Source: Owned

Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted 21st June 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 8 Comments

I’m back! Uni has finished for the semester, and it ended horribly. I’m 99% sure I failed my Chemistry exam, given I only answered half the paper. But that’s okay! I can do it again! I’m not sure what it was about the first half of 2017, but I’ve never been less motivated to study in my life. Onwards and upwards though!

So here goes, a book review *gasp* last time I looked at my Goodreads account I was 4 books ahead of my goal, now I’m 4 behind. Oops!

Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanPractical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Penguin on August 5th 2003 (first published 1995)
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 286
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

At 85 pages in, I knew how I was going to rate this book. I decided to read Practical Magic as I love the movie (and re-watching it made me go looking for the source material). Usually I prefer to read novels after seeing film adaptations, because they are much richer and add more to the world on the screen. Well. Most of the time.

This is not one of those.

The film is vastly different, the relationships are similar but the setting is not. On paper, those relationships that made the movie for me had absolutely no depth, and there isn’t much in the way of magic (I was really disappointed by this). Alice Hoffman’s writing is beautiful, but the characters felt so lifeless and flat.

I liked Sally until the focus of the story moved elsewhere; when it shifted back, she was lost to me. I didn’t connect with her, Gillian or Sally’s daughters. It was surprising to me how much it focused on the daughters actually, I quite disliked that element.

As for Gillian, she’s the beautiful one; but she’s so weak and spineless! Running away, getting into one relationship after another until she ends up with an abuser she knows she should leave, but won’t. Then he dies and she runs to Sally for help. She’s irresponsible, supposedly a ‘free spirit’, but she just came across as sad and pathetic (whereas in the film, she was rather charming).

And Sally always helps. ALWAYS. Ugh.

The point of view seemed to change from one character to another halfway through a paragraph, which was super disorienting. Unless I read it wrong (which is possible) but it was bizarre, I never usually have a problem with POV changes.

I almost DNF at 206 pages, and then thought that would be a waste, so finished it ASAP just to move on.

I simply cannot recommend this novel, it was lifeless and bland. The movie on the other hand, A+.

Rating Report
Plot
one-star
Characters
one-star
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
one-star
Overall: 1.8

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Book Review #6: Size Matters by Alison Bliss

Posted 12th February 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

Book Review #6: Size Matters by Alison BlissSize Matters by Alison Bliss
Series: A Perfect Fit #1
Published by Forever on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 337
Format: E-Book
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars
Series Rating: two-stars
Heat Level: 2.5 Flames

The rules of (fake) engagement . . .
Leah Martin has spent her life trying to avoid temptation. But she's sick of low-fat snacks, counting calories, and her hyper-critical mom. Fortunately, her popular new bakery keeps her good and distracted. But there aren't enough éclairs in the world to distract Leah from the hotness that is Sam Cooper - or the fact that he just told her mother that they're engaged . . . which is a big, fat lie.

Sam sometime speaks before he thinks. So what started out as defending Leah's date-ability to her judgmental mother soon turned into having a fiancee! Now the plan is to keep up the fake engagement, stay "just friends," and make Leah's family loathe him enough to just call the whole thing off . But Sam has an insatiable sweet tooth, not only for Leah's decadent desserts but her decadent curves. Her full lips. Her bright green eyes. Yep, things aren't going quite according to plan. Now Sam has to convince Leah that he's for real . . . before their little lie turns into one big, sweet disaster.

I’m not entirely sure how to review this book. I absolutely hated parts of it, and other parts were really funny? And it was a bit…frustrating. There’s a few spoiler cuts in this review:

Let’s start at the beginning. Size Matters starts out badly – Leah is so focused on her size it made me uncomfortable, and her drowning her self pity in alcohol made me angry. I know it happens, we all have our insecurities, but her self esteem issues are very triggery and generally unpleasant to read.

