I’m making progress! I read more in February than in January, and since my last exam is on March 6th, I really hope I can keep going along that trajectory. Also, I also read some books this month that I really, really enjoyed, not just classics I was forcing myself to read or anticipated releases that only turned out mediocre, so I’m very happy about that 🙂 Things are definitely looking better than last year!
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (3/5 Stars)
I never really planned on reading Milk and Honey – I’ve already mentioned that I’m usually not the biggest fan of modern poetry – but I took the bus to a meeting with friends, which meant I was in town about half an hour early, and what better way to spend that time than going to a bookshop? Since the bookshops here in Bayreuth aren’t really big enough to keep you occupied for half an hour if you just browse the shelves, I decided I might as well read something, and Milk and Honey had exactly the right length for the amount of time I had at my disposal. I suppose the dark subject matter might have called for a slower, more pensive read-through – this is a poetry collection about abuse and violence towards women, especially within relationships – but I didn’t have time for that, so I just read it in one sitting. Plus, I don’t think I’d have given it much more time under other circumstances, either. While I did enjoy it and thought that it’s message was an important one, it didn’t make a huge impression on me, and there weren’t any poems that impacted me enough to make me want to go back and look at them in more detail. It was okay, but I don’t really see why this collection is hyped to the extent that it is – but then again, I’m not really a huge modern poetry fan, so I might not be the best judge 😉
Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo (4.5/5 Stars)
I loved this! This is easily my favorite Leigh Bardugo book to date, and one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It was exactly my type of book – you’re thrust immediately into the thick of things and slowly figure out what’s going on. The protagonist Alex (short for Galaxy, but at least the weird name kind of has a convincing backstory) has been given a scholarship to attend Yale in exchange for giving her services to Lethe, a secret society tasked with keeping an eye on Yale’s other secret societies, who dabble in all kinds of black magic. Seemingly, Alex doesn’t fit in at all – a high school drop-out who recently survived a homicide – but maybe it’s exactly this unique position that makes her follow up on a murder that others might have ignored as just a regular killing. Soon, Alex in knee-deep in trouble and has to figure out who she can trust enough to help her. Especially since her mentor Darlington, whom the reader gets to know and love in a series of flashbacks (this book alternates between different timelines, which I think worked really well here), has mysteriously disappeared. Overall, I found this book to be super atmospheric and compelling, and it had exactly the dark kinds of college vibes that I’d been looking for since reading M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains. Although this time, there was black magic involved, which I’m always here for! The only thing I would have liked to see a bit more of was how life in Lethe actually tied into the rest of Alex’s school life. I love school and university settings, so a bit more everyday Yale life would have been nice. Still, I’m really excited to get my hands on the next book – I can’t wait to see where this series goes!
Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition by Michael Tomasello
I doubt anyone is really very interested in this – it’s one of the reading requirements for the linguistics portion of the Staatsexamen – but I put so much time into reading and writing a detailed summary of it for my study group that it is basically forcing me to give it a mention. (If you should ever require a summary, let me know – it was not a fun experience having to write one). I didn’t rate it, since I never really know how to rate nonfiction I read for university. I mean, I didn’t particularly enjoy my reading experience, but it did explain the subject – how children learn to speak their native language – very well and gave a good overview of research, studies, and current theories in the field. The usage-based approach focused on here also seems very plausible to me, although I did get a bit annoyed because, as always, this book had to emphasize how unique language and understanding language is to humans, and that any attempts to use language (e.g. by apes and birds) don’t fulfil requirements of “true” language. Honestly, I think we just haven’t yet understood animal communication enough to make such glorified statements about our own species – especially when all other hypotheses in this book are supported by various studies supporting their claims. But that’s only a side note – on the whole, this is a very well organized and understandably written account of current approaches to studying child language acquisition, and a good place to start for anyone interested in the theory of language acquisition.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (3/5 Stars)
I finally read it! I feel so relieved – it’s honestly kind of a burden to be studying English knowing you haven’t read Shakespeare’s most famous play of all time yet. Now that I’ve read it, I think that distinction may be undeserved. Othello, for example, is loads better! I don’t think I really need to go into detail about what Romeo and Juliet is about, since this is probably the prototypical tragic love story. Still, there were a bunch of things that did surprise me. For one, Romeo was not initially in love with Juliet at all, but with some other random chick called Rosaline, whom he raves on about using terrible love poetry – much to the annoyance of his friends – and who strangely never shows up again. However, Rosaline doesn’t want Romeo, and the minute Romeo sets eyes on Juliet, they fall in love instead. Honestly, it’s the worst case of instalove I’ve ever read about. Especially since they’re willing to die for each other just days afterwards. It was hilarious! As were the weird sexual innuendos Juliet’s nurse kept making. And I thought it was terrible watching romantic movies with my dad… Also, don’t get me started on Act IV, Scene 5, which has made it to my favorite scenes in Shakespeare’s plays just because of its sheer ridiculousness. This is the scene where Juliet’s nurse discovers a seemingly dead Juliet, and the characters’ reactions are so over the top it is absolutely priceless. For example:
NURSE: O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day. Most lamentable day. Most woeful day That ever, ever I did yet behold. O day, O day, O day, O hateful day. Never was seen so black a day as this. O woeful day, O woeful day. (iv.v.49-54)
This goes on, I kid you not, for pages and pages. Please tell me this is as funny as I think is (I’m tempted to use it for practicing the analysis of stylistic devices with my future students), and that I’m not just so stressed by all the work I have to do for university that I’ve become hysterical. Though honestly, that might be the case. After all, this is supposed to be a tragedy, and I spend most of my time laughing about 16th century dick jokes. Clearly, I’m very mature.
The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin (2.5/5 Stars)
This is the final book in Michelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer trilogy, and, unfortunately for me, it didn’t really live up to the first two. I can’t say what exactly I found so unsatisfying – it was probably a combination of things. To avoid spoilers, I’m going to be purposefully vague here. If you’ve also read this book, I hope what I’m saying makes sense! For one thing, the first half of the book seemed like filler content – many of the events felt almost randomly thrown in to add some sort of drama to make the book longer and to draw out the time until the love interests were reunited. Plus, the whole “separating the love interests for no apparent reason” plotline never really sits well with me anyway. I also felt as though the whole idea of genetic memory was thrown in but never really explored to the full extent it could have been, and a few other plotlines (e.g. Jude’s backstory) seemed rushed as well. Also, the whole resolution seemed far too easy – I wanted more intrigue and showdown! Still, I did enjoy the trilogy as a whole – it just didn’t blow me away. Let me know if the spin off series is any good; Maybe I’ll eventually give that a try.
Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin (4.5/5 Stars)
This is yet another book this month that I absolutely loved. I wouldn’t say it’s high quality literature, but it was definitely high-enjoyment literature and exactly what I needed during exam-preparation time. The story follows Louise, a witch who has fled from her coven and now lives in a theater in the city of Cesarine. Ever since Louise’s country was occupied, witches have been hunted down, so Lousie must keep her magic hidden to avoid being burned at the stake. The story’s other protagonist, Reid, is a Chasseur, an orphan trained from childhood on to become a witch hunter. When a heist of Louise’s goes awry and chaos ensues, Louise and Reid suddenly find themselves forced into marriage – unless they wish to lose the entire life they have built for themselves. This is an excellent hate-to-love story, it has great friendships, interesting explorations of parenthood, and I love how it used historical witch burnings as a way to explore oppression and prejudice. Highly recommend!