Review: Melanie Raabe – The Trap

thetrapdiefalleThe Trap (orig. Die Falle) by Melanie Raabe
2 out of 5 stars

Initially, I wanted to give this a one-star rating but the fact that I actually wanted to know how it ends merits another star in my opinion. It’s the story of Linda, who found her sister murdered in her own apartment. Linda is convinced that she saw the murderer escape but he was never found. Years later she has become a famous author living a life in total isolation. Content with this agoraphobic lifestyle her only human contacts are her publisher and her assistant. One terrible day she sees the man, who allegedly escaped the scene of the crime twelve years before, on TV. He’s become a well-known journalist. So in order to get him to confess Linda writes a crime thriller about her sister’s murder and invites the man she deems to be the murderer into her house.

So far so good.

I found this premise pretty intriguing and was hoping for something of a cat-and-mouse game between these two characters – especially since Linda is portrayed as a very intelligent and clever woman. I was also hoping for something that would resemble a play since the setting (a dining room) is fairly enclosed and there really are only the two main characters who truly matter. I was hoping for an intelligent verbal exchange of blows along the lines of Koch’s The Dinner.
Alas, none of this happened.
From the beginning, Linda as a character is just not likeable. She’s arrogant and self-involved. (I listened to the audiobook and absolutely hated the voice of the actress reading it so it might have added to my opinion of the protagonist.) So you kind of hope for her to crack and to have made the wrong assumptions. I simply did not want her plan to work.

The problem is that not one of the characters are very plausible. I’m trying to keep this spoiler-free so I won’t go into this too much. But the way these people forget important things and how they react to mentally stressful situations is not very realistic.

Also, the overall conclusion was the least believable of all possible outcomes. It felt like the last showdown was simply tacked on to the rest of the plot to give the whole book some kind of grand finale.

One last thing that I absolutely hated was how the murder victim was portrayed like she had deserved to be brutally stabbed to death. In every scenario the author gives us, the victim provokes her murderer into a blind rage. It’s like the author wants us to think that the crime was in some way satisfied because this woman simply was a husband-stealing, mean girl; a bad person.

In conclusion, this book was not bad in itself. The plot was actually constructed fairly well, if not very plausible. Raabe had me convinced that I knew what was going on until the twist at the very end. She’s also not a bad writer. I think this book could have done with a more feasible motive for the murder and with a better understanding of what trauma does to a person (a deeply-rooted fear of the outside world cannot be overcome in mere hours).

Posted in review | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mini-Review: Blake Crouch – Dark Matter

darkmatter.jpg

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
out of 5 stars

—Minor spoilers ahead—

A word I  came across in a lot of reviews of this: mindbending.
People seem to think this is the weirdest book they’ve read in a long time. I simply don’t get it. The story is completely linear and you can pretty much see what’s coming around page 50. The only reason I kept going was because I was hoping for some twists and turns that would take me completely by surprise. Well, that never happened.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a bad book. Not at all. It’s an interesting and suspenseful thriller. I just think that nothing in this book is a new thought; it has all been done before in some way or other. String theory and all that multiverse stuff seems to be a bit of a hype right now and it actually is a cool subject for a thriller – if it’s done well. “Dark Matter” to me fell completely flat – it was all too linear and the solutions were way too easy.

If you really want to read a story that makes you go “wtf?!” every few pages, I’d recommend The Raw Shark Texts or The End of Mr Y or House of Leaves.

 

Posted in review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 – a reading year in review

Not unlike the previous year, 2016 has been filled with changes and new achievements for me.
First of all, this was my first year of being a fully-fledged bookseller with my own section to manage and all-new responsibilities. This, of course, influenced my reading habits quite a bit – I had to read outside my comfort zone. Which means hat I read a lot more middle grade and YA books than I would normally have done.

Also, I got my driver’s licence in May!
And no longer using public transportation seriously cut into my reading time. I did, however, find a new appreciation for audiobooks and listened to a few on my daily drives.

Apart from the usual Goodreads stuff, this year I used a really neat spreadsheet (created by booktuber Brock/Let’s Read) in order to track my reading activity.
So, let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

  • In 2016 I read a total of 58 books making up 17,171 pages in total.
  • I surpassed my Goodreads reading challenge by eight books.
  • Even though I own two different ebook readers 76% of the books I read were physical copies.
  • I tend to read more books by female authors (67%).
  • My busiest reading months were January and November and I tend to buy a lot more books when I don’t have time to read.

These were my favourites (i.e. five-star-reviews):

It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite since these eight are all awesome in their individual way, but Sylvain Neuvel’s “Sleeping Giants” comes really close to being the winner of 2016! Such a cool narrative and great characters and that twist at the end! Also, giant robot parts buried all around the planet? What’s not to love?

28 of the 58 books I deemed four- or five-star-worthy, which is quite a good average in my opinion. I think that has to do with the fact that I don’t trudge on through every single book I read. I do not HAVE TO finish everything I start, so I have a lot more time to read really really great books!

