Arctic Wargame by Ethan Jones

Arctic Wargame by Ethan Jones My rating: 2 of 5 stars This review may contain spoilers! Since I got this book in a give-away, I really hoped I’d like it. Alas, it was not to be. First of all, the plot is thin. Thinner than a sheet of ice on a puddle. Evil Danes (or rather: a single evil Dane, being blackmailed by clichée russians) attacking Canada with a bunch of common criminals. On the other side are some non-descript Canadians (our bland hero), some noble natives (one of them constantly drunk, corrupted by the evil white men!) and a compassionate American nurse which fight the evil criminal Danes. Oh, and there’s the hero’s love interest who happens to be around for no discernible reason – she adds nothing to the story, doesn’t seem to have any useful talents and is usually just being an accessory. I’m absolutely willing to suspend my disbelief; I might even have accepted the ridiculous notion of a small country like Denmark attacking Canada, an ally, if the storytelling hadn’t been so incredibly boring. The entire story is so unbelievably predictable that only a feeling of obligation towards the author made me finish it. The characters are…

The Normans: From Raiders to Kings by Lars Brownworth

The Normans: From Raiders to Kings by Lars Brownworth My rating: 4 of 5 stars I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. I thought the topic of the Normans was interesting but didn’t get my hopes up high since I had never heard of the author before, popular history books are usually not my taste and the cover was somewhat attention-seeking. I very quickly got drawn into the book deeply, though. Brownworth definitely succeeds in explaining the main Norman rulers and their feats. I was a bit worried about all the names and references but most of the time, a chapter or a few later, Brownworth picks up and expands on the subject he mentioned before and one gets an excellent overview. Sometimes, the chapters are a bit short and there would likely be more to say about the respective protagonist (e. g. Frederick II deserves more attention than he gets here, I think) but all in all, this book makes a very interesting read. I like how Brownworth isn’t shy to voice his own opinion about the respective protagonist at the end of almost every chapter – I don’t always agree with his assessment but I…

A Life Without Fear by Leo King
Book Review / January 10, 2014

A Life Without Fear by Leo King My rating: 2 of 5 stars This book is the sequel to The Bourbon Street Ripper by the same author, Leo King. If you’re interested in this book, you basically have to read the first book because this one starts right after it. You can read my review of the first book here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show… That said, this review must be split into two parts. Basically, “A Life Without Fear” is more of the same in a good way. It definitely improves upon the first book and I definitely enjoyed reading most of it – it’s another page turner. Unfortunately, the same criticisms apply here, too: Some scenes (more than in book 1) are overly gory. It’s not like that was necessary at all but Leo King obviously enjoys writing such scenes. I can live with that but I don’t exactly like that aspect. Furthermore, quite a bit of suspension of disbelief has to be applied – superhuman abilities, strange alliances but I don’t really have a problem with that. Personally, I smiled and decided to let me get carried away by the story. 🙂 There are still the voodoo elements and some hints…

Chasing the Storm by Martin Molsted
Book Review / December 19, 2013

Chasing the Storm by Martin Molsted My rating: 2 of 5 stars This is undoubtedly an ambitious book; something debut novels often are. Just as often, they don’t live up to those ambitions as is the case with this one. The protagonist, Togrim Rygg at first seems to be just some kind of business man – and suddenly, out of nowhere, he acts like James Bond. He refuses to take a map because he has “everything memorized. Safer.” and likewise he declares “All hackers have big heads”. There’s absolutely no indication at that point in the book how he would know that – it’s completely out-of-character. This is most likely the crudest way I’ve ever seen an author use to convey to the reader that there might be more to the unlikely hero than immediately meets the eye. Similarly, his friend, Marko Marin, tells Rygg “That is what I need from you. Keep us in form.”. At this point of the novel, Marin has no way of knowing that Rygg might be more than a random business man. Such inconsistencies are marring the entire book. That’s not all, though: Throughout the entire book, Rygg switches between being a James Bond…

Dog Days – Deadly Passage by Joe McKinney
Book Review / November 4, 2013

Dog Days – Deadly Passage by Joe McKinney My rating: 3 of 5 stars I don’t like horror stories and I don’t like “supernatural” nonsense. That said, I actually enjoyed these two short stories which are basically from the horror genre and are bordering on “supernatural”. If only  “Dog Days” was to be reviewed, I’d rate it with four stars because it’s clearly the much better story. The set up is (mostly) believable and its characters likeable and, at least when it comes to the primary protagonists, well-written. You can relate to the young hero and – in part – to his friends and enemies. The rest of the characters are not too far off to accept them. All in all, the story is intrinsically sound and enjoyable. Of course, there are a few issues, e. g. with the timeline – it’s end of June and on the 19th of July something is expected to happen and the hero thinks that’s in “less than two weeks”. Not *quite* right but nothing that really spoils the experience. There’s a ghost that pops up twice for no good reason at all and should just have been cut out of the book –…

Summer’s End by Lisa Morton
Advance Review Copy (ARC) , Book Review / September 1, 2013

