Review – Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler


In April I decided to read another book from my TBR pile. This time I chose Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.

Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Image provided by Two Roads¹

In 1920, Zelda Sayre, a nineteen-year-old girl from Montgomery, Alabama, hops onto a train to New York City to marry F. Scott Fitzgerald. Within months, the couple is widely known among New York City’s society. The two of them stay up all night to drink and party and sleep until afternoon. This lifestyle leaves marks and so it doesn’t come as a surprise that Scott has problems concentrating on his writing.
The couple move to France where Scott is supposed to finish his novel undisturbed. This is where they meet some of the most influential artists and writers of the 20th century and their marriage starts to get complicated.

Therese Anne Fowler is very good at creating a suitable atmosphere. The depiction of surreal 1920s parties, the arty Paris salons and the increasing bleakness Zelda faces in France help to get a better understanding of the world she lives in and what it must be like for her to deal with it.

Z starts out as a cheerful, exciting novel and steadily drifts into a melancholic, desolate mood, which mirrors Zelda’s physical and mental health. This also affects the novel’s pace which slows down after the couple leave for Paris the first time. Reading Z, it becomes clear that you probably wouldn’t want to swap places with Zelda. In the end, she is nothing more than another wife who isn’t able to do what she wants just because her husband says so – and that is a complete understatement.

3 Star Rating: Recommended
3.5 magic beans


Review – Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel


Last month I participated in a reading group on LovelyBooks where we read Sylvain Neuvel‘s novel Sleeping Giants.

Sleeping Giants
Image provided by Michael Joseph¹

When Rose, a girl from Deadwood, USA, falls into a pit one evening, she doesn’t realize that this incident is the start of a fascinating discovery she is about to make years later.
Dr Rose Franklin didn’t just fall into a pit, she fell onto a giant hand and where there is a hand, there could be more body parts buried somewhere. But who created that hand and why? Rose only knows that it can’t be man-made.

Dr Rose Franklin is a scientist through and through. She loves her job and finding out about the giant hand is her priority. Nevertheless, she won’t sell her own grandmother to achieve her goals. Rose still has enough conscience to know where to stop and that makes her very likable.
Another important character is the interlocutor. We never really find out who he really is and he doesn’t tell us his name but he tends to evoke all sorts of feelings – positive and negative – through the actions he takes.

As I’ve implied before, the novel consists of written interviews and occasional journal entries. This writing style might not be for everyone, but it does suck you right in and gives you all the details you need. There are, however, instances when characters open up to the interlocutor in a way that isn’t very credible. Would you tell a nameless stranger about your love affairs? The author could have used the journal entries to give us that information.

Sleeping Giants is a science fiction novel that takes on a necessary geopolitical dimension that can get a little tiring in parts. The disturbing plot reminds us that peace often lies in the hands of few people. Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants is gripping up until the very last page, and if you don’t mind books ending with a cliffhanger, you’re in for a thought-provoking read.

4 Star Rating: Recommended

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

World Book Day – Blogger Schenken Lesefreude

Happy World Book Day everyone!

As you hopefully all know, today is World Book Day. The UNESCO organizes this annual event on April 23rd to “pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors, encouraging everyone […] to discover the pleasure of reading”¹

Blogger Schenken Lesefreude

Blogger Schenken Lesefreude (German for Bloggers Spread the Joy of Reading) has been an integral part of World Book Day here in the German-speaking book-world for years. It is a project organized by Christina, Dagmar and Sonja to help compile a list of all bloggers, companies and organizations who give away books on this special day. This year however, they want participants to think of new ways to spread the joy of reading other than simple blog giveaways.

The Wander Society
Image provided by Particular Books²

When Penguin Random House UK contacted me about a book crossing project, I knew this was a perfect match for Blogger Schenken Lesefreude. This is why I will release one copy of Keri Smith’s new book The Wander Society into the wild here in my hometown for some stranger to find. I think it’s a great book not only to spread the joy of reading but also to spread the joy of wandering around, exploring your surroundings.

I will keep you up to date on how the release of the book went. It hasn’t arrived yet, but should be here next week.

