The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
Book Review/ 21. January 2022

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin My rating: 1 of 5 stars I’m not sure what this was supposed to be: A mystery? There’s nothing really mysterious here apart from the fact who Westing and his ex-wife might be. The “bomber” (whose motives I never fully understood)? That’s just plainly revealed at some point. The writing itself might be a mystery because at times I felt like I read in some truly foreign language because the story as told by the narrator was interspersed with thoughts of the respective person we’re told about. It made for an immensely confusing and rather annoying reading experience. The perspectives change all the time between the way-too-large cast of 16 (!) characters whom the author instils with the depth of a cardboard cut-out. If at least one or two of these had been likeable, interesting or at least relatable in some way but, no, they all remain shadowy at best. In addition, there’s latent racism, defamation of people with disabilities and many other issues that can be attributed to the time this was first published – in 1978. None of that feels intentionally offensive but all of it adds to the general feeling that…

The Untold Story (The Invisible Library #8), by Genevieve Cogman
Book Review/ 14. January 2022

The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman My rating: 5 of 5 stars »And here in the Library, even if our outer layer is order, we have an inner heart of chaos. We read too much for it to be anything else.« When I first encountered “The Invisible Library” I was intrigued: A library beyond space and time; an autonomous realm that sends out its spies to “acquire” unique books in order to safeguard the balance between chaos and order not in just one world but all worlds! Dragons, Fae, Librarians – what a premise! Adventures abound! As someone who loves every single “ingredient” here, I simply had no chance but to read the first book – and, ultimately, the entire series. Don’t get me wrong: The premise is perfect whereas the actual execution isn’t always. Nevertheless, I loved reading every single instalment and it was with eagerness and a dose of sadness that I went on reading this “season finale” as Cogman calls it. And what a finale this was! Sent out on a seemingly impossible assignment, undercover and under the guise of having gone rogue, Irene – supported by Kai (of course!), Vale (the local manifestation of Sherlock Holmes),…

The Drowning Girls (Detective Josie Quinn #13), by Lisa Regan
Book Review/ 9. January 2022

The Drowning Girls by Lisa Regan My rating: 4 of 5 stars Phew… After the disappointing book 12 I was afraid I might have had a fatal overdose of Josie Quinn. This thirteenth book in the series was firmly on-track again, though, and mostly free of the overbearing ghost of you-know-who. In fact, despite the fact this is a mass-produced series, the premise is interesting enough (notoriously good girl vanishes, her and her family’s dirty laundry comes to light, piece by piece…), the plot keeps thickening and while I did see the twist at the end coming, I enjoyed how it was handled. All in all, a very Josie Quinn’ish book and a worthy instalment in the series. Four out of five stars. View all my reviews

Her Deadly Touch (Detective Josie Quinn #12), by Lisa Regan
Book Review/ 4. January 2022

Her Deadly Touch by Lisa Regan My rating: 2 of 5 stars Josie whines about her dead granny.Josie finds a body.Josie whines again about her dead granny.People vanish. Joise: “My poor dead granny!”Josie is in the morgue, sees a body and, yes, you guessed it…And so forth till the very end. (Don’t get me wrong: Practically everyone from previous generations of my extended family are dead. Four during the last three years alone. I know grief but I’ve never wallowed in it like Josie does.) This book is a mess… Murder by carbon monoxide poisoning which occured in about 3 ‰ (per mille!) of homicides during the 20th century according to a quick research. (I couldn’t find data for the 21st century that did NOT include murder-suicides…) A bus driver who might or might not have been tricked Organised crime killing small-town fences for not coughing up money An abundance of hardly-believable characters Even harder-to-believe what-ifs – and not only hinted at but constantly repeated literal “if only, if only”s Drugs, sex – just no rock’n’roll Lots of plot holes and loose ends A Josie Quinn who basically permeates between bemoaning the death of her granny and somewhat accurately working…

Hush Little Girl (Detective Josie Quinn #11), by Lisa Regan
Book Review/ 1. January 2022

Hush Little Girl by Lisa Regan My rating: 4 of 5 stars An isolated, hidden house in the woods, half a family murdered, a cancelled wedding, lots of suspense, a major personal loss… “Hush Little Girl” is one more mystery/thriller from Regan’s production line – she writes three to four books in this series per year. Thus, it cannot really surprise anyone that while these books are fairly entertaining, they’re all derived from the same formula. If, by now, you like Josie Quinn and her team you won’t be disappointed by this instalment either. Apart from one rather disruptive (and overly drawn-out) change in Josie’s personal life nothing ever really changes in this series either, though. For the entertaining but utterly forgettable book it is: Four out of five stars. View all my reviews

