At a time when most of us were busy poring over integrals, exponentials and the odd geometrical figure in preparation for university entrance exams, mAt a time when most of us were busy poring over integrals, exponentials and the odd geometrical figure in preparation for university entrance exams, my best friend managed to come up with this absolutely amazing essay for English class. It detailed her plans for an exclusive little bookstore, that would cater to all our needs when it came to English books.
It's been more than 10 years since that fateful English class, but I can still picture the cosy mental imagery that her essay would bring to my mind. At the time, finding anything other than old-time classics (e.g. Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare etc.) in local bookstores, would generally require the assembly of the entire Fellowship of the Ring.
In the end, life took her towards a completely different profession, but I like to think that she still holds a soft spot in her heart for the exclusive little bookstore.
Mr. and Mrs. Hartlieb were brave enough to jump ahead into their dream. They left their comfortable life back in Hamburg, to move to Austria, and opened a little bookstore in Vienna. Well technically, they didn't even think they'd win the auction for it, but once they did, there was no turning back.
I've always figured that it was likely impossible to make a living from selling books. I mean, there are all these large bookstore chains, not to mention Amazon. But apparently, there were plenty of people who were happy about the little bookstore in their district.
That is not to say, that things weren't hard, what with a 16-year-old son still in Hamburg finishing his school year, finding a kindergarden for the 4-year-old daughter, obtaining the necessary loan from the bank, supervising the renovation of the old building into a bookstore and their home...
I wasn't really expecting to actually enjoy reading about construction work, being rushed off your feet trying to unpack daily orders, all the while being scared that your lack of expertise is going to be "outed" and that everything will come crashing down around you.
Score: 4/5 stars
This is basically a feel-good story about real-life dreams coming true, and still going strong 10 years later. While I'm not necessarily feeling like opening my own bookstore any time soon, I will definitely make time to look up the Hartlieb Bookstore, the next time I'm in Vienna.
Months after the traumatic events from the prequel, things are not exactly happy for the two protagonists. Zombie is deeply affected by his sister's death, coMonths after the traumatic events from the prequel, things are not exactly happy for the two protagonists. Zombie is deeply affected by his sister's death, constantly battling depression and suicidal thoughts. Eddie is yet again fighting her way through office misogyny, single parenting, and a surprising amount of mentoring for her younger neighbours. In any case, the two weren't expecting to meet again so soon, much less discover that their offsprings are actually BFFs.
Yet when Zombie once again finds himself in hot water, he immediately asks for Eddie's help in navigating the treacherous boundaries of (warranted) law breaking. You see, he's totally going to help with the investigation, even going so far as volunteering to go undercover in a shady detox center. But things need to happen on his terms which is to say, Eddie's boss is not only a first class misogynist, but also still carrying a grudge about Zombie's behavior from the previous book, and he'd sooner die, than give the ex-boxer a fair change.
When I started this series, the one thing I wasn't expecting was a good romance story. I'd always figured that the point of it all, was to have Eddie emerge victoriously after battling a hated job and single parenting. But after the teaser excerpt provided some serious hints of a romantic nature, I could barely wait to get my hands on it.
I don't remember having actually liked Zombie in the prequel, but in here I just wanted to hug his 6-foot-something hulking frame, and comfort him. Just the thought of rereading any of those overly mushy, scenes of him yearning for Eddie's affection, only to be confronted by the woman of his dreams wielding various sharp implements, just breaks my heart. Which, come to think of it, just goes to show that I'm one very sick human being.
Other than eagerly devouring every single romantic whiff between the two protagonists, I can't say I was too invested in the story. Most of the scenes where Eddie interacted with her neighbours felt like fillers, the murder mystery was just so boring with all the bureaucratic clues littering its every nook and cranny, and Eddie's career woes seemed just plain unrealistic. If only it were as easy as getting fed up with your boss' misogyny, to succeed at a job you dislike...
Score: 3.2/5 stars
Hm, now that I'm rereading my review, I'm getting some serious chicklit vibes, which can be both a good AND a bad thing.
It's good, because the novel reminds me a bit of Marian Keyes' books, that had always felt more feminist in nature, even if their happy ending still tended to end with the heroine finding a man. It's bad, or rather worrisome, because I was supposed to have left my chicklit craze firmly behind me; lingering obsession with Sue Margolis' books notwithstanding.
Long story short, I'm eagerly awaiting the 3rd book, scheduled for late October as of now (fingers crossed). Until then, here's the trailer of this book, wherein Zombie monologues about the general merits of suicide.
