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 Down in the Woods by MJ Arlidge
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Book Review Down in the Woods by M.J Arlidge

I returned to the forest this month but it wasn’t for the relaxing stroll of forest bathing but a heart stopping race against time to stop a killer with DI Helen Grace.

Book Review: Down in the Woods by M.J Arlidge

 

Book review Down to the Woods by MJ Arlidge

Down to the Woods by M.J Arlidge

Title: Down in the Woods

Author: M.J Arlidge

Publisher:  Penguin UK – Michael Joseph

Genre: Mystery and suspense, thriller

Release Date: 20th September 2018

Blurb

If you go down to the woods today

The last thing Tom Campbell remembers is camping in the New Forest with his girlfriend, Melissa. Now he is helpless, alone and consumed by fear, hunted through the woods by a sinister, masked figure…

When Tom’s body is found, displayed with grisly relish, Helen Grace takes the case. But before she can catch her breath, a second victim is taken – a serial killer is on the loose.

You better not go alone…

Something dark and deadly stalks the forest. Helen and her team must race against time to catch the perpetrator, before more blood is shed.

But the hunt will take Helen back into the eerie twilit woods – and this time she might not make it out alive.

My Thoughts

I love crime thrillers but M.J Arlidge is one of two writers I eagerly wait for the next instalment.  DI Helen Grace is a complex character and has been through the wars since she first arrived screeching into the fiction world on her motorbike in Eeny Meeny. This novel is menacing, creepy and unnerving with heart-stopping chase scenes deep in depths of New Forest which send shivers down my spine even now.  There is a good balance of the investigation and the familiar characters’ personal lives. As the series continues, DI Helen Grace evolves and it is a joy to read as is catching up with Charlie who is juggling with motherhood and pressure of a violent case. This series has not faltered.

Would I recommend?

If you love gripping suspence and not shy from grusome crime add this to your TBR list now. It is perfect for the run up to Halloween for the setting alone.

Happy reading!

 

Kate Kenzie's Blog

 

Bright spotty background
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, Ellfaenian Journals

Book Review: Forest Bathing Retreat by Hannah Fries

I was drawn to this book because of my love of trees and my research for my WIP where forests play a big role. I have always found being surrounded by trees calming and a place I like to retreat so Forest Bathing sounds ideal.

Book Review: Forest Bathing Retreat by Hannah Fries

 

Book review for Forest Bathing Retreat
Forest Bathing Retreat cover

Title: Forest Bathing Retreat

Author: Hannah Fries

Genre: Non-fiction, spirituality

Publisher: Storey Publishing

Release Date: 4th September 2018

Blurb

People have been retreating to the woods for quiet meditation, and inspiration for centuries, and recent research finds that time spent in the forest doesn’t just feel good but is, in fact, good for you. Inspired by the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, poet Hannah Fries invites readers to bask in the company of trees, whether in a city park or a rural nature preserve.

Fries combines her own reflections and guided mindfulness exercises with a curated selection of inspirational writing from poets, naturalists, artists, scientists, and thinkers throughout the centuries and across cultures, including Japanese haiku masters, 19th century European Romantics, American Transcendentalists, and contemporary environmentalists. Accompanied by beautiful forest photography, Forest Bathing Retreat is a distinctive gift that invites frequent revisiting for fresh insights and inspiration

Author Page: http://hannah-fries.squarespace.com/

My thoughts

Forest Bathing is based on the idea walking among trees is good for our health and soul. This book is full of stunning photographs, quotes, poems and facts relating to trees . I love the new words I have learnt by reading this book. Do you know what psithurism means? This book will tell you. It guides you through the woodland encouraging you to relax, meditate and notice surrounding nature using all senses so you can learn from trees.
As many of you know I have struggled with poetry but books like these open my mind to them and show me, they can be a wonderful way to express ideas and feelings.
I would love a physical copy for future reference dip to into when woodlands are too far away and inaccessible. As someone who relies on wheels to explore finding accessible woods is difficult and this book places a little piece of their magic in your hands and home.

Would I recommend?

It is perfect for fellow dendrophile* as a gift and I would recommend it for photos and quotes alone.

Thank you NetGalley and Storey Publishing for allowing me an advanced copy to read in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Do you love the forest? Share your favourite tree related poem or quote below.

Happy reading!

Kate Kenzie's Blog

* someone who loves trees and forests

 

All about Books

Book review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness 

On social media the trailer of an upcoming Sky 1 series is being shared based on the novel A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It looks good with drama, fantasy, action and magic so it must be time to catch up with the book.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

 

Book review: A Discovery of Witches
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

 

Title: A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harkness

Genre: Fiction, fantasy, paranormal

Publisher: Headline

Release Date: 29th September 2011

Blurb

The phenomenal international bestseller and the first volume in the enthralling All SOULS trilogy, preceding SHADOW OF NIGHT and THE BOOK OF LIFE.

It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

My Thoughts

This is the first book in the All Souls trilogy and my favourite of the series. From the moment Deborah Harkness transported me to the Bodleian library with Diana Bishop I was hooked.  I could not resist; this book has always the elements   I love – old dusty books, libraries and magic bundled together with descriptive pose and intriguing characters. Lots of characters to discover and love besides the main characters, Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont. There are the witches including Emily and Sarah, the extensive vampire family including Miriam, Marcus, Ysabeau and Marthe and deamons especially Hamish. They all have depth and stories beyond this series.

Diana is a character who grew as her back story was revealed throughout the book. As a witch who loves research into the history of alchemy I longed to see the imagery she was seeing in the old manuscripts. Matthew Clairmont has all the element you would expect of a fictional vampire – wealthy, unrealistically handsome, tall and strong with overprotective tendencies but he is grounded by his flaws. They make him more realistic. His back story and secrets add to the depth of character. I found it refreshing that the relationship between him and Diana was more balanced than many vampire stories. She is not your usual damsel in distress.

This a mature paranormal novel with a wonderful blend of unique characters, history, science, location and description to form an epic adventure involving romance, fear and drama. Deborah Harkness has not just created a story for Diana and Matthew she has created a world to explore so it feels as if any character could easily have their own novel. Long after I put the book down my mind would drift back to the plot and characters.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes! I love this book and is in my top 10 favourite books and is on my forever shelf. With the upcoming TV programme I predict it will go wild with discissions. As with all book versus film debates it is worth a read before the programme release. Have you read it and let me know what you think below.

Thank you NetGalley and Headline for the opportunity to read a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Happy reading!

 

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