Dickens in December

Dickens in December

Judith got me on to the Dickens in December event hosted by Caoline from Beauty is a sleeping cat and Delia from Postcards from Asia.

The event consists of various activities, readalongs, book reviews, giveaways and watchalongs. I can’t say that I am a huge Dickens fan, but John gave me the complete Dickens collection for Christmas last year and I haven’t watched one thing yet! About time!

So instead of going to read Dickens it will be watching movies for me. Who else is going to join in on the fun?


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter readalong

I know, I will probably get some hate mail in the near future.

This is about the third time or so that I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and, once more, it was like reading it (almost) for the first time. Harry Potter books are – for me – “forgettable”. I can’t imagine how there are adults out there who remember every little detail about every completely inconsequential character, every meaningless detail, every irrelevant incident. I can’t. Every time I read Harry Potter it’s a new experience.

That being said, a new experience is not necessarily a good one. This time I found the book rather dull, uninspiring, full of stereotypes and lifeless. Harry Potter seemed like a meddlesome, precocious little boy who doesn’t know his place. He is making wrong assumptions all through the book, is prejudiced and a general nuisance.

The message of the book – that continues in the rest of the series – is a dubious one in parts. Why, oh why, does Voldemort have to look like the caricature of Nosferatu in a snake mask (I admit I am somewhat influenced by the movies here, but his movie looks do come close to his description in the books)? He should be a charming and maybe average looking man with charisma instead. Most people who are evil don’t look the part, and vice versa. How he gained so many followers is a mystery to me, considering that he kills his supporters just as ready as he kills his enemies. Why follow him if you don’t gain anything from it?

The role of unreliable Hagrid is also puzzling. Why Dumbledore would trust that oaf (sorry, Hagrid lovers!)  I can’t imagine. I mean, he gives away the secret of how to knock out Fluffy to a complete stranger in a pub! Not to mention the fact that he thinks he can raise an illegal dragon on Hogwarts’ grounds without it being noticed. The man is a liability.

The only fairly interesting character in the whole book is Snape. I love poor Snape (blame Alan Rickman!). Even though he seems to be the good guy at the end of the Philosopher’s Stone his dubious role is being played out until practically the last pages of the whole series. An easy method to keep up the tension without any further efforts.

I don’t know what I saw in those books when I read them for the first time (and I was not a kid back then). I suppose the nice setting in a wizard world ensnared me and I didn’t realize how unsubstantial the books really are. I am sure that lots of people are going to tell  me now how well planned out everything is and how a little detail in book one already was the harbinger of an occurrence five books later and how greatly interwoven the whole storyline is. That may be so, just I can’t see it because by the time I read book five I have completely forgotten what I read four books (or one book) earlier.

I have been watching the movies at the same time that I was reading The Philosopher’s Stone and enjoyed watching them for the beautiful setting, the good actors and all the action. I’ve got to admit though that I am rooting for the bad guys – to no avail, I am afraid.


Harry Potter: activities


I am still reading The Philosopher’s Stone and am getting nowhere with it. The kids haven’t even been sorted into their houses yet, somehow I find the read drags on and on and is rather, um, boring. Maybe, even though I can never remember a thing, I remember still too much to enjoy the re-read.

On the other hand, I am active on the visual front. We have been watching a few Harry potter films (left out the third one as I don’t like those dementors and the whole Azkaban topic) and are now in the middle of the Order of the Phoenix. God, that Umbridge woman! A terrible, terrifying creature! Her rosy cheeks, her giggling, fanatism and pink room make my stomach turn. Imelda Staunton does such a great job playing her! To finish off our HP movie marathon I still need to get the last three films, so it will be a little while before we can conclude the series.

Maybe I should have joined a HP watchalong?! But – there is still some time before the readalong finishes, I might get into it after all.

And, yet on another note, I found this great article at about the 5 most depraved sex scenes implied by Harry Potter. A must-read for Harry Potter fans!


Harry Potter readalong


My Bookish confessions yesterday caused Chinoiseries to tell me about the Harry Potter read along starting on September 1. How fun! Just what I need to get reacquainted with Harry Potter & friends (at least for a few days until I finish the book).

The read along is hosted by lost generation reader and goes until middle of December. I should be able to read at least a few of the books in that period; seeing that I am a notoriously slow reader I might not make them all. I will stick to the original novels because I am not interested in other J.K. Rowling books or HP secondary literature.

Just in case you have forgotten what the seven Harry Potter books are called, here is a list:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Who else is going to join us, sharing reviews and chatting about Harry Potter?


Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #3

Cover Girl Reading by Katie WardGirl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. Here you can find my thoughts on the first two stories. And here on the second set of two stories.

