The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, by Amanda Gorman
Book Review / March 30, 2021

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’m German. I’ve never watched an inauguration of an American president. The one of today’s President Joe Biden was no exception even though I was hoping for something better than what had come before… (“It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four years, and now the nightmare is gone.”) Amanda Gorman’s amazing poem hit the German news very quickly, though, and I got curious and looked it up, watched Gorman perform it at the inauguration. It hit me unexpectedly hard; so hard, in fact, I cried. Her presentation was so powerful, emotional, touching and uplifting; representative – to me – of all that is right and just about the United States. Gorman envisions a country “committed To all cultures, colors, characters, And conditions of man” and while, of course, she primarily addresses the USA, she also spoke to the world and of the world. If we, the peoples of the world, made into reality in our countries what Gorman wishes for her own one, if we truly and honestly, sought “harm to none, and harmony…

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
Book Review / March 11, 2021

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo My rating: 5 of 5 stars It must have been around 2014 when I was at Mannheim’s (south-western Germany) Paradeplatz (the former parade grounds near Mannheim Palace). I was smoking and watching people when a young woman approached another nearby male smoker – only to be shouted at aggressively. I, in turn, shouted at the guy, went there and he left whereas I proceeded to offer the woman a cigarette which was what she had asked that other guy for. I asked her what that guy’s problem had been. She looked at me curiously and told me to take a good look at her. Somewhat embarrassed I did – had I missed something about her?! I didn’t notice anything – to me, she looked just like you and me.I apologised for obviously being daft to which she deadpan replied “I’m black”. Yes, I can be a bit on the naïve side but I honestly hadn’t consciously noticed and I had hoped that especially in my country, Germany, with its history, in a major city and in modern times, the skin colour had ceased to be an issue. The conversation that ensued changed my mind…

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, by Kristin Newman
Book Review / March 1, 2021

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman My rating: 2 of 5 stars This review is going to be quite a bit different from what I expected after eleven of the thirteen chapters this book comprises… Let’s start at another angle, though: I like to read what one of the greatest of the genre, Tony James Slater, likes to call “travel memoirs”. If written by the right person, they’re often funny, interesting and, at times, even insightful and inspiring.Unsurprisingly, they often include “romantic encounters” of a very intimate nature or – as Newman’s mother is quoted “Grown-ups don’t just hold hands.”. I went into this book expecting amusing anecdotes of female solo travel – a travel memoir. What I got to read was very, very different because the twenty-ish Kristian Newman listens to her boyfriend’s voicemail and reads his diary of all things… When she writes about Lesbian relationships that a »social scientist might argue that the girl-on-girl trend started with rave culture … and Ecstasy.« I found myself taking a note that reads “And someone with a brain might disagree”. On her first trip to Russia, she finds herself at a dinner among Russians and,…

Der Massai, der in Schweden noch eine Rechnung offen hatte, von Jonas Jonasson
Book Review / February 24, 2021

My rating: 0 von 5 Sternen Ich fühle mich angewidert und beschmutzt von diesem Buch. Der Autor, der offenbar das letzte Quäntchen Geld aus seinem Namen machen möchte, ist sich für kein rassistisches Klischee zu schade. Gleich zu Beginn lesen wir über Hitler, den der Autor verharmlosend-kumpelhaft als “Adolf” tituliert: »Was zum bis dato größten Krieg der Menschheitsgeschichte führte. Adolf verlor ihn und starb.« Eine der kenianischen Figuren (eigentlich sogar alle) wird als dummer, tölpelhafter, ungebildeter Wilder dargestellt: »Schlimm genug war es, dass einen der Strom beißen konnte, bloß weil man einen Nagel in ein Loch in der Wand steckte. Aber die Maschine zum Schreiben war ja regelrecht lebensgefährlich!« Noch ein Beispiel für den geradezu beiläufigen Rassismus in diesem Machwerk: »Denn über den typischen Kuh- oder Ziegenhirten der Savanne gab es prinzipiell viel Gutes zu sagen, aber wer tiefschürfende Einsichten in den Sinn des Lebens erwartete, suchte sich besser andere Gesprächspartner.« Auch Frauen sind offenbar für den Autor allenfalls dann etwas “wert”, wenn sie den Anstand haben, für uns Männer attraktiv zu erscheinen: »Jenny wuchs heran, ohne auch nur das kleinste bisschen attraktiv zu werden. Sie hielt sich im Hintergrund. Besaß null Ausstrahlung. Kleidete sich unvorteilhaft.« Diesen Satz legt der…

Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5), by Robert Galbraith
Book Review / February 24, 2021

