Tag Archives: Alice Hoffman

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRulesofMagicbookreview

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I’ve heard so many good things about this series, so decided to treat myself to the Audible version of this Alice Hoffman book.

BLURB: For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

This is such a cool premise and I particularly loved the blurb. I started listening, all set to be blown away by the intensity of the situation, as this skilled, adept writer pulled me right into the middle of this appealing story. And it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, two aspects of Hoffman’s writing really caused me a problem. I am a tad allergic to reams of exposition, where the author sees fit to tell me her version of what is happening, rather than allowing the characters to define the circumstances and explain it through their eyes. The other dealbreaker for me is head hopping and this is also part of Hoffman’s style. In adult fiction, I find it both jarring and irritating as it invariably knocks me out of the story while I work out why I am listening to two viewpoints within the same scene.

Once I realised these traits would continue throughout the book, I had to decide whether my aggravation with the style would result in this book being a DNF – and it is a testament to Hoffman’s writing skill that this didn’t happen. As the excellent narration by Laurence Bouvard gradually pulled me further into the story, I found I wanted to know what happened to Vincent, Franny and Jet. While my enjoyment of the characters was compromised, I cannot fault the worldbuilding and sense of otherness Hoffman manages to evoke with her stylish prose. I particularly liked her continual referencing of the smells around her characters and how they changed depending on what was happening or about to happen – in fact, the richness and sensuality of the writing in general was a huge plus throughout.

The other strength of this interesting book was the narrative arc for each character. As I wasn’t particularly emotionally involved, there were occasions when listening, I wondered if I would ultimately regret my decision to continue with it. Right now, I am not in the mood to listen to an unfurling tragedy, wherein each of these protagonists was going to endure a life of constant loss and grief, and there were times when I thought that would be the case. However, while there are certainly a number of shocking and sad events that take place within the story, it is ultimately an uplifting book and I felt the ending was very well handled. Overall, I am glad I persevered. There is much to admire in this book – I just wish I could have loved it more.
7/10

Sunday Post – 5th January, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

While it has been a lot less hectic, the fun hasn’t stopped. Last Sunday, I went for a spa evening with Sally – we didn’t talk about work, but relaxed in the sauna and the jacuzzi putting the world to rights. It was bliss. New Year’s Eve was lovely – just Himself and I spending it together, which is more special than it sounds, as he frequently has to work, or go to bed early because of his shift pattern. We had lunch together at Haskins on New Year’s Day and afterwards, I spotted a Kipling handbag on sale – irrestistible!  We had a lovely lazy afternoon, lolling on the sofa watching films together, making the most of Himself’s last day of his winter leave.

My sister-in-law drove up to see me the following day – her birthday. So we had a walk along beach and then I took her for lunch at Haskins, which serves a baked potato with roasted vegetables as a tasty veggie lunch, plus cake of course. I hadn’t seen her since our writing retreat in Bexhill, so it was a wonderful treat. Yesterday, I met up with my sister and caught up on her life since Christmas Day when we last saw each other. Inevitably we went shopping together – I came away with two long-sleeved tops and a new pair of trousers in the sales and she got a lovely blouse.

Today is the last day of my Christmas break and we’re taking down the Christmas decorations – a chore I hate, as the house always looks so dreary afterwards. But all good things come to an end and I’ve had the best Christmas in years.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this entertaining children’s series and was pleased that this concluding adventure wrapped up the narrative really successfully, as well as providing a cracking battle full of action and tension. Review to follow.

 

Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now…

Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.

This has proved to be a delightful duology – I loved the first book and wanted to find out what would happen next. This offering wasn’t a disappointment as my first ebook read of the decade. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

I was expecting to be blown away by this one and I wasn’t. Nonetheless, the worldbuilding and atmospheric writing kept me listening to the excellent narration, despite my other issues with the book. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of AUDIOBOOK How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Friday Faceoff featuring The Wee Free Man – Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

My 2019 Reading Year – the Statistics

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020!

My Outstanding Reads of 2019

Review of AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis

Sunday Post 29th December 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks over the Christmas break, in no particular order:

Gavin and Stacey: what that Christmas special cliffhanger ending means for future season https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/gavin-and-stacey-christmas-special-ending-spoilers-future-series-ruth-jones/339367?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=share-buttons
And this one has been niggling at the back of my head since I watched it… I’m a HUGE fan and would LOVE more Gavin and Stacey goodness – but only if it is as marvellous and heartwarming and wonderful as the previous series. Please, please don’t mess it up…

10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2020/01/03/2739/#.XhHkoPzgrb0 All very good advice, when we still have the coldest, dreariest part of winter still ahead of us…

Reading Challenges to Try in 2020 http://skolion.org/2019/10/06/reading-challenges-to-try-in-2020/ It’s that time of year again, when we all start thinking about the challenges we are going to set ourselves – and this article has some helpful suggestions.

My Personal “Yellow Brick Road” https://laurelrainsnow.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/my-personal-yellow-brick-road/ Laurel’s article highlighting mementoes that had significance for her had me wondering about the things that matter to me, too…

River to Skate Away On https://platformnumber4.com/2019/12/14/river-to-skate-away-on/ Becky’s recollections of childhood winters, complete with photos, brought back a former time.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020! #Brainfluffbookblog #MyFirstReadsoftheDecade

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These days I read two books simultaneously – one ebook and one audiobook. So the two books I’m starting this year with are both fantasy and both dealing with witchcraft, but so very different:-

KINDLE Ebook Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Warrior, the first book in this duology – but I’m finding this one even more engrossing. The fallout as Mirei’s very existence upends hundreds of years of custom is predictably hostile by certain factions. This gives an inventive, skilled author like Brennan all sorts of places to take this story – great fun! I will be reviewing both books in this duology in due course.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
I’ll be honest – I don’t love this one as much as I thought I would. The prose is coolly elegant and each of the main protagonists are well drawn, but I feel rather distanced by the viewpoint and structure. There’s no risk of not finishing it, though – so hopefully I will reach a point when I suddenly find I’ve completely bonded with the world and the characters. Review to follow.

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

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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…

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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

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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.
7/10