Friday Face Off : ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme. This week’s theme:

‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

I had to have a good think about this week’s theme – then I remembered some of the books I read pre-blogging and I actually wound up with a few books to choose from but I went with a favourite author and chose The River King by Alice Hoffman.

The covers:

My favourite this week is:


I can’t say I really love any of the covers this week to be honest but I think the swan cover has a startlingly bright feel about it.  I also quite like the cover next to this with the shimmery blue and the yellow handwritten font.

Like last week I’ve added a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so we can all visit and check out each others covers.  Thanks

I’ll be updating the list soon to take it through a few more months – if you have any suggestions you’d like to see adding then drop a note in the comments.  Thanks

Next week – A cover with a shapeshifter

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)


15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th April – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school


The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic 0) by Alice Hoffman

I confess I wish I had Alice Hoffman’s way with words so that I could review this book in a way which it deserves.  Perhaps I could seek a charm to improve my ability to conjure the best things to say to entice you to pick this up.  As it is, well, I’ll have to make do and just gush profusely at every opportunity because as much as I expected to love this book, having read a good few books by this author previously, this still exceeded my expectations in every way.

Beautifully written, this story has a light, almost ethereal touch.  It tells the story of three children born into a family with a curse and looks at the ways in which they try to overcome the limitations they face and at the same time come to terms with who they really are.  Strong character focus is key to the story.  The characters are wonderfully developed and I simply couldn’t help falling in love with them a little (okay a lot).  Hoffman sketches them in an easy way, making it appear effortless, which is far from the truth.  The story builds with a sense of ‘impending doom’ and the fact that the characters are so enjoyable to read about just helps to increase the sense of foreboding that you feel as you read on.  On top of that this is well paced and enchanting.  There’s a whimsical feel to it all particularly in terms of the times and places depicted.  Those are my immediate feelings, now for a little bit more.

In terms of plot.  Hundreds of years ago the Owens family were cursed.  The history of why and how will be explored in good time but in the meantime this is a look at one particular branch of the Owen’s family tree.  Susanna Owens removed her three children to New York, where she lives with her husband, many years ago.  Susanna is desperate for them to enjoy a regular childhood, she knows they’re different and realises how dangerous this can be.  Susanna has many strict rules about what the children can and can’t do but no matter how much she exerts her authority their own natures will eventually surface.  Franny, Jet and Vincent are the three children and their stories make for wonderful reading as we watch them struggle with their abilities, their differences and their desires.  It’s difficult to go into great depth really.  This isn’t a story that can easily be elaborated upon as ultimately it’s a coming of age tale.  Each of the characters has their own individual storyline, although they’re all intertwined, but what comes across really strongly is the strength of feeling that they share as a family and this is something that holds strong throughout.

The three of them finally begin to make their own voyages of discovery when they first visit their aunt in Massachusetts.  The people in the village where Aunt Isabelle lives believe the stories of witchcraft and fear the Owen’s family, at the same time they all, from time to time, pay visits to the family home in search of more than tea and sympathy As soon as the three arrive things start to fall into place.  Vincent is the first to embrace who he really is with the two sisters following at their own reluctant pace until they finally reveal the extent of their own family gifts and discover the truth behind the family curse.

Now, I realise I’ve probably made this all sound very tame and I’m certainly not going to pretend this is an action packed, war filled adventure because it isn’t.  It’s a magical tale, written with style and compelling to read.  I cold barely put this down and must have read it in two days at the most, even though I was at the same time desperate for it not to finish.

For information, The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic.  I think I can confidently say that you could read this without having read the earlier book – in fact, if you haven’t read Practical Magic you could pick it up when you finish this one.

I loved this, it has such incredible heart and soul,  The characters are wonderful and I adore stories about witchcraft.  I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Posted On 7 November 2016

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faithfulFaithful is a powerfully emotional read that follows in the footsteps of a young woman whose life is left in tatters after a car accident.

