Quick Reviews March


Royal Flash (The Flashman Papers #2) by George MacDonald Fraser
(abridged audiobook read by Rupert Penry- Jones)
I already listened to the first book a while back and got newly interested in the adventures of Harry Flashman after I read about (basically) ar****le protagonists (the accurate word is fleeing from my memory; this will have to do) who are still likeable and convincing despite being, well, their rude and coward selves.
I like the concept in a way. Create a character everyone would usually hate because they are so going against everything we had been taught as being considerate, polite and a basic standard when interacting with other humans and yet everyone who encounters them likes them for some reason or other. (The ‘bad boy’ phenomenon, I assume.)

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
With the airdate of the series looming on the horizon I wanted to re-read the book a second time. The first time I read it was (I was surprised when I realised it) seven years ago and it was a translated edition. Back then I was disappointed but blamed the majority for it on the skills (or the lack thereof) of the translator. It is still a bad translation but even the original text couldn’t quite convince me. I love Gaiman and adore most things he wrote. I’m utterly in love with Neverwhere and it had inspired me so much when it comes to my own writing endeavours. He has a wonderful talent to create atmospheres without falling back to describing the weather or the landscape all the time. A truly gifted storyteller with an incredible way of words.
As you can see, I’m definitely biased.
American Gods just isn’t my kind of story. The storytelling is superb but the thing itself just doesn’t strike a chord. Some of the characters I admire but looking at the big picture… I’m sorry. I tried to like it more but I think I’ll stick to loving Neverwhere to pieces.

Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill
What a wonderful book. Despite the repition in some of the poems I loved it start to finish. The writing is so tender and yet so strong. The entire design of the book itself is magnificent.
I wish it could have been possible for me to purchase the physical version and not “just” the ebook. Unfortunately the shipping costs alone were higher than the price of the book itself.

Liar, Liar (DI Helen Grace #4) by M. J. Arlidge
Bearing in mind it was a sample copy from NetGalley I have to overlook the constant change in the characters’ titles. A Detective Constable being promoted to a Detective Sergeant from one chapter to the next and demoted again two chapters further into the story. And the same thing happened to a Detective Sergeant who was a Detective Inspector and was demoted again to a DS. That put me a bit off, to say it politely.
Having a thing for writing police stories and creating characters that work as officers I find it astonishing that the author wasn’t able to keep track of a thing like that. Alas…
The story itself was good but lacked “something”. Good handiwork but the soul was missing. It was difficult to connect to Helen Grace. Charlie Brooks definitely stole the place in the spotlight. Others remained entirely pale and mere “plot devices”.
I liked the case and the twist(s) around it.

Narrowboat Nomads: Living the Dream on the English Waterways by Steve Haywood
I spoke about “the thing with the houseboats” in another post a while back. That fascination (Love? Longing?) for them hasn’t yet ceased (on the contrary!) and reading books like this one isn’t really helping with it. Despite making me long for an own narrowboat the book was also full of local anecdotes, history and descriptions of people. cities, towns and landscapes. I’m biased and love the topic. Naturally I loved this book too.

Quick Reviews February


A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
I was watching a programme about books on the telly and they introduced this one. It sounded interesting and I added it to my (ever growing) wish list where it stayed for a few months until I had one of my ‘need comfort books’ days.
There are few writers who have this talent to suck you into their stories even if you’ve never been to the places mentioned, never met the people described or made the same or smiliar experiences. Lucia Berlin has this talent. Her language isn’t fancy or full of smart sounding words. Her writing is honest, raw at times, and she draws pictures with a few sentences. It was so good. It is one of those books I’d love to eat to devour all the delicious words and images, and experience all the emotions they cause in me, even deeper.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Eerie how many things you can recognise when you’ve been following the news these days. It reads – in parts; much like 1984 – more like a manual than a work of fiction. The point Atwood made when she wrote (or let her narrator tell so) that “they” had worked sneakily on the turning around of the system for years (the slow but steady redundancy of “paper money”) made my alarm bells shrill. There is a reason why I refuse to get a credit card and why I pay in cash whenever possible – even before I read this book. What I really liked was the way the story plays with your mind, how as a reader too get sucked in in this belief of “but the women actually have the power. It is a matriarchy, under the bottom line.” It is not but “they” know how to twist and turn everything around to make you believe it is one.
What I didn’t like was the “banging on details”, for example: She leaves her room and walks down the stairs to enter the kitchen. She then leaves the kitchen to pick up her basket, she then returns to the kitchen to talk to Cora.  Give me a break. But that’s about style, not content. All in all I liked the writing. There was something “mechanical” about it but not to a degree that I found negative for enjoying the book or for the story itself.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
(audiobook; narrated by Robert Glenister)
I was surprised, I must admit. If J. K. Rowling aka Robert Galbraith masters one thing it is character building. The story itself was solid but not that novel. A good, well written crime story but the characters made it a really interesting one. Over the span of the book I took a big liking to Cormoran Strike. The dynamic between him and his clever ‘temp’ Robin Ellacott is interesting to follow and the slow development of a friendship is so well done (especially together with the reactions of Robin’s fiancé to it all).

