Tag Archives: Alice Hoffman

Friday Faceoff … and it was all yellow #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffTheRulesofMagic


This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week is featuring a YELLOW COVER, so I’ve selected a book from one on my teetering TBR, The Rules of Magic – prequel to the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman.


This edition was produced by Simon Schuster in October 2017 and as soon as I read the subject for this week, it was a no-brainer. This is a beautiful cover that has me yearning to jump into this book. The sparkles… the face behind it… and for once I won’t be grumbling about the plain black font – it works brilliantly against the brightness of that cover. This is my favourite.


Published in November 2017 by Simon Schuster – what a difference a hardback makes! I confess to being rather puzzled as to why this edition is so completely different to the previous offering. Nevertheless, I do think it charming. My grizzle is with the font – why pink? And if you have to have pink – why Barbie pink?


This edition, published by Scribner in August 2018, is also beautiful. The amber colour of the cover is just lovely and I particularly like that you cannot see the girl’s face, while the detail of her hair, neck and shoulder is lovely. As for the font… rather ordinary and underwhelming, which is why this isn’t my favourite – but it is a close-run thing!


Produced by Uitgeverij Orlando in February 2019, this Dutch edition is also an eye-catching cover. I just love the freckle-faced girl glaring out at me in amongst the sunflowers. I particularly like the fact that she isn’t plastered in make-up. But I find the flat font very disappointing.


This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2017 is the second cover with an abstract floral design – and in my opinion this is by far the more successful. I love the symmetry and striking colours – the dark purple background, with the teal leaves and orange/golden flowers is eye-catching and beautiful. While the title and author fonts are plain and on the dinky side of small, at least they look as if they are nested within the design, rather than slapped across the top of it. So… which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Send in the clowns…


This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is circus, so I’ve chosen The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.


This is the offering produced by Scribner February 2014. It is eye-catching and disturbing – the luminous image of a mermaid bounces out of the black border and accurately captures the mood of the book. That said, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up if it had been wearing this cover, as it looks too creepy.


This cover was produced by Scribner for the paperback edition in September 2014. The beautiful girl off-centre with the scarf around her head looks vulnerable and the muted colour palette gives it a sense of menace. This is a lovely cover and, again, does reflect the mood of the book.


I’m intrigued to see that this far more circus-oriented cover is also produced by Scribner in April 2014. I love this one – it is eye-catching and colourful. But with the reflections in the dark water, there is also a sense that there is something darker behind the bright, pretty lights. This is my favourite cover – I love the detail and in particular, the way the title has been threaded through the artwork.


This is the cover design, produced by Simon & Schuster in March 2015, that tempted me to pluck this book off the shelves and read it. I was attracted by the title and the carnival feel that nevertheless felt slightly off… and the fact I thought it was very pretty.


This Hungarian edition, produced in June 2015 by Maxim, has gone for the horror vibe. And I think it has done it very well. That said, while there are genuinely shocking elements in this book, it isn’t horror or particularly scary so while I think the cover is a lovely, disturbing piece of artwork, it isn’t an accurate reflection of the book. I’m guessing there were a number of really annoyed Hungarian readers who picked this offering up thinking they were in for a fear-fest they didn’t get.

What about you – which is your favourite cover?

Review of The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman


I saw the cover and read the first page, liked what I read so scooped this offering off the shelves in an impulsive moment. Would I enjoy it?

museumofextraNew York City, 1911. Meet Coralie, circus girl, web-fingered mermaid, shy only daughter of Professor Sardie and raised in the bizarre surroundings of his Museum of Extraordinary Things. And meet Eddie Cohen, a handsome young immigrant who has run away from his painful past and his Orthodox family to become a photographer, documenting life on the teeming city streets. One night by the freezing waters of the Hudson River, Coralie stumbles across Eddie, who has become enmeshed in the case of a missing girl, and the fates of these two outcasts collide as they search for their own identities in tumultuous times.

And there you have the slightly tweaked blurb. This story is told in through the viewpoints, both first and third person, of the two main protagonists, Coralie and Eddie. Hoffman has certainly done her homework and there is plenty of dense description of the early days of New York City as she pulls away from the immediacy of the first person viewpoints and into more a more panoramic, diffuse overview of their lives and the lives of those around them. However, I have to say that I found this switch from first into third person point of view for the same characters rather jarring and would have far preferred the immediacy and punch of the story if it had remained within the heads of the two fascinating characters caught up in this gothic tale. Much of the initial creepiness and isolation was diluted by packing in quite so much of the historical detail in the third person viewpoint.

Nevertheless this wasn’t the dealbreaker I at first feared it would be, for the simple reason that the main story running through this book is engrossing and original. Coralie and Eddie are both snared by their past, though Coralie’s plight is more extreme, being a virtual prisoner and forced to become an exhibit in her father’s freakshow as a mermaid. The rampant exploitation of anyone disadvantaged or weak is a strong theme throughout the book – perhaps rather heavy-handedly emphasised, as there is nothing subtle about Hoffman’s approach. However, there are some lyrically beautiful passages describing the marshy wilderness and wildlife on the margins of the then city, nowadays completely buried beneath tons of paving and concrete of Manhattan.

The fact remains that I finished reading this book several days ago and it still keeps popping into my head at odd moments. The intensity of the characters and gothic tone have woven a spell that won’t quite leave me alone, despite the book’s obvious flaws. I recommend it as an interesting, unusual read set in New York’s early years about two characters dealing with a bizarre situation that even today, would make headlines in all the newspapers.