The fifth story “Unknown. For pleasure. 1916” is about a group of people spending some time together in the house of a rather unconventional academic and editor. The main character is a young silly girl who is infatuated with a painter who, of course, ignores her.

I quite liked this but it reminded me again of tons of other stories out there. If it had been set a little later and located at the Mediterranean, we would have read this story a hundred times before.


There was one little paragraph though that I really enjoyed. Gwen just found out that Laurence has “betrayed” her by sleeping with someone else.

Surprisingly, this is not how she imagined it would feel. Where is the misery? Where is the despair? Where is the crying out his name, and the beating of her breast?Gwen does not feel them. She is miffed. She is thoroughly put out. Apparently, a love spurned feels about as painful as finding out Emily Dibner has been named hockey captain. Pretty bad, but not too bad.

That puts things back into perspective. And reading this made the whole story worthwhile.

The sixth story “Immaterialism. Reader in a Shoreditch bar. 2008”   took a while for me to finally get to the point. I would have enjoyed the whole thing if I hadn’t disliked the heroine that much. I just couldn’t connect with her at all for various reasons. When it eventually got to the Shoreditch bar and the “girl reading” I finally got into it.

The seventh story “Sincerity Yabuki. Sibil. 2060” was just so so for me. I am not a particular fan of Sci-Fi,  especially when I am getting thrown into an unexplained futuristic environment which seems at the same time different and very much the same as ours. On the one hand I found the mesh concept too odd and at the same time too similar to our time to draw me in. Plus, I found words like i-specs and sim-kitty rather trite. Maybe realistic, but trite nevertheless.

The idea about Sibil was a nice twist as the ending for this book, but, again, at the same time too half-baked, both as an invention by Sincerity as well as by Katie Ward. Why anyone would want to use it I can’t imagine.

To come back to the “novel” aspect, this is another thing which didn’t work for me. This book is no novel. The last story, which obviously was supposed to tie the stories together, didn’t succeed. Sorry, but you can’t just come up with a “Sibil” and create a loose connection and then think this makes it a novel.

Looking back at my thoughts about all seven stories, I would say it was an ok book, but I don’t understand what the hype is all about.




Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #2

Cover Girl Reading by Katie WardGirl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. Here you can find my thoughts on the first two stories.

The third story “Angelica Kauffman, Portrait of a Lady, 1775” is about a woman and how she deals with the loss of her (female) lover.

Not sure whether I liked this one or not. I did feel like I have to read on to find out how the story ends, so I suppose this is a good sign, but in general I have not much time for people who shut down the way Maria did. And the ever present dead lover isn’t something I particularly liked.

During the course of the story my thoughts about the nature of the relationship changed quite a bit; it seemed happy, but at the same time full of trouble and little jealousies. Somehow this reflects my ambivalent feelings about the story itself.

The fourth story “Featherstone of Piccadilly, Carte de Visite, 1864” was strange. I didn’t get it.

Twins with psychic talents whose lives went into two different directions is an interesting topic, but nothing was ever spelled out  properly, everything was only hinted at, and I had no idea what the deal was. I found it rather confusing than boring. However, I liked the atmosphere and especially the descriptions of how a photograph was taken. Quite a difference from today indeed, and rather inconceivable to us for whom snapshots of everything and everybody are a standard.

I still don’t see where the novel comes in. Three more stories to go, we are moving into the 20th century now.




Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #1

Cover Girl Reading by Katie Ward

Girl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. It is called a novel, but why they do that eludes me – at least right now. So far I have read two stories and found them quite good, but not too overwhelmingly so, to be honest.

In general, I found the way of not putting direct speech in quotation marks rather confusing. At first I had no clue that someone was talking and then when I realized that that was so I didn’t know who it was. Sometimes the spoken sentence even started in the middle of a line, and without quotation marks I found this hard to follow. Later on my brain must have partially adjusted itself to this, because I didn’t seem to have so many problems with it anymore.

The first story is about an orphan in 14th century Siena who gets to sit for a famous painter for an altar piece. What I found most interesting was the painter’s progressive attitude towards the different religions. I can’t imagine that his opinions were very popular and that his clients would have been very happy to know about them. The girl’s approach to art (what you see is what you get) reminded me a lot of myself. I like or dislike a painting without looking for some deep symbolism or trying to analyse every little detail.

The second story about a deaf maid in a Dutch painter’s household reminded me A LOT of Girl with a Pearl Earring. With a jealous wife, the relationship between maid and painter, a snooping child, careless parents (did anyone else find the choking incident rather odd?),  I found the whole atmosphere in the household quite disturbing. I very much liked the maid though, a strong and tough woman indeed.

