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Review – Die Seltsamen / The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

Hi,

About two weeks ago, I got to read the German edition of Stefan Bachmann‘s The Peculiar which was originally published by Harper Collins in 2012. It’s called Die Seltsamen and Diogenes publishers provided me with a review copy. Thank you.

What’s worth mentioning, is the effort Diogenes made to promote the upcoming release of the book. Weeks before the release, bloggers all over Germany were sent black feathers and got the message that Bath had vanished. They were encouraged to find out what had happened and were fed more clues at the Magisches Labor (translates to Magical Laboratory) where they were also able to speculate and communicate with each other.

Die Seltsamen Cover

German book cover provided by Diogenes¹

The Peculiar Cover

English book cover provided by Harper Collins²

Synopsis quoted from HarperCollins²:

Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings—Peculiars—and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley—Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

My Thoughts:

For The Peculiar, Stefan Bachmann uses a 19th century England backdrop to create an alternate steampunk world. Bachmann’s love for detail is apparent and it is his great talent. I particularly liked how he described the clockwork birds that play an important role in the novel.

Bartholomew Kettle and Arthur Jelliby are the main characters in The Peculiar. This way, Bachmann manages to capture both adult and young adult readers – at least theoretically. Unfortunately, I couldn’t empathize with neither of them. Bartholomew is just a little boy who wants to live a normal life and Arthur Jelliby seems actually quite insecure (sometimes even heartless), no matter his actions. I also always imagined the latter to be a middle-aged man rather than the young man he is said to be.

Most of the time, The Peculiar is a slow-paced book, even though the plot would require the considerably faster pace that it picks up near the end. As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t able to empathize with the main characters. This is why, at some point, I stopped caring about the future of Bartholomew, Hettie and Mr Jelliby. I really enjoyed the world Bachmann created, but he just couldn’t hook me with his story that ends with a huge cliffhanger and left me indifferent.

One more thing though: Stefan Bachmann wrote The Peculiar when he was 16 years old! I think he did great for that age. Not many can write a book at 16. Still, my review was not written with his age in mind. It should simply show you what it was like for me to read his novel.

2beans(actually 2.5 magic beans)

¹ http://www.diogenes.ch/leser/katalog/nach_autoren/a-z/b/9783257068887/buch

² http://harpercollins.com/books/The-Peculiar-Stefan-Bachmann/?isbn=9780062195180

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Blog Birthday – One Year Of All That Magic

Hello there,

It’s our birthday today!

A year ago I started this little blog and I had no idea what it would turn out to be. And here it is, ready for toddler’s group :D

I’m reading a lot more than I used to read which is time well spent I think. I’m also spending way too much time reading tweets. Something I didn’t do before I started blogging. So this is something that I probably shouldn’t do. I’m still not writing as many culinary blog posts as I want to, simply because they are very time-consuming, just like university is right now. (kudos to all those food bloggers out there) So I try to combine things that easily match: Reading and writing for pleasure and reading and writing for university. ;)

birthday balloons

I have two birthday presents for you, my loyal readers!

The first one is the book-related questionnaire down below. (I got tagged by Sandra a couple of weeks ago).

The second present is actually more than one. On World Book Day (April 23), you’ll get the chance to win one of three books. This is part of a huge blogger giveaway called Blogger Schenken Lesefreude (unofficial translation: Bloggers Give Books) and is organized by Christina and Dagmar. But more about that at a later date.

And now, let’s be merry :D I hope you enjoy this little tag. I won’t tag anyone. If you, however, insist to be tagged, I can do that. Just drop me a line.

Either – Or
Slim book or weighty tome?

I love books with lots of pages to get lost in. :)

Second-hand or new?

That depends. Of course, who doesn’t love a new book, fresh out of the press? I do! But I don’t mind a clean second-hand copy if I know I’ll just read it once and bring it back to the open book exchange.

Historical fiction or fantasy?

Can I please have a mix of both genres?

Hardback or paperback?

Paperbacks are so convenient if you have a low-budget (like I do) and if you want to take them with you everywhere you go! I love them. But I also don’t say no to beautiful and special hardcover editions of great books I’ve read.