Schweigepflicht by Markus Heitz
(audiobook; narrated by Uve Teschner)
Der Ansatz war ganz gut und interessant aber irgendwie war es dann doch nicht so der Kracher. Schade.

Fünf by Ursula Poznanski
Gut geschriebener Krimi mit interessanter Geschichte und ein paar netten ‘plot twists’.

The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam
It’s well written and I like the almost relaxed way – no fuss, no notion of inhibitions – the topics (not just the main one) get approached.

Mord an der Themse by Matthew Costello
(audiobook; narrated by Sabina Godec)
“Cozy crime” sums it up nicely.

Quick Reviews January


Front Stack by V. M. Frost
A “cop book”. Not a crime novel or a thriller, more a semi-documentary and with that interesting for me to read. I like this kind of books that let me get glimpses into the life and work of a police officer (I’m aware that not everything in it will be “real”). Most of them have in common that their authors are very, very good observers especially when it comes to other people. I liked the pictures Frost drew of his colleagues with all their quirks and odd habits. A bit very odd were the excursions into what seemed like the attempt of an erotic novel… really nice to read but didn’t quite fit within the rest of the book.

The Girl who saved Christmas by Matt Haig
(audiobook; narrated by Carey Mulligan)
I’m double biased. I like Matt Haig and I simply adore Carey Mulligan. This was my tiny christmas present for myself back in December and I have zero regrets. It’s a great story – surprisingly dark-ish for a children’s book – and Carey Mulligan is a wonderful narrator. I hope there will be more audiobooks read by her in the future.

Hannibal by Thomas Harris 
(audiobook; narrated by Daniel Gerroll)
I have my difficulties to get an “ear” for American English but once there I highly enjoyed the audiobook. I like happy ends; even for monsters.

Lila ist der Duft der Wahrheit by Frieda Lamberti 
(audiobook; narrated by Sabrina Godec)
Ich weiß gar nicht mehr, wie das Buch seinen Weg in meine Bibliothek fand. Das ist sonst nicht so ganz mein übliches “Jagdgebiet”. Umso positiver überrascht wurde ich. Es war wirklich spannend und gut erzählt.

The Readbreast by Jo Nesbø 
(audiobook; narrated by Sean Barrett)
What. A. Ride.
It was so good and heartaching and had everything I like. And a bit more that I don’t like that much but nevertheless… I usually listen to audiobooks in order to fall asleep more easily. Didn’t quite work with this one. It was way too interesting and thrilling.
I really like Harry Hole and the narrator is really, really good.

Quick Reviews December


The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
it was brilliant! Nothing to read as “a quickie” but to devour slowly and enjoy lastingly. I got to know of a new artist – which lead to two further books purchased about him and his work – and there were so many snapshots in this book that made me nod and go “this is me!” Loved it start to finish with all the melancholy and sadness in its company.

The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber 
(audiobook read by Jonathan Aris)
I love Jonathan Aris as a narrator. This was the forth audiobook I listened to with him as the reader and it, so far, was an utter highlight. The initial reason to listen to it was Mr Aris so it came as a surprise that I took such a great liking to the story itself. I consider getting a “real” copy and read it myself a second time. As much as I love the audio format, I also miss a lot of details when I get distracted while listening.

Dreizehn Stunden by Deon Meyer
Often confusing when jumping from one ‘storyline’ to the next without as much as a line break to indicate the change in scenery. It was a different world and – to me – a not often read take on the build up for the story. I liked it and the characters but not enough to want to read more about Benny Griessel.

Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson
(audiobook read by Richard Armitage)
I already loved the “modernisation” David Hewson did with Hamlet and Macbeth. (Hamlet also read by Richard Armitage) and was looking forward to Romeo & Juliet. At first I was not happy with the ending but the more it sank in and the more time I had to think about it the greater it was. It felt like a proper ending for a character who definitely deserved better all along. The humour is fantastic (“He is a man! With. A. Beard!”) and my personal highlight (perv that I am…) was – aside from Nurse’s saucy laughter… honestly, where did that come from Mr Armitage? – the wedding night. Homina, homina, homina.
The writing combined with that voice.

Nachtschwärmer by Tony Parsons
(audiobook read by Dietmar Wunder)
Entertaining but not really captivating.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
A bit weird but great to read.

Quick Reviews October & November


Misery by Stephen King
It was my second King novel. After I read the first one half an eternity ago I was convinced I wouldn’t like the writing. It was a really bad novel. I’m glad I gave Mr King a second chance. I liked this one and the way the entire story is carried by “just” two characters.

The Bad Detective by H. R. F. Keating
Our DS Jack Stallworthy is a muppet. In his own way too kind-hearted which doesn’t stop him from doing idiotic things that only lead to more and deeper troubles. Enjoyed reading it.

A Writer’s Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by Kevin N. Robinson
Very, very informative. A lot of input packed on few pages. It’s absolutely great and I consider this and Mr Robinson’s other book as a very, very helpful tool.
But they are so full of typos and careless mistakes that could have been avoided with more focus on the editing part. I have to trust the author that the information he gives are correct but when there are so many small mistakes in it, what assures me that the rest isn’t prone to faults either?

