A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Book Review / July 30, 2019

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini My rating: 5 of 5 stars This was an amazing and deeply touching read. I was born in 1975 and, being the son of rather politically interested parents, I remember the Soviet-Afghan War and the Mujahideen and their respective roles in Afghanistan since about 1985. I intellectually knew about the atrocities committed during that war, during the in-fighting among the Afghan warlords and, later, by the Taliban. This book, though, tells the very personal story of Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of Jalil Khan, a prosperous business man from Heart, and Nana, one of his servants. While the early parts focus entirely on Mariam who desperately wants to be accepted by her father, we later get to know Laila and her parents (and a few other very memorable characters) as well. Mariam’s and Laila’s ways cross when they both get married to Rasheed, the owner of a small shoe shop in Kabul. When I started reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, I thought it was a bit slow but when I noticed I had finished about 75% of the book in one marathon reading session without even noticing the time passing, I understood how wrong…

Warden’s Fury (The Ancient Guardians, Book 3), by Tony James Slater
Book Review / July 26, 2019

Warden’s Fury: A Sci Fi Adventure by Tony James Slater My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is the third book of the science fiction series “The Ancient Guardians” and – in a good way – it’s more of the same compared to the two earlier books. But this book has a few things going for itself. First and foremost, that’s its author, Tony James Slater: I first learned about Tony when one of his books, the highly recommended “Kamikaze Kangaroos!: 20,000 Miles Around Australia. One Van, Two Girls… and an Idiot” was free for a limited time on Amazon. Of course, it was the last part of the title that made me take it. It was a hell of a ride – quite literally for Tony and metaphorically for me because Tony is not only a semi-insane traveller and writer but has a very decent sense of humour, never shy to make a joke on his own expense. Meanwhile, I’ve read every single book he has published and I ended up liking all of them! Why? Because we’re all a bit of Tony: He’s clumsy, does daft things during his travels, and has the most surreal accidents (a bear…

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