The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
Book Review / January 23, 2021

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett My rating: 5 of 5 stars I didn’t have the slightest idea about how to write this review. The story still resonates within me; simple, and yet hauntingly beautiful. Soul-devouring and yet hopeful. I still have no idea how to write this review so I’ll start with the characters since those will be who make or break this book for you. Desiree and Stella Vignes, twins, grow up in Mallard; a small town not on any map comprised of mostly coloured inhabitants.In addition to the ever-present racism of the time – we’re starting in 1968 – the inhabitants of Mallard are proud of their town which was founded by a man for “men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes.”. Adele, their mother, whose husband – their father – has been murdered by white people for no particular reason, stays in Mallard for all her life whereas Desiree and Stella flee it as soon as they reasonably can, at 16. While at first both twins stay together in New Orleans, Stella ultimately leaves her sister behind to pursue another life – “passing over” into a…

Behind the Book: Making The Death of Dulgath, by Michael J. Sullivan & Robin Sullivan
Book Review / January 22, 2021

Behind the Book: Making The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’m not even sure when I got this book. It probably was part of some Kickstarter campaign of Michael’s and Robin’s which I had the honour to participate in. So I simply had to read it! This “Making of” book was simply supposed to answer the age-old questions every author gets asked: »Where do you get your ideas? How long does it take you to write a book? How do you come up with the names? Do you write every day?« Michael J. Sullivan is one of my favourite authors and, thus, I was highly interested in these rather standard questions; I just didn’t expect answers as good as these: »In school, they may have learned about symbolism and metaphors, but no one said anything about which software program to use, how much of an outline to build before you begin writing, or what music to listen to while typing.« Starting with the initial questions, Michael explains how he works. This will likely not entirely work for everyone but the techniques and ideas Michael presents are an excellent starting point to actually…

The Secret Life of Bots, by Suzanne Palmer
Book Review / January 17, 2021

The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer My rating: 3 of 5 stars That didn’t quite hit the spot: An old derelict ship selected as a last-ditch effort to save humanity from an alien invasion. A fleet of semi-autonomous bots. A single outdated first-generation bot that saves the day. It slightly reminded me of Murderbot but, I’m sorry, it lacks the latter’s innocence and… logical purity. These bots seem logical at first glance but have nothing better to do than emulate humans, citing pseudo-religious “Rites of Something”… »Bot 9 approached to speak the Rites of Decommissioning for it as it had the destroyed silkbot, only to find its activity light was still lit. “4340-H?” the bot enquired.« One would think, a vastly superior AI should know better. Nice enough but I’ll stick with Murderbot. View all my reviews

Bretonische Spezialitäten (Kommissar Dupin #9), von Jean-Luc Bannalec
Book Review / January 15, 2021

Bretonische Spezialitäten by Jean-Luc Bannalec My rating: 5 of 5 stars »Dupin spürte, wie eine gewisse Aufregung in ihm aufkam. Er hatte Hunger, ja, aber es war noch mehr: pure lukullische Lust.« Da wären wir also mal wieder – der neunte Bretagne-Krimi um Kommissar Dupin. Wenn eine Buchreihe diesen “Reifegrad” erreicht, dann wird mir bei jedem neuen Band ein wenig “mulmig”, denn allzu oft verliert sich der Autor in der Routine und für treue Leser wie mich, wird es dann leicht langweilig. Nicht so hier, denn Dupin ist diesmal nicht in seiner (schon lange nicht mehr) neuen Heimatstadt Concarneau, sondern in Saint-Malo. Eigentlich soll er mit seinem Präfekten, Locmariaquer, an einem Seminar zur Département-übergreifenden Zusammenarbeit teilnehmen – wer Dupin ein wenig “kennt”, wird wissen, mit welcher Unlust er dies tut. Um so interessanter wird es, als direkt in seiner Nähe in einer belebten Markthalle ein Mord geschieht. Ganz in seinem ermittlerischen Element ist Dupin, der diesmal weitestgehend auf die Unterstützung von Nolwenn, Riwal und den anderen verzichten muß, als weitere Morde geschehen. Stimmungshebend ist für Dupin auch das kulinarische Umfeld (Rum, gutes Essen, nette Cafés!). Ein wenig skeptisch ist er allerdings schon, als Dupin nun mit der lokalen sachlich-nüchternen Kommissarin…

Ready Player Two (Ready Player One #2), by Ernest Cline
Book Review / January 10, 2021

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline My rating: 1 of 5 stars This was the worst disappointment in years… I loved “Ready Player One” and was eagerly awaiting this second instalment. After all, a sequel to an instant classic? What could possibly go wrong?! Turns out the answer is “everything”: Wade Watts was an underdog; orphaned, hunted but optimistic and positive with a great group of friends. In this book, though, he has turned into a vengeful spoiled brat: »I gleefully zeroed out hundreds of trolls in this fashion. If someone talked shit about me, I found them and killed their avatar.« And that’s not the only instance in which Wade is completely unrecognizable. Our young hero has turned into a complete idiot. Even his one-week-girlfriend Art3mis has understood what a douchebag Wade has become and left him.His friends are mostly avoiding him but Wade doesn’t really act upon any of that – apart from stalking (!) Art3mis, invading the others’ privacy, etc. etc. We get told all that during almost the entire first quarter of the book. There’s pretty much just Wade summing up how badly he messed up. Even that isn’t really well presented: This entire part is…

