Spring Reading Round Up: Stuck in Lockdown

When the world locked down and we were all stuck at home this spring, one can assume that I would have used the opportunity to read more books. Not so in my case, I actually found it very hard to settle down with a book, in fact I missed my train rides where I'd usually read. As such I only managed to read a measly four books during lockdown itself - which lasted 8 weeks. That is my slowest reading pace in years. 

However, as soon as I had been allowed to return to work, and sat in the train again, my normal pace returned. Overall, I managed to read 10 books during spring, 6 of those were given to me in exchange of an honest review - those are marked with *. 

Furthermore, 8 of those books are in the English language while 2 are in German.



Though Dust And Dreams*

by Roxana Valea 

.... was my first spring and lockdown read. It is a non-fiction novel that shares travel essays from Valea's road trip through Africa. She started in the North and the goal is to cross Central Africa until they read South Africa. This journey is more adventure and misadventure than smooth sailing. 

What I really enjoyed about this book, is how Valea tells her stories. They are not numbers and statistics about a certain country. Instead she shares a personal event that happened to her and marked this part of the journey. Furthermore, the relationship she has with her companions is hilarious, there are cultural misunderstandings as well as just different characters colliding. In the end, they become friends and it is really sweet to notice this shift. 

"Through Dust and Dreams" is an enjoyable read about a once in a life time journey, and you can read my full review about it here



Tod am Semmering 

by Beate Maly 

transl. Death at the Semmering 

"Tod am Semmering" is the first of the "Ernestine Kirsch und Anton Böck" series, and since reading "Tod in Baden" and deeming it satisfactory, I decided that I should learn about the beginnings of this series.

In "Tod am Semmering" Ernestine and Anton take part in dancing classes during a weekend at the Semmering. Due to the weather, the hotel they stay at loses all contact to the outside world, and the snow is so high that you can't leave. Push comes to shove, when there is a murder as well. The guests are understandably confused and frightened, except Ernestine who is vaguely excited and wants to solve this murder mystery. 

The first novel of the series already has the signature humour that I love. Ernestine who is excited to solve a murder, while Anton gets reluctantly dragged along into the mystery and is unable to find a way out. Their chemistry is adorable and funny from the beginning. Meanwhile, the murder mystery isn't as complex as one assumes but you really begin to notice how panicked everyone becomes because they are locked in and it must be one of them. 

However, the secret of this series was never its dramatic twists but the slight touch of humour. Again, for German speakers this novel is going to be a treat! 



Junkyard*

by Roland Löwisch and Dieter Rebmann

Junkyard by Roland Löwisch and Dieter Rebmann
"Junkyard" is a coffee table book that shows the world something rare: photos of Rudi Klein's infamous junkyard in California. Klein is a collector who created this place by buying wrecks from mostly European cars. He was very strict about who was allowed to see this "little" treasures, and high fences guard the property. 

However, Löwisch and photographer Rebmann managed to gain access in 2001. This resulted in the book "Junk Yard" being published first in German in 2017. In 2020, the stunning photographs also made it into the English language. 

Personally, this photo book is a must for every car enthusiast! Why? You can read that in my full review!


Watson on the Orient Express*

by Charles Veley and Anna Elloit 

This is the 8th part of the "Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery" and in this one Watson is kidnapped! In order to find him, Lucy and Holmes have to go head to head with their enemies and work through a web of lies. Meanwhile, Watson is confronted with his own version of the truth.

Overall, the mystery is well thought out and despite having two different perspectives, it is not easy for the reader to be ahead of the characters and solve the mystery first. I also enjoyed that Holmes takes a backseat in this novel, and Watson gets to enjoy the limelight. He gets to show off his better traits as a solider and doctor - add to that that he is the smart one this time around. 

However, since this is the 8th novel of the series, and I hadn't read any prior, I found it harder to get to grips with the characters; who is good, who is bad? What is their background story again? What are their relationships like? On top of this, I feel that the solution wasn't adequately explained either and I was left a little confused. 





Sprint Dreams*

by Faith Dismuke

... is a debut novel that follows Makeda through a year and a half of her life. In this year, she changes university and encounters a whole new environment. She learns about love, friendship, sex, racism, and what it means to relentlessly follow your own dreams. 

