not a book

The Reading Habits Tag

Shamelessly stolen from Lioness at Large ūüėČ

1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?

Home as in my student’s flat-home: my bed because it’s the most comfortable space (and I’m abusing it as couch anyway). Home as in back at my mom’s-home: the living room (but also my bed for when I read before sleeping)

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

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Well, I have enough bookmarks thanks to bookmarks being a nice souvenir that doesn’t take up too much space so I often buy some on holidays and people who know I love reading but don’t know which books often give me bookmarks (or bookmark-calendars) but occasionally I find myself without one and then I take whatever I can find. Though it will be replaced by a proper bookmark as soon as possible.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages?

I usually finish the chapter but if the chapters are very long I might just stop at the end of a paragraph (and if I’m very tired just somewhere though that is rare)

4. Do you eat or drink while you read?

I sometimes read¬†during dinner but not every food can be eaten one-handed (unless you enjoy cleaning a lot…)

5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

TV never (though I sometimes read during ad-breaks and manage to absorb what’s in the book and notice when the ads are over). Music sometimes (preferably instrumentals or stuff in a language I don’t understand)

6. One book at a time or several at once?

Several but not an infinite number. Generally, I have one audiobook and one or two with pages and letters. When it’s two then it’s usually one heavier and/or non-fiction and one lighter one. (Now if you look at my Goodreads profile you will see that I have more than three books marked as currently reading but not all of them are ‘active’. Sometimes I start a book, put it aside and continue weeks (or months) later).

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

At home mostly. I do take books on longer journeys or when I know I have to wait a while somewhere but when it’s just the ten-minute train journey to the city and back with some shopping inbetween¬†I usually don’t bother.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

There have been a few times when I was very bored by a book but also just interested enough in the plot that I wanted to know how it ends so I skipped to the last chapters but that is very rare. Sometimes I skim over paragraphs but I never check ahead to e.g. see if a character survives.

10. Barking the spine or keeping it like new?

I try to keep them like new but paperbacks sometimes give me a hard time¬†with that. Especially UK ones. I have no idea why but I have UK paperbacks that look like I played football with them after just reading them once. Meanwhile, even my well-loved my German paperbacks still look pretty decent. (Of course it’s not always like this, and newer UK paperbacks are also better)

11. Do you write in your books?

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Who writes in books? Monsters? (Though I do love finding scribblings from previous owners in books I bought second hand so…I’m a bit odd probably)

2 stars, true crime

The Truth about Belle Gunness

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Title: The Truth about Belle Gunness
Author: Lillian de la Torre

On the morning of April 27, 1908, the farmhand on a lonely property outside La Porte, Indiana, woke to the smell of smoke. He tried to rouse the lady of the house, the towering Belle Poulsdatter Sorenson Gunness, and he called the names of her three children‚ÄĒbut they didn‚Äôt answer, and the farmhand barely escaped alive. The house burned to the foundation, and in the rubble, firemen found the corpses of Belle, her two daughters, and her son. The discovery raised two chilling questions: Who started the fire, and who cut off Belle‚Äôs head?

As investigators searched the property, they uncovered something astonishing: The remains of a dozen or more men and children who had been murdered with poison or cleaver were buried beneath the hog pen. It turned out Belle Gunness was one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. And when the investigation revealed that the body found in the fire might not have been hers, the people of La Porte were forced to confront the terrifying realization that Belle might have gotten out alive.

Rating: 2star

When I requested this book I expected a recently written book about Belle Gunness. It is neither new nor really about Belle. Now I don’t mind the not new part much. It’s a re-release of a book from the 1950s but considering that it’s still fine. I’ve read some older true crime books that were very sensationalist and cheerfully mixed fact and fiction. (Not that newer ones are always better, especially when it comes to sensationalism). However, that wasn’t the problem. Yes, the facts were sometimes dressed in (light) purple prose and especially at the beginning we are told a lot about the thoughts and feelings of the people involved but that gets better.
However, it’s also not really a book about Belle Gunness. It opens with her farm burning down and the discoveries of the bodies on the ground. Then it spends only a short time on Belle’s life and her crimes. I already knew more about her and my only previous contact with Belle had been my favourite¬†true crime podcast doing an episode on her.
The book’s actual focus is Ray Lamphere’s trial. Only at the very end, it returns to Belle and the author poses her own theory about Belle’s fate. (A theory that’s plausible but also one that hasn’t any more proof than any other). Now I wasn’t that interested in that trial before I started reading and the book didn’t change that.
Mainly because the trial is mainly told via court transcripts. Just one after the other (with the occasional newspaper article thrown in) with the minimum linking narration possible. Sure, some original quotes from the time are good but this book goes beyond that. Often the information from several pages of transcripts could have been summed up in a few paragraphs. And then the next transcript just repeats the information we already got in the last one. It makes for some rather tiresome reading.

