Planet Exherbo

August 06, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Listen to Me (Rizzoli & Isles #13), by Tess Gerritsen

Listen to Me by Tess Gerritsen My rating: 4 of 5 stars In some aspects, “Listen To Me” is a departure from earlier books in the series: The story is told (mostly) alternatingly from the perspectives of the main characters: There’s, of course, Jane Rizzoli, cop, married to Gabriel, mother to their daughter Regina. Another… Read More »Listen to Me (Rizzoli & Isles #13), by Tess Gerritsen

by Wulf at August 06, 2022 07:18 AM

August 03, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Sword Song (The Last Kingdom #4), by Bernard Cornwell

Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell My rating: 4 of 5 stars »I only need repent, they say, and I will go to heaven and live for evermore in the blessed company of the saints.And I would rather burn till time itself burns out.«(Same here!) “Sword Song” is yet another great entry in this series! Uthred… Read More »Sword Song (The Last Kingdom #4), by Bernard Cornwell

by Wulf at August 03, 2022 10:30 AM

July 27, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom #3), by Bernard Cornwell

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell My rating: 4 of 5 stars »I had a taste for this kind of madness. In madness lies change, in change is opportunity, and in opportunity are riches.« I had every intention to temporarily remove myself from the amazing literary maelstrom this series has proven to be for… Read More »Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom #3), by Bernard Cornwell

by Wulf at July 27, 2022 10:13 AM

July 22, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom #2), by Bernard Cornwell

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell My rating: 4 of 5 stars “The Pale Horseman”, book two in Bernard Cornwell’s “Saxon Stories”, picks up right where we left Uthred in “The Last Kingdom”. The Danes overrun Wessex and King Alfred has to hide in a swamp. And that’s my one small gripe about this book:… Read More »The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom #2), by Bernard Cornwell

by Wulf at July 22, 2022 11:47 AM

July 18, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom #1), by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell My rating: 5 of 5 stars First “Vikings” came along and rekindled my interest. Next I stumbled upon “The Last Kingdom” and I was done for – Uthred, a hero, between both worlds – Dane and West Saxon. A guy whose survival to old age tells us we can… Read More »The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom #1), by Bernard Cornwell

by Wulf at July 18, 2022 05:08 PM

July 09, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Law (The Dresden Files #17.5), by Jim Butcher

The Law by Jim Butcher My rating: 4 of 5 stars »Between my hex and the otso’s, bad things were going to happen.« Phew… After book-long battles, drawn-out, long-winded end-of-the-world scenarios in the last few books, we’re back to Harry Dresden, Resident Wizard but also Private Investigator of and in Chicago respectively. This is a… Read More »The Law (The Dresden Files #17.5), by Jim Butcher

by Wulf at July 09, 2022 11:06 PM

July 07, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham My rating: 3 of 5 stars I definitely did not enjoy reading “Winterset Hollow”. Jonathan Edward Durham tells the story of a group of admirer’s of a children’s novel about anthropomorphised animals with a dark horror twist… The protagonists “damaged” Eamon, “dumb but kind” Mark and “smart and comforting”… Read More »Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham

by Wulf at July 07, 2022 04:07 PM

June 26, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, by Linus Torvalds & David Diamond

Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds My rating: 3 of 5 stars »And I have a wife to make the decisions that complete my wardrobe, to pick out things like sandals and socks. So I never have to worry about it again.« Those who know me a little better… Read More »Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, by Linus Torvalds & David Diamond

by Wulf at June 26, 2022 09:16 PM

June 17, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2), by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow My rating: 2 of 5 stars From a story point of view Harrow’s second “Fractured Fable“, “A Mirror Mended”, starts right after “A Spindle Splintered” with Zinnia Gray, our protagonist, still trying to fix happily-ever-afters for a lot of Sleeping Beauties. That’s where my issues start: Why Zinnia… Read More »A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2), by Alix E. Harrow

by Wulf at June 17, 2022 07:38 AM

June 16, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

To Kill a Troubadour (Bruno, Chief of Police #15), by Martin Walker

To Kill a Troubadour by Martin Walker My rating: 4 of 5 stars I’ve been a Bruno fan since the first book in the series and really enjoyed Martin Walker’s congenial blend of mystery, world politics, joie de vivre and common-sense policing in a rural French environment. At times, especially in books 12 and 13,… Read More »To Kill a Troubadour (Bruno, Chief of Police #15), by Martin Walker

by Wulf at June 16, 2022 11:32 AM

June 12, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Watch Her Disappear (Detective Josie Quinn #14), by Lisa Regan

Watch Her Disappear by Lisa Regan My rating: 5 of 5 stars All too often, in a series of books when a writer has found their cast of characters, their setting, etc. everything becomes routine and instalment after instalment gets chucked out but there’s hardly ever anything new. Each new book is a variation of… Read More »Watch Her Disappear (Detective Josie Quinn #14), by Lisa Regan

by Wulf at June 12, 2022 11:18 AM

June 04, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Little Things, by Jim Butcher (from: Heroic Hearts, by Jim Butcher)

Heroic Hearts by Jim Butcher My rating: 5 of 5 stars »“You came for me first,” she said. “Not the pizza.”« I’m exclusively referring to Jim Butcher’s short story “Little Things” from the “Heroic Hearts” anthology. This is simply because I only got it to read that one story – and it was worth it.… Read More »Little Things, by Jim Butcher (from: Heroic Hearts, by Jim Butcher)

by Wulf at June 04, 2022 11:29 AM

The Ashmoore Affair (from: Heroes Wanted: A Fantasy Anthology, Laura M. Hughes), by Michael J. Sullivan

Heroes Wanted: A Fantasy Anthology by Laura M. Hughes My rating: 4 of 5 stars A nice albeit very short short story featuring Michael J. Sullivan’s Hadrian and Royce (Riyria). It is part of the Riyria Chronicles. There’s so little actual story, I won’t summarise it here. Suffice it to say you won’t be disappointed… Read More »The Ashmoore Affair (from: Heroes Wanted: A Fantasy Anthology, Laura M. Hughes), by Michael J. Sullivan

by Wulf at June 04, 2022 08:57 AM

June 03, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1), by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones My rating: 3 of 5 stars I set out to read – and hopefully love – this because it came with high praise by most of my GoodReads friends and my daughter (who loves the film, though). Thus prepared, I set out on this literary journey and quickly… Read More »Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1), by Diana Wynne Jones

by Wulf at June 03, 2022 04:43 PM

May 29, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Where the Strangers Live, by Oliver Phipps

I don’t know how this book ever made it to my to-be-read pile. It’s a clumsily written short novella about a woman, Sophie, and two men, Elliot and Roy (who only have eyes for Sophie’s butt, breasts, etc.) who happen to enter a submerged alien base…

by Wulf at May 29, 2022 09:57 AM

May 26, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1), by Ali Hazelwood

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood My rating: 2 of 5 stars Mara inherits half of a house from her late mentor. When she visits said house, she meets Liam with whom she proceeds to live “Under One Roof”. They have great first impressions of each other, then enmity ensues, the inevitable mutual crushes come… Read More »Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1), by Ali Hazelwood

by Wulf at May 26, 2022 02:40 PM

May 22, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Book Lovers, by Emily Henry

Book Lovers by Emily Henry My rating: 3 of 5 stars Some books are confusing and “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry is definitely one of those: Literary agent Nora, a big city shark, meets big city editor Charlie and inevitably falls in love with him. In a rural small town of all places to which… Read More »Book Lovers, by Emily Henry

by Wulf at May 22, 2022 09:22 AM

May 17, 2022

Mike Kelly

Linux Disk Encryption in 2022

UPDATE: as of Fedora 36, the below doesn’t seem to work correctly. You’ll want to remove the /etc/dracut.conf.d/tss2.conf file, and the tpm2-device=auto,discard from /etc/crypttab, or the initrd build will not work, and your Fedora 36 kernel won’t boot. I was able to boot into one of my old Fedora 35 kernels, make the above changes, and then run sudo dracut -f --kver 5.17.6-300.fc36.x86_64 (check, as that specific version may change by the time you read this) to get things bootable. This loses the TPM based decryption.

I recently picked up a new Framework laptop to replace my aging Chromebook, so I’m back on a “real” Linux laptop for the first time in nearly a decade.

That meant it was time to revisit a few old blog posts.

This time, though, I’m running Fedora, so all the work above gets replaced with a single checkbox in the installer!

But my new laptop has a TPM chip, so I can make this even more painless using systemd-cryptenroll. The Fedora installer prompts for a passphrase which I have to enter at every boot. But, if the system hasn’t changed significantly (e.g. from UEFI firmware or Linux kernel updates), then the TPM chip can handle unlocking things on my behalf.

I found a fedora-users mailing list post that gave me the most succinct version of things to get working. Key parts:

  • Use systemd-cryptenroll --tpm2-device=auto -tpm2-pcrs=0+7 /dev/$DEVICE to enroll an additional token to unlock the LUKS volume. In my case, $DEVICE was /dev/nvme0n1p3, but your mileage may vary. This would be the block device backing your LUKS volume. lsblk should make it clear.
  • Edit /etc/crypttab, and change the end of the one line (starting with luks-$UUID) to tpm2-device=auto,discard
  • Until Fedora uses Dracut 056 (see #1976462), you need to create a file called /etc/dracut.conf.d/tss2.conf, with this in it:
    install_optional_items+=" /usr/lib64/libtss2* /usr/lib64/* "

    then run sudo dracut -f

  • Reboot, and enjoy a fancy secure boot experience!

