The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Book Review / July 23, 2019

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón My rating: 5 of 5 stars ““Is it true you haven’t read any of these books?” “Books are boring.” “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you,” answered Julián.“ “The Shadow of the Wind” is one of those books that leave me deeply satisfied and in tears. It’s a sweeping epic about Daniel Sempere, a bookseller’s son, who – by accident or preordained by fate – learns about an obscure and mostly forgotten author, Julian Carax, whose book “The Shadow of the Wind” will change Daniel’s life and those of pretty much everyone he loves. Even though there are some rather exciting and suspenseful scenes throughout the book, Zafón takes his time to paint a broad picture of Barcelona, the narrated time (1945 to 1966) and people. And, yes, at times this does make the book somewhat slow but only by giving room to everyone in this book to gain a character of his or her own can we really appreciate the masterpiece this book actually is. Because there’s not a single character to whom we cannot relate: Daniel, driven first by his desire to…

The Last Time I Lied, by Riley Sager
Book Review / July 18, 2019

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager My rating: 4 of 5 stars “Because the lake’s been lowered by drought, the farthest-reaching branches scrape the bottoms of the canoes, sounding like fingernails trying to scratch their way out of a coffin.” Wow, this was an unexpected pleasure! Coming from the background of having read too many difficult books lately, I chose this book because it sounded like an easy, light who-dun-it with an interesting premise. Two truths, one lie: a) I greatly enjoyed this book, b) it was an easy read, c) it kept me glued to my Kindle for hours. Of course, b) is the lie because this book was an excellent blend of who-dun-it, thriller, adventure and near-insanity. Emma, a young painter of 28 years, gets invited back to the reopening of an exclusive summer camp for “rich bitches”. The camp was originally closed 15 years ago when – during Emma’s stay there – three of her fellow campers disappeared without a trace. Emma, traumatised by the disappearance and what happened afterwards, comes back to deal with a creative blockage and to finally find out what happened to her friends all those years ago. The book starts…

Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
Book Review / July 16, 2019

Wilder Girls by Rory Power My rating: 1 of 5 stars “Why me?!”, I asked my wife, “Why do I always have to choose the worst books?!” – with the prettiest covers, I might add. Because this book is a classic example why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – which, in this case, is beautiful whereas the contents read like they’ve partly been ripped out of the script to some mediocre horror b-movie and partly been born out of the brain of a pubescent teenager. Maybe a sadistic ecology freak was on-board as well because at times the book reads like something along the lines of “nature strikes back”. The plot is simple and the premise interesting: A female-only boarding school on a small island; “the Tox”, some kind of plague, ravaging the wildlife, the girls and their teachers. Hetty, Byatt and Reese, three pupils and friends, are trying to survive. Suddenly, when Byatt vanishes Hetty learns something sinister is going on on the island… I’m not even sure where to start with my criticism because this book has almost no redeeming qualities: The writing is weird and I found myself asking “what did she smoke?!”: “And…

A Walk to Remember, by Nicholas Sparks
Book Review / July 15, 2019

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks My rating: 4 of 5 stars “As these images were going through my head, my breathing suddenly went still. I looked at Jamie, then up to the ceiling and around the room, doing my best to keep my composure, then back to Jamie again. She smiled at me and I smiled at her and all I could do was wonder how I’d ever fallen in love with a girl like Jamie Sullivan.” The story is as simple as it gets: Boy (Landon) meets girl (Jamie), falls in love with her (and she with him) but they’re star-crossed lovers. I like this book and I don’t like it. I really like that it feels plausible and honest: “She looked away. “Yes,” she finally said, “I’m frightened all the time.” “Then why don’t you act like it?” “I do. I just do it in private.” “Because you don’t trust me?” “No,” she said, “because I know you’re frightened, too.”” I liked how Landon basically fell in love unwillingly and reluctantly but will not and cannot stop once he’s embarked on the journey. I also greatly like Spark’s beautiful and elegant writing: “The ocean turned golden…

The Piper’s Son, by Melina Marchetta
Book Review / July 14, 2019

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta My rating: 1 of 5 stars Let’s face it – I’m not going to finish this weird book. I’m totally confused: I pretty much loved Marchetta’s earlier novel “Saving Francesca”. It was one of the best books I’ve read 2019 so far. Thus, I expected to love “The Piper’s Son” as well but I never got into this book. Somehow, the entire book with its plethora of characters and jumps in time falls flat for me. What I’m taking away for myself is this: Just as in music there are one-hit wonders in literature as well. To me, it seems like Marchetta is one of those – she wrote one amazing book in which she told the one great story she had to share with all of us and for that I’m grateful. View all my reviews

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
Book Review / July 14, 2019