As delighted as I was with the news of this second book about the charming Viennese bookstore, I was also very very wary of it. First, the prequel had more or less enAs delighted as I was with the news of this second book about the charming Viennese bookstore, I was also very very wary of it. First, the prequel had more or less ended on the final note that 15 years later all was nice and fine, the bookstore still going strong. Second, my disappointing experience with Ein Winter in Wien made me wonder if Ms. Hartlieb was perhaps just a one-book-wonder author.
So after inquiring about its availability at my favorite bookstore, no one was more surprised when they got back to me by adding it to their catalogue. At this point it would've been churlish not to buy it, right?
Diving into the book right after the holidays, proved to be one of my better ideas. Not only was it a great way to extend the pre-Christmas shopping atmosphere, but it was such a comfort to see that even people who are 110% in love with their job, can resent them sometimes. Specifically once a year, for an entire month. Because let me tell you, the panic you may feel trying to hunt down a last-minute present in a bookstore is NOTHING compared to having to be the one to provide said present. For a hundred other people. Daily. During the entire month of December.
If the previous book was all about surviving the initial transition to the life of a bookstore owner, this one was all about staying afloat... in general. As cute and charming as it is during most of the year, "on the 24th of December [they]'re all dead". I wasn't even sure whether I should have laughed or cried at Ms. Hartlieb's honest confession, that while she was a decent mother 11 months out of the year, during the month of December her teenage daughter just had to contend with being on her own.
For all that a lot of the book may seem like a chronicle of the many ways in which a bookshop owner's life gets destroyed during the Christmas season, there are also plenty of inspiring little tidbits that still manage to lift up one's spirits... momentarily at least. My personal favorite: the unexpected birth of a best-seller:
The book is not one those overhyped bestsellers, but rather a quiet, somewhat meditative novel, that's difficult to sell. The story is virtually impossible to summarize, and if we tried to do so, no one would want to buy it.
When it was published during the summer, we sort of caught the bug from each other. One of us would read it, find the right words to describe it, then another few colleagues would read it, and they would also find it just as nice.
Then, after having started to recommend the book, the first few clients would come back, looking downright transfigured: "I want something like it again, exactly like it". They would buy it again, for a friend, and that's how you found yourself a new bestseller. One that no one had heard of before. Not a Ferrante, nor a Meyerhoff, or a Kehlmann, an unknown author from Berlin, who had invented a story about a small village from the Westerwald.
It's crazy, but it's precisely these books, these surprises, that make us love our job.
Score: 4.3/5 stars
Though I may daydream about the perfect job, where I'd get energized by a challenge rather than go through several stress-filled sleepless nights, Ms. Hartlieb has shown me that even the most perfect little bookstore has its nightmarish month once a year. Ironically enough, just when the world's supposedly at its most joyful.
Bielefeld is supposed to be a rather boring place, yet three unlikely friends end up bonding over a murder investigation. They were supposed to bond oBielefeld is supposed to be a rather boring place, yet three unlikely friends end up bonding over a murder investigation. They were supposed to bond over a stalker case, but circumstances push them towards an additional goal.
Nina is a cop on sabbatical, who's supposed to be lying on a sunny beach somewhere, but is forced to take care of her ailing mother. Officially, that is; the truth might not be the best thing to spring on her landlady. Eager to put some healthy distance between herself and her bipolar parent, she rents an apartment at the other end of the town.
Dorothee (aka Doro) all but jumps at the opportunity to rent one of her flats to a cop. Well, technically, she outright blackmails Nina into it, but let's not split hairs. Her beloved almost-daughter is in trouble, and she'll do everything in her power to fix things. Cue winning smile and tea drinking... or gin drinking, as the occasion may warrant.
All Yasemin wants is to live her life in peace: puttering around the neighbourhood store, occasionally cutting old ladies' hair, and maybe batting and eyelash or two at some single well-to-do gentleman. She really doesn't have the time to fit in a deranged stalker. Nor a dead body. But then, life is hardly ever accommodating.
This was a quick, easy, and fun read, starting right from the front page dedication.
For my brother Christian instead of a Porsche (sorry). For my Mother Gesine, one of the strongest women that I know. Papa, do people read up there?
... I might have gone a bit misty-eyed at the last one. Emphasis on "might".
I greatly appreciated the way that dialect speech was handled, which is one of my biggest obstacles in German books. Granted, I may have had to read some of the sentences twice, but I was nowhere near as annoyed to do it, as I would've been 3 years ago.
