The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James
Book Review / May 14, 2021

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James My rating: 4 of 5 stars It’s 1982 and Vivian “Viv” Delaney leaves her confining home to find fame and fortune in New York City. By chance, Viv ends up in Fell, New York, where she finds a job as a night manager at the eponymous Sun Down Motel.At the end of November 1982, Viv disappears. 35 years later, in 2017, her niece, Carly Kirk, follows in Viv’s footsteps after the death of Carly’s mother, Viv’s sister. Carly also flees her overbearing brother, her college courses and her life in general, in pursuit of Viv whose fate she’s determined to discover. Consequently, Carly, too, goes to Fell and also gets a job at the Sun Down Motel – as the night manager. She even moves into Viv’s old flat and proceeds to not only discover but experience the past… The book switches (mostly from chapter to chapter) between Viv’s story in 1982 and Carly’s in 2017. While this is currently an often-used storytelling device which would usually distract and, potentially, annoy me, in this instance, it actually adds to the atmosphere of this book. Its dense, chilling atmosphere, the late night setting…

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries #6), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 8, 2021

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells My rating: 3 of 5 stars I seem to be the odd one out but this new Murderbot novella simply didn’t work for me. At times, it felt very slow while, at other times, the story raced along – a very uneven pacing, unfortunately. Mensah and the others hardly played any role and our beloved Murderbot pretty much acts as some random security consultant, trying to make sense of a murder. Apart from the (here rather superficial) xenophobia aspects, all the moral aspects of the previous books in this series were largely neglected. To be totally frank, most of the time I was actually bored reading this. Here’s to hoping for more than a “filler episode” next time and more exciting new adventures in the future. View all my reviews

Marrying Mr. Wrong (Dirty Martini Running Club #3), by Claire Kingsley
Book Review / May 1, 2021

Marrying Mr. Wrong by Claire Kingsley My rating: 3 of 5 stars Oh, well, from the lofty heights of Obama’s presidential memoirs which I enjoyed, I went on to read this. I needed a short moment of pure escapism and easy-going reading: “Please excuse me for a moment while I disengage my brain!” For that purpose, this novel worked well enough – albeit not perfectly but we’ll come to that. Anyway, this is the third instalment of a loosely connected series about the romantic endeavours of a group of twenty-somethings (I guess). It started out well with Everly’s romance with her boss (Calloway) and now we’re reading about Sophie, Everly’s successor as Calloway’s personal assistant, who meets Camden Cox, a notorious womanizer. Sophie and Cox end up in Vegas where they “accidentally” marry each other in a drunken stupor. The remainder of the book is – expectedly – about how they find out they don’t want a divorce. The ensuing chaos is amusing enough; ok, everything is clichéd and rather simplistic but that was to be expected. Worse, though: Every single character feels like an exaggerated parody of themselves and whereas Sophie is fairly likeable, Cox is – for the…

A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
Book Review / April 25, 2021

A Promised Land by Barack Obama My rating: 5 of 5 stars “Politics doesn’t have to be what people think it is. It can be something more.” When Barack Obama started his rise to power, I felt hopeful but sceptical as well: Would America, of all nations, really elect a Black man as its president? And who was that guy anyway? As a German, I had been vaguely aware of Obama but I knew next to nothing about him. That would change over time but do little to alleviate my scepticism: Even if this guy was for real, even if he truly believed what he said about change and equality – would this man stay true to his ideals? Would the power he was seeking corrupt him? The first surprise came when he was actually elected as the next President of the United States of America. I became a little more hopeful. That was a powerful sign for the better – the first Afro-American president. Obama didn’t deliver on all his promises – Guantanamo Bay detention camp still exists today for example. And yet… Obama helped the world through a recession that could have been much worse. He made “Obamacare”…

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, by Amanda Gorman
Book Review / March 30, 2021

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’m German. I’ve never watched an inauguration of an American president. The one of today’s President Joe Biden was no exception even though I was hoping for something better than what had come before… (“It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four years, and now the nightmare is gone.”) Amanda Gorman’s amazing poem hit the German news very quickly, though, and I got curious and looked it up, watched Gorman perform it at the inauguration. It hit me unexpectedly hard; so hard, in fact, I cried. Her presentation was so powerful, emotional, touching and uplifting; representative – to me – of all that is right and just about the United States. Gorman envisions a country “committed To all cultures, colors, characters, And conditions of man” and while, of course, she primarily addresses the USA, she also spoke to the world and of the world. If we, the peoples of the world, made into reality in our countries what Gorman wishes for her own one, if we truly and honestly, sought “harm to none, and harmony…

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
Book Review / March 11, 2021

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo My rating: 5 of 5 stars It must have been around 2014 when I was at Mannheim’s (south-western Germany) Paradeplatz (the former parade grounds near Mannheim Palace). I was smoking and watching people when a young woman approached another nearby male smoker – only to be shouted at aggressively. I, in turn, shouted at the guy, went there and he left whereas I proceeded to offer the woman a cigarette which was what she had asked that other guy for. I asked her what that guy’s problem had been. She looked at me curiously and told me to take a good look at her. Somewhat embarrassed I did – had I missed something about her?! I didn’t notice anything – to me, she looked just like you and me.I apologised for obviously being daft to which she deadpan replied “I’m black”. Yes, I can be a bit on the naïve side but I honestly hadn’t consciously noticed and I had hoped that especially in my country, Germany, with its history, in a major city and in modern times, the skin colour had ceased to be an issue. The conversation that ensued changed my mind…

