A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1), by Alix E. Harrow
Book Review / October 18, 2021

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow My rating: 4 of 5 stars In this modern spin of “Sleeping Beauty” we meet Zinnia “Zin” Gray who is suffering from a rare condition which usually leads to death before the 22nd birthday – and Zin has just turned 21… Since Zin is obsessed with the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” her best friend, Charm, throws her a themed birthday party during which Zin pricks herself with a spindle. As this is a modern spin, she doesn’t quite fall asleep but rather through the “multiverse” and in a trance-like state meets lots of other “Sleeping Beauties” until she steps out into one world in which she goes on an adventure with the resident “Beauty”, Princess Primrose, to, ideally, lift both their “curses”. Fortunately, this was a quick, short and amusing read because there’s simply not enough substance to either the story told here or the characters to sustain a longer novel. The one-hundred pages of this novella pretty much flew past and I was willing to overlook some questionable explanations about Zin’s condition, the mystery of full cell phone coverage in “Princess Primrose of Perceforest”’s fairy tale land and quite few other (minor)…

What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.3), by Ben Aaronovitch
Book Review / October 16, 2021

What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is one for the fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers of London”. This novella firmly establishes Abigail as an important character in that reading universe. Abigail investigates the (temporary) disappearance of teenagers (including a friend of hers!) and in the course of said investigation finds a mysterious house in which something has been left over… Sadly, the entire House thing is just ok’ish: It made some sense but I didn’t really like this part of the mystery. Amusingly, though, as central this detail should be, the “remainder” of the novella, is much more important to me and by far outweighs the mediocre House part. Abigail’s friendship with Simon feels right and made her very likeable. Her interactions with the foxes (especially, of course, Indigo!) made me both grin and admire Abigail in equal parts for their cleverness, the mutual respect and general enjoyment. »‘Real talk, Abi,’ says Sugar Niner. ‘The air went greasy and the Nightingale blew a hole in the pavement. I was bare prang and no mistake.’ ‘Believe it, fam,’ says Indigo.« Also, the resolution of it all was really truly satisfying and, thus,…

Der Vorleser, von Bernhard Schlink
Book Review / October 9, 2021

Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink My rating: 5 of 5 stars Vor vielleicht einem Jahr kam meine Tochter auf mich zu und fragte, ob wir eine Ausgabe von Schlinks “Der Vorleser” besäßen. Sie brauche es für den Deutsch-Leistungskurs in der Schule. Ein Vierteljahrhundert vorher war Schlinks Roman gerade erschienen und machte Furore. Meine damalige Freundin schenkte es mir 1995 zum 20. Geburtstag und ich habe es verschlungen und geliebt. Mir war ein wenig bange, als ich das Buch zurückerhielt und durchaus nicht zu Unrecht, denn für meine Tochter überwog die Kritik. (Und außerdem: Ein Buch, das heute in den Lehrplänen steht? Das ich als junger Mann geliebt hatte? Konnte das heute noch etwas sein?)Ich hingegen hatte einen großartigen Roman über Schuld, Pflicht und Verbundenheit im Hinterkopf. So pirschte ich mich kürzlich mit etwas flauem Gefühl in der Magengegend an eines meiner Lieblingsbücher nach so langer Zeit erneut heran. In Wahrheit allerdings hat die Geschichte mir aufgelauert, mich harmlos-scheinend geködert und dann wie einst überfallen, mitgerissen und völlig eingenommen… Michael Berg, beim ersten Zusammentreffen gerade einmal 15, begegnet zufällig Hanna Schmitz und wird fortan nie mehr wirklich frei von ihr sein.Schnell entwickelt sich zwischen beiden eine eigenartige Routine: Vor allem anderen…

The Push, by Ashley Audrain
Book Review / October 6, 2021

The Push by Ashley Audrain My rating: 5 of 5 stars Blythe, mother to Violet and Sam, comes from two generations of dysfunctional families: Blythe’s mother, Cecilia left her husband and her child when Blythe was eleven. Blythe only ever saw her mother twice later on and never in a positive way. Cecilia’s mother Etta (»born on the very same day World War II began«) – Blythe’s grandmother – suffered from a severe psychological disorder (possibly depression) that rendered her completely unable to care for herself and her family. In 1972, in her early thirties (roughly around the time Blythe must have been born), Etta took her own life. When Fox Connor met Blythe during their late teens he’s immediately “smitten” and doesn’t hide it. From the very beginning Fox knows he wants to start a family with Blythe because he »love[s] what a good mother [she]’ll be one day« whereas Blythe is sceptical about motherhood from the start. »She tried very hard to be the woman she was expected to be.A good wife. A good mother.Everything seemed like it would be just fine.«(About Etta, right after we get to know about Blythe’s feelings…) Nevertheless, Blythe and Fox marry each…

Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection, by by Ben Aaronovitch
Book Review / October 3, 2021

Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection by Ben Aaronovitch My rating: 5 of 5 stars I was actually wary of reading this – I don’t generally enjoy short stories and, even worse, the latest instalment in this series, False Value, was a severe disappointment. Thus, I was happy to find out that these short stories feature the same dry humour and sarcasm that made especially the first books such a joy to read. »I’ve actually done controlled laboratory experiments that indicate that he can detect magical activity up to ten metres away, although false positives can be generated by cats, other dogs and the remote possibility of a sausage.«(About Toby, the supernatural police Wonder Dog) The writing is Aaronovitch at his best; in my favourite story “A Dedicated Follower of Fashion” his fantasy literally overflows, blooms and flowers and simply explodes in the best of ways: »I, on the other hand, found myself increasingly drawn to the cellar door. Especially when it started to flower. It started with a spray of cotton around the door frame, overlapping triangular leaves of white and navy-blue cotton that stuck to the bricks of the wall as if they’d…

Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by L. David Marquet
Book Review / September 29, 2021

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet My rating: 5 of 5 stars I rarely read this kind of “professional career guide” type of book. They’re all too often fairly dry, are strongly dependant on the cultural and social environment they’re based upon (e. g. US/Europe) and, honestly, range from “difficult to apply” to “impossible to adapt”. Luckily, this book is completely different! David Marquet tells us in plain words how he metaphorically “turned the ship around” from one of the worst to one of the top performers. I would never have believed that the military of all organisations was actually able to apply a culture of “thinking out loud”, (constructively) questioning orders and, generally, turn a culture of classic “command & control” into something much more open and productive. Marquet doesn’t ever preach, though, but expertly demonstrates each of his already simple-to-grasp (but not necessarily easy-to-implement!) points by telling us about how he actually implemented them on a nuclear-powered attack submarine. Not only does he display good general insights… »You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius,…

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
Book Review / September 14, 2021

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid My rating: 3 of 5 stars Well, this was a light read, indeed. The pages flew by and I felt entertained but, sadly, on a very, very shallow level despite the topics of racism, privilege and “class” differences. After a rushed ending, it feels like the author simply bit off too much for her debut novel. Emira, our black protagonist, came across as devoid of any ambition, drifting mostly with the flow. She works for white influencer Alix Chamberlain and her husband, Peter. Yes, she loves her charge, young Briar – Alix’ and Peter’s first child – but even with Briar, Emira mostly remains strangely indifferent. Alix’ and Emira’s girlfriends are also rather nebulous figures who seem to merely exist as inconsequential side-kicks of the respective protagonist. They could have taken clearer roles in this novel but as it is, they remain “filling” material and mostly merely reflect their friend. The self-deceiving schemer Alix is written to be annoyingly over-the-top: While her actions still remain this side of plausibility, her motivations and justifications are way beyond – her “ruined” senior year is sixteen years in the past. In Alix’ self-perception she would long…

Oystercatcher (Bruno, Chief of Police #12.5), by Martin Walker
Book Review / September 8, 2021

Oystercatcher by Martin Walker My rating: 1 of 5 stars This completely forgettable shortstory has Bruno in it but he’s not even near his beloved Perigord. He’s out to catch oyster thieves and for some bizarre reason Isabelle actively engages in this tiniest possible case as well. Just skip this. I only read it for completeness’ sake. One star because there are words in this. View all my reviews

The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah
Book Review / September 8, 2021

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah My rating: 5 of 5 stars I had finished a nice-enough book and was looking for the next good read. My wife chose from my list for me and picked this one. She chose well. »Books had always been her solace; novels gave her the space to be bold, brave, beautiful, if only in her own imagination.« This book drew me in, chewed me up and spit me out. If a book really “speaks” to me, I step into it. I stop being a reader and become a silent, helpless bystander, a powerless observer.Give me a book that’s well-written, serious and empathetic and I’m in trouble. Elsa lives in Texas during the Great Depression. Cast out by her own parents for “dishonoring” them (by conceiving a child without being married), she is forced to marry her child’s father and live on his family’s farm. »Elsa had discovered within herself a nearly bottomless capacity for love.« Against everyone’s expectations – hers not the least – she not only settles in but learns to love her new life. Until the circumstances force her to flee – with now two children and without the father who has…

The Coldest Case (Bruno, Chief of Police #14), by Martin Walker
Book Review / September 2, 2021

The Coldest Case by Martin Walker My rating: 4 of 5 stars It was with great hesitation that I started reading this fourteenth Bruno novel. Instalments twelve and thirteen weren’t very interesting to read – both books felt like Walker was trying to press the most absurd political issues into a nice mystery series. Bruno also acted often pretty much out of character, making severe mistakes, mistreating people – it read like Bruno wasn’t being himself.The cooking Bruno has always done was completely over-represented – you could literally have used all those pages as a verbatim recipe. In “The Coldest Case”, though, this is all gone! Bruno has a pretty good idea on how to freshly approach the unsolved murder of an unidentified victim decades ago and, as in earlier books in the series, this evolves into a believable, plausible plot that properly thickens, is well-paced and encompasses everything (and everyone!) we love about Bruno, Chief of Police! The cooking, for example, is still there but it doesn’t fill tens of pages but fits naturally into the story. Gone is the overbearing, meticulous, pedantic description on how every little thing is done but we do get to know how Bruno…