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Bewertung vom 08.06.2021
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch
Galchen, Rivka

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

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Even though the Middle Ages are over, superstition and strange beliefs are still widespread among people. Thus, in 1615, Katharina Kepler finds herself accused of witchcraft by the people of her hometown of Leonberg in southern Germany. Times are hard, the Plague is spreading the Thirty Years’ War has just begun and somebody must be blamed for all the things happening. Katharina is an elderly widow, illiterate and mother of the astronomer Johannes Kepler. She leads a simple life, attending to her cow Chamomile. One day, however, Ursula Reinbold, accuses her of witchcraft, having offered a bitter drink which allegedly poisoned her, and surprisingly, the court not only listens but more and more people come forwards with testimonies of Katharina’s ill-doing. Only her neighbour, old Simon, who prefers to keep to himself, stands by her side.

Rivka Galchen’s story is based on a true story, Johannes Kepler’s mother was a healer and herbalist and arrested for witchcraft. The famous son stopped his research in planetary motion to defend his mother. Not only Katharina became victim of this kind of accusation, the town’s advocate Lutherus Einhorn accused 15 women in one trial and had executed eight of them in 1615.

At first, Katharina doesn’t take the accusation seriously, it is just talk for her, until she is put to prison and has to learn that more and more people come forward with other stories which seem to underline her doing black magic. She tries to counter the attack by accusing Ursula and her husband of slander, yet, her own case vanishes somewhere in the depth of local jurisprudence.

“We all know she’s a witch. We’ve always know. The matter of how we came to know is simple – we already knew.”

The accusations brought forward rage from poisoning, causing lameness, several deaths, injuring a woman’s foot, harming numerous people and animals – a long list which is getting more and more absurd during the story. I liked the interrogations of the inhabitants since they show not only the superstition they fall prey to, but also the dynamics of a small town which turns against one woman. Everything ill that has ever happened is simply attributed to Katharina. The allegations are so ridiculous that you could laugh weren’t it for Katharina’s case and the fact that the people’s testimonies seem to be believed.

Even though the plot is based on a well-documented historical case, you can see more or less the same thing happening today. It is not the small town anymore, but the world wide web in which often just one single person brings forward an accusation – no need for proof anymore – and masses jump on the bandwagon and have their twitter trial even before the issue is sorted out. It doesn’t matter if the accused is later discharged or not, the only thing that counts is public opinion which is quick at passing a sentence.

An entertaining read which outlines the dark sides of human nature – envy, greed, malicious gossip – and the danger that might come from it.

Bewertung vom 06.06.2021
Thérèse und Isabelle
Leduc, Violette

Thérèse und Isabelle

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Anfang der 1950er Jahre in einem katholischen Mädcheninternat in Frankreich. Isabelle ist die beste Schülerin, die alle bewundern, die neue Schülerin Thérèse ist die Tochter einer alleinerziehenden Mutter, die zum Zielobjekt ihres Hasses wird. Doch die anfängliche Abneigung der beiden gegeneinander wandelt sich und wird zu einer leidenschaftlichen Liebesbeziehung. Nachts im Schlafsaal, wenn alle anderen in ihre Träume versunken sind, geben sie sich ihren Gefühlen hin und entdecken die Liebe, die nicht sein darf. Nicht bei Minderjährigen, nicht bei zwei jungen Frauen und gleich dreimal nicht im Internat. Immerzu drohen sie aufzufliegen und Thérèses intensive Abhängigkeit macht es bald unmöglich für sie, einen Schultag zu durchzustehen.

Auch wenn Violette Leducs Schilderung der unerlaubten Liebe voller versierter Sprachbilder ist und die Emotionen der Mädchen, das überwältigende Gefühl der ersten echten Liebe, die erwidert wird, minutiös einfängt, sind es doch mehr noch die Umstände der Entstehung und die Geschichte der Novelle, die daran faszinieren.

Die Autorin verfasste „Thérèse und Isabelle“ als ersten von drei Teilen ihres Romans „Ravages“, der drei autobiografisch geprägte Liebesepisoden schildert. Von Simone de Beauvoir unterstützt, die das Potenzial der Geschichte und Leducs erkannte, wurde er verschiedenen Verlegern vorgelegt, die jedoch 1954 alle Angst vor der Zensur hatten und wussten, dass die Zeit für eine so offene Schilderung gleichgeschlechtlicher Liebe noch nicht gekommen war. Es erschienen erst viel später redigierte Fassungen, bis 2000 Gallimard erstmals die ursprüngliche Version als Einzelband herausgab.

Violette Leduc wollte keinen Skandal provozieren, sie schildert einfach nur das Erleben großer Leidenschaft in völlig unschuldiger Form. Es ist für Leser von heute kaum mehr nachvollziehbar, was an dem Text anstößig sein soll, ja, er ist explizit, aber in einer poetischen Weise und nicht plump wie das, was einem tagtäglich online entgegenspringt. Auch das die Protagonistinnen zwei junge Frauen sind, die ihre Zuneigung ausleben, sollte hoffentlich niemanden mehr schockieren. Der Roman ist nicht pornografisch oder voyeuristisch, sondern wirkt geradezu naiv in Thérèses Faszination von Isabelle. Es ist schlicht das Zeugnis einer verbotenen Liebe, die sich dennoch ihren Weg bahnt.

Bewertung vom 04.06.2021
President's Daughter
Clinton, President Bill; Patterson, James

President's Daughter


Matthew Keating wanted to serve a second term as POTUS, but his mission against one of the evilest terrorists went disastrously wrong and cost him the presidency. Now, he is doing more or less nothing apart from fishing and not so much enjoying himself. When his daughter Mel is abducted by IS terrorist Asim Al-Asheed who wants to revenge his wife and daughters, ex SEAL Matt takes it personal. Since the official agencies totally fail to rescue the girl, he decides to become active himself to get her back. He is still well-connected and secretly sets up a small team to do what a father has to do.

The second cooperation between former President Bill Clinton and well-known crime writer James Patterson is a fast-paced mixture of political and spy thriller which also gives deep insight in how the different national agencies work with and against each other. The thriller brilliantly shows that politics can be a nasty business where personal agendas at times conflict with national interests and ethics. Also, since the end of the Cold War, the lines between confronting enemies have become blurred and the world is a much more complex place with several stakeholders all acting and interfering simultaneously.

First and foremost, the novel lives on the protagonist Matt Keating who tries to free his daughter. Even though we first meet him in the role of the president, his former occupation as a member of the US SEALs is a much more formative aspect of his character. When he learns of is successor’s unwillingness of helping to liberate his daughter, he reactivates his knowledge and connections to rescue her on his own. Admittedly, I doubt how realistic this might be, however, it certainly makes a good action-loaded plot. The daughter, too, is a tough cookie, even though raised in a rather comfortable position, she is courageous and has a strong will to survive which gives her more power than was to be expected.

What I found most interesting, however, was not just the war between the terrorist and the USA but how China meddles and how conflicting interests endanger civilians which are nothing more than collateral damage. Ironically, it is a private affair that leads to the downfall of the current president – highly likely in our times.

Great entertainment which surely also works quite well on the screen since it incorporates the core virtues of bravery, persistence, teamwork and love.

Bewertung vom 03.06.2021
Grown Ups
Aubert, Marie

Grown Ups


Sisters Ida and Marthe have planned to spend some days together at their cabin close to the sea where they will be joined by their mother and her partner. Ida is reluctant to go there, with her 40th birthday only a couple of weeks ago and still no father for prospective children in view, she knows that her window of becoming a mother is getting closer and closer. This is why she decided to freeze some of her eggs. Yet, it does not hinder her from negative feelings towards Marthe who, now pregnant and stepmother of beautiful 6-year-old Olea, seems – as always – to get everything she wants. Hard feelings accompany Ida and slowly turn their holiday together into a catastrophe.

I totally enjoyed Marie Aubert’s novel as I could easily sympathise with her narrator and protagonist. Additionally, there is some fine irony and humour in the text which make it a great read. The relationship between sisters quite often is all but easy and even as grown-ups, hard feelings and emotional injuries from the childhood can sit deep and hinder them from ever having a healthy bond.

