Book Review: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2)

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.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Review:

This is the first Alice Hoffman book that I’ve read, and knowing that it involved magic and witches, and had themes of being true to your whole self — well, I was anxious to read it. That and the cover really is beautiful.

However, I did not bond with this book. I liked the characters well enough and there was some magic, but something was missing for me. Aunt Isabelle was by far my favourite character. I loved her eccentricities and the idea that people approached her porch at night to receive her spells and remedies and would pay anything for them but would snub her on the street.

Hoffman has clearly done her research and filled out her novel with information of the area, the history of witches and the social situation of the day.

My favourite parts of the book have to do with the themes of accepting all parts of yourself, as illustrated by this quote from the novel:

“This is what happens when you repudiate who you are. Once you do that, life works against you, and your fate is no longer your own.”

I did find myself wanting to finish the book to find out what happened, but also found that most of the novel, especially as it went on, was describing situations and what went on. As a reader, I didn’t feel like a part of the action. It got to feeling like reading a history book.

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On Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)

Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he’s after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can’t imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry’s success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series.
Review:
This is one of my favourite Harry Potter books and it was so much fun to discuss it in my book club recently. Rowling is certainly bringing in more of the dark aspects of the wizarding world in this installment.
I find it fascinating how Rowling brings in so many important themes into her writing, such as discrimination and wrongful convictions without proper investigation and evidence — there is an almost World War 2 feel to some of what went on in the wizarding world under Voldemort. And then there are the dementors themselves and the fact that the wizarding world is alright partnering up with them, emphasizing again how everything is not always wonderful in the world of magic.
There are also great themes around friendship in this book. Harry and his friends argue and act moodily, just like regular teenagers. And then there is the friendship of Harry’s parents, their friends and their dynamic, and how they bullied Snape. The good and bad of being friends is explored.
Overall, I loved the pacing and the tension and the humour in The Prisoner of Azkaban. There is so much adventure and looming peril that it is hard not to get completely engrossed.
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Book Review: Equal Rites

Equal Rites (Discworld #3)

On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University–and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!
Review:
I have become totally enchanted with Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series. I really don’t know why I wasn’t reading this series earlier.
Equal Rites is the third installment of this series, and the first in the Witches part of the  series. You don’t need to read these in order, which is great in such a large series (41 books long!). I have read the first two books and loved them, but Equal Rites is even better.
The story follows a young witch named Esk as she figures out her wizarding powers — girls aren’t allowed to be wizards, but the wizarding staff given to Esk at her birth doesn’t know that. In the Discworld, women can be witches and men can be wizards and their magic is separate.
Esk is a great character and it was easy to root for her in her quest. Granny, the witch who trains her, is fantastic. She’s got an eccentric practicality and worldview that had me hooked right from the start. I could just picture her on her faulty boomstick, too set in her ways to fly too high or too fast, and, for some reason, I love how much she loves her goats. Both Esk and Granny drew me into this magical world in their own way, and I hope they crop up in another book because I am anxious to see them  again.
I love how Pratchett creates worlds and uses irreverent humour and witty observations to explore what’s going on. He has a way with juxtaposition and pointing out the small details that paint a rich picture. There are so many times when I stopped to reread a sentence or paragraph just because it was so well written or summed up a “truth” in an eloquent few words.

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