The book simply has a misleading blurb. I wouldn’t have picked it up if I had known that it focussed so heavily on the trial. If that’s your thing you might enjoy it more than I did.

ARC provided by NetGalley
4 stars, fantasy

The Soul Mirror (Collegia Magica #2)

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Title: The Soul Mirror
Author: Carol Berg
Series: Collegia Magica #2

By order of His Royal Majesty Philippe de Savin-Journia y Sabria, Anne de Vernase is hereby summoned to attend His Majesty’s Court at Merona…

Anne de Vernase rejoices that she has no talent for magic. Her father’s pursuit of depraved sorcery has left her family in ruins, and he remains at large, convicted of treason and murder by Anne’s own testimony. Now, the tutors at Collegia Seravain inform her that her gifted younger sister has died in a magical accident. It seems but life’s final mockery that cool, distant Portier de Savin-Duplais, the librarian turned royal prosecutor, arrives with the news that the king intends to barter her hand in marriage.

Anne recognizes that the summoning carries implications far beyond a bleak personal future – and they are all about magic. Merona, the royal city, is beset by plagues of rats and birds, and mysterious sinkholes that swallow light and collapse buildings. Whispers of hauntings and illicit necromancy swirl about the queen’s volatile sorcerer. And a murder in the queen’s inner circle convinces Anne that her sister’s death was no accident. With no one to trust but a friend she cannot see, Anne takes up her sister’s magical puzzle, plunging into the midst of a centuries-old rivalry and coming face-to-face with the most dangerous sorcerer in Sabria. His name is Dante.

Review: 4star

The people in this book make very reasonable, but also very frustrating decisions. Because of Portier, Anne’s father is wanted for treason. When Anne finds evidence that her father might be innocent after all it’s logical that she doesn’t share it with Portier immediately. On the other hand, it’s also perfectly logical that Portier doesn’t trust the daughter of a known traitor. Especially if he can tell that she’s keeping secrets from him. So in-universe their behavior is completely sensible. Still, as reader, you want to scream Just talk to each other! because you know they both belong to the good guys and could get much further if they just shared their findings. Now, it only takes about a third of the book till they do but it is a very frustrating third…
Especially if that third is otherwise also…not great. By which I don’t mean horrible, just not meeting the high expectations I have of Carol Berg since I started binging her books. Which is complaining on a very high level. It’s just that Anne – the narrator of this book – is very passive at the beginning. She finds out things (mostly more or less by accident) but isn’t able to do much with her knowledge. Again, it makes sense. She’s new at court, doesn’t have any connections and ‘avoid getting killed’ is a rather time-consuming. And people are trying to kill her (or worse), she just has no idea who or why. And, as long as she doesn’t know whom to trust she can only react to things that happen and nothing more.
Now I guess that was my long-winded way of saying that the beginning of this book is a bit long-winded. But once it gets going it really gets going. I went Wow! I did not see that coming! quite often. Only one of the minor villains was disappointing. He was basically the disgusting rapey old man you get in some bad romance novels. Nothing beyond that. Which is a shame because even the irredeemably evil characters in this story manage to have some depth. Only this guy didn’t. Still, he didn’t appear so often that he bothered me too much.
Now for the climax of the story. Well, there was something I did see coming. Or perhaps I should rather say, something that didn’t surprise me. Because while this is a fantasy story with magic and villains that want to destroy the world, it’s also a mystery. So when it obeyed certain mystery rules I wasn’t too surprised. But it was still highly awesome (and there were enough things that I did not see coming). And I wanted to wrap everybody in blankets afterward and give them cookies. My poor, poor babies. OK…I’ll stop now. I just care a lot about these characters…

1 star, fantasy

The Phoenix Born (A Dance of Dragons #3)

Title: The Phoenix Born
Author Kaitlyn Davis
Series: A Dance of Dragons #3

For the first time in a thousand years, the fire dragon has been awakened and Rhen is its rider. But after destroying the armies that threatened the city of Rayfort, Rhen is shown a vision in flames that changes everything. The shadow’s phantom armies are coming and the dragons are the only things that might stop them.

