Review – This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle

Hello,

I recently read This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Danish author Helle Helle. It is one of ten books I won in Penguin Random House UK‘s Let’s Read in English Challenge 2014 over at LovelyBooks.

This Should be Written in the Present Tense
Image provided by Harvill Secker¹

Dorte has just moved into a bungalow next to a train station. She is supposed to attend classes at  university in Copenhagen, but decides to do other things instead.

This Should be Written in the Present Tense is a book where very little happens. The novel describes Dorte’s present and past life and her life, especially the past, is as normal as it can get for a young woman. For some this might not be enough, but I find Dorte’s reality intriguing. The novel has a depressing undertone and there is nothing overly dramatic about the plot, yet knowing that there is room for improvement in Dorte’s life is exactly what makes the book so fascinating.

This Should be Written in the Present Tense is a minimalistic novel that is just the right length. It might not be for everyone, but if you are a university student with the occasional motivation problem, you should be able to relate to Dorte’s story and give this brilliant novel a try.

4 Star Rating: Recommended

¹ http://www.vintage-books.co.uk/books/1846558050/helle-helle/this-should-be-written-in-the-present-tense/

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Second Blogiversary – Two Years of Magic

Hi There,

I’ve been a little quiet over the past few weeks because writing my thesis is taking up quite some time and energy. I might have to make temporary changes to my review format to be able to publish book reviews on a regular basis up until my graduation. I’ve not stopped reading books, and I won’t stop writing this blog. So please bear with me 🙂

And now on to the fun part 😉

Blogoversary

It’s All That Magic‘s Second Blogiversary today! Two years of reading, writing, cooking, eating, crafting (in secret [I’ve just sewn a book cover]), taking bad pictures, going to book fairs and making new friends. I wouldn’t want to miss any of that.

Last year was particularly exciting. I got to be part of a cooperation between bloggers and a local bookstore (Rupertus Buchhandlung) and made new friends this way. I went to Frankfurt Book Fair for the second time, met old friends and got acquainted with new ones. I also won 10 Penguin Random House books in a reading challenge for reading 49 English-language books in 2014.

Which brings me to the last part of my blogiversary monologue: I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me so far. The publishers who kindly supply me with review copies, among them Canongate Books and Penguin Random House UK, Rupertus Buchhandlung for the great time I had in the past months, the authors who spend months writing books for us, and I’d like to thank You for stopping by and for reading what I have to say!

P.S.: Like last year, I will run a book giveaway on World Book Day, April 23rd.

Review – The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Hi,

Last week, I finished reading Rachel Joyce‘s latest novel The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and I did this without having read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first. Some advised me against doing so, while others said it would be perfectly okay to read Queenie on its own. As I got the chance to read Queenie in a Lovelybooks reader’s circle organized by Penguin Random House UK and I never was that interested in Harold’s story, I just skipped Harold Fry.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
Image provided by Doubleday UK¹

Queenie Hennessy has just moved into a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed when a farewell letter to her old friend Harold Fry makes him walk hundreds of miles to meet her one last time. Queenie starts to write another letter to tell him all the things left unsaid. She remembers the life she had and looks back on the beloved sea garden she built herself. In my opinion, Queenie’s description of the sea garden is the most powerful picture Rachel Joyce creates in the whole novel. The drawing in the back of the book doesn’t do it justice at all.

While Queenie is reserved towards the other residents at the hospice at first, she opens up to them after a while. She is, however, a rather bland person who seems to have given up on life as soon as Harold wasn’t part of it anymore. The real stars of this novel are Queenie’s fellow residents at the hospice. I particularly like Finty and Mr Henderson who couldn’t be more different. Finty has such a great sense of humor and Mr Henderson’s development throughout the book is wonderful to witness. The most memorable scenes in Queenie without doubt include the hilarious moments spent with the residents of the hospice.

The chapters I don’t like that much are the ones that comprise flashbacks to Queenie’s time spent working with Harold. They feel hollow, as if there is something missing. I suspect Rachel Joyce didn’t want to repeat herself by writing something she had already written in Harold Fry and so she just presented us with a very condensed version of the past events. I’m afraid that by doing this, she took the life out of Queenie’s encounters with Harold.

While the middle of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy was truly gripping, the novel ended just the way it started out: a bit weak. Those who have read Harold Fry will probably love the additional information Queenie gives them. For me, the book would have been wonderful with a closer focus on Queenie’s weeks at the hospice. That would have been enough to keep me glued to the pages without dreading chapters on Harold Fry.