Of course, if your threat model includes state actors or the like, this may not be the right choice to make, but if you’re just wanting to make sure that your system is relatively secure if stolen, and that your boot disk is basically gibberish whenever you dispose of it some day, then I think this is a pretty good compromise.

by pioto at May 17, 2022 08:55 PM

May 14, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London #9), by Ben Aaronovitch

Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch My rating: 2 of 5 stars Finally! I’m free of this book! I used to really like this world and its rather unique inhabitants as well as the stories Ben Aaronovitch so expertly told us.This time around, though, I was bored by the lacklustre story at the centre of “Amongst Our Weapons”: An “Angel of Death” is killing the owners of some obscure rings with Lesley being on the hunt for said rings. Peter does his best to prevent further deaths. Through 80% of this instalment in the series, I only read it in bed because it served as a perfect sleeping drug. The abysmal pacing, being told about Beverly’s pregnancy (mostly referred to as “the bulge” which felt derogatory even though it most certainly wasn’t meant like that), quite a few encounters with the culprit but hardly any progress until the very end – it all made for a veritable snoozefest. Nightingale is mostly around and yet feels strangely absent – he doesn’t have much of a role at all. Fortunately, there were a few redeeming moments: Peter refuses to lay a trap to just plain kill the culprit but looks for a...

by Wulf at May 14, 2022 03:13 PM

April 23, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Why I consider’s Abuse team abusive

I’ve been running a Matrix homeserver for a few years now. It’s an interesting technology and the spirit of free open-source messaging (and more!) drew me in. Plus: There are some very nice and interesting people to be virtually met in Matrix!, Matrix’s home, run their own homeserver, of course. In order to deal with spam, harassment, etc. not only gave themselves a Code of Conduct (CoC) but also an abuse team. This Abuse team, though, is something I for one consider harmful and in frequent violation of the CoC they’re charged with supporting. Trying to discuss this leads to being told to email because disussion is regularly squashed in public rooms. This went so far that a certain member of the Abuse team told us, fellow Matrix homeserver operators, “Enough – this conversation is over.” (I call that “Deliberate intimidation“, something their CoC uses as an example for harassment…) in a public room for inter-homeserver coordination. This was especially annoying as we were discussing policy matters, including misconduct… The next action of the Abuse team was to add their Mjolnir instance (a moderation tool) to the room to be able to enforce this authoritarian approach. This...

by Wulf at April 23, 2022 10:19 AM

April 15, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The House in the Cerulean Sea, by T.J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune My rating: 5 of 5 stars »We are who we are not because of our birthright, but because of what we choose to do in this life. It cannot be boiled down to black and white. Not when there is so much in between. You cannot say something is moral or immoral without understanding the nuances behind it.”« From a world obviously different from ours (magic and magical beings exist there!) but closely related to ours, in T.J. Klune’s “The House in the Cerulean Sea” we are told a modern fairy tale about an orphanage and its inhabitants. Linus Baker, a caseworker of the “Department in Charge Of Magical Youth” is charged to investigate an orphanage under the wings of Arthur Parnassus who is overseeing the well-being of six especially dangerous orphaned children – one of them being the devil’s child! What Linus discovers, though, is completely different from what he expected… First and foremost this is a book about kindness and love. There isn’t much “action” because this is a book that lives from the loves it exudes: There is the “master” of the house, Arthur, who is much more...

by Wulf at April 15, 2022 12:28 PM

April 12, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Call Us What We Carry, by Amanda Gorman

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman My rating: 5 of 5 stars »I am the daughter of Black writers. I am descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me. I carry them always.«(From “Gratitude”) I’m not sure what to say or write about this collection of Amanda Gorman’s poetry. Any words I could find would still fall short to describe how amazing and emotionally moving, intellectually brilliant, witty and intelligent this is. “This book, like a ship, is meant to be lived in.” Gorman writes and there’s so much life in “Call Us What We Carry“! When I started reading this collection, I thought it would be a quick read but after stumbling onto this “ship” with this misconception, from early on I found myself reading this carefully, slowly, maybe even reverently. Most often not more than one poem at a time. I long thought poetry had ceased being relevant since Shakespeare’s sonnets but Gorman made me change my mind. The only poems I didn’t love as much as the others were the “erasure poems” (with the very notable exception of “DC PUTSCH” which was amazing!). In those poems, Gorman creates...

by Wulf at April 12, 2022 12:28 PM

April 10, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamín Labatut

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut My rating: 1 of 5 stars This is one of the very few books I’m not finishing. Let me explain why: The problem with this one is that Benjamín Labatut introduces the history of an invention to us. Let’s take the first story on “Prussian Blue” as an example: Labatut starts by shortly describing the invention itself and what lead to it. He then proceeds to tell us about the inventor(s) and how they relate to each other and the world. Labatut does this, and that’s my first issue, at break-neck speed. He drops name after name after name and forms connections between them in rarely more than a single sentence. It’s exhausting and not very illuminating. Much worse, though, whenever there’s insufficient historical evidence Labatut chooses the most lurid and raciest possible explanation. For example Fritz Haber’s (Haber played a most prominent role in chemical warfare) wife, Clara Immerwahr, did commit suicide – but the reasons are unclear. Immerwahr’s marriage to Haber was unhappy on many levels and she may or may not have been against World War I – there are conflicting accounts. Labatut, though, decides to paint...

by Wulf at April 10, 2022 10:02 AM

April 07, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Worms, by Paul Auster

Worms by Paul Auster My rating: 3 of 5 stars A highly metaphorical short story in which an elderly guy is being kind, is being treated kindly himself, gets hurt nevertheless, falls to his knees but gets up once more to reflect on his past and – my first and only guess – is sinking into dementia while considering how the eponymous worms may taste (when he’s gone to his grave), effectively contemplating death. This is so short, devoid of substantial clues and highly abstract that I lack the patience to analyse it in any detail. I read this because Paul Auster – whom I adore, almost worship – wrote it but even to yours truly this didn’t really appeal. Three out of five stars. Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam View all my reviews

by Wulf at April 07, 2022 04:34 PM

April 06, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Planetside (Planetside #1), by Michael Mammay

Planetside by Michael Mammay My rating: 2 of 5 stars This is going to be yet another difficult review. There’s no doubt: “Planetside” is suspenseful and exciting military science fiction. There’s also no doubt there are plot holes, loose ends and an ending that’s extremely problematic. Let’s start at the beginning, though, at which Colonel Carl Butler, semi-retired of Space Command, is sent to the Cappa system by his superior and old acquaintance General Serata. This is where the trouble starts: Michael Mammay keeps hinting at the tour(s?) of duty, Butler completed in Cappa but we never learn what happened, why Butler drinks habitually, how he lost his daughter on planet Cappy and so much more.We get to know that Butler is supposed to find out about the fate of the son of some SPACECOM hotshot but that’s it. Early on in his investigation, Butler realises there’s a lot of weird business going on both “planetside” on Cappa and on the Cappa Base in its orbit. Since Butler’s primary “tactic” is to metaphorically bash in some doors if he can’t think of any real plan (and he usually can’t), he upsets a lot of people from different commands like Medical...

by Wulf at April 06, 2022 04:48 PM

April 01, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Bruno’s Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales (Bruno, Chief of Police 14.5), by Martin Walker

Bruno’s Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales by Martin Walker My rating: 3 of 5 stars “Bruno’s Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales” consists of 14 short stories featuring rural French cop Bruno who has already “starred” in 14 previous books.The full-size novels (that I prefer) went on a downward spiral around book 10 and mostly picked up at book 14. So I was curious to see how this short story collection would hold up.This was especially true because only six of the collected stories are actually new – the other eight have previously been published. The eponymous “Bruno’s Challenge” is one of those new stories and, sadly, a prime example of all that was wrong with the latest Bruno novels: Endless recipe descriptions, hardly any kind of story. 1 star. “Birthday Lunch” is an older story that I had already read: Another short story from the “Bruno universe”. Unfortunately, like the later novels, this one didn’t have any appeal for me. A large part of it is basically simply a narrated recipe: “He beat the yolks and eggs together with a hundred fifty grams of sugar until they were creamy.” That really doesn’t float my boat, sorry. The rest is just...

by Wulf at April 01, 2022 12:13 PM

March 28, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi My rating: 5 of 5 stars This was great escapist fun! This book read like the happy child of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and Martha Wells’ “Murderbot” (in tone more than in spirit!) with a bit of Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” mixed in for good measure! After so many “mixed reading results” so far this year, this was a much needed blast of fresh, contemporary air that expertly blew away any residue of blues. This is a fun, feel-good book, a book like a really good popcorn movie. This book is, in Scalzi’s own words: »It’s a pop song. It’s meant to be light and catchy, with three minutes of hooks and choruses for you to sing along with, and then you’re done and you go on with your day, hopefully with a smile on your face. I had fun writing this, and I needed to have fun writing this. We all need a pop song from time to time, particularly after a stretch of darkness.« I so enjoyed Jamie Gray, the lead character, who feels like an immensely nice person… Diversity comes naturally into play as well and,...

by Wulf at March 28, 2022 04:17 PM

March 21, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir, by Natasha Trethewey

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey My rating: 4 of 5 stars »All those years I thought that I had been running away from my past I had, in fact, been working my way steadily back to it.« This was not easy to read and even less so to review. In “Memorial Drive” Trethewey remembers her childhood, born 1966, in a still very much segregated Gulfport, Mississippi, USA. Her mother black and her father white this clearly was a challenge. Trethewey’s father leaves the family and when her mother meets another man and, ultimately, marries him, things quickly escalate for young Trethewey who is routinely abused by her stepfather, Joel, who also beats his wife and terrorises the entire family.Joel eventually murders his then-ex wife. First and foremost, “Memorial Drive” is about remembering a loving mother and telling her story. When asked about what Trethewey would want to be a key takeaway from reading “Memorial Drive” she answered as follows: “If I was really honest, I would want for people to fall a little bit in love with her the way I love her. I want people to care so much about her life so that when you...

by Wulf at March 21, 2022 10:59 AM

March 20, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

War in Ukraine

On 24 February 2022, Russian armed forces invaded neighbouring Ukraine on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The pretended reasons of the murderous dictator and war criminal Putin are alleged “numerous crimes committed against the civilian population, including citizens of the Russian Federation”, the demilitarisation and “denazification” of Ukraine, and NATO’s eastward expansion. None of this is true and there is no justification for the invasion by Putin, his government and his military. In my opinion, it is therefore only to be welcomed that large parts of the free world are supporting Ukraine with sanctions, military and humanitarian aid and many other measures. At the same time, Ukraine is constantly negotiating with the aggressor Russia in order to find a peaceful solution. I doubt this will work, because Putin clearly only understands the language of violence. For this reason, the West’s support for Ukraine does not go far enough for me: in Ukraine, in Europe, people are fighting not only for their freedom, their values and their lives, but also for us, for all of Europe. For the freedom of all of us. A brutal mass murderer like Putin, who has political opponents murdered or locked away in camps,...

by Wulf at March 20, 2022 05:18 PM

March 16, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett My rating: 1 of 5 stars We all know them: Those relatives at family reunions who insist on telling “terrific jokes” that make us cringe. If you don’t, let me put you into the right mood: »When asked if they would have sex with Bill Clinton, 86% of women in D.C. said, “Not again.”« Or this one: »3 men are stranded in a boat with 4 cigarettes and no way to light them. So they toss the 4th cigarette overboard, which makes the whole boat a cigarette lighter.« Ok, you’re with me, right? Now imagine a book that’s full of humour like this. A book that tries so hard to be funny that it actually becomes tiresome. I’ve tried “Discworld” before and found it lacking in all departments but “Good Omens” made even that look good. Some actual samples of the humour? Here’s one about sperms: »And there were his fellow trainees—fellow sperms, to switch metaphors, all struggling forward in the knowledge that there could only ever be one Chairman of Industrial Holdings (Holdings) PLC, and that the job would probably go to the biggest prick.«...

by Wulf at March 16, 2022 05:42 PM

March 11, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Detective Kubu Investigates 2, by Michael Stanley

Detective Kubu Investigates 2 by Michael Stanley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was supposed to be another “filler” till I found my “next big read” and it all started well enough.

“Shoot to Kill” is an interesting short story featuring Kubu investigating the death of an informant among poachers. It had exactly the right “Kubu vibes” and was a quick and pleasant read. Had all the short stories been this good, the collection would have easily garnered four stars.

“The Case of the Missing Tuba” was amusing. It lacked any real crime (and, sadly, it also lacked Kubu!) but it was still nice enough. (Despite featuring a manipulative ass-hat husband.)

