Shape Me (Melanie Vogltanz)

Shape Me is a novel by Melanie Vogltanz. It has no English translation as far as I am aware.
Finished on: 29.6.2022

Content Note: animal cruelty, (critical treatment of) fatmisia

Thanks to body sharing technology, those who can afford it, can hand off their bodies to be brought into shape by personal trainers, while they can enjoy the trainers’ bodies. Given the potential for abuse of body swapping, it is heavily guarded. Tess Trimm is one of the trainers, and she takes her job very seriously. She doesn’t do it for the unlimited calory supply that trainers get. Unlimited calory supply is something that Nena Jean can only dream of. Recently, it’s been difficult to get enough calories to feed her cats. But that’s only the begining of Nena’s troubles. One day, she wakes up to find that her body isn’t her own anymore. She needs to find out how this could have happened – and how she could get her body back.

Shape Me is a quick read with interesting characters, but I have to admit that I was looking for a bit more in terms of criticism of fatmisia than the book has given me. Still, I found it engaging.

The book cover showing two women standing back to back, one fat, one thin.
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Sanguen Daemonis (Anna Zabini)

Sanguen Daemonis is the first novel by Anna Zabini. [There is no English translation, afaik.]
Finished on: 2.2.2022

Content Note: the book contains extensive content notes for each chapter, so let me just point out that this is not a happy book and loads of warnings apply

Sivan and Shanna are twins. They are very close, but also very different. While Shanna follows in their parents political footsteps and is about to become head of the Chosen in Vienna, the people possessed by but in control of a demon, Sivan is the black sheep of the family and has enough to do with his mental health than to be particularly ambitious. Right around the same time, both of them meet people they didn’t expect. Sivan meets Nikola, an Untouchable (who can’t be possessed but draw demons in) from Bratislava recruited to Vienna rather against his will. And Shanna meets Nesrin, a Mortal (meaning she can be possessed by a demon, but would succumb to its control) independent journalist. The fates of all four of them become intertwined with the politics of the Chosen and the resistance who grapple for control.

Sanguen Daemonis was a really good read that I devoured in only a few days. While there were a few moments here and there that reminded me of the fact that it is a debut novel, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the world-building is innovative, the characters are awesome and the story is dark, but not hopeless. In short, I really liked it.

The book cover showing a person with eyes that glow golden holding up an umbrella in the rain. There are tentacles under the umbrella.
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Die Vergiftung [The Poisoning] (Maria Lazar)

Die Vergiftung is the first novel by Maria Lazar [German link]. [I am not aware of an English translation of the novel.]
Finished on: 12.11.2021

Ruth is 20 years old. She lives with her mother, her brother and her sister, but she doesn’t get along with any of them. Nor does she like their striving for the bourgeois ideals, or at least the appearance of those ideals. The only member of her family she relates to, at least a little, is her Uncle Gustav. Ruth herself just broke up with her older lover, a chemist, and is reeling, even more so when she realizes that her mother had an affair with the same man. With nobody to really turn to and feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere, Ruth drifts through encounters shaped by ambivalence.

Die Vergiftung is an excellent novel, a strong debut with evocative language in a lyrical style that makes sure you feel everything that Ruth is feeling. I was really impressed by it.

The dark blue book cover with the silhouette of a woman with a billowing skirt in a slightly lighter blue. The "I" in the book title is a syringe.
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Queer*Welten 01/2020

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. It contains four short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 14.2.2021

Queer*Welten fills a gap in the German SFF scene by having an explicitely queer-feminist mission. That in itself would be reason enough to support it any way you can. But fortunately it’s not all the magazine has to offer – it gives us a wide range of stories that probably has something to offer for everyone.

The magazine cover showing a colorful word cloud in the shape of an heart.
Read More About Each of the Stories

Engel des Vergessens [Angel of Oblivion] (Maja Haderlap)

Engel des Vergessens is a (autobiographical) novel by Maja Haderlap.
Finished on: 21.2.2020

A Slovenian farming family in Carinthia, Austria who pick up the pieces after World War II. The grandfather was a partisan fighter, the grandmother was interned in a concentration camp where many of their neighbors, friends and also family died. The father was himself a child at the time, but that didn’t save him from being drawn into the fighting. His daughter, still a child, is now trying to piece together her own family’s history, to understand what happened while the Nazis were in power – and also afterwards, tracing the many scars left from their regime.

Engel des Vergessens sheds light on a little discussed chapter of World War II in a highly personal way. Haderlap has a beautiful way with language and conjures an extremley vivid image of what it must have been like to grow up at the time and in that area of Austria.