Shelby didn’t want to go out on the night of the accident but was strong armed into it by her best friend Helene.  They both argued and whilst this didn’t actually have any bearing on the accident it adds to the guilt that Shelby bears.  Basically it’s a cold night and Shelby’s car spins out of control on a patch of black ice.  Shelby is pulled from the car wreck, nobody see’s her rescuer and she believes him to be a guardian angel.  Unfortunately Helene suffers major trauma that leaves her in a coma, her dreams are gone, she was the most beautiful girl in school and everyone still flocks to see her – believing that she’s turned into a worker of miracles.  Meanwhile, Shelby, the survivor, turns almost into a living ghost.  She hates herself for surviving.  She believes everyone else hates her.  She lives in the basement of her parents’ house.  She might not be in a coma but her dreams also come to an end after that awful night.

Faithful is a strange story – it starts off very melancholy indeed.  Here is a life in tatters.  A young woman who despises herself and who is for a time committed to a psychiatric hospital after she attempts to take her own life.  Fortunately the sadness that pervades the first third of the story does eventually begin to lessen and that in fact is the major insight into what this novel is about.  The main thrust of the story is redemption and self forgiveness. This is a different read to some of Hoffman’s other stories.  There is no fantasy or magical realism here.  This is a contemporary novel about one woman’s life and how she eventually allows herself to start living it.  It is a very powerful story that I can’t deny brought me close to tears on a couple of occasions but don’t let that put you off.  There is a story of hope in here it just takes a little while to shine through.

There isn’t really too much more that I can say about the plot to be honest.  There are no hidden agendas here, no miraculous recoveries or waving of magic wands  Watching Shelby as she goes through her different phases can be almost torturous to watch but at the same time compelling.  She eventually moves away from home and although she still hates herself little by little she begins to turn her life around.

In terms of the characters.  Well, I can’t deny that Shelby can be a little difficult to like at times but that’s because she doesn’t want to be liked.  In spite of her prickliness though, over the course of time she manages to find herself a true friend.  She also has a soft spot for the underdog – and in this case I mean that quite literally.  She starts out working in a pet store and from their onwards finds herself rescuing dogs until there’s barely enough room in her tiny apartment!  I think that probably marks a turning point in her own life to some extent.

I loved Shelby’s relationship with her mother Sue and how this changed so much as the story progressed until Shelby finally recognised the unconditional love that her mother had and how she’d always been there for her.

We also have the two ‘love’ interests in Shelby’s life. Ben loves Shelby. In a strange twist the timing for this is unfortunate for Ben because really Shelby isn’t at a time in her life when she’s ready to be loved.  She hasn’t forgiven herself enough for that.  Later in the story, in a series of ‘if onlys’ both Ben and Shelby come to realise more about their own true feelings for each other and the missed opportunities they had.

We also have the character of James.  His own story has certain parallels to Shelby and similarly it has taken him a long time to come to terms with life.

The final star of the piece is Shelby’s only real friend Maravelle and her children.  Maravelle is a lovely character to read and through her friendship Shelby is able to be a part of her family life, watching her three children grow up and come into their own making their own mistakes and experiencing the good and the bad as they grow into adults.

Even though this seems to be a step out of the ordinary for what I usually expect from Hoffman I found this a really good read.  Yes, it will pull on hour heartstrings but it’s a beautifully written piece.  It looks at the impact that one accident can have on so many lives.  And it brings a ray of hope that people can learn to forgive themselves and to live again.

I received a copy of Faithful courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


The Friday Face Off: The River King by Alice Hoffman


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme being hosted by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite books covers.  The rules are fairly simple and can be found here.  Each week, following a predetermined theme choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.  Simples.  This week the theme is:

You Got The Blues

A cover which is predominantly blue

I had no idea how many blue covers were out there!  Wow.  Just wow!!  The book I’ve chosen this week is from an author I really enjoy reading.

Alice Hoffman’s The River King with three covers as follows:

I’m not overly fond of the hands and fishes cover to be honest.  The blurred middle cover – I like the yellow font and the layout.  I think my favourite, even though it’s more green than blue is the third cover with the swan:  This week’s winner:


Join in next week when the theme will be:

Which Witch is Which?

A cover which features a witch and/or witchcraft


The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is one of those writer’s whose books I keep a lookout for.  She usually writes stories with a slight fantasy or magical element, although The Dovekeepers was a step out of character in that respect.  So, did I crack open the pages of this book with maybe slightly elevated and maybe higher than average expectations?  Maybe.  Did it meet my expectations?  In some respects, yes, although perhaps not all.  I confess that I have slightly mixed feelings for this book.  I enjoyed it and it was easy to read but I can’t with honesty say that I absolutely loved it which is puzzling because it’s such a good concept and set in a fascinating period of time.

