Sunday Movie Review – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Welcome to my Sunday Movie Review. Happy Halloween! And seeing as today is Halloween and wanting to keep with the theme here, I want to share my review of Practical Magic. This is the title of the book written by Alice Hoffman, an author whose books I always enjoy. As what often happens, the book is collecting dust in my Kindle, but I came across the movie version. What I found interesting were the comments I read on the book page on Amazon. . .


Whenever I watch a movie made after the book, I always go over to Amazon to read reviews to read opinions from reviews on whether the book was better than the movie or vice versa. Interestingly enough, this book has thousands of reviews, but the most poignant points on most all comments from those who’ve both read the book and seen the movie were that THE MOVIE was better than the book! Also, the movie strayed a bit from the original book, yet, many appreciated the movie version more. With that said, now I’m curious to the read the book. But for now, I’m sharing my review of the movie version.


The book and blurb:



*25th Anniversary Edition*—with an Introduction by the Author!

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of MagicMagic Lessons, and The Book of Magic.

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…

“Splendid…Practical Magic is one of [Hoffman’s] best novels, showing on every page her gift for touching ordinary life as if with a wand, to reveal how extraordinary life really is.”—Newsweek

“[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”—Cosmopolitan


My 5 Star Movie Review:


This was a fun and entertaining romp of love, sisterhood and of course, magic.


Gillian and Sally are sisters. They were born from a line of witches. Their mother died of a broken heart when they were little girls, undoubtedly, because of the Owens family curse – any man to fall in love with an Owens woman would suffer a fatal curse.


Gillian and Sally went to live with their very witchy aunts as children. They both had ‘the gift’, only Sally wanted nothing to do with it until she was faced with a tragic situation, then all bets were off. Gillian was the wild child, free-spirt, and all she did was seem to get herself in trouble. But her clear psychic connection with her sister always alerted Sally when Gillian was in trouble.


Now, the present, Sally’s husband dies in an accident and spurs her to pack up her things and her own girls now and moves back into her aunts’ home. Meanwhile, Gillian had run off with some crazy guy who turns out to be a maniac wanting to be a vampire who ultimately becomes violent with her and it’s Sally to the rescue.


To get into all the shenanigans that happens because of Gillian, would be spoilers, but suffice it to say, the girls try a few methods to get rid of James, and Sally thinks she finally may have killed him, only to find this guy won’t die and tries to get inside Gillian’s body.


In the meantime, a good looking detective comes around looking for this James guy because of the evil he’s done to others. He can’t figure out whether or not the girls have killed him or not. All the while the detective gets swooped into the scene where James is trying to possess Gillian’s body, and with a bird’s eye view of the mayhem and magic going on, he realizes he’s dealing with witchcraft and not your average murder.


Throughout the action there becomes a strong attraction between Sally and the detective, but Sally is apprehensive to follow her feelings because she’s afraid of her mother’s curse taking another potential love away from her. Will she take another chance on love with her fear of the curse? I can’t tell you that. Will we see Sally, the ex- non willing participant for witchcraft form a coven of strangers to form an exorcism on Gillian? We surely will!


Despite my description, this book is anything but scary – oh, except maybe the possession part, kind of.. But it’s a fun movie to watch with plenty of love, magic and entertainment, oh, and some fine music in this film too!



I have two videos to share from this movie. One shows snippets of the film, the other is seven minutes long with actual scenes from the movie. A superb cast, starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.




I’d recommend this fun, magical chickflick for a cozy Halloween watch.




Sunday Book Review – Everything My Mother Taught Me #Shortstory by Alice Hoffman

My Sunday Book Review is once again for another Alice Hoffman book – Everything My Mother Taught Me, albeit, a short read, nonetheless, powerful. This book, as does most of Hoffman’s books, offers up lessons, which makes it right up my reading alley. The very first paragraph of this book reads:


“There are those who insist that mothers are born with love for their children and place them before all other things, including their own needs and desires. This was not the case with us.”

Young Adeline informs us, her mother ruined both hers and her father’s life, yet, failed to notice. “She was the sort of person who saw only herself and her shadow, and the rest of us disappeared in the bright sunlight.”

That was enough to grab my attention as the introduction brought up a flashback of my own life and mother, as some of you who have read my books will be familiar with. This story resonated with me, especially the line where Adeline describes the adoration her father held for her mother, regardless of the fact she wasn’t worthy of his adoration: “Perhaps he was a fool, because even after all she’d done, he was most likely still in love with her on the day he died.” That line really hit home with me, because that was my father.




In this haunting short story of loyalty and betrayal, a young woman in early 1900s Massachusetts discovers that in navigating her treacherous coming-of-age, she must find her voice first.

