All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

My first witchy book review is Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman. As soon as I read she was writing a prequel Practical Magic explaining the origin of the Owen curse, the countdown to publication was on. After reading Rules of Magic last year, I fell in love with her prose and the Owen family. I was thrilled to be given an ARC to review via NetGalley. Read on to see if it was worth the wait.

If like me you love listening to interviews with authors talking about their books, read on for a gem of a chat.

Book Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Title: Magic Lessons

Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: magic realism, adult fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Scribner UK

Release date: 6th Oct 2020

Purchase link: Amazon

Blurb

Where does the story of the Owens family begin? With a baby abandoned in a snowy field in the 1600s. Under the care of Hannah Owens, little Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows.

When Maria is abandoned by the man she loves, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s is here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters

My Thoughts

Despite my excitement I was anxious to begin this novel in case my high expectations were unfounded and there are times I struggle to read historical fiction, which this is. I need not have worried; the arrival of Maria into Hannah Owen’s life captivated me, and I remained in her world for hours; I did not want to stop reading.

Maria’s early carefree childhood with Hannah was a joy to read and connected me to her and Cadin, making the rest of the book an emotional ride as she travels across the globe to end up in Salem, Massachusetts. As a reader, you know the danger she will face when she blindly believes she will be fine. This knowledge added to the tension. The novel is short on dialogue which surprised me because it is a rare these days but I found I did not miss it because of Alice Hoffman’s talent for setting the scene, her magical prose and the observations of love in all its guises. The study of love with its joy and dangers is the core of this novel; it brings lightness, warmth, darkness, and destruction.

It is a well-researched historical fiction as seen in the lists of herbs, and spells written in the Owen’s grimoires and highlights the prejudice against women who are different and do not follow the social constructs created by men and the dangers they faced.

I have not read Practical Magic yet, and it is years since I watched the film, so my memory of her story was vague. I would be interested to hear what others with a firmer grounding of the curse think of Maria’s tale and the origin of the curse. Though this book is part of a series, you can easily read it as a standalone.

Would I recommend?

Alice Hoffman is a queen of magical storytelling, making Magic Lessons a pleasure to read. This emotional novel has depth, and I came away with the desire to wear my red boots with pride and the lessons of the Owens are tattooed in my heart. The observations of love in all its forms were what I needed to hear. It will be on my forever bookshelf with the rest of the series, ready for a reread and will inspire my own writing. Alice Hoffman’s shows how a novel involving witches and magic can be successful and loved in the mainstream.

Interview with Alice Hoffman about Magic Lessons

As promised an interview with Alice Hoffman discussing this book. I hope you enjoy.

Thank you Simon and Schuster via NetGalley for an advanced copy so I could give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy reading and stay safe!

Love

Book review

Book Review: The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm by Erin Green

While scribbling away towards my word count last month, I was lucky to win a signed copy of Erin Green’s book The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm. When it arrived I promised myself I would read it as my reward for surviving NaNoWriMo. December is here and the book has been read so scroll down for my review.

Book review The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm
Time to read some Christmas magic

Author: Erin Green

Title: The Magic Magic of Christmas Tree Farm

Genre: Romance

Publisher: Aria

Release date: 4th September 2018

Blurb:

The scent of pine fills the crisp air as local villagers select their perfect tree. Picking the tree is the easy bit, creating a perfect Christmas is a bit trickier…

Nina has the most magical job in the world, matching customers with their perfect Christmas tree. Working at Christmas Tree Farm is always fun and full of laughter but the weight of past tragedy bears down on her. Her admirer is a great distraction, but is he the right man for her?

Holly is just trying to be a normal teenager, having to deal with the mean girls in her class. But then the most handsome boy at school takes an interest in her. Have all her Christmases come at once?

Angie is trying to bring her family together and save her broken marriage. It’s not something she can force, but it’s the only gift she craves. Will her Christmas wish come true?

It’s the season of goodwill, and at Christmas Tree Farm anything could happen…

Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Milly Johnson.

My thoughts

Last year I read Erin Green’s book The Christmas Wish, so I had high expectations for this novel. The joy of her last novel was the main reason I entered the competition, the other is signed books have a magic of their own which I love. I was not disappointed and in truth loved this story more. Told in three points of view, it covers three women’s Christmas and each are at different stages of their lives. Nina is in her twenties waiting for the moment she feels true love, Holly in her teens experiencing love for the first time and Angie, a divorcee realising maybe she has lost hers. They are all connected by the goings on at the Christmas Tree farm.

As a character, I felt an instant connection to Nina and Holly. I grew to love them more as the book progressed. Holly for being a rounded considerate teenager with a mature head on her shoulders who would have been a friend when I was her age and Nina for being herself. Unlike some books where the heroine is giddy with love Nina is dealing with grief and the emotions of the upcoming Christmas; she wants love, but it is not her main focus. This makes the whole novel more real, special and the bittersweet nature that runs through it makes it stand apart from many on the shelves this time of year. There are funny moments, sad moments and toe curling ones too. It has it all similar to life. As someone who was disappointed not to get a job as a Christmas elf, the farm is a magical wonderland I would have loved to work at and this setting adds the sprinkle of Christmas into the story.

The only thing I struggled with was Angie. She is well written and as real as the others but I struggled to connect with her selfish views. I could relate to her in many ways but there were moments I wanted to give her a shake or push her into the snow. If she was real, I would want to have a coffee with her to discover more about her psyche so I could decide whether or not I liked her.

