Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, by Malayna Evans

Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh by Malayna Evans My rating: 1 of 5 stars “KA-TASTROPHY” Or “The story erupted from his mouth like vomit.” I got this book for free as a win from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. Thanks! There are books I’d love to just completely forget about, e. g. Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter so that I could read them again for the first time. Others, I simply want to forget. This book is one of the latter. Reading “Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh” does indeed feel like the story erupted from [the author’s] mouth like vomit. Seriously, as an author you should be able to at least stay above that level. That seems to be the primary issue, though: The author, Malayna Evans, is the self-professed “author of the middle grade time travel series, The Egyptified Joneses” (from her blurb at Amazon) – despite this being her debut title and she simply can’t write: – Evans’s severely limited vocabulary shows all over the place, e. g. all people are doing if they’re in distress or even hurt is moaning: Jagger moaned as his little sister spun and zoomed back into the house.Jagger moaned…

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Book Review / March 28, 2019

Uprooted by Naomi Novik My rating: 4 of 5 stars “I don’t want more sense!” I said loudly, beating against the silence of the room. “Not if sense means I’ll stop loving anyone. What is there besides people that’s worth holding on to?” I read “Spinning Silver” first and liked it a lot. “Uprooted”, I’d heard, was even better and while it’s certainly a great book, I’m not actually sure if “Spinning Silver”’s minor pacing flaw wouldn’t have made this book even better. “Uprooted” tells the story of Agnieszka who lives in a small village near the Wood. Capital letter, because it’s an evil wood! Evil as in, monsters roaming it and everyone going into it either staying there, never to be seen again, or coming out corrupted to the core. Fortunately, a Dragon (who is actually a wizard called Sarkan) lives nearby and protects the village and its inhabitants – albeit at a price because every ten years he takes a daughter from the village and this time it’s Agnieszka. Afterwards, chaos ensues. A good, highly entertaining chaos with, admittedly, a lot of method behind it but a bit breathless. Where “Spinning Silver” was slow at times because Novik…

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Book Review / March 22, 2019

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik My rating: 4 of 5 stars “There are men who are wolves inside, and want to eat up other people to fill their bellies. […] You have fed each other, and you kept the wolf away. That is all we can do for each other in the world, to keep the wolf away.” I don’t like fairy tales. Not at all. Especially not Grimm’s fairy tales. In fact, I dislike those so intensely for their cruelty and “rough justice” that I didn’t read them to my kids and hated them as a kid. Sorry, Little Red Riding Hood, for more than 40 years (and counting!) I’ve been rooting for the Big Bad Wolf! Thus, it was with some reservations when I started reading “Spinning Silver” which turned out to be a fantastic story, masterfully told. A soft-hearted moneylender’s daughter, Miryem, finds out she metaphorically has the ability to turn silver into gold which, in turn, becomes known to the king of winter. The king presses Miryem into his services and even kidnaps her. The local duke’s daughter, Irina, is married off to the country’s tsar who is obsessed by a fire demon. Last but not…

Christmas Eve by Jim Butcher
Book Review / March 16, 2019

Christmas Eve by Jim Butcher My rating: 4 of 5 stars “Christmas Eve?”, I hear you cry. Why that?! Why pick an unimportant short story from the Harry Dresden universe and write about that? Simply because it lets me make a point: Harry Dresden is a male chauvinist pig; he’s a misogynist arse. And even an impromptu short story is worth reviewing it because the stuff is just that good. I read the first book, “Storm Front”, expecting nothing, getting something weird. I certainly didn’t really like it – generous 3 stars. I was wondering if it would get any better and read book two. More of the same – but people said, “WAIT! It’s going to get better soon-ish!”. I read on. Same experience with books three, four (yes, the one that’s supposed to have gotten better!), five… All three stars, all… interesting. Somehow… exciting, though… Harry still is all the above and yet, there are redeeming qualities. Not sure what they are but why ever else would I have read on?! Book 10, lo and behold, actually did get better! People – for ONCE! – were right! Harry Dresden is annoying but I’m sitting here and can’t wait…

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin
Book Review / March 15, 2019

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin My rating: 3 of 5 stars An interesting book, falling short of greatness for me. I started reading this book with high expectations – interesting setting, highly praised on GoodReads. I really expected to love this book but it was not to be, unfortunately. Maurice Hannigan, 84, sits in an old hotel at the bar and drinks to the people he loved most and who all have passed away before him, telling us about his relationship with them and, consequently, about his life. The son of an Irish farmer, he, too, sets out on this path and soon by far surpasses his parents and becomes a wealthy and well-respected man. We learn about the Dollards, formerly major land owners and employing Maurice’s mother and himself, whom he loved to hate for his entire life. He toasts to his brother Tony who died as a young man, his first child, Molly, his sister-in-law Noreen, his son, Kevin, a well-known journalist who has emigrated to the USA and, last but not least, his wife Sadie. Griffin tells her story, Maurice’s life, in long chapters most of which overlap with each other in narrated time. This…

