Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me (in a good or bad way)

Peter S. Beagle: The Innkeeper's Song1. Peter S. Beagle: The Innkeeper’s Song

I had read The Last Unicorn and got curious about what else Beagle had written. TIS was one of the first I got my hands on and WOW. The Last Unicorn is very much an untypical Fantasy novel but The Innkeeper’s Song is even more unconventional (and amazing).



Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto2. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto

After Northanger Abbey, I wanted to read some real gothic novels and since The Castle of Otranto was the shortest I thought “Why not start there?” And God it puts a lot in these few pages. It reads more like a parody than anything else. (Long-Lost heirs with conveniently identifying moles, heinous villains, damsels in so much distress…)



James Barclay: Dawnthief3. James Barclay: Dawnthief

When I recommend this book to people I always end up saying something like “It’s so amazing! So many people die!” Which are odd warm words but so many fantasy novels are about people getting from one incredibly dangerous situation to the next but the heroes always survive. Occasionally people get introduced only to die and if one of the actual heroes dies and they get a long and dramatic death scene. In Dawnthief and the sequels, the heroes die. No epicness involved, they’re just a tiny bit too slow or just unlucky.

Kerstin Gier: Rubinrot4. Kerstin Gier: Ruby Red Trilogy

I admit it: the blurb made this book sound horrible. And occasionally I do enjoy reading bad books and then writing detailed gif-filled reviews about their badness. And then I read it…and immediately had to read the sequel…AND THEN THE THIRD AND FINAL BOOK WASN’T OUT YET AND I HAD TO WAIT A FEW DAYS! Reader, the waiting was horrible 😁

Carola Dunn: LDeath at Wentwater Court5. Carola Dunn: Lady Daisy Mysteries

Another book I started with low expectations. Cozies are great but so many are full of tstl-heroines who miss obvious clues and when they miraculously figured out who the murderer is, they decide to confront him alone.

I didn’t have much hope that Daisy would be any different but it was really cheap and the cover kind of cute. I am now on book 23 of the series, eagerly awaiting the next one.


Carola Dunn: Manna from Hades6. Carola Dunn: Manna from Hades

Conversely, I then had very really high expectations for the author’s other series but ended up disappointed. A great thing about the Lady Daisy books is that while they are not some deep psychological studies about what drives a person to kill they still avoid painting things too black and white. Manna from Hades is very black and white…and has really annoying characters (not too stupid to live but still…annoying)


17253127. Tanja Kinkel: The Shadows of La Rochelle

The surprising thing was that in a novel that is otherwise a serious and boring historic novel two ship captains appear that are called Picard and Riker.

Picard and Riker Double Facepalm


8. Pierre Pevel: The Cardinal’s Blades

Pierre Pevel: The Cardinal's BladesHere the surprise is that the author could take the concept The Three Musketeers in an alternate universe where dragons exist and make it so incredibly dull that I now fall asleep just thinking about this book. The heroes are all flawless, win all fights and have so little personality that I had trouble telling them apart while reading it.


Andreas Pittler: Tacheles9. Andreas Pittler: Tacheles

Now how do I put this? I was surprised by the cucumber. Or rather where the character had put the cucumber. That way you won’t get any vitamins from it. And now excuse me I have to drink a bottle of brain-bleach.



Lyndsay Faye: Dust and Shadow10. Lyndsay Faye: Dust and Shadow

To finish off, another positive surprise. Dust and Shadow is a story about Sherlock Holmes hunting Jack the Ripper and before reading it I had made many not great experiences with Holmes-pastiches, several bad experiences with Ripper-fiction, and utterly horrible experiences with Holmes-hunts-the-Ripper stories. But Dust and Shadow was great.

Favorite Book Quotes

1. Curtis Craddoc: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

“I still think I should-”
“No!” Isabelle rallied against the automatic male assumption that anything she might do, they could do better, even if they had no experience whatsoever.