“The Con” has petty crime but it also has the main ingredient – Kubu! And a believable, likeable Kubu at that. His family also features prominently and I was truly amused and thought this short story collection was headed to four stars.

Then came the “Parlor Game”, though. A confusing and utterly failed attempt at imitating Edgar Allan Poe. This short story also lacked Kubu. Even worse, though: It was devoid of any logic. Or original ideas. Or decent human beings.
“Parlor Game” could have been the product of a drunken stupor.

Lastly, “Spirits” came along: Yet another short story extremely thin in terms of actual story. Much spirit/ghost/shaman/you-name-it rubbish and an ending that felt like Michael Stanley hadn’t read anything that came before it…

And that was already all! After about 85% of the entire book, an excerpt from “Facets of Death” followed. So we don’t even actually get a book of Kubu short stories but lots of self-promotion.

Considering all that and the highly unimaginative title, I think two stars out of five are still rather generous…

View all my reviews

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

by Wulf at March 11, 2022 03:15 PM

March 09, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

One Night on the Island, by Josie Silver

One Night on the Island by Josie Silver

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just wanted a nice little romance to reset my brain. What I got was a weird mix of hippie crap (self-coupling my arse), commitment issues (Susie, Cleo, the kids, Mack; all suffer, none win).

Cleo, a writer for “Women Today”, writes a column about finding what she calls her “flamingo”, meaning her “soul mate”, “forever love”, you name it.

In an act of defiance – orchestrated by her editor, though – because she keeps finding (and promptly losing) sparrows instead of flamingos, Cleo goes on a trip to (brace yourselves!) “Salvation Island” to “self-couple” for a while in isolation and to ultimately “marry herself”.

By chance, fate or, more realistically, a careless mistake by the owner of the “Otter Lodge” which her magazine rented for her, hectic Londoner Cleo meets “inconvenient American” Mack who intended to recover from a painful separation from his wife in the loneliness of his ancestral island home: Mack’s grandmother used to live on Salvation Island.

Thus set up, the two first make a truce (including a chalk demarcation line and a DMZ!) and, this is a romance after all, decide to have a holiday romance, a “micro-love” as they’re going to call it.

Integrated into the “Salvation Island” society by means of knitting (Cleo) and generally being manly and drinking (Mack), both try to make peace with their lives. They’re just not very good at it, sadly.

Mack is still strongly hung up on his wife Susie. Just like Mack on “Salvation Island” with Cleo, Susie has an affair. An office affair. With her boss, Robert. Separated from Mack for a year, Susie has been with Robert for months but pretty much the minute Mack tells her about Cleo, she wants him back. Cliché? No, not at all!

Mack himself barely resists the urge to kiss Susie under a convenient mistletoe and when Susie kisses him (on Christmas Eve, of course!) the focus conveniently moves away just in time…

Complicating matters, the two have two kids to whom Mack’s entire life is devoted and for whom he’s willing to sacrifice everything – even his own happiness.
I’ve kept wanting to slap Mack, telling him that if he’s so unhappy, he can try as he might; he won’t be able to fool his kids and simply won’t be able to be the father he wants to be for them.

All the while, Cleo stays on the island, sitting in the sand (on a cushion, we don’t want an inconvenient wet arse!), marries herself (which gives her feelings of being deeply profound for reasons entirely escaping me), cries a lot, pines after Mack and talks a lot about “micro-love”.

Tragedy strikes the island, one life ending, one life beginning, Cleo finds her new self and, ultimately, during the big finale, Mack returns to suggest a thousand holiday romances for the two of them to which Cleo meltingly and enthusiastically agrees.

Thus, conveniently never fully committing to each other, they’re implied to have a thousand happily-ever-afters.
I thought I had signed up for a “romantic comedy” but what I got was a bland, half-arsed story about shallow people with commitment issues.

Is this something you’d like to read? Me neither.

Two out of five stars because… it’s not total garbage (just mostly).

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Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

by Wulf at March 09, 2022 04:51 PM

March 05, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Foxes for Christmas, by Ben Aaronovitch

Foxes for Christmas by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Truly just a “moment” but a nice, kind and amusing one.

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Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

by Wulf at March 05, 2022 08:10 AM

March 04, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, well, another difficult review to write… I really did like this book and while writing this very sentence I’m still unsure what my final verdict will be.

Evelyn Hugo, fictional Hollywood icon, is – to me – an immensely likeable person: Starting her career in the 1950s she works her way up to become a legend. That alone would already have made for an interesting read because I grew up on films from the Golden Age of Old Hollywood.

When I first read the title I immediately thought of Elizabeth Taylor (eight marriages, seven husbands…) whose work in the film industry has indeed inspired Reid (as I just found out). Just like fictional Evelyn Taylor has been a staunch ally of the LGBTQ* community and an early HIV/AIDS activist.

More than that, how could I not like a bisexual woman who lives through eight tumultous marriages? In a time, more than 20 years into the 21st century, during which still way too many countries, peoples and people do not accept love between consenting adults regardless of their sexual identity and preferences – how could I not like and endorse a book that succeeds at depicting queer relationships in a loving way?

»That night, Celia and I slept nude, holding each other. We no longer pretended to touch by accident. And when I woke up in the morning with her hair in my face, I inhaled, loudly and proudly. Within those four walls, we were unashamed.«

I really enjoyed how unapologetic Evelyn is about the way she fights for what she wants and takes what she thinks should be hers.

»I’m OK with the fact that sometimes doing the right thing gets ugly. And also, I have compassion for myself. I trust myself.«

Whom I liked less, sadly, is Monique Grant, our current-day journalist who is tasked to write Evelyn’s biography. She never materialises fully in the book: While Evelyn is rightly in the spotlight but Monique remains a bit like an unfinished draft: Yes, her story is told and finished but as a person she remains mostly in the shadows. Unlike Evelyn, she’s denied the opportunity to really become a person.

Also, like some other of my fellow reviewers, I felt this book lacked a bit of depth: It was a truly good read but while showing but not exploring violence inside a marriage, while showing true love but also leaving unexplored the deeper reasons why Evelyn is hesitant to come out, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” sadly fails at making a true “impact”.

At times, I felt like this book has come too late – the social battles that were necessary and instrumental in allowing for public queer relationships have been fought and, thankfully, mostly won.

What remains to be achieved is total, utter, complete equality and this book, sadly, does not truly further that cause. It rehashes what most of us have long known but it doesn’t pose any new questions.
While being very entertaining, it satisfies my need for really good entertainment but unlike some other books, it doesn’t challenge my perceptions.

I guess I have my answer: Four of of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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by Wulf at March 04, 2022 03:53 PM

February 25, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Favours (Alex Verus #6.1), by Benedict Jacka

Favours by Benedict Jacka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short story told from Sonder’s perspective, primarily featuring him and Caldera. Alex is only mentioned in passing.
Nevertheless, this short story definitely makes you feel right at home back in the Verus universe.

I never really liked either Sonder or Caldera and both their behaviours here just firmly cement this antipathy. Sonder is opportunistic and primarily worries about his future, whereas Caldera takes out her frustration on both Sonder and Anne whom the former pressures into service.

Knowing the events in ”Risen” I was able to mentally lean back and enjoy the show.

Four out of five stars for a surprisingly good story.

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by Wulf at February 25, 2022 10:24 PM

The Maid, by Nita Prose

The Maid by Nita Prose

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

From whatever point of view: This is a disgrace of a book.

Let’s look at the story itself first: Molly, usually referred to and sometimes self-referring as “Molly the Maid” (as if that’s all she is), works as a maid in the Regency Grand Hotel.
One day, when she’s cleaning a suite she finds the body of Mr. Black, a rich “power magnate”, who stays at the hotel with his second wife, Giselle.
While it becomes clear to the reader very quickly that something sinister beyond the murder is afoot, Molly doesn’t recognise it and, thus, quickly becomes the prime suspect in the murder case.
Trying to prove Molly’s innocence Molly and a bunch of coworkers-cum-friends come up with a plan to entrap the true culprit…

So, there’s basically nothing new plot-wise. It is unoriginal and rather boring.

What about the character’s, though? We get to “meet” about 20 people – which is quite a lot but, thankfully, it’s manageable.

The problem here is, though: Most of them are stereotypes and never get a chance to evolve into something real. There’s Mr. Preston, the fatherly good-natured doorman and his sharp lawyer daughter, Charlotte, who doesn’t even know Molly but doesn’t hesitate to post a $800,000 bail for her…

Mr. Black, the corpse, we basically only get to know in passing from descriptions by Molly and his wife no. 2, Giselle Black. Giselle is depicted as a typical trophy wife – thirty-five years her husband’s junior, not only is she neglected (and, of course, having an affair) but also being physically abused. Oh, and, of course, she’s also taking drugs.

Rodney, Giselle’s illicit lover, is pretty much a diabolical enforcer. He’s written so simplistically that we know immediately that he’s going to be one of the “bad guys” when we first encounter him.

There’s also Juan Manuel, a Mexican dishwasher in the kitchen, involved in both the mystery and its resolution. There wasn’t much character description left in Prose’s severely limited repertoire so he has to be content with basically being a male version of Molly.

In a world of latent racism, it’s easy to match the Mexican with Molly…

Speaking of whom: Molly… Now, that’s where Prose really “shines”. As becomes obvious very quickly, Molly is neuroatypical/neurodivergent/on the autism spectrum – whatever you want to call it.

Prose doesn’t mention anything about that even once, though. Instead, she has Molly being called “weird”, “weirdo”, “freak”, “awkward”, “standoffish” by “friend” and “foe” alike.

Molly’s “weirdness” is mostly info-dumped on us but never called what it is – probably to avoid criticism for having written about something the author doesn’t really know anything about.

In her “Acknowledgments” Prose thanks everyone and their dogs and lists their respective roles – but, curiously, none of them seem to have any kind of professional experience with neuroatypical persons.

Prose’s characterisation of Molly reads a lot like plain old guesswork. She seems to have read up on Wikipedia on autism, assembled a list of possible issues and wrote a Molly who’s exhibiting most of them at the same time.

»My truth highlights and prioritizes my lens on the world; it focuses on what I see best and obscures what I fail to understand—or what I choose not to examine too closely.«

That’s still not all, though: Molly isn’t even acting consistently with the way she’s being characterised. She keeps acting out of character completely. From the ultimate innocent “noble savage”, at times she becomes a cunning conspirator, willfully lying by omission, smuggling a gun and even resorting to vigilantism.

»“In my experience, there are times when a good person must do something that’s not quite right, but it’s still the right thing to do.”«

Also, Molly doesn’t even seem to know anything about her condition. She knows full well she’s “different” but she cannot name it. While this might have rung true some decades ago, in this day and age, Molly would know why she is “weird”.

Prose simply avoids identifying Molly’s issues as neuroatypical in order to avoid being held responsible for an accurate, consistent and fair depiction. As it stands, Prose can always try and wiggle her way out of it by simply disavowing that she ever meant anything beyond what she calls Molly – “socially awkward”.