Would I recommend?

Yes. This book is more than a festive read it is an exploration of love, family relationships and women. It deals with grief, divorce and first love. Grab yourself a hot chocolate, snuggly socks and curl up in front of the fire and enjoy.

Happy reading!

Love

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All about Books

Book Review: A Spark of Life by Jodi Picoult

I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult so was very excited to recieve an advanced copy of her new release A Spark of Light. Thank you NetGalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the opportunity to read this.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Book Cover of A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Title: A Spark of Light

Author: Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughon

Genre: General Fiction

Release date: 30th October 2018

Blurb

Whose choice is it? 

The masterful new novel from the Number One bestselling author of Small Great Things.

The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.

Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.

Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.

Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.

And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.

My Thoughts

This is another divisive novel by Jodi Picoult told sensitively as it tries to deal with all sides of the abortion debate. It is honest, gritty and hard-hitting and doesn’t shy away from the heightened emotion abortion evokes and the physical aspects of the procedure. Some may find parts distressing and a trigger.  The plot revolves around the stories of the women and doctor at a women’s centre in Mississippi when a gunman attacks – these include a 15-year-old girl, her aunt, doctor and nurse. Each have their own reasons for being there that day and all different characters. Unusually, it is told in a reverse chronological order taking you from the end of day to the beginning. This could have been an awkward format but Jodi Picoult’s style and talent carries it off.  My heartstrings were pulled because I felt an attachment to all characters whatever their beliefs and was on the roller coaster of emotion with them as the terror unfolds. It is a story about life and should read to start a conversation.

After all, as Jodi Picoult says

“Honestly, I do not believe we, as a society, will ever agree on this issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from places of unshakable belief . But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other—and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in those honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best.”

A Spark of Life Jodi Picoult 2018

Would I recommend?

Yes, whatever side you are on this novel shines a light on the shades of grey in the abortion debate which divides many in all countries. It is not an easy read but you come out of it a different person.

Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Kate Kenzie's Blog

 

All about Books

Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

The premiere of A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls books  aired last week so it’s time to catch up with the rest of the trilogy book reviews starting with Shadow of Night.

Warning: Spoilers for the first book of series A Discovery of Witches may follow.

Book Review: Shadow of Night
Shadow of Night by  Deborah Harkness

Title: Shadow of Night

Author: Deborah Harkness

Genre: Fiction, supernatural

Publisher: Headline

Release Date: 14th February 2013

Blurb
It began with A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.
Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.
Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…

Fall under the spell of Diana and Matthew once more in this stunning, richly imagined, epic tale.

My Thoughts

As Matthew and Diana timewalk to 1590 when the witches’ powers were strong this sequel has a different feel to the first; it is historical fiction with a paranormal twist. I love the historical details and Deborah Harkness excels at bringing everyday Tudor life alive. I could smell and feel London as the characters walk through the city and interact with old characters and new. The introduction of recognisable personalities of the time such as William Shakespeare and Kit Marlow works well and inspired me to look into their works but it was the witches which fascinated me. The world of All Souls is expanded with new witches, daemons and vampires.

The pace is different and in places slower so not as page turning as A Discovery of Witches but it is still a strong book. The characters and twists keep the plot moving forward and all the details help bring things together in the Book of Life.

When I first read this book, A Discovery of Witches remained my favourite of the series but the more I reread this one the more details I see and has become the one I love most.

Would I recommend?

Of course. It has prime place on my forever bookshelf.

Thank you Headline and NetGalley for a digital copy.

Have you read this yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Kate Kenzie's Blog

 

All about Books

Book Review: Coffee Break Companion by SL Grigg

It is Coffee Break Companion’s 6 month anniversary. Earlier this year I was lucky to meet S L Grigg – the interview can be found here – and now it’s time for the book review.

Coffee Break Companion by S L Grigg review:

Have a break with Coffee Break Companion

Title: Coffee Break Companion

Author: S L Grigg

Purchase information: https://amzn.to/2ofgtmA

SLGrigg CBC

Connect with the Author:

www.facebook.com/SLGRIGG76
www.slgrigg76.wordpress.com

Blurb

Grab that cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer), maybe add a splash of something stronger, settle down and enjoy your break with this gripping collection of flash fiction and poetry that will send shivers down your spine. With an added bonus of a longer story at the end that will fill your lunch break. What are you waiting for? Dive in! Everything from a discovery in an Ice Cavern, to a tornado. Mermaids, and Dragons. Mystery and Horror. This collection of flash fiction and poetry has something to capture anyone’s imagination, with a final chilling thriller that will leave you gasping for air.

My thoughts

As the title suggests this book is one to read over your coffee break or those free five minutes in the day. This collection of poems, short stories and flash fiction is easy to read over several breaks and there is something for everyone.
The raw emotion of some poems and the chapter ‘Loneliness’ brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. I credit this book as one of the ones which opened my eyes to the depth and connection poetry can portray in a few sentences. I no longer shy away or skip the pages when I see a poem but jump in and enjoy so thank you SL Grigg.
As a writer, I enjoyed the editing exercises she shares to show the transformation from one story to another with the cutting of word count. I felt privileged to read the stories written in her childhood and I reminisced about my own afternoons scribbling in my teenage notebook.
I am looking forward to reading more from SL Grigg in the future.

Would I recommend?

Yes, put the kettle on and escape for 5 minutes.

Have you read this book?

Let me know your thoughts below.

Happy reading and drinking your cuppa or coffee!