More to come in a few days, I am a slow reader.


Want to know what others thought of this book? Have a look at:


June Readalong: Girl reading by Katie Ward

Want to join us for a readalong of “Girl Reading” by Katie Ward?

girl_readingSome weeks ago Caroline from “Beauty is a sleeping cat” blogged about Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, a writer whose “Girl with a Pearl Earring” I enjoyed. In the comments talk went from Chevalier to Susan Vreeland, and then Caroline mentioned a book called “Girl Reading” by Katie Ward that Danielle from A work in Progress had blogged about. All three books deal in their own way with art and women and Caroline and I decided to read Girl Reading together in June.

This is the synopsis of Girl Reading:

Seven portraits. Seven artists. Seven girls and women reading. A young orphan poses nervously for a Renaissance maestro in medieval Siena, and an artist’s servant girl in 17th-century Amsterdam snatches a moment away from her work to lose herself in tales of knights and battles. A young woman reading in a Shoreditch bar catches the eye of a young man who takes her picture, and a Victorian medium holds a book that she barely acknowledges while she waits for the exposure. Each chapter of this richly textured debut takes us into a perfectly imagined tale of how each portrait came to be, and as the connections accumulate, the narrative leads us into the present and beyond – an inspired celebration of women reading and the artists who have caught them in the act.

We are planning to start in the last week of June, that would be Monday the 25th.

Is anyone else interested in reading along with us? Let me or Caroline know, so we can keep track of each other’s progress and discuss the book together.

Who will read along?


Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater



For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.


My thoughts: 

Even though I am not into YA in general I read Shiver along with Carin because I have heard a lot of good things about it. I like the "lovers who can’t stay together due to circumstances" topic, so I was not disappointed with the general idea of the story.
Grace and Sam have been in love for what seems like forever, even though they didn’t know each other in person. Very romantic. I liked the uncomplicated plot without many twists and turns which made for a quick and pleasant read, I suppose this is quite typical of a YA story where there are not obstacles at every corner (and given the situation there could have been A LOT of them).

I already said in my update #1 of the readalong that I didn’t get the Fahrenheit degrees at all, which supposedly took some of the building tension away. In retrospect I am pretty sure knowing my way around Fahrenheit wouldn’t have made a big difference. OK, it got colder and change was coming closer – I got that without the exact temperature info, especially since the indicators of when Sam would change were more than unreliable anyway.
It seemed the wolves changed at random, yes, based on the seasons, but nobody knew exactly when they would change, when they would change back, when they would stay a wolf for good etc. I found this quite confusing. It wasn’t as if with the temperature reaching a certain point the change would invariably happen, so I am not sure what the temperature was supposed to tell us exactly.

The fact that Grace’s parents were totally oblivious to the fact that Sam was practically living in their house was strange to say the least. OK, they left Grace pretty much to her own devices but how can parents be so clueless and uninterested? This could have been one source of conflict that was not fully explored here. Grace deals with it in her head, but never confronts her parents.

I have heard from someone that a few people have complained about Grace having no backbone. I really have no idea where those people are coming from. I liked her. She was matter-of-fact, independent, reliable and quite practical when it came to helping Sam out in tricky situations or when she was with Jack and had to think of a way to get help for herself.

Another thing I had also read somewhere before was that Sam was constantly writing song lyrics reflecting his emotions. That sounded rather interesting, but somehow I didn’t particularly care for them. The choice of poetry that Sam read to Grace was equally unsatisfactory to me. I love poetry but Rainer Maria Rilke wouldn’t have been my first choice if I wanted to introduce someone to either poetry or German.

One side character I particularly liked was Isabel, Jack’s sister. Even though at first she is the condescending, rich and spoilt girl with her little dog in her purse, she later turns out to be helpful and sincere. Her snappy way and bitchy attitude could not hide the fact that she is a good person after all. From what I read she will be also a major character in "Linger", the sequel to "Shiver", and I am really looking forward to reading more about her.

I’m not sure whether I liked the ending. First of all, the whole cure theory and the execution of administering it was more than dubious. Was it realistic how Isabel got the blood? Was it realistic how they got them all to the hospital and out again? That all sounded very half-baked and it was happening too fast.

The re-unification of Grace and Sam was, well, nice, but I was missing some sort of explanation as to what happened to him after he ran away. Grace assumed he was dead, and then, all of a sudden, he returns and that’s it? That was anticlimatic. I can only hope that "Linger" will pick up exactly at this point and will deliver what I have been missing. 


Title Shiver
Author Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher Scholastic
ISBN 978-0545123273
Buy link Buy Shiver


Want to read what others think about this book?