Maybe she did some shallow “research” because – judging by her LinkedIn profile – Prose (or rather: Pronovost) has no prior professional experience with neuroatypical people.

While obviously not applying it to herself, Prose knows full well what she’s doing:

»“Sometimes life isn’t fair,” Charlotte adds. “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over years of practice, it’s that there’s no shortage of criminals out there who will prey on a person’s difference for their personal gain.”«

I consider that shameful and despicable.

Last and, in fact, least: This book is full of “calendar wisdom” of questionable truthfulness:

»The longer you live, the more you learn. People are a mystery that can never be solved. Life has a way of sorting itself out. Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.«

One out of five stars and an especially strong recommendation to stay away from this if you’re on the spectrum yourself.

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by Wulf at February 25, 2022 02:58 PM

February 20, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage, by Heather Havrilesky

Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»Forever is two immortal elves, sipping pink champagne by a burbling stream, then exploring the wild, gorgeous woods around them in everlasting harmony. Forever is set in New Zealand, not New Jersey.«

It was around Christmas when I came across Heather Havrilesky’s essay “Marriage Requires Amnesia” (which is an adaptation from this book) in the New York Times.

In it, Havrileski poignantly describes her 15-year marriage to Bill Sandoval. While reading it, I laughed out loud and I cried and sometimes all of it at the same time.
Being in the 23rd year of my marriage myself, I felt both understood and like gaining a better understanding of my wife.

»But we weren’t married yet, so he still thought he could do whatever he wanted.«

I couldn’t wait to see “Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage” released in early February because I was hoping for more of the same. And I got it – to some extent.

Divided into four parts, “Foreverland” reads like the memoir of a relationship – starting at the tumultuous courtship between Heather and Bill, we learn a lot about Heather who tells us precisely who she is and what she craves at the age of 34:

»I wanted a husband. One that looked nice. […] with a solid career to match my own. I wanted a hunky, square-jawed, mature listener. […] a nurturing daddy type who would hang on my every word. And I wanted an athlete. […] an intellectual who was also a comedian, but with a nice ass. I wanted a cross between a therapist and a cowboy.«

This is when she meets Bill, a professor. Who is, as we’re going to learn, hot and incredibly patient and, on the other hand, »he is more or less exactly the same as a heap of laundry: smelly, inert, useless, almost sentient but not quite.« before he had his first coffee (which I can totally relate to!).

Marriage, kids, the suburbs, pestilence and plague follow and are explored in-depth in this wonderfully liberating book. While Havrilesky is both exploring and explaining her marriage, she delivers an unapologetically honest account of both their struggles.
A totally honest Havrilesky dispels the myths of “happily ever after” and marriages without issues.

From the small annoyances…

»A simple inquiry—“What are we going to do about dinner?”—incites an existential crisis, the 742nd of its kind since your wedding day.«

… to completely questioning everything…

»I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend forever with anyone, least of all myself.«

… this was a breath of fresh air. A much needed breeze to blow away the fairy tale depictions of love and marriage to create space for a more understanding and a more humane approach.

At times, the book drew out a little – there was a lot of stuff about the kids around the 50% mark and rambling descriptions of life in the suburbs (which seem to be very similar in Western societies, even on different continents…) but at about 70% Havrilesky picks up the pace again and I was laughing tears. When my daughter (20) came along and I let her read some passages, she giggled and triumphantly shouted “That’s YOU, DAD!”.

And I cannot really deny it. In some aspects I’m Bill. If I were the type, I’d get myself a t-shirt saying “I’m Bill”. But, luckily, my wife is also a bit of a Heather. And so am I, too. And she can be a Bill at times.

Maybe you’re going to say, “But my marriage is perfect! My partner farts a scent of roses!”. Well, maybe I’m the odd one out – or maybe you are. Maybe Havrilesky gets it all wrong, I don’t know (it’s just that a lot of it makes sense to me!).

At no point, though, does Havrilesky claim to present any universal truths about marriage. She doesn’t fall prey to making one – her – marriage as a blueprint for all marriages. That’s part of what I like a lot about this book. In fact, she states it clearly:

»This book represents my personal attempt to understand why I signed myself up for the world’s most impossible endurance challenge.«

To me, Havrilesky very much succeeds at that while also rationalising feelings of doubt, “the darkness” as she puts it:

»I wrote this book to explore that tedium, along with everything else that marriage brings: the feeling of safety, the creeping darkness, the raw fear and suspense of growing older together, the tiny repeating irritations, the rushes of love, the satisfactions of companionship, the unexpected rage of recognizing that your partner will probably never change. And in writing this book, I discovered new layers within my marriage and myself, haunting and chaotic, wretched and unlovable.«

Thank you, Heather, for this book! And thank you to you, C., for being my “partner in crime” for all this time and, hopefully, for a long time to come.

Four out of five stars for the book – and an extra one for courage and honesty!

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by Wulf at February 20, 2022 04:18 PM

February 15, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Breathe Your Last (Detective Josie Quinn #10), by Lisa Regan

Breathe Your Last by Lisa Regan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Josie Quinn No. 10. A swimming champion drowns, a firefighter sets his house on fire, some ordinary people try their hand at flying… It soon becomes clear that these are not just cases of truly bad judgement but that a half-crazed serial killer is on the loose in Denton.

Sounds good? It is – for what it is.

If you like Josie Quinn, you’ll enjoy this instalment. If you don’t, this won’t make you change your mind. Since this is a pretty “decoupled” episode, you can enjoy this book even if you haven’t ever read any of the previous books.

Just be sure you know what you’re getting – a suspenseful but bog-standard police procedural like many others out there. It just happens to be one of the sort I enjoy from time to time for its pure relaxation value.

Four out of five stars.

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by Wulf at February 15, 2022 04:52 PM

February 13, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Der Arumbaya-Fetisch (Tim und Struppi, Band 5), von Hergé

Der Arumbaya-Fetisch by Hergé

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In diesem Band ist Tim auf der Suche nach dem namensgebenden Arumbaya-Fetisch und reist dafür nach Süd-Amerika, wo er zunächst auf dauer-putschende Militärs in zwei fiktiven Ländern stößt, um dann auf der Flucht auf die indigene Bevölkerung zu treffen.

Immer gehetzt von zwei Kriminellen, die ebenfalls den Arumbaya-Fetisch an sich bringen wollen, findet er schlußendlich eine Werkstatt, in der der vermeintlich einzigartige Fetisch in großen Stückzahlen produziert wird.

Eine eher langatmige Abenteuer-Geschichte mit sich wiederholenden Motiven. Wenigstens aber zumindest weniger rassistisch als die vorherigen Bände, obschon auch hier “black-facing” als Verkleidung genutzt wird und am Schluß buchstäblich ein paar “schwarze Teufel” einen kurzen “Auftritt” haben.

Alles in allem: Vergleichsweise harmlos, aber eher langweilig.

Drei von fünf Sternen.

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by Wulf at February 13, 2022 03:37 PM

February 06, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Traditions, by Michael J. Sullivan

Traditions by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a curious coincidence! Immediately after finishing “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” I picked up “Traditions”.

Written in Michael’s world of Elan, it features Annie, a girl who’s about to be sacrificed to a monster for the continued well-being of her village.
Presented by her boyfriend with an opportunity to flee together, she rejects his plan but decides not to play by the age-old rules but to try and determine her own fate.

Thus, she walks up to the lair of the monster and confronts it. The monster, an old, basically invalid dragon tries to talk her out of killing him by presenting the possible catastrophic consequences if it becomes known that the dragon “protecting” the village is gone. That all the sacrifices for a very long time have been for nought.

In contrast to the people of Omelas, Annie decides not to play by the rules: She does not accept the potential consequences as a given. She does not sacrifice herself for the greater good.

Instead, she changes the rules and when she leaves the cave, a new dawn is rising. Let’s not accept rules just because they are rules. Let us question the rules, let us change them together instead of complacently accepting the torment of others.

Let us also not become complicit as Le Guin in Omelas by stating “rules are rules”. We make the damn rules and, if need be, we can bend or even break them.

Three out of five stars.

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by Wulf at February 06, 2022 04:17 PM

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise of this short story is simple: Omelas, a radiant city of happiness, has built its riches upon the suffering of a single child. Every citizen knows of the child and many visit it to witness its suffering.

There are basically three options according to Le Guin:

– Walk away and live your life, knowing your happiness depends on the misery of an innocent child.

– Walk away from Omelas; leave, never to come back.

– Rescue the child – but that doesn’t happen.

According to Le Guin’s afterword those are the only options because those are the rules:

»You can only play a game — chess, soccer, parable — if you follow the rules.«

And that’s where I say she’s wrong: We abide by the “rules” because we want to. We allow the rules to restrict what we do. We choose to follow the rules – but we don’t have to!

In the face of developing countries being ravaged by COVID-19 like we’d never tolerate it here, we can tell Bill Gates that his stance on not waiving intellectual property rights for vaccines is inhumane.

We can tell BioNTech whose research we’ve supported with 375 million Euros (ca. 445 million US-Dollars) from German taxpayers alone that selling its vaccine at high price tags while also vetoing patent waiving is greedy, irresponsible and, again, inhumane.

We do not have to play by the rules if that means ruining the game for generations to come. We do not have to accept the suffering of some in order to allow others to thrive at the formers’ expense.

Yes, we do tend to walk away from Omelas but there are other options than ignorance or turning a blind eye. We can rescue the child of Omelas and yet live good lives. We just need to change the rules.

Two out of five stars.

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by Wulf at February 06, 2022 04:02 PM

February 05, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

I learnt to read with turn of the century German editions of Sherlock Holmes – set in Fraktur. I still remember lying in front of the bookcase and deciphering those weird letters – and I prevailed!
Having thus been “initiated” it isn’t surprising I turned to other mystery authors once Conan Doyle’s Sherlock retired to beekeeping.

Whom else would I turn to than two masters of the field: Edgar Wallace (who has largely been forgotten in his native UK but whose books are still in-print here in Germany!) and Agatha Christie.

I think I’ve read every of Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot books and greatly enjoyed them. Over the years, I’ve revisited Christie, reading her “The Secret Adversary” for example. (Three stars, no written review.)

When I came across a very favourable review of “The Sittaford Mystery” I found myself eager to revisit this childhood icon of mine – which usually is a bad idea.

Captain Trevelyan lies slain, a retired soldier of some royal windbag’s Navy, and a simpleton nephew of his, Jim, who fled the scene after unsuccessfully trying to beg some money out of his uncle is charged. Never fear, though, Simple-Jim, your smart fiancee comes to your rescue!

Introduced as being “not strikingly beautiful” but having an unforgettable “face which was arresting and unusual”. Featuring “common sense, savoir faire, invincible determination and a most tantalizing fascination” Emily Trefusis proceeds to go after every single one of the numerous red herrings Christie introduces.

Emily also enlists the help of a young journalist who immediately falls for her, of course. Suspects are almost as plentiful as motives for the murder and mystery after mystery is presented or at least alluded to but most of those are left behind among all the other plot holes.