3 Star Rating: Recommended(3.5 magic beans)

P.S.: I’m experimenting with different review formats right now to see what suits me best. So please bear with me 🙂

¹ http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk/editions/the-love-song-of-miss-queenie-hennessy/9780857522450

Review – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Reread)

Oops… I did it again 😀

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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Review – Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy

Hi,

Things are still quite weird around here but it’s getting better. There’s lots of work that needs my attention and still, I do have a review for you. 🙂 (I also haven’t forgotten about those Frankfurt articles, but they take time to compile and write and I have to sort out other matters right now, so please be patient. Thanks 🙂 )

A few weeks ago, I received an awesome Bridget Jones Blogger Package from Random House UK and Lovelybooks. I’ve already told you how much I love their cooperations! The package included a signed hardcover copy of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy (published by Jonathan Cape), tissues, Galaxy chocolate (that one was super yummy), tea (I love tea!), a scented candle, a facial mask and a Bridget Jones t-shirt! Now ain’t that great? The perfect equipment for a perfect weekend full of Bridget Jones. (We were supposed to read the book in a Lovelybooks reading group on one weekend) Well, thanks to our postal services it wasn’t really a weekend because the package arrived on Tuesday as far as I remember. Too late for the weekend. The chocolate was gone by then ;). Nevertheless, I’m still super happy about this lovely package. Thanks again. And here’s what I think about Fielding’s third installment in the Bridget Jones series.

Image provided by Random House UK¹
The Bridget Jones Blogger Package I got from Random House UK and Lovelybooks
Summary quoted from Random House UK¹:

What do you do when a girlfriend’s 60th birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend’s 30th?
Is it wrong to lie about your age when online dating?
Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has head lice?
Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is it his assistant?
Is technology now the fifth element? Or is that wood?
Is sleeping with someone after 2 dates and 6 weeks of texting the same as getting married after 2 meetings and 6 months of letter writing in Jane Austen’s day?
Pondering these, and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of single-motherhood, tweeting, texting and redisovering her sexuality in what SOME people rudely and outdatedly call ‘middle age’.

My Thoughts:

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy is set in present-day London but this book really isn’t much about the setting.

The main character in Bridget Jones is, of course, Bridget Jones. In this book she is just over 50 and she still is rather clumsy and awfully fun. As by reading this book, you also read Bridget’s diary, you’ll always know what’s going on inside her head. Although there were some people in the Lovelybooks book group that thought Bridget acted quite immature for a 50+-year-old, I think it’s still her and as this is her diary, we get to know all her thoughts and this is not necessarily what the people around her get to see. So why can’t people over 50 have crazy thoughts? I think this made her likable.

The plot is based on changes that happened in the past 15 years of Bridget’s life. I think that the story was nice. I wish I knew how people of Bridget’s age would see this. I’m far younger, but I can imagine women acting just as Bridget does. Her problems seem very realistic to me. Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy also contains many fun passages but you got to have a special kind of humor to find jokes about farts and things like that funny. I think they were hilarious :D. Other members of the book group were bothered by these passages.

Overall, Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy was a light and fun read, but I can understand why it might upset hardcore Bridget Jones fans.

bohnen4s

¹http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/bridget-jones-3/9780224098090

Review – The Light Between Oceans

Hi,

I hope you’re all having a great weekend. It was sunny over here the whole day long. And on this beautiful autumn day, I have a review of M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans for you. This is such a wonderful book. I finished reading just before I went to Frankfurt.

Image provided by Random House UK¹
Summary quoted from Random House UK¹:

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.
They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

My Thoughts:

The main setting for The Light Between Oceans are the fictitious town of Point Partageuse on the west coast of Australia and Janus Rock, a small, and also fictitious, lighthouse island. The story is set in the first half of the 20th century. Through her descriptions, M. L. Stedman is able to make beautiful scenes come to life. I soon felt at home in this world accompanied by the constant sound of the sea.

The main characters are the married couple Isabel and Tom, and Hannah, who is of importance later in the novel. It is remarkable how each character’s feelings are transplanted into the reader’s heart and soul. It’s not surprising that in the course of the book, you will change your mind about a character that you have liked, or not liked before. You can feel the happiness, the pain, the grief. M. L. Stedman truly knows how to craft characters.

I really enjoyed the unique plot of The Light Between Oceans. Every time you think the story might get predictable something unexpected happens that turns things around. Stedman has thought about many details that, like in real life, can have a big impact when they interact.
The Light Between Oceans is like a glimpse into the main characters’ souls. A deeply touching novel that will lead you into a world full of yearning and hope.

bohnen5s

¹http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/the-light-between-oceans/9780552778473