Read Carin’s review of Shiver. Her thoughts went along a totally different line.

Here is Leeswammes review of it.

And this is what Iris has to say about it.  

Chachic’s thoughts on it.  


Shiver readalong update 1

Nach dem Sommer cover

Somehow twitter just doesn’t give me enough room to tell my readalong buddies what I think about Shiver so far.

It is an easy and fast read, that’s for certain.

Carin, who is about as far as I am, said it had similarities to Twilight, but I can’t really agree. Yes, ok, the neglected girl theme is a bit similar, but Grace is a totally different type than Bella in my eyes.

Two things bother me. It is obvious I bought the US version, because there is always the degrees Fahrenheit at the top of a chapter. It is meant to build up some tension as to when it is going to be too cold for Sam to stay human. Nice try, as far as I am concerned. The Fahrenheit measure means zilch to me. I have no idea whether 49 degrees is cold, warm, almost winter, still summer. I have no clue. So the degree info is totally wasted on my. And the tension just won’t come.

Second I haven’t quite figured out when the wolves change anyway. It depends on the age and the season. But the seasonal hint seems to be a bit off. The explanations as to when Sam changed back and forth in the past and when he will change again in the future are somewhat wonky.

All that being said, so far I am liking it. What does everybody else think?


The Princess Bride readalong, part 4

princess bride graphicOctober is over and I have failed miserably as far as the readalong is concerned. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the Princess Bride this time. It was a re-read for me and maybe I was not in the right mood for it. Maybe you have to be younger in order to enjoy it. Maybe you have to be sillier. I have no idea what it was, but I stopped reading after part three of the readalong and had only speed read that third part.


One thing that must have happened was that the memory of the film has somehow fogged up the memory of the book and it appeared better than it actually was. Second, Buttercup so got on my nerves, it was not funny anymore. What a stupid twit! And the romance angle was not quite as believable as I remembered it.

So, no, I don’t think I will re-read the book any time soon. I don’t believe my view of Buttercup will improve in the next years. Rather the opposite I am afraid. Instead I will be content watching the film, enjoying Wallace Shawn and the cute looks of Cary Elwes.

You can find more posts and opinions on The Princess Bride at Chrisbookarama who hosted this readalong.


Shiver Readalong

Nach dem Sommer coverIt’s November and a few of us want to read “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater together. Just making sure everybody is ready and prepared.

I decided to use the German cover as the image for my readalong posts because I like it a lot and prefer it to the American one.

Carin is still waiting for her book from the library, Bella is ready to go. As far as I know Niki and Lisa also have the book already. Mine arrived a few days ago. If anybody else would like to join, feel free.

At the moment I am still reading “Soulless” but will alternate between the two. First of all I want to start Shiver as soon as possible, second I like to read more than one book at a time.

Niki just asked whether there are instructions on how much to read at a time. No pressure. We’ll read at our own pace and talk about it wherever we meet. On our blogs or twitter. Let’s see how that goes. Happy Reading!


The Princess Bride readalong, part 3

princess bride graphic

I have to admit that I speed read this part. Everybody seems to really like learning more about Inigo’s and Fezzik’s background, but to be honest, I am not particularly interested in Fezzik, so I skipped a lot of his story. What those two did while they were apart and lost without Vizzini was ok, but nothing I really wanted to know. Once reunited they made a good team again with Inigo showing that he can make connections and deductions even without Vizzini to rely on.

Poor Westley! I didn’t particularly like the torturing scenes and all that scientific research of the Count. I hate everything violent (unless it is an old fashioned sword fight and such) and torture is something I don’t enjoy reading about. Besides, I can’t help feeling sorry for Westley for another reason as well. Dying for your one true love is all very honourable and noble, but Westley is dying for a woman who is a. shallow and b. stupid to boot.

Yes, Buttercup is stupid. Not only does she believe it when Humperdinck promises her that he will send Westley back to his ship, she also thinks that Humperdinck, the man who wants to marry her and wants to keep her away from Westley at all cost, will send out messengers into all four directions with her love letter to Westley to call him back so she can marry him. Really! How naive and foolish can you be?

So, now, the wedding is imminent, Westley is dead, and it is up to Inigo and Fezzik to save the day. We’ll see how that is going to work out.

Chrisbookarama’s post about part 3 


Reading Shiver in November


After reading a lot of good about “Shiver” I decided to read it, even though it is not my usual genre. Carin from A little Bookish and Bella from A girl reads a book will read the book along with me. Also Lisa from When she reads has shown interest in joining us.

