Marion Dönhoff: Ein widerständiges Leben, von Alice Schwarzer
Book Review / December 31, 2020

Marion Dönhoff: Ein Widerständiges Leben by Alice Schwarzer My rating: 5 of 5 stars Ich kam mit Marion Gräfin Dönhoff zum ersten Mal bewußt in Berührung als ich über den 20. Juli 1944 las. Denn bereits zum ersten Jahrestag 1945 schrieb Dönhoff »In Memoriam 20. Juli 1944. Den Freunden zum Gedächtnis« über ihre Freunde aus dem Widerstand gegen Hitler, die von den Nazis ermordet worden waren.Daraus entstand ihr 1994 veröffentlichtes Buch “Um der Ehre willen. Erinnerungen an die Freunde vom 20. Juli”, das ich als überaus beachtlich empfand und dessen lebendige Schilderungen einen kleinen Einblick jenseits der Geschichtsbücher in diese Persönlichkeiten erlaubt. Die Namen – allen voran Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg – sind mir wohlbekannt und doch gewinnen sie im Rahmen der behutsamen Aufarbeitung der Dönhoff’schen Erinnerungen an sie durch eine großartige Alice Schwarzer neues Profil. Ganz besonders Dönhoffs Gefährte aus Kinder- und Jugendtagen, Heinrich Graf Lehndorff. Wenn es um “Heini Lehndorff” geht, ist es das eine, um diesen Mann aus Wikipedia zu wissen. Etwas völlig anderes aber, wenn Dönhoff sich an diesen Jungen erinnert, mit dem sie auf Bäume geklettert ist, den sie im Eiskeller vergessen hat und dem sie “Kräheneier direkt ins Gesicht geprustet” hat. Die Unmittelbarkeit…

Faking Under the Mistletoe, by Ashley Shepherd
Book Review / December 29, 2020

Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd My rating: 2 of 5 stars This was such a nice idea: A Christmas romance! Ok, the author added “office romance”, “enemies-to-lovers” and “fake dating to evoke jealousy in an ex” but if that actually had worked out, I probably would have loved it. The beginning is very promising even: The banter between our heroine, Olivia, and her grumpy boss, Asher, is amusing, sometimes even witty and almost always funny.The atmosphere is charged between both of them and had Shepherd kept doing this, added some kind of conflict to solve before the “happily ever after”, everything would have been great. »“Cozied up on the couch. Snuggled under blankets. Snow falling outside. Christmas movies. Cake. We’re living a Lifetime special.”« When I read that, I was sure this had to be great! And it was until I came to the second half of the book which manages to derail it completely… If you still want to read this book, take care, huge spoilers follow… Last and least, I do enjoy a certain amount of well-written smut in a romance. In this case, the “build up” is rather nice but (anti-)climaxes in a meagre »“Well,”…

Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
Book Review / December 25, 2020

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom My rating: 2 of 5 stars When I was around the age of 18 – the age of majority in Germany – I felt like I had broken through some magical barrier to adulthood. (I hadn’t.) Now, I felt, it was my sacred duty (it wasn’t) to find out about – imagine a drum roll if you will – nothing lesser than the meaning of life itself. (Didn’t find it.) Young me contacted the most well-meaning, wisest and awe-inspiring people I knew (not my parents) and asked them indirectly what the meaning of life is. I think I received exactly one answer and that went like “You’ll have to find out for yourself.”. It took me about 20 years to figure that one out: There is no “meaning of life”. There is just what we figure out we want to do with our lives and how we live it. I have a vague idea for myself but I’m still figuring it out and I think the “figuring it out” part matters much more than the result – especially since for me, said result is always changing. Not in substance but in nuances. Along comes…

The Dark Archive (The Invisible Library #7), by Genevieve Cogman
Book Review / December 21, 2020

The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman My rating: 4 of 5 stars As of right now, I’m actually still undecided how many stars I’m going to award “The Dark Archive” as, unfortunately, I cannot do five stars but oscillate between three and four starts… Let’s get going and see where reflection leads me… So, the seventh instalment of “The Invisible Library” lies behind me – and a whole new field of opportunities for further books has been opened on several levels. That’s good because just as we change throughout life, so must a series of books as it evolves or it will outlive its welcome – at the very least with me.Evolution does have its risks and drawbacks, though, and to get all the characters – new and old – to where they need to be; to set the stage for what’s to come, Cogman seems to have lost a little bit of the plot. More on that later, though. Let’s start with the good news: This is, indeed, undeniably and recognizable “The Invisible Library” how we know and love it: Irene Winters, the protagonist, is at the height of her game and, as usual, chasing after another important book….

