The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Book Review / May 3, 2019

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro My rating: 2 of 5 stars “That’s true, good lady, but then we boatmen have seen so many over the years it doesn’t take us long to see beyond deceptions. Besides, when travellers speak of their most cherished memories, it’s impossible for them to disguise the truth. A couple may claim to be bonded by love, but we boatmen may see instead resentment, anger, even hatred. Or a great barrenness. Sometimes a fear of loneliness and nothing more. Abiding love that has endured the years—that we see only rarely. When we do, we’re only too glad to ferry the couple together. Good lady, I’ve already said more than I should.” Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple, live in post-Roman Britain. They – like everyone – are suffering from some strange memory loss that prevents them from recalling large parts of their lives: “Now I think of it, Axl, there may be something in what you’re always saying. It’s queer the way the world’s forgetting people and things from only yesterday and the day before that. […] Like a sickness come over us all.” Sometimes, though, either Axl or Beatrice do remember things from their…

Relic, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Book Review / April 29, 2019

Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child My rating: 4 of 5 stars “Every sixty to seventy million years or so, life starts getting very well adapted to its environment. Too well adapted, perhaps. There is a population explosion of the successful life forms. Then, suddenly, a new species appears out of the blue. It is almost always a predatory creature, a killing machine. It tears through the host population, killing, feeding, multiplying. Slowly at first, then ever faster.” “Relic” was a fast and easy read: New York City’s Natural History Museum has already had its share of dark rumours about a “Museum Beast” when two kids are found brutally murdered in the basement of the museum. And further deaths follow… Thus, Lieutenant D’Agosta from the local Police department takes the lead in the investigation, closely followed by FBI agent Pendergast from New Orleans who knows the killer’s modus operandi from a previous case. Furthermore, there are Margo Green, a graduate student, preparing her dissertation, supported in both that and her independent investigation by Professor Frock, her wheelchair-bound mentor who is part of the higher echelon of the museum. Soon, all of them will find out that sometimes the hunters…

No Exit, by Taylor Adams
Book Review / April 24, 2019

No Exit by Taylor Adams My rating: 3 of 5 stars Thrilling, suspenseful – and completely over the top No great quotation comes to the rescue in this case which could actually be good because “No Exit” promised to be a fast-paced thriller with a highly interesting premise: Darby, a college student takes refuge in a rest/service area during a blizzard. There she meets four other travellers who are stranded. When she finds a girl, Jay, in a van in the parking lot, she knows she’s going to have an interesting night ahead of her… “It was all really happening, right now, in vivid color, and a little girl’s life was really on the line, and tonight’s title match would be between a sleep-deprived art student and a human predator.” This outset got my hopes up high – after several books that taxed capacity for prolonged complexity (especially during a holiday!) I just wanted some action-flick-look-alike of a book. And, admittedly, I got one. So, why only three stars out of five? Well, worst of all: Pretty much every single plot twist was foreseeable. Early on I guessed at two completely different possible story lines but once the first “big…

Die Geschichte der Bienen, by Maja Lunde
Book Review / April 24, 2019

Die Geschichte der Bienen by Maja Lunde My rating: 3 of 5 stars “Sie findet den Weg hinaus aus dem Flugloch, dreht eine Runde vor dem Bienenkorb, ehe sie allmählich den Abstand zu ihrem Zuhause vergrößert. Aber noch ist sie nicht bereit.” Ein weiteres Mal läßt mich ein Buch recht ratlos zurück: “Die Geschichte der Bienen” von Maja Lunde ist zweifellos intelligent, kritisch und zutreffend. Am Ende – und immer, wenn es auch zwischendurch “menschelt” – ist es auch ein kraftvolles und berührendes Buch. Leider sind die Längen zumindest am Anfang spürbar: Bemüht erzählt Lunde in drei Zeit- und Erzählebenen von der Geschichte der drei Protagonisten, ihrer Familien und ihrer jeweiligen Beziehung zu den Bienen. William, im Jahr 1852, ist mäßig erfolgreicher Saatgutkaufmann und Naturforscher, der – so meint er zumindest – seiner Familie seine Leidenschaft für die Forschung geopfert hat und daran zerbricht. George, der vermeintliche Realist mit großen Träumen, der als Imker in den ländlichen USA lebt und arbeitet: “»Ich liebe Star Wars. Deswegen bin ich noch lange kein Jedi geworden.«“ Tao, die Getriebene, die die eine kurze Stunde, die sie mit ihrem einzigen Sohn, Wei-Wen, am Tag verbringen kann, dafür nutzen möchte, diesem eine bessere Zukunft zu…

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
Book Review / April 21, 2019

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller My rating: 2 of 5 stars “IN THE DARKNESS, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.” (The last sentence of the book, almost the only good one.) I was expecting to re-learn my Greek classics, told with a modern voice in modern language. I expected tales of heroism, of the great Greek heroes like Odysseus, of the Trojan war. What I got was a pale romance, lots of pathos and characters I couldn’t care for at all. Achilles almost always submits to his mother’s wishes, Patroclus is annoying and whiny and both fall in love with each other for no discernible reason whatsoever – unless you count Achilles’s feet… “His dusty feet scuffed against the flagstones as he ate. They were not cracked and callused as mine were, but pink and sweetly brown beneath the dirt.” Or Achilles’s feet… Again… “Up close, his feet looked almost unearthly: the perfectly formed pads of the toes, the tendons that flickered like lyre strings. The heels were callused white over pink from going everywhere barefoot. His…

Age of Legend, by Michael J. Sullivan
Book Review / April 17, 2019

Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan My rating: 5 of 5 stars “Time had sneaked in and stolen her recklessness.” Michael J. Sullivan has done it again: He has written a book that doesn’t need to hide behind any other work in contemporary fantasy. His latest masterpiece, Age of Legend, the Kickstarter of which I had the honour to participate in, begins after the Battle of Grandford at the end of the previous book, Age of War. This makes “Age of Legend” the fourth book in Michael’s “The Legends of the First Empire” series which I whole-heartedly recommend to, well, actually anyone who reads. (In fact, my wife isn’t really into fantasy but thoroughly enjoyed Michael’s Riyria books.) I already wrote it in the review for the previous book but this latest instalment solidifies this feeling: More and more, “Legends” turns into Michael’s magnum opus. The Riyria books, which are fairly different from Legends, are undoubtedly great but the narrative depth of Legends is absolutely remarkable. Michael gets pretty much everything right and this starts even before the actual book with his “Author’s Note”: “Now, there are a few things in this second half that I’ve done differently than…

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…