Ida obviously is envious, her sister not only has a living husband but also a lovely stepdaughter and she’s pregnant. Even though Ida is a successful architect, she has never managed to establish a functioning relationship with a partner and feels lonely and somehow failed in life. Always being second, this is how she has grown up, no matter which achievements she reached, there was always Marthe who was ill and thus spoilt those rare moments of joy for Ida. Their mother does not seem to be aware of the difference she makes between the girls – yet, one has also to take into account that we only get Ida’s point of view which quite naturally is not only limited but highly biased.

“It’s not right That it should be so easy for others and so hard for me, I don’t get it, if there’s some sort of formula, a code that others know about, one they’ve known since they were young but which I’ve never quite grasped.”

Ida gets worked up about her sister and is willing to destroy her sister’s life when she is drunk one evening. This is rather tragic to observe and Ida turns into a pitiable character who does not realise that she will be even lonelier if she loses these last persons around her. She is aware of this but cannot act differently.

Marie Aubert’s debut is elegantly narrated, yet, the story leaves you with mixed feelings. It is joyful at times but the dysfunctional family is also an emotional challenge.

Bewertung vom 02.06.2021
Die kürzeste Geschichte Englands
Hawes , James

Die kürzeste Geschichte Englands

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Den Brexit haben die Menschen auf dem Kontinent teils fassungslos, teils kopfschüttelnd betrachtet. Wie konnte es zu so einer gravierenden (Fehl-)Entscheidung kommen? Man hat den Eindruck die Briten nicht mehr zu verstehen, vielleicht aber auch nie verstanden zu haben. Tausende Jahre Geschichte sind es, die das Land zu dem gemacht haben, das diese folgenreiche Abstimmung herbeiführte. Doch kann man einen so langen Zeitraum prägnant und gut lesbar zusammenfassen? James Hawes ist dies gelungen. Von Caesars Eroberung über zahlreiche Kriege bis hin zur Entstehung des Empire und dessen Niedergang im 20. Jahrhundert, ein letztes Aufbäumen durch popkulturelle Erfolge kurz vor der Jahrtausendwende und schließlich die Absage auf ein gemeinsames Europa. Mit zahlreichen historischen Dokumenten, Karte und prägnanten Schaubildern untermauert er die Tatsache, dass die Nation nicht erst im Brexit ihre tiefe Spaltung zeigte, tatsächlich war sie nie wirklich vereint.

James Hawes ist Germanist, der an verschiedenen Universitäten im Vereinigten Königreich lehrte. In den 1990ern war er mit zwei Romanen recht erfolgreich, seine Abriss über die Geschichte Deutschlands wurde in seiner Heimat mit sehr positiven Kritiken aufgenommen, was vermutlich auch zur Entstehung seines aktuellen Werkes beigetragen hat. „Die kürzeste Geschichte Englands“ hält, was der Titel verspricht. Anhand des roten Fadens der Spaltung leitet den Autor durch 2000 Jahre Geschichte, die notwendigerweise reduziert, aber gleichsam zielgerichtet und leicht verständlich wird.

Mit der britischen Geschichte grundlegend vertraut, hat mich Hewes‘ Buch dennoch gereizt, weil man gerade wegen der politischen Entwicklungen der letzten Jahre anfing zu zweifeln, ob man das Land und seine Bewohner wirklich kennt oder ob es nicht doch tiefergehende Faktoren gibt, die man übersehen hat. Geschichte ist nicht linear und eindimensional, sondern vielschichtig und unterschiedliche Faktoren überlagern sich. Trotz der Kürze arbeitet der Autor dies immer wieder heraus. Sprache, soziale Schicht, Geografie, Glaube – weder lassen sie sich trennen noch genügen sie einzeln zu erklären, weshalb an unterschiedlichsten Stellen Risse, Brüche und tiefe Gräben existieren, die zwar gelegentlich gekittet den Anschein einer vereinten großen Nation erweckten, unter der Oberfläche jedoch ein vielfach zerfasertes Gebilde beherbergten.

Das etwas andere Geschichtsbuch, das nie den Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit und Ausführlichkeit legt, sondern zielgerichtet einen anderen Blick auf Großbritannien wirft und leider auch kein besonders optimistisches Fazit zieht.