Der Trafikant by Robert Seethaler
Book Review / March 11, 2019

Der Trafikant by Robert Seethaler My rating: 5 of 5 stars Durch eine Laune des Schicksals aus dem Salzkammergut ins Wien der Jahre 1937 und 1938 verschlagen, trifft Franz auf Otto Trsnjek, den Trafikanten (Betreiber eines Tabakwarenladens / Kiosks), findet mit Anezka die große Liebe und in Gesprächen mit Sigmund Freud heraus, daß er, Franz, nichts weiß und die Welt verrückt (und manchmal ziemlich unfair bis grausam) ist. Franz ist ein netter Bauernbursche – respektvoll, freundlich und (scheinbar?) etwas “einfach gestrickt”. Der See bei seinem Heimatdorf und dessen mit den Jahreszeiten wechselnde Farbe ist bis zu Franz’ Aufbruch nach Wien sein größtes Interesse – von der Welt-Politik ist er weitgehend “unbehelligt” und Zeitungen werden von ihm zu eher “periphären” Zwecken genutzt: “Hin und wieder hatte Franz vor dem Abwischen eine Überschrift, ein paar Zeilen oder vielleicht sogar einen halben Absatz gelesen, ohne daraus allerdings jemals einen sonderlichen Nutzen zu ziehen.” Aus diesem amüsanten Versatzstück sollte man jetzt jedoch nicht schlußfolgern, daß das gesamte Buch nur nettes Geplänkel ist: Wir befinden uns in 1937 und damit der dunkelsten Epoche der deutschen Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert und “Der Trafikant” schildert dies aus der Sicht Franz’, der ein feines Empfinden für Recht, Gerechtigkeit…

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Book Review / March 9, 2019

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin Do you like watching glaciers move? Like, in real-time? Are you a German teacher of English? Do you hate someone very much? (You can even combine the last two!)  Congratulations, this book is especially for you!   I actually enjoy a good story, lavishly told in good time. Me possibly drinking coffee or wine and enjoying myself, even losing myself inside a story told slowly, delightfully, perhaps playfully.  The story-telling here is mooooooooostly slooooooooow. Just slow. Not lavish, not delightful, not playful, just plain old slow.   Now, slow food? Good stuff! Fast food only makes me fat anyway. Slow food doesn’t mean I have to enjoy chewing on a piece of granite – or reading this book.  ‘f slows the only prob, things mighta haven’t look so bleak. Ain’t just that, sirree, naw. The language. South’rn drawl my ass.  Short sentences. Clipped sentences, eh? Yeah, boy, might work. If yall are proper pen pushers, heh?! Franklin, ma boy, you ain’t a one.   Ok, enough of this. It’s really annoying. I really, really hated those clipped sentences. They read like they hated their literary life for being, well, emaciated.  Well, all of that could still have been forgiven (I can almost see the small teaching, pupil-hating, glacier-watching demographic from the introduction nod their approval!) but…

Die ewigen Toten by Simon Beckett
Book Review / March 4, 2019

Die ewigen Toten by Simon Beckett My rating: 3 of 5 stars David “Selbstzweifel” Hunter ist zurück – leider nicht in Bestform Der forensische Anthropologe David Hunter, bekannt aus Becketts früheren Romanen in dieser Reihe, wird diesmal zu einem Leichenfund in einem ehemaligen Krankenhaus, dem St. Jude, gerufen. Dort angekommen wird sehr schnell klar, daß sich ein größeres Geheimnis hinter den abrissreifen und finsteren Mauern des St. Jude verbirgt. Damit steht die Kulisse für einen ebenfalls eher düsteren Krimi mit gelegentlichen “Ausrutschern” in beinahe schon poetische Sprache und ein wenig Humor. Ich freute mich auf einen neuen Krimi mit Hunter, der mir aus früheren Bänden sympathisch und interessant in Erinnerung war. Das bleibt auch bei diesem Buch so, jedoch wird es leider von den permanenten Querelen zwischen Haupt- und Nebencharakteren massiv überschattet – ein forensischer Taphonom verärgert Hunter, Hunter verärgert seine Auftraggeber bei der Polizei, ein frustrierter Bauunternehmer verärgert alle. Als wäre das noch nicht genug, läßt sich auch Hunter von all dem Ärger ins Boxhorn jagen und an sich selbst zweifeln. Angesichts seiner Erfahrung und seines Renommees ist das aber nur sehr bedingt plausibel und hat mich zumindest doch sehr gestört. So viel Ärger und Selbstzweifel machen einfach keinen…

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel
Book Review / March 1, 2019

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel My rating: 3 of 5 stars The Test – an exercise in superfluousness “The Test” is a short story about an immigrant taking a citizenship test. What he doesn’t know: It’s all simulated. When a group of terrorists takes everyone hostage at the test and they put him into difficult situations, his behaviour is actually being evaluated with respect to suitability for citizenship. The story isn’t bad at all but nothing here is new and all of it has already been executed a lot better by other authors. There are even a few things intrinsically implausible that are never explained and before you know it, you’ve finished the very short novella. It’s a bit like Brecht once wrote: “Indeed it is a curious way of coping: To close the play, leaving the issue open…” Unfortunately, Neuvel isn’t Brecht and can’t really pull this off as successfully but wrote a novella that’s simply superfluous. Thus, to quote Brecht to the end, “There’s only one solution that we know: That you should now consider as you go What sort of measures you would recommend To help good people to a happy end.” The measures I would recommend…