For fatefully observant Adeline, growing up carries an ominous warning from her adulterous mother: don’t say a word. Adeline vows to never speak again. But that’s not her only secret. After her mother takes a housekeeping job at a lighthouse off the tip of Cape Ann, a local woman vanishes. The key to the mystery lies with Adeline, the silent witness. New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman crafts a beautiful, heart-wrenching short story.

Alice Hoffman’s Everything My Mother Taught Me is part of Inheritance, a collection of five stories about secrets, unspoken desires, and dangerous revelations between loved ones. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single setting. By yourself, behind closed doors, or shared with someone you trust.


My 5 Star Review:

This book is an Amazon short of only 24 pages, but Hoffman, as usual, can pack a zinger in a story, and she has done well by fleshing out 12 year old Adeline’s character and that of her mother Nora, perfectly, despite the length of this story.

The story begins with Adeline sharing stories about how she adored her father and shares some of the lousy things her mother did to her as an emotionally absent mother focused on herself and her own needs, and she reminds her daughter not to tell her father the bad things she’d found out about her mother. Adeline makes a decision to no longer speak again after her mother’s warning.

The story takes place off the coast of Massachusetts on the island of Cape Ann after the death of Adeline’s father, where Nora and her daughter are forced to move to the Lighthouse for work and shelter along with the Fuller, Ford and  Ballard families. Nora doesn’t like doing work and passes the load onto her daughter while Nora begins an affair with Rowan Ballard who happens to be married to Julia. Adeline and Julia become very close, as Julia treats her like the mother Adeline wished she had.

Adeline remains true to her vow to keep silent and communicates by writing notes. She comes up with a plan to help Julia leave her philandering husband, which becomes a karmic occasion for the wrong-doers and gives wings to Adeline and Julia. I’m going to leave it here because continuing on with what happens would be spoilers, so I recommend picking up a copy of the book to find out what transpires.





Sunday Book Review – Incantation by Alice Hoffman

My Sunday Book Review is for another book by Alice Hoffman – Incantation. This is the second book I’ve read by Hoffman in the last month. The first book I read of hers, The World That We Knew, I reviewed a few weeks ago and I am hooked on her stories because she writes stories about people’s lives in different time periods and have the elements of magical realism -well researched with fictional stories about true things that happened in the time with a sprinkle of mysticism, and often about the human condition. This recipe of elements are right up my reading alley.





Bestselling author Alice Hoffman tears a page from history and melds it with mysticism to create a spellbinding, highly acclaimed tale about the persecution of Jewish people during the sixteenth century.

Estrella is a Marrano: During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, she is one of a community of Spanish Jews living double lives as Catholics. And she is living in a house of secrets, raised by a family who practices underground the ancient and mysterious way of wisdom known as kabbalah. When Estrella discovers her family’s true identity–and her family’s secrets are made public–she confronts a world she’s never imagined, where new love burns and where friendship ends in flame and ash, where trust is all but vanquished and betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences.

Winner of numerous “best book” citations and infused with the rich context of history and faith, Incantation is a transcendent journey of discovery and loss, rebirth and remembrance that Newbery Award-winning author Lois Lowry described as “Magical and spellbinding…Painful and exquisitely beautiful.”


My 5 Star Review:

I’ll preface this book review by saying for a 166 page book taking place in the 1500’s, during the Spanish Inquisition, this is one heavy book. Well researched, many parts painful to read, entwined with love and beauty and of course what Hoffman is known for – her magical realism where the realism of the horrors, betrayals, superstitions, religious persecution and condemnations are met with love and compassion, commitment to religion, risk, mysticism and survival of the craftiest in this heart-grabbing story about Estrella di Madrigal, a sixteen year old girl during the Spanish Inquisition who learns what she’s known of her life till now has been a secret lie.

The story is told in first person by Estrella, and begins in the late 1500s, during a time when Jews in Spain were being persecuted and tortured for simply not being Catholic or Protestant. The only way they remain living is incognito as ‘conversos’, as Christian converts. But many who’ve converted remain practicing their faith in secret.

The book begins with Estrella and her lifetime best friend and next door neighbor, Catalina in the town square where they went to the well to fetch water and witnessed a huge book burning bonfire. Books were not allowed for fear people may get educated (my spin).. Estrella’s mother happened to be in the town square market when she saw her daughter watching in amazement and sadness as the bonfire grew so big, flames were flying onto people, and at the same time an old Jew was publicly being beaten to death because he wouldn’t let go of his book. Abra, Estrella’s beautiful widowed mother, grabbed her daughter away from the center and told her, “Never look at other people’s bad fortune, if you do, it will come back to find you instead of its rightful owner!”

