Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler


I’m still suffering a massive book hangover after reading Karen Joy Fowler‘s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which is currently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has won the Pen Faulkner Award and the California Book Award.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Image provided by Serpent’s Tail¹

Synopsis quoted from Serpent’s Tail¹:

Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves, round about page 77, what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble.

My Thoughts:

Karen Joy Fowler’s novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is set in the contemporary United States, but the book’s focus isn’t on the setting.

Rosie, our main character, is a young woman telling the story of her sister’s disappearance. When Fern vanished, both Rosie and Fern were still small children. Since then, Rosie feels as if half of herself is missing. She is insecure and has a hard time making friends. At college, Rosie meets Harlow, a girl very different from herself. Harlow is outgoing, takes risks, doesn’t think about her actions. Rosie feels drawn to Harlow even though the latter, in my eyes, isn’t a very likeable character. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves lives from characterization and the relationships between characters. Most of the time this works out brilliantly, but Rosie’s & Harlow’s “friendship” just doesn’t work that well for me. I can’t understand why anyone wants to be friends with someone like Harlow.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was quite the surprise. I had no idea what it really was about. So if you don’t know either, you are in for a treat. While the story is very unusual, Ms Fowler still manages to embed it into a perfectly normal environment. I am glad that the novel doesn’t get kitschy at any point because I sometimes feared it would. If you’d like to pick up a gripping novel that stays with you for a long time after reading, I’d recommend We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.


¹ http://www.serpentstail.com/book-detail/9781846689666


Review – The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier


Today, I’d like to introduce you to Tracy Chevalier‘s novel The Last Runaway. It took me quite some time to pick it up and finally read it, but when I did, I was thoroughly entertained.

The Last Runaway

Image provided by HarperFiction¹

Synopsis quoted from HarperFiction¹:

When modest Quaker Honor Bright sails from Bristol with her sister, she is fleeing heartache for a new life in America, far from home. But tragedy leaves her alone and vulnerable, torn between two worlds and dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Life in 1850s Ohio is precarious and unsentimental. The sun is too hot, the thunderstorms too violent, the snow too deep. The roads are spattered with mud and spit. The woods are home to skunks and porcupines and raccoons. They also shelter slaves escaping north to freedom.

Should Honor hide runaways from the ruthless men who hunt them down? The Quaker community she has joined may oppose slavery in principle, but does it have the courage to help her defy the law? As she struggles to find her place and her voice, Honor must decide what she is willing to risk for her beliefs.

My Thoughts:

Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel The Last Runaway is mainly set in 19th century Ohio. The author paints very vivid pictures of North America’s rural landscape. We ride carriages through high corn fields and feel the summer heat before the storm. I particularly enjoyed the impressive descriptions of the sky prior to thunderstorms.

Honor Bright, the main character, is a shy and quiet young Quaker woman with a mind of her own. She develops into an unconventional Quaker and manages to surprise us. Other great characters are Belle and Donovan. Belle is a safe haven for Honor, a home away from home and in her own way a very charming character. Donovan, on the other side, is mysterious and scary but he does provide some attraction and without him the book would be a bore. The remaining characters, however, are a bit flat.

The Last Runaway is told in third person narration interspersed by various letters. This set-up makes the novel lively, even though it is a quick read anyways. The Last Runaway is gripping until the very end. You really want to know how Honor will find a way to be happy. The ending however feels a little forced. The Last Runaway is a novel for those who are passionate about the American Frontier, stories on the Underground Railroad, or just good, old historical fiction.

3beans(actually, 3.5 magic beans)

¹ http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/titles/9780007350346/the-last-runaway


Review – GU Cookbooks Smoothies, 1 Salat – 50 Dressings, Grillen

Hello everyone,

Today I’ll have to squeeze in a little German-language blog post for a challenge. It’s a review of three cook books called Smoothies, 1 Salat – 50 Dressings (1 Salad – 50 Dressings) and Grillen (BBQ). I won all three for the challenge on Lovelybooks. If you’re interested in the books, I’ll sum up what I think about them in English after every review :)

Smoothies – Tanja Dusy:


Als ich das Cover des Smoothie Buches gesehen habe, dachte ich erst „Sehr gesund, erinnert mich an einen medizinischen Ratgeber.“. In der Hoffnung nach richtigen Smoothies, und nicht dem Bananengatsch den man hier in jedem Supermarkt findet, hab ich mir die Leseprobe angesehen und wurde nicht enttäuscht. Dieses Buch versprach jede Menge Smoothies auf Eiswürfelbasis! Also wurde es auf Herz und Nieren getestet.