Happy World Book Day and keep on reading! 🙂


Review – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


A few weeks ago, I devoured Becky Chambers‘ novel The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet which was longlisted for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Image provided by Hodder & Stoughton¹

Rosemary Harper is the newest crew member of the Wayfarer, a tunneling ship. While she has obviously traveled through open space before, Rosemary has spent most of her life planetside and the idea of living in this new environment is making her feel a little uneasy. Fortunately, most of the crew give her a warm welcome, especially the talkative and excited mechanic Kizzy, the friendly pilot Sissix and the big-hearted cook Dr Chef.

Rosemary’s addition to the mixed-species crew proves to be of value soon because the Wayfarer is offered a bigger job than usual. They have to travel to a far-away planet to build a hyperspace tunnel from there. On the way, they have to deal with all kinds of species and Rosemary who is well-read and open-minded, shows that these traits can be of great importance for the outcome of their job.

Even though The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is set in the distant future in space with planets and galaxies full of species created from Becky Chambers’ imagination, this novel is about current issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s different species or different nationalities that have to deal with each other, the strategies for successful communication and negotiation are always the same. This is what the crew of the Wayfarer has to learn the hard way.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is more than your usual Science Fiction novel. It is a sociological study that deals with interspecies communication, with prejudices, customs and culture. Even though Rosemary lives in the future out there in space, the problems she faces are the same as ours. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a reminder of what is important if we want to continue to live a peaceful life.

5 Star Rating: Recommended


Review – March by Geraldine Brooks


Last month, in March, I decided to finally read Geraldine BrooksPulitzer Prize-winning novel March. 😉

This is the 2006 Harper Perennial edition¹
This is the 2006 Harper Perennial edition¹

When Mr March, abolitionist and the father of Louisa May Alcott’s four Little Women, volunteers to serve as a chaplain in the American Civil War, he doesn’t know that the upcoming months will be different from what he expects. Following an incident involving a black woman, March is transferred south to Oak Landing, a cotton plantation, where it is his task to establish a school for the workers’ children. Even though slavery has been abolished in the area it is still in people’s minds, which March only starts to realize when he sets foot on Oak Landing.

Geraldine Brooks crafted Mr March after Louisa May Alcott’s father Bronson Alcott and used his 61 journals and 37 manuscript volumes full of letters as an inspiration. So when Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau pop up as friends of the family in March, the author is really talking about the two transcendentalists.

While March is well-researched, the storyline is nothing special. Frankly speaking, I’m having problems thinking of something to write about March that stands out, may it be positive or negative, but nothing really comes to mind. This novel is a solid work of historical fiction that will keep you entertained, so if that is all you want, go for it! It might even do more for you.

3.5 Star Rating: Recommended
3.5 magic beans

¹ This is the latest edition.

Easter – The Secret Easter Bunny Brought Me Gifts

Hello everyone,

I hope you had a great Easter Sunday and are enjoying Easter Monday so far. This Easter I participated in a gift exchange that follows the same rules as Secret Santa except that it’s the Secret Easter Bunny who is trying to put a smile on your face. The gift exchange was organized by fellow blogger Sarah from Büchermops and was open to Austrian book bloggers.

Secret Easter Bunny Package

A few weeks ago I received a beautiful and big package, wrapped in mint-colored wrapping paper. This is when the long wait until Easter Sunday began. Fortunately, I am very disciplined when it comes to not touching stuff I’m meant to leave alone. Last night, I finally opened my package and here is what I found inside:

Secret Easter Bunny

The Secret Easter Bunny obviously wants me to spend more time at my sewing machine, because they gave me lots of fabric. There is red fleece, which I can never have enough of, as it is perfect for all sorts of small projects, very cute white cotton with animals on it (my boyfriend loves all the cats on it 😀 ), salmon-colored stretchy knit fabric with glitter, and white jersey with fairies (or princesses?). The last two fabrics are perfect, as I can finally try my hand at stretch fabric. We’ll see how that goes. 😉 I also got two kinds of grosgrain ribbon. One is pink with daisies and the other one, my absolute favorite, is blue with a space theme.