Magic, Judaism and Muslims were all condemned, and those who kept their faith lived behind ‘the gate’ and wore red circles stitched to their clothing for identification. But there were many Jews who had fled Spain and many more who chose to stay, some risking their lives by converting to Christianity (conversos) and going to church on Sundays and living as good Christians. And some of those ‘conversos’  remained true to their Jewish faith living as Christians in the outside world and practicing their faith secretly at home.

We’re soon introduced to more characters in the story – Estrella’s strict and overbearing maternal grandmother, her grandfather who spends most of his waking hours in a secret room in the basement of their home, her brother Luis – a few years older than her who is off to the seminary preparing to become a priest, and Catalina’s cousin Andres who lives in her home, and who Catalina has a ‘fatal’ crush on with hopes and plans to marry someday, only Andres loves her like a sister.

Once we’re exposed to the ugliness and hatred of the times, the story opens up the true peril. Estrella watches as their lovely neighbors on the other side of their house – the Arrias family, is being dragged out of their homes, beaten and shackled as the soldiers screamed out to them Marranos -the name given to Jews at the time -Direct translation – ‘pigs’. The accusation – ‘secretly’ practicing Jews, despite their upstanding membership to the church. Estrella was sickened and petrified all at once for her fear for them, leaving her wondering what on earth these gentle people could have done to be stripped of their homes, family, and certain death.

Quote from Estrella – “The day when the arrests began reminded me of the day of the burning books, when the air was filled with sparks, when something bad crept out onto the Plaza from the deep, evil place, something that would become so strong no one could catch it or beat it down or lock it away. Now I understand those days were not really a beginning but a continuation. A monster is hard to see and even harder to kill. It takes time to grow so huge, time to crawl up into the open air. People will tell you it’s not there; you’re imagining things. But a book is a book. Pages are pages. Hawks are hawks. Doves are doves. Hatred is always hatred.”

Jews were taken to the armory – heresy was enough to convict to death. An accusation by a citizen was enough to arrest and convict whether true or not. Their children would be given to good Christian families.

The plot thickens after Estrella spies in the Arrias’s family window after they were taken, Catalina and her mother looting the home. Estrella is sickened enough to turn her away from her once best friend. And more friction occurs after Catalina spots Andres giving a gentle kiss to Estrella. We’ll now begin to watch the fire rise between these once best friends – a fine line between friendship and hatred. And a new town edict causing panic and lies and fears when the government orders anyone who knows of a Jew pretending to be Christian, they must turn them in – the reward, the rat will receive half of all that accused person owned, split with the government. This edict of course, is quite tempting for some to lie and condemn innocent people for personal gain, selling out people for profit. A perfect glimpse into the human condition, scruples and morals.

Estrella is a curious girl. Not long after the lunacy edict begins we’ll learn along with Estrella, a very big secret (no spoilers) after she spots the door ajar in the ‘secret’ room in the basement where she spies her grandfather stitching up a wounded citizen and a shelf full of books. She instantly realizes her family could be killed if it were to come out her grandfather practiced medicine. Medicine was considered hocus pocus as doing so made one a ‘sorcerer’ in the government’s eyes.

As Catalina’s jealousy grew for Estrella and her cousin Andres’ now blooming attraction for each other, her cold heart decided that Estrella’s mother who worked with healing herbs and flowers, and the family’s constant avoidance of wanting to eat pork would be a wonderful way to cause trouble for them if she reported Estrella’s family for heresy to hurt them as she felt betrayed by Estrella and Andres. No spoilers after this, just a quote from the aftermath from Estrella as she confronted Catalina:

“Instead of knocking on the door, I picked up a stone and threw it as hard as I could. Something shattered. Something broke. Catalina came to the door and opened it, not all the way, but enough. I could see her.”

“This isn’t what I wanted to happen,” she said to me. “But you betrayed me.”

“I looked hard to see if she was saying some cruel joke; but, no. She meant it.”

“You took my cousin,” Catalina said.

“And then I understood that she had no idea what she’d done to my family. She thought love and hatred were equal.” ‘

The above profound quoted conversation chilled my bones. What had happened before this conversation I’ll save for other readers, just as what transpired after the conversation you will want to find out for yourselves.

The author adds a historical note at the back of the book explaining how the Jews experienced persecution in Spain as early as the 12th century, reaching it’s peak during the Spanish Inquisition when in 1481 Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand requested the pope  extend it into Spain lasting from 1481 until the late 18th century.

From ancient times to present this story demonstrates the power of love and betrayal, and how some unscrupulous people would sell out another human being for the love of money.


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