Set in Dartmoor, near the moorland and not far from a prison even the escape of a violent convict over the moorland ends anti-climactic – the poor wretch runs 20 miles in a circle only to return to from where he fled.
Compare that to Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and you’ll see how much potential Christie fails to realise.

The ending is achieved by a severe case of “deus ex machina” – the victim’s missing boots point by almost artistic literary convulsions to the one person Christie took pains to keep unsuspected only to condemn them in the end.

All of that combined with the dated language, the cliches, the wooden characters and the lacklustre execution of it all leads me to believe that I should probably let Dame Agatha rest in peace and remember all the good times I had in the past with her books instead of trying to recreate them.

Three out of five stars.

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by Wulf at February 05, 2022 05:07 PM

January 29, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Love Hypothesis (Love Hypothesis #1), by Ali Hazelwood

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

STEM Ph.D. candidate Olive meets Adam Carlsen, Ph.D., fake-dates him, inevitably falls in love, almost loses herself in the web of lies she spins – until she finally gets a grip and starts telling the truth. Happily ever after begins.

Sounds familiar? Of course. The fake-dating trope is a road very often taken. And, yet, I’ve rarely – if ever – enjoyed the story this much.

Not much is new in this story – even the primary conflict is something you might have read about before and, sadly, it’s not uncommon in either academia or industry.

Olive is nerdy, insecure, impostor syndrome-prone and, looking back, very, very relatable in many ways. She’s also intelligent, witty, a tease and always trying to treat people fairly.

Adam – our dark, brooding hero – has been pining for Olive since he first met her years ago and, thus, quickly agrees to help both Olive and himself by taking part in their fake-dating charade. Meanwhile, he makes his students cry and is widely considered “an ass”.

So, it’s all in the execution; the way Hazelwood tells her story and that is where this book takes flight: The writing is engaging – I really didn’t want to put this down. The characters, mostly Olive and Adam but also her friend Malcolm and Adam’s friend Holden are hilarious and the “chemistry” between all of them is great.

Also, the night Olive and Adam spend together at the conference… Very nicely written, sensitive and forthright… Ah, well, perfect smut!

At times, of course, as with pretty much any romance, I rolled my eyes at the inability to actually talk to each other and just plainly state the truth which would have spared Olive and Adam a lot of crap.

When I found myself whisper-shouting at my Kindle “Finally go tell him, stupid!” I knew, though, I really enjoyed this book.

Recommended to anyone reading romance and five out of five stars for the enjoyment this novel brought me!

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by Wulf at January 29, 2022 05:47 PM

January 25, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Die Anomalie, von Hervé Le Tellier

Die Anomalie by Hervé Le Tellier

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Die deutschsprachige Wikipedia definiert Glosse folgendermaßen:

»Unter einer Glosse (von altgriechisch γλῶσσα glóssa, „Zunge, Sprache“, über lateinisch glossa) wird ein meist kurzer und pointierter, oft satirischer oder polemischer, journalistischer Meinungsbeitrag in einer Zeitung, einer Zeitschrift oder im Fernsehen verstanden.«
(Quelle in der Fußnote)

Mit “Die Anomalie” liefert Hervé Le Tellier ein Werk ab, das mich über weite Teile an eine Glosse erinnerte, aber vom Umfang her dieses Genre “sprengt”. Nun könnte dies ja auch etwas Gutes sein; ein Novum oder, Entschuldigung!, eine Anomalie.
Leider aber ist dem hier nicht so, denn “Die Anomalie” ist nur quantitativ eine solche – aber eben keinesfalls qualitativ.

Die Prämisse ist interessant: Ein Flugzeug mit über zweihundert Personen an Bord gerät in eine Notlage, übersteht diese, wird aber jedoch durch die titelgebende Anomalie dupliziert. Fortan gibt es alle Menschen an Bord also mehrfach.

Was der Autor zu erzählen hat, könnte als Essay, als Kurzgeschichte, als Gedankenspiel anhand beispielsweise einer Person interessant sein. Auch eine längere Erzählform wäre vorstellbar, böte dies doch die Gelegenheit, die philosophischen und ethischen Aspekte der erzählten Geschichte näher zu untersuchen.

Angesichts der vielen Personen, die wir aber im vorliegenden Roman begleiten, verliert sich die jeweilige Geschichte einzelner (z. B. das des krebskranken Piloten oder des mißbrauchten Kindes) in der Beliebigkeit der Vielfalt. Eine wirkliche Nähe auch nur zu einer der Personen kann auf diese Weise gar nicht erst aufkommen.

Gleichzeitig aber wirkt diese Mannigfaltigkeit aber auch umgekehrt: Durch die Zerfaserung der Gesamterzählung in viele kleine Teilbereiche, gibt es nur eine minimale “Rahmenhandlung”; die verschiedenen Theorien zum Ursprung der Anomalie werden nicht “zu Ende gedacht” und obschon mit dem buchstäblich letzten Satz eine (unbefriedigende) Auflösung gelingt, bleibt diese Auflösung hohl und ohne wirklichen Erkenntnisgewinn.

Meines Erachtens wäre ein offenes Ende – ohne Gewolltheit und mit Brachialgewalt herbeigeführten “Knalleffekt” – hier interessanter gewesen.

Das letzte Viertel, in dem dann endlich doch etwas spürbare Emotionen sichtbar werden, in dem es Le Tellier tatsächlich gelingt, sprachlich wie inhaltlich noch etwas Echtheit in seinen ansonsten eher “gekünstelt” wirkenden Roman zu bringen, versöhnt ein wenig mit dem Rest des Buches, jedoch wird dies zunächst durch einen radikalen Akt einer Figur und kurz darauf durch einen ebensolchen des Autors wieder zunichte gemacht – schade!

“Die Anomalie” ist für mich sozusagen ein “Denkmal der verschenkten Möglichkeiten” – aus einem guten Ansatz weiß der Autor nicht wirklich etwas zu erschaffen. Seine Figuren bleiben blaß und – in vielerlei Hinsicht – unwirklich und holzschnittartig.
Einige Figuren gar, z. B. der US-amerikanische Präsident, werden als Karikaturen ihrer selbst dargestellt und erinnern somit weniger an ihre realen Vorbilder (im vorgenannten Beispiel ist es ein überaus plump “kaschierter” Trump), sondern vielmehr an simpelsten Slapstick.

Am Ende bleibe ich enttäuscht zurück: Im Persönlichen der Charaktere überzeugt der Autor mich nicht und “das große Ganze” versinkt in der Beliebigkeit der Möglichkeiten.

Zwei von fünf Sternen.

Quelleangabe zum Wikipedia-Zitat:
Seite „Glosse“. In: Wikipedia – Die freie Enzyklopädie. Bearbeitungsstand: 14. August 2021, 02:43 UTC. URL:… (Abgerufen: 25. Januar 2022, 16:24 UTC)

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by Wulf at January 25, 2022 05:00 PM

January 21, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m not sure what this was supposed to be: A mystery? There’s nothing really mysterious here apart from the fact who Westing and his ex-wife might be. The “bomber” (whose motives I never fully understood)? That’s just plainly revealed at some point.

The writing itself might be a mystery because at times I felt like I read in some truly foreign language because the story as told by the narrator was interspersed with thoughts of the respective person we’re told about. It made for an immensely confusing and rather annoying reading experience.

The perspectives change all the time between the way-too-large cast of 16 (!) characters whom the author instils with the depth of a cardboard cut-out. If at least one or two of these had been likeable, interesting or at least relatable in some way but, no, they all remain shadowy at best.

In addition, there’s latent racism, defamation of people with disabilities and many other issues that can be attributed to the time this was first published – in 1978. None of that feels intentionally offensive but all of it adds to the general feeling that this book has aged really, truly badly.

One out of five stars.

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by Wulf at January 21, 2022 03:21 PM

January 14, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Untold Story (The Invisible Library #8), by Genevieve Cogman

The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»And here in the Library, even if our outer layer is order, we have an inner heart of chaos. We read too much for it to be anything else.«

When I first encountered “The Invisible Library” I was intrigued: A library beyond space and time; an autonomous realm that sends out its spies to “acquire” unique books in order to safeguard the balance between chaos and order not in just one world but all worlds!

Dragons, Fae, Librarians – what a premise! Adventures abound! As someone who loves every single “ingredient” here, I simply had no chance but to read the first book – and, ultimately, the entire series.

Don’t get me wrong: The premise is perfect whereas the actual execution isn’t always. Nevertheless, I loved reading every single instalment and it was with eagerness and a dose of sadness that I went on reading this “season finale” as Cogman calls it.

And what a finale this was! Sent out on a seemingly impossible assignment, undercover and under the guise of having gone rogue, Irene – supported by Kai (of course!), Vale (the local manifestation of Sherlock Holmes), and her apprentice Catherine, a Fae, goes on to try and get rid of Alberich for good, to solve the mystery of entire worlds disappearing and one that lies at the heart of the Library itself…

Since this time the stakes are so high, Irene not only reluctantly accepts but embraces the help of her friends. That pays off not only in terms of the eponymous “Untold Story” (now, paradoxically, told!) but also in allowing us to get even more insight into Kai, Vale and Catherine and each of them gets their respective chance to shine bright which was a delight to read.

»‘All right,’ Irene said, accepting [Catherine’s] decision. And may God have mercy on my soul for dragging her and Kai and Vale into this.«

Many characters from previous books make an appearance and – in the light of the threat of annihilation – actually cooperate. Cogman expertly plays with archetypes, the resistance to work together and how each character overcomes their inhibitions towards the “other side”.

The entire book is fast-paced but intrinsically plausible. No plotholes occur, all the loose ends are picked up and brought together in a furious, brilliant, dramatic and astonishing final showdown.

Personally, I could go on reading about Irene’s exploits for many more books but I think it’s a smart choice of Cogman to – at least temporarily – leave her beloved characters to their own devices. Many authors’ heroes overstay their welcome to the point that we don’t even want to read about them anymore.

Some authors (cf. Elizabeth George) milk their literary “cows” to the bitter end, others wisely and sensitively dispose of them entirely (cf. Henning Mankell’s Wallander).

Just leaving them at the top of their game is, in my (rarely humble) opinion, a great choice: No need to complicatedly “resurrect” the hero (cf. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes) or kill them.
Just let them enjoy prolonged (or possibly even infinite) holidays!

»Stories are like that. They’ll wait for you until you can come back to them.«

I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent with being told the “Untold Story” – it was like revisiting a beloved place. Its ending provides much needed closure but opens up new opportunities and, thus, I’m definitely looking very much forward to reading whatever else Genevieve Cogman is coming up with.

I rarely know how to actually rate a book in terms of stars before I write its review but after having finished this book late last night in an almost desperate attempt to know how it ends (and in a race against sleep!), there was no doubt about it (and writing this review only reinforced it):

Five out of five stars.

»‘There are no limits to self-sacrifice when we’re doing our jobs,’ Irene said wearily.«

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by Wulf at January 14, 2022 01:48 PM

January 09, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

The Drowning Girls (Detective Josie Quinn #13), by Lisa Regan

The Drowning Girls by Lisa Regan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Phew… After the disappointing book 12 I was afraid I might have had a fatal overdose of Josie Quinn.