Summer’s End by Lisa Morton My rating: 1 of 5 stars Occult nonsense and boring at that Let’s instead start at the very beginning: The cover. It looks cheap and badly done. Tons of artifacts, especially around the arms. The text looks like it belongs to some romance novel, not a wanna-be occult horror “novella”. And, oh, yes, it certainly is a “novella” which is good because much more than the about 24.000 words this thing offers would have been insufferable. Since some endorsements are placed prominently at the beginning, let’s see what others have to say. A certain Gary A. Braunbeck states it’s “the best work she’s ever done” – well, thanks, Gary, for the warning. He adds another notable statement “Don’t start reading with any preconceived notions about horror *or* storytelling because they’ll be shredded into confetti […]”. He’s completely right: I’ve always thought storytelling was about making the reader feel, breathe and live within the story. Gary wouldn’t agree, I guess, if he thinks what Morton does is storytelling. According to some Ray Garton, Morton “has created something so strikingly unique that it stands alone in the genre.” – Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever read something…

The Hitler Diaries by Jim Williams

The Hitler Diaries by Jim Williams My rating: 2 of 5 stars This certainly isn’t a bad book. Unfortunately, it shows that this book was its author’s first novel. The story is fairly convoluted with a lot of characters most of which are expendable and don’t really add much to the book. The decision not to do additional work  before this re-publication was, in my eyes, a mistake since the story could have benefited greatly from some down-stripping to the essentials.  For me, as a German, the numerous mistakes (e. g. the wrong spelling “Fraülein” instead of “Fräulein”) are fairly annoying and could have easily been avoided. Furthermore, we all know what happened some time after the original publication of this book – the faked “Hitler diaries” appeared in a German magazine. Knowing that didn’t really help my enjoyment of this book. All in all, I’d have advised against re-publishing this book. It certainly had its time and its merits but its time has passed long ago and its merits are overshadowed by the mistakes of a young ambitious author.  View all my reviews

Travels in Elysium by William Azuski
Book Review / June 16, 2013

Travels in Elysium by William Azuski My rating: 1 of 5 stars Have you ever read a book by Umberto Eco? Then you’ll know that Mr. Eco is an extremely smart person – and he loves showing that to his readers. His books are well-researched, full of reference to historical facts, other works, etc. They might not all be nice to read and some are outright annoying but at least they’re well-written. Now imagine Eco without proper research, without the smartness and without much talent for writing and you get: William Azuski First of all, I don’t care about realism if a book is interesting. I don’t mind the author’s ideas about archaeology or volcanoes (even though they’re involuntarily comical in this book). I do mind when an author writes more in metaphors than straight sentences, though. A few examples: – “the fury of a candle left in a draught.” Candles tend to die, left in a draught. I don’t really see much “fury” there. A few sentences later, we read “The great day dawns, the sun struggling through spitting clouds.” “Spitting clouds” – well, I suppose that’s rain but, really, useless, stupid pathos. And if it’s not “Lucifer-red” it’s…

Code of Thieves by Joyce Yarrow

Code of Thieves by Joyce Yarrow My rating: 2 of 5 stars Another book I got from the “Early Reviewers” program on LibraryThing which I’m grateful for, thanks. Unfortunately, “Code of Thieves” has a lot of flaws.I’ll skip the summary which others have already done well. The problems start with the characters – none of them, including the hero, are believable human beings. In fact, they don’t get a chance to be because the author simply lacks the talent for characterisations; let’s look at Jo Epstein herself: We don’t ever get to know what really drives her. Yes, she worries about her mother’s (relative) well-being but she never displays any real emotions. She observes her mother and everyone else but she never really seems emotionally invested – apart from the obligatory relationship she jumps into and even there we we get to see the carnal side but the emotional one is severely lacking. Everyone in this book is, at best, very roughly outlined but there’s no substance to any of the characters. They all behave like any reader of mysteries will expect them, too. In contrast to well-written books, though, the reader won’t really care what happens to anyone –…

The Bourbon Street Ripper by Leo King
Advance Review Copy (ARC) , Book Review / December 15, 2012

The Bourbon Street Ripper by Leo King My rating: 4 of 5 stars Just when I was thinking nothing really good would ever come out of giveaways, I got “The Bourbon Street Ripper” (BSR). Put off at first by the lurid title, I quickly got drawn into the book. As usual, I’ll skip summarising the story as others will have done this before. In short, it’s basically a well-done mystery novel and, in contrast to the author’s “Clearly not your normal mystery book.” it is a normal mystery book with a few twists and some “extra features”. It’s not normal in that most “normal” mystery books are treading well worn-out paths which, to a fair extent, BSR succeeds to avoid. The main characters are mostly believable and well-developed and both the 20-years-before story as well as the current storyline and interestingly (and rather subjectively) presented through some of the characters.The contrast between two of the protagonists, namely Rodger and Michael, works well for the book as do the similarities between two other characters (albeit the presentation of those could have been a bit more subtle). For me at least, this was a real page turner in spite of having to…