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…

The Atlas of Middle-Earth, by Karen Wynn Fonstad
Book Review / August 24, 2021

The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad My rating: 5 of 5 stars During my recent re-read of “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again” I remembered that years ago I had bought this “atlas” in order to immerse myself even more fully into Tolkien’s world and to provide my children with maps to the adventures I was reading to them at the time. In this atlas, you’ll find brilliant maps in two colours that are in all aspects very fitting to their source material. You’ll find the maps sorted by ages as well as regional maps, e. g. The Shire, as well as maps relating to the books and, last but not least, thematic maps, e. g. landforms, climate, vegetation and population. It shows that the author is an actual cartographer because Fonstad’s maps feel real – like they were made by observance and not by obviously extensive research. “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” is an amazing feat and every Tolkien enthusiast should own a copy! Five out of five stars. View all my reviews

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Book Review / August 24, 2021

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien My rating: 5 of 5 stars What’s left to be written about “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again”, one of the great masterpieces of classic fantasy, written by the “founding father” of high fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien? “The Hobbit” was lauded by Tolkien’s friend and fellow author C. S. Lewis, by poet W. H. Auden, celebrated for its influence on the entire fantasy genre. To me, it was the metaphorical door to new worlds… I own both several physical copies as well as several ebook editions. I have read “The Hobbit” in both English and German. The one edition I value the most is a German paperback by “DTV” from November 1974 with the title (mis-)translated as “Der kleine Hobbit” (“The Little Hobbit”).It has a ridiculous cover featuring a squint-eyed Smaug with butterfly wings and a tiny spider in front of him. It’s probably the worst cover in “The Hobbit”’s publication history. This very book, though, is the one my mother read about 35 years ago while we were on holidays in the middle of nowhere in the Bavarian Forest. I asked her what she so concentratedly read and she showed me the cover –…

People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
Book Review / August 15, 2021

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry My rating: 5 of 5 stars »“Um.” I try to think of how to explain it. Years of undying love, occasional jealousy, missed opportunities, bad timing, other relationships, building sexual tension, a fight and the silence afterward, and the pain of living life without him. “Our Airbnb’s air-conditioning broke.”« Now, this was interesting. I had deliberately aimed low – I’m on holidays; in, at and around my pool. It’s 31°C (roughly 88°F) and I wanted a nice fluffy romance and, yes, I got it. The quotation at the beginning (in which Poppy, our heroine, explains how the happily-ever-after began) pretty much perfectly sums up this nice little romance. »“Ready,” I confirm, and Alex Nilsen sweeps me up into his arms and carries me down a motherfucking mountain. No. I really could not have invented him.« If it had just been that, I’d have been satisfied: I smiled at the amusing banter, the interludes of Poppy’s and Alex’ ten years of holidays were nice – it was an allround feel-good book at this point. For the absence of any smut I’d have subtracted a star and that would have been the end of…

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
Book Review / August 12, 2021

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke My rating: 1 of 5 stars Reading “Piranesi”, I mostly felt unbelievably bored: Piranesi lives in a house with infinite halls; some of them submerged, in some there is an ocean and all feature statues depicting people of all kinds. Piranesi has developed a kind of faith based upon the house and how he feels it cares for him; even going as far as considering himself the child of the house. We witness Piranesi as he wanders the halls of the house; fishing, talking to birds, the statues and the skeletons of the other thirteen people Piranesi believes to have lived in the house and, consequently, in the entire world because to Piranesi the house is the world. There is one other living person in Piranesi’s little house – the Other! The Other is – like Piranesi – some kind of (pseudo-)scientist who devises occult rituals to find “Great and Secret Knowledge” and for years, Piranesi has almost religiously and unquestioningly followed the Other’s instructions, believed what the Other believes and catered to the Other’s whims. This is where my issues with the book start: Piranesi is extremely naive and only very late in the “story”…

Modern Love, Revised and Updated: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption,
Book Review / August 8, 2021

by Daniel Jones Modern Love, Revised and Updated: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption by Daniel Jones My rating: 5 of 5 stars »Because real love, once blossomed, never disappears. It may get lost with a piece of paper, or transform into art, books, or children, or trigger another couple’s union while failing to cement your own.But it’s always there, lying in wait for a ray of sun, pushing through thawing soil, insisting upon its rightful existence in our hearts and on earth.« I recently watched the series “Modern Love” and – quite aptly – loved it. Since it was based on the New York Times column of the same name, I had high hopes there might be a collection of this column and that’s how I found this book which comprises about 40 of the most memorable essays from the column. I laughed, I cried and sometimes I did both at the same time. Some of the stories hit close to home, others deeply impressed me. Even right now while writing this and recalling some of the stories I’m a sniffling mess. The one defining quality of this collection of essays is its unapologetic honesty and truthfulness to its…

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
Book Review / August 2, 2021

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a tricky one… I loved the premise: Nora Seed is seriously depressed – at the age of 15 she quit professional swimming, severely disappointing her father. Her mother died. Her brother, she feels, is in a rough spot because she quit his band.Even her elderly neighbour doesn’t need her anymore and now her cat has died. She just doesn’t want to go on. »She imagined being a non-sentient life form sitting in a pot all day was probably an easier existence.« (Or wishing to be one’s cat, yours truly would like to add.) At this point, Nora tries to end it all (if YOU consider suicide, please google “suicide” in your native language and call one of the hotlines you’re going to find!) – only to find herself in the eponymous “Midnight Library”. The concept of the Midnight Library builds upon the hypothesis of the multiverse which basically states that there is a(n) (infinite) number of parallel universes just like ours. Those universes may overlap, or consist completely independently of each other and will, by definition, diverge from each other with every single choice someone makes….