Witch King by Martha Wells (Book/ARC Review)

Witch King by Martha Wells

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Tor Publishing
Page Count
: 432
Release Date: May 30, 2023

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: war, violence, death, slight body horror, torture, confinement

I, like many others, am a fan of Martha Wells because of her wildly popular novella-series the Murderbot Diaries. She always manages to create multi-faceted characters within a rich world-setting that you just want to know more about, so I was really excited to check out her latest Fantasy release – Witch King.

The book started out with such a BANG! There was action, the promise of intricate relationships and a hint at betrayal in the past. I was ready to jump in, but the longer the story went on, the less I found myself invested in the plot. To me, it felt like we were introduced to Game of Thrones-level political scheming, but without the necessary time to really get acquainted to the world and understand the mechanics and connections. Granted, there is a list of notable characters provided at the very beginning of the book, but I still struggled a bit with distinguishing the territories and abilities/power people held.

Told in the Past and the Present, I appreciated the many parallels that could be drawn between current events and what had already transpired. Sometimes certain chapter endings were meant to lead you astray and make you doubt characters, which I thought was a fun element of the dual timeline, but it didn’t always work out perfectly. Certain reveals just didn’t hit right, because we e.g. already knew what someone was capable of in the present.
Also, the final reveal was just not shocking or as satisfying as I would have hoped with the build up. The “betrayal” had been built up the entire time, just to not feel as weighty and personal as I had expected.

What I will absolutely give credit to is the found family aspect of the story and the lovable characters. I almost wished we just got more scenes of them hanging out and interacting rather than chases around the world in search of items and people alike. They had such fun dynamics and I would have loved to see even more of the initial “getting to know”-stages of their relationships.
The way the characters were portrayed also really normalized different gender and queer identities and I enjoyed that aspect quite a bit.

Fazit: 3.25/5 stars! An interesting world that unfortunately didn’t quite light the spark in me.

Are you going to read or have you read Witch King? Did you read other books by Martha Wells? Let’s chat!

The Only Purple House in Town by Ann Aguirre (ARC/Book Review)

The Only Purple House in Town by Ann Aguirre

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": SOURCEBOOKS Casablanca
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: July 11, 2023

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: family disputes, prejudice, hate groups, mention of dead parents and bullying

The Only Purple House in Town is the fourth book in the “Fix-It Witches”-series, although I didn’t know that diving in. So, let my review be a testimony to the fact that you can read this novel without having read the previous books. You might miss some cameos from former (lead) characters (which there are quite a few) or take some getting used to the world the characters inhabit. It didn’t take me too long to find my bearings, but without prior knowledge on the magic and in-world developments, I found the synopsis for the book to be a bit misleading.

In the realm of The Only Purple House in Town, we can exhibit a world quite similar to ours. This isn’t high fantasy after all. However, witches have decided to out themselves and they aren’t the only supernatural beings – shape shifters, vampires, fae and the like all exist as well. I wasn’t fully prepared for that kind of mayhem, if I’m being completely honest. I did love that it lead to a beautiful found family trope, which was my favorite part of the story.

Although the tale is mostly told from Iris and Eli’s perspectives, it was their housemates and the side characters that made the story come to life. I also enjoyed the wide variety of queer representation that just felt very naturally ingrained in it all. Seeing those people be in a bind and find a place they not only feel welcome and safe in, but actually at home at was great and heart-warming.

Speaking of matters of the heart, that’s what I had some quarrels with – the love story between Iris and Eli! I just can’t get over the fact that Eli had basically stalked Iris since he was 11 years old, because she did something nice for him once. I get that it was a big deal for him and most of his actions throughout the novel are well intentioned, but that doesn’t change the facts. And fact is, Eli dedicated a lot of his free time thinking about Iris, looking her up on social media, deceiving her and moving in with her, all the while she had no idea they had even met prior to their roommate interview. It’s not a good look and I don’t really get how fast Iris did a 180 and just brushed it off as “well, I’m not perfect either”. Let’s not make stalking okay, just because the guy is nice in the end, alright?

Over all, The Only Purple House in Town was an easy, fast and (for the most part) sweet read. A lot of the relationships are fairly cut and dry and there could have been a bit more nuance for the villains (they really were just mean/evil). Again, I much preferred the friendships to the romance, but that’s just because of Eli’s actions.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Found family will always hit the sweet spot for me.

Have you read any of the “Fix-it Witches”-books? Do you plan to? Let’s chat!

