragonLance novels, this has been a genre I return to. I find it hard to find good fantasy  and to me, good fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean literary fantasy like Tolkien – just give me a beautiful imaginary world that I can believe in.

I also have a lot of books about animals. I really love animals and so I have books about veganism, living with animals and the amazing things animals are capable of doing. So because of this, I have books like Stacey O’Brien Wesley – The Story of a Remarkable Owl, Bob Tarte Enslaved by Ducks and Donna J. Haraway When Species Meet – as well as a shelf in the basement with lots of dog related books.

Now the shelves in my living room doesn’t tell the whole story. In our bedroom, there’s a few shelves too. This is the home of all my DragonLance novels as well as my Discworld novels. I’m not hiding them there. In an ideal world, they would all be standing on the big book case in the living room. However, there’s only room for so many books on that so something had to go. It’s been a while since I read a DragonLance novel but I read so many of them when I was in my early 20s and really discovered fantasy as an adult so they are a part of my history.

I still read my Discworld novels but it fitted well to put them on the same shelves as the DragonLance novels so there they are too. Right next to my bed.

Aaaannnnd … that’s still not the whole story. I’ve had to relocate parts of my book collection after having our second child. So I have most of my non-fiction books (mostly philosophy and art history books) in storage. Since these speak about my education and professional interests, they too tell a huge part of the story of me.

But my living room book case does tell about who I am now since for the moment, my main focus is on fiction and since I prefer having it take up such a big part of my living room. But it’s not only the books on the shelves and the fact that they are placed in this room, that talks about me. The way they’re organized does as well. See, from time to time my boyfriend suggest that we organize the books by height or color or something equally silly (he knows better now so he only does it to tease me). But as I say to him each time, there’s only one way to organize books – by the first letter in the author’s last name. I’m very anal about this. And it just has to be this way.

And now the million dollar question: What does your book shelves say about you?

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Five of my favorite book apps

I recently discovered the 1001 Books app and that made me think about what other excellent book apps there are out there. I think the apps you have on your phone says a lot about who you are, what interests you and who you would like to be. I love books so of course I have a lot of book apps. These are some of my favorite apps but there are many more out there, although not as many as I would like there to be. Still, here are a few good ones.

Goodreads This is my favorite books app. I use it every day. I use it to take notes to what I’m reading and to keep track of how far I’m getting in my books. I never buy a book anymore without first looking at Goodreads and see what others write about it. I like to use Goodreads to see what others think about the books I read, have read or are planning to read. It’s possible to see every book on your shelves, see what your friends are reading as well as check out your groups and see the discussions in these. You can also easily add new books you buy by scanning the barcode. I like everything about Goodreads – and the app is really awesome.

Audible I like the idea of audio books. In theory. But I still have some feeling that if you don’t read a book, actually sit down and read with your eyes, you haven’t really read the book. I get easily distracted when listening to a book but I hope to be able to change that and start listening to some books. I plan on reading James Joyce Ulysses while listening to it at the same time because I think that will make it easier to understand it. I also have a garden full of weeds and I hope to listen to some books while cleaning it all up. This also comes with listening stats so when you listen to audio books, you slowly level up ’till you finally become App Master. I like being able to level up like that – first level requires 100 hours of listening. I think I can almost achieve that by listening to Ulysses!

Man Booker Prize I know a lot of people dislike the ManBooker, finding it too literary or too snobbish. Still, I have read some good books from it’s long and short lists – and it has a nice pretty app. This is probably the award I follow the closest – and therefore I like this app. It has information about the Prize from 1969 and to the present day. You can see the winner from each year as well as the short list, and the long list from some years. Unfortunately, this app isn’t updated quickly enough so when there’s something happening in the world of the Man Booker, it isn’t shown on the app right away which is a shame. I would also like to be able to mark which of the novels I have read but otherwise, I really like this app.

L-Space This is an app to keep track of your Discworld novels. I find it sometimes confusing to remember which books I already own in this series so it’s nice to have a list where I can easily see which books I have on my shelf as well as track which ones I’ve read. The app even features which characters are in each book so it’s easy to buy books within each of the separate story lines in the Discworld universe. Discworld is a rather complicated series to keep the various story lines straight in, and this app is really helpful with that. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated for a long while so it works best with the older novels in this series – the newest novel in the app is Unseen Academicals and I Shall Wear Midnight. I hope this app will be updated again on a regular basis.