Ausprobiert wurden der Grashopper mit Melone, der Melonen Pfirsich Smoothie, der Blueberry Sky und Mister Mintzz. Bis auf einen Smoothie waren mir die Smoothies persönlich alle ein wenig zu süß. Diese Ausnahme ist Mister Mintzz. Mister Mintzz ist ein wirklich ausgesprochen guter und ausgewogener Smoothie der bei uns garantiert wieder auf den Tisch kommt. Was ich auch noch anmerken muss ist, dass man pro Smoothie meist mindestens drei verschiedene Arten von Früchten benötigt und häufig nichtmal ein ganzes Stück pro Frucht. Das ist wieder ein sehr hoher Lebensmittelverbrauch. Vor allem wenn man alleine lebt ist das etwas lästig und umständlich.

A smoothie book for those who always throw the same two kinds of fruit into their mixers. Lots of ideas but also a lot of smoothies that need way too many ingredients, especially if you only want to make a smoothie for one person. I also thought that many smoothies were on the sweet side.


1 Salat – 50 Dressings – Tanja Dusy:


Auch bei diesem Buchcover bekam ich gleich Ratgeber Feeling. Aber nicht so extrem wie bei Smoothies. Interessanterweise würde ich beim Inhalt der zwei Kännchen am Cover nicht sofort an Dressings denken. Das ist in Kombination mit dem Buchtitel dann aber auch wieder nicht so blöd, denn da findet man es wieder spannend, was denn das nun für Dressings sein könnten :)

Beim Durchblättern der Leseprobe war ich gleich auf die Cremigen und die Ungewöhnlichen und Exotischen Dressings gespannt. Allerdings war mir bei den Inhaltsangaben bereits etwas mulmig zumute. Das sieht mir ganz nach einer Zutatenschlacht aus. Aber die muss man für ein leckeres Dressing wohl in Kauf nehmen.

Rezepttechnisch muss ich zugeben, dass ich keine wirklich ausgewogene Wertung abgeben kann, da ich bisher lediglich ein Dressing ausprobiert habe. Das Ziegenkäsedressing war wirklich hervorragend und hat sehr gut zum Gurkensalat gepasst. Allerdings muss man sagen, dass der Lebensmittelverbrauch unverhältnismäßig war.

I can’t say too much about this book, as I only had time to try one salad dressing so far. It was a goat cheese dressing that tasted very good but I needed a disproportionate amount of ingredients for it.

No Rating

Grillen – Susanne Bodensteiner:


Mein Favorit unter den drei Covern ist das von Grillen. Ich mags einfach gern dunkler und hier fühl ich mich wohl und würde gern gleich Platz nehmen und reinbeißen.

Die Gerichte im Inhaltsverzeichnis sehen auf den ersten Blick großteils nach (umgearbeiteten) Klassikern aus.

Getestet wurden: Bunte Karibik Spieße, Hähnchen Oriental, Fisch-Frikadellen mit Koriander, Quesadillas mit Ziegenkäse und Mini-Focaccia vom Grill. Die Bunten Karibik Spieße und die Quesadillas waren ein Traum und wirklich sehr lecker und einfach zuzubereiten. Das Hähnchen Oriental was ganz okay, wenn es auch etwas mehr Feuer vertragen hätte. Von den Fisch-Frikadellen bin ich nicht überzeugt. Diese schmeckten nur nach Tiefkühlfisch und sehr lasch. Ein totaler Reinfall waren die Mini-Focaccia. Die sind leider sofort in die Mülltonne gewandert, da sie nur nach Mehl und Olivenöl geschmeckt haben.