High in the castle at the top of the Gates, Jinji has learned something of her own. Janu, her long lost twin, is alive. And just as the spirit shares her body, the shadow shares his. In the blink of an eye, her quest for vengeance against the evil that killed her family has changed to one of protection. Because she knows that if Rhen learns the truth he will do what she cannot‚ÄĒend the shadow, and end her brother in the process.

As the shadow grows more aggressive, Jinji and Rhen fight to find the rest of the dragon riders. But with time running out, they are forced to face the impossible decision between honor and love. Alliances are formed, promises are broken, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance…

Rating: 

They learned how each other moved, how they flew, how they fought. But most of all they bonded, formed a friendship.
Don’t bore me with details on the character- and relationship development. That might actually give them some depth and make them interesting and who would want that?
At the beginning of the book, Jinji uses her magic powers to rebuild a city that had been destroyed in a battle and heal the people that were injured during the attack. She spends almost a day doing that before she collapses. But not because using magic is physically exhausting, but because seeing so many dead and injured people takes an emotional toll on her. Fortunately, trauma can be healed by a hug from your boyfriend so she can go on to use some magic to convince the different sides in the battle to stop fighting each other and fight the Shadow instead.
All of this happens in the first three or four chapters and makes it very clear that the characters won’t need to worry about any of the things most other fantasy protagonists do. Somebody doesn’t believe them? There’s a person with essential god-like powers who can impress them till they change their opinions. A serious injury? That can be solved with little more than a snap of the fingers? No food? Same. The only thing Junji can’t do is teleport but then the other’s have dragons that can cover huge distances in minutes. (That, or the whole book takes place in an area roughly the size of Liechtenstein). Frankly, that makes for some very boring reading.
Of course, there is still the Big Bad of the series but what makes fantasy exciting is that the protagonists have to deal with a lot of stuff besides fighting the Big Bad. Here, the only other things that are going on are Jinji and Rhen’s relationship “problems”. In quotation marks, because they can be summed up with ‘You lied to me about something major. But when I think about it for a few paragraphs I can understand why you did that. Now I have betrayed you but you also forgave me after a few pages. And it’s not like either of our betrayals had any real consequences (except the deaths of a few thousand people but let’s ignore that since we did not know any of them).’ So these parts are also really boring. Which results in an exceptionally boring book.

 

ARC provided by NetGalley

Review of the series so far:

4 stars, romance

Knit One, Girl Two

Title: Knit One, Girl Two
Author: Shira Glassman

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

 

Rating: 

Clara didn’t know what to say, but she also knew not every silence had to be filled. Sometimes the white spots, those left undyed and natural, were integral to the beauty of a colorway.
Somehow the best way to describe this book is by what it’s not. Because it’s sweet and quirky but not in the way of some books where everything and everybody is¬†just sweet and quirky but has no depth beyond that. It’s also not one of those novellas where I felt that it would have needed more pages. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have minded spending more time with Clara and Danielle, but their story didn’t need more space. Since it was only about the development of their relationship there were no sideplots that felt rushed. It was also not one of these books that promise knitting on the cover but then desperately also try to appeal to a non-knitting audience by only occasionally mentioning the most basic knitting terms. (Yes I’m side-eying some knitting-mysteries here…) Now I’m not saying that non-knitters won’t enjoy the story. It’s not just about knitting, but knitting is an important part of the story and if you’ve only ever seen yarn in the form of the socks you got from grandma for Christmas, a few things might confuse you a bit.
Overall a very charming read and I want to check out some of the author’s longer works.
1 star, fantasy

The Bronze Knight (A Dance of Dragons #2.5)

Title: The Bronze Knight
Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Series: A Dance of Dragons #2.5

Princess Leena arrives in Rayfort with one thought on her mind–getting the information that might stop her father’s armies to Prince Whylrhen as soon as possible. But once there, she quickly realizes the situation is far more dire than she ever anticipated. Abandoned by Jinji and Rhen who were sent away by the king regent, Leena is left alone with an impossible decision to make. Stay in Rayfort and fight with the rest of the doomed city. Or risk a life on the run for the chance of survival.

Rating: 

 

“For the hope that one day, I’ll be able to return home, to a kingdom changed, to a kingdom that has tossed cruelty to the side and replaced it with love.”
 