Save Her Soul (Detective Josie Quinn #9), by Lisa Regan
Book Review / December 13, 2020

Save Her Soul by Lisa Regan My rating: 3 of 5 stars Well, I’m sitting here in front of my keyboard, thinking what to write about this book… Don’t get me wrong, it’s clearly Josie Quinn and I like Josie and I like the series… but… Anyway, we’re in Denton once more; this time under complicated circumstances: Flooding has hit the city and Josie is stressed out seeing her city sinking. Fortunately, she isn’t immediately impacted as her home seems to be on a hill or something. I forgot and it doesn’t really matter. Josie and Noah, probably soon to be declared patron saints of Denton, take in Misty – Josie’s dead ex-husband Ray’s ex-stripper lover – their, Misty’s and Ray’s, kid, Harris, and their dog in. (Yes, everyone and their dog…)Misty, starting to turn from bimbo to actual human being, immediately counters any kind of normal cognitive reaction by… excessive cooking. And here’s the “but” from the beginning: I feel I’m starting to tire a bit of the cast. Noah, the too-good-to-be-true saviour type; Misty, the bimbo; Gretchen the “strong silent type” in a female version and – tada – fresh from the mayor’s office: Amber Watts, the mayor’s…

The Walking Dead (graphic novels), by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard & Tony Moore
Book Review / December 9, 2020

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman My rating: 5 of 5 stars In my youth, I loved comics. I regularly read Asterix, Spirou & Fantasio, The Adventures of Tintin and Gaston; just to name a few. I still love those dearly, despite quite a few of them (especially Tintin) not aging very well because those comics are “children” of their time – they’re ranging from “culturally insensitive” to “fairly damn racist” which I realised when I started re-reading Tintin after all those decades. So, lesson number one: Be careful if you revisit the heroes of your childhood. Another thing I’ve learned long ago: I don’t like post-apocalyptic stories. Call me an incurable optimist but in spite of all the challenges we, as humans, face, I’m sure we will overcome those challenges and prevail. So, apocalypse? Go away. In 2012, I played Telltale Games’ adventure game “The Walking Dead”. Pretty much a post-apocalyptic interactive novel. The game – as its successors – focuses strongly on character development and emotion.Despite the setting I originally hated, I was captivated. Then I found out this entire thing was based upon a “graphic novel”. A graphic novel… sounded a) rather…

Battle Ground (The Dresden Files #17), by Jim Butcher
Book Review / December 2, 2020

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher My rating: 2 of 5 stars Wow, this was a huge let-down for me. I’ve never been the greatest Dresden fan but with Harry being a character one can relate to, I always found something to actually really like. Not so in this book. Basically, we’re reading about a huge battle during which everyone and (sometimes literally) their dog makes an appearance – oftentimes just for the sake of appearing and showing that, yes, they still exist and Butcher hasn’t forgotten about them. Unfortunately, as pitched as the battle must be, I never really “connected” with the story. Yes, all of Chicago and its inhabitants are at risk but I was rather indifferent about that.I was even repelled by some aspects of the way the story is told, e. g. There are many places during which it gets overly gory for no reason at all. I actually tried to find a somewhat moderate part to quote here as an example but, alas, I failed. There is no example I could quote here with a clean conscience towards younger readers. Fortunately, though, the good-natured trademark humour is still around, though: »“Guys!” I said. “The pizza—all the…

All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #16), by Louise Penny
Book Review / November 12, 2020

