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review 2018-12-10 03:06
Howard End by E.M. Forster
Howards End - E.M. Forster

These days I often find myself appreciating classics more than contemporary fiction – but not all classics; there are still books whose quality doesn’t quite live up to their reputation. This is one of those.

Set in early 20th century England, this book follows the adventures of Margaret and her younger sister Helen; these two are certainly appealing characters to a modern audience, being intelligent, thoughtful, socially-conscious youngish women who inherited sufficient funds from their now-deceased parents to live independently and comfortably for life. So they travel and enjoy social and intellectual pursuits and worry about what they should be doing for those less fortunate than themselves. Their liberal guilt is dramatized through two families they encounter: the wealthy Wilcoxes, a sporty family whose focus on their own financial interests lives little room for even basic politeness to anyone else, and the lower-middle-class Leonard Bast, a clerk struggling on the edge of poverty, and his unfortunate wife.

It’s an interesting premise, and the issues of the role of money in people’s lives and of liberal guilt are fairly well-developed. It’s also a reasonably interesting portrayal of England before the First World War; the sisters’ father was German and the determination of both their German and English relatives that their own country is meant to rule the world is treated with gentle irony. Unfortunately, the first half of the book – after a strong opening – loses momentum fast and is almost entirely lacking in plot. Nothing much happens to these characters for a long time; Margaret, our protagonist, glides through the story without struggle; there’s nothing she needs or wants and doesn’t have. The true plot appears around the halfway point, but unfortunately so many character decisions lacked believability that I can’t say much for it in the end. Meanwhile, while some of the issues Margaret ponders remain interesting and relevant today, its philosophical maunderings often left me underwhelmed, and the ideas about the superiority of England haven’t aged well. The rest of my criticism contains a lot of SPOILERS, so beware.

The second half of the book rests on two big eyebrow-raising decisions, and the story finally wraps up with a third. Margaret receives a marriage proposal from Henry Wilcox, and the book never gives any particular reason that she should marry him, aside from the fact that he expresses a liking for her: he’s a smug, self-satisfied conservative old enough to be her father, who embraces self-serving platitudes on both gender and economic inequality and has a nasty tendency to use Margaret’s moments of weakness as evidence of the inferiority of all women. And in the single scene portraying their physical relationship, he leaves Margaret disappointed and confused. And then it turns out that his track record for fidelity is not great. Margaret doesn’t need Henry, yet she gives up her autonomy to be with him – why?

Helen’s encounter with Leonard is equally baffling: she’s presumably a virgin, living in a society where women who have premarital sex are shunned; he’s probably never slept with anyone other than his wife, who is asleep in the next room at the time; he’s in awe of her as his benefactor, and he’s probably none too clean or well-fed; at no point in the story does there appear to be any romantic or sexual attraction between the two. And yet they have sex?

All of which leads to the final confrontation, which is believable enough – and then Forster skips right to the aftermath, perhaps knowing that tracing out these events would strain credibility too much. Helen decides to stay in England even though she’d enjoy more social acceptance in Germany; Henry abruptly loses all concern about Helen’s wayward behavior; Margaret’s magical influence apparently convinces everyone to live together happily every after. Um, okay.

So I didn’t really buy this one. The writing is fine, and many of the issues it raises are important and remain timely. But Forster’s plotting and ability to get the characters to the places where he needs them to be in a believable way left something to be desired.

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url 2018-11-29 14:03
Podcast #126 is up!
Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life - Diarmaid MacCulloch

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Diarmaid MacCulloch about his excellent new biography of Thomas Cromwell. Enjoy!

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-08 20:24
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Rules of Magic: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse. The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

A prequel novel, The Rules of Magic explores the early years of Francis (redheaded "Franny") and Bridget (nicknamed "Jet" for her long black hair) Owens, eccentric aunts to Sally and Gillian whom we first met in Practical Magic. Here we read of Franny and Jet's experiences growing up in the 1950s - 60s. Along with their brother Vincent -- the youngest of the family -- the sisters are raised in New York by their mother, Susanna Owens (who tries her hardest to closet her magic roots) and psychiatrist father, Dr. Burke-Owens. You read that right, he took his wife's name! 