Funny or sad?

I love drama. I love to read books that hurt. So if I have to choose, I’ll choose sad. Nevertheless, books with the right amount of humor are great!

Summer or winter reader?

I think I read as much in winter as I read in summer. I don’t have any preferences concerning the right reading temperature or weather. Imagine that: “Oh it’s way too hot outside. I don’t read when it’s hot,” or “Did you hear the news? They issued a storm warning. You can’t read during a storm!”

Classics or contemporary fiction?

It all depends on how you define classics…

Self-help books or novels?

If I’m in a situation that requires a self-help book, I’ll go for that. They can come in very handy sometimes! Other than that, I prefer novels.

Crime fiction or thrillers?

Neither! I’m easily scared.

Ebook or print book?

Same answer as for paperbacks vs hardbacks.

Hoarding or throwing out?

Hoarding. I admit it. I’m a book hoarder. And so is my dad. There is no denying who I got that from. Although he started putting some of his read books into the open book exchange.

Online bookshops or traditional bookstores?

I love to browse traditional bookstores. Unfortunately, over here many of them have hardly any English books for sale. Forget browsing. And the few books they have are irrationally expensive. This is why I have to buy most of the books I read from online stores.

Bestseller or shelf warmer?

I read what I like. No matter if it’s a bestseller or not.

Cook book or baking book?

As many cook books include baking recipes, I’ll choose the cook book. Clever, eh?

 
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Review – Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Hello there,

It’s me again! I had to get this out of my system. Last night, I finished Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris. The last instalment in the Southern Vampire Mysteries also called Sookie Stackhouse Novels. I’m not very happy about it. But read for yourself. First, here’s a list of all the books in the series:

  1. Dead Until Dark
  2. Living Dead in Dallas
  3. Club Dead
  4. Dead to the World
  5. Dead as a Doornail
  6. Definitely Dead
  7. All Together Dead
  8. From Dead to Worse
  9. Dead and Gone
  10. Dead in the Family
  11. Dead Reckoning
  12. Deadlocked
  13. Dead Ever After
Dead Ever After

Image provided by Penguin USA¹

Synopsis quoted from Penguin USA¹:

There are secrets in the town of Bon Temps, ones that threaten those closest to Sookie—and could destroy her heart….
Sookie Stackhouse finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.
Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.
But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough…

My Thoughts:

We’re back in Bon Temps and not much has changed setting-wise. Only Sookie’s garden is much greener now and the description of it read wonderfully.

While the setting didn’t change all that much, some characters have. One of them is Eric. We don’t get to see him a lot but his decisions speak volumes. Sam is also acting very strange and it isn’t possible to warm up to him like in the previous books. At least we can count on Sookie, the main character in the series. She’s still the same, tanning in the sun and serving the customers at Merlotte’s.

Dead Ever After is the last book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries and unfortunately, it doesn’t do them justice. As expected, there are many goodbyes. There is a murder that is not solved completely, as the one person responsible for the murder is not even looked for. I was so surprised to see the novel end and everyone off the murder case. If you are looking for emotions other than heartbreak, look elsewhere. Charlaine Harris gave her series a reasonable ending. But do readers of paranormal romance really want to read about reasonable and boring situations, or do they read these novels because they are full of thrill, adventure and emotions?

2beans

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Review – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Hi,

I’ve been planning to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams for years now. I finally managed to do so. I have to thank my Summer Santa for this lovely edition :)

The Hitchhiker's Guide To Galaxy

Image provided by Pan Macmillan¹

Synopsis quoted from Pan Macmillan¹:

It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed with the big, friendly words: DON’T PANIC.

The weekend has only just begun…

Volume one in the trilogy of five

My Thoughts:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a 1979 science fiction novel by English author Douglas Adams. I own a paperback edition published in 2009 by Pan Books. It comes with various stickers to customize the cover.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is mainly set on spaceships and strange planets. I like how Douglas Adams describes the different spacecraft. They are easy to orient yourself on. What I particularly like, is the setting he created on the last planet in the book. It feels very realistic and a bit scary at first.