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett My rating: 4 of 5 stars “– ‘What’s that?’ ‘A book. I borrowed it.’ – ‘Dead, I suppose.’ ‘Who?’ – ‘The Beaton fellow.’ ‘Oh yes. Everybody’s dead.’ – ‘Good show, though.’ And he went off to bed glumly singing ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning’ as the Queen opened her book.” In this short novella, the Queen herself stumbles upon a travelling library and, pretty much accidentally, gets into reading. The entire concept, though, is so foreign to the household (who are annoyed by the more and more thinking monarch) and the family (who are fairly happy to be left alone) that everyone gets upset with her majesty. Hilarity ensues. Well, maybe not actual hilarity but definitely some very amused smiling – with a stiff upper lip, of course. After all, the queen is portrayed as fairly human and sometimes, my own upbringing seems to make a cameo: “‘To tell you the truth, ma’am, I never got through more than a few pages. How far did your Majesty get?’ – ‘Oh, to the end. Once I start a book I finish it. That was the way one was brought up. Books, bread and butter, mashed…

Enchanters’ End Game (The Belgariad, Book 5), by David Eddings
Book Review / July 13, 2019

Enchanters’ End Game by David Eddings My rating: 1 of 5 stars Finally. I’m done with “The Belgariad”. For life. And I’m so happy about it. This epic fantasy adventure started out well with “Pawn of Prophecy”, went slightly downhill in “Queen of Sorcery” due to all the travelling, went straight into a wall when “Magician’s Gambit” turned out to be a lame duck, recovered somewhat during “Castle of Wizardry” and, eventually, went down the drain with this last instalment – “Enchanters’ End Game”. In this final book of the Belgariad, we accompany Ce’Nedra’s army into the land of the Murgos, fighting against them and the Malloreans. Wait a second, though – Ce’Nedra’s army? No, in fact it’s been taken from her by the men around her whom Eddings obviously felt much more competent to handle matters of war: “Once she was comfortably quartered in the Stronghold, Princess Ce’Nedra found herself even more removed from the day-to-day command of her troops.” Sadly, Ce’Nedra herself seems quite content to fall back into her cliched role as her Garion’s mindless “tiny princess”. Whenever she actually does something, she gets put firmly back into place and is scolded by whatever man is around….

Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad, Book 4), by David Eddings
Book Review / July 11, 2019

Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings My rating: 4 of 5 stars Finally, we’re (mostly) back on track: Garion gets to know his place in the big picture, Ce’Nedra finally becomes a character and not some one-dimensional caricature and Belgarath shows some human feelings. Whenever we’re not witnessing our heroes travelling but get to know them in their “natural habitat”, things get really interesting. I’m certainly never going to recommend “The Belgariad” to anyone but a teenager but at least this book made me actually want to finish the series instead of DNF’ing. I hope the fifth book doesn’t make me regret my decision… View all my reviews

Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad, Book 3), by David Eddings
Book Review / July 9, 2019

Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings My rating: 2 of 5 stars ““We all have our little shortcomings,” Silk admitted blandly.” This is yet more of the same I’ve read so far in the Belgariad. We’re still travelling, we’re still seeing some fights the result of which is crystal clear from the outset and it’s becoming stale and bland. There’s some character development finally but mostly everyone still feels like an archetype and not like a real person. As if that wasn’t enough, there are lots of “Deus ex machina” moments during which something that should be hard gets resolved effortlessly: “He ran his fingers over the icy iron, not knowing just what he was looking for. He found a spot that felt a little different. “Here it is.”” And just like that, that’s it. Garion explores some more of his capabilities but is still kept small by Belgarath and Pol. The ending is rushed, anti-climactic and actually feels like Eddings just wanted to end the book which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series. Sometimes I wish I could “unread” books because they were so fantastic. In this case, I would have had to forget an entire genre…

Queen of Sorcery (The Belgariad, Book 2), by David Eddings
Book Review / July 5, 2019

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings My rating: 3 of 5 stars “Don’t think about it, dear,” Aunt Pol said quietly as they left the village and rode south along the highway. “It’s nothing to worry about. I’ll explain it all later.” This second instalment of “The Belgariad” had a lot of dialogue like the above. Our young hero, Garion, is still on the road, travelling south in pursuit of the thief of an ancient artefact with his Aunt Pol, Mister Wolf and the others. Unfortunately, Pol tries to keep Garion ignorant for reasons partly eluding me and – for reasons completely eluding me – Garion sulks and pouts a bit about it but instead of simply refusing to move another inch till they finally tell him what’s going on, he pretty much accepts being kept in the dark. Very annoying and, at least in my experience as a father of three kids (and having been one myself!), not very truthful either. Plus: It’s simply annoying to me as a reader because I do have a pretty good idea about what Pol and Mister Wolf are hiding from Garion but Eddings should probably have made them loosen up a bit….