Alles in allem kann man sagen, dass das Buch wohl von ausgezeichneten Rezepten bis hin zu Totalausfällen alles bietet. Aber allein für die Karibik Spieße hat es sich gelohnt.

This BBQ book is hit & miss. I made some very good things like carribbean skewers and goat-cheese quesadillas, but then there were bland fish burgers and downright ugly focaccia. I’d buy the book especially for those skewers though. So yummy!



Review – The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas


Today’s review was pretty hard to write. It’s about Scarlett Thomas’ novel The End of Mr Y. I still don’t really know what to make of it. But see for yourself :)

The End of Mr Y

Image provided by Canongate¹

Synopsis quoted from Canongate¹:

When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop, she can’t believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed.
With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself thrust into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel.

My Thoughts:

The End of Mr Y starts out in present-day England and slowly leads you into a parallel world, called the Troposphere, which frequently changes its appearance. Traveling through this strange world, you can feel these changes just like the protagonist Ariel Manto does, so don’t worry if at some point you can’t see clearly and the world around you starts to blur.

Ariel Manto is a young scientist who is curious and very isolated. Her life is dull and in her self-destructive ways she doesn’t seem to want to change that. I wasn’t really able to connect with Ariel, but there is a character in this book who I like. He is a very powerful one who makes an appearance when he’s needed most. In a way he reminds me of a wise and loving grandfather. (I’m not talking about Professor Burlem here.)

The End of Mr Y is a very creative book with an exciting plot. Nevertheless, it has too much non-fiction content for my taste. I’m reading fiction to relax and I don’t want to be deluged with philosophical questions. At some point I just started to skip these passages. Fortunately, they aren’t really necessary to follow the story. Another letdown is the ending which just doesn’t fit the complexity of the book. So as you can see, The End of Mr Y is a book that philosophers will love and that you should read if you’d like to enter a very odd parallel world.


¹ http://www.canongate.tv/the-end-of-mr-y-paperback.html


Review – The Storms of War by Kate Williams


Don’t judge a book by its cover! This sentence holds especially true for Kate WilliamsThe Storms of War. Don’t expect your usual light historical/romantic fiction fare. Why? Just read my review.

Thank you Orion Books for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The Storms of War

Image provided by Orion Books¹

Synopsis quoted from Orion Books¹:

In the idyllic early summer of 1914, life is good for the de Witt family. Rudolf and Verena are planning the wedding of their daughter Emmeline, while their eldest son, Arthur, is studying in Paris and Michael is just back from his first term at Cambridge. Celia, the youngest of the de Witt children, is on the brink of adulthood, and secretly dreams of escaping her carefully mapped-out future and exploring the world.

But the onslaught of war changes everything and soon the de Witts find themselves sidelined and in danger of losing everything they hold dear. As Celia struggles to make sense of the changing world around her, she lies about her age to join the war effort and finds herself embroiled in a complex plot that puts not only herself but those she loves in danger.

My Thoughts:

Kate Williams’ The Storms of War is set during the Great War in England and France and the detailed descriptions of the various settings help you to envision what the war must have been like. While Williams paints a clear picture of the gruesome wartime at the Western Front in France, she doesn’t forget to also write about the state of her settings before and after the war. One of these places is Stoneythorpe Hall, the home of the de Witt family, and I really enjoyed reading about how it changed during the war.

In my opinion, this novel is the coming-of-age story of Celia de Witt, our main character. She is the youngest of the de Witt children and after the war breaks out she has to grow up very fast. Child-like, dreamy and naive Celia soon adapts to the harsh reality of the wartime and turns into a practical young woman. Only later in the book, she somehow seems to be out of character for a short while. I could write a lot about the other characters. They all seem to have their own story to tell which isn’t surprising, as this is the first book in a trilogy.

As I said before, when I saw the cover of The Storms of War, I expected light historical/romantic fiction. What I didn’t expect is a novel that is filled with blood and causes so much pain. I was glad it turned out that way. The Storms of War is a well-researched book that I’d recommend to everyone who can stomach a hefty dose of war and its consequences on people’s lives.


