Sunday, September 17, 2017

On the Topic of the Use of German in Wintersong

I have already uploaded my review for Wintersong, but it seems I'm not done talking about this book. This post has been in my drafts for about two months now, but I really want to upload it because I already put quite a bit of work into it, so better late than never, right?

I've read a number of books in the past where some words or little sentences in different languages were included, and I always wondered whether the author either spoke that language or just researched it really carefully. In other words: were those sentences actually correct? With Wintersong, the situation was a little different, as the foreign language used was German, my native language. So for the first time, I was actually able to understand those italic words and sentences. And that's what I want to talk about today.

Just as a little disclaimer: I'm definitely not trying to be the language police. I don't have degree in German or anything, and my knowledge of grammatical expressions etc. is basically non-existent because it's been years since I learned those things. All I can work with is my knowledge of the language as someone who speaks it every day. And even that's not quite true since I live in Switzerland and Swiss German is a dialect that's pretty different from High German. And Wintersong actually takes place in Austria, where again a different dialect of High German is spoken. Another point I feel like I have to make is that Wintersong obviously takes place in a very different time. There are a lot of expressions that I'm pretty sure no one would use today, but I can very well imagine being used at the time Wintersong takes place. So I'm not going to address things like Liesl always calling the Erlkönig 'mein Herr', even though that sounds very strange to me.

When I first decided to write this post, I was convinced there was a lot of German in the book, because that's what it felt like while I was reading it. But now that I've gone through the whole thing again, I noticed that overall, German is used very sparsely throughout. Different German words like 'mein Brüderchen', 'Fräulein', 'Kapellmeister' are frequently used instead of the English equivalent, and I didn't mind these at all. Using German words in these instances helped remind the reader where the story takes place and I appreciated that.

The most used German expression was 'Der Erlkönig', and I guess this is what bothered me throughout the story. Because Der Erlkönig is always called exactly that: Der Erlkönig. I didn't understand (and I still don't really) why they would use 'Der Erlkönig' instead of 'the Erlkönig'. Because in German, there are four cases, and the article 'der' changes depending on what case is used. Only in the nominative case 'der' is actually 'der', otherwise it becomes 'des', 'dem' or 'den'. A sentence like 'I'm playing with Der Erlkönig' would translate to 'Ich spiele mit dem Erlkönig'. The article 'der' changes to 'dem' because it's the dative case. In the book, however, only 'Der Erlkönig' was used for all four cases. This 'problem' occurred with all kinds of different sentences, and it kind of bothered me again and again because it sounds very wrong to me. I feel like this issue could've been avoided so easily by just going with 'the Erlkönig'. 

Next is the strange use of capital letters. 'Der Erlkönig' is another example for this. In German, only nouns start with a capital letter, or other words at the beginning of a sentence. So in the same example sentence used above ('I'm playing with Der Erlkönig'), 'Der' (or better: dem) does not have a capital D but a lower case d instead. This looked weird to me as well, even though it might just have been done to emphasize the use of German even more.

Now, let's look at the one German sentence used in the book. It was always followed by an English translation when it was used, but to be honest I still don't understand what it's supposed to mean. The sentence in German was the following: 'Für meine Lieben, ein Lied im stil die Bagatelle, auch der Erlkönig', and the English translation is 'For my loved ones, a song in the style of a bagatelle, or The Goblin King.' I still don't understand what is meant by the second part 'or the Goblin King', whether that's supposed to be the title of the song. But what I do know is that 'ein Lied im stil die Bagatelle' is definitely not correct German. Again, the German cases are completely neglected, as this should be 'im Stil der Bagatelle', or even better 'im Stil einer Bagatelle' because 'eine' is the indefinite article in German. On top of that, the S in 'Stil' should be capitalized since it's a noun.

These are just some examples of things that bothered me as a German native speaker when reading Wintersong. I'm still not 100% sure that this wasn't all done on purpose, but even if so, I feel like that wouldn't have been the right choice. And I'm curious: have you ever read a book where you knew the foreign language used, and were there any mistakes?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Changeling's Journey

The Changeling's Journey
by Christine Spoors
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: July 31, 2017
Published by: Christine Spoors
Paperback, 409 pages
My rating: 3.5/5 ★

Ailsa is dead. Leaving Morven the last surviving changeling in the village. Everyone knows it is only a matter of time before she too is dead. Desperate to find out why the fairies steal human babies, and to save her own life, she leaves her family behind, travelling north into the fairy kingdoms with her best friend.