Let me get this straight: We spent all that time establishing that the Ourthuri, in general, are evil and it’s not just Leena’s father who is an evil ruler. He didn’t decide to execute all his wives who didn’t bear him a son immediately, that’s an Ourthuri custom. He didn’t introduce slavery, that’s an Ourthuri custom. He didn’t decide that minor offenses warrant a cruel punishment, that’s an Ourthuri custom. Leena herself says about her culture that in it “each moment of beauty [is] scared by some hidden darkness.” Because those Arabs are just evil. Sorry. Of course, I mean the Ourthuri. I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that Ourthuro resembles a middle-eastern place. Or that only Ourthori women wear veils which, today, is¬†something mostly associated with Muslims. I’m sure they aren’t meant to be the evil Arab stereotype from a bad 80s fantasy novel…
Where was I? Right. Leena’s plan. She wants to help the Whylrhen defend themselves against the Ourthori attack. And then attack Ourthuro herself? Or just hope that after the lost war her people will be so devastated that she can waltz in and announce “Hey everybody! I know you hate women and never listen to them, and you will hate me even more because I broke some traditions…oh and also because I betrayed you to our enemies. But anyway have you considered being not evil?” And then everybody starts singing ‘Love, Love, Peace, Peace’ and they can live happily ever after?
That is a shitty plan. And all this could have been avoided if it had been just Leena’s father who was an evil king. Or at least the last in a line of rulers that got progressively worse. Instead, we get a people with all the depth of the orcs in Lord of the Rings (only hotter) and only our protagonist with her awesome sue-powers and some convenient cannon-fodder is speciul enough to see that and fight it. It doesn’t make sense.
 
Well, and the plot itself…repeated what we already know from the previous novel. Plus some new information that will probably be repeated in the next novel. I still don’t see the point of these novellas.
ARC provided by NetGalley.
5 stars, crime & mystery

Carola Dunn: Superfluous Women (Daisy Dalrymple #22)

25069276Title: Superfluous Women
Author: Carola Dunn
Series: (Daisy Dalrymple #22)

In England in the late 1920s, The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, on a convalescent trip to the countryside, goes to visit three old school friends in the area. The three, all unmarried, have recently bought a house together. They are a part of the generation of “superfluous women”‚ÄĒbrought up expecting marriage and a family, but left without any prospects after more than 700,000 British men were killed in the Great War.

Daisy and her husband Alec‚ÄĒDetective Inspector Alec Fletcher, of Scotland Yard ‚ÄĒgo for a Sunday lunch with Daisy‚Äôs friends, where one of the women mentions a wine cellar below their house, which remains curiously locked, no key to be found. Alec offers to pick the lock, but when he opens the door, what greets them is not a cache of wine, but the stench of a long-dead body.

And with that, what was a pleasant Sunday lunch has taken an unexpected turn. Now Daisy’s three friends are the most obvious suspects in a murder and her husband Alec is a witness, so he can’t officially take over the investigation. So before the local detective, Superintendent Crane, can officially bring charges against her friends, Daisy is determined to use all her resources (Alec) and skills to solve the mystery behind this perplexing locked-room crime.

Rating: 5star

“Sorry but one¬†simply can’t turn off one’s brain!”¬†Underwood heaved a deep sigh. “No, I suppose it’s too much to expect of the modern woman.”
This is book number 22 in this series. I’ve read the previous 21 books and intend to read number 23 once it comes out.
I could simply stop here. After all, I can’t say that about many series. And even fewer if you ask which of those I genuinely enjoy and don’t only continue reading because I’ve grown so fond of the characters, that I’ll follow them through the shittiest plots. Carola Dunn has managed to keep the quality of this series steady for a long time and that deserves applause.
It also means I have run out of things to say. Daisy and Alec’s relationship is still refreshingly drama-free. The new characters are still charming. (I really wouldn’t mind if Willie and the others turned into recurring characters as some earlier guest-characters¬†have done). Now some of the ‘evil’ characters had less depth than those in previous books but they still didn’t turn into caricatures.

That leaves me with the mystery plot. Which was great. Now I’ve read a lot of mystery novels. I often figure out the killer long before the characters do and not necessarily because the book is badly written. I just know what I have to look for and what hints disguise themselves as unimportant. Only, this time, I figured the killer out only a few pages before Daisy did it. I was distracted by some very well done red herrings and something stopped me from suspecting that character earlier. The exact same thing that stopped Daisy and the others from suspecting them. Saying more would be a spoiler but It was very well done.

On to the next 22 books ūüėČ