Kindle I have a Kindle so of course, I also have the Kindle app. I really like the idea of being able to read your books on different devices, if needed. That being said, I hardly ever use it. If I read a book on my Kindle, I have my Kindle with me and otherwise, I have a paper book with me. Still, I can see myself using it more in the future when I hopefully start to have more of a commute.

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Discworld: Terry Pratchett: Unseen Academicals (review)

Discworld is a funny and very creative fantasy series created by Terry Pratchett. He has written some 40 books in the series, all taking place on a flat disc floating in space on the backs of 4 elephants standing on the back of a huge turtle who swims through space. While being set in this fantasy world, Pratchett’s books comment on this world, our world. There are several story lines in this universe – the wizards, the witches, the watch, Death and more. This book is about the wizards.

The wizards have never exactly been sporty. Or fit. They’ve never participated in any team activities that involved athleticism or if they did, they were always the fat looser kid picked last. Dead last. So imagine how they feel when they discover that to make sure a sum of money keeps coming into the university, they have to play football. But well, when the money is part of the food money, of course they step up.

Especially because Archchancellor Ridcully and Lord Vetinari are teaming up together to make it happen.

Now, the wizards don’t just start playing the kind of football that is being played in the streets where a man who has scored 4 goals, is a hero – or where the spectators are happy whenever they get a chance to see the ball. So the wizards set out to create a new version of football, a game with rules and a referee, a game with goal keepers and a real ball that goes gloing.

Besides that, Lord Vetinari has got a guy named Nutt a job at the university – he’s a candle dripper (yes, of course the wizards have candle drippers). But he’s more than a candle dripper. Only thing is that he doesn’t quite know what he is. But when Lord Vetinari is involved, you know things aren’t always straight-forward.

And on top of this, Pratchett gives his own version of Romeo and Juliet in this book. Of course, Pratchett’s Romeo and Juliet have far bigger problems than just their families being against them – their issue is they support different football teams…!

Oh, and when Pratchett in the end gets to the big game – it’s amazing!

What I love about Discworld is that after so many books, it has become such a well-carved out universe that while each book  is readable on it’s own, you really get a lot out of having read at least some of the others. Pratchett has main characters from other books in the series show up for brief appearances. We get a brief visit from Death, we speak to Vines from the Watch, Moist von Lipwig covers the football match and of course there’s a brief appearance by Rincwind and the Luggage. This makes the world real because these are the people who would show up in those circumstances.

But what I love even more than to get the feeling that this is actually a real world, is the humor which is present on every page in the book. I always write down a lot of quotes when reading these books. For instance on the first page in the book, there’s this perfect quote about Lord Vetinari: Technically, the city of Ankh-Morpork is a Tyranny, which is not always the same thing as a monarchy, and in fact even the post of Tyrant has been somewhat redefined by the incumbent Lord Vetinari, as the only form of democracy that works. Everyone is entitled to vote, unless disqualified by reason of age or not being Lord Vetinari. (p. 13) or this quote about the relationship between women and men: The right tone from a woman with her arms folded always bounces an answer out of an unprepared man before he has time to think, and even before he has time to think up a lie. (p. 299)

I’ll end up with this quote that perfectly sums up, the wizards’ role in society – or maybe everyone powerful’s role. At least their role as Ponder, the main administrator, sees it: We can do practically anything, but we can’t change people’s minds. We can’t magic them sensible. Believe me, if it were possible to do that, we would have done it a long time ago. We can stop people fighting by magic and then what do we do? We have to go on using magic to stop them fighting. We have to go on using magic to stop them being stupid. And where does all that end? So we make certain that it doesn’t begin. That’s why the university is here. That’s what we do. We have to sit around not doing things because of the hundreds of times in the past it’s been proved that once you get beyond the abracadabra, hey presto, changing-the-pigeons-into-ping-pong-balls style of magic you start getting more problems than you’ve solved. It was bad enough finding ping pong balls nesting in the attics. (p. 428)

  • Title: Unseen Academicals (Discworld # 37)
  • Author: Terry Pratchett
  • Publisher: Corgi Books
  • Year: 2010 (originally 2009)
  • Pages: 540 pages
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5