Forged (Alex Verus #11), by Benedict Jacka
Book Review / January 3, 2021

Forged by Benedict Jacka My rating: 5 of 5 stars In this eleventh instalment of Benedict Jacka’s “Alex Verus” series, “Forged” (as aptly titled as ever!), Alex is back at fixing lots of problems. Let’s take a quick look back first, though. In “Fallen” we saw how Alex had to harden and tackle things differently than he used to. He ‘fell’ away from trying to be the nice guy and concentrated on what he felt had to be done. He picked himself up and re-emerges ‘forged’ by the blows he received and the hits he delivered. “Forged” picks up right there: Alex is back in force and at the height of his game. He quickly realises he currently has three major issues: The Council of (Light) Mages Richard Drakh, his former master (and his (former) entourage) (Dark) Anne, his (ex-?)lover, recently possessed by a Jinn To be able to solve them, he has to solve them separately because he can’t deal with all three at the same time. We get to know this ‘forged’ Alex a lot better in this penultimate book of the series: »I was left crouching, surrounded by three dead men, alone once more.« This Alex is…

2020 in books
Personal / January 1, 2021

2020 on Goodreads by Various My rating: 4 of 5 stars If you consider the fact that I usually don’t read books that have an average rating below 4.00 on GoodReads, you’ll find when looking at my year in books that I actually awarded 3.5 stars on average. That makes a lot of sense to me as 2020 has been a difficult year on many levels for me. I read the amazing “Herkunft” by Saša Stanišić, though, and that was definitely one of the highlights of my reading year. Looking things over, I remember how travel-memoir writer Tony James Slater rekindled my interest in science fiction by writing his series “The Ancient Guardians” of which I read the final instalments in 2020, e. g. Warden’s Fate. Those led me to the unforgettable “Murderbot Diaries” by Martha Wells which I’ve practically devoured! Encouraged by these reading experiences, I decided to move on to “Leviathan Wakes” of the “The Expanse” series by James S.A. Corey. I was struggling with it as you can read in my review but I came to love the characters, the world and the way Corey injects a tiny ray of hope into the bleakest of situations. I’ve…

Marion Dönhoff: Ein widerständiges Leben, von Alice Schwarzer
Book Review / December 31, 2020

Marion Dönhoff: Ein Widerständiges Leben by Alice Schwarzer My rating: 5 of 5 stars Ich kam mit Marion Gräfin Dönhoff zum ersten Mal bewußt in Berührung als ich über den 20. Juli 1944 las. Denn bereits zum ersten Jahrestag 1945 schrieb Dönhoff »In Memoriam 20. Juli 1944. Den Freunden zum Gedächtnis« über ihre Freunde aus dem Widerstand gegen Hitler, die von den Nazis ermordet worden waren.Daraus entstand ihr 1994 veröffentlichtes Buch “Um der Ehre willen. Erinnerungen an die Freunde vom 20. Juli”, das ich als überaus beachtlich empfand und dessen lebendige Schilderungen einen kleinen Einblick jenseits der Geschichtsbücher in diese Persönlichkeiten erlaubt. Die Namen – allen voran Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg – sind mir wohlbekannt und doch gewinnen sie im Rahmen der behutsamen Aufarbeitung der Dönhoff’schen Erinnerungen an sie durch eine großartige Alice Schwarzer neues Profil. Ganz besonders Dönhoffs Gefährte aus Kinder- und Jugendtagen, Heinrich Graf Lehndorff. Wenn es um “Heini Lehndorff” geht, ist es das eine, um diesen Mann aus Wikipedia zu wissen. Etwas völlig anderes aber, wenn Dönhoff sich an diesen Jungen erinnert, mit dem sie auf Bäume geklettert ist, den sie im Eiskeller vergessen hat und dem sie “Kräheneier direkt ins Gesicht geprustet” hat. Die Unmittelbarkeit…

Faking Under the Mistletoe, by Ashley Shepherd
Book Review / December 29, 2020

Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd My rating: 2 of 5 stars This was such a nice idea: A Christmas romance! Ok, the author added “office romance”, “enemies-to-lovers” and “fake dating to evoke jealousy in an ex” but if that actually had worked out, I probably would have loved it. The beginning is very promising even: The banter between our heroine, Olivia, and her grumpy boss, Asher, is amusing, sometimes even witty and almost always funny.The atmosphere is charged between both of them and had Shepherd kept doing this, added some kind of conflict to solve before the “happily ever after”, everything would have been great. »“Cozied up on the couch. Snuggled under blankets. Snow falling outside. Christmas movies. Cake. We’re living a Lifetime special.”« When I read that, I was sure this had to be great! And it was until I came to the second half of the book which manages to derail it completely… If you still want to read this book, take care, huge spoilers follow… Last and least, I do enjoy a certain amount of well-written smut in a romance. In this case, the “build up” is rather nice but (anti-)climaxes in a meagre »“Well,”…

Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
Book Review / December 25, 2020

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom My rating: 2 of 5 stars When I was around the age of 18 – the age of majority in Germany – I felt like I had broken through some magical barrier to adulthood. (I hadn’t.) Now, I felt, it was my sacred duty (it wasn’t) to find out about – imagine a drum roll if you will – nothing lesser than the meaning of life itself. (Didn’t find it.) Young me contacted the most well-meaning, wisest and awe-inspiring people I knew (not my parents) and asked them indirectly what the meaning of life is. I think I received exactly one answer and that went like “You’ll have to find out for yourself.”. It took me about 20 years to figure that one out: There is no “meaning of life”. There is just what we figure out we want to do with our lives and how we live it. I have a vague idea for myself but I’m still figuring it out and I think the “figuring it out” part matters much more than the result – especially since for me, said result is always changing. Not in substance but in nuances. Along comes…