Re-Read: Bitterblue (Kristin Cashore)

Bitterblue is the third Graceling Realm novel by Kristin Cashore.
Finished on: 9.7.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: gaslighting, abuse, rape, torture

Plot:
It’s been 8 years since the events in Graceling and that Bitterblue has become Queen of Monsea. But Monsea is still struggling with what Leck did to it and Bitterblue doesn’t have much idea of what is actually happening in her country. That is, until she decides one night to just slip outside the castle and head into town. The more she discovers, though, and the more questions she asks, the more secrets she seems to uncover.

When I first read Bitterblue, I was a bit disappointed by it. In the time since I had forgotten my initial disappointment and was able to approach Bitterblue with a fresh eye. And that fresh eye is much kinder. I liked the novel a lot on re-reading.

The book cover showing a keychain with three keys, gold, silver and copper respectively.
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Re-Read: Graceling (Kristin Cashore)

Graceling is the first Graceling Realm novel by Kristin Cashore.
Finished on: 30.1.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Katsa is Graced: she has a special and extreme talent. Unfortunately, her Grace is to kill. She has suffered her whole life for it, constantly pressuring herself to get herself under perfect control, while having to work as a common thug and contract killer for her uncle, King Randa. But Katsa sees the injustices in the kingdoms around her and decides that she can atone for her Grace by setting some things right. Therefore she forms a council that works for the people. When Katsa and the council rescue an old man who has been kidnapped and Katsa meets another Graceling, a fighter, she soon has to see that something is really very wrong in her world.

Last year, a new Graceling Realm novel finally came out and since it’s been practically a decade, I decided it would be time to give the series another go. And I’m happy to report that it’s still a wonderfully engaging read.

The book cover showing a woman with a sword over her shoulder in a barren, green-tinted landscape.
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Re-Read: Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy)

Dumplin’ is a novel by Julie Murphy.
Finished on: 30.9.2021
[Here’s my first review.] [Here’s the review of the movie adaptation.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia

Plot:
Willowdean, known by most people as Will, but always Dumplin’ to her mother, is a fat teenager who is actually rather comfortable with herself. She lives with her mother Rosie, a former beauty queen who is still very active in organizing the pageant. When Will starts working at a local fast food joint, she meets Bo who works there, too. He is a hot, private school jock – and he is also likeable and seems to be into Will. Will doesn’t know how to deal with that and finds herself doubting where she was always confident before. To give herself a confidence boost, she decides to compete in her mother’s pageant – horrifying her mother and inspiring some other girls who never thought they would to go for it, too.

I really enjoyed Dumplin’ the first time I read it, and I’m happy to report that it holds up very well to a second reading. It’s still sweet and fun, while touching on heavier topics, and Will is a great character.

the book cover showing a fat girl in a fancy, red dress with her arms spread wide.
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Re-Read: Tintenblut (Cornelia Funke)

Tintenblut, translated as Inkspell, is the second book in the Inkworld Trilogy by Cornelia Funke.
Finished on: 9.9.2021
[Here’s my review of the first book.]
[Here’s my first review of this book.]

Plot:
Dustfinger has finally found somebody who promises to read him back into his book – Orpheus. Orpheus keeps his promise, but also double-crosses him. So Farid stays behind and the book falls into the hand of Mortola and Basta. Farid knows he has to catch up with Dustfinger to warn him, so he returns to Meggie who lives with her parents Mo and Resa, as well as her aunt Elinor and the reader Darius in Elinor’s estate. When Farid tells her about Dustfinger returning, Meggie is dead-set on going to the Inkworld herself – together with Farid, of course. But she’s not the only one looking for a way in. And once in, the Inkworld is not without its own dangers.

Much like the first novel, Tintenblut is not the easiest read and it does take a while to get through it (and that’s not just because it’s a pretty long book). But I did like how Funke continues her world and her characters. I’m looking forward to the grand finale.

The book cover showing a mosaic of illustrated letters like at chapter beginnings. There's also twi figures under a tree at night, a portrait of a lady, the toers of a castle, a bird sitting on an open book, and a few figures around an open fire in the forest.
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Re-Read: Tintenherz (Cornelia Funke)

Tintenherz, translated as Inkheart, is the first novel of the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke.
Finished on: 26.7.2021
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Meggie and her bookbinder father Mo have always lived rather withdrawn lives surrounded by books. When a stranger shows up on their doorstep one night and introduces himself as Dustfinger, it’s clear that he is actually an old acquaintance of Mo’s. He warns of Capricorn and his men who are coming for Mo, and the very next day, Meggie and Mo pack their stuff and head towards her greataunt Elinor, Dustfinger in tow. Elinor lives even more withdrawn and with even more books. But danger follows them even there because there is something that Mo can do and that Capricorn desperately needs.

Tintenherz is a book for people, especially kids, who really do love books and reading. Not just because of the contents of the book, but also because it’s not a quick read and you need some patience to read it. But I think it pays off.