The main character, Arthur Dent, is easy to empathize with, as he is human. The reader also sympathizes with him because he lost his planet. All the other characters are aliens, although you wouldn’t notice that if it weren’t for their looks. If you’d just open the book at a random page and read a random dialogue, you’d never guess that it wasn’t a conversation between humans.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an entertaining novel. Many very weird and unthinkable things happen throughout the book. The novel has an open ending which should probably encourage you to buy the next instalment in the series. Unfortunately, this ending is what destroys the experience. It comes too abruptly. I don’t think that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is laugh-out-loud funny, but it is funny because it is weird and sometimes nonsensical. If you like that kind of stuff, you’re in for a treat. I also think you should be willing to read the other instalments in the series if you are planning on reading the first one.

3beans

¹http://www.panmacmillan.com/book/douglasadams/thehitchhikersguidetothegalaxy?format=978033050853701

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Review – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Reread)

Oops… I did it again :D

When I first got the chance to read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life it was in German, and I have loved it since then and decided that I had to read the English original someday. It’s been a year since this novel was first published and Black Swan released a truly beautiful paperback edition of Life After Life this January. Fortunately, I was provided with a copy to read in a Lovelybooks online book club. Thank you Random House UK!

So here is my second review of this truly amazing novel:

Life After Life

Image provided by Transworld¹

Life After Life is a 2013 novel by British writer Kate Atkinson. This review will be about the paperback edition, published by Black Swan in January 2014.

As the title Life After Life suggests, Ursula Todd lives her life more than once. During the Great War, she grows up among her four siblings in England. In her numerous lives, Ursula relives the Great War and World War II, repeatedly travels to the continent and tries to find ways for people to survive.

Kate Atkinson’s onomatopoeic language and her vivid descriptions make the setting of Life After Life very realistic. As mentioned in my first review, the reader constantly feels as if they were inside the book. Kate Atkinson also manages to create a different feel for every setting, that way, war for example does feel different depending in which country Ursula goes through it. Atkinson is brilliant at creating settings.

Ursula, the main character, is a very flexible character. Although she stays the same person, she develops from life to life, adapting to the given circumstances. Another great character is Ursula’s mother Sylvie Todd. Sylvie is struggling with the changing society. The tension between the person she wants to be and the person she has to be is palpable. Unlike Ursula, Sylvie isn’t able to develop much throughout the book.

Life After Life features a very unique plot. Even though Ursula’s life repeats itself multiple times, it never gets boring. When you first read this book, you have no idea how Kate Atkinson will make Ursula relive her lives. You will ask yourself if she has any control over the process or not. These are questions that you may find answers for in the book. Life After Life is a novel that caters for all tastes. It doesn’t fall short of sorrow and happiness and leaves more than enough room for thought.

5beans

¹http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk/editions/life-after-life/9780552776639

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Review – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Hi,

Today I’m going to review Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief for you.

You’ll notice a different structure on this and some of my upcoming reviews as I’m practicing for an exam that includes writing reviews and I’ll just stick to the structure that is expected at university. If you like it better than my usual review structure, you can tell me that. If you like the other structure better, you can also tell me. I’m planning on switching back after the exam, but if you are all in favor of this new structure, I can also stick to it.

The Book Thief

Image provided by Transworld¹

The Book Thief is a 2005 novel by Australian writer Markus Zusak. The edition I own is a paperback edition published in 2007 by Black Swan, a division of Transworld Publishers.

The Book Thief is about nine-year-old Liesel Meminger who is sent to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family living in a fictional town called Molching. She soon warms up to her foster-father Hans and her new best friend Rudy. Her foster-mother Rosa takes some getting used to. Liesel settles in, learns to read and takes up stealing books. One day, a young man enters the Hubermanns’ kitchen. His name is Max and he is a Jew hiding from the Nazis.

Zusak’s visual description of the setting and his vivid writing style make you believe you were a character in his novel. Walking the town of Molching with its little stores and shabby houses feels very real. Just like Liesel holding a burning book to her chest. Markus Zusak knows how to show the reader what he imagines.