Risen (Alex Verus #12), by Benedict Jacka
Book Review/ 1. January 2022

Risen by Benedict Jacka My rating: 4 of 5 stars In this final instalment of the Alex Verus series, we accompany Alex on his “farewell tour” and the final siege that will decide the fate of all mages – Dark and White – in Great Britain. Over the run of the previous 11 (!) books Alex has had a formidable run: From a former Dark apprentice and shop owner he has risen to become a major force among mages in Britain. He has made a few friends (most of whom we encounter in this book) as well as many enemies (most of whom we also encounter in this book). His girlfriend Anne has been possessed by a Djinn and needs rescuing, his former master, Richard Drakh, wants to use him for purposes unclear so far and, last but not least, Alex – who bonded with Fateweaver by making it a replacement hand – finds himself being “overtaken” by his artificial hand. So, a lot of issues and unless you’ve read the previous few books at least, this won’t be a book for you. Furthermore, it has to be said that “Risen” can be divided into two major parts: In the…

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1), by Naomi Novik
Book Review/ 11. December 2021

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik My rating: 4 of 5 stars Well, this was a fairly mixed bag of a read… A school for kids learning to control their magic, surrounded by hostile creatures and even the school making life as hard as possible for its pupils. Pupils who are left entirely on their own – no teachers, hardly any protection and a deadly competition for resources, power and the arcane… It sounds all so well and, indeed, I was drawn into the book fairly quickly: We’re accompanying Galadriel (El) during her penultimate school year which she passes by scolding the local hero Orion Lake (yes… the rest is silence…) for almost desperately trying to get on her good side. Sadly, El’s “good side” is something she strongly tries to hide by playing bad ass… »Meanwhile I was well on the way to successfully making myself violently, instead of just modestly, hateful to every enclave kid in the place, probably before the end of term at my current pace.« … and almost to this reader as well. Her treatment of Orion, her social awkwardness, it all felt so very, very young adult (and I’m not sure about the “adult”…

Das Ereignis, von Annie Ernaux
Book Review/ 17. November 2021

Das Ereignis by Annie Ernaux My rating: 5 of 5 stars »(Vielleicht wirkt diese Beschreibung irritierend oder abstoßend, oder sie mag als geschmacklos empfunden werden. Etwas erlebt zu haben, egal, was es ist, verleiht einem das unveräußerliche Recht, darüber zu schreiben. Es gibt keine minderwertige Wahrheit. Wenn ich diese Erfahrung nicht im Detail erzähle, trage ich dazu bei, die Lebenswirklichkeit von Frauen zu verschleiern, und mache mich zur Komplizin der männlichen Herrschaft über die Welt.)« Annie Ernaux, seinerzeit 23-jährige Studentin, wurde 1963 im damals erzkonservativen, katholischen Frankreich ungewollt schwanger und vom Vater des ungeborenen Kindes de facto im Stich gelassen. Keiner der Ärzte, die sie aufsuchte, half ihr in nennenswerter Weise und so bleibt ihr nichts übrig, als sich in die Hände einer sogenannten “Engelmacherin” zu begeben. »Beim Schreiben muss ich manchmal dem Drang widerstehen, in einen wütenden oder schmerzerfüllen Lyrismus zu verfallen. Ich will in diesem Text nicht tun, was ich im echten Leben nicht getan habe oder nur ganz selten, schreien und weinen.« Das gelingt Ernaux mit Bravour: Sachlich und nüchtern, ohne zu dramatisieren, zu beschönigen oder mit etwas “hinter dem Berg zu halten”, erzählt sie von dem fürchterlichen Spießrutenlauf, den sie hinter sich bringen mußte, um einen…

The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17), by Louise Penny
Book Review/ 11. November 2021

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’ve long been a fan of Louise Penny’s series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Satisfyingly, Penny is more than capable of writing thrilling mysteries but additionally she has never been shy to address the major topics of our time (this book being no exception…). Then there is the almost mystical village of Three Pines in which most of the novels play out and which features some rather unique characters – from the gifted but struggling painter to the grumpy crazy poet, the “Asshole Saint” and everything in between. These factors still make me look forward to each new novel. Even after 16 prior books! »“And for your information,” she told Gabri when he’d shown up with gardening gloves and a trowel, “I like weed.” “Weeds, you mean,” he said. “Maybe,” said the old poet.« In this seventeenth instalment Gamache investigates the attempted murder of professor Abigail Robinson and the murder of Robinson’s assistant, Debbie, on New Year’s Eve. In this book’s setting, the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, mentioned (and actually features in a few details) but, thankfully, over. (And lest anyone worries: None of our friends…

Love is Make-Believe, by Riham Adly

Love is Make-Believe by Riham Adly My rating: 3 of 5 stars I was approached directly by the author, Riham Adly, who told me about her collection of “Flash fiction” – something I hadn’t heard about before. In Riham’s own words: “Flash is so flexible, it sometimes reads like a traditional short and sometimes like a poem with a narrative arc and sometimes it’s very experimental; it lends structure from other forms like menus, lists. It’s a new experience.” My interest immediately rose. A new form, a new voice! From Egypt! How could I resist that? So, first of all, Riham, thank you for the chance to read your collection! I really appreciate it. Riham quickly convinced me that she is in full command of her chosen language. Sadly, I couldn’t warm up to the Flash fiction form she chose and (some of) the content. Many of the short stories presented in this collections were confusing to me and, oftentimes, felt rather heavy-handed: »I beat in the flour. Too much force −like when a man beats inside a woman against her will− is no good.« We’re in agreement that any form of (sexualised) violence is completely unacceptable; I just believe…