Bewertung vom 30.05.2021
The Other Black Girl
Harris, Zakiya Dalila

The Other Black Girl

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Nella Rogers has achieved what she could only dream of, at 26 she is editorial assistant at one of the most prestigious publishing houses. The only thing she has been struggling with the last two years is how the idea of diversity has never entered her workplace, after the Asian girl left, she is the only person with a different background. Things change when unexpectedly Hazel is employed and gets the cubicle next to her. Nella senses immediately that with another black girl, they might finally make a change in publishing, promote more diverse authors and bring forward new topics relevant to a large audience which wasn’t addressed so far. However, it does not take too long until Nella’s work life starts to go downhill.

Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel has been called one of the buzz books of 2021 by several magazines. I was intrigued by the blurb immediately, a kind of horror version of “The Devil Wars Prada” sounded totally enthralling. For a long time, “The Other Black Girl” could fulfil the expectations, there is a highly uncomfortable feeling creeping around, yet, the end was a bit too much for my liking.

Nella is quite a likeable young woman, hardworking and even though not an activist she is following the Black Lives Matter movement even before this becomes a widespread phenomenon and big news. She imagines being able of making a change in the publishing industry but first needs to get at the position where she has the actual power to do so. Therefore, she is quite assimilated and she swallows comments from her colleagues even though they might be quite offensive for persons of colour. With the arrival of Hazel she seems to get an ally and befriends her immediately.

For the reader, even though there are some chapters which seems unrelated to Nella’s story but hint at some goings-ons beyond her scope, it is obvious that Hazel is not the friendly and reliable colleague Nella assumes, this was an aspect which annoyed me a bit, I didn’t get the impression of Nelly being that naive and credulous at first and would have liked her to be a bit cleverer in relation to what happens at her workplace.

The novel, however, is quite strong at portraying Nella’s feelings as being the only black girl, the role she assigned to as representative of a totally diverse group which is just too simplistic, yet, nobody really seems to care about the concept of diversity, having one black girl is enough. She has other issues than her colleagues, especially the talk about hair was quite a novelty, even though this is a huge topic if you do not have the easy-care blond hair.

Overall, I liked the writing and found Nella’s perspective and the insight in the publishing world interestingly realised.

Bewertung vom 27.05.2021
Coldest Case
Walker, Martin

Coldest Case


It’s been thirty years that Bruno’s boss J.-J. has been haunting the murderer of an unknown man found in the forest. This cold case seems unsolvable, nobody missed someone and no item which could help to identify him was ever found. Yet, as technology advances, so do the police’s possibilities. By the help of an expert in face reconstruction, they try to remodel his looks, at the same time, quite unexpectedly, another DNA search shows a hit. While J.-J. is happy that his longest case might come to a close, the lovely Périgord region is threatened by fires. While the inhabitants fear the worst, this comes on a very political level with J.-.J.’s cold case: the murderer he has been looking for might be linked to even more serious crimes and thus, national security is suddenly threatened.

With Martin Walker’s series about Bruno Courrèges, you always know what you will get: it is not simply a cosy crime novel located in a beautiful region which finds its deserved place in the book by providing a lot of good food and impressive nature, but also a case which starts out as a minor incident and suddenly develops into something totally unexpected. These by now well-known ingredients also make the 14th instalment an enjoyable holiday read.

What I found most fascinating in this novel were the technical explanations of how you can infer from a skull how the person has looked like. This technique might be useful not just for artistic and museological purposes but also as shown for investigative aims. It is also a clear signal that no deed is unsolvable and that with modern technology, the perfect crime might not be that perfect anymore.

As a German, I was aware of the Rosenholz papers which surprisingly come up in the novel. Surely a rather deplorable part of our history but still offering a lot of food for speculation even today. So again, nothing from the past is ever really over.

All in all, a pleasant cosy crime novel which makes you feel like on holiday and enjoy the atmosphere of France’s countryside.

Bewertung vom 25.05.2021
The Decagon House Murders
Ayatsuji, Yukito

The Decagon House Murders


Murder and mystery are what they are all interested in as the members of the so called Mystery Club of their university. They like to delve in the classic stories and to solve the puzzles of crimes. They have even given themselves nick names after the great classic writers of crime novels: Ellery, Carr, Leroux, Poe, Van, Agatha and Orczy. When they are invited to the remote island of Tsunojima, they are thrilled. It has been the place of a quadruple murder the year before and thus promises an interesting week which they want to spend with writing and enjoying themselves. Yet, they did not count on somebody waiting there for them to settle an old bill which is to be paid with their lives. In the meantime, on the mainland, three people receive letters insinuating that something strange might be going on and that a presumably dead killer might still be around.

