Tag Archives: magic

Book Review: Practical Magic.

Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman.

I’ve had this book for ages but, for some reason, I hadn’t read it. Practical Magic (Griffin Dunne, 1998) is one of my favourite films, so I was a little worried that reading the book would make me feel disappointed by the film. fortunately, that didn’t happen. I loved the book, and I still love the film. For me, I found that there were enough differences that you could see the film was based on the book, but only loosely followed it. The film was written incredibly well, in my humble opinion, so that it complimented the book.

As with the film, it follows the story of sisters Sally and Gillian after their parents die and their move to the aunts on Magnolia street. In the film it follows this idea of being cursed by their ancestor, Maria, and how death follows any who “dare love an Owens girl”. The book differs from this track. It brings up love and feeling cursed, but it’s more centred around what the sisters believe they deserve. Their abandonment issues make them believe that they are not worthy of being loved, or they’re scared to love in case they lose something they care so much about.

They grow up as polar opposites, but are brought together by the death of Gillian’s boyfriend Jimmy. This finally brings Gillian back to the family. Sally left the aunts’ when her two girls (also polar opposites) were babies after fearing they’d be targets like her and Gillian were. As with the film, it follows their journey and how they learn to accept each other’s differences, and to love themselves for who they are.

Both the book and the film are beautifully narrated with vivid concepts, relatable emotions, and ‘real’ family frictions. I’m actually disappointed that Officer Gary Hallet wasn’t how he was portrayed in the film though – I really loved Aidan in this. Gary in the book seemed such a dull character by comparison (which he really isn’t, he just felt different). I’m also sad that Gillian didn’t look like the red-haired Nicole Kidman. The symmetry between Sally and Gillian with Sally’s girls, Antonia and Kylie, was much more subtle than film. In the book, it’s more about attitudes and how personalities can grow, change, converge… dependent upon influences, circumstances and age.

You actually see Sally’s children play a much bigger role in showing this development when it comes to the book.

Despite my love of the film, I still would definitely recommend reading the book as it’s like reading two books based on the same topic – you can see the similarities but, once you accept they’re not the same, you can love both equally.

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Book Review: Shadowmancer *plot spoiler*.

Shadowmancer, by G.P Taylor.

Well, I had to leave this review for a day or so to see if I truly felt as irritated by this as I did after I finished it… my feelings have not changed, however.  The last time I felt this pissed by a book was when I read James Barclay’s ‘Dawn Thief‘. What. A. Load. Of. Crap.
I found myself fabricating excuses: it’s written for young teens, it’s a short book, it’s… I ran out of excuses. It’s just very basic. A thinly veiled attempt to preach to kids about how you need to believe in God, even if you have never seen Him/Her. In the book, our main character (teenaged Thomas) learns that, when he feels like crap, he just has to close his eyes and he will see his God. He’ll magically feel better, calmer, and more positive. For five minutes. Then something bad happens and he has to repeat the process as, naturally, he forgets that he swore that he’d always believe in Him.

Our messiah, of sorts, even has these attacks of doubt. Plus, he’s a pussy. He manages to forget he’s injured for a while… then starts moaning when he has to walk. Thomas’ female friend, Kate, is equally pathetic for the most part. Despite her being choc-full of attitude at the start. As soon as she shoves on a dress, she gets really lame and whines a lot.
They seem to go nowhere. They wander around, following where they’ve been directed, only to stumble across more bad guys out to steal a trinket that doesn’t seem to do much but bring on the ‘end of days’ (why didn’t God have the forethought not to create this piece of crap? Eh?). They get stuck in a pickle:

“Oh no,” they cry. “We’re going to die!”

“Don’t worry,” says some pillock. “If we sit down, close our eyes, and think of God…” Hey presto! There’s another secret staircase. Handy!

And don’t forget that magic, seances, and tarot cards are all evil! Yes, they are. You’re totally going to hell if you use them. Which makes me wonder if the guy on the back from The Times who wrote: “The biggest event in children’s fiction since Harry Potter” has actually read either book. Some kid grows up wanting to be Harry Potter… then reads this book and learns that God, whilst apparently being all-loving, will probably send you to hell for believing in magic. Sorry kids.

The only saving grace is a few interesting characters, just a shame that they’re mostly pointless in this piece of work. And then it ends.

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Book Review: Witch and Warrior.

Witch and Warrior, by Marie Brennan.

This is the second installment from Marie, which follows the book Doppelganger. Witch and Warrior follows Mirei (Miryo and Mirage in one form) on her journey to teach herself how to use gifts The Goddess gave her when she is the first of her kind. Being the first complete witch, she is both loved and hated in equal measure. She is fighting to keep herself alive, to teach others about who she has become, to secure a future for those who’ll become like her, but she is also struggling to deal with the politics of huge divide between witches planning to oppose the changes – they are preparing for war.

Initially, the book was a fairly slow start with all the politics, training, guerilla warfare, espionage… and so forth. By part two though, things really began to get interesting. Despite certain twists and turns in the plot being somewhat predictable, they were so rapidly fired out and new problems arose to replace them that you were never left bored, or waiting for something to happen.

There are parts in the book where I just couldn’t physically stop reading, and parts where I couldn’t believe something had happened. The whole combination of varying pace, layered action, and ‘real’ risks to Mirei and her followers, made the read feel incredibly gripping. “Who’s going to die? Who’s going to be captured? Will they survive? Will they lose their powers? Will they be found out?” – were all questions I was asking myself as I was continuing to follow the plot.

It never feels like Marie is drawing the story out either, and she mustn’t feel obligated to extend it into a third book (to which I’m grateful, as I hate feeling like things are dragged out for the sake of another book). Although the book appears to reach its end rather quickly, in my opinion, it’s a very satisfying ending – not too much is explained, but enough that you can draw conclusions yourself as to how things would continue to resolve themselves. It was a more realistic approach, rather than a fairytale ending.

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