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (ARC/Book Review)

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Penguin UK
Page Count
: 240
Release Date: May 11, 2023

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: depression, racial profiling, police brutality, grief, death of a loved one

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut Open Water was one of my favorite bookish discoveries last year and my appreciation for his writing has only grown after reading his sophomore novel. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Small Worlds hit me even harder and has cemented him as an auto-buy author for me. 

Dealing with music and family, love and loss, Small Worlds follows Stephen through various life stages in three consecutive summers. While we still get the author’s signature second person POV in parts of the novel, most of it is written in first person and brings us all the closer to Stephen’s world of emotions. As always, the poetic prose is just so beautiful to read, but at the same time there was an added element of repetition that really served to highlight how cyclical life can be. It also makes you feel everything tenfold – Caleb Azumah Nelson never fails to make his characters’ experiences feel authentic and relatable, be it joy and laughter or pain and sorrow. It is the balance of all these elements – and the way they intertwine – that makes Small Worlds work so well.

I especially enjoyed the focus on family in this one. Family is a complicated beast and Small Worlds truly showed every facet of that. I liked the way sibling-, parental- and mother/son or father/son relationships were depicted. It felt so nuanced, layered and steeped in generational history.

I gaze at my parents, and see that a world can be two people, occupying a space where they don’t have to explain. Where they can feel beautiful. Where they might feel free.

Tender, vulnerable and refreshingly open, I always enjoy Caleb Azumah Nelson’s portrayal of Black culture (in the UK). This one felt special in particular to the many music references, which gave it an extra spark of life. Truly, everything this man writes is just a big recommendation from me!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! No notes – this was a stunning book!

Rating: 5 stars

Previous reviews of Caleb Azumah Nelson’s work:

Do you plan on reading Small Worlds? Have you read the author’s debut? Let’s chat!

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee (ARC Review)

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Astra Publishing House
Page Count
: 272
Release Date: October 17, 2023

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: depression, suicide, poverty, death of loved ones, emotional abuse

I’m pretty sure I heard about Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind via Twitter. It didn’t have a cover yet – and I can’t say that this is the cover I pictured for it – but I immediately added it to my TBR and jumped at the chance of reading an advance copy. So, I’m grateful for that opportunity.

From the beginning, the narrator’s voice is quirky and presents Jonathan Abernathy with all his lovable traits and flaws to us. Abernathy is quite the indecisive and passive character, an anxious yet optimistic people-pleaser on top of that. All of which makes sense considering his history, while simultaneously making him quite infuriating at times. Possibly that is why I found it hard to connect with him and the other characters. Or, maybe, it’s because we were being told so much of what was happening.
Don’t get me wrong, some stories need you to tell instead of show things. I totally get that, but here I felt we were told everything – even the things that didn’t end up happening.

Regardless of how much I actually connected with the characters, I thought that the concept was really fascinating. As a vivid dreamer myself, I loved exploring other peoples dreams and what taking them away meant for them. Even if all of this is fiction, I can see some truth behind it. Add the hard-hitting realities of poverty and capitalism, and you have quite the mix. I definitely mean it as a compliment when I say that I got Black Mirror and Severance vibes while reading the novel, albeit Abernathy tried to keep it more upbeat.

In the end, I found the story and its themes really interesting. It was a quick read that muddled reality and dreams in the later stages, offering a hard-hitting resolution. I wish I had connected with it a bit more, but I still think it offers a lot of food for thought. Maybe I’ll even dream about it …

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Interesting for sure!

Have you heard about Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind before? I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a book so early on … Anyway, the official April wrap-up is coming tomorrow. Stay tuned!

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Se-hee (Book Review)

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Bloomsbury UK
Page Count
: 209
Translator: Anton Hur
Release Date: June 20, 2018

CW: depression, mental health issues, body shaming

When I saw this book – a very colorful hardcover with a quirky illustration – in the store, I thought it sounded like it could potentially be heavy, but I also knew I had to have it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I regret buying this book, but I do think that the cover led me astray a little bit.