The story is set in New York during 1911 and uses actual events of the period to progress the tale.  We follow two main characters.  Ezekiel and Coralie.  Ezekiel is a Jewish immigrant who fled with his father after their small village was razed and the other inhabitants murdered.  They eventually wound up in New York city where they struggled to make a living both working in clothing factories and suffering dreadful working conditions.  Coralie is the daughter of the local museum owner which in actual fact is more like a sideshow of oddities – the painted lady, wolfman, etc.  She’s led an incredibly sheltered and withdrawn life suffering herself from a slight affliction and with a father who has raised her to think of herself as something that must be hidden.  She’s at ease with the unusual objects contained behind the curtains of the museum that separates the displays from their home life and equally content around the employees that her father takes on during the high season to attract customers.  Coralie eventually becomes one of the attractions on display at the museum and to this extent her father has raised her to be a strong swimmer, encouraging late night swims in all weathers and trying to prolong the length of time that she can stay underwater without having to surface for air.  In the eyes of the patrons Coralie is a mermaid!

During Coralie’s progression into this role Ezekiel’s story is also moving forward.  He feels bitterness for his father, believing him to be cowardly, he also feels great anger for the way in which they live holding strong resentment for the factory owners and the comfort in which they live at the expense and misery of their employees.  He eventually rebels against his father and his religion and leaves home.  Following a chance encounter he becomes an apprentice to a well known and ground breaking photographer.  This in turn leads Ezekiel (or Eddie as he is now known) to work on the local newspapers where he encounters many disturbing and grisly sights.  He is called to work on an event when a factory blaze results in the deaths of many workers who it appears had been locked into their workroom on the ninth floor.  Many of these workers jumped to their deaths rather than being consumed by the flames.  It’s a terrible and horrifying evening that provokes unrest throughout the city.  During the events of that night a young woman goes missing.  It could be she was killed in the factory but her body has not been recovered and her father has sought out Eddie to help him search for her.  Eddie’s searches will eventually draw him to the river Hudson which is where he will have his first encounter with Coralie – although he doesn’t actually see her as she watches him from the secrecy of the forest he is aware that he’s being watched.  From then onwards their stories start to entwine more with both of them feeling unaccountably drawn to each other.

What I really liked from this story and took away from it was that things are not always as they appear on the surface.  Both characters have very different upbringings but whilst Eddy is angry and resentful of his family he has in actual fact been the focus of more family love than he is aware.  On the other side Coralie seems to have been raised by a father who loves her and keeps her safe and protected and yet his motives are not completely selfless.  It’s an interesting concept that makes you think about the story for days after you finish reading.  And, things are not what they seem on other levels than the two main families.  There are the deceptions within the museum and between the employees of Coralie’s father.  On top of this I also thought Hoffman created a really exciting ending with plenty of tension.

In terms of criticisms – I struggled a little with Eddie.  I could understand Coralie’s behaviour a lot more than his and whilst sometimes I felt frustrated with her because I wanted her to be more courageous I could understand why she wasn’t able to rise to certain challenges and was so browbeaten.  Eddie’s actions on the other hand feel a little contrived for me.  He’s not a bad character per se but certain of his actions just puzzled, frustrated or plain annoyed me.  I can see he was supposed to come off as a very brooding and dark individual and I like that and think that Hoffman succeeds in that respect I just don’t think his actions always felt real.  And, in spite of his moody and antagonistic nature he certainly seemed to attract his share of people and animals who help him throughout his life.  I suppose I wanted to feel more for him than I actually did.  I also felt the two storylines took quite a long time to eventually cross paths and yet once they did the love story element was instantaneous.  I don’t mind the slow burner aspect but I felt that once Eddie and Coralie finally met things were just too rushed.

On the whole, this was a good read.  I was quite captivated by Coralie and her story.  The time period was fascinating to read about as was the setting.  I also liked reading about Eddie’s past.  The writing is evocative and although I didn’t find this quite as magical as some the author’s previous works it was still an enjoyable novel.

I’m adding this to my reads for Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time reading event.


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