We’ve all been there Isabelle

2. Terry Pratchett: Small Gods

“What have I always believed?
That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.”

I could fill ten posts with Terry Pratchett quotes but to be fair to other authors I’ll keep it at one.

3. KJ Charles: Spectred Isle

“You’ve had a hell of a time, haven’t you?”
“Other’s worse,” Saul managed.
“That is the most specious form of consolation possible. One can always find someone who has it worse. If I’m having my fingernails torn out with pincers, it is unhelpful to observe that my neighbour has been hanged, drawn and quartered.”

This is such an important concept and I love that it came up in the book.

4. Jane Austen: Persuasion

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.

I also could fill many posts with Austenian love-declaration…

5. Naomi Novik: Uprooted

“They all had stories. They had mothers or fathers, sisters or lovers. They weren’t alone in the world, mattering to no one but themselves. It seemed utterly wrong to treat them like pennies in a purse. I felt the soldiers understood perfectly well that we were making sums out of them– this many safe to spend, this number too high, as if each one wasn’t a whole man.”

Uprooted is a beautiful story that starts off very fairy-tale like but soon turns pretty dark and drops sentences like this.

6. The Iron Ship

He could rarely find his hammers, or his shoes, or his mistress, and therefore had many spares of each.

The whole book is very quotable and has hilarious, meaningful and sad sentences. I choose this because it was the best of all it was the first I could find on my saved Kindle notes.

7. Carol Berg: The Demon Prism

She raises Grapes. I raise the dead.

In which the grumpy necromancer desperately tries to come up with reasons why a relationship with the clever and talented mage who enjoys stabbing people would be a bad idea.

8. Rose Lerner: Sweet Disorder

“I bought you a ham,”
“A ham?”
“Well, I know you don’t like sweets.”

If you do not think ham-presents are the most romantic thing ever you are obviously wrong.

9. Victoria Schlederer: Des Teufels Maskerade (The Devil’s Masquerade)
(badly translated by me)

“Do I believe it? That Duchess Libuša is an ancient vampire who sleeps somewhere in the Hradschin and has tasked a heroic maniac to lead Bohemia to independence? Of course, I don’t believe it!”
From the mouth of an English aristocrat, who has spent decades as ghost, before a magical accident turned him in an otter, this generally reasonable view, sounded rather frivolous.

I love this book. A lot. Magic! Czech history! An adorable couple! An (almost) equally adorable aristocrat-turned-otter.

10. Lyndsay Faye: The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

“I require your assistance, and you suppose you’re too good for my money! Well, you aren’t, Mr. Holmes!”
“On the contrary. I suspect that I’ve been too good for better people’s money as a matter of fact.”

Lyndsay Faye is one of the few Holmes pastiche authors I love and sentences like this are the reason for it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

I admit with so many shiny new books coming along I don’t re-read as much as I used to. Which is a shame because re-reading books is so enjoyable and it’s fun if you come across things you hadn’t noticed before…anyway this is more a ‘Books I have re-read multiple times but now haven’t touched in a while because sadly the day has only 24 hours and I need to sleep occasionally’.


James Barclay: Dawnthief1. James Barclay: Dawnthief

I think I almost immediately went back to re-reading some passages after finishing it the first time. The book just came around at exactly the right time for me and had everything I wanted (mages! elves! an unpredictable plot!) and unlike so many fantasy-novels death wasn’t cheap: with one exception everybody who died, stayed dead (and lots of people died) and the characters actually reacted to those deaths and also didn’t forget about them after a chapter. Now, this does make it sound like an odd choice for a frequent re-read but…well I’m odd 😉

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone2. The Harry Potter Series

I was a fantasy-loving teenager in the late 90s/early 00s. I am sure this is a very surprising addition to this list…




Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers3. Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers

TTM was among the first ‘grown-up’ books I read. I think I was about 12 at the time and it took me a while to get through. Once I had managed it I was very sad about the ending and called two of my stuffed animal Constance and d’Artagnan so at least those could be happy. I still re-read it a couple of times and my love for it has turned into a strange obsession where I’m not only reading the book but also watch so many movie-adaptations…

