Category: 75 Book Challenge 2015

75 Books in 2015 – V (A Bride’s Story vol. 6)

It just occurred to me that I should’ve used the title “Bibliophile’s Journal” for this series, since this is almost exactly what I originally had in mind for the posts already using that title. I suppose I could go back and change it – there are only five entries so far.

Also: Once again I’m able to post two days in a row. My blagging prowess grows by the day.

Anyway, perhaps I should address the real topic of this post, which is the sixth volume of Mori Kaoru’s A Bride’s Story. This volume had a lot more action than previous entries. There are bits of action and intrigue here-and-there, but much of the series is, for lack of a better term, slice-of-life in Central Asia in the Nineteenth Century. Then we get an all-out battle that takes up half of this volume, which is a nice change of pace, if nothing else.

The setting alone gives the series a lot of novelty value, I find it hard the dislike these characters, and Mori’s artwork is very detailed. Her enthusiasm for drawing this setting and story really shows throughout the books.

Unfortunately, I don’t find the story particularly compelling. The problem, I think, stems from Mori straying away from the two protagonists introduced in the first volume for several chapters, even a full volume, at a time. New volumes come out a bit slowly so the story moves at a snail’s pace already, even without the lengthy digressions that kill any sense of immersion in the plot. The setting and characters do make A Bride’s Story worth reading, though, and I’d certainly recommend it, I just prefer a more focused style of storytelling.…

Read More 75 Books in 2015 – V (A Bride’s Story vol. 6)

75 Books in 2015 – IV (The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918)

Alright, we’re not even half a month into this challenge, and we’re bangin’ on all cylinders. My fourth completed book of the year is The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, by A.J.P. Taylor.

Now, I’m the sort of person who can’t help but feel a fondness for the Habsburgs, but I don’t feel confident that I know enough about them, so this book was a good step in correcting that. Well, somewhat, at least – because it focuses on 1809 onwards, much of it only covers one Habsburg, Franz Joseph, who reigned from 1848-1916. Furthermore, the book is actually fairly depressing, as it covers the decline and fall of the Austrian empire. There are very few triumphs here, and there’s a lot of muddling along and compromising, trying to hold the empire together for as long as possible, yet knowing that things cannot go on forever. Indeed, if the empire hadn’t been necessary to maintain stability in this part of Europe and thus been handled with kid-gloves by its neighbours, it may well have collapsed earlier than it did. As Taylor put it, “Austria was preserved to suit the convenience of others, not by her own strength. A Great Power becomes a European necessity only when it is in decline; the truly great do not need to justify their existence.”

Taylor isn’t afraid to state his own opinion on the people and policies he covers, and the vast majority of his judgements are negative. When an Italian war seemed possible in the early Twentieth Century, for example, he writes, “A war against Italy would have given even the Habsburg Monarchy the tonic of victory; for Italy was a ridiculous imitation of a Great Power, impressive only to professional diplomats and literary visitors.” This is fine with me, though some people might find his constant negativity grating, and he does get carried away at least once, when discussing Franz Joseph’s son, Rudolph: “[H]e intended to save the Empire by a more violent dose of German liberalism, and would have paired well with Frederick III, who had similar projects for Germany. Fortunately for himself and for others, Rudolph committed suicide.”

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in European history. I likely will supplement it with another book covering an earlier era of the Habsburg monarchy, to see how the situation covered here arose in the first place.

Next up is more graphic novel fun (most likely either Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin or A Bride’s Story), then Tanizuki Junichiro’s In Praise of Shadows.…

Read More 75 Books in 2015 – IV (The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918)

75 Books in 2015 – II and III (Spice & Wolf)

When was the last time I managed to post on consecutive days? For that matter, when was the last time I posted on consecutive weeks?

Also, how should I format post titles? Heck if I know.

Anyway, I can knock out graphic novels pretty quickly, as evidenced by getting through volumes nine and ten of Koume Keito’s adaptation of Spice & Wolf. The first thing I noticed about these volumes is that I had totally forgotten what was going on in the plot at this point; such are the dangers of letting so much time pass between reading installments of an ongoing story. Confusing things further is that it seems to be a little past where I am in the original novels (vol. 6), but Koume also makes a few changes here and there.

In any case, once I got my bearings, it’s a pleasant enough story, though I’d only recommend it to people who are already big fans of either the novels or the anime adaptation. The artwork is decent enough, but it’s not really worth getting excited about, either. It makes for an enjoyable break between longer, denser books (like Iron Kingdom and The Habsburg Monarchy, in my case), and that’s about it.…

Read More 75 Books in 2015 – II and III (Spice & Wolf)

75 Books in 2015 – I (Iron Kingdom)

As I mentioned in the 2014 year-end post, I’m going to make an attempt at this challenge at LibraryThing to read 75 books in 2015. You can find my specific thread here, but I’ll also be sharing my progress on this weblog and use the thread mostly as a means of “officially” entering the challenge and to talk with any other LibraryThing members who care to stop by. I won’t be doing full reviews of these books; in most cases I’ll probably just share a few things I liked or didn’t, maybe a notable passage or two, and whether I recommend it or not.

I don’t have a particular strategy going in, and honestly have no idea how many books I typically read in a year. It generally takes longer than I’d like to get through prose books, which lowers my books-per-year average, but I also read a fair number of graphic novels, which typically don’t take me very long.

I probably will try to pick a few “themes” to focus my reading somewhat; with Mishima Yukio last year, I simply alternated between one of his novels and something, anything else, ending with a biography about him. So, I was able to make some progress on just one author, since every other book I read was by or about him, but didn’t get burned out, since I had several other things mixed in. This year, my first goal is to get through the stack of books I got for my birthday and Christmas; after that, I’ll probably focus on either reading more of William Shakespeare, or an array of political writers or philosophers (e.g., Joseph de Maistre and Julius Evola). We’ll see.

In any case, I finished book #1 today, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, by Christopher Clark. Recently I’ve felt that I need to deepen my knowledge of history, and I’ve seen recommendations for this one, so it seemed like a good start for that project. Clark’s writing is clear, and I appreciate that he doesn’t appear to have an axe to grind, even though Prussian history can get especially controversial around the issue of Prussian “militarism.” He says in the introduction, “The polarized judgments that abound in contemporary debate (and in parts of the historical literature) are problematic, not just because they impoverish the complexity of the Prussian experience, but also because they compress its history into a national teleology of German guilt.”

I also appreciate that he distributes his attention mostly equally across the entire time period covered by the book, rather than giving disproportionate space to, say, just the modern era. He does jump over a few subjects quickly, which is unavoidable in a one-volume history covering several centuries; there’s less about Wilhelm I and II than I’d like, for example. One small thing that annoyed me is that he uses typically uses anglicised names, so “Friedrich” is “Frederick,” “Wilhelm” is “William,” and so on.

So, that’s one book down, seventy-four to go. Next up I’ll knock out a couple graphic novels that I’ve had sitting around, then move on to a related subject with A.J.P. Taylor’s The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918.…

Read More 75 Books in 2015 – I (Iron Kingdom)