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, by Kristin Newman
Book Review / March 1, 2021

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman My rating: 2 of 5 stars This review is going to be quite a bit different from what I expected after eleven of the thirteen chapters this book comprises… Let’s start at another angle, though: I like to read what one of the greatest of the genre, Tony James Slater, likes to call “travel memoirs”. If written by the right person, they’re often funny, interesting and, at times, even insightful and inspiring.Unsurprisingly, they often include “romantic encounters” of a very intimate nature or – as Newman’s mother is quoted “Grown-ups don’t just hold hands.”. I went into this book expecting amusing anecdotes of female solo travel – a travel memoir. What I got to read was very, very different because the twenty-ish Kristian Newman listens to her boyfriend’s voicemail and reads his diary of all things… When she writes about Lesbian relationships that a »social scientist might argue that the girl-on-girl trend started with rave culture … and Ecstasy.« I found myself taking a note that reads “And someone with a brain might disagree”. On her first trip to Russia, she finds herself at a dinner among Russians and,…

Der Massai, der in Schweden noch eine Rechnung offen hatte, von Jonas Jonasson
Book Review / February 24, 2021

My rating: 0 von 5 Sternen Ich fühle mich angewidert und beschmutzt von diesem Buch. Der Autor, der offenbar das letzte Quäntchen Geld aus seinem Namen machen möchte, ist sich für kein rassistisches Klischee zu schade. Gleich zu Beginn lesen wir über Hitler, den der Autor verharmlosend-kumpelhaft als “Adolf” tituliert: »Was zum bis dato größten Krieg der Menschheitsgeschichte führte. Adolf verlor ihn und starb.« Eine der kenianischen Figuren (eigentlich sogar alle) wird als dummer, tölpelhafter, ungebildeter Wilder dargestellt: »Schlimm genug war es, dass einen der Strom beißen konnte, bloß weil man einen Nagel in ein Loch in der Wand steckte. Aber die Maschine zum Schreiben war ja regelrecht lebensgefährlich!« Noch ein Beispiel für den geradezu beiläufigen Rassismus in diesem Machwerk: »Denn über den typischen Kuh- oder Ziegenhirten der Savanne gab es prinzipiell viel Gutes zu sagen, aber wer tiefschürfende Einsichten in den Sinn des Lebens erwartete, suchte sich besser andere Gesprächspartner.« Auch Frauen sind offenbar für den Autor allenfalls dann etwas “wert”, wenn sie den Anstand haben, für uns Männer attraktiv zu erscheinen: »Jenny wuchs heran, ohne auch nur das kleinste bisschen attraktiv zu werden. Sie hielt sich im Hintergrund. Besaß null Ausstrahlung. Kleidete sich unvorteilhaft.« Diesen Satz legt der…

Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5), by Robert Galbraith
Book Review / February 24, 2021

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith My rating: 5 of 5 stars To get one thing out of the way right at the beginning: It’s just a disguise. Creed himself says so. Nevertheless, I’ve been informed by my daughter – who tends to be right (woe be me!) – the author proudly presents views the Dark Ages are rightly about to reclaim. Those views of the author are deeply offensive to many – me as well. And, yet, they do not diminish the greatness of this piece of art. 2021 starts out well, reading-wise. I’ve liked Robert Galbraith’s “Strike” novels from the beginning because Galbraith’s characters were so relatable. The eponymous Cormoran Strike, former soldier, now a detective, who lost one of his legs in war. Robin, who starts out as a temporary worker at Strike’s then-struggling agency as a secretary, but who becomes Strike’s business partner and confidante.Then there’s Strike’s glamorous ex-fiancee, Charlotte, his estranged rockstar father Johnny Rokeby and Leda Strike, Cormoran’s groupie mother. In the beginning of the series, that’s pretty much the entire primary cast – apart from the victims, the perpetrators, the witness, etc. – and that would already have been enough because the chemistry between…

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, by Adam Kay
Book Review / February 13, 2021

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay My rating: 5 of 5 stars »This morning I delivered little baby Sayton – pronounced Satan, as in King of the Underworld.« Wow, what a ride! Adam Kay, doctor gone writer, describes what he experienced in six years of medical practice in the United Kingdom. In about 10 chapters, Adam first introduces us to the new position or posting he’s in now. He then proceeds to write in usually short passages in anecdotal style to explain the manifold lows and highs of his profession. There were passages I laughed out loud at (something I rarely do and which garnered me curious and worried looks from my family), some that I thought couldn’t be true and others again that really truly hurt.So, first information if you want to read this book: On multiple levels, the title is extremely well chosen. Definitely dominant, though, is a wonderfully dry humour that, I imagine, in part allowed Adam to pull through those obviously at least partly hard, harsh years. »Clearly blood isn’t the delicious post-delivery snack she imagines placenta might be.« (She probably simply hasn’t read the right cookbooks!) Another…