This thirteenth book in the series was firmly on-track again, though, and mostly free of the overbearing ghost of you-know-who.

In fact, despite the fact this is a mass-produced series, the premise is interesting enough (notoriously good girl vanishes, her and her family’s dirty laundry comes to light, piece by piece…), the plot keeps thickening and while I did see the twist at the end coming, I enjoyed how it was handled.

All in all, a very Josie Quinn’ish book and a worthy instalment in the series.

Four out of five stars.

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by Wulf at January 09, 2022 04:17 PM

January 04, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

Her Deadly Touch (Detective Josie Quinn #12), by Lisa Regan

Her Deadly Touch by Lisa Regan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Josie whines about her dead granny.
Josie finds a body.
Josie whines again about her dead granny.
People vanish. Joise: “My poor dead granny!”
Josie is in the morgue, sees a body and, yes, you guessed it…
And so forth till the very end.

(Don’t get me wrong: Practically everyone from previous generations of my extended family are dead. Four during the last three years alone. I know grief but I’ve never wallowed in it like Josie does.)

This book is a mess…

  • Murder by carbon monoxide poisoning which occured in about 3 ‰ (per mille!) of homicides during the 20th century according to a quick research. (I couldn’t find data for the 21st century that did NOT include murder-suicides…)
  • A bus driver who might or might not have been tricked
  • Organised crime killing small-town fences for not coughing up money
  • An abundance of hardly-believable characters
  • Even harder-to-believe what-ifs – and not only hinted at but constantly repeated literal “if only, if only”s
  • Drugs, sex – just no rock’n’roll
  • Lots of plot holes and loose ends
  • A Josie Quinn who basically permeates between bemoaning the death of her granny and somewhat accurately working on the actual case

Two stars out of five because despite all that I finished this turd.

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by Wulf at January 04, 2022 05:06 PM

January 01, 2022

Wulf C. Krueger

2021 in books

2021 on Goodreads by Various

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I look back on reading in 2021 I find another mixed bag: Just like in 2020, my average rating was a mere 3.5 Goodreads tells me and that feels about right.

The year started on a high and hopeful note when Amanda Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” at Biden’s inauguration. If Gorman’s ideas took hold, we’d really “raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.”

The older I get the more difficult I find it to adapt to change. At the same time I realise a lack of adaption inevitably leads to obsolescence – in this case, my own.

Thus, I was both challenged and delighted when my personal book of the year 2021, the unforgettable “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo, stormed against my own perceptions and prejudices and while not blowing them away, changing them. Helping me change.

Also highly emotionally moving and absolutely brilliant was the revised and updated collection of the “New York Times” column collection by Daniel Jones: “Modern Love, Revised and Updated: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption

Next to Evaristo’s novel, this is one of the few books I cannot recommend highly enough.

Another highlight was “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett: Two black twin sisters, one passing and living as white, the other as black, Bennett tells a story about family and relationships that still resonates with me…

Junge Frau, am Fenster stehend, Abendlicht, blaues Kleid” by Alena Schröder – Schröder’s fiction debut – and, as of now, translated from its (and my) native German to Dutch only, was a riveting tale of a family from the 1920s till the present day. Very impressive!

With autumn came “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah which is, to me, a must-read and immediate entry to my favourite books of all time!

Last but most definitely not least: “Blaue Frau” by Antje Rávik Strubel, winner of the German Book Prize 2021, which took me on a tour de force about a personal as well as European history. Sadly, this masterpiece has not yet been translated to other languages.

All in all, a year with some extraordinary books! Happy new year 2022!

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by Wulf at January 01, 2022 03:05 PM

Hush Little Girl (Detective Josie Quinn #11), by Lisa Regan

Hush Little Girl by Lisa Regan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An isolated, hidden house in the woods, half a family murdered, a cancelled wedding, lots of suspense, a major personal loss…

Hush Little Girl” is one more mystery/thriller from Regan’s production line – she writes three to four books in this series per year. Thus, it cannot really surprise anyone that while these books are fairly entertaining, they’re all derived from the same formula.

If, by now, you like Josie Quinn and her team you won’t be disappointed by this instalment either. Apart from one rather disruptive (and overly drawn-out) change in Josie’s personal life nothing ever really changes in this series either, though.

For the entertaining but utterly forgettable book it is: Four out of five stars.

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by Wulf at January 01, 2022 01:34 PM

Risen (Alex Verus #12), by Benedict Jacka

Risen by Benedict Jacka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this final instalment of the Alex Verus series, we accompany Alex on his “farewell tour” and the final siege that will decide the fate of all mages – Dark and White – in Great Britain.

Over the run of the previous 11 (!) books Alex has had a formidable run: From a former Dark apprentice and shop owner he has risen to become a major force among mages in Britain. He has made a few friends (most of whom we encounter in this book) as well as many enemies (most of whom we also encounter in this book).

His girlfriend Anne has been possessed by a Djinn and needs rescuing, his former master, Richard Drakh, wants to use him for purposes unclear so far and, last but not least, Alex – who bonded with Fateweaver by making it a replacement hand – finds himself being “overtaken” by his artificial hand.

So, a lot of issues and unless you’ve read the previous few books at least, this won’t be a book for you. Furthermore, it has to be said that “Risen” can be divided into two major parts: In the first one Alex revisits people and places important to him in the past.

In the second part, we witness a prolonged siege inside a shadow realm; a battle, one might say, necessary for “ascension”: Not only Alex’ abilities have greatly expanded but also his methods have changed – shop owner Alex never would have resorted to what Richard rightly calls an assassination. The Alex we see in “Risen”, though, has truly risen in many regards but he knows full well that he’s on a dangerous path…

Thus, the way things are resolved and the ending make sense for this series which I enjoyed greatly and would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone enjoying urban fantasy.

While neither this book nor the series were perfect, Jacka found and refined his voice, his story telling rhythm and has grown along with his creation. I’m curious to see (and sure to read!) what he’s going to come up with next.

Four out of five stars.

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by Wulf at January 01, 2022 12:59 PM

December 11, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1), by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, this was a fairly mixed bag of a read… A school for kids learning to control their magic, surrounded by hostile creatures and even the school making life as hard as possible for its pupils. Pupils who are left entirely on their own – no teachers, hardly any protection and a deadly competition for resources, power and the arcane…

It sounds all so well and, indeed, I was drawn into the book fairly quickly: We’re accompanying Galadriel (El) during her penultimate school year which she passes by scolding the local hero Orion Lake (yes… the rest is silence…) for almost desperately trying to get on her good side.

Sadly, El’s “good side” is something she strongly tries to hide by playing bad ass…

»Meanwhile I was well on the way to successfully making myself violently, instead of just modestly, hateful to every enclave kid in the place, probably before the end of term at my current pace.«

… and almost to this reader as well. Her treatment of Orion, her social awkwardness, it all felt so very, very young adult (and I’m not sure about the “adult” part in that) that I frequently got annoyed and rolled my eyes at so much fumbling.

There’s also not much of a plot – gather information, get attacked, make friends, fix a major problem, get the guy – that’s pretty much all there is to be found story-wise.

The characters are also rather bland and shallow – the in-kids are pretty much only annoying with few redeeming qualities, Orion Lake is the archetypal white knight who comes to everyone’s rescue (but with special fervour if a damsel in distress is involved!) and even El and her two friends are about as shallow as a puddle.

The writing is adequate for that and, thus, serves its purpose.

And despite all that, I still enjoyed “A Deadly Education” – the setting of a magical school somewhere out of the normal realms, an isolated population scheming, some really interesting ideas about monsters and the dark side of magic as well as the showdown at the end; it all appealed to me and made me read on.

I might even pick up the next book in the series as well.

(Barely) four stars out of five.

P.S.: No, El is not Murderbot. They play in entirely different leagues.

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by Wulf at December 11, 2021 05:26 PM

November 17, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

Das Ereignis, von Annie Ernaux

Das Ereignis by Annie Ernaux

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»(Vielleicht wirkt diese Beschreibung irritierend oder abstoßend, oder sie mag als geschmacklos empfunden werden. Etwas erlebt zu haben, egal, was es ist, verleiht einem das unveräußerliche Recht, darüber zu schreiben. Es gibt keine minderwertige Wahrheit. Wenn ich diese Erfahrung nicht im Detail erzähle, trage ich dazu bei, die Lebenswirklichkeit von Frauen zu verschleiern, und mache mich zur Komplizin der männlichen Herrschaft über die Welt.)«

Annie Ernaux, seinerzeit 23-jährige Studentin, wurde 1963 im damals erzkonservativen, katholischen Frankreich ungewollt schwanger und vom Vater des ungeborenen Kindes de facto im Stich gelassen. Keiner der Ärzte, die sie aufsuchte, half ihr in nennenswerter Weise und so bleibt ihr nichts übrig, als sich in die Hände einer sogenannten “Engelmacherin” zu begeben.

»Beim Schreiben muss ich manchmal dem Drang widerstehen, in einen wütenden oder schmerzerfüllen Lyrismus zu verfallen. Ich will in diesem Text nicht tun, was ich im echten Leben nicht getan habe oder nur ganz selten, schreien und weinen.«

Das gelingt Ernaux mit Bravour: Sachlich und nüchtern, ohne zu dramatisieren, zu beschönigen oder mit etwas “hinter dem Berg zu halten”, erzählt sie von dem fürchterlichen Spießrutenlauf, den sie hinter sich bringen mußte, um einen – damals illegalen – Schwangerschaftsabbruch in Frankreich an sich durchführen zu lassen.

Dabei ist sie so schonungslos offen, daß ich hier keine entsprechende Zitate aufführen möchte. Durch aber genau diese Offenheit, so werden z. B. die Initialen der wichtigsten Personen genutzt, wirkt der Text vollkommen ehrlich und hat mich stellenweise tief berührt.

»Mit dem Auftreten des Bereitschaftsarztes beginnt der zweite Teil der Nacht. An die Stelle einer reinen Erfahrung von Leben und Tod treten Zurschaustellung und Verurteilung. Er setzte sich aufs Bett und packte mein Kinn: »Warum hast du das getan? Wie hast du das getan? Antworte!««

Es ist vollkommen anmassend, widerwärtig und geradezu pervers, Menschen durch Kriminalisierung bzw. Stigmatisierung von Schwangerschaftsabbrüchen in eine derartige Notlage zu bringen. Damals wie heute.

Denn bis heute ist in Deutschland der Schwangerschaftsabbruch nach den §§ 218 ff. des Strafgesetzbuches strafbar und sowohl Schwangere als auch Ärzte werden mit Freiheits- oder Geldstrafen bedroht. Dies ist ein Skandal, den wir den Kirchen und den konservativen alten Männern zu “verdanken” haben, die noch im 21. Jahrhundert meinen, selbst Aufklärung zum Schwangerschaftsabbruch sei als “Werbung” dafür zu ahnden.

