January 28, 2015

Review: The Teashop on the Corner


The Teashop on the Corner
The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



This was such a charming little book. I'd never read anything by and never heard of Milly Johnson before, so I didn't know what to expect. I assumed it would be a light and fluffy romance. It was much more than that: yes it is a romance, but it also has some dramatic elements to it. Even though there are some happy endings, they're not cheesy at all; they're quite realistic. And not everyone is fortunate to get a 'happily ever after' ending. The book totally reminds me of the movie Love Actually. Several characters are introduced at the beginning, and the chapters alternate between the different plots. But then, some way or another all the characters find their ways to the Teashop on the Corner, so their stories intertwine. New friendships and love relationships develop. And at this point, the book started to make me think about what I call the Facebook phenomenon. I have always thought that Facebook is actually a "Fakebook", meaning that everyone on it pretends to have a perfect life, even though everybody has lots of skeletons in their closets. But online you can pretend not to have any. By contrast, in real life you can only hide your skeletons temporarily. But real friendship/love is about loving each other with/despite our skeletons. All the characters have their skeletons, and of course they try to hide them, but life forces them to reveal their secrets. But thankfully they have people around them who don't mind their skeletons at all. And those are the moments when highly sensitive people (like me) start crying, and then cry and cry... (And then the book becomes a favourite...)

What I also liked about the book that there are lots of literary references (especially to Jane Austen), which I totally enjoyed. And the teashop is the teashop of my dreams. A teashop where there are some fantastic desserts and you can buy stationery (bags, bookmarks, notebooks etc.) related to classics. (If I won the lottery, I'd totally open a teashop like this.)

But most important, I loved each and every character (except of course the villains). However, my favourites were (whose not, I wonder) Molly and Harvey, who were apparently based on real characters. So, let me finish of this little review with my favourite quote (attributed to Harvey), which is also the last sentence of the book: "It’s never too late to have a happy ending".



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January 19, 2015

Review: The One Plus One


The One Plus One
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



18.01.2015: Ugh. This book was so hard to read and it is so hard to rate it. Jojo Moyes is clearly a wonderful author, and I will probably read more books by her. But this book was very depressing most of the time. Sometimes I even had to put it down and read something lighter (compared to this book, a crime by Agatha Christie with lots of people dying is light), because I couldn't cope with the depression it made me feel. The worst thing about it was that I couldn't even cry, as I often do. I just had this heavy feelings in my chest and couldn't let them out. I kept thinking that there are indeed women who live in this kind of wretchedness with their children, who and whose children have no hope, and whose Prince Charming will never come. I was prepared for reading a fluffy, light, and funny romance, upon reading the reviews on Goodreads. However, what I got was a heavy drama, even though this is a Cinderella story and there's a happy ending. The heroine and her little family, together with the hero experience almost every kind of problems you could imagine. Even at moments where you think it can't get worse, it just does. There were some moments where I had a moment of happy feeling and found myself laughing out loud. (Moyes clearly has a good sense of humour.) But in the next second, something bad happens, and your feeling of happiness disappears by the "speed of light". Only in the last 4-5 chapters can you enjoy lasting happiness, if you refrain from thinking - what I was thinking - that in real life things definitely wouldn't turn out like this. Of course, I too believe in the "the kindness of strangers" and "forgiveness", but very often, if you make a mistake, you have to live with it, and won't get back what you have lost. So actually, the happy ending felt somewhat odd in light of the whole book. All in all, if you are not as highly emotional as me, or if you don't mind feeling depressed all the time, you will very much love this book, because it is well written and the characters are all very likable. You may also want to re-read it. As for me, I'm not sure when/if I'll ever be able to re-read it.

Update 19.01.2015: One day later, I'm having a major book hangover. I've never thought I would miss these characters so much. Jojo Moyes is clearly a magician. Maybe I'm going to re-read it rather sooner than later...



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January 18, 2015

Review: The One Plus One


The One Plus One
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I listened to this audiobook while I was reading my hard copy. You can read my thoughts on the book itself here: My Thoughts. As far as the audiobook is concerned, I liked that they used four different narrators. Each chapter of the book is told from the point of view of one of the four main characters, and the audiobook emphasizes this aspect and also helps you a lot to follow the story and to better understand the feelings/personality of the different characters. I truly liked Ed's voice, but didn't really like Jess's first. However, after a while I got used to it and could even enjoy it. And, the reading speed was just perfect for me.



