Book of the Month Club- November 2017
The Rules of Magic
By Alice Hoffman
For the month of November I had a hard time deciding which book to select as my Book of the Month. This isn't an unusual thing for me, I tend to buy 2 or 3 of the selections they have listed. For November I selected my monthly subscription: Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks; and then paid $9.99 each for two more: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter; and The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman.
To be completely honest, I had planned on reviewing Bonfire by Krysten Ritter for this month's Book of the Month Club review. This is her debut novel, and I really wanted to know if she could write as well as she acts. But when I got an e-mail from BoMC stating shipping on my November books had been delayed due to the high volume of orders of The Rules of Magic, I knew I needed to read and review it instead. No worries, Krysten, your book will be reviewed by me soon, I'm sure!
As for you, Mr. Hanks, I have a Pinterest Reading Challenge topic already picked out for your stories.
Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston. (source)
The Rules of Magic is the second book in the Practical Magic series, however, it is the prequel to Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, which the following is the synopsis for it:
The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.
For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.
One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic... (source)
Practical Magic was also made into a movie in 1998 staring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.
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. (source)
The Review & Wrap-Up:
I'll come straight out and say it: I wasn't a fan of this book. It's not a bad book by any means, I just didn't care for it. I enjoyed snippets, bits and pieces, but overall, there wasn't enough there to make me enjoy it.
First, I found that the story line dragged... a lot. This book starts at childhood of the lives of three siblings - Franny, Jet and Vincent Owens - and follows their lives until they're old and grey. There was a lot of story that I feel could have been put into this book seeing how it spans their entire lives, but yet I feel the entire book was about the same exact thing over and over again, just a different times in their lives: The Owens' family has been cursed so that anyone they love will be ruined. It became very monotonous.
Second, the books is a bit depressing. Not only are the Owens children constantly fighting against their own hearts not to fall in love, but there is so much death! After a few sections, I had a feeling of Game of Thrones overcome me where I told myself not to get too attached to anyone because they were going to eventually end up dead. And sure enough, just about everyone dies. Granted, the time span, it makes sense for so many characters to die, but they all die young and often very tragic deaths.
Lastly, I was disappointed on the magic front. When I read the title, The Rules of Magic, I assumed there would be some magic in it. But instead, premonitions, mind reading and tonics and tinctures is what most of the magic turned out to be. Franny could communicate with birds, in a sense; Vincent could move things with his mind; and Jet - for a fraction of the book - could hear everyone's thoughts, but other than that, the magic was special brewed teas, fancy black soap that would make you look younger with one washing, and growing everyday herbs in the garden. It was nothing more than an old medicine man, which I know way back people used to think of as witches, but the book begins in the 1950s.
With all of this being said, I didn't hate the book. I just didn't enjoy it. It took me almost three weeks to finish reading the book, and the last 150 (give or take) pages of it I finished just before writing this review, and that's only because I knew my review date for it was looming. Maybe I read The Rules of Magic during the wrong time of year. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more had I gotten to read it closer to Halloween, rather than over the Thanksgiving Holiday. When Thanksgiving hits I'm all about Christmas until the end of the year and only want to read happy, festive things, and this was not one of those books.
However, there were some wonderful scenes in the book: Franny and Haylin in the elevator; Jet and the Reverend; Vincent when he finds love. But there were so many that were unnecessary and even confusing. The scenes eluding of something to come were by far the worst and most confusing.
Things I did like about the book: 1) As I was reading about these old time herbal remedies I kept thinking to myself how I wish I knew the actual recipes so I could use some of them for myself or for Jack. Man, I wish I had some of that soap! 2) The rules of magic that were given in the text. I liked the first one: Do no harm; but I especially liked the last: There is no remedy for love but to love more. (Henry David Thoreau)
I believe even if I had read this closer to Halloween, I still wouldn't have enjoyed it. The Rules of Magic just wasn't for me. If I had to give it a grade, I'd give it a C-.
From one bookaholic to another, I hope I’ve helped you find your next fix.
Love this book? This book was difficult for me to come up with a good match for you to move on to from here. I found that while reading The Rules of Magic, I often thought to myself that if you put The Crucible by Arthur Miller and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen together, you would get The Rules of Magic.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
"I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history," Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.
Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, "Political opposition... is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence." (source)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.” (source)
Pair it with: Lenore Syrah by Corvidae Wine Company.
Fruit forward attack and rounded, rich mid-palate texture. Aging in predominantly neutral French oak maintains the bright berry and savory aromatics of this wild, gamey varietal.
Pair this crowd pleasing wine with barbecued babyback ribs, a hearty lamb stew or your favorite burger. (source)
Start a conversation: What would your first rule of magic be?
Have a book you’d like to suggest or one you’d like me to review? Please feel free to leave your comments down below.