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….

Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad, Book 1), by David Eddings
Book Review / July 2, 2019

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings My rating: 4 of 5 stars Wikipedia defines GrimDark as something that is “particularly dystopian, amoral, or violent” and that’s pretty much the definition of what I do not like in my fantasy books. When I read fantasy, I want the heroes to be good people at their core. I want a world that’s essentially worth saving and not a dystopia that basically deserves going down the drain anyway and while violence is nothing I abhor, it’s something that should be used sparingly and only if necessary for the story. Fortunately, “Pawn of Prophecy”, the first volume of “The Belgariad” is quite the opposite of GrimDark and pretty much exactly what I outlined above: Garion, a young farmhand, tutored by his “Aunt Pol” grows up on the farm of a modest, good-natured man who cares about his people. When strangers arrive at the farm, Pol and an elderly story-teller, “Mister Wolf”, come to the conclusion it’s time to make a move of their own and so they leave with Garion and the local blacksmith to go on a dangerous trip through the land, searching for a dangerous ancient artefact and its thief. They’re closely…

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
Book Review / June 29, 2019

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles My rating: 1 of 5 stars “It was suddenly as if the book were not a dining room table at all, but a sort of Sahara. And having emptied his canteen, the Count would soon be crawling across its sentences with the peak of each hard-won page revealing but another page beyond. . . .” This book was a huge let-down. Amazon tells me, its print edition has 378 pages. Those must be metres high and wide because I swear it were 10.000 for me. In fact, reading this book felt exactly like my opening quote. Count Alexander Rostov has the bad luck to be born into a family of aristocrats during revolutionary times. His only redeeming feature from the perspective of his “comrades” is a poem he wrote. Which is why they don’t put him against a wall but into life-long house arrest inside his favourite hotel, the Metropol in Moscow. Ok, well, he’s moved from his favourite suite to the attic but ultimately, Alexander makes the very best of it or – as the blurb puts it – “can a life without luxury be the richest of all?” The answer, sadly,…

The Suspect (Joseph O’Loughlin #1), by Michael Robotham
Book Review / June 23, 2019

The Suspect by Michael Robotham My rating: 3 of 5 stars This is a pretty standard thriller with nothing special to recommend itself over any other of its kind. Basically, a whiny shrink, Joseph “Joe” O’Loughlin, who keeps making stupid decisions throughout the entire book ends up being man-hunted as the prime suspect in a string of murders, starting with a former patient of his. Very early on, when being asked to help in the investigation of the murder, Joe decides it’s a brilliant idea to withhold essential information from the police: “All the while I’m thinking, I should say something now. I should tell him. Yet a separate track in my brain is urging, It doesn’t matter anymore. He knows her name. What’s past is past. It’s ancient history.” This stupidity annoys me without end: The cops will find out about such connections anyway so Joe should have told them right away. After all, he will have read this in countless books or seen it a hundred times at the cinema or on TV. Such lies by omission never help. Robotham still using this dead-beat plot device made me groan with despair. Joe O’Loughlin is pretty daft all around,…

Faking Ms. Right, by Claire Kingsley
Book Review / June 19, 2019

Faking Ms. Right by Claire Kingsley My rating: 4 of 5 stars “He turned back, meeting my gaze, a disarming openness in his eyes. Right there, in that exact moment, I did a terrible, terrible thing. I fell in love with my boss.”(Just to let you know what you might be about to read. 😉 ) This was another quick and easy read just to relax. I wanted something amusing and entertaining and this “romantic comedy” was just the thing. “Faking Ms. Right” is about Everly, the sunshiny assistant of Shepherd Calloway. Shepherd mimes the cold-hearted robot but is, of course, a great person deep inside. To get back at an ex-girlfriend who now dates his own father (yikes!), he manages to convince Everly not only to fake being his girlfriend but to even move in with him. This being a romantic comedy what has to happen happens and they fall in love. Since it’s a “hot romantic comedy” the story encompasses all kinds of encounters in some detail… This is by no means a demanding or sophisticated book but both Everly and Shepherd are fun and irresistibly likeable and the chemistry between both feels just right. A quick dose…