Let me start by saying that this is non-fiction. Everything in book is either a transcript from a therapy session the author had or a summary of their thoughts on certain themes. I understand that this is deeply personal and don’t feel like I can judge the content all that well. However, there were a few components that I struggled with and that I would like to convey to you:

  • I’m not sure if it’s the English translation or because the content was shortened, but the conversations between the author and her therapist felt incredibly stilted. I couldn’t imagine people actually talking like this in sessions, making fairly big generalizations and barely ever digging deep.
  • Speaking of the therapist – they gave a diagnosis after like three sentences exchanged and I didn’t find that particularly professional. I, personally, consider it a bit of a red flag when someone tries to diagnose you after not even a whole session – and does so with certainty and authority – but again, I’m not sure how much of the actual conversations was cut.
  • The book was marketed as part memoir and part self-help-book and I don’t really think it was either. Again, I want to point out that this was a very personal book, I’m sure, and that there might be some cultural differences that I don’t fully understand, but it all just felt a bit … adrift. There was no real direction and I didn’t feel like the author received actual guidance or coping mechanisms that could potentially help them or others.

As someone who can understand anxiety and wanting to please people etc. I thought that I would find this book more relatable, but only parts of it really resonated with me. I can still see it benefiting others, but it wasn’t a good fit for me. If this helped you and you feel comfortable talking about it, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Unfortunately, not a hit with me.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Have you read this book? Do you plan to? What is a non-fiction book you’ve picked up lately?

You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry (Book Review)

you and me on vacation by emily henry

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Penguin UK
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: May 11, 2021

CW: sexual content, death of parent, grief, mention of bullying

Look at me go, I finally read an Emily Henry novel! While some of you are probably familiar with the title “You and Me on Vacation“, others might now the same book by the name “People We Meet on Vacation“. I, personally, don’t know why they didn’t stick to the same title in all territories, but I prefer the UK one, since it feels more fitting for the story (and it’s the one I read).

Mixed between present tense and past, we get to experience Alex and Poppy’s relationship and how they went from friends to strangers and back again with some added romance. I love a good friends to lovers story and I also – not so secretly – enjoy when people are a bit too silly to realize they’ve been in love all along. Basically, there’s mutual pining for no other reason than these people not communicating well. Their feelings felt authentic and I definitely understood why they were so drawn to each other.

Like, I really understood their connection and enjoyed these seemingly mundane interactions. They were two deeply lonely people, who didn’t realize they were lonely until they met each other and just … clicked. It’s a beautiful thing to find someone you can be so unabashedly yourself with.

“I wish I could bottle this moment and wear it as a perfume. It would always be with me. Everywhere I went, he’d be there too, and so I’d always feel like myself.”

What I had some issues with was the main conflict. They really were propping up that fall out from two years ago and it takes a very long time until you find out what actually happened and it’s … so dumb. I, to this day, can’t believe they stopped talking over this. It feels weird that that was the “breaking point” of sorts and it felt disproportionate to other things that have happened.
The thing is, their issues were valid and real. They had to work on themselves in order to work together again, but the last minute therapy sessions and confession were rushed and odd. I was rooting for them for most of the book, but would have wished for a differently structured third act. It’s always the darn third act! *shakes fist at the sky*

“And that’s how it is in real life too. You can love someone and still know the future you’d have with them wouldn’t work for you, or for them, or maybe even for both of you.”

Anyway, I had fun reading You and Me on Vacation, just not the most fun ever. It did make me want to go on vacation though.

Fazit: 3.75/5 stars! It was good, but it could have been better.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Now, here’s a little insight as to why I actually picked up the book. You know me, you’ve probably been here for a while, and I simply cannot resist a book to screen adaptation that might include an actor I love.

Well, rumor has it that Calahan Skogman – also known as Matthias Helvar from the Netflix adaptation of Shadow & Bonemight play Alex. I don’t think he necessarily looks like people imagined the character, but I could 100% see him embody Alex. It’s mentioned like so many times how fit and tall Alex is and Cal is that for sure. Add to that Midwestern charm and that kind of quiet but secretly weird personality, he got this.

I’m not quite sure how people honed in on him potentially being Alex, but Emily Henry and Calahan certainly follow each other on instagram and have interacted a lot. Now … I definitely wouldn’t be mad if Danielle Galligan were to play Poppy either, but that’s probably wishful thinking on my part. Do you have thoughts on the potential casting?

Have you read this book? Are there other Emily Henry romances I should check out? Let’s talk!

The Lovelight Series – and why it is so endearing!

It’s almost the end of March and I just figured I had to attempt at least one somewhat creative post. While I talk about TV shows and movies aplenty on here, books sometimes take a backseat, although that was never intentional. So, why not shine a light (no pun intended) on the Lovelight series? After a friend of mine posted their fancasting of some of the characters and there just happened to be an actor I really love mentioned for one of them, I could no longer resist and had to pick them up myself – no regrets!

What is the Lovelight series about?