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith My rating: 5 of 5 stars To get one thing out of the way right at the beginning: It’s just a disguise. Creed himself says so. Nevertheless, I’ve been informed by my daughter – who tends to be right (woe be me!) – the author proudly presents views the Dark Ages are rightly about to reclaim. Those views of the author are deeply offensive to many – me as well. And, yet, they do not diminish the greatness of this piece of art. 2021 starts out well, reading-wise. I’ve liked Robert Galbraith’s “Strike” novels from the beginning because Galbraith’s characters were so relatable. The eponymous Cormoran Strike, former soldier, now a detective, who lost one of his legs in war. Robin, who starts out as a temporary worker at Strike’s then-struggling agency as a secretary, but who becomes Strike’s business partner and confidante.Then there’s Strike’s glamorous ex-fiancee, Charlotte, his estranged rockstar father Johnny Rokeby and Leda Strike, Cormoran’s groupie mother. In the beginning of the series, that’s pretty much the entire primary cast – apart from the victims, the perpetrators, the witness, etc. – and that would already have been enough because the chemistry between…

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, by Adam Kay
Book Review / February 13, 2021

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay My rating: 5 of 5 stars »This morning I delivered little baby Sayton – pronounced Satan, as in King of the Underworld.« Wow, what a ride! Adam Kay, doctor gone writer, describes what he experienced in six years of medical practice in the United Kingdom. In about 10 chapters, Adam first introduces us to the new position or posting he’s in now. He then proceeds to write in usually short passages in anecdotal style to explain the manifold lows and highs of his profession. There were passages I laughed out loud at (something I rarely do and which garnered me curious and worried looks from my family), some that I thought couldn’t be true and others again that really truly hurt.So, first information if you want to read this book: On multiple levels, the title is extremely well chosen. Definitely dominant, though, is a wonderfully dry humour that, I imagine, in part allowed Adam to pull through those obviously at least partly hard, harsh years. »Clearly blood isn’t the delicious post-delivery snack she imagines placenta might be.« (She probably simply hasn’t read the right cookbooks!) Another…

A Dead Djinn in Cairo (Fatma el-Sha’arawi #1), by P. Djèlí Clark
Book Review / February 9, 2021

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark My rating: 1 of 5 stars An investigator in an alternative Egypt with ghuls, djinn, angels, other-worldly foes, a plethora of faiths and all set in a steampunk world. The writing is nothing special, the plot still mostly to-be-found at the end of this mercyfully very short novella – this is pretty much the most boring novella I’ve read in years. The most redeeming feature of the simplistically named “A Dead Djinn in Cairo” is its brevity. View all my reviews

It Only Happens in the Movies, by Holly Bourne
Book Review / February 4, 2021

My rating: 2 of 5 stars This was very different from what I expected. I expected a regular trashy romance but what I actually got was some kind of teeny romance… I wrote quite a bit more, originally, but decided not to elaborate because I’d very likely do this book an injustice. 14-year-old me probably would have liked this. Thirty-one years later, I simply found a book I’m too old for. View all my reviews

The Egg (ebook), by Andy Weir
Book Review / January 30, 2021

The Egg by Andy Weir My rating: 1 of 5 stars I’m not exactly into faith and even less into “intelligent design” which is pretty much the premise of this short story. Moreover, the idea of humanity (and the universe) being “created” to mature a new “god” is, in fact, abhorrent to me: The protagonist is supposed to be both Hitler and the millions he murdered? Maybe I’m overly critical but using the suffering of millions to “mature” a single individual – what kind of “god” would that be? And what kind of author is it who stoops so low? Altruism – rare enough under “normal” circumstances – becomes a weird kind of egoism if you’re the only true individual, if you’re everyone. Initially, I was about to award three stars but the longer I think about it, the more uncomfortable I become. One star. View all my reviews

The Guest List, by Lucy Foley
Book Review / January 29, 2021

The Guest List by Lucy Foley My rating: 4 of 5 stars »The lights go out. In an instant, everything is in darkness. The band stop their playing. Inside the marquee the wedding guests squeal and clutch at one another.« These are the strong, foreshadowing first words of this guilty pleasure of a book… There’s a wedding on a deserted island, several dark (slightly convoluted) mysteries from the past and on this brightest of days, a severe storm is brewing… This, with a small omission maybe, could have been the blurb to this often-reviewed Goodreads Choice Awards winner of 2020. This slightly Agatha-Christie-inspired setting lent itself to some good whodunnit murder mystery and I fully expected one. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite what I got: What I got was an attempt at showing me the true characters of the bride, the groom, their families and friends, down to Hannah, the Plus-one. That attempt wasn’t even bad and rather entertaining. It was slightly marred by the fact that everyone basically “sounded” and “felt” alike. We spend much time “in the head” (or rather: the thoughts) of our heroines and heroes and all their thoughts are expressed similarly.Plus: Only on its last pages…