Is anybody else up for it. It’s going to be a very informal readalong. No required posts or anything, we can talk about it on twitter or on any blog; maybe we will set reading targets, but I’m not sure whether this is going to be necessary. I don’t even know yet how many pages the book has.

But anyway, it is all laid back and completely casual.

If you are interested in joining our little group, please leave a comment. 


The Princess Bride readalong, part 2

princess bride graphic

This week we read part 5, The Announcement. This is definitely one of my favourite parts, simply because it has a lot of Vizzini in it. I absolutely love Vizzini. Mostly, I think, because I saw the film first and adore Wallace Shawn. He is so great as Vizzini (even though I would never take him for a Sicilian at first sight). The stuff Vizzini comes up with is just awesome. Let me give you an example or two.

“There will be war”, the Sicilian agreed. “We have been paid to start it. It’s a fine line of work to be expert in. If we do this expertly there will be  a continual demand for our services.”

“Well, I don’t like it all that much,” the Spaniard said. “Frankly, I wish you had refused.”

“The offer was too high.”

“I don’t like killing a girl,” the Spaniard said.

“God does it all the time; if it doesn’t bother Him, don’t let it worry you.”

Later, when they are sailing in the channel, they find a man dressed in black following them in a quicker vessel. Vizzini finds that inconceivable. Then the man catches up and eventually follows them up the Cliffs of Insanity. Also inconceivable for Vizzini. So he comes up with this:

“…so when I tell you something, it is not guesswork, it is fact! And the fact is that the man in black is NOT following us. A more logical explanation would be that he is simply an ordinary sailor who dabbles in mountain climbing as a hobby who happens to have the same general final destination as we do. That certainly satisfies me and I hope it satisfies you.”

I can’t resist adding this montage of Vizzini’s “Inconceivable” scenes…


Throughout the book Goldman’s irony is just wonderful. Listen to this:

Everyone had told her, since she became a princess-in-training, that she was very likely the most beautiful woman in the world. Now she was going to be the richest and most powerful as well.

Don’t expect too much from life, Buttercup told herself as she rode along. Learn to be satisfied with what you have.

And then later on he does not give us the reunion scene! THAT is inconceivable! The couple is finally reunited and we don’t get to read the reunion scene, unless you write to Ballantine Books, lol. OMG, what a fun idea!

At the end of part 5 there was a surprise waiting for me. Judith mentioned the map in her book and I was disappointed that my issue didn’t have a map in it. However, when I marked the end of part 5 I realized it did have one after all. Just it is in the middle of the book and folds out. I must have completely forgotten about it. Here it is. Doesn’t it look lovely?

Princess Bride map

Chrisbookarama’s post about The Princess Bride this week will be up tomorrow due to the Read-a-thon today. I will link to it as soon as it is up.


Here it is.  


The Princess Bride readalong, part 1

princess bride graphicThe readalong has started and I finally have the time to talk about it. So far we read until part 4, called “The preparations”.

This is a re-read for me so I already knew that all the talk about the book being written by S. Morgenstern and only abridged by William Goldman is all a big ruse.

I have to say that I found the introduction for the 25th Anniversary edition and then the preface or whatever you want to call it slightly lengthy if not boring. I skimmed it and was eager to finally get to “The Bride” part. Then the fun started.

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that I don’t really like Buttercup very much. She seems to be quite cool with other people and especially condescending with Westley. Her sudden discovery that she loves him is based on jealousy and pretty shallow. Her declaration of love is sudden and totally over the top, and when she considers herself rejected, she turns it all into a joke. I can’t really find anything captivating in her – apart from her beauty, which is only revealed after she’s being told to bloody wash herself. How charming is that?

I love the style of writing with those little jokes that make the setting of time and place rather hard to determine. It is set before Europe, but AFTER America. The country Florin is set between Sweden and Germany, that would basically make it Denmark. Guilder is on the other side of the channel, God knows, what that might be, geographically it would be Sweden probably, but since we are speaking of a time before Europe, who knows. It’s all a bit vague.

Anyway, this is a fun read and I am already looking forward to the next part.

See Chrisbookarama’s post about the first part here.


Readalong “The Princess Bride”

princess bride graphic

Chris from Book-a-rama is hosting a Princess Bride readalong in October. I already joined because I felt like re-reading the book. I only watched the film recently again and I so love Westley, Inigo and especially Vizzini (that might be down to Wallace Shawn though).

So, if you want to read “The Princess Bride” for the first time or re-read it for the umpteenth time, go over to Book-a-rama on October 02 and discuss it with all of us.

Chris’ copy looks interesting with the black and white cover. Mine is not even half as nice, but I want to show it nevertheless…

 My copy