Set at Lovelight farms, a Christmas tree farm in a lovely small town, the series follows different characters on their journey to finding love. While the individual love stories are completed each time, you still have that interconnectedness that comes with reoccurring characters and that warm fuzzy feeling that found family tropes give me.
Most of the stories feature miscommunication (which is usually a pet peeve of mine, but done so well here), idiots in love (as in everyone can see they’re meant to be except for them) and a whole bunch of meddling townsfolk. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, I will go into some tropes for each of the novels next!

What are the tropes/themes for each book?

Lovelight Farms – Lovelight #1

  • Fake Dating
  • Best Friends to Lovers
  • All the Christmas vibes
  • Complex family dynamics
  • Loss of a parent
  • Chaotic vs. organized personality

In the Weeds – Lovelight #2

  • One night stand turned slow burn
  • Can Beckett adopt any more animals?
  • Gentle giant/fierce girlboss dynamic
  • Grand romantic gesture
  • She’s the only one that can make the noise stop
  • Protective big brother vibes

Mixed Signals – Lovelight #3

  • All the baked goods!
  • Fake dating (again!)
  • Long time crush
  • Learning that one deserves to be loved
  • Actual nice guy

Now, why are the books so endearing?

While I definitely have a favorite ranking of the books (the order they were released in) and a favorite character (Beckett from In the Weeds – 100%), all of the books left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling I mentioned earlier.

You get to know these characters and spend time with them. They accompany you through more than just the first book and you see them thrive moving forward. I would say that the Lovelight series is a low-stakes romance series, which I absolutely see as a good thing. While there’s miscommunication and misunderstandings, nothing feels blown completely out of proportion, because the characters are so well developed. Also, the third act conflict is usually resolved fairly quickly, which I appreciated SO MUCH!

While the first book was in single POV, Borison later moved to double POV to show both sides of the coin. But it’s not just about the leads of each individual novel and instead the town as a whole. You get this sense of community and almost want to pack a bag and move there to find happiness yourself. It evoked that same kind of welcoming charm that fictional towns like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls and the like have produced in the past.

Favorite Quotes

“It’s hard to love someone without restraint. To give yourself over to the swell and pull of it without fear of what might happen. I think it’s only natural to hold a part of yourself back and protect what you can.”

B.K. Borison, Lovelight Farms

“It’s okay if it takes you some time to find it again. And it’s okay if you find it just to lose a bit of it here and there. That’s the beauty of it, yeah? It comes and goes. Not every day is a happy one and it shouldn’t be. It’s in the trying, I think.”

B.K. Borison, In the Weeds

“I’m starting to think I made a mistake. When I taught you how to love. If you think love means having to sacrifice bits of yourself to make someone else happy. If you are afraid to ask after what you want. Maybe I did something wrong.”

B.K. Borison, In the Weeds

“Why can’t I find a single human being that I connect with? My standards are not impossible. I want someone who makes me laugh. Who cares about what I do and what I say and what I think. I want to sit on the couch with someone in blissful, perfect, comfortable silence—pizza on the coffee table and my feet tucked under their thigh. I want someone to hand me the recipe section of the local paper while they read the headlines. I want to share all of my small, silly, silent moments. I want someone to give me butterflies.”

B.K. Borison, Mixed Signals

Overall Rating

I’ve really enjoyed the series and IT IS NOT DONE YET! The next book will release early 2024, if I’m not completely off, and I might just pick it up as well.

Each book had a different spice level and pairing, but provided almost equal comfort. I can appreciate that!

To me, the series thus far deserves a 4 star rating at the least.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Have you read the Lovelight series? Do you plan to? Do you have a favorite character as well? Let’s chat!

Brother by David Chariandy (Book Review + Movie Trailer)

Brother by David Chariandy

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Bloomsbury
Page Count
: 194
Release Date: September 26, 2017

CW: racism, police brutality, gun violence, death, grief, homophobia

Just a couple weeks ago, I posted about how all my favorite books are about grief and loss (check it out here, in case you missed it), so it should come as little surprise that I was drawn to Brother by David Chariandy like a magnet. I had seen the below trailer and just knew that I NEEDED to read this immediately.

Brother is one of those quiet but impacting books. It wins you over with descriptions of daily life, slowly building up to the devestation you are bound to face all the while accompanied by the inner turmoil of the narrator. Most stories about grief are that way, I think. Slow, deliberate, but crushing.