However, there still are a few losers this year… books I’ve finished but absolutely didn’t like. The first of the two top spots in this category is taken by V.E. Schwab’s  “A Gathering of Shadows”, the second book to the Shades of Magic series. It simply could not hold my attention because it was too long by a few hundred pages and did nothing for me plotwise. The disappointment is completed by the fact that I absolutely loved the first book in the series and now I’m pretty sure I won’t read the upcoming final publication.
The second “bad one” to stand out is by widely-loved German author Benedict Wells. “Vom Ende der Einsamkeit” (roughly translates to “About the end of loneliness”) was a pseudo-literary snoozefest and in my opinion a rather typical specimen of the kind of books that make it on the German bestseller list.

All in all, 2016 was a pretty good reading year. I’ll spend the rest of it finishing “The Fate of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen (which I absolutely love, by the way).

And my bookish resolution for 2017 is to write a lot more reviews. 🙂

 

Posted in personal life, reading experience, wrap up | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Han Kang – The Vegetarian

thevegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
out of stars

This novel made me really uncomfortable. I’m not saying it’s bad or badly written. I quite liked the sparse language and the weird premise.

You won’t be surprised if I tell you that this is not a book about vegetarianism. It’s about a woman who decides to no longer eat meat because of a dream she had. She does so in a society where eating meat is not only the cultural norm but the only choice.
It’s also a novel about the way we perceive the people close to us and how we often claim to know their innermost motivations and beliefs – their true selves.

What I really liked about “The Vegetarian” is how the aforementioned decision and its consequences are described by three different narrators giving the reader three different versions of the protagonist and her motives. The way the representation of the eponymous vegetarian changes according to each narrator (her husband, her brother-in-law, her sister) makes it clear that the notion we have of the people we love is not always true.

Now what’s the uncomfortable part? I can hardly put a finger on it, and maybe it’s the translation or that I personally lack the cultural context. But a lot of the scenes made me cringe. Most of all Han Kang’s descriptions of the physical. The way she writes sex scenes reminded me a lot of Murakami (close focus on genitalia or nipple).

The more I think about this, the more I believe that this was done on purpose. Anything to do with the body (the flesh, so to speak) is supposed to be disgusting and not appealing – even through the eyes of the meat-eating narrators. So it’s probably a good thing that I reacted the way I did. I stick with my three star rating, though because I still thought that whole plot fell a bit flat. Even though this is a fairly short novel I think it would’ve worked better as a short story.

Oh but will you look at that gorgeous cover!

Posted in pretty books, review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini-Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing-Eye

25241871Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing-Eye by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle
out of stars

A creepy old Grand Hotel. Check.
Witches and magic. Check.
Monsters in the cellar. Check.
Secret hidden heirlooms. Check.
Tim-Burtonesque illustrations and plot. Double-check.

This book really has everything you could look for in a middle-grade spooky story. However, it owes a lot to its awesome illustrations and whimsical writing. The plot itself is nothing new but it kept me entertained. Since I am not the target audience of this it’s okay that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat the whole time. I know eight-year-old me would have loved it!

Recommended for 8-to-10-year-olds who want some Haloween fun and fans of Tim Burton’s style.

And for your viewing pleasure, here are some of del Rio’s cool illustrations for this book:

Posted in ARC, mini-review, pretty books, review | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

tinyprettythingsTiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra
3 out of 5

Just a really quick review.

Going into this all I wanted was a quick read in between books. Something scandalous and a bit soapy. I was hoping for lots of ballet and drama!

Oh well, “Tiny Pretty Things” was such a slow read. I was debating not finishing it but somehow I kept going. This novels biggest problem is that it’s not well-structured. Maybe it was released prematurely, I don’t know. It could have needed some more editing.

Also the ballet setting does not really add to the story. Sometimes I felt like the girls’ story of rivalry and pressure could have taken place in any other setting.
If you want to read about the physical and mental pressure that is professional ballet you should read [book:The Cranes Dance|12975068] by [author:Meg Howrey|4228949]. It’s not fair to compare two novels targeting very different age groups but I just want to throw in a really great ballet novel here.

Tiny Pretty Things is a good YA read. The characters are interesting enough to have kept me reading. I just think it could have been so much more.

Posted in mini-review, review | Leave a comment

A quick update

My last post was four months ago. I hate that I haven’t been writing anything on here for such a long time. Everyone knows how it is when life is simply packed with things you have to do… there’s rarely any time left for the things you actually want to do.
I really want to change that. And this post is the first step. I want to write reviews on a regular basis again because I want to remember and think about the books I read; not simply forget them right after putting them down.
2016 is halfway over. Let’s have a look a my reading challenge.

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Steffi has
read 34 books toward
her goal of
50 books.
hide

 

Looking at a chart like this and realising how many books I’ve actually read this year can be pretty soothing because to me it felt like I haven’t been reading as much as I wanted to these past weeks.
So, for a short update here’s what I read in 2016 up until now (including DNFs). So far my absolute favourite is “Sleeping Giants”. I’ve rarely read science fiction so well done and with such great plot and characters!

july2016

 

Posted in reading experience, wrap up | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment