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review 2017-10-17 03:59
Faithful
Faithful: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

This, for me, was not a typical Alice Hoffman story. Having read several of her other books (including her middle grade novel), this one, ironically, seems lighter, despite the weight of serious, complex themes. I appreciated that Hoffman tackled a conventional subject from a new angle — the car crash described at the start of the novel does not take lives in the literal sense— but both of the girls involved, and their families, cope with the "life" they each have left. Shelby has been dealt what may seem like the better hand (her friend Helene is comatose), but her guilt for the circumstances related to the crash, her experiences in the hospital after, and the fact that she has managed to build a life beyond it, all overwhelm any relief she might feel.

 

Hoffman is at her best rendering the finer details of ordinary life; here, even the minor characters provide transcendent moments with simple acts of kindness and compelling stories of their own. At some point, I found I was almost more interested in them than with Shelby, but that is not a criticism, Hoffman's powerful writing ensures each character is a fully realized, compassionate individual, worthy of our time and attention.

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review 2017-10-10 20:01
The Rules of Magic
The Rules of Magic: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

By:  Alice Hoffman

ISBN:  9781501137471

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 10/10/2017 

Format:  Hardcover

My Rating: 4 Stars

 

Alice Hoffman returns following the popular (1995) occult Practical Magic and the Owens family (movie starring Nichole Kidman and Sandra Bullock) with a little history. Rewind to the 1960s and enjoy THE RULES OF MAGIC. A nostalgic coming-of-age love letter. Learning to embrace one’s true self. 

Rich in history, NYC, witches, curses, magic, and humor. Catch up with Franny and Jet. and meet little brother Vincent and cousin, April.

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” — Henry David Thoreau 

Susanna Owens had fled Massachusetts, escaped to Paris and married and settled in New York City. She did not want her children to know of their heritage. However, it was clear from the start they were not ordinary children. She had to set down some hard rules. However, this was not an easy task. 

Frances, (Franny) the eldest with pale skin and blood-red hair had the ability to commune with birds. Sulky and suspicious. 

Bridget (Jet), a reader with jet black hair, shy and beautiful. Kind-hearted, sensitive, fashionable and similar to her mother. 

Vincent was the youngest brother, a gifted musician and charismatic, charming, slim, handsome, and often misbehaved.

 



Their dad was a psychiatrist and the sisters were outsiders at school. They wanted to escape their mother’s rules to be themselves. Every year a box of lavender-scented black soap arrives from Massachusetts. Soon they discovered their mom was keeping secrets. Was she a Russian spy?

Their mom was chic and only wanted them to have a normal life. However, when they see a letter from bohemian Aunt Isabelle, the get the idea of spending the summer with her in Massachusetts. They could escape for the summer. No rules!

Once they arrive, they soon learn they can do anything. They are quirky as well as their aunt Isabelle (with all her potions), allowing them to do whatever they please. They could not imagine why they hadn’t spent every summer on Magnolia Street. She could care less about bad behavior, diet, sleeping habits, or rules.

The curse. 

However, they soon missed the culture of New York. Isabelle had them that anything whole could be broken and anything broken could be put back together. The curse could be broken.

The sisters ignore their mother’s warnings, and on to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their brother, breaks hearts along the way. 

They made a vow never to fall in love. Isabelle gave them the advice to not hide from who they are. If they do they will be unhappy.

Their family had always been blamed for everything. However, as the children slowly begin to understand their family secrets and try to escape the family curse, they may learn something.

A captivating blend of magical realism and nostalgia— return to the magical world of the Owens. From witches, spells, curses, and potions. Family, friendship, humor, and the power of love with plenty of magic and love sprinkled on top. A perfect Halloween read. Growing up in the 60’s enjoyed revisiting the past. 

A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/05/04/The-Rules-of-Magic
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-05 18:13
Halloween Bingo BLACKOUT -- Witches -- Practical Magic -- omens abound, and I liked the movie better
Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman

 

 

 

Practical Magic wasn't my first choice for this square.  I originally intended to read Wicked, which I had picked up for 75 cents at one of those Friends of the Library sales.  But it was too much another good vs evil diatribe after I'd already read several of those, so after about 50 pages I set it aside.

 

Then I tried a few Kindle freebies, but they didn't grab me either, for a lot of reasons.

 

Last week, the writing bug bit me again, really hard as you've maybe seen by my tallies of daily production.  The Secrets of White Apple Tree Farm was -- is -- one of those weird phenomena that come to me all at once, beginning, middle, and end.  I'll be working on it again today when I finish this review, even though I also need to load my car for Sunday's art show and do a hundred other mundane tasks.

 

White Apple Tree Farm is a contemporary gothic, set in a fictitious community in northern Indiana similar to where my husband grew up.  There are some small details of the setting that are based on places -- but not people -- that actually existed there at one time.  My objective is to finish this book as soon as possible.  Hold that thought.

 

Last year, right after I had finished and self-published The Looking-Glass Portrait, I began another book.  It did not come to me in a flash, and in fact has undergone some major conceptual changes since the beginning.  One of the first changes was to the title.

 

I love coming up with titles for books.  I have, literally, lists of titles with no books to attach to them.  Rarely do I change a title once a project is underway; more often it's the title that drives the plot.  But with the book I started last year, the original title didn't work.  It so much didn't work that when I changed it, I completely forgot the original.  I even scrubbed it from the computer files I set up to collect research information.  And as the concept for that book evolved, I realized that the new (and now current) title offered some opportunities I hadn't considered.

 

The new title was -- is -- Forgotten Magic.

 

As with The Looking-Glass Portrait, that new book involved a house, and therefore I had to go looking on the internet to find just the right picture of a house to keep in my mind while writing.  I wanted a Victorian with lots of gingerbread, more romantic than creepy.  I wasn't sure, however, if there were any Queen Annes in the location where I wanted to set this story, so when I did my image search, I included the actual setting, which is Whidbey Island, Washington.  My search brought up this:

 

 

I learned that this house was built for the filming of the 1998 movie Practical Magic, which I had never even heard of, much less seen.  Although the story is supposed to be set in Massachusetts, the filming was done in Washington.

 

One the simple pleasures I had in writing LGP was that I incorporated details of places I actually knew because I had either lived or visited them.  When the idea for Forgotten Magic came to me, I knew that the atmosphere of Whidbey Island was perfect for it.  I have family who live there and I've visited a few times.  Finding the picture of the "perfect" house seemed like a little bit of an omen.

 

It's not, however, the house that is being used in the book as it's being written, for various reasons, but that's not the subject of this review.

 

Because I had not seen the movie, I checked to see if my library had the book.  They didn't, but they did have the DVD of the movie.  I checked it out.  And I enjoyed it -- except for the utterly stupid last scene.  I also recognized . . . things.

 

The character of Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock) opens a little shop in the town.  The scenes were filmed in the picturesque village of Coupeville, on Whidbey Island.  It's instantly recognizable.

 

I grabbed some screen shots while viewing the film on the laptop.

 

This is Coupeville.  The building out on the water at the upper right is a gift shop that's a favorite subject for artists.  I tried to find a souvenir cap there, but everything was made in China, so I didn't buy one.

 

Later in the film, there's another scene in Coupeville that really caught my attention:

 

 

Practical Magic was released in 1998, so filmed probably 1997-98. 

 

In July of 2013, I went up to Washington for a kind of family reunion.  My daughter and her husband and son (and dog) drove all the way from New Jersey.  With my son and his wife and son, we hit some of the usual touristy spots, including Coupeville.  We walked up and down the streets, poked into some of the shops, and even stopped for ice cream cones.

 

That's what caught my attention:  The building in the middle of that screen shot is the ice cream shop we stopped in.

 

Well, of course.  Anyone can see a shot in a movie and say, "I was there!" and maybe yes, and maybe no.  A quick Google search indicates the business is still there.

 

Next to the ice cream shop, on the far left of the screen shot, is another building.  The sign on the front reads "The Jan McGregor Studio."

 

I was quite certain, watching the movie, that I had been in that building.  In fact, I was almost certain I had bought something there.  I knew what that something was, and I knew where it was, so it was a simple matter of going to my bedroom, opening the bag it was still in, and scanning the hand-written receipt for a bundle of Japanese silk fabric swatches. 

 

The irony of refusing to buy a made in China souvenir cap but then buying the Japanese silk is not lost on me.  Or maybe it was an omen??

 

 

Because I have a bit of a fetish about fabric.

 

For various reasons, Forgotten Magic languished.  I've worked on it off and on, but other things interfered, and my passion for the novel wasn't strong enough to shove them aside.  Maybe the passion that's driving White Apple Tree Farm will fade, too, as the empty time of summer gives way to art shows and holidays and other obligations.  But Forgotten Magic is clearly not forgotten; I put together a cover art mock-up to use as my Bingo marker.

 

After the huge disappointment of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, I knew I had to have a comfort read for my last Bingo square.  I put in a request at the library for Practical Magic. It arrived Monday.

 

I knew that there were huge differences between the book and the movie, so I was prepared for that.  I had read -- or tried to read -- Alice Hoffman before and so I was also prepared for that.

 

The book was still a bit of a disappointment, and when I finished it last night I knew exactly why:  It's me, not the book.

 

The movie had a focus the book lacked.  The movie also had characters I liked.

 

I read, and have always read, because of the people.  I want to care about them, root for them, empathize with them, encourage them.  I want them to be more than I am, to do things I can't do or am afraid to do.  I write for the same reasons -- the people.

 

Most of the characters as Alice Hoffman created them were not very likable.  The aunts are either mean or irresponsible.  Sally is too perfect and self-righteous.  Gillian is often just plain stupid.  Antonia is a bitch, then Kylie is a bitch.  None of them seem to care when their actions impact other people negatively.  (Holy shit, don't we see enough of that on the news these days?)

 

The book's lack of focus stemmed, I think, from the use of too many viewpoint characters and an omniscient point of view.  This problem was exacerbated by shifts from present to past tense.  You can call me a funky old traditionalist, and I won't be insulted, but I like a certain consistency in the writing.  Maybe it's fine for a more literary style like Hoffman's, but I found it distanced me from the events and especially the emotions.

 

The screenplay, on the other hand, narrowed that focus to the character of Sally Owens and made the story her story.  Instead of all the bad romantic choices made by Gillian and Antonia and Kylie and the drugstore girl and all the boys they ever loved, Sally became the microcosm and the prism.  Her hurt became everyone's hurt.  Her triumph became everyone's triumph.

 

I wondered how the book would have fared under the scrutiny of Christopher Vogler, whose work The Writer's Journey is virtually a bible for screenwriters and, by extension, novelists.  Then I realized that it would have fared exactly as its conversion to screen played out.  The film was better.

 

But there were other aspects of the film that I felt succeeded where the book didn't.  Although the film purports to be set in Massachusetts with its connection to witchcraft, most of the book's action takes place on Long Island, New York, where Sally has escaped to in order to raise her daughters without any influence from the aunts.  The milieu is suburban, and instead of being an outcast, Sally is fully accepted into the community.  She works at the school and the girls are more or less normal. 

 

The magical elements are far better integrated in the film than in the book.  More important, however, was that the emotional elements were better developed.  The aunts loved the sisters and cared about them; in the book the aunts were nasty and cruel, and I could only imagine them allowing the young Sally and Gillian to eat Snickers for breakfast out of a sense of neglect, not affection.  Sally and Gillian, for all their differences, still loved each other in the film.  It wasn't always easy, but the love was still there.  So was the love Sally had for her daughters -- and the love they had for the aunts.

 

Sally's romance in the book takes a back seat to Gillian's, and I found Gillian's romance with the biology teacher to be shallow and contrived.  The fact that Gillian's story in the film did not end with a happily ever after relationship seemed more fitting; she emerged from the near-death experience with renewed hope and faith in the magic of love.  (The resolution of the murder in the book seemed stupid and contrived, too.)  Sally's romance became the main thread in the film and provided motivation for all the other events.

 

One of the impressions I took away from reading the book was that Hoffman had a little bit of the Daphne DuMaurier stamp -- she didn't much like people.

 

I watched the movie three times when I checked it out the first time; I checked it out again and watched it twice more.  I make no apologies for being a romantic and for demanding a happily ever after ending from a romance.  The film version of Practical Magic worked much better as a coherent character story and as a romantic story than the book did.

 

As I said, however, that cheesy ending to the film was dumb; the final paragraphs of the book were actually better, but they weren't enough to save it from mediocrity.

 

I think on my next trip into town I'll check the film out of the library again.

 

But I have writing to do first.

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text 2017-08-31 11:49
August wrap-up!
Russian Hill - Ty Hutchinson
The Rules of Magic - Alice Hoffman
Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
Contemporary Cables: Classic Aran Reimagined in Current Styles - Jody Long
The Green Mile - Stephen King
Original Magic: The Rituals and Initiations of the Persian Magi - Flowers, Stephen E., Ph.D.

6 books read, plus a sampler that I'm not really counting. Three of these Netgalley, but that dance card is clear in anticipation of Halloween Bingo reads.

 

Two surprisingly enjoyable reads from genres I don't often peruse were Russian Hill (Crime drama) and Shiver (YA Romance). Then of course The Green Mile was brilliant!

 

I've collected a couple dozen new samples but not reading them yet. I have Halloween books to read!

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review 2017-08-25 09:44
The Rules of Magic
The Rules of Magic - Alice Hoffman

by Alice Hoffman

 

A prequel to the book, Practical Magic. Having not yet read that book, I went in without knowing the characters or where the story might go.

 

The Owens children, Franny, Jet and Vincent, are 'unusual' and are given specific rules to help them avoid situations where they might do magical things. No walking in moonlight, red shoes, cats, crows, books on magic and definitely never fall in love.

 

I found the style quick, clipped and very fast moving through the early part of the book as a lot of background information was explained. The one thing I really didn't like is that there are no chapters! I know Pratchett gets away with this but for me, it makes it difficult to set daily reading goals. It took longer to read this one as a result. The book is divided up into six parts, but I didn't feel that those separations made much of a difference to the overall flow.

 

I think the lack of chapters was a factor in me starting to lose interest early on, though mainly I just didn't connect with any of the characters. I found their cousin April to be particularly irritating. Everything just seems to ramble on endlessly moving from one scene to another without any plot demarcations to stand out and make a point. The issue of falling in love went through a predictable development in true fairytale form, but the emphasis on restrictions along the way felt overdone.

 

The writing itself was good and I expect fans of Practical Magic will enjoy this a lot more than I did. It just didn't grip me and I expect that already having a connection to the characters from the other story would make the difference.

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