My main issue with the book were the characters (ALL OF THEM). Sam’s inner monologue (where every sentence starts with “Hell…” I don’t care about the word itself, but it was so repetitive! “Damn” was used a lot too) did not help, going on about how he liked a woman with something to hang on to – I became worried this would slide into the ‘fetish’ zone (it didn’t, thankfully).

And then there was the fact that View Spoiler »

Leah’s mother View Spoiler » *shudders* if my mother was like that, I would disown her or at the very least spend as little time in her presence as possible. Leah herself just sucks it up and goes along with it (self esteem issues) which was endlessly frustrating. View Spoiler »

There were some laugh out loud funny moments, and then the negativity ramps up all over again. Sam is such a dick (and in a weird type of denial) and Leah isn’t any better. All this really boils down to is that neither of them can communicate, they are both stubborn and they’re not really likeable apart or together.

Leah needs to grow a backbone, and Sam needs to use his words. And her mother needs to butt out. The plot was completely ridiculous, I feel like it could have been executed much better (a fake fiancé story could be so fun!) but the mass of misunderstandings that took place just drew it out to the point of disbelief.

The one upside of this book is that it was written really, really well, and some of it was hilarious, but overall it just wasn’t for me because of the characters and their choices.

Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
half-star
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Overall: 2.1

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Book Review #5: Good Omens (BBC 4 Radio Dramatisation) by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Posted 6th February 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

Book Review #5: Good Omens (BBC 4 Radio Dramatisation) by Terry Pratchett and Neil GaimanGood Omens (BBC 4 Radio Dramatisation) by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Peter Serafinowicz, Mark Heap, Full Cast
Published by BBC Worldwide on December 22nd 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Humour
Length: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: five-stars

A full-cast BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s apocalyptic comic novel.

According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday in fact. Just after Any Answers on Radio 4….

Events have been set in motion to bring about the End of Days. The armies of Good and Evil are gathering and making their way towards the sleepy English village of Lower Tadfield. The Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse - War, Famine, Pollution and Death - are assembling.

Witchfinder Shadwell and his assistant Newton Pulsifier are also en route to Tadfield to investigate unusual phenomena in the area, while Anathema Device, descendent of prophetess Agnes Nutter, tries to decipher her ancestor’s cryptic predictions.

Atlantis is rising; fish are falling from the sky; everything seems to be going to the Divine Plan.

Everything, that is, but for an unlikely angel and demon duo, who have been living on Earth for several millennia and have become rather fond of the place. If they are to prevent Armageddon they’ve got to find and kill the one who will bring it about: the Antichrist himself. There’s just one small problem: someone seems to have mislaid him…

Adapted, sound designed and co-directed by Dirk Maggs (Neverwhere, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) this first ever dramatisation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel features a large cast including Peter Serafinowicz, Mark Heap, Josie Lawrence and Paterson Joseph.

I was at work a couple of Fridays ago, and as the Thursday beforehand was a public holiday there was next to no one in. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to pop my headphones in and listen to something, but I didn’t want to start a long audiobook. Then I came across this version of Good Omens (which I’m counting as a book, because it’s pretty much an abridged version) and thought ‘yes! That will do!’

It’s only 4 hours and 20 minutes long, I had to take a couple of breaks when I needed to concentrate on something important but I listened to it all that day 🙂

I giggled a fair bit during this: “Earth is a Libra”, I mean…come on!
 
The radio adaptation is a condensed version of the story and it just works so well. The sound effects and different voice actors are just so great. I wish actual audiobooks were done like this (I think some do exist?) it would make it easier for me to listen to – I’m struggling with audio at the moment.

As always, it’s all about Crowley for me. He’s my standout character, a demon who doesn’t really want the apocalypse to happen as he’s quite fond of Earth. He and Aziraphale (an angel with a similar outlook) do have a lot in common, even if they are on opposite ‘sides’. What their superiors don’t know, won’t hurt them 😉 There’s a mix-up with the antichrist, witches, witchfinders (hunters, if you will), and the four horsemen (or…persons). What’s not to like?
 