They soon find that making their way through vast magical forests, across kelpie-ridden lochs and over seemingly endless mountain ranges is more than they were prepared for. Despite the countless evenings spent listening to stories about adventures, fairies and magic, they find themselves out of their depth. Fighting to stay alive.

Meanwhile in the fairy kingdoms, Princess Freya of Culhuinn struggles to cope with life now that her love has been taken from her. Whilst Queen Euna of Norbroch spends more time lost in her memories than she does ruling her kingdom.

Overall, The Changeling's Journey was a very good book. It features a great cast of diverse characters, beautiful friendships and a truly magical world. Still, something was missing to make this an excellent, 5 star read for me.

The story is told from three different points of view: Morven, a changeling who is traveling north with her best friend to find out more about herself and changelings in general; Princess Freya, the heir to the throne of Culhuinn, one of the fairy kingdoms; and Queen Euna, one of two queens of the northernmost fairy kingdom of Norbroch.

Morven's perspective was definitely my favorite. Her friendship with Glen is what really stood out to me in the entire book and I enjoyed reading about their adventures on their journey north. I also liked reading from Queen Euna's perspective up in the northernmost kingdom, but I will admit that the very extensive flashbacks were sometimes a little too much for me. Last but not least, the point of view of Princess Freya. At first, I really enjoyed her perspective as well, but I will say that throughout the book, her chapters were the ones I had the most issues with.

Christine's writing style is very agreeable to me. It's quite plain and straight-forward, but I kind of liked that. I was still able to picture the world she created very vividly without her using the fanciest words out there (that I would've most likely had to look up anyway), and that's what's most important to me. One thing that I feel could be improved are the dialogues. I'm someone who lives for great dialogue, and I found this to be a little lacking in The Changeling's Journey.

As to the plot, it was overall well developed and I really enjoyed that it was clearly inspired by Scottish folklore, as this is something I'm not too familiar with but now realize I quite like to read about. One thing that bothered me a little was how convenient everything always ended up for the characters. There were multiple problems throughout the story that the characters were faced with, yet they always seemed to resolve themselves very easily. I was always waiting for something to not work out as planned for once, but it never did. While I appreciate not adding unnecessary drama, it still felt a little too easy and convenient most of the times.

As to one other point I want to mention, I'm going to put a spoiler warning, so I recommend only reading the next paragraph it you've read the book.

But even with all of this that I think could be improved, The Changeling's Journey did have one thing: it got me hooked and it made me want to keep reading, and I feel like that's the most important! I think Christine did a wonderful job with her first book, and I absolutely admire her for putting so much work into this book and then publishing it on her own - it totally paid off, and I can't wait to see her future work!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Wintersong (Wintersong #1)

by S. Jae-Jones
Series: Wintersong #1
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication date: February 7, 2017
Published by: Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 436 pages
My rating: 3/5 ★

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

I have some mixed feelings about Wintersong. For the first half of this book, I was head over heels in love with the story and the writing. I was so sure this would become a new favorite of mine, but unfortunately it didn't turn out quite like that. The story became too whimsical and confusing for me and I started to lose interest, and then I felt like nothing really happened anymore at all.

I'll try to explain myself a little better: For me, there are three parts to this story. In the first one, the plot was more or less 'normal', nothing very magical happened here. This is when the beautiful and captivating writing style really stood out to me. It was almost poetic, and I loved it. Then the story took a very confusing turn, and I had trouble following it and understanding what's going on. The writing style, unfortunately, only added to my confusion at this point. And then in the third part, the plot slowed down, and I got a little bored. There is so much talk of music here, and everything was very dramatic but nothing really happened. I'm very sorry to say that this is when I really started waiting for the book to end.

As I said, there is a lot of talk about music in this book, which I'm sure would be incredibly enjoyable for people who play an instrument or have any understanding of music at all. Unfortunately, I don't, and I feel like it kept me from really getting into the story or identifying with it and the characters at all. Music really plays such a huge part in this book and for me this was just a big black hole I didn't really know what to do with.

