The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
Book Review / April 13, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides My rating: 2 of 5 stars “I didn’t know it then, but it was too late—I had internalized my father, introjected him, buried him deep in my unconscious. No matter how far I ran, I carried him with me wherever I went. I was pursued by an infernal, relentless chorus of furies, all with his voice—shrieking that I was worthless, shameful, a failure.” but “It’s not hopeless. You’re not a boy at the mercy of your father anymore.” It all started out so well: The narrator, Theo Faber, is a psychotherapist who goes out of his way to help Alicia, the “Silent Patient”. Alicia has been put into a psychiatric hospital after her husband was murdered with her standing next to him, the weapon at her feet. She refuses to (or can’t) speak at all. Theo himself is damaged as well by an overbearing father who has always made him feel insufficient, worthless and a failure (cf. opening quotation). He feels like he’s pretty much the only person on earth who can help Alicia find her voice – metaphorically and literally – and so he sets out to help her. The setting I described…

The Bones She Buried, by Lisa Regan
Book Review / April 9, 2019

The Bones She Buried by Lisa Regan My rating: 4 of 5 stars “A completely gripping, heart-stopping crime thriller” Nah, it’s not, just joking. This is just an annoying trend (lately?) to add such marketing bullshit to the title of any books feared not to sell otherwise – or so it seems. “The Bones She Buried” is, of course, neither completely gripping nor, fortunately, heart-stopping. It’s pretty much a bog-standard police procedural featuring Josie Quinn, a thirty-something (I guess?) police detective in Pennsylvania (which doesn’t matter at all because the setting is usually completely generic), who is investigating for the fifth time now with the usual staff who, so far, “covered cases so shocking and high-profile, they’d made national news.” And, of course, Josie will eventually “[unravel] a scandal so massive and so complex that it’s still sending shockwaves through not just the region but the entire nation.” And it all starts with the murder of someone close to her. Honestly, all that thickly-applied pathos is not even necessary: Sure, Lisa Regan (whose surname I tend to “prominently” misspell) will never become a new Hemingway or Shakespeare. That’s just fine, though, because the “absolutely unputdownable” “crime thrillers” she writes as…

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
Book Review / April 7, 2019

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon My rating: 3 of 5 stars “Margret,” he said, “you are my child. I forgave you all your sins on the first day of your life.” This book has been lauded for a lot of things – supporting feminism, its share of LGBT characters, its absolutely gorgeous cover and I’m sure it would heal the Draconic plague as well were the latter real. The problem is, though: This book is way too long. The entire first third of the book basically consists only of (court) politics and scheming. There is no real storyline to follow yet; it’s basically all just building up slowly to the real story which is all the more sad as behind all the convoluted, long-winded, stilted writing hides a decent (albeit not very original) story: After a thousand years of imprisonment by our heroes’ ancestors, the “Nameless One” – a dragon – is going to return and wreak havoc all over the world. Few people know this secret and even fewer are prepared and willing to actually do something about it. Tané, a young lowly-born orphan, wants to become a dragon rider of “the East’s” sea guard…

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…