Secret Easter BunnyOf course Easter would be boring without some calories, right? So I got fruit confections and the Easter Bunny tells me that these are made by a local manufacturer – so cool! Some of you might have noticed the small green bag. It has tea flowers in it that bloom when you put them in hot water. I’ve always wanted a tea flower and the Easter Bunny didn’t even know that. Now that is a surprise! I’m looking forward to a special moment to make some blooming tea and I can’t wait to see what the flowers look like.

As this was a book blogger Secret Easter Bunny, I also got a book that has been on my wish list for a while now. It’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. I’m really looking forward to diving into it and I think I might do so tonight.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Thank you so much Secret Easter Bunny! You did great selecting everything and I’m very happy about this wonderful package. I’m still not sure who you are, because you didn’t leave me any clues, or at least I didn’t see any, but I’ll take a lucky guess: Is it you msmedlock?

Review – The Christmas We Met by Kate Lord Brown


Do you miss Christmas? As a matter of fact I do, but if you belong to the majority of people I know, you probably don’t. Please do me a favor and keep on reading. 🙂 Some time ago, when I started to read Kate Lord Brown‘s The Christmas We Met, I was expecting a very wintry and christmassy novel, but it isn’t.

The Christmas We Met
Image provided by Orion¹

After Grace’s husband Sam vanishes she loses everything. She has to watch as her home and all her belongings are sold to creditors and her beloved workshop has to go under the hammer. When Grace is finally ready to take a new job, it’s to work as a secretary for Fraser Stratton and not as a jeweler. The day she drives to Wittering Manor for her job interview is the first day of a turbulent year that might change Grace’s life forever.

Fraser Stratton is in the process of writing his memoirs and needs help sorting his thoughts. He is an eccentric and lovable old man who made me laugh more than once. Even though most of the characters in the novel are well-developed, Fraser is my favorite. Grace, who is depressed after all that she’s gone through, soon realizes that she’s needed and, not surprisingly, turns into a much happier person. This process however is not a smooth one and from time to time Grace behaves irrational.

As I’ve said before, The Christmas We Met is not a Christmas novel, it spans a whole year and is set in the 1970s. As Fraser Stratton writes his memoirs, there are flashbacks to his past which is even more gripping than the action taking place in the present.

This novel is like a scavenger hunt full of mystery that soon turns into a page-turner. The Christmas We Met is well-researched and Kate Lord Brown has taken care of even the smallest details. If you like engrossing historical fiction, then this one is for you.

4 Star Rating: Recommended

² An uncorrected proof was provided by the publisher.

Review – A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler


I recently read Anne Tyler’s novel A Spool of Blue Thread, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

A Spool of Blue Thread
Image provided by Vintage¹

The Whitshank family has been living in the house on Bouton Road for generations, well maybe just two generations, as Red’s father Junior was the one who built the house, and Red’s four children have already moved out. So the only ones living there when things start to get a bit complicated are Red, his wife Abby and their dog.

Anne Tyler takes us on a trip through 20th-century Baltimore, from the 1920s up until the 21st century. We get to know each generation and therefore understand why the characters act the way they do.

Two prominent characters are Denny and Stem’s wife Nora. We don’t however get a very close look at them. They are both introvert characters and Tyler keeps them at distance by not telling the reader what goes on underneath their facade.

As the plot follows Junior and Linnie Whitshank from their hometown to Baltimore, we see them struggle and move into the house on Bouton Road. Their children Merrick and Red grow up there and get married one after the other, until it’s Red’s time to live in the house, accompanied by his wife Abby and their children Amanda, Jeannie, Denny and Stem. There is nothing special about the Whitshanks, they are a normal family and so is their life. And even though Tyler writes about everyday life A Spool of Blue Thread isn’t a boring novel. Sure, it might take about 100 pages to get into the book, but as soon as you’re fully acquainted with everyone reading is like meeting up with old friends.

A Spool of Blue Thread won’t hold your attention because of a gripping plot, it is a character-driven novel and Anne Tyler succeeded in creating realistic characters whose lives we follow like old biddies at the coffee table. So if you are generally interested in what your neighbors are up to, you might enjoy A Spool of Blue Thread.