Then there's the romance. I just didn't get it. I don't know how else to explain it: it didn't make any sense to me 99% of the time and the other 1% I was hopeful that it would finally turn around and become something that would speak to me, but it didn't. This was a huge disappointment to me as it was what I was most excited for in Wintersong. I really thought this would be the aspect of the story that would make me love it.

So overall, Wintersong did not live up to my expectations. I feel like it was hit or miss for me with this one, and unfortunately it ended up being the latter. I can totally see how other people would love all the things that I disliked about this book, so I won't discourage anyone from picking it up. It just did not speak to me personally.

Also, I want to say that this all sounds very negative but it's not as if I hated every single page in this book. But since the second part is where I had the most issues, and it's been months since I read the first half of the book, I don't remember exactly what I loved about it and I can't help but write a fairly negative review.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

FairyLoot March 2017 Unboxing

One thing I've been (unintentionally) keeping a secret here on the blog is how much I love FairyLoot. If you didn't know, FairyLoot is a monthly book subscription box all about Young Adult fantasy books (i.e. perfect for me). I've ordered a couple of boxes in the past, but because they celebrated their one year anniversary in March, this box was a little special and I immediately knew I had to have it when they announced that it would be purple (don't judge). 

The theme for the March box was MYTHS & MONSTERS. As always, one brand new hardcover release (signed!) was included, as well as five awesome goodies to go along with the theme. I really like all of it and took about a thousand pictures, which I'm going to share now.

First, and most importantly, the book included in this month's box was STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor. This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so I couldn't be happier about receiving it in the March box. I was pretty sure that this would be the book included which is part of the reason I absolutely had to get this box. As mentioned, it's actually signed by Laini Taylor and it came with a letter as well as a quote postcard.

The first (and maybe my favorite) item included is this beautiful Silver Dragon Scale Scarf by GivArt (whose links I unfortunately couldn't find). I love items of clothing like these that are super nerdy on the one hand but on the other hand you can't really tell if you don't pay attention.

Next we have Unicorn Fairy Lights by Mustard. These are really cute but a little much so for me to actually put up in my room or something. But they might make nice props for pictures.

So candles are probably my favorite thing to receive from FairyLoot, and this Nephilim Candle by Geeky Clean is no exception. It's a very sweet scent (black cherry & lime) and I basically can't stop smelling it.

Then we have this gorgeous Mermaid Pocket Mirror designed by Book Otter. I really love the design of this and while pocket mirrors are super useful in theory, I never really use them. So this will probably just end up on display on my bookshelves which I'm definitely not complaining about.

Last but not least we have these adorable Dragon and Phoenix Magnetic Bookmarks by Bonitismo. These will probably end up on display rather than in use too, just because they're too pretty and I don't want to ruin them.

Of course, the March FairyScoop with an interview with Laini Taylor and more was also included in the box. And because this was the anniversary box, there was also a little booklet portraying FairyLoots story which gave some lovely background information and Anissa and Michael's journey.

That's it! Obviously, I am super happy with this box, because who wouldn't be. I'm generally just a huge fan of FairyLoot and so impressed with all the hard work Anissa and the others put into their boxes. I highly recommend subscribing to FairyLoot if you have the chance. They also offer single purchases which I love, so you can just give it a try once without any commitment.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March 2017 Wrap-Up

March started out great reading-wise, but towards the end I began slacking a little and then fell into a reading slump. Luckily, I'm still 10 books ahead in my reading challenge, so I'm not stressed out about it at all.

What I Read

I read a total of six books in March which is pretty average for me, so I'm happy with that. 
  • A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, 5/5 ★
  • As expected, I absolutely loved this book. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and it didn't disappoint. The series in general is purely amazing and I highly recommend it. This third book was a little darker and more depressing than the others but it wrapped the story up nicely, the characters are still my favorite and the writing was great - basically everything I'm used to in a Victoria Schwab book.

  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, 3/5 ★
  • I listened to the audiobook of this over the course of several months and it was a little bit of an up-and-down for me. There were parts I really enjoyed, namely the ones where Jenny actually talks about her mental illness and how she deals with it. The rest of the book wasn't really for me, mostly because it wasn't my type of humor.

  • The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 5/5 ★
  • I wrote a full-length review for this one which you can read here. The short version is: I loved this book. Very much.