Some of them are great fun

Scenes of incredible cruelty in д’Артаньян и три мушкетёра (D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers), 1978
Три мушкетёра (Three Musketeers), 2013, the only version that did the breakfast at La Rochelle properly
Black cats are for beginners. True villains have a huge black dog. д’Артаньян и три мушкетёра (D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers), 1978
The Three Musketeers (1973) This movie is perfect and I will not hear anything against it.
Aramis regretting his life-choices in д’Артаньян и три мушкетёра (D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers), 1978

Some are fun but you also wonder if the people who made the movie ever read the book

The Musketeers (2014). I prefer to pretend seasons 2 and 3 don’t exist
Charlton Heston doesn’t even need a black pet in The Three Musketeers (1948)
The Three Musketeers (1993). Where d’Artagnan is Inigo Montoya, Charlie Sheen Aramis, and Porthos a pirate

And some…also exist

D’Artagnan et les trois mousquetaires (2005). The less said about the magical falcons, demons and the orientalism the better.
The Three Musketeers (2011). At least Christoph Waltz had fun

Sorry. I just got carried away…be glad I don’t have more gifs from the really bad versions. North Korean spies-bad. David Hasselhoff and Thomas Gottschalk are in it-bad.

Fun fact: Nowhere in the book does it say that Rochefort wears an eyepatch, just that he has a scar near his eye. However, Christopher Lee wore one in the 74-version and since then approximately 2/3 of all actors playing him have done so as well.

The Musketeer (2001). I remember this movie being cringeworthy and yellow

Where was I? Right. Re-reading books

Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms4. Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

The correct answer to ‘What is your favourite Discworld-book?’ is obviously ‘Give me a week to write an essay in which I examine every single book in detail.’ but…I love Men at Arms a lot. Because of Angua. I love Angua a lot.



Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes5. Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes

No, I’m not frequently re-reading the complete Sherlock Holmes but some stories I can re-read again and again. Or listen to again and again because Holmes stories are perfectly suited for audio plays. And I love my collection of the Peter Pasetti ones, even if they are based on different translations which means Holmes and Watson sometimes use the formal Sie and sometimes the informal Du with each other. (And let’s not get into the pronunciation of Holmes in some of them…)

February 20: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Now here’s the thing: I do try to keep my Goodreads-shelves at least somewhat tidy. That means I have my to-read shelf which only has books that I already own (though not all of them because I’m lazy), a wishlist-shelf with books I really want (upcoming books in series I’m reading and books that came warmly recommended by trustworthy people), and a maybe-shelf with books that sound interesting but where I want to check out reviews/samples first before I make a final decision. Of course, sometimes that decision is ‘I do not want to read it’ but I honestly don’t remember too many books that I kicked off that list because I didn’t feel strongly about them in the first place.

So most of these are books I actually owned (or had at least borrowed) and then decided that I’d rather not. Also, I don’t manage 10 because I’m more likely to give a book at least a chance before I toss them.


Leonie Swann: Garou1. Leonie Swann: Garou

Once upon a time, Glennkill was a big hit in Germany. A crime-novel in which sheep solve the murder of their shepherd. I read it and found it…cute. Garou is the sequel to it but in the end, I decided that ‘cute’ alone isn’t enough to make me read the second book and the book wasn’t much more than cute.

Jane Austen: Emma2. Jane Austen: Emma

I have watched the movie and that was enough to tell me that I won’t enjoy the book, either. I just don’t like Emma, the character. She’s a horrible person who manipulates others because she thinks she knows better than they do what’s best for them.
Before you say anything: I’m aware that all Austen heroines (and heroes) have to learn their lesson and that Emma meant well but the thing is…I don’t care. She simply has character-traits that annoy me a lot and I don’t see why I should suffer reading about that for ages before she learns her lesson.