Experiencing loss is such an intimate thing and can look so different for everyone. Some people can’t let go and there’s a question in there somewhere of whether they should. Grief, for many, feels like something to wallow in alone, but can also be a beautiful, albeit sad, forger of bonds. Switching between past and present, I often found myself tearing up the most at the moments about the people that remained. I can’t quite put into words why that need for community in our direst moments was so hard hitting, but it speaks to something deep inside me.

If I could change one thing about the book, it’s that I’d probably add one more chapter. It doesn’t necessarily need it, but I would like to have it for personal closure.

I think this story, despite being set a couple decades ago in Canada, is unfortunately still very timely and something many people are confronted with. I also believe that it will translate powerfully on screen.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Grief books and I just work.



Now, if you didn’t believe what I had to say above, you just watch that trailer and tell me this story won’t rip your heart out. I already recognized so many scenes from the book in the brief sequences we got to see here. The fact that Lamar Johnson, who just delivered another heartbreaking performance as someone’s brother on The Last of Us, is just the cherry on top. I will be seated when the movie releases later this year!

Did you read Brother or do you think you might want to check out the book/movie in the future? Let’s chat!

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan (Book Review)

Cover for the Buried and the Bound

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Roaring Brook Press
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: January 24, 2023

CW: death, emotional and physical abuse, suicidal thoughts, homophobia, mentions of blood

I was intrigued by The Buried and the Bound because 1. I’m making this the year of reading more Fantasy again and this even has fae in it and 2. because of this absolutely spellbinding cover art. You really can trick me that easily; I’m a sucker for pretty covers that much. (But, it also turned out that me being fascinated with the cover helped me deduce some stuff in the story later on and that was neat.)

Told from three different POVs – those of Aziza, Leo and Tristan – I will admit that it took me a moment to get into the book. It’s something I regularly struggle with when it comes to multiple POVs, simply because it takes more chapters/pages to get to know the characters and thus invested in their fates. But wow, once I’ve crossed that hurdle, I did not want to stop reading. 

Each character is presented with plenty of flaws and equal lovable quirks. It soon became clear to me how certain plotlines were going to be interwoven and I was ridiculously proud of myself for guessing several “plot twists” early on. Regardless, the story never felt predictable, but instead you wanted to know how the trio would face what would inevitably be thrown their way. There wasn’t a single one I wasn’t rooting for.

I don’t want to give away too much, so I’m keeping this short, but I loved this approach to magic and the fae realm. I also LOVED that the book set up several storylines that could be explored in future installments of this new series, but didn’t leave you hanging on any sort of cliffhanger. You somehow felt satisfied and sated, but wanted more at the same time! That’s honestly the best way a book can leave you and I will gladly be seated for more books by Rochelle Hassan.

Lastly, I have to give a shoutout to Kal @Reader Voracious, because it was due to her tweet that I found out about the book and immediately got a copy. You can find her review here.

Fazit: 4.25/5 stars! Great start to a new YA fantasy series!

Have you heard about this new book series? Do you plan on reading it? Let’s chat!

Mini Reviews: Alone With You in the Ether, Stella

Mini Reviews

We’re nearing the end of 2022 and I still have a couple books that I need to read in order to reach my book count goal (we can forget about the page count goal …). So, I didn’t really think it was necessary to do separate reviews for the following books and hope you enjoy their mini versions.

*links to Goodreads and Storygraph will be provided after the ratings!*

Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake

Alone with You in the Ether by Olivie BlakePublisher description:
Two people meet in the Art Institute by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist, undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. By the end of the story, these things will still be true. But this is not a story about endings.
For Regan, people are predictable and tedious, including and perhaps especially herself. She copes with the dreariness of existence by living impulsively, imagining a new, alternate timeline being created in the wake of every rash decision.
To Aldo, the world feels disturbingly chaotic. He gets through his days by erecting a wall of routine: a backbeat of rules and formulas that keep him going. Without them, the entire framework of his existence would collapse.
For Regan and Aldo, life has been a matter of resigning themselves to the blueprints of inevitability—until the two meet. Could six conversations with a stranger be the variable that shakes up the entire simulation?

My Thoughts:

I’ve read three (four if we’re counting her YA story under a different name) books by Olivie Blake this year and only one of those was a reread. She was so excited to have her stories published traditionally, some with more edits than others to her previous versions, I was so hyped to get them straight on release day each time. Which is why I felt all the sadder when I didn’t initially vibe with Alone With You in the Ether at first.