I really enjoyed "Sprint Dreams" and how Dismuke wrote Makeda, as well as portraying her learning curve. Furthermore, she touches on so many topics that one would encounter throughout a year of a life. Despite this, "Sprint Dreams" is not a novel about [insert socio-economic topic here]. These topics are only part of what create the whole story. This is not a novel about racism, or being bisexual. Instead it is a novel about Makeda who happens to be of colour and queer. 



Lara - der Anfang

by THEA WiLK

transl. Lara - The Beginning 

Oh boy, oh boy! Where to begin with this novel?! My mother recommend me "Lara - der Anfang" claiming that it was THIS GOOD. I thought that it couldn't be, most of my mother's recommendations are not, but this one is THIS GOOD - in capslock. 

"Lara - der Anfang" is a thriller in which Lara and her girlfriend Bobbi decide to spend some time away, and take a holiday in her dead grandfather's house. This is where the trouble begins. First, the electricity is only working when it feels like it. It becomes even worse, when they began to look at the things in the house and find old bones. Every attempt to escape only leads to another accident and they are bound to the house, alone, with any possible help miles away ...   

This novel is a classic thriller that could have come from the writing machine of Stephen King. I love how WiLK shaped the plot and built up the suspense. I really look forward to reading more from THEA WiLK.


Harbinger*

by Olga Gibbs

... is the third part of the "Celestial Creatures" series and part of the final instalment. This time Ariel comes to full power, and returns with her sister to Uras. However, taking her rightful place as a ruler is not as easy: They don't want to accept a human as their leader, and so Ariel loses a lot of "her" people, leaving the rest open for an attack. Thus, she has to seek out new allies.

This is the first part of the final instalment of the series and while reading, you can tell as the build up is slower, and it feels like a build up for something much bigger than is shown at the climax. Speaking of it, the cliffhanger at the end, is going to beg you for more. I was unable to believe that Gibbs could and would leave it handing there!

Overall, "Harbinger" follows the story of the prior novels, and the enjoys the same fine writing style. Furthermore, Ariel's character development continues and is a source of intrigue. For a more detailed review, you can click here.



The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

by Suzanne Collins

... follows the story of Snow as he becomes a mentor of a district 12 girl in the 10th Hunger Games. For him, to make sure that Lucy Gray performs well is a must because it is his only way to secure an award that would secure his future. 


Overall "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" shows a big insight into who Snow was and always had been. It also shows how deeply ingrained the Capitol's propaganda is. Snow never questions the Capitol, he knows what is wrong and that doing a certain thing is deemed wrong by the Capitol but he never asks if he should be. 

Personally, I thought that it was an interesting read but it had slow stretches as it lacks the page tuner quality of the trilogy. Furthermore, do not expect to pine for any character at all! 

I am going to publish a full review of this novel next week






How to Raise a Loaf: and fall in love with sourdough*

by Roly Allen

This is a sweet little book that introduces you to the magic of baking your own bread with sourdough. It is informative and fun to read. Furthermore, it really is written for idiots and beginners of all kind. There are photos, tips and tricks, as well as a trouble-shooting guide for common problems.

Allen not only provides you with the basic skills to get you started but also shares a few recipes that range from easy to harder and creative. I reviewed the book and it is going to be published in July.





Metro 2033

by Dmitry Glukhovsky

While "Metro 2033" is a re-read, I am not planning to make this into another summer of re-reads. This had been inspired when I finished the video game of the same name, and I simply had to re-read it!

In "Metro 2033" the world has already ended when 20 years earlier it bombed itself into oblivion. Now, the people live in Moscow's metro, each station becoming its own independent city. However, VDNKh faces a new threat, and in order to get help Artyom has to engage in a journey through the metro. During this time, he meets all sorts of people and different cultures: Reds, Nazis, Jehovah witnesses, people who worship their own gods, as well as some who are just hanging by a thread. 

Overall, the book is far more philosophical than the game. While it has horror, and action aspects, the journey is mostly about Artyom looking at different sides of humanity and soaking it in. Once again, I liked how rich Glukohvsky's world was, and that Artyom is a likeable main character. I admit that there are slower passages and it takes some pages until the main story begins, it is still an enjoyable read.

Don't even get me started on the ending! This is a masterpiece, and I wish that I could read it again for the very first time to experience it.



For summer, I not only plan to leave the house but also to read the second part of the Metro series (Metro 2034), as well as reading a few more diverse reads, inspired by Black Lives Matter. On top of this, I might manage to reduce my TBR pile.

What are you reading goals for summer? 

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