The Book Thief features mainly well-crafted characters. Liesel is depicted realistically, as she turns from the shy and hesitant young girl to a brave rascal with a big heart. Like every child, she doesn’t always think about the consequences of her actions. I enjoyed the well-rounded characterization of Liesel’s loving foster-father Hans and I wish Rosa would have gotten similar treatment. As Rosa is a very reserved person, it could also be that Markus Zusak didn’t want us to know too much about Rosa. She should be as much a mystery to us as she is to Liesel. The Book Thief is narrated by Death and Markus Zusak couldn’t have chosen a better narrator. Death has a good sense of humor and keeps you glued to the pages.

So what is the overall reading experience? While The Book Thief instantly sucks you in, it slows down in the middle mainly because day-to-day events are recounted and nothing happens that stays in your mind. I couldn’t find a real climax throughout the book. Not even the scene near the end has that much impact. The ending itself, however, is satisfying. What I particularly liked was that the book features many Bavarian words and expressions which worked very well and added to the sarcastic tone the narrator created. As a person living near Bavaria, I can tell you that Markus Zusak did his research. What did not work were the printed illustrated pages of a book within this edition of the novel. They were very hard to read and quickly became annoying. The Book Thief is a solid novel that is suitable for very young readers as it leaves out many of the horrors of the time. For adults and young adults who know that millions of people died a cruel death during the Nazi regime, the book might turn out be a bit too soft.

3beans

¹http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk/editions/the-book-thief/9780552773898

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Recipe – Wiener Schnitzel

Hello everyone,

Are you hungry? If you are, I might have just the right thing for you. Today I’ve got a post for all the foodies among you. I proudly present:

How to make Wiener Schnitzel

Originally, you make Wiener Schnitzel from veal. You can also make them from pork, turkey, horse meat or chicken breasts. I really like Wiener Schnitzel made from chicken breasts. If you choose veal, buy butterflied top round steaks (also for pork and horse meat). For chicken and turkey schnitzel we use butterflied breasts.

As you will see, you’ll need flour, eggs, breadcrumbs and oil/lard. I’ll tell you how much you’ll probably need, but it’s always good to have more at home, in case you run out.

Ingredients for 4:
  • a minimum of 4 chicken breasts, or any of the above meats
  • approx. 3 cups of flour (Doesn’t really matter which one. Shouldn’t be self-raising though.)
  • 3 eggs
  • approx. 4-5 cups of breadcrumbs
  • Enough lard or oil to fry your schnitzel. It depends on how much you want to use. Do you want them to swim in fat, or do you just want them to sit comfortably in a 1-1.5 cm deep puddle of fat? :)
  • a pinch of salt
Instructions on How to Make Wiener Schnitzel:

Step 1: Softly pound your schnitzel on both sides. Don’t overdo it.

Step 2: Prepare three shallow bowls, e.g. soup bowls. Put the flour into the first one, the eggs into the second and the breadcrumbs into the third one. Add a pinch of salt to the eggs and whisk with a fork so the egg whites and the yolks are combined.

Step 3: Okay this is important. There are 3 little steps in this process and you can’t mix them up!

  1. Put the schnitzel into the bowl with the flour and evenly cover it with flour. There shouldn’t be any gaps.
  2. Now put the schnitzel into the bowl with the eggs and evenly cover it with eggs. Again: no gaps. (If there is excess egg on the schnitzel, just let it drip back into the bowl)
  3. The third step is to quickly put the schnitzel into the bowl with the breadcrumbs and cover it all over.

Repeat this process with all your schnitzel. When they are breaded, they are safe to lay aside on a dry and clean chopping board, or plate.

Step 4: When you’re done with all of them, heat the lard or oil in a large frying pan. When it’s hot, you can fry your schnitzel on both sides until they are golden brown.

Schnitzel

You can serve Wiener Schnitzel with parsley potatoes (cooked potatoes with butter and chopped, fresh parsley).

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

Bon Appetit!

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