A great, though also very short listen, it was absolutely worth the time and energy spent. It actually made me fire up the proper audiobook of Good Omens, which is my favourite book of all time. When I’m done with that, I’ll probably re-read it again.

Seriously. Favourite. Book. Ever.

AND a tv show (written by Mr Gaiman) has been announced. Woohoo!

Rating Report
Plot
five-stars
Characters
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Performance
five-stars
Quality
five-stars
Enjoyability
five-stars
Overall: 5

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Book Review #2: Under the Paw – Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox

Posted 6th January 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 15 Comments

Book Review #2: Under the Paw – Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom CoxUnder the Paw - Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox
Published by Simon & Schuster on January 30th 2014 (first published January 1st 2008)
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Booktopia
Rating: four-stars

For years, Tom Cox might have seemed like a regular, hard-living sort of bloke -- a lover of late nights, rock music and beer -- but he had a dark furry secret. Tom was a cat lover. Always had been, in fact. For a while, he kept his passion in check, but there was only so long he could postpone his true dream, especially after he met Dee, his moggy-loving soulmate.

In 2001, Tom left London and his job as a rock critic behind, and he and Dee, replete with Dee's cat Janet and three new kittens, moved to a remote part of Norfolk, a county where they knew not one living human soul. They thought it would be easy. They thought their cat madness had reached its limit. They were very wrong on both counts.

In UNDER THE PAW, Tom records the chaos of owning seven of the most charismatic, idiotic and duplicitous cats in the country. How exactly does a person go from living a fancy-free young metropolitan life to suddenly thinking it is normal to be on 24-hour call for multiple sets of whiskers? What are the essential rules of disposing of a dead pheasant? How do you learn to love your wife's ex's favourite pet?

Tom addresses all these issues and much more, encountering death, depression, flying fur and the first human sentence spoken by a feline along the way. Running through all the maelstrom is the heartbreaking story of his long and chequered relationship with The Bear, his oldest cat: a "painfully sensitive" survivor moggy who may or may not be an evil genius.

I don’t read memoirs very often. In fact, I just learned the difference between a memoir (about one part of the author’s life) and an autobiography (a chronicle of the author’s entire life)! I do love reading them on occasion – and I’ve decided to make 2017 the year of the memoir in a way; as a personal challenge I want to read at least 5 of them (I read this one last year, so it doesn’t count).

Under The Paw is the first of Tom Cox’s books about his cats. He has a great writing style, when I do read memoirs or autobiographies some suffer from terrible writing (and I’m so glad many are ghost written, I’d hate to think what they’d be like without a ‘proper’ author!) But Cox has made his living from writing; and it reads really well. Like he’s telling you a story, it flows like a good conversation.

The cats are what this books is about, and The Bear is the star (sadly he passed away recently, at the grand age of 21). I have no doubt The Bear would very much go for world domination, and he’d be a mysterious and aloof leader.

The other felines – Janet, Shipley, Ralph, Pablo and Bootsy – all have their moments. Janet was probably my favourite, allegedly being the one with the least brains. As a cat person, I do enjoy reading about other cats and their antics; they are such little balls of personality!

The one thing I did not like was the pushing of an outdoors lifestyle for ALL cats. It felt a bit arrogant, like he was saying, ‘the way I treat my cats is better than yours’.

My cats are indoor cats, mainly for their safety (I don’t trust my neighbours). They also show zero to little interest in getting outdoors (they do like bird tv at the front window, and they have grass to munch on). We discussed it with our vet before deciding to restrict their environment; so outdoors isn’t for all cats and their human slaves.

However, I did love reading about the lives of these kitties and will definitely continue with the books that follow.

If you’re interested about Tom and/or his cats, you can check out his site here.

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-half-stars
Overall: 4.1

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