  • All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher, 4/5 ★
  • I also listened to this on audiobook and that worked out great for me. I've watched Carrie's youtube videos for a few years now and listening to this audiobook felt just like watching her. Even though this is clearly aimed at a younger audience than me, I still really enjoyed it and could definitely take away a few things from it. Overall, the advice Carrie gave may be a little on the generic side but as someone who hasn't read a lot of books like this one, that didn't bother me at all.

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander / J.K. Rowling, 4/5 ★
  • This is a lovely addition to my Harry Potter collection, and even though I can't say it's a must-read for anyone, I still enjoyed learning about the different beasts and flew through the book.

  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, 3/5 ★
  • While I did enjoy reading this one, I never fully got into it. I don't even really know what it was but I just didn't care enough about the characters and the story to really get invested, and the ending kind of put me off from continuing with the series right away. I might still read the rest of the series at some point, but this first book was just kind of mehh for me and unfortunately didn't live up to the hype.

New Books

I got seven new books in March, which is more than I read this month but then again I have already read Before We Were Strangers so basically I only added six books to my TBR which is fine? Maybe? I'm not really on a book buying ban but I do try to only buy the books I'm really dying for and not buy more than I actually read in general. If that makes sense. But anyway, here are the books I got:

That's it. As you can see, I was a little confused when taking the pictures for this post. I forgot to include A Conjuring of Light in the first picture and then Strange the Dreamer in the second.. I hope you can forgive me!

What's your favorite book you read in March?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication date: March 7, 2017
Published by: Clarion Books
eARC, 464 pages
My rating: 5/5 ★

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy
in exchange for an honest review.

The first day of senior year:
Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.
Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is an all around beautiful story about about grief, loss and getting to know oneself, but also the value of friendship and family through it all. After how much I loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, this book had a lot to live up to, and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

First of all, the writing. It is beautiful. The way Benjamin Alire Saenz writes seems very matter-of-fact and like there's not much emotion there, with very short sentences and chapters. And while you would expect to feel totally detached from the characters and the story because of it, that's not true at all. I teared up multiple times while reading this because the writing is so raw and somehow makes up for the lack of emotion in describing by making the reader feel all the emotions twice as heavily. I honestly can't explain it, but it is wonderful.

Then there are the characters. The friendship between our protagonist, Salvador, and his best friend Samantha is one of my favorite I've ever read about. They have this incredibly close connection, and the way they talk with each other and treat each other is often hilarious but also so honest and heart-warming. It is clear in every single one of their actions how deeply they care for each other and it was wonderful to see them support each other throughout the many challenges they faced throughout this book. 

There is also Salvador's other friend, Fito, who is on his own already an incredibly complex and unique character. Fito had a lot to deal with in his life, and his friendship with Salvador gets closer and closer throughout this book, and I'm almost tempted to say that I liked it even more than what Salvador had with Samantha. Because as opposed to Salvador and Samantha having been very close all their lives, we actually get to follow the friendship between Salvador and Fito develop throughout the book, so we basically get two views on friendship, which was amazing. If for no other reason, you should absolutely read this book for the amazing portrayal of friendship.

But of course, there is also the family aspect. Salvador lives with his gay Mexican adoptive father and has a very close relationship with both him and his grandmother. There are also quite a few aunts and uncles, and altogether they make this big, loving family that was just pretty amazing to read about. Salvador's struggles in this regard when it comes to feeling like he belongs or accepting changes in the life he knows were very relatable. Even though his happy family life was in stark contrast to other people's situations portrayed throughout the book, he still had issues to work through.

Overall, this book was just incredibly beautiful. I 100% recommend it because of the friendships, the family dynamics and the beautiful writing. There is, however, not much plot. We mostly just follow Salvador's daily life while he works through his issues. But I still loved it. There was so much going on on the inside that there was no need for epic adventurous tales. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

February 2017 Wrap-Up

February has been an amazing reading month for me, so please prepare for a long post. It's been a long time since I read this many books in a month, and on top of that I loved almost all the books I picked up. But without further ado, let's get into the wrap-up.