“Even if the world were viewed as a chessboard, and every person on it a chess piece, there would still be a limit as to how far future moves could be predicted. The most meticulous plan, plotted to the last detail, could still go wrong sometime, somewhere, somehow.”

Yukito Ayatsuji’s debut novel is clearly inspired by the novels of the Golden Age of crime using the classic setting. “The Decagon House Murders” was first published in Japan in 1987 but only now the English translation is available. The reader alternatingly follows the evens on the island, where one after the other student finds his/her death and on the mainland, where they do not know what exactly happens there but try to combine the murders of the year before with the current events and the mysterious letters they got. Even though both lines of enquiry provide numerous ideas of what could be happening, the reader remains in the dark until the very end, just to discover what can only be called the perfect murder.

The novel is a homage to the classic crime novels and mystery readers who have always enjoyed Agatha Christie and the like will be totally enthralled. The plot, first of all, lives on the atmosphere of the island which is not very welcoming and cut off from the outside thus strongly reminding of “And Then There Were None”. The fact that it was the scene of a dreadful murder only months before adds to the its mysterious vibes. The murders seem to be carefully planned, no repetition in how they students find death and therefore leaving you pondering about one person could manage all this without being detected.

A classic whodunnit I thoroughly enjoyed.

Bewertung vom 23.05.2021
Die Kandidatin
Schreiber, Constantin

Die Kandidatin

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Deutschland in naher Zukunft. Die Bundestagswahl steht an und größte Chancen auf den Sieg hat die Ökologische Partei. Nicht jedoch, weil die Klimakrise sich weiter verschärft hat, sondern wegen der Spitzenkandidatin Sabah Hussein. Sie repräsentiert das neue, diverse Deutschland: eingewanderte Muslimin, Feministin und Ikone der Minderheiten, die das Land radikal verändern will. Doch es gibt auch Strömungen gegen sie, all jene, die Jahrhunderte lang privilegiert waren und nun wegen neuer Gesetze plötzlich auf der anderen Seite stehen. Nicht nur die alten weißen Männer, auch die deutschen Frauen, die ohne Vielfältigkeitsmerkmal keine Chance mehr haben. Es bleibt ihnen die radikale Abschottung oder der Kampf gegen die omnipräsente Kanzlerkandidatin, der man scheinbar auch alle Fehltritte verzeiht.

Constantin Schreiber ist Tagesschau-Sprecher und gilt als Nahost Experte, dessen Sachbücher bereits Bestseller wurden und der für seine Talkshow „Marhaba – Ankommen in Deutschland“ den Grimme Preis erhielt. Er setzt sich für den interkulturellen Austausch ein, weshalb es nicht verwundert, dass er in seinem ersten Roman „Die Kandidatin“ den Finger in genau diese Wunde legt. Seine Protagonistin polarisiert und verkörpert vieles von dem, was weite Teile der aktuellen Twitter-Bubble als Hass-Objekt Nummer 1 ansieht. Dass ausgerechnet so eine Figur die besten Aussichten auf den mächtigsten Posten im Land haben soll, muss Widerstand hervorrufen.

Zwei zentrale Aspekte treibt Schreiber in seinem Roman auf die Spitze: zum einen natürlich die Figur Sabah Hussein, zum anderen das neue Deutschland. Progressiv ist nur, wer geschlechterneutrale Kleidung trägt, die alle Körperformen kaschiert, die Regierung hat eine Matrix erlassen, mittels derer für jeden Bürger sein Diskriminierungsgrad errechnet und im Ausweis vermerkt wird, neue Bezeichnungen, Steuern und Quotenregelungen sollen die vorhandenen Privilegien abschaffen. Der klassische Journalismus hat ausgedient, Blogger und YouTuber versorgen ihre Zielgruppen schon mit vorgefertigten Meinungen. Die Deutschlandflagge wird zunehmend durch die Diversitätsfahne, die Nationalhymne durch einen Toleranzsong ersetzt. So manches kommt einem da durchaus bekannt vor, nur ist das Land nun schon einen Schritt weiter.