While Blake definitely has a way with words, I struggled at the beginning. It took me a while to connect with the characters and I found it much easier once they had actually met each other. Starting from that moment, I could see the usual banter, the intricate psycho-analysis and peeling away of layers as well as tearing down of emotional walls. Those are the things I know, love and expect in an Olivie Blake book. Still, she chose to play with her writing in this one and I found the inconsistent style choices weren’t exactly for me.

“Can you love my brain even when it is small? When it is malevolent? When it is violent? Can you love it even when it does not love me?”

I know that this was a deeply personal story for the author and one she longed to tell. The characters both had mental health struggles and unique ways of perceiving the world, which I feel like that was something that was mirrored in the way the different parts of the story were written. So, it fitted the characters and their minds, but unfortunately not always my own. That’s all I’m going to say in terms of the mental health representation, just because I don’t have any personal experience and don’t want to speak on a matter I’m not informed enough on.

This might also make me sound like a hypocrite, because I would absolutely love for my partner to be my best friend, lover and confidant, but something about Aldo and Regan’s relationship sometimes just felt like … too much? I was worried for them and that’s not what you want in a romance – no matter how unconventional it might be. That’s not to say that there weren’t some truly beautiful moments of genuine connection, but I’m still not entirely convinced that their relationship is healthy.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! This won’t ever be my favorite Olivie Blake book, but it had some good moments.

Goodreads | Storygraph

Stella by Takis Würger

Stella by Takis WürgerPublisher description:
In 1942, Friedrich, an even-keeled but unworldly young man, arrives in Berlin from bucolic Switzerland with dreams of becoming an artist. At a life drawing class, he is hypnotized by the beautiful model, Kristin, who soon becomes his energetic yet enigmatic guide to the bustling and cosmopolitan city. Kristin teaches the naïve Friedrich how to take care of himself in a city filled with danger, and brings him to an underground jazz club where they drink cognac, dance, and kiss. The war feels far away to Friedrich as he falls in love with Kristin, the pair cocooned inside their palatial rooms at the Grand Hotel, where even Champagne and fresh fruit can be obtained thanks to the black market. But as the months pass, the mood in the city darkens yet further, with the Nazi Party tightening their hold on everyday life of all Berliners, terrorizing anyone who might be disloyal to the Reich. Kristin’s loyalties are unclear, and she is not everything she seems, as his realizes when one frightening day she comes back to Friedrich’s hotel suite in tears, battered and bruised. She tells him an astonishing secret: that her real name is Stella, and that she is Jewish, passing for Aryan. Fritz comforts her, but he soon realizes that Stella’s control of the situation is rapidly slipping out of her grasp, and that the Gestapo have an impossible power over her.
As Friedrich confronts Stella’s unimaginable choices, he finds himself woefully unprepared for the history he is living through. Based in part on a real historical character, Stella sets a tortured love story against the backdrop of wartime Berlin, and powerfully explores questions of naiveté, young love, betrayal, and the horrors of history.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to read more books in German this year and this was my feeble last minute attempt at doing just that. I was surprised that I flew through this book, making it one of the quickest German reads in a long time, even though the subject matter is quite literally WWII and the atrocities committed during that time.

Back in 2019, when this book was first published, it was just about everywhere and sparked quite a lot of discussions. Since Stella is in part based on historic facts (such as the title character, Stella) and part fiction (such as the lead character from who’s POV we’re reading the story), I understand the criticism the book is facing after I’ve now read it myself.
I know that a lot of people were bystanders in the war, their silence and passivity making them complicit in what happened. A larger portion of the population would probably fall under that category than the usual heroes and rebels that stories tend to be about. It’s one thing to tell the story of a citizen who was compliant with the regime for whatever reason and a totally different one to bring and outsider into this, who decides to go to Berlin in the midst of war to “learn how to draw”.

Friedrich was one of the most infuriating characters I have ever come across. He is passive, privileged and naive beyond reason. Everyone tells him that people are being murdered for being different in Germany and he wants to go see it for himself and experience a bit of music and art while he’s at it. Even though we get a lot of (quite horrible) historic facts at the start of each chapter and aren’t spared some truly gruesome moments in the story itself, they don’t seem to affect Friedrich in the way that they should. All he cares about is the woman he loves, despite us never understanding that supposedly deep and unwavering connection.

A story from the point of view of Stella, no matter whether you agree with her choices or not, would have been fascinating and an interesting historical study. Telling the tale of a lovesick puppy, who ignores literally every warning he is given in life, feels useless and disappointing.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! This was told through the wrong lens in my eyes.

Goodreads | Storygraph

Have you read either of those books? Do you plan to? Let’s chat!