¹ https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409139881


Review – Paddington Helps Out by Michael Bond

Hello everyone,

Today we’re having a look at a classic for children and those who are young at heart: Michael Bond‘s Paddington Helps Out. It is the second book in a series of 13, so you will most definitely see more of Paddington.

Synopsis quoted from HarperCollins Children’s Books¹:

“Oh dear,” said Paddington, as everyone turned to look at him accusingly. “I’m in trouble again.” Somehow trouble comes naturally to Paddington.

What other bear could upset the whole cinema by standing on his seat to boo the ‘bad guy’ in the cowboy film? Or drip ice-cream on the people down below? Or flood the launderette and saw Mr Curry’s kitchen into little pieces? Only Paddington! But when Paddington’s head is so full of ideas, some things are bound to go wrong!

My Thoughts:

Like A Bear Called Paddington, the first instalment in the Paddington series, Paddington Helps Out is set in London, UK. Again, Michael Bond takes us to familiar places like the Browns’ home, the market, or Mr Gruber’s fascinating shop. We are, however, also introduced to new locations like a fancy restaurant, or the launderette and, as always, we see them like Paddington, as utterly exciting and strange.

By now you should all be familiar with our main character Paddington. The young, charming and naive bear from the darkest Peru always means well and has a big heart. It is just wonderful to see the world through his eyes.

Like all the books in the series, Paddington Helps Out is divided into short stories that are connected to each other. The stories in this book are about Paddington trying to help out, but it wouldn’t be him if things would go as planned. Paddington Helps Out is a fun and entertaining read that teaches us that even a bad situation can turn into something good in the end.


¹ http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/titles/9780006753445/paddington-helps-out


Review – Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Happy Hump Day,

Today I’ll review J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. I’ve been planning to read this book for ages and now that I’ve bought the beautiful Puffin Chalk edition with rough cut (oh I love rough cut), I finally felt ready to do so. First off, I have to admit that I’m heavily biased by Disney’s 1953 animated film Peter Pan, so reading the original came as a shock. But see for yourself.

Peter Pan

Image provided by Penguin US¹

Synopsis quoted from Penguin US¹:

One starry night, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell lead the three Darling children over the rooftops of London and away to Neverland–the island where lost boys play, mermaids splash and fairies make mischief. But a villainous-looking gang of pirates lurk in the docks, led by the terrifying Captain James Hook. Magic and excitement are in the air, but if Captain Hook has his way, before long, someone will be walking the plank and swimming with the crocodiles…

My Thoughts:

As we all know, Peter Pan is set in London and Neverland. Neverland is a special place that looks different for every child. Barrie compares its map to the map of a child’s mind. As far as setting goes, the description of Neverland is the most outstanding part of this novel. I also like how Barrie writes about the Lost Boys having to find the right hollow tree stump as a personal entryway into their underground home.

But now, the truth will be revealed: Our main character, famous Peter Pan, is an unlikeable, selfish fellow. I really came to hate him. And Wendy isn’t much better, because she just doesn’t get that Peter is using her. She is a very naive little girl who desperately wants to be a wife and a mother. The only characters I did like are the Lost Boys. They are a lot of fun to be around and remind me of a real bunch of boys quarrelling and having fun. Of course, all this doesn’t mean that J. M. Barrie was a bad writer, it just means that I grew up with a different version of Peter Pan and it’s hard for me to adjust to the harsh reality.

The first half of Peter Pan actually is so boring I was thinking of quitting the book. I am, however, not a quitter, so I read on and it did get better. You should know that this book is very different from what you see in the 1953 Disney movie. Neverland isn’t a shiny happy place with a couple of silly pirates causing trouble. It’s cruel. And Peter is too. So don’t read this book to small children. What Peter Pan does is, it gives a good impression of late 19th, early 20th century views on women and of what was expected of little boys and girls. So read it if you are interested in that, or if you want to score more points on all those 100-books-you-should-read lists.


¹ http://www.penguin.com/book/peter-pan-by-j-m-barrie/9780147508652