 

Having suffered a tragic loss thanks to the Owens curse, Susanna, the second time around, chooses a relationship of comfort and stability rather than love. She does her best to keep her children sheltered from their magical heritage, setting up a laundry list of rules and restrictions regarding their powers, but it's of no use. Curiosity gets the best of them, particularly in the case of Jet and Vincent once their powers begin to surface: Jet learns she can read minds while Vincent begins to get prophetic, though sometimes confusing or murky flashes of the future. Franny is gifted as well, but being the most logical, scientifically minded of the siblings, she is also the most hesitant to acknowledge the truth, instead focusing on trying to figure out how to rationally explain the magic out of her reality.

 

 

Image result for practical magic aunts

 

The year Franny turns seventeen, the siblings are invited for a summer stay at the Owens ancestral home in Massachusetts with Susanna's aunt Isabelle. This summer proves to be a monumental one for the Owens kids, as they learn lessons about life that will affect, maybe even alter, their personalities and life paths forever after. Themes / messages Hoffman weaves into these lessons include: embracing who you are at your core, pushing through fear and going for a chance at real love (regardless of consequences), finding yourself strongly nostalgic for home after a time of wanting so badly to leave it, dauntlessly pursuing what you truly want in life, and learning not to waste the finite time of your lifespan being petty or fearful. Instead, live in a space of love, joy and kindness.

 

 

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It is also during this important summer that the Owens siblings meet April. Not only do they later learn that she is a distant cousin, but it is during this summer that April conceives a child. That child is Regina Owens, the mother of Sally and Gillian, the stars of Practical Magic. If you remember from Practical Magic, it was also mentioned that in the story of Maria Owens, the originator of the curse, the father of her child was left unknown. Hoffman names the father in The Rules of Magic, and I gotta say, I was surprised to read that she chose a real life historical figure! Thinking about it though, WHO she chooses DOES play in well to the whole witch theme threaded throughout the two books. 

 

"Maria Owens did what she did for a reason. She was young and she thought damning anyone who loved us would protect us. But what she had with that terrible man wasn't love. She didn't understand that when you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together. That is not a curse, it's what life is, my girl. We all come to ruin, we turn to dust, but whom we love is the thing that lasts."

 

 

Image result for practical magic aunts

 

 

Wow, did I like this installment of the Owens Ladies ever so much more than Practical Magic! Just all around, the plot is richer, the characters more entertaining and more developed, secrets or elements from the other book revealed, better explained, or just tied together in an impressive way.... Loved it all! Honestly maybe even one of my favorite reads of the year!

 

Anyone else get at least a tinge of Branwell Bronte vibes from Vincent? At least in the early portions of the story? I just couldn't shake that image ... what with Vincent's moodiness, mysterious outings all night, the heavy drinking. Even something about Vincent's early interest in the occult and the Magus book gave me that imagery of what I've read of Branwell (he always struck me as the most emo of the Bronte siblings lol).

 

The girl was carrying a backpack. A blue journal peeking out caught Franny's attention. It was one of the notebooks she {Franny} had left in the library. "Are you writing?" she asked. 

 

"Trying to," the girl said. 

 

"Don't try, do." She realized she sounded exactly like Aunt Isabelle when she was irritated. She hadn't meant to be a wet blanket and had no wish to discourage this clever little girl, so she changed her tone. "But trying is a start. What is your story?"

 

"My life."

 

"Ah."

 

"If you write it down, it doesn't hurt as much."

 

"Yes, I can imagine."

 

The girl scampered onto the rocks to join her friends. She waved and Franny waved back.

 

As she walked home, Franny thought that the girl at the lake had been perfectly right. It helped to write things down. It ordered your thoughts and if you were lucky revealed feelings you didn't know you had. That same afternoon Franny wrote a long letter to Haylin. She had never told anyone what her aunt had whispered with her last breath. But now she wrote it down, and when she did she realized it was what she believed, despite the curse.

 

Love more, her aunt had said. Not less.

 

If you, like me, struggled with Practical Magic, I urge you to give this one a go. Maybe the time gap is just what Hoffman needed to get this family's story just right, considering Practical Magic came out in the mid 90s, while The Rules of Magic was released just last year. 

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-05 02:34
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Practical Magic - 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...

Amazon.com

 

 

 

For over two hundred years, the Owens ladies have been one cursed family! Orphaned sisters Gillian and Sally Owens are brought to live with their eccentric aunts, Francis and Bridget. Introducing the girls to their magical roots, the aunts quickly see Sally as the more natural witch, while younger Gillian is more taken with her inner bohemian spirit consumed with falling in love... repeatedly. 