3. Bernhard Hennen: Die Elfen-books

The first book Die Elfen (The Elves) came out shortly after the Lord of the Rings movies and very much tried to ride on its popularity. But to be fair: it’s not just Middle Earth fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. Both take inspiration from Nordic mythology but do very different things with them. And I even enjoyed Die Elfen, a lot. Enough that I got the final two books in the trilogy at once and also picked up the box-set with all the Elfenritter audiobooks without quite knowing how that series connected to the original one.

But when I took a closer look at Elfenwinter I noticed that it wasn’t actually a sequel to Die Elfen but set somehow at the same time but in a different place with different main characters. But the main characters (or rather one of them) was the main reason I enjoyed the first book so much. I decided to give Elfenritter a try then but didn’t even made it through the first book (I am so tired of fantasy novels with stories in which a thinly veiled version of Christianity threatens the Old Ways and tries to burn people). In the end, I threw all of them out.

Leigh Bardugo - Shadow and Bone4. Leigh Bardugo: Shadow and Bone

This is a book I never owned a copy of but I heard so much good about it, I really wanted to give it a try. And then I read Six of Crows by the author and it was…nice. Not great but not bad either and it made me curious about the sequel which I read… and didn’t enjoy at all. And the main reason for that was that it frequently read like an author’s first book. Bardugo tries to trick you into thinking something goes terribly wrong…only it all goes perfectly fine, the current POV-character is just lying to you. That’s bad style.

So after that my desire to try out an actual earlier work by the author diminished. And then the book came up in a discussion with a Russian friend and she screamed “Grisha! The powerful and intimidating mages are called Grishas. That’s like somebody writing a Germanic-fantasy novel where the mages are called Gretchen.” And I will never be able to unthink this which means I probably won’t be able to take the book serious anyway.

Colum McCann: Everything in this country must5. Colum McCann: Everything In This Country Must

I have not much to say about this except that I read ‘Hunger Strike’ by the author during my teenage ALL THE IRISH THINGS-phase and to be honest I was too young to really get it. I got Everything In This Country Must anyway because ALL THE IRISH THINGS and forgot about it. Recently I found it again, skimmed a few passages and decided that it wasn’t really my thing.




Dieter Breuers: Ritter, Mönch und Bauersleut: Eine unterhaltsame Geschichte des Mittelalters6. Dieter Breuers: Knights, Monks and Farmers – An entertaining history of the Middle Ages

I picked this up during a library sale because the chapter-titles were hilarious and history! Middle-ages! But since then I realized something: I don’t care about generic medieval history that much. I enjoyed Rebecca Gable’s Von Rastlosen und Löwenherzen about the English middle-ages (and if you know German I can only recommend it), I’ve read books about Russian and Irish history and want to dig deeper into those topics (and a few more) but I don’t need a book that focusses mostly on German/Western European middle-ages (and is of questionable veracity anyway, if the Amazon-reviews can be believed).

February 6: Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

Robert Kee: The Green Flag - A History of Irish Nationalism1. Robert Kee: The Green Flag – A History of Irish Nationalism

Remember the times before e-readers? When you could only take a few books on holidays because you couldn’t just take a second suitcase full of books with you? In these dark days, I went to St. Petersburg. And I had not taken enough books with me and there was only a limited choice of English language books in the book-stores. And since Irish history interests me I got that. And I even started it (because no books) so it’s not strictly speaking tbr-pile. But I only read perhaps 100 pages of it before I flew back and then got distracted by other books.