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny My rating: 3 of 5 stars I’m writing this review with a heavy heart because I’ve been a fan of Armand Gamache since the very first book. Gamache is the most human investigator I’ve had the pleasure to “accompany” him through 16 books now. His cases were never easy or clear-cut. There were rarely any truly, irredeemable evil perpetrators.Gamache himself wasn’t always the knight in shining armour but a believable human being. Three Pines, the almost mythological home of the Gamaches’, basically became a beloved part of (almost) all the books. Its inhabitants – Clara, Gabri, Ruth – they usually played an important role. In this book, though, Armand and his entire family find themselves in Paris for the birth of Annie’s and Jean-Guy Beauvoir’s child where the latter live after Jean-Guy got a job at an engineering company.Also in Paris is Stephen Horowitz, Armand Gamache’s godfather, who took care of young Armand after the death of Armand’s parents.After a family dinner, an attempt on Stephen’s life is made and, thus, the game is afoot! I was immediately sceptical when I realised we would stay in Paris for (almost) the entire book….

Gebrauchsanweisung für die Pfalz, von Christian “Chako” Habekost
Book Review / October 18, 2020

Gebrauchsanweisung für die Pfalz by Christian Habekost My rating: 4 of 5 stars (To my English-speaking audience: There’s a Google-Translate button at the bottom of each page and the next review will be in English again.) “Es ist ein spielerisches, ritualisiertes Hin- und Hergezerrtsein zwischen Minderwertigkeitskomplex und Hybris.”(Der Autor über die Pfalz) Vor gar nicht langer Zeit schrieb ich bereits darüber, wie gern ich mittlerweile in der Pfalz lebe, unter dem Titel “Danke, liebes Universum”. Was also lag näher, sich diesem Thema auch literarisch weiter anzunähern? Im Rahmen meiner umfangreichen fünf-minütigen Recherchen stieß ich erneut auf Christian “Chako” Habekost, einen Echt-P(f)älzer Komiker aus Bad Dürkheim (ca. 20 Minuten von hier). In 16 Kapiteln schreibt Habekost – dankenswerterweise auf Hochdeutsch – aus ihrer Mitte heraus über “seine” Pfälzer. Allerdings – und das macht das Buch gleich nochmals sympathischer – verleugnet Habekost dabei nie seine Wurzeln und so wird aus dem Plural von “Wagen” quasi unwillkürlich und wohl ungeplant von Hochdeutsch auch “Wagen” pfälzisch “Wägen”. Das ist außerdem nicht nur nett, sondern vor allem auch authentisch – jahrelang hat mir dieser Plural den Schlaf geraubt! Überaus angenehm fand ich zudem, daß Habekost sich nie ernsthaft über die pfälzischen Eigenarten lustig macht, sondern…

Ich bleibe hier, von Marco Balzano
Book Review / October 3, 2020

Ich bleibe hier, von Marco Balzano Es ist keine 24 Stunden her, als ich tief seufzend neben meiner Frau ins Bett sank und mein Schicksal beklagte, schon wieder ein… komisches… Buch zu lesen. “Über Südtirol”, sagte ich und meine Frau antwortete, “Oh, nein, Südtirol – Faschismus und Nationalsozialismus, lies doch etwas Leichteres…” Sie hatte – wie (fast) immer Recht – und Unrecht zugleich. Ja, die Geschichte ist nicht leicht verdaulich: Trina, eine zu Beginn des Romans junge deutschsprachige Lehrerin, lebt im inzwischen buchstäblich untergegangenen Alt-Graun, einem kleinen bäuerlich-geprägten Dorf mit ihrem Ehemann Erich. Trina durchlebt die Italianisierung (also die versuchte Ausmerzung alles deutschsprachigen und des altösterreichischen Charakters) durch den Faschismus, auf- und überlebt Aufstieg und Fall des deutschen Nationalsozialismus und bleibt in ihrem Dorf, obschon die persönlichen Verluste ihrer Familie ans Unerträgliche grenzen. Schlußendlich weichen Trina und Erich doch der Gewalt; diesmal derjenigen der Unternehmen, denn die damalige Firma Montecatini überflutet Alt-Graun im Rahmen eines wenig sinnvollen Staudamm-Projektes. (Übrigens hat die heutige Edison S.p.A., Rechtsnachfolgerin von Montecatini, sich dem Autor völlig verweigert…) Von alldem erzählt Balzano mit großer Empathie, mit Behutsamkeit und Vorsicht. Er verurteilt nicht, sondern beschäftigt sich mit einem Stück Geschichte, über das ich fiel las, auf einer…