The book cover showing a mosaic of illustrated letters like at chapter beginnings. There's also a castle, shadowy figures in front of a fire, an open book and a weasel standing on a book.
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Re-Read: iD (Madeline Ashby)

iD is the second Machine Dynasty novel by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 26.3.2021
[Here is my first review.]
[Here is my review of the first Machine Dynasty novel.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Javier should be happy, living on Amy’s island with Amy and his sons. But somehow he is still ill at ease, especially since Amy refuses to disengage his failsafe, leaving him vulnerable to humans still. And then just that is used against him and makes his entire world falls apart, leaving Javier to try and pick up the pieces of their lives.

iD really delves into the consent issues that were already raised in the first novel and considers them from every angle. It’s thoughtful and interesting, but it’s also simply a good read, even if there were a couple of transition issues.

The book cover showing the face of a man surrounded by black shards and machinery.
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Re-Read: vN (Madeline Ashby)

vN is the first novel in the Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 6.3.2021
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: child abuse, pedophilia

Plot:
Amy is a von Neumann machine who lives with her (human) father and her (vN) mother. She’s growing up slowly – which is unusual for vNs – and very sheltered. That is until her (vN) grandmother Portia shows up for her kindergarden graduation and attacks not only a kindergardener (which should be impossible due to the failsafe that immediately destroys vNs when they see a human hurt), but also Amy’s mother. In her desperation, Amy eats Portia and then she finds herself on the run, suddenly grown up and with Portia on a partition of her harddrive.

I read vN for the first time pretty soon after it came out and loved it. I read the second part iD not long after that, and then I had to wait for the third part to come out. And it finally did (7 years later), so I decided to revisit the first two books before completing the story. And I’m happy to report that the books still holds up.

The book cover showing a woman's worried face surrounded by machinery. A part of her skin is missing, beneath it we can see more metal.
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Re-Read: The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)

The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. I read the German translation (Der Meister und Margarita) by Thomas Reschke.
Finished on: 5.2.2020
[Here’s my last review.]

Plot:
Moscow, 1930. The writers Berlioz and Besdomny are in the middle of a discussion about the existence, or better yet actual non-existence of Jesus, when they are interrupted by a stranger who tells them a story of how he was present during Pontius Pilate’s trial of Jesus. Then the stranger goes on to predict Berlioz rather gruesome death, which promptly happens. Turns out, said stranger is actually the devil. In the guise of the black magician Voland, he and his associates came to wreak havoc in Moscow.

This is actually the third time I read Master and Margarita, and it’s probably the time it worked best for me. But I’d still say, it’s far from being a favorite of mine and it will probably really have been the last time I read it. (Why did I read it three times ? Well, the first time I was too young, so I wanted to read it a second time to really get it. And the third time now was for a Soviet lit class at uni.)

The book cover showing the shadowy profile of a cat.
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Re-Read: The Spellman Files (Lisa Lutz)

The Spellman Files is the first novel in the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz.
Finished on: 31.12.2019
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
After a rough youth, Izzy Spellman has found her perfect job, her calling: she’s a private investigator to her very core. The only drawback is that it’s the family business. Her parents are private investigators. Her little sister Rae is only fourteen but already training very hard to be one. Only her brother chose a different way to go: he became a lawyer – and a perfectly law-abiding one at that. But when Izzy’s parents set Rae to spy on Izzy (to find out the identity of her new boyfriend), Izzy has had it with the other Spellmans and she leaves the agency and her home. But when Rae goes missing, she can’t stay away anymore.

The Spellman Files were a pleasant surprise discovery for me and when I learned that it was actually the first novel in a series, it was an even better surprise. But it took me a while to get the other books in the series, so I decided to re-read the first one before getting around to the others. And even on the second go-through, it’s the perfect holiday read in the absolute best way.

The book cover showing a stylized detective with a  magnifying glass.
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Re-Read: Good Omens (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Finished on: 28.6.2019
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: racism, sexism

Plot:
The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley have spent a lot of time on earth, doing their respective duties and have got pretty comfortable here. So when the news reaches them that the Antichrist is about to be born and the apocalypse is drawing closer, they are not really happy about it. But Crowley sets things in motion, as they are supposed to be set in motion, though coincidence seems to have a hand in it as well. But it has all been predicted by Agnes Nutter, a witch who died a while back, but still has an heir in Anathema Device who keeps up the family tradition. While the Horsemen of the Apocalypse start to gather, it turns out that the boy everybody thought was the Antichrist was actually switched at birth and nobody really knows where the Antichrist really is.

It doesn’t feel that long that I read the book, but I had forgotten a lot about it. But in this case that is absolutely great because it meant I could enjoy much of it as if I actually read it for the first time. And there is certainly a lot to enjoy.

The book cover showing a child with spread arms below a dark and a light figure, drawn in a style that is slightly reminiscent of old religious drawings.
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