BOOK REVIEW: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Rules_of_MagicLast week, Alice Hoffman delighted fans with the release of a prequel to one of her most beloved novels: Practical Magic. That’s right. Over twenty years after readers delved into the world of two unruly witch sisters, the author’s new book, The Rules of Magic, gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Owen family members who came before.

Most of the story revolves around the coming of age of Franny, Jet, and Vincent Owen during the 1960s. These two teenage witches and their wizard brother navigate rough waters as they discover their magical powers and develop intimate relationships. It’s a difficult time for them as the family curse dictates their fates. Their loves. Their lives.

While the book was fun, I found the pace of the story slow, or somewhat passive. Also, it read like a Young Adult book at times. Perhaps that’s because I young when I read and loved Practical Magic… perhaps I have  grown up and now gravitate to Hoffman’s other fantastic books, like The Museum of Extraordinary Things.

Still, I think most fans of the first book in the series will be delighted with this prequel.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest book review.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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BBT’s Top 5 Novels of 2014

Although there are still several novels published in 2014 on my TBR list (I blame it on my heavy college workload, tee hee.), I did manage to read and enjoy several awesome books this year. Below are excerpts from BBT reviews. They are my top five books of 2014 (in no particular order). Click on the link to read the full reviews.

 

Sweetland_CoverSweetland by Michael Crummey
Random House of Canada
Available August 19, 2014
320 pages, $32.00

Michael Crummey brings an isolated, austere landscape and its unforgettable inhabitants to life in his latest novel Sweetland. He paints the harsh life of the East Coast with frank simplicity. Never over-the-top.

 

MuseumCover2The Museum of Extraordinary Things
By Alice Hoffman
Scribner, 2014.
384 pages, $32,00.

It’s an enchanting story with a pace as steady and stirring as the Hudson River snaking its way into the plot. I was swept full-force into the story. Hoffman’s choice of narrators, her weaving of past and present narratives, and her colourful language drew me in. So did her captivating setting —New York City in the early 1900s.

 

TheWorldBeforeUsColourThe World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter
Random House of Canada Limited

September 9, 2014

432 pages, $29.95

I was enchanted by Aislinn Hunter’s novel, a gorgeous, complex story pulsing with life. The novel explores how time, memory, and imaginings can shape a person’s narrative and identity. The reader flutters in and out of the past alongside a whirlwind of characters —most of them spirits who have lost their selfhood.

 

TheBees_PhotoThe Bees by Laline Paull
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2014
340 pages, $21.99

In Paull’s riveting, epic tale, bees put their lives on the line to protect the Queen and the beehive. The author creates an entire world revolving around these fascinating insects to mirror societal hierarchies and environmental crises. Still, there is a significant difference between Laline Paull’s novel with those of Richard Adams and G. R. R. Martin: her story evokes the divine feminine. The undercurrents of maternal love, sisterhood, and a Mother God heighten the flow of the story at every moment.

 

MonsterWifeThe Monster’s Wife by Kate Horsley
Barbican Press, 266 pages.
25.00$, August 28, 2014

In The Monster’s Wife, first-time novelist Kate Horsley honours the gothic tradition of Mary Shelley while maintaining a fresh, unique voice. Some describe this book as a sequel to Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. I view this new book as an ingenious spin-off revamping a short period of the classic tale. It takes place after Victor Frankenstein makes a pact with his ‘creature’ to play God once again —to make a wife for the creature. Victor settles in the Orkney Islands for a bout of manic, promised work. Its dark, moody atmosphere lends well to the harsh landscape of the islands and the unravelling plot. With its vibrant imagery and meticulous details, The Monster’s Wife will have a firm grip on you from the start.

 

What were your top five reads of 2014? I hope you crack open the books on my list if you haven’t already. I’m certain you will love them just as much as I did.

Thank you for reading my book reviews, blogger friends. Happy Holidays!

TOP TEN HIGHLIGHTS of Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things

MuseumCover2

The Museum of Extraordinary Things
By Alice Hoffman
Scribner, 2014.
384 pages, $32,00.

Alice Hoffman wrote several best-selling novels including The Dovekeepers and The Red Garden.  The Museum of Extraordinary Things is her most recent book. It’s an enchanting story with a pace as steady and stirring as the Hudson River snaking its way into the plot. I was swept full-force into the story. Hoffman’s choice of narrators, her weaving of past and present narratives, and her colourful language drew me in. So did her captivating setting —New York City in the early 1900s.

Here are the top ten highlights of this novel:

10.  The ill-tempered proprietor of the Museum of Extraordinary Things has a daughter named Coralie. Along with the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and the Alligator Man, she graces the halls of the museum as one of his wonders. Coralie spends hours under water, in a large tank lined with exotic seashells, costumed as the Human Mermaid. When she isn’t working for her father, the dark-haired girl with the webbed fingers spends her time reading or helping their much-loved housekeeper. Coralie will steal your heart in Chapter One.

9.  Our hero Eddie Cohen escapes the horrors of his home country by sailing to New York City with his grieving father. He turns to the streets to survive, for a “motherless boy is hardened in many ways yet will often search for a place to deposit his loyalty and devotion. Eddie had found this in the city he saw as a great and tormented beauty, one ready to embrace him when all others turned away.” He will grow on you little by little until you want to cheer him on from the shadows of the city’s brownstones.

8.  The Hudson River, once speckled with lush woodlands and small villages, courses through the veins of Coralie and Eddie. She swims in it with welcome abandon, he photographs it with unparalleled devotion. They both find strength, beauty, and solace within its whirling darkness. You too may feel its powerful tug.

7.  The cellar of Professor Sardie —Coralie’s oppressive, sinister father— conjures horrific images. He manipulates Nature’s wonders for vile, profiteering purposes in his dank workshop. Formaldehyde-filled jars line the walls. If you look into them, you’ll see curiosities that will forever trouble your sleep.

6.  Tucked behind the Museum of Extraordinary Things, the living wonders meet for “wondrous breakfast gatherings.” The sharp scent of the pear tree and the sweet laughter of the fellowship fill the air. They bask in an intimate comradery you will want to partake in.

5.  Coralie loves to watch one of the professor’s prized possessions: a cereus plant. She sneaks out of her room at night, daring this night-blooming cactus to ripen and show its rare, white flower —if only for a moment. You will hold your breath, wishing the plant will bloom for Coralie.

4.  The Wolfman —a man covered with dark, coarse hair— is a well-mannered devotee of English Literature. Jane Eyre is his favorite novel since he relates to the infamous madwoman locked in the attic. You will find this comparison quite fitting, and may notice other allusions to the classic tale of Miss Eyre.

3.  Hoffman brings turn-of-the-twentieth-century New York City events to life. Alongside the characters, you will experience the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the sprawling development of the greatest amusement park.

2.  Professor Sardie’s red-haired housekeeper, Maureen, raised little Coralie. Over the years, she has imparted important life lessons to her beloved charge: “Love happens in such a way, Maureen told [Coralie]. It walks up to you, and when it does, you need to recognize it for what it is and, perhaps more important, for what it might become.” You will be thankful Coralie has such a loving caretaker.

1.  When the pivotal point in the story arises, housebound Coralie must walk out of her father’s shadow and be brave: “All at once, she was at the center of her life, not hiding behind a curtain or eavesdropping with her ear pressed against a floorboard or a door.” There will be no stopping Coralie and Eddie from taking their fated path. There will be no stopping you from reading what comes next.