1999 geschrieben und erst in diesem Jahr (2021) in deutscher Sprache veröffentlicht, hallt das Grauen, das in diesem Buch so unemotional beschrieben wird, auch fast 60 (!) Jahre später noch nach und weckt, zumindest bei mir, um so stärkere Emotionen. Daß wir noch immer über Schwangerschaftsabbruch diskutieren müssen, daß dieser immer noch in unserem Land unter Strafe gestellt ist, ist eigentlich unerträglich.

»Ich bin nun damit fertig, das in Worte zu fassen, was mir eine allumfassende menschliche Erfahrung zu sein scheint, eine Erfahrung von Leben und Tod, von Zeit, von Moral und Tabu, von Gesetz, eine ganz und gar körperliche Erfahrung.«

Fünf von fünf Sternen (ein Urteil, das mir beinahe anmaßend vorkommt) und eine dringende Leseempfehlung (es ist ein sehr kurzes Buch) für alle. Insbesondere für Männer, ganz besonders für Politiker…

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by Wulf at November 17, 2021 09:28 PM

November 11, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17), by Louise Penny

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve long been a fan of Louise Penny’s series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Satisfyingly, Penny is more than capable of writing thrilling mysteries but additionally she has never been shy to address the major topics of our time (this book being no exception…).

Then there is the almost mystical village of Three Pines in which most of the novels play out and which features some rather unique characters – from the gifted but struggling painter to the grumpy crazy poet, the “Asshole Saint” and everything in between.

These factors still make me look forward to each new novel. Even after 16 prior books!

»“And for your information,” she told Gabri when he’d shown up with gardening gloves and a trowel, “I like weed.” “Weeds, you mean,” he said. “Maybe,” said the old poet.«

In this seventeenth instalment Gamache investigates the attempted murder of professor Abigail Robinson and the murder of Robinson’s assistant, Debbie, on New Year’s Eve. In this book’s setting, the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, mentioned (and actually features in a few details) but, thankfully, over. (And lest anyone worries: None of our friends have perished!)

Robinson promotes an agenda of mandatory (!) euthanasia and eugenics and a friend of Gamache asks for him personally to protect the controversial professor during a speech.

Being the grandfather of Idola – the child of his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Gamache’s daughter – who has trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) and, first of all, a decent human being, Gamache is strongly opposed to Robinson’s inhuman agenda.

»It was Sunday afternoon. The next morning Armand Gamache had an appointment with the Premier of Québec. To show him the files. And to let him know, quietly, confidentially, that if there was any move to adopt mandatory euthanasia, or anything vaguely smelling of eugenics, those files would go public. It was, he knew, blackmail. But he and his conscience could live with that.«

Like a recurring theme or even a mantra Penny uses the phrase “Ça va bien aller.” or its English translation “It’s going to be fine.” throughout the book even though this is not actually certain this time around.
Especially since a new side character, Haniya Daoud, who fled rape and torture in her native Sudan and went on to build a movement for social justice is introduced. At several important points in the book, Daoud – nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – serves to add an additional point of view; and her views are often rather bleak…

In this novel I also first learnt about Canadian scientist-gone-torturer, Ewen Cameron, who actually managed to torture patients using, drugs, poisons (!) and electro shocks until as late as 1964 without their prior knowledge or consent.

So, there are, admittedly, a lot of issues that Penny is tackling in the aptly titled “The Madness of Crowds” but she does so extremely well and engagingly. As Penny mentions in her acknowledgements, she also reflects on “What happens to tip people over into madness?”.

To any current fan of this series, this instalment is highly recommended as we return from the rather mediocre “All the Devils Are Here” and Paris to where this series belongs.
Anyone who wants to get acquainted with the series should take a look at an earlier book, e. g. the excellent “How the Light Gets In”.

Five out of five stars.

Oh, and I certainly enjoyed the last tongue-in-cheek sentence of the acknowledgements: »All this to say, if you didn’t like the book, it’s their fault.«

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by Wulf at November 11, 2021 05:35 PM

November 07, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

Love is Make-Believe, by Riham Adly

Love is Make-Believe by Riham Adly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was approached directly by the author, Riham Adly, who told me about her collection of “Flash fiction” – something I hadn’t heard about before.

In Riham’s own words: “Flash is so flexible, it sometimes reads like a traditional short and sometimes like a poem with a narrative arc and sometimes it’s very experimental; it lends structure from other forms like menus, lists. It’s a new experience.”

My interest immediately rose. A new form, a new voice! From Egypt! How could I resist that?

So, first of all, Riham, thank you for the chance to read your collection! I really appreciate it.

Riham quickly convinced me that she is in full command of her chosen language. Sadly, I couldn’t warm up to the Flash fiction form she chose and (some of) the content.

Many of the short stories presented in this collections were confusing to me and, oftentimes, felt rather heavy-handed:

»I beat in the flour. Too much force −like when a man beats inside a woman against her will− is no good.«

We’re in agreement that any form of (sexualised) violence is completely unacceptable; I just believe that there are better ways to express that.

Then again, there were stories that – in part at least – felt like mad ramblings:

»Aloneness is a lotus not a rose, that neither blooms, nor withers. And here we go again, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9…..«

There were some funny stories interspersed that made me read on, e. g. “Re-ham” certainly made me smile. A few others at least captured my interest like “Gretel’s Bread” but left me wanting.

I have had fair “warning” by Riham from the very beginning, though: “If the first story or two don’t interest you, then don’t bother with it.”

So I’d like to suggest a slightly different approach: From each section (e. g. “The Changelings”, “The Blues”, etc.) pick one or two stories and read those. If you’re unconvinced, stop reading.
If you’re still interested, though, keep reading – you’re giving a new voice a chance and you might find something new for yourself to like.

For me, it will have to be three stars out of five with encouragement to keep writing!

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by Wulf at November 07, 2021 12:33 PM

November 01, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

Blaue Frau, von Antje Rávik Strubel

(Reminder to anyone not reading German: There’s a link to translate this (and every) page at the very bottom.)

Blaue Frau by Antje Rávik Strubel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aufwühlend, bewegend, anstrengend, schwer „verdaulich“, unbedingt lesenswert und wichtig!

»Es braucht klare Ansagen, wenn die, die ihre jahrhundertealte Meinungshoheit verlieren, diesen Verlust zum Ende der Meinungsfreiheit erklären.«

Ursprünglich aufmerksam auf “Blaue Frau” wurde ich durch die Vorstellung des Buches und dem Interview Denis Schecks mit Antje Rávik Strubel in dessen Sendung “Druckfrisch”.

Erst jedoch als ich Strubels in mehrerlei Hinsicht emotionale Dankesrede zum gewonnenen Deutschen Buchpreis sah, rückte dieses Buch sofort an die Spitze meines Stapels ungelesener Bücher.

Antje Rávik Strubel erzählt in “Blaue Frau” die Geschichte Adinas, einer jungen Tschechin, die während eines Praktikums in Deutschland sexualisierte Gewalt erlebt. Dabei arbeitet sich die Erzählerin durch Zeit und Raum und die verschiedenen Ebenen und Perspektiven ihrer Figuren.

Gerade im ersten Teil empfand ich dies teilweise als anstrengend und verwirrend – manchmal wurde mir erst im zweiten oder dritten Satz klar, wo und wann wir uns befinden. Die Autorin nötigte mir äußerste Aufmerksamkeit ab, legte dafür aber vorsichtig und behutsam nicht nur ihre Geschichte, sondern auch ihre Figuren schichtweise frei, ohne letztere dabei jemals bloßzustellen.

Was Adina er- und widerfährt, erzählt Antje Rávik Strubel überaus berührend, aber nie sentimental. Sie erzählt nicht von Gefühlen, sondern versteht es meisterhaft, diese mittels ihrer über weite Teile geradezu poetischen und gleichzeitig überaus präzisen Sprache lebendig werden zu lassen.

Dabei zielt Strubel nie auf Mitleid ab, sondern auf Miterleben und resultierendes Mitgefühl und das gelingt ihr – insbesondere ab etwa dem zweiten Drittel von “Blaue Frau” – wie sonst kaum jemandem.

Die Geschichte von Adinas Odyssee aus ihrem Heimatort in Tschechien nach Berlin über die Uckermark und schlußendlich nach Helsinki hat mich zeitweise vollkommen in ihren Bann gezogen. Förmlich eingesaugt in das Geschehen, bemerkte ich kaum, wie ich “plötzlich” von der Hälfte auf die letzten Seiten dieses Romans gelangte.

Die Einschübe, während derer die namensgebende “Blaue Frau” auftaucht und mit der die Schriftstellerin Zwiesprache hält, erlauben es nicht nur, das vorher Gelesene zu “verdauen” (was für mich nicht immer leicht war), sondern helfen auch bei der Reflexion desselben und tragen maßgeblich zum Verständnis bei. Nicht zuletzt waren sie mir auch stellenweise eine willkommene “Entschleunigung” und Befreiung aus dem Sog des Geschehens.

Durch Adinas Zusammentreffen mit Leonides Siilmann, einem estnischen Politikwissenschaftler, erfahren wir zudem scheinbar am Rande und doch wichtig für die Geschichte, über die doch sehr unterschiedliche Erinnerungskultur in Ost und West: War für das damalige West-Europa mit dem Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges die Zeit der Diktatur beendet, so waren doch die Jahrzehnte von 1945 bis 1991 – dem Untergang der Sowjetunion – für Ost-Europa, hier vertreten durch Estland, durch eine Diktatur unter anderem Vorzeichen geprägt.

»Erst, wenn eine Französin, wenn ein Deutscher bereit sind, zu sagen, der Gulag ist unser ureigenes Problem, so wie Auschwitz unser ureigenes Problem ist, steuern wir nicht mehr auf ein westliches, ein östliches, ein mittleres Europa, also auf den Zerfall Europas zu!«

Es ist ein weiteres großes Verdienst Antje Rávik Strubels, die selbst in der zweiten deutschen Diktatur gelebt hat (wir erinnern uns: 1989 erst fiel die Mauer, die Wiedervereinigung beider deutscher Staaten war 1990), uns unaufdringlich auf die daraus resultierenden Unterschiede aufmerksam zu machen.

Mit der in achtjähriger Arbeit entstandenen “Blauen Frau” hat Antje Rávik Strubel einen Roman von existentieller Kraft und Wucht geschaffen, der völlig verdient den Deutschen Buchpreis 2021 erhalten hat. Mich hat “Blaue Frau” in ihren Bann gezogen, eingesaugt mitten in die Wirklichkeit des Romans und nicht mehr losgelassen.

Mich freut das auf vielerlei Ebenen: Für mich persönlich, denn das endende Jahr 2021 bescherte mir noch einen literarischen Paukenschlag und ein weiteres Buch, das sich augenblicklich zwischen meinen absoluten Favoriten wiederfindet.

Zu so unterschiedlichen Autor_innen wie Thomas Mann, Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, Siegfried Lenz, Mechtild Borrmann und Kristin Hannah gesellt sich mit Antje Rávik Strubel eine offen “queere” feministische Persönlichkeit. Das sorgt – hoffentlich noch für Jahrzehnte – für Diversität in der Literatur und neuen Geist in (nicht nur) alten Köpfen.