And, most of all, kudos for the narration style. While in most similar novels, the emphasis would fall on the murderer. Here, the story is unfolding between Nina's trials and tribulations during her daily life, and those of the (nameless) person tasked with the disposal of the dead body. And the resolution actually surprised me quite a bit.
... but, there was also quite a bit I was not too keen on. First and foremost, Nina herself. There is angry, and then there is Nina. The girl needs to take a calming breath before engaging with literally anyone... unless of course, she's asking for favors. Then, it's fine to just breeze through things, and spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about mixed signals.
German detectives who mix business and personal. Maybe the American detectives are too uptight about these things, but this is now the second book where a detective finds it OK to go on a date with a person involved in an ongoing investigation. One that he is personally overseeing in the first place! Unlike in Mordsfreunde though, at least Nina was not a suspect...
And finally, the part where I throw any and all political correctness out the window: yes Yasemin, you are actually kind of a floozy. Good for you for drawing the line at married men, but you're not as far from the dictionary definition of a sugar baby as you think.
Score: 3/5 stars
For all the faults that I've listed, I'm actually looking forward to a sequel. How will Nina and Tim's relationship evolve? How will Nina's professional life evolve? And most of all, are the three ladies going to open up a private detective agency? Much to the chagrin of the long-suffering detective Tim Brüggenthies, of course.
Oh, and I'm hoping to one day get to spend a relaxing holiday in Bielefeld. No need for any dead bodies.
Elisabeth and Adele Kohlbrenner have returned after 30 years to their dilapidated family home in the Black Forest. The smart move would be to sell eveElisabeth and Adele Kohlbrenner have returned after 30 years to their dilapidated family home in the Black Forest. The smart move would be to sell everything and move on. Their relatives are long dead, and their brother's reckless environment pollution is still a sore subject with the neighbours. Back in the day, both women had been quick to leave behind the boring countryside. But now...
Elisabeth has never married, content in being the other woman. And princess-like Adele, who was only supposed to stay for a weekend, is still there a few months on. Slowly but surely, the simple life is starting to sound more and more appealing to the sister.
[image] Convent's pond in Dachsberg
As a child, one of the most horrifying prospects with which you could threaten me, was a move to the country side. Every summer, my parents would drag me to their summer cottage in bumfuck nowhere, to be attacked by sweltering heat, mosquitos, not to mention the utter lack of civilization. Needless to say, I hated every minute of it, and will even now give anyone the stink eye, whenever a "trip to the woods" is so much as mentioned in passing.
Yet reading about the two sisters settling down in an even more remote country side, brave the freezing winter, and eventually become outright happy, had such a therapeutic effect over me.
Although the setting of the story is firmly placed in the Black Forest region, I couldn't help but picture the tiny holiday cabin from my childhood, with its four bunk beds, the loud gurgle of the nearby stream, and the endless greenery of its surroundings. And I saw all this without the slightest feeling of resentment, all thanks to the atmosphere in this novel.
I really loved how the sisters' past was skillfully interwoven in the story: bit by bit, as they encountered one hurdle after another in their quest for a new home. Even though the individual episodes would inevitably end on a bittersweet note, the overlying feeling I had, was still a sort of contentment. Which was probably what the author had intended, as Elisabeth herself mentions it at the end.
Score: 4.3/5 stars
I feel like this book requires a very specific state of mind in order to be enjoyable. Although I'm now feeling probably just as content as Elisabeth, I can't say I'm looking forward to reading another similar story any time soon.
Unlike other stories, with compelling settings, I'm not necessarily looking forward to a definitive move to the Black Forest region. I'm not against to taking a holiday in the countryside one of these days.
1870s Valladolid in Yucatan has been home to the Schneider sisters, Johanna and Kornelia, for over five years now. As Austrian immgirants, the family1870s Valladolid in Yucatan has been home to the Schneider sisters, Johanna and Kornelia, for over five years now. As Austrian immgirants, the family has more or less settled into a peaceful routine. Johanna, the practical older sister has the run of the family store and finances. Kornelia, the younger and prettier one, would much rather daydream of the latest fashion, and a future alongside her boyfriend, instead of braving the heat in the store.
Just when Kornelia was ready to expire of boredom, her and Johanna's life gets turned upside down by the arrogant Miguel Almaviva. Son of an influential noble, he decides to secure the pretty Austrian's affections for his friend, nearly shooting Johanna in the process for daring to oppose him.
Long story short, the two sisters end up experiencing everything from sudden heart-break, social opposition, and of course rather more excitement than they are both prepared for.
