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The Witches of Cambridge

witches of cambridgeFor those who like stories with magic, suspended reality, and unspoken wishes, The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag will satisfy their reading desires. I liked the different situations each character faced, as well as how each resolved their problems. They use magic in subtle ways to influence the lives of those around them. I cared about the women featured in the story too-Noa, Cosima, Kat, Heloise and Amandine, and was unhappy when something unfortunate occurred to any of them. I also liked when the women offer to help one another to reach a goal-especially when they banded together to achieve the best result. One of the women makes a very poor decision in trusting someone and when it goes horribly wrong, the others are there to make it right. And though not all the character’s circumstances end the way the reader might want, they do all make sense for the overall plot.
The only aspect that was at times difficult, was when the author occasionally used French without always giving a translation, when Heloise was speaking to her deceased husband, Francois. I have some basic knowledge of French and understood the tone, but it was not always obvious. Otherwise, the story flowed and I think a sequel would be great, so readers can see how their lives continued in the wake of their decisions.

I had the chance to review this book for Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I like the author and have read some of her other books. Definitely someone worth reading, especially if you like stories with unexpected, magical elements.

 

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Movies That Were Books First, part one

Have you ever read a book and thought, wow, this would make a great movie? Or have you been at the movies, only to later discover that a book was its basis? I have found that I must read the book first, so I don’t have someone else’s visual in my head when I read. Others have shared with me that they can see the movie first, without any problem. Even others tell me they have never read the book and don’t plan on it, as the movie sufficed. Below are some books that were made into film; if you have only seen the movie, consider going to the origin and discovering the inspiration. Though the movie may be good, you may discover the book was better! Part two: Books made into films/miniseries without compromising the origin..

Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth. I first read the book in sixth grade, but it is not really a children’s book per se. Lillian and Frank Gilbreth were efficiency experts in the 1920s, and were also parents of 12 children. Many of their ideas were developed or implemented in their household.  The book chronicles their lives in this era and gives the reader amazing insight into the decade. Lillian was a working mother (highly unusual in that time period) and is quite an inspiration. The modern movie version involves a descendant who has 12 children, stars Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin, and has no resemblance to the book. (There is an older movie version that is more faithful to the original story and quite fun to watch.) I loved the book as a child and reread it as an adult – still has its magic.

Blind side, Michael Lewis. When I saw the advertisements for the movie, I knew I wanted to see it. When I discovered the movie was based on a book, I decided to read it first, per my above stated reasoning. What I did not know until I started reading it, is that The Blind Side book, unlike the movie, is more about football and less about the relationship between the Sandra Bullock character and Michael Oher, the football player.  I learned about the offense and defense, why the blind side is so critical a position, and why a particular play is selected.  If you are a football fan or want to learn more, I suggest this book. I was not bored and found I understood the movie better, as well as real football games, after reading it.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier, another historical fiction story, is based on the premise of a painting by Johannes Vermeer. This story is full of depth and drama, yet moves at a fairly slow pace. As a movie, I don’t think it succeeded as well, because the subtle elements did not translate well to the big screen. Girl with a Pearl Earring is for the reader who likes to explore hidden meanings, innuendoes and a slow build-up to a satisfying conclusion.

Must Love Dogs, Claire Cook, a fun romantic comedy. The movie version takes some elements of the story yet also adds its own Hollywood elements. The book is the first in a series. Lighter beach read and always intriguing when the characters carry over for some sequels.

Stand By Me (The Body) and Shawshank Redemption, both by Stephen King. Each of these novellas are fairly short, yet they were able to be converted into great movies. There are definite differences between the stories and the movies, but the adaptations are well done. These stories are not the typical Stephen King either; they don’t have the horror he is mostly know for and are worth your time, even if you have seen the movies.  

Skipping Christmas, John Grisham. Made into the movie, The Kranks. The book is really funny, getting into the extreme side of the holidays. It is completely unlike most of Grisham’s other books which tend to focus on legal conundrums and ethical dilemmas. Tim Allen starred in the movie, though I think it was a bit over the top, and the book delivers a better story.

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Suspense, Mystery or Thriller: You Decide

Here are some authors and titles I have read that have at times, made it hard to sleep with the lights off.

Series:

Lisa Gardner, DD Warren series. Begins with Alone, though the first one I read was The Neighbor. Some plots are quite intense; I have both read and listened to the series and truly enjoy both methods of getting the story.

Kate White, the Bailey Weggins series. Begins with If Looks Could Kill. White is a former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and has a good way with words. I liked the earlier books in the series better, but I will continue to read them, as I enjoy reading about Bailey’s character development.

Invisible City (Rebekah Roberts Novels) by Julia Dahl. Impressive debut.

Stand Alone:

Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown are both known for romance books. Yet each writes excellent stand alone novels too, that have good mysteries, red herrings, and that unexpected character who turns out to be good or evil, but never what the reader anticipated.

Recent:

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon. Quite creepy. Will make parents think twice about who their daughter dates.

Someone Is Watching by Joy Fielding. Just not sure who to trust; the book has a lot of curveballs and all is not revealed till the very end.

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