Sharon Kay Penman: When Christ and His Saints Slept2. Sharon Kay Penman: When Christ and His Saints Slept

When I did my A-levels Bavarian schools required something called Facharbeit to get them. It is supposed to prepare you for term-papers at university and has the same rules about length, citations etc. But you only have to write one and almost have one year to complete it. My topic was The Historic Background of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael Novels which mostly meant: The English Civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. It is still sort of a step-child of English history topics. Everyone knows about the War of the Roses or Henry VIII and there’s tons of fiction and non-fiction written about them. Stephen and Matilda? Not so much. And when I wrote the paper it was even worse. I found exactly on non-fiction book about it. Which is why I got desperate enough to buy a novel about it in the hope there was something I could use. (I ended up quoting parts of the introduction…my teacher didn’t complain). But after handing in the paper I just did not want to hear anything about the topic for a while and then I forgot about the book.

Lady Gregory: Complete Irish Mythology3. Lady Gregory: Complete Irish Mythology

There is nothing much to say about this. I can very easily be persuaded to buy things that have ‘Ireland’ written on them so I picked that up somewhere because of that (and because it was cheap) but never was really in the mood for it.

Sally R. Munt: Murder by the Books? Feminism and the Crime Novels4. Sally R. Munt: Murder by the Books? Feminism and the Crime Novels

I think I bought that when I lived in Belfast. Round the corner of No Alibis, a book-store that specialises in crime novels. It’s an interesting topic but I always forget that I even own it. And then I go through my tbr-pile and see it again but just at that moment have something much more interesting to read…

Neil Gaiman: American Gods5. Neil Gaiman: American Gods

I bought it because I felt I should read something Gaiman wrote on his own (I only read Good Omens and loved that) but then a friend of mine read it and was not overwhelmed and usually, we have a very similar taste in books so my desire to read has dropped. And every time I see it I think ‘I could read it…or something I’d be more likely to enjoy’.

Erica Fischer: Aimée & Jaguar6. Erica Fischer: Aimée & Jaguar

When I just looked at this book I realised that it has a sticker from the library next to my school, which means I picked it up when they had a sale of their old books. It’s been a while since I went to school and the library or their sales so I also have this for a long time. But every time I pick it up I think about how depressing it will be…

Robert Graves: I, Claudius7. Robert Graves: I, Claudius

I picked this up after I started watching the show I, Claudius because Derek Jacobi was in it and I love him a lot (bonus task: he has a connection to one of the other books on here. Which?). I enjoyed the show and even started the book but then something more interesting came along and I forgot about it.

Ann Bronte: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall8. Ann Bronte: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I read and enjoyed Jane Eyre and while I can understand every person who despises Wuthering Heights I certainly found reading it an experience. So it’s logical that I would also check out the last Bronte-sister. But classics, much like non-fiction always run into the danger of catching a lot of dust on my shelves before I pick them up.

Gyles Brandreth: Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol9. Gyles Brandreth: Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol

This is one of those books where I don’t even have a halfway good reason why it’s been on my tbr-pile for so long. It certainly looks like it would be quite a quick read (unlike the rest of the books on this list) but I just never read it.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Mein Leben10. Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Mein Leben

This, on the other hand, is again a book of intimidating length (she said, despite never having any trouble with fantasy doorstoppers) and one that will also be not an easy read because the author also talks about his experiences during the Holocaust. Additionally, I have already listened to the audio-book but only the abridged one on two CDs (of a book with 500+ pages). Still it always makes me go ‘well, I have already read it…kind of’.

Top 10 Tuesdays – Books that I can’t Believe I Read

Most of those are also books I wish I could forget so writing about them is clearly the best option.

Cover: Lana Swallows: Fifty Shades of Sherlock HolmesLana Swallows: Fifty Shades of Sherlock Holmes

Yes. This is a book that exists. And yes the author is Lana Swallows. And yes it is pretty much what you’d expect. Holmes and Watson get caught up in a case that involves a BDSM-sex cult. It is as bad as it sounds.

Cover: Michael Wilson: Without a Trace
Michael Wilson: Without a Trace

It’s a novella about Jack the Ripper and I really should have run the moment I read the part of the introduction where the author thanked Jack the Ripper for inspiring so many authors. Then it read exactly like you’d expect a book by an author who glorifies a killer and doesn’t care about his victims to read.