Books I Read

I read 11 books in February, which surprised me quite a bit when I went back and counted them. For a change, this month didn't go by as quickly as the months usually seem to, and as a result, I feel like the beginning of the month (and with it the first books I read this month) was ages ago. So here's what I read:

  • Infini (Aerial Etherial #2) by Krista and Becca Ritchie, 4/5 ★
  • This book didn't disappoint, and I ended up enjoying it about as much as I did the first book. I love the family dynamics and the circus atmosphere in both of the Aerial Etherial books, but I will say that the romance in this one didn't really pull me in. I didn't feel for Luka and Baylee as much as I could have, but for all the other aspects of the story, I still loved this book and I really hope there will be another one in this series (preferably about Dimitri). 

  • The Hook Up (Game On #1) by Kristen Callihan, DNF at 15%
  • I decided to give up on this one very early on because it just wasn't for me. The characters and the story were so one-dimensional, and it just wasn't worth it to push through in my opinion. 

  • Next to Never (Fall Away #4.5) by Penelope Douglas, 3/5 
  • This was a little disappointing as I went into it expecting it to be something different. It's definitely my own fault as reading the synopsis would have cleared up my misconception. But still, this story felt a little unnecessary. I'm honestly not sure whether I really want to read the future books in this series. Somehow, seeing my beloved characters of the previous books as (very controlling) parents didn't really work for me. 

  • Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, 5/5 
  • This book was a very positive surprise for me. It dealt with a lot of different aspects in unique ways and was overall such a well written and thought out book. I wrote a full review here in case you are interested in more of my thoughts. 

  • Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo, 5/5 
  • The hype surrounding this book was humongous, and I was so happy to see the book totally live up to it. My favorite part of this story are of course the characters, each so unique and human that you can't help but fall in love with them and their quest. I also adored Leigh Bardugo's writing in this one and there were so many quotable quotes that I couldn't help but write down and hope that someone someday makes fan art that I can hang on my walls of all of them. 

  • Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo, 5/5 
  • Other than the fact that I would have needed a LOT of epilogue, I loved this book just as much as the first. I don't even know what else to say other than this series has a special place in my heart and I will definitely want to revisit it again and again. I still think about it a lot and it gives me all the warm fuzzies. 

  • The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen, 4/5 
  • After finishing an epic fantasy series, I often feel the need to pick up New Adult books as they are quick and easy to read. In this case, I was lucky enough to pick one that I really enjoyed and didn't make me roll my eyes once (which I don't think has ever happened before with a NA book). Overall, this was very well written, and to my delight, there was almost no drama at all which is always so refreshing with this genre. 

  • The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years #2) by Sarina Bowen, 2.5/5 
  • As always when I discover a new NA series that I really enjoy, I basically have to binge-read the whole thing. This time, unfortunately, the second book wasn't as good as the first, mostly because it featured a lot more of that drama that I was so glad was missing from the first book. But still: very likable characters and good chemistry. But what also really bothered me is how Scarlet's situation regarding her father's trial etc. was portrayed. There was such a great opportunity to speak on a topic I have never heard about before in books, and instead of actually exploring it, the author seemed to just take the easy way out. 

  • Blonde Date (The Ivy Years #2.5) by Sarina Bowen, 4/5 
  • This was a fun and cute novella, and I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Andrew was such sweetheart and I couldn't help but root for him. 

  • The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen, 4/5 
  • This book portrayed the topic of coming out really well in my opinion. I've read a few LGBT books before, but this one was different from all of those, and I really appreciated Sarina Bowen's take on this topic. This is still a NA book, and I think the author managed to stay within that genre really well while also making the story meaningful (which is not something I usually expect from New Adult books). 

  • A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab, reread
  • I reread this one in preparation for A Conjuring of Light (which I have just finished and I basically died of awesomeness). I wrote a review for it the first time I read it, which you can find here. My thoughts are mainly the same, namely that this book is perfection and you need to read it. 

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling, reread
  • This was also a reread for me, but this time (and I'm actually a little embarrassed to say this) I read it to my boyfriend over Skype. That's probably the cheesiest thing we have ever done, but I would do anything to get him to read, so no regrets. 

New Books

So while I did read a lot of books in February, I also got almost as many new books, which kind of defeats the purpose with regard to lowering my TBR. But what can you do? At least, most of these are books I also already read this month.

That's it! What did you read this month?