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Review: The One Plus One


The One Plus One
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Ugh. This book was so hard to read and it is so hard to rate it. Jojo Moyes is clearly a wonderful author, and I will probably read more books by her. But this book was very depressing most of the time. Sometimes I even had to put it down and read something lighter (compared to this book, a crime by Agatha Christie with lots of people dying is light), because I couldn't cope with the depression it made me feel. The worst thing about it was that I couldn't even cry, as I often do. I just had this heavy feelings in my chest and couldn't let them out. I kept thinking that there are indeed women who live in this kind of wretchedness with their children, who and whose children have no hope, and whose Prince Charming will never come. I was prepared for reading a fluffy, light, and funny romance, upon reading the reviews on Goodreads. However, what I got was a heavy drama, even though this is a Cinderella story and there's a happy ending. The heroine and her little family, together with the hero experience almost every kind of problems you could imagine. Even at moments where you think it can't get worse, it just does. There were some moments where I had a moment of happy feeling and found myself laughing out loud. (Moyes clearly has a good sense of humour.) But in the next second, something bad happens, and your feeling of happiness disappears by the "speed of light". Only in the last 4-5 chapters can you enjoy lasting happiness, if you refrain from thinking - what I was thinking - that in real life things definitely wouldn't turn out like this. Of course, I too believe in the "the kindness of strangers" and "forgiveness", but very often, if you make a mistake, you have to live with it, and won't get back what you have lost. So actually, the happy ending felt somewhat odd in light of the whole book. All in all, if you are not as highly emotional as me, or if you don't mind feeling depressed all the time, you will very much love this book, because it is well written and the characters are all very likable. You may also want to re-read it. As for me, I'm not sure when/if I'll ever be able to re-read it.



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Review: New English File: Intermediate Teacher's Book


New English File: Intermediate Teacher's Book
New English File: Intermediate Teacher's Book by Clive Oxenden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



As I mentioned in my review of the Student's Book, this edition has some flaws. My problem with the Teacher's Book consists mainly in the following things: Firstly, the communicative activities are not very innovative and regrettably, you can only copy the materials; they are not available for download as PDF, even for teachers not. Secondly, I wish there was a section with exercises (gap fill, sentence completion) for each lesson's vocabulary. There are some good exercises for grammar practice and vocabulary recycling, but I think that after teaching/learning new words, students should do a controlled practice with those very words. Thirdly, I wish there was some information on the time frame of the lessons / exercises. I've got the impression that the material this book suggest covering in one lesson is too much for the usual 90-minute-lesson. Finally, I wish some publisher would recognize that what really would help teachers' work were a Student's Book for Teachers, i.e. a Student's Book that looks like the book that the students use, but with filled-in answers and comments. Of course, as a teacher you would know the correct answers to the exercises, if you had time to think. But you don't have time during a lesson. I to carry both books with you, is not really practicable. Hence, I usually copy the answers and comments from the Teacher's Book into the Student's Book before the lesson, so that I'm able to concentrate on the students and their problems during the lesson. I'm afraid, even the new, third edition [b:English File: Intermediate Teacher's Book with Test and Assessment CD-ROM|24558963|English File Intermediate Teacher's Book with Test and Assessment CD-ROM|Clive Oxenden|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1421577430s/24558963.jpg|44162911] is not better in this respect, but at least, there seem to be more digital resources to that one.



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Review: New English File: Intermediate Student's Book


New English File: Intermediate Student's Book
New English File: Intermediate Student's Book by Clive Oxenden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



As a language teacher I must say, this coursebook is good, but has some weaknesses. First of all, the speaking activities are quite underdeveloped. Usually, there are some questions that students should ask each other in pairs. My students feel totally bored by such activities. Hence, I had to invest a lot of time into developing games and other speaking exercises to each topic. Also, I don't know how the authors could possibly think that it would be possible to teach 30-40 words in a lesson. In my experience, one can teach approximately 10-12 words per lesson. The Vocabulary Bank is full of words and exercises, but they can't be used in the lesson, as we have no time for that. Hence, I always had to assign those exercises and learning the words as homework, which is sub-optimal. Also, it would have been nice, if there had been a downloadable Picture Bank with the pictures of the Vocabulary Bank for teachers, so that I could have used the pictures for making flashcards. Instead, I had to browse the internet for ages in order to find some suitable pictures. My students also disliked the Practical English lessons and the love story of Allie and Mark. They found the story stupid, predictable, and clich├ęd. I found them OK, but once again, there were usually no speaking activities focusing on the use/practice of the functions that these Practical English lessons were intended to teach. Now, there is a fully revised new edition of this book ([b:English File: Intermediate Student's Book with iTutor|23023858|English File Intermediate Student's Book with iTutor|Clive Oxenden|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1421576605s/23023858.jpg|42594304]) which hopefully doesn't repeat the mistakes of this edition. I'm looking forward to teaching from that.



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January 13, 2015

Review: Nowhere but Home: A Novel


Nowhere but Home: A Novel
Nowhere but Home: A Novel by Liza Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



It took me some time to get into this book but in the end I really liked it. I just wish the romance between the heroine and the love of her life had been developed more fully. But what I really liked about the book was that it made me think a lot about the death penalty. Up until now I would have said that the death penalty is clearly a big NO, but reading this book exactly at the time when in Paris some very bad things were happening, made me realize that nothing is clearly white or black. I can see now why some people would argue in favor of the death penalty, even if I'm still against it. I also thought a lot about the people whose job is to carry out the sentence and how they can cope with these situations. In sum, if you're looking for a book that makes you do a lot of thinking and at the same time provides you with some beautiful family feelings and nice romances, don't look further! Grab this one!



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