 

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Because the town has never let up on its gossiping and trading witch stories regarding the Owens women, young Gillian and Sally grow up fielding a mountain of ridicule. By the time they are grown and ready to start their own lives, the sisters are ready to do just about anything to escape the Owens curse --- the one that kills any man who falls for them --- Sally marries for comfort rather than love while Gillian literally runs away from her East Coast upbringing, escaping into the western regions of the US.

 

If you're coming to this book because you love the movie (as I did), let me warn you now, the similarities between the two are few and FAR between... for real! Plus, the first chapter is going to be a tough one to get through for animal lovers. 

 

Alice Hoffman has become one of my very favorite authors in recent years and I'm only now just getting to this one, perhaps her most famous book because of the movie. The movie being a favorite of mine for years already, I figured this one would be a sure favorite as well.... but honestly, I struggled with it. I still liked it, but it was a struggle. There's a certain magic to Hoffman's writing that, despite this novel's title, was seriously lacking. Sure, magic was mentioned, and there were moments here and there where I felt Hoffman's classic writing style coming through, but it wasn't start to finish lovely whimsy as some of her other books have been for me. Maybe because the movie was just so cozy and amazing, I set the bar too high going in?

 

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Case in point: (movie vs book)

 

* Movie Sally owns a natural beauty care store where it's rumored witchery goes into her recipes... while book Sally works as... a high school administrator?! Not saying the job isn't important but hard to work magic into such a comparatively dull environment! 

   

     -- Also different: 1) The way she meets husband Michael is portrayed a little differently in the book. Again, the aunts have no magic involved in the union like they did in the movie... it just comes about by "right place and time" kind of thing, like anyone. 2) We get to know Sally's girls as teens -- Antonia a stunning redhead, little sister Kylie a 5'11 "awkward giantess" --  rather than just small children where the movie stops. Sally and her girls also spend much of the book living in NYC, which I found confusing during this book, but it's actually explained nicely in the prequel, The Rules of Magic.  3) Book Sally actually DOES get to the top of the phone tree... without Gillian's help! In fact, she's a regular there. 3) The whole relationship with Officer Gary Hallet -- memorably portrayed by Aidan Quinn in the film -- is way more lowkey (almost boring) in the book. It's actually Gillian that has the way more interesting romance (and I'm not talking about Jimmy)... but more on that later. 

 

* Movie Gillian and her relationship with Jimmy: There's one section of the novel where Gillian is thinking back on the time she spent with him (this is after it comes to an end) and within her thoughts are NSFW kind of descriptions of Jimmy being rough during sex, getting off on the violence, and how she would let it go on because the violence during sex was less painful than the beatings he would give her if he didn't get his way. Yeah, this was lightly glossed over in the film but the book gets heavy with this reality at times. Between book and movie there's also a bit of a switch with Jimmy's final resting place: instead of under roses in Massachusetts, his spot is under lilacs in NYC. But what remains in both book and movie is the presence of toads (even the one who spits the ring!).

 

    ---- Gillian takes up with Sally's co-worker Ben, who proves to be a solidly decent guy. Aptly, he's also a neat mix of scientist and part-time magician.

 

 

Image result for practical magic movie

 

 

The aunts were looking out the window, watching what avarice and stupidity could do to a person. They shook their heads sadly.... Some people cannot be warned away from disaster. You can try, you can put up every alert, but they'll still go their own way.

 

 

Another area where there are some differences is with the legend of Maria Owens, the originator of the curse. Some of the details there were altered a bit by film's development. Just in general, the "magic" element felt pretty underdeveloped until Part 3, "Clairvoyance", where the story gets into the battle between Jimmy and the Owens sisters. Prior to that, it felt more like a general domestic drama regarding family tensions, sisterly bond, etc. The book really didn't come alive for me until the relationship between Gillian and Ben was introduced. Really wish this element HAD been incorporated into the film, and I'd certain be happy to read a spin-off book focusing on these two and where they ended up. 

 

It doesn't matter what people tell you. It doesn't matter what they might say. Sometimes you have to leave home. Sometimes, running away means you're headed in the exact right direction.

 

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While it was cool to see the origin of characters I came to love on screen, the novel needs better transitions. There are people regularly introduced or scenes changed mid-paragraph, which made for a choppy "quick, backtrack!" kind of reading experience. Still, I do love that the heartwarming closing words of the book were incorporated into the film. 