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler 
A touching, strange and calm story told through the life of a quirky, weird misfit. Beautifully written. I didn’t realise it was a book originally written in German until I started reading it. Call me an expert. 😉

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
(audiobook narrated by Richard Armitage)
That was a marathon that took me almost a year to finish. The story itself is so rich with characters and twists and turns that I found it impossible to keep track of everyone and everything by “only” listening to the story. I think reading it myself would have made it easier to keep up.
I love Richard Armitage’s voice and the way he “plays” characters when he reads a book to me. To my dismay it is also very soothing to listen to his voice and that’s why it took me so long to finish the audiobook. I always fell asleep and had to re-listen to bits in order to make sense of the story.

Murder by Sarah Pinborough
What a ride. It is one of those books you can’t put aside even if you are already dead tired and your eyelids are heavy.

Continue reading Quick Reviews October & November

Quick Reviews September


Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
It borders a bit on “purple prose” at times and like other works of Zafón the pace is slow, he likes to take his time when telling a story. Nevertheless really well written and I liked it.

Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King 
Like always when it comes to short story collections. Some were really good, others not quite my cup of tea.

The Many by Wyl Menmuir
It takes a while to make sense of it all. Something is odd and off but it takes a little further reading to get behind the story and what it actually stands for. Really liked it!

Continue reading Quick Reviews September

Quick Reviews August


Das Leben ist ein listiger Kater by Marie- Sabine Roger
Nett und schnell zu lesen, liebenswerte, einzigartige Charaktere.

Like I used to dance by Barbara Frances
The author tried to squeeze far too many controversial topics into one book. The story itself suffers under that. The narration jumps from one character to another and they are all burdened with so many problems and worries and none of them is a child of their time (which in itself isn’t bad). None of these topics (to name a few: abuse, domestic violence, racism, homosexuality, addiction, class society, religion, independency of women…) gets any deeper insight. It all stays on the very surface because once touched there is just the next topic around the corner that needs to be in the book too!
Despite the variety of themes the story is flat-ish and remains, if not predictable, quite superficial even despite the variety of controversial topics. The characters are likeable but in a way not really able to let me connect with them. The last third of the book has more “flow” than the two thirds before that but nevertheless it’s all this little bit too zealous to be convincing. The author also loses a couple of threads in said last third, which may be a sign that a plethora of topics and branches within a story is not always the smartest decision.

Die Angebetete by Jeffery Deaver
Sehr langatmig zu Beginn und sehr, sehr verliebt in sich selbst. Man muss mir nicht auf jeder fünften Seite unter die Nase reiben, was für eine tolle Kinesik (Körpersprache) Expertin die Protagonistin ist. Der Rest der Charaktere war auch nicht wirklich der Bringer. Zu stereotyp, zu extrem im Sinne von… es wird eine Charaktereigenschaft herausgepickt und auf der wird rumgeritten bis die Horde Pferde tot am Boden liegt. Ich war außerdem sehr verägert über das Tempo der Geschichte. Über fast 400 Seiten wird alles gaaaaanz langsam aufgebaut und dann geht auf einmal alles ganz schnell. Die zahlreichen “Plot twists” können das Ganze dann auch nicht mehr wirklich retten.
Es gab ein paar nette Absätze und Informationen aber im Großen und Ganzen hat mich das jetzt nicht wirklich überzeugt.

Die Wahrheit über Frankie by Tina Uebel
Erschreckend, was manipulative Menschen alles bewirken und wie skrupellos sie dabei vorgehen können. Der Spannungsbogen war leider mehr eine Spannungswelle und ich hätte mir, ehrlich gesagt, noch ein paar begleitende Worte der Autorin gewünscht, entweder als Prolog oder Epilog.
Sehr gut gefallen haben mir die verschiedenen Schrifttypen für die jeweils Erzählenden. Das half ungemein, ihre “Stimmen” besser auseinander halten zu können. Zu Beginn waren sie noch sehr verschieden aber zum Schluss klangen sie doch alle gleich. Ich bin mir allerdings nicht sicher, ob das beabsichtigt war oder nicht.

Bis an das Ende der Nacht by Christopher Coake
Die Geschichten waren teilweise gut, teilweise eher naja aber im Großen und Ganzen erschließt sich mir ein “warum” nicht ganz. Es sind hübsche Geschichten, aber mir fehlte da irgendwie die “message” dahinter.
Nicht alle Kurzgeschichten müssen eine Wahnsinnsbotschaft enthalten, aber es fehlte irgendwie an… Biss. Schärfe, wenn man so will. So waren es mehr Momentaufnahmen von Beziehungen, in denen was schief geht oder auch nicht.

Jeder kann zum Mörder werden by Nahlah Saimeh
Informativ, gut geschrieben und ohne eine “Schocker” Wirkung erzielen zu wollen.

 Mammoth by Douglas Perry
Expected a little “more” and the plot twist/ resolution fell a bit flat.