The book cover showing the ladder from a chicken coop crossing in front of a barred window.
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Die verwechselten Töchter (Maria Anna Sager)

Die verwechselten Töchter [literally: The Exchanged Daughters] is an epistolary novel by Maria Anna Sager (also written as Maria Anna Sagar).
Finished on: 26.4.2019
[You can read it here in German.]

In a rather poor neighborhood, two girls are born at almost exactly the same time, and both are called Klara. Their mothers are fast friends, and the two girls grow up inseparable and often indistinguishable. When the mother of the older Klara is called away by circumstances to acquire a more affluent position, both Klaras remain with the mother of the younger Klara. When the older Klara’s mother calls for her daughter a few years later, the younger Klara’s mother hopes to find a better life for her daughter and sends the younger Klara in the older Klara’s stead – a decision that causes troubles for all of them.

Die verwechselten Töchter is an almost forgotten classic of Austrian literature, one of the first (epistolary) novels by a woman to be published at all in German. And it is still a very good read that I can absolutely recommend.

The book cover showing the mirrored silhouette of a woman with a fancy hairdo.
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Lisa’s Liebe (Marlene Streeruwitz)

Lisa’s Liebe (literally: Lisa’s Love, though the apostrophe in German is actually grammatically wrong) is a novel by Marlene Streeruwitz.
Finished on: 27.12.2018

Teacher Lisa hands the town doctor Adrian a love letter before she leaves for her mountain retreat where she spends the holidays. She has never exchanged a word with Adrian, but she now waits desperately for a reply as the holidays stretch out before her, remembering her past relationships and taking a long distance writing class.

Lisa’s Liebe is a photo novel that plays with a certain genre of kinda nationalistic, romantic fiction. It has a lot of layers and is probably most appreciated by looking at all those layers and not “just” reading it. But even if you opt for reading and not analyzing, it is definitely a very good, interesting book.

The book cover that shows the photo of a young girl in front of a mountain, emulating a certain type of nostalgic, romantic, nationalistic genre fiction.
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Leutnant Gustl (Arthur Schnitzler)

Leutnant Gustl is a novella by Arthur Schnitzler.
Finished on: 4.12.2018

Leutnant Gustl goes to a concert. At the coat check he meets an acquaintance, the baker Habetswallner. They get into a fight and Gustl is ready to draw his sword, but Habetswallner keeps him from doing it, telling him basically he is an immature little boy and walks away. Gustl can’t take this insult and the military honor codex demands that someone who has been insulted in such a way, has to commit suicide. Gustl decides to do so in the morning, passing through the night in thought.

Leutnant Gustl is the first German-language story written entirely as a stream-of-consciousness inner monologue. This can get a little exhausting, especially since Gustl is an ass (fortunately it’s only a novella), but it’s definitely worth sticking with it.

The book cover showing a pencil drawing of soldier, half lying in a chair.


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Elektra (Hugo von Hofmannsthal)

Elektra is a drama (later turned opera libretto) written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It’s based on Sophocles‘ play.
Finished on: 21.11.2018

After Agamemnon returned from the Trojan war, his wife Klytaemnestra and her lover Aegith killed him and took over power. Their children survived: Orest was hidden and raised to avenge his father’s death, Chrysothemis tried to keep her head down and just survive, and Elektra devoted her time to remembering her father and dreaming of revenge. But now it appears that Orest has died in his exile without being able to fulfill his duty and Elektra has to see what she can do about that.

Elektra is an interesting play, but one that isn’t easily read – I would like to see it performed to see if I would react differently to it. (I’m not sure if I would enjoy the opera version, though.)

The book cover showing an image of the author himself.
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Die Flut (Ulrike Schmitzer)

Die Flut is a novella by Ulrike Schmitzer. As far as I know, it hasn’t been translated, but the title means The Flood.
Finished on: 12.4.2018

Red mud has flooded the land, covering pretty much everything. Any human who touches it, turns black, as if coated in paint. Fearing an epidemic, that the blackness might spread, not knowing whether it has an effect apart from the change in looks, hard measures are being taken to control and quarantine the affected. In this situation, a farmer is looking for his grandson. And he has to hurry – not just because the situation becomes increasingly dangerous for everybody, but also because his skin has started to change and if anybody realizes that, he’ll be in big trouble.

Die Flut is a slim volume and gives us a taste of a very unusual worldbuilding and a generally interesting writer. It’s the first thing I read by Schmitzer, but I’ll be sure to check out what else she’s done.

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