Happy Friday, everyone!
What a whirlwind September has been! I’m not even kidding when I say this was probably one of the most chaotic months of my life. It’s not every day that you move across the country, have your newly bought car break down, and get into a bike accident while trying to navigate notoriously steep roads in horribly rainy weather…
Luckily for me, though, the cartastrophe is finally coming to an end! After my bicycle mishap and several pathetic phone calls home, my parents evidently concluded that I was in dire need of support and that, instead of me buying another clunky car I could barely afford, it would be better for them to bring me my dad’s clunky car and look for a newer one themselves. Or rather, they decided to have my brother take the car to Munich with him on his way back to university, and have me pick it up there.
(Which turned out to be a whole other ordeal because I hadn’t realized that Bayern München was playing a Champions League game that very day and that taking the subway to meet up with my brother would take me right past the Allianz Arena… 😅 Word of advice: Never take public transportation in Munich during an important soccer game! Particularly if that soccer game takes place one day after the end of Oktoberfest and there are still lots of drunk tourists all over the city!)
Anyway, it was awful, but now I have a car!!! And just in time, too, because the mountain peaks are already covered in snow as of about a week ago.
Transportation drama aside, though, my September wasn’t bad! I absolutely love living here, and although school has me swamped in work like nobody’s business, I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring. AND I GOT TO GO ON A WEEK-LONG MUSIC RETREAT!!! 🤗🎶🤗 Basically, when I mentioned that I had lots of choir and orchestra experience, the music department at my new school all but adopted me, and immediately added me as a chaperone to this choir/big band/orchestra-trip that is an annual tradition here. WHICH WAS SO COOL!!! Apart from getting to know many of my students much better than I ever would have in class, I was also able to play in an orchestra for the first time in months! And I got to take over the younger half of the orchestra for sectionals!! I’ve never conducted or given violin lessons in my life, so getting to do both of those things simultaneously was amazing. The sleep deprivation I got from the whole experience was more than worth it!
But enough about life stuff – let’s get into books! Although I’m afraid I barely got to anything new this month because when the whole car ordeal started, I immediately dropped everything else and decided to binge-read Harry Potter. And binge-watch Star Trek: Voyager. Like, I just couldn’t deal with Hitler on top of everything else, you know? So, sorry to disappoint anyone waiting for that Mein Kampf review, but that has been put on pause indefinitely 😜 Even without having read the whole thing, I can tell you it’s absolutely shitty and that the political insights you gain from it are not worth the agony. Revisiting old favorites is definitely way better, even if you’ve read/seen them so many times that you already know them by heart!
However, my reading track record has definitely also been worse. So let’s have a look at the books I did get to!
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (4.5/5 Stars)
Even before the-great-car-debacle started, I found myself craving something cozy and comforting to read. Cause honestly? The knowledge that I was now living completely on my own, with no housemates to ensure that I had at least some meaningful human interaction in my life, was initially kind of terrifying! Which is why I decided to pick up Legends & Lattes to keep me company while cooking – and although I have since come to realize that living by yourself is, in fact, pretty awesome, I don’t regret that decision one bit! BECAUSE I POSITIVELY ADORED THIS BOOK!!!
Following an orc named Viv who has given up her fighting days in order to open a coffee shop, Legends & Lattes is basically The House in the Cerulean Sea meets Dungeons and Dragons. There’s next to no plot, you get to read about shop renovations, coffee brewing, and biscuit baking all day, and the characters are just the most wholesome thing ever!
Objectively speaking, I have to admit that Legends & Lattes probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It has no major conflict or plot, doesn’t dive deep into any world-building, and is filled to the brim with conveniences. But I loved it! Viv’s determination and her budding friendships with her new coworkers had be glued to my phone’s speakers long past being done with cooking, and there was nothing more satisfying than reading about Legend & Lattes’ menu slowly growing longer and longer as the shop started to establish itself 🥰
These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends (These Violent Delights #1-2) by Chloe Gong (3/5 Stars each)
Well, I finally caved to the pressure. So many of you have been telling me to read this duology for ages, assuring me that I’d love it because it a) was a Shakespeare retelling, b) featured a hate-to-love romance, and c) was a really epic fantasy story.
Set in early 20th-century Shanghai, These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends tell the story of Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, heirs to two rivaling gangs that have been engaged in a furious blood feud for years. While Juliette and Roma once believed they would be able to overcome their families’ hatred of one another, that time is long past. Now bitter enemies, they are reluctantly forced to work together when a monstrous illness threatens to wipe out everyone in their city, regardless of gang affiliation or nationality.
If I’m being completely honest, though? I think this series is massively overhyped 😅 I mean, it wasn’t awful or anything, but considering how popular it is, I expected more! In my opinion, the duology bit off way more than it could chew, and it showed. It tried to delve into historical politics, but ended up massively oversimplifying things. It tried to cater to modern ideals of diversity and inclusiveness, but ended up forcing 21st-century teenagers into a 20th-century setting in the process. It tried to introduce a scary, never-seen-before threat, but ended up completely forgetting to develop a satisfying backstory to the science and magic involved. It tried to have a large and varied cast of characters, but forgot to flesh out half of them. It claimed to be a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but took almost nothing from the original except character names and the blood feud. Like, yeah, I don’t like when retellings stick too closely to the source material, either, but you’ve got to keep the plot structure at least somewhat intact if you expect me to get excited about how you’ve twisted the story! If you don’t do that, just write an original story and leave the retelling out of it!
Honestly, the only things I wholeheartedly liked about these books was the romantic tension between Juliet and Roma and all of the foreign language snippets…
(Although let me just say that reading Russian in the Latin alphabet gave me a humongous headache 😬 My brain sees words when I’m thinking them! You can’t suddenly confront me with spellings that don’t match the dialogue I’m hearing in my head!)
Overall, these books were fun, but they didn’t blow me away either. I honestly fail to see what all the fuss is about.
These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever (4/5 Stars)
Did I pick this up solely because I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to confuse my followers by reading two books with the same title back to back? Quite possibly 😁 I’m so glad I did, though, because in contrast to the other one, this These Violent Delights was awesome!
Set in Pittsburgh during the early 1970s, it follows two young college students in one of the most compellingly written toxic relationships I’ve ever read about. Paul and Julian are both clever, struggling with their pasts, obsessed with one another, and fed up with the world – a dangerous combination that soon brings out the darkness in both of them…
As disturbing as These Violent Delights was, it already had me thoroughly hooked within the first couple of pages. It had exactly the sort of dark-academia-esque pretentiousness I always adore reading about. The protagonists were utterly unlikeable, yet somehow, I still found myself rooting for them. Much to my discomfort, there were parts of Paul and Julian that I couldn’t help but see myself in, which creeped me out in the best sort of way possible!
That being said, I did feel like the middle section of the book was a bit weaker than the rest of it. There’s this jarring change in the protagonists’ goals that came about a bit too suddenly for my liking, and I just wish that had been integrated into the otherwise rather slow-moving plot in a more organic manner. And the ending, too, could have packed a bit more punch.
Overall, though? This book was awesome and really makes you think!! If you’re at all into queer dark academia and the macabre, I’d highly recommend checking it out.
Bonus: Гарри Поттер и философский камень by J.K. Rowling, translated by Maria Spivak
Yes, I’m blatantly breaking my rule of not mentioning rereads in my wrap-ups, but look – reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Russian was one of my yearly goals for 2022! I need to put proof on this blog that I actually did it, to distract from the fact of how horribly I’m failing at some of the other goals on that list! 😁😇 Besides, despite the countless times I’ve reread the Harry Potter books, I’d never read them in Russian before, so technically, this is more like half a reread… Right?
Anyway, I’m not going to tell you what Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is about because if you don’t know that, why the heck are you spending your free time reading a book blog!?! And I’m not going to tell you that I loved it, either, because if that’s not a given, I don’t know what is. Instead, for my fellow translation fans, I thought I’d inform you about some of the best name translations Russian Harry Potter has to offer! Because while I thought the German editions had it bad, it’s nothing compared to how overboard the Russians went:
- Newt Scamander = Ньют Саламандер (Newt Salamander): Trust at least one country to translate Newt’s last name into the first association everyone probably has with it. After all, an amphibious allusion seems at least as fitting for a magizoologist as a reference to some obscure ancient Greek river god…
- Professor Quirrel = Профессор Страунс (Professor Strounce): I have no idea where this one comes from – if you’re Russian and happen to know, please tell me, because I’m dying! The only association I have with the word ‘страунс’ is that it sounds really similar to the German word for ‘ostrich’ (Strauß), so now I will have that forever ingrained in my brain. Thanks, Maria Spivak.
- Severus Snape = Злотеус Злей (Zloteus Zlay): This one might even beat my admiration of the Danes renaming Tom Riddle ‘Romeo Detlev’. The Russians literally rechristened Snape ‘Golden Evil’! WTF??? 😳😂 Where did the gold come from? He’s black-haired and greasy! And as for the evil… Well, all I can say is that maybe should wait and see how the series ends before taking such liberty with your translations.
- The Mirror of Erised = Зеркало Джедан (Zerkalo Jedan): Renaming the Mirror of Erised is one of the few Harry Potter name changes that I understand the necessity of. You can’t very well discover that you need to read the mirror’s inscription backwards if you don’t speak the language you’re reading it in. However, I’m not sure I approve of translating ‘desire’ with ‘надежда’. ‘Desire’ and ‘hope’ are two different things! It’s not like Harry is hoping his dead parents will come back to life, but he does desire it. You can’t hope for something that is no longer a possibility… So, in my opinion, a way more accurate translation here would have been ‘Зеркало Яиналеж’! Then again, ‘Яиналеж’ is a bit of a mouthful, and I suppose it’s always good to have hope in your life.
- Fluffy = Пушок (Pushok): I mean, sure, this is a pretty accurate translation, apart from the fact that ‘пушок’ is a noun and ‘fluffy’ is an adjective… But ‘пушок’ just sounds so similar to ‘Pushkin’ that that connection was pretty much preprogrammed into my brain! So now we have a poetic three-headed dog guarding the forbidden third-floor corridor… Well, I guess it fits with Fluffy’s love for music.
But anyway, I think I’ll leave it at that. We’d be here forever if I told you about all of the amazingly weird names in this book because, I kid you not, Maria Spivak changed at least 50% of them! Let’s just say that, despite me struggling to get through Гарри Поттер и философский камень for over a month, I had an absolute blast, and I definitely intend to read the rest of the series in Russian at some point!
Yeah, what with the car, the move, and school, I didn’t do much blog hopping either 😅 Sorry everyone! It’s not you, I swear! Still, despite my abysmal September engagement, here are a few posts I got around to reading and really enjoyed:
- Sumedha @ The Wordy Habitat explained why she suddenly disappeared from the blogosphere for some time. Her raw and honest way of discussing burnout really resonated with me, and I’m so, so glad she didn’t shy away from posting this! 💙
- Riddhi @ Whispering Stories celebrated her university debut by writing about types of people you meet in the first two weeks of college. This was fairly spot on and made me feel really nostalgic for my own university days. Like, seriously guys, you have no idea how much I miss university!! 🎓
- Line @ First Line Reader did the Me and Music Tag, one of my favorite tags currently making its way around the bookish community! I’m still listening my way through Line’s recs, and have decided that, apart from Tokio Hotel and Måneskin, her tastes are pretty impeccable 🎼
- Mint @ Mint Loves Books wrote about what it’s like not to be able to picture anything while reading. If you’ve been here for some time, you’ll know that I am beyond OBSESSED with the topic of mental imagery!! Especially when it means hearing from people who don’t have any because no matter how many times they try to explain, I just don’t understand!! 😩
- Suhani @ Random Reader’s Rambles celebrated her first blogiversary with one of the most wholesome reflection posts ever! Congrats again, Suhani – one year of blogging is a huge achievement, and you never fail to make this community a brighter place with your unwavering enthusiasm! 🥳
- Emily @ Frappes and Fiction explained her reasons for going vegan in a thoughtful and unapologetic post that really resonated with me! Although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to cut meat out of my diet completely – It tastes so good!! 😭 – I’ve been trying to reduce my consumption for years now and think the environmental and ethical issues involved are so important to discuss! 🍉
So yeah – that was it for today! Let me know how your September was down below, if you’ve read any of these books, and whether there are any heartwarming novels you’ve read recently that you would recommend!
(In other words: Provide alternatives that will save me from pathetically rereading all seven Harry Potter books for the third time in a row 😅)