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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides
Why no real cover?

Im Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides, John Chandagnac is forced to join a band of pirates after they captured his ship. From them, he learns about vodoun magic in the new world, and is drawn into the plotting of various vodoun magicians.

When it comes to magic in books, I like it to be subtle. The kind of magic where something apparently happened because of the magician’s work, but it could also have been pure luck. The magic in this book is not subtle. It tops out with two vodoun practitioners levitating above ships flinging fireballs at each other. Sadly, the remaining book did not really make up for this, either. The plots are not very convincing, the characters are the epitome of one-dimensional, and the role of the women is to be passive props for the protagonists to use in their plots. The main woman is allowed to speak I think four times in the whole book. While the 17th century is surely not the best time for a women, even the Sabatini pirate novels give them more independent thought.

Despite all of this, the storytelling is quite fluid and the book is quick to read.

All in all, I expected a pirate story with a magical flair, but was disappointed to find a bad story with some sailing ships in it. I have read worse books, but I’m not sure I’d read this again if I had the choice.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Lost Empire

Lost Empire
Why no real cover?

Clive Cussler's Lost Empire starts out with the millionaire treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo having a simple vacation in Tanzania. On a normal diving trip, they find an old artifact. Suddenly, special forces and a rich person in the background find great interest in them and their discovery. Sam and Remi are intrigued.

This, like other books by Clive Cussler I read before, is a prototypical adventure book for the boy in an adult. Treasure hunting, exotic places, five star hotels, underground caves, special forces, action scenes and historical detective research all combined into a fascinating story. At least if you don't mind history being changed from the real world. Also, I noticed in this book that the couple Sam and Remi is probably as close to an unsexist protagonist couple I have ever read about. While there are some sex-specific traits, like Sam being the science geek and Remi more into art and cultures, and Remi having a recurring preference for nice dresses and hot baths, they both are intelligent, have their fields of expertise, and act as equals in all regards. This is a refreshing change from the typical female sidekick in books that is just there to make the male protagonist look cooler.

All in all, I have to admit I'm simply biased. These kinds of books appeal to me immensely. If you like Indiana Jones style adventure stories and do not mind cliches and some historical inaccuracy, this is for you, too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Buchrezension: Tod am Zollhaus

Tod am Zollhaus
Warum kein richtiges Cover?

Tod am Zollhaus von Petra Oelker erzählt als erster Band ihrer Claes und Rosina-Reihe wie sich Claes und Rosina kennenlernen. Der Sekretär von Claes Hermanns, einem erfolgreichen Kaufmann, wird tot aufgefunden, direkt neben einem betrunkenen reisenden Komödianten. Der Fall scheint klar, aber Rosina, eine Freundin des Komödianten, sieht das anders und versucht die Wahrheit ans Licht zu bringen. Gleichzeitig widerfahren Claes und seinem Handelsunternehmen immer weitere Unglücke, so dass auch er nicht mehr an einen Zufall glaubt.

Zusätzlich zu einem guten Krimi schafft es Petra Oelker durch viele kleine Details ganz nebenbei das Hamburg des 18. Jahrhunderts aufleben zu lassen, so dass man sich beim lesen direkt in diese Zeit zurückversetzt fühlt. In Verbindung mit ihrer geradezu liebevollen Art ihre Hauptcharaktere menschlich und charmant zu beschreiben, besteht diese Reihe aus einigen der meiner Meinung nach besten historischen Krimis überhaupt.

Wer Kiminalgeschichten vor historischem Hintergrund mag, ist bei Petra Oelker perfekt aufgehoben.

Book Review: The Janus Stone

The Janus Stone
Why no real cover?

In The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths, some construction work uncovers a human skeleton without head. Forensic Archaeologist Ruth Galloway is called in to find out the details, and the skeleton turns out not to be ancient, but only about fifty years old. Ruth finds herself entangled in the uncovering of a decade-old crime.

The second part of the Ruth Galloway series, I am still very happy with the storytelling. A good mix of archaeological accuracy, classical whodunit crime novel, and a very likeable protagonist far from stereotypical heroines. My main grievance is a slight lack of care for good typesetting of the e-book, but I have seen worse. If I had to point out something to improve, it would be trying to avoid infodumps a bit more. Oh, and write in past tense. Present tense annoys me.

All in all, if you like crime novels and archaeology, this is exactly your kind of book.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Book Review: Snow Angels

Snow Angels
Why no real cover?

Snow Angels by James Thompson tells the story about a Somali actress murdered in a cruel way in the far north of Finland. Inspector Kari Vaara tries to solve the mysterious case, but the endless night of the arctic circle creates a depressive mood in which seemingly everyone has gone mad.

This is a pretty good crime story that gives the option for much guessing on who might have done it, and a number of plot twists. The main annoyance I had was the bad typesetting of the e-book and the present tense the book was written in. No idea who started this tendency, but more and more books I read have this problem. Other than that, it was a very good read, and contained quite a lot of interesting cultural information about Finland, one of the main reasons I read Finnish crime novels.

All in all, an average to good crime novel that works well as a book to read on the commute to work.