Just like many other women who grew up in the 90s, I loved the movie Practical Magic, in which fresh-faced Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman played two rebel witch sisters. I had no idea, at the time, that the movie was based on a novel by Alice Hoffman, written in 1995.
My first encounter with Alice Hoffman’s writing was actually by reading two of her other novels. First Faithful, which I really ended up not liking and decided to skip reviewing. And then The Marriage Of Opposites for a book club, which was better than Faithful but still felt slow and repetitive to me. Both novels had elements of magical realism, but definitely not to the level of the Practical Magic series.
Based on my lackluster prior experiences with Hoffman’s writing, I wasn’t sure if I’d like The Rules of Magic as much as I loved the movie based on its sequel. Maybe it was the familiarity of the story and settings, or that I actually do need more magic from Hoffman to enjoy her writing, but I definitely ended up enjoying it. Find out why below.
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I don’t actually remember why I decided to request The Best Kind Of People from Net Galley. It may be that I heard about the book during some blog hopping. The premise is definitely intriguing – with a scandal at the heart of a small and close-knit community tearing the family it affects apart.
It was my first read by Zoe Whittall – she has two other novels whose names sound familiar – Bottle Rocket Hearts and Holding Still For As Long As Possible – but I’ve read neither. If you have, leave me a comment to let me know which one you think I might want to read next.
Overall, I liked Whittall’s writing style in The Best Kind Of People and the care she put into character development. However, there were some elements of the book that I found lacking, due to which I gave it 3 stars. I was a bit undecided between 3 or 4, so you can call it 3.5 if you’d like. Continue reading for my full review!
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I first included What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan in my list of Nonfiction Book releases I was looking forward to in Summer 2017. I knew it would be an important read, although there’s something to be said about the fact that a book about suicide that did not involve a beautiful, young, white woman would not have gotten the same level of attention. I actually felt that Maddy’s story was important exactly because she fit so neatly into that image of an ‘ideal’ or privileged life and was still subject to intense pressure, depression, and ultimately the impulse of taking her own life.
This was the kind of book pairing in which one book directly leads you to another. What I mean is that I didn’t read What Made Maddy Run and then decide to find a novel that covered suicide to match it with. Rather, Reconstructing Amelia is mentioned in Kate Fagan’s book about Maddy because Maddy decided to leave a copy of the novel at the top of the parking structure from which she committed suicide. Once I learned that, I felt that reading Reconstructing Amelia might help me understand Maddy better.
If you read both books, you’ll realize that Maddy’s story and Amelia’s don’t fit neatly together and it’s impossible to know exactly why Maddy decided to leave Reconstructing Amelia behind. It’s possible Maddy may have been drawing a parallel between herself and Amelia when it comes to the kinds of social pressure they were subject to through social media, their own expectations, the groups in which they participated and the assumptions of people around them.
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I’m no longer viscerally upset about the 2016 election because I’m a pragmatist – the kind of person who tries to take stock of changed circumstances as soon as possible and adjust their strategy to start again. Of course I’m saddened on a daily basis by some of the actions of the current administration (aren’t we all, or most of us at least), but I’ve let go of the frustration over Hillary’s loss. I think she’d agree that it’s a waste of time at this point. She seems like a pragmatist too and what’s done is done.
However, there’s always room to learn from past events, and I’ve been drawn to books about the election to try to dissect the mechanics of what caused Clinton’s loss. As soon as I heard her memoir on the election was coming out in September, I knew I wanted to read it right away. I didn’t know exactly what to expect having read most of her past memoirs (book list here). They are chock-full of information and expertly written but polished and restrained, very much written by a woman with an eye to a continued future in politics. I though that in What Happened she might let loose a little more, but I was so in love with how out there she is in this memoir that I can’t even fully convey it. I felt that in What Happened, I met the Hillary Clinton we all could glimpse behind the necessary political facade – or at least those of us who cared to look accurately.
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This post came about through one of those cases in which you read a book that leads you to another title, and then another. After reading Andrew Morton’s biography of Diana this summer (Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words), I realized that as much as Diana was an interesting and polarizing figure, what I really wanted was to learn more about the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Maybe The Crown also had a little effect on this. It’s startling to watch a TV series set in the 40s and 50s (for Season 1 at least) and realize that the protagonist is still alive today and has lived through 9 decades of history, social change and economic upheavals. My research on biographies of the queen led me to Sally Bedell Smith’s book Elizabeth: The Queen, and when Bedell Smith mentioned Alan Bennett’s novella on the queen – The Uncommon Reader – I knew that I wanted to pick that up as well.
I’m planning more similar fiction to nonfiction book pairings in the future. Hope you enjoy this first take on a new feature on the blog!
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Over the past few months it has seemed that reviews of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine have been just about everywhere in the book blogging world. I was stuck on a hold queue for the audiobook at the LA Library for well over a month before getting access to the book in August, shortly before my trip home to Milan. I had just finished Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall in audiobook, which was an absolutely engrossing and rewarding experience (listen to it rather than read it if you haven’t yet!), so my expectations with regards to audiobooks were extremely high.
If you’re traipsing around Milan eating gelato but keep finding yourself thinking back to that audiobook waiting for you at home at the end of the day, that’s a good sign. I avidly finished listening to Eleanor’s story in just a few days. Despite being a much simpler and shorter experience than the lengthy historical tome that preceded it, within a couple chapters, I was completely captivated by Eleanor. I would rank Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine up there as one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I think it would make my Top 100 of all time if I ever sat dawn to draw it up one day. I couldn’t believe it when I read that this is author Gail Honeyman’s debut novel! That’s truly astounding because her characters are so compelling, fully-formed and sympathetic. Sign me up to read anything else she may publish in the future.
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