Cover: Carrie Sessarego: Jurassic Jane Eyre - The Dinosaur turned me lesbianCarrie Sessarego: Jurassic Jane Eyre – The Dinosaur turned me lesbian

No, you didn’t misread the title. This is a literary mashup meets dinosaur erotica. And it is supposed to be a parody. And to be honest: it really is funny and hangs lots of lampshades about the ridiculousness of dinosaur erotica. (Who would have believed I would ever write a sentence like that?)

Cover: Claudia Kern: Sissi Die Vampirjägerin
Claudia Kern: Sissi Die Vampirjägerin

The English speaking world had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and we got…Empress Elisabeth of Austria hunting vampires. The Vampires are all the Habsburg. And the inspiration for the book was clearly more the popular Romy Schneider movies than the true Elisabeth. It is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds but also somehow entertaining. I totally would have read the second part if there’d been one.

Cover Lissa Trevor: Menage á MusketeerLissa Trevor: Menage á Musketeer

Perhaps this is wrong in this category. Because I can totally believe I’ve read this. After all I have also watched the Asylum The Three Musketeers movie as well as the movie where Milady is a demon (and d’Artagnan has a magical falcon) and the series where Milady has her own bat-signal. I also hunted down every bit of the Czech musical where Richelieu sings a song in what looks like a sex-dungeon on youtube. So I can’t exactly claim it’s surprising that I make questionable decisions where Musketeers are concerned. But this book wasn’t even entertainingly magical falcon-bad. It was just boring sex-scenes bad and this book has consent issues-bad and it’s hilarious that everybody is bisexual except Aramis who is straight-bad.

Cover Alexandra Fröhlich: Meine Russische Schwiegermutter und andere KatastrophenAlexandra Fröhlich: Meine Russische Schwiegermutter und andere Katastrophen (My Russian Mother-in-law and other catastrophes)

I had bought this expecting one of those culture-clash books which I always enjoy. It turned out to be a ‘chick-lit that gives the genre a bad name’-books. I guess I should have run away the moment I realized that while this book is fiction the author was really married to a Russian man but divorced him.

Cover Berndt Riegler: Voodoo Holmes - Botschafter Der Nacht Berndt Riegler: Voodoo Holmes – Botschafter Der Nacht (Ambassador of the Night)

This was one of the bad decisions I made when I got my Kindle and saw how many free books there were. And this one had Holmes on it!
It stars Holmes younger brother Voodoo (really) who now inexplicably lives at 221B and fights crime. Only he is also very stupid and the book could have really used an editor who pointed out illogical descriptions. But then perhaps the rooms were meant to look like an Escher hellscape.

Cover John Simpson: Irish WinterJohn Simpson: Irish Winter

This was one of my first m/m romance reads that surprisingly didn’t put me off the genre completely. I should have listened to the review that complained that in a book set in 1919 Ireland the protagonists cycle from Cork to Dublin on a Sunday and purchase an Oscar Wilde book.
Full disclosure: I seem to have ended up with a revised edition that cut that bit out but that didn’t make the rest of it better.

Cover Kaitlyn Davies: The Golden CageKaitlyn Davies: The Golden Cage

This is really a placeholder for the whole Dance of Dragons Series. This is the first novella and I already found it horrible and racist. So I can’t believe I read the whole thing (three more novellas and three novels). Oh right…I had a review-copy of the whole box-set and I thought it would be unfair to judge it after the first book.
Reader, it would not have been unfair to do so for the whole series was a racist fuckfest.

Cover Oliver Schütte: Die Rote BurgOliver Schütte: Die Rote Burg (The Red Castle)

That’s more ‘I can’t believe books like this really exist’. Because I had always heard jokes about books about mediocre middle-aged men, who had young, hot women falling at their feet who all think this guy is the best thing since sliced bread even though he acts like an asshole. I had never read such a book. Until Die Rote Burg. And if you have told me about this book before I would have refused to believe that something could actually be that bad.