Sabah Hussein hat schnell verstanden, wie sie sich inszenieren muss, wie sie ihre Gefolgschaft mobilisieren und nach und nach im Politzirkel aufsteigen kann. Sie zeigt sie richtige Haltung, Betroffenheit, wenn jemand nicht-inklusive Sprache verwendet und macht sich durch Omnipräsenz in sozialen Medien mit passenden Bildern zur Ikone der Benachteiligten. Weder ihre Cartier Uhr, noch die teuren Urlaube und die Straftaten ihres Bruders können der praktizierenden Muslimin etwas anhaben. Das perfekte Bild in der Öffentlichkeit wird jedoch für den Leser bisweilen aufgebrochen, sie scheint eine zweite Agenda zu haben, genau jene, die ihre Gegner ihr unterstellen und die sie beharrlich leugnet. So lange sie nicht wirklich an der Macht ist, spielt sie das notwendige Spiel mit, dann wird sie jedoch die Spielregeln neu bestimmen.

Der Roman ist politisch und aktuell, jedoch schwer zu greifen in seiner Absicht. Es wirkt vieles überzogen und absurd, womit man sich schon die Frage stellt, inwieweit aktuelle Tendenzen zu beispielsweise inklusiver Sprache nicht schon fast parodiert werden. Auch ist die Protagonistin in vielerlei Hinsicht eher stereotyp und die noch leisen Nebentöne scheinen die Angst vor der muslimischen Unterwanderung eher noch zu befeuern als jetzt schon vorhandene Gräben zu verringern.

Die Geschichte provoziert – eines meiner Highlights: die Präsident-Erdogan-Schule, die dem türkischen Diktator huldigt – aber sie bleibt hinter anderen verstörenden Romanen, die auf gesellschaftliche und politische Fehlentwicklungen anspielen, zurück. Nichtsdestotrotz unterhaltsam zu lesen und durchaus ein interessantes Gedankenexperiment.

3 von 3 Kunden fanden diese Rezension hilfreich.

Bewertung vom 22.05.2021
Malibu Rising (eBook, ePUB)
Jenkins Reid, Taylor

Malibu Rising (eBook, ePUB)


It started out as a love story, but Mick Riva wasn’t made for loving only one woman, he was first of all made for a career in the music business and that’s what he did. His wife June though was made for loving but since her husband was absent, she only had to love her kids. The first born Nina, and the second, Jay, and the third who wasn’t her kid at all but she couldn’t just turn her back on Mick’s son Hud who was abandoned by his mother. And last but not least Kit, born long after her parents’ relationship had already fractured several times. While Mick was away, June took care of the kids until she couldn’t anymore, then quite naturally, Nina took over. Now, as a successful model, she is preparing for the legendary annual Riva party in her home in Malibu. Even though they have been having this party for many years, this year will be different and at the end of the night, nothing will be the same anymore for any of the Riva family.

I totally adored Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel “Daisy Jones & The Six“ which was totally lively and got be hooked from the first page. He latest book “Malibu Rising” had exactly the same effect. Her protagonist Nina, whose day of the big party is told alternatingly with the family’s story, is a strong character in a very special way. Her most striking feature surely is to take over responsibility and to do what needs to be done while totally forgetting that she, too, has the right to live. But instead of thinking about herself, she simply cares for the people around her, especially her younger siblings.

While everybody is preparing for the party, the biggest event every summer which is not to be missed by anybody important, Nina strikes a balance of her life so far. She made the maximum of the rather poor baseline. She has become one of the most demanded sports models, idolised by masses of people, her younger brothers are just starting their careers and also the baby of the family is going to fledge the family nest and to make herself noticed and a name. Their father has only ever existed at the edge of their life, it was their mother June who put herself last to make her children feel loved and have a good life despite all the adversities. Now, however, seems to be the moment for a big change.

Another set of unforgettable characters who know what is important in life and underline that there is nothing that will bring you down as long as you’ve got the ones who love you around. Even though nothing could be further from my life than surfing, I liked the passages where the author describes how the kids feel in the water and how surfing provides them with an unknown feeling of freedom.

The perfect summer read which is not at all the light feel-good novel but much rather a great story simply to indulge in.