 

 

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review 2018-10-21 17:59
Nicht tot genug - Roy Grace (3) | Peter James

181017 Crace3

Autor: Peter JamesTitel: Nicht tot genugReihe: Roy Grace (3)Übersetzerin: Susanne Goga-KlinkenbergVerlag: Fischer e-Books, [01.04.2009]eBook-Ausgabe: 448 Seiten, ASIN: B00AFOMI0Gauch im HC, TB- und gek. HB-Ausgabe erschienenhier: gelesen via Skoobe auf dem Fire-Tablet sowie iPhoneklick zu Amazon

Inhaltsangabe (Amazon):

Weil du sie liebst, muss sie sterben
Der neue Peter James – noch spannender, noch gefährlicher.

In der Nacht, als Katie Bishop vergewaltigt und ermordet wird, ist ihr Mann Brian über sechzig Meilen weit von ihr entfernt. Und doch finden die Polizisten am Tatort nur seine DNA. Zwei Tage später wird eine weitere junge Frau misshandelt und ermordet. Auch an diesem Tatort finden sich nur die Spuren von Brian Bishop. Doch der streitet alles ab, kann sogar für die Tatzeiten genaue Alibis liefern. Als schließlich eine dritte Frauenleiche aus dem Ärmelkanal gezogen wird, weiß Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, dass hier ein Monster am Werke ist. Und sagt das auch vor laufender Kamera. Das bringt den Mörder in Rage und auf eine Idee, die das private Glück des Detective Superintendents bedroht.

Meine Meinung:

 

Der dritte Fall von Detective Superintendent Roy Grace hat mir gut gefallen. Die Idee war für mich neu, die Ermittler menschlich, wenn ich auch gerade bei dem Protagonisten  bereits Abstriche machen musste, denn nach 8 Jahren, in denen seine Ehefrau spurlos verschwunden ist, sollte jeder normale Mensch einen Schlussstrich ziehen und sich ein neues Leben aufbauen und nicht seine neue Liebe gefährden, weil jemand seine Ehefrau gesehen haben will. Ich bin mir nicht sicher: gibt es eine Art Verjährung in solch einem Fall? Ab wann kann man jemanden für tot erklären lassen? Aber selbst wenn nicht, ich habe seine Entscheidung persönlich nicht gebilligt. Und natürlich hatte sie auch Konsequenzen.

 

Zum anderen ist mir persönlich die Spannung abhanden gekommen, seit ich geahnt habe, wer der Mörder sein könnte. Und mir ist absolut schleierhaft, wieso niemand sonst auf die Idee gekommen ist. Niemand. Kein einziger Ermittler oder sonst jemand, der von dem Fall gehört hat, hat meinen Verdacht geäußert. Auf der anderen Seite wäre dann allerdings auch die Auflösung ziemlich rasch erfolgt und infolge dessen das Buch um einige Seiten dünner ausgefallen. Nun gut. Ich weiß, dass es Peter James besser kann. Also wird die Reihe weiter verfolgt.

 

Ich gebe 07/10 Punkte für Band 3.

 

Zitat:

Es dauerte lange, bis die Dunkelheit hereinbrach, doch das Warten sollte sich lohnen.Außerdem war Zeit kein Problem für ihn. Zeit hatte er immer genug, auch wenn er ansonsten nicht viel besaß. Zeit hatte er im Überfluss. Er war sozusagen ein Zeitmilliardär.
1. Kapitel, erste Sätze

181017 Grace3

 

Bücher der Reihe:

 

1. Stirb ewig – beendet 29.10.2016 – 10/10 Punkte
2. Stirb schön – beendet 17.03.2017 – 08/10 Punkte
3. Nicht tot genug – beendet 20.10.2018 – 07/10 Punkte
4. So gut wie tot
5. Und morgen bist du tot
6. Du sollst nicht sterben
7. Rigor mortis
8. Mörderische Obsession
9. Die Zeit läuft
10. Dich will ich töten
11. Dein Tod wird kommen
12. Deine Liebe ist der Tod

 

Nicht tot genug: Thriller - Peter James,Susanne Goga-Klinkenberg 

Source: sunsys-blog.blogspot.com/2018/10/gelesen-nicht-tot-genug-peter-james.html
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