4 Star Rating: Recommended


Review – The Obituary Writer by Lauren St John


Lauren St John’s novel The Obituary Writer had been sitting on my shelf for almost three years until it finally felt like the right book to read. I guess you know these moments, right? 🙂

The Obituary Writer
Image provided by Orion¹

One day, Nick Donaghue, an obituary writer for THE TIMES, is on his way to work, when he is involved in a horrible train crash where he is the only one escaping unharmed. While everybody else thinks Nick to be very fortunate, his life is turning into a literal nightmare. After months of sleepless nights, he moves from London to an old beach house in Cornwall where he runs into Sasha and has to give up his notion of living a quiet and secluded life.

It is hard to put this novel into a literary genre. The Obituary Writer starts out as a mystery with thriller elements, then it turns into a love story. This would have been okay. Unfortunately, the romance is soon sprinkled with paragraphs right out of an erotic novel that seem utterly out of place. And to top it all off, there’s a little bit of crime here, and some sick lit ² there. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with mixing genres if the mix is homogeneous. In this case it isn’t and it seems like the author wanted to try out all these different genres to see how they worked for her.

Other than that, The Obituary Writer is an entertaining novel. It sucks you in right at the beginning and holds your attention for quite some time. The middle is a little slow, but the narrative takes up speed again in the last third of the book.

While we get to know Nick Donaghue’s character – his feelings, fears and doubts – very closely, most of the other characters stay in the background. It would have been nice to get a better understanding of Sasha, the woman who attracts Nick’s attention.

If you are as drawn to this novel by its beautiful cover as I was, you might as well give it a try, but it will not be a smooth ride, that’s for sure. And if you’ve already read The Obituary Writer, I’d like to know what you thought about the ending. But no spoilers please!

3 Star Rating: Recommended

² There is a spoiler hidden underneath. If you still want to see it, just highlight the text with your mouse.

Recipe – How to make Slow Cooker King Cake


A few days ago, I was looking for a slow cooker King Cake recipe and all I could find was Megan’s Crock Pot King Cake Fail. I knew that it is possible to bake yeast dough in a slow cooker because I made cinnamon pull-apart bread in it before, so I decided to ask the admin of the Slow Cooker Crock Pot Recipes Facebook Page if they had any idea how to tackle slow cooker King Cake. They never tried making it either, but suggested cooking it on low for 4 hours.

Slow Cooker King Cake

I used Jo’s Mardi Gras King Cake recipe and followed the instructions. It makes two King Cakes, which is why I only made half the recipe for the pastry, but not for the filling – I love lots of filling! I didn’t use Jo’s frosting and made maple frosting instead.

When I was done rolling and shaping my King Cake ring, I buttered the surface of my slow cooker to prevent the cake from sticking to it. Then, I carefully transferred the ring-shaped King Cake into the slow cooker and inserted a cylinder made of tin foil and covered with parchment paper into the middle of the ring. I put the lid on the slow cooker and waited for 10 minutes until I turned it on low.


I left my King Cake like that for 2.5 hours (on low). This was when I noticed the edges getting a little too brown and so I just turned the cake upside down and left it like that for one more hour (also on low).


I removed the King Cake and put it on parchment paper. While it was cooling a little, I prepared the maple icing. You are supposed to use about 1 tbsp milk, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 1/8 cups of powdered sugar. I was almost out of powdered sugar, so I substituted that with granulated sugar and some more milk. I divided the icing into three parts and mixed it with food coloring. Then I drizzled it onto the King Cake.

Slow Cooker King CakeWhat would I change?

  1. I would use a bit less pastry, so the King Cake has more room to rise in the slow cooker.
  2. I wouldn’t double the filling, but use 1 and 1/2 times as much as the recipe calls for.
  3. The King Cake was fully cooked after 3.5 hours on low. I’d reduce the cooking time by half an hour, because I’m fairly confident that it was already cooked after 3 hours.

I hope all this is useful for you. Happy cooking/baking and happy Mardi Gras!