If you're into historical novels and action movies, this book will likely not disappoint. Armed with a unique (or at the very least unusual) setting, chock-full of nail-biting scenes, there will be plenty of dreamy and dirty places to explore in XIXth century Mexico. You get a glimpse of the flashy life of the rich and powerful, and travel fans get to add some Ancient Mayan ruins to their bucket list. Or so the author intended...
The end result however, leans much more into historical action-sequences, with the romance tacked on as a second thought. In order for me to be able to properly appreciate a romantic (sub)plot, I need to be able to care about the characters, preferably even sincerely root for one or the other.
I achieved the caring part well enough, thanks to the lack of Mary Sues and Gary Stus. Each and every one of the characters is deeply flawed, and for bonus points, the heroes come equipped with a welcome dash of positive attributes. - Johanna is practical, steadfast and responsible. - Kornelia is pretty, loyal and surprisingly dependable when it counts. - Maruch is just plain badass - Carlos is handsome, kind and ultimately very dependable - Henrietta is smart, carrying surprising reserves of determination
... and therein lies the problem. Although I did very much care about the fate of each and every character, none of them was particularly likable. It felt like the author had wanted to avoid cliches, so she overdid it with the character flaws instead.
Score: 3.3 / 5 stars
I'm still unsure how to rate it, due to the insufficient emotional connection to the characters. Sure, compared to Die Stadt der Regenfresser, a novel with similar setting and pacing, the characters are much more memorable. On the other hand, my attachment feels mostly logical, rather than emotional.
========================= Thanks to NetgalleyDE and Bookspot for providing the reviewer's copy, in exchange for an honest and fair review...more
The priest of the St. Lorenz Church has been killed in a rather bizarre manner (I will NEVER eat a bowl oTranslated into English as The Dark Monk
The priest of the St. Lorenz Church has been killed in a rather bizarre manner (I will NEVER eat a bowl of honeyed noodles again!), and the promising young doctor Simon Fronwieser is itching to get his hands on the mystery behind it. Beats having to listen to his father's constant disgruntled lectures, and watching the town folk slowly waste away of yet another mysterious fever.
So first things first, he calls on the Hangman for help, because Jakob Kuisl is a bear of a man! Which is an excellent attribute to have when you're unsure whether the murderer is still lurking around. In his usual tacit manner, the executioner gamely takes part in the proceedings, grumbling all the way about the idiocy of his (unlikely) future son-in-law's bumbling attempts to avoid getting killed.
[image] St. Michael's Basilica from Altenstadt, as it looks today.
The hangman's daughter Magdalena, for her part, is also interested in the mysterious death. I mean, she's interested in Simon's investigations to be precise, because her wayward beau is often caught staring googly-eyed at the late priest's beautiful sister.
On their way to deciphering the clues left by the Templar Knights, our heroes get to explore the underground crypts of the St. Lorenz Church in Altenstadt, look around the cemetery of the St. Michael's Basilica in Altenstadt, journey to the up-and-coming Abbey in Steingaden... and the executioner also finds some time to explore the hidden caves behind the Shleier waterfalls. More by necessity, than having actual time to spare.
[image] Schleier Waterfall
For the full list of places, check out the annexed travel guide at the end of the book. The author provides directions, along with ample descriptions of all the places mentioned. And let me tell you guys... am I tempted to go and see them for myself!
From a character development point of view, this book poked around in the executioner's past as a mercenary during the 30 year war, where the reader can find the root of his reluctance for his official job. Aside from all the public shunning, I mean.
[image] Wessobrunn Abbey as it looks today.
Magdalena's path gave me a really disturbing view into medieval society's view on women. Not only were they dis-considered on principle, but Heaven Forbid you were born to an executioner. You'd best hope you're Wonder Woman on steroids, or you might as well resign yourself to an early death. I lost count how many times the word "whore" has been bandied about, ironically enough precisely due to Magdalena's reluctance to act like one.
Simon on the other hand, was just awful. Not only did he constantly strut around town akin to a peacock, preening in the local girls admiring looks, but he also frequently yearns for anything foreign and rich. Which of course leads him to overlook some of the most obvious hints that he is being duped. He definitely didn't deserve the ending he got! Talk about getting off scott free: UGH!
[image] Tassilo lime tree,one of the hiding places for the clues.
Score: 3.3 /5 stars
Obviously there is only one DaVinci Code, and everything else is just second rate. Still, I cannot deny that I enjoyed following our heroes to various abbeys, churches and towns in search of clues. The well-written action scenes were also a nice addition. I wasn't too keen on the amount of religious jargon thrown my way, not that there was any alternative, given the subject matter.