»Es gehörte zur Würde des Menschen, mit seinem richtigen Namen angesprochen zu werden, dachte Kristiina, auch wenn manche im Korrekten eine Doktrin sehen wollten, die sie dann verunglimpften.«

Die Vielschichtigkeit betonend und feiernd, beendete Antje Rávik Strubel folgendermaßen ihre anfangs bereits erwähnte Dankesrede:

»Rávik und ich sind Schriftstellerinnen, nicht Schriftsteller, und als solche manchmal ausgezeichnet mit einem Sternchen. Vielen Dank!«

Von mir sind es – und das fühlt sich geradezu vermessen an – fünf Sterne.

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by Wulf at November 01, 2021 10:48 AM

October 24, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Out of the Hitler Time #1), by Judith Kerr

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second time I’m reading “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”. The first time was when it was compulsory reading at school more than 30 years ago. I don’t remember much of my reading experience back then but that I felt with Anna, the protagonist and narrator, who had to leave Pink Rabbit back in Germany when her family emigrated to escape the rising Nazism…

Now, at 45, I’m impressed for different reasons: First moving from Berlin, Germany, to Zurich, Switzerland, then Paris, France and, finally, London, United Kingdom, both Anna and her brother Max are relatively quick to adapt to their new surroundings.
While it’s rarely easy for either of them, their resilience in the face of difficult circumstances and optimism is deeply inspiring.

Nazism always looms in the background; be it through German tourists who prohibit their children to play with Anna and Max for the sole reason of them being Jewish or the Paris concierge.
Both children picture Hitler as personally enjoying the toys they had to leave behind – the eponymous Pink Rabbit and a games compendium – and, thus, make the darkest period in Germany’s history ascertainable.

The book ends abruptly in a cab in London, shortly after Anna thinks…

»“What a pity,” [Anna] thought. “I’ll never be famous at this rate!”«

Dame Anna Judith Gertrud Helene Kerr, Officer of “The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”, wasn’t too far off the mark: It would take her children’s prodding about her childhood to make her publish this semi-autobiographical novel in 1971. This publication and the two following novels laid the foundation for Kerr’s fame that she had dreamt of as a child.

The Kerr family had escaped Germany just in the nick of time – a day later and they would have been arrested by the Nazis who went on to burn Alfred Kerr’s books.
Alfred Kerr died 1948 by suicide, aided by his wife, shortly after visiting Hamburg, Germany, for the first time after the war. His wife Julia died in 1965. Judith Kerr wrote children’s books and illustrated them, married in 1954 and stayed married for more than 50 years.

Judith Kerr died in 2019 at the age of 95. She had outlived the Nazis who wanted to extinguish the entire family by almost 75 years. Poetic justice.

Five out of five stars.

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by Wulf at October 24, 2021 03:37 PM

October 18, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1), by Alix E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this modern spin of “Sleeping Beauty” we meet Zinnia “Zin” Gray who is suffering from a rare condition which usually leads to death before the 22nd birthday – and Zin has just turned 21…

Since Zin is obsessed with the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” her best friend, Charm, throws her a themed birthday party during which Zin pricks herself with a spindle. As this is a modern spin, she doesn’t quite fall asleep but rather through the “multiverse” and in a trance-like state meets lots of other “Sleeping Beauties” until she steps out into one world in which she goes on an adventure with the resident “Beauty”, Princess Primrose, to, ideally, lift both their “curses”.

Fortunately, this was a quick, short and amusing read because there’s simply not enough substance to either the story told here or the characters to sustain a longer novel.

The one-hundred pages of this novella pretty much flew past and I was willing to overlook some questionable explanations about Zin’s condition, the mystery of full cell phone coverage in “Princess Primrose of Perceforest”’s fairy tale land and quite few other (minor) issues that I simply chose to ignore because I had a blast reading this fast-paced adventure.

If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and/or are looking for a quick filler, maybe some literary fast food, you likely won’t be disappointed.
Just don’t expect something like “Uprooted” or “Spinning Silver” both of which “play” in an entirely different league and are hereby highly recommended!

Should Harrow decide to publish more “Fractured Fables” I’m going to read those as well – despite some reservations about a price tag of about ten Euros (roughly 12 US-Dollars) for such a slim book…

Four out of five stars.

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by Wulf at October 18, 2021 03:08 PM

October 16, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.3), by Ben Aaronovitch

What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one for the fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers of London”. This novella firmly establishes Abigail as an important character in that reading universe.

Abigail investigates the (temporary) disappearance of teenagers (including a friend of hers!) and in the course of said investigation finds a mysterious house in which something has been left over…

Sadly, the entire House thing is just ok’ish: It made some sense but I didn’t really like this part of the mystery. Amusingly, though, as central this detail should be, the “remainder” of the novella, is much more important to me and by far outweighs the mediocre House part.

Abigail’s friendship with Simon feels right and made her very likeable. Her interactions with the foxes (especially, of course, Indigo!) made me both grin and admire Abigail in equal parts for their cleverness, the mutual respect and general enjoyment.

»‘Real talk, Abi,’ says Sugar Niner. ‘The air went greasy and the Nightingale blew a hole in the pavement. I was bare prang and no mistake.’ ‘Believe it, fam,’ says Indigo.«

Also, the resolution of it all was really truly satisfying and, thus, this is how Abigail became a favourite character of mine within the short span of a short story and a novella!

Four out of five stars!

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by Wulf at October 16, 2021 12:04 PM

October 09, 2021

Wulf C. Krueger

Der Vorleser, von Bernhard Schlink

I am and have been working on quite a few F/OSS projects: Exherbo (Nick: Philantrop), Bedrock Linux, Gentoo (Nick: Philantrop), Calibre plugin iOS reader applications, Calibre plugin Marvin XD, chroot-manager, stuff on github, lots of other projects. If you like my work, feel free to donate. 🙂


Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vor vielleicht einem Jahr kam meine Tochter auf mich zu und fragte, ob wir eine Ausgabe von Schlinks “Der Vorleser” besäßen. Sie brauche es für den Deutsch-Leistungskurs in der Schule.

Ein Vierteljahrhundert vorher war Schlinks Roman gerade erschienen und machte Furore. Meine damalige Freundin schenkte es mir 1995 zum 20. Geburtstag und ich habe es verschlungen und geliebt.

Mir war ein wenig bange, als ich das Buch zurückerhielt und durchaus nicht zu Unrecht, denn für meine Tochter überwog die Kritik. (Und außerdem: Ein Buch, das heute in den Lehrplänen steht? Das ich als junger Mann geliebt hatte? Konnte das heute noch etwas sein?)
Ich hingegen hatte einen großartigen Roman über Schuld, Pflicht und Verbundenheit im Hinterkopf.

So pirschte ich mich kürzlich mit etwas flauem Gefühl in der Magengegend an eines meiner Lieblingsbücher nach so langer Zeit erneut heran. In Wahrheit allerdings hat die Geschichte mir aufgelauert, mich harmlos-scheinend geködert und dann wie einst überfallen, mitgerissen und völlig eingenommen…

Michael Berg, beim ersten Zusammentreffen gerade einmal 15, begegnet zufällig Hanna Schmitz und wird fortan nie mehr wirklich frei von ihr sein.
Schnell entwickelt sich zwischen beiden eine eigenartige Routine: Vor allem anderen liest Michael Hanna vor.

»Vorlesen, duschen, lieben und noch ein bißchen beieinanderliegen – das wurde das Ritual unserer Treffen.«

Doch diese Treffen nehmen ein jähes Ende als Hanna ohne ein Wort verschwindet. Für lange Jahre verschwindet sie aus Michaels Umfeld, aber nicht aus seinem Kopf. Er legt sich einen Panzer aus Arroganz zu, um nur nicht wieder derart verletzt zu werden, denn er hat »die Erinnerung an Hanna zwar verabschiedet, aber nicht bewältigt«.

Ausgerechnet im Gerichtssaal eines Prozesses gegen Wärterinnen des Konzentrationslagers Auschwitz trifft Michael als Jura-Student erneut auf Hanna, die dort angeklagt ist. Schnell wird klar: Hanna ist schuldig.

Für Michael wird aber auch klar, daß Hanna Analphabetin ist. Im Laufe des Verfahrens versteht er: Hanna wird jede Strafe auf sich nehmen, will aber um keinen Preis ihren Analphabetismus bloßgestellt wissen.

Michael kann die Bilder, die er von “seiner” Hanna mitnahm nicht mit denjenigen der KZ-Wärterin in Einklang bringen. Zeitweise verschwimmen beide gar miteinander.
Hanna wiederum weiß um ihre Schuld, sie bestreitet nicht die Fakten, aber während des Prozesses versteht sie dennoch nicht, wie es dazu kommen konnte.

Letztlich wird Hanna zu lebenslangem Gefängnis verurteilt und verschwindet somit wieder für Jahre aus Michael Bergs Leben – bis dieser beginnt, laut zu lesen und dies aufzunehmen. Die so entstehenden Kassetten-Aufnahmen schickt er Hanna ins Gefängnis – über einen Zeitraum von zehn Jahren. Noch immer ist Berg gewissermaßen gefangen in ihrem Bann und ist einerseits stolz auf sie, weil sie Lesen und Schreiben gelernt hat, gleichzeitig aber »traurig über sie, traurig über ihr verspätetes und verfehltes Leben«.

Als Hanna nach 18 Jahren im Gefängnis begnadigt wird, bereitet Berg “draußen” alles für sie vor und besucht sie im Gefängnis. Doch wiederum bekommt sein Bild von Hanna Risse; er hat sie als “immer frisch” riechend in Erinnerung und trifft auf eine Hanna, die, neben ihm sitzend, wie eine alte Frau riecht.

Hanna, die spätestens nach diesem Besuch weiß, daß das Vorlesen nunmehr wirklich zu Ende ist und sie sich letztlich auch von Berg nichts versprechen kann und darf, nimmt sich daraufhin das Leben. Ihre Beschäftigung mit dem KZ-System, dessen Bestandteil sie war, kann sie nicht rehabilitieren. Auschwitz kann man nicht vergeben und darf es nicht vergessen.

Auch Michael Berg wird nie wirklich von der gemeinsamen Geschichte frei sein. Er ist und bleibt gefangen in der Ambivalenz seiner subjektiven Geschichte mit Hanna.

Ich wiederum kann diesem Buch nicht gerecht werden. Was auch immer ich schreibe, bleibt hinter meinen eigenen Erwartungen zurück. Auch 26 Jahre nachdem ich es zum ersten Mal las, bleibt es mir ein unvergeßliches Meisterwerk.

Fünf von fünf Sternen und eine unbedingte Lese-Empfehlung.

»Die Schichten unseres Lebens ruhen so dicht aufeinander auf, daß uns im Späteren immer Früheres begegnet, nicht als Abgetanes und Erledigtes, sondern gegenwärtig und lebendig. Ich verstehe das. Trotzdem finde ich es manchmal schwer erträglich.«

by Wulf at October 09, 2021 10:38 AM