As I was searching through my list of favorite books, I found Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable by Mark Dunn. In a small fictitious town on an island off the coast of South Carolina, the birthplace of Nevin Nollop, supposed author of the typing phrase “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog”, there is a memorial to Nollop containing this phrase. Well one day, a letter falls off and the town council decides to eliminate that letter from all speech. And then as more letters fall off, they are eliminated from this book as well…which makes it a very interesting read…probably not a good book to listen to though.
The novel itself is about freedom of expression as Ella (our heroine) along with her likeminded friends, fight to be able to regain the letters before they are all gone for good. It is hilarious and sobering at the same time. And although this book was written in 2001, it is still just as relevant now.
Louise Penny’s new novel, State of Terror is unlike any of the others in her mystery series. It’s possible because Hilary Clinton was her coauthor and Clinton writes about what she knows: a woman Secretary of State involved in a political crisis like no other. And all the usual suspects are involved: Iran, Pakistan, Russia, The Taliban, the former president…or all of them could be the villains.
Bombs go off in two cities in Europe and her job is to figure out who, why and when are they going to be set off next. Probably in the US and possibly in the White House. But “when” is the key question. And does she leave these questions to her underlings…absolutely not, because she does not trust anybody in the White House, nor should she. Everyone is a suspect, and it is not until the last few pages that we find out who the mole is. Backed by her counselor, her daughter, her son and a young woman with secrets of her own, they proceed down every blind alley. The answer may lie in an unlikely place…Three Pines, Quebec!
Would I recommend this political thriller? Sure, why not…I’m in it for the thrill, the characters and the fact that a woman Secretary of State is the heroine along with the other women in her life. I’m suspending disbelief on all other counts.
One of my favorite books by Alice Hoffman is Practical Magic published in 1995 (and of course the movie in 1998) about sisters, Gillian and Sally Owens, and Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia who all live with their two aunts Franny and Jet. They are part of a family of witches trying to cope with life in modern day Salem, Massachusetts. When Gillian’s boyfriend proves to be a very, very bad person, Sally rescues her and the two must decide what to do with him…they don’t make the wisest choice. And then they need to be rescued themselves.
Many readers want to know the back story of the Owens family. Maria Owens, the matriarch of the Owens family, was tried for witchcraft in the 1600s. In Magic Lessons we meet Maria, who never meant to fall in love, indeed, she even cast a spell to prevent herself from it. But she met and had a baby with the wrong man, John Hathorne who later becomes one of the leading judges in the Salem witch trials. Her life and that of her daughter Faith, provide the framework for future generations of Owens women. Hoffman’s writing is a combination of love and witchcraft, with lots of practical witchy kind of tips and real history, especially about women and the suffering that they endured. I loved it and if you love it there are several more novels in the Owens family saga.
Hoffman fills in some history that will help you understand the modern-day Owens family and that is where The Rules of Magic comes in. Franny, Jet and Vincent, three siblings growing up in the 1960s, all understand that they are different, but they don’t know why until they visit their Aunt Isabelle who guides them through their family history. They all learn the pitfalls of falling in love.
And now the last in the series, The Book of Magic. Some twenty years after Practical Magic we revisit the Owens family. Although the curse that has been in the family for generations remains, everyone in the family has fallen in love and the men have all paid the price. The latest is Kylie’s boyfriend who is run over by a car, and lays in a coma and it is then that Kylie decides to end the curse no matter the consequences. And the consequences are steep. Carrying “The Book of Ravens” which will give her instructions on ending curses, she flies to London and runs into the wrong man and the wrong kind of magic. The entire family follows her, except Antonia who is very pregnant. What happens there and for Antonia as well, changes everything for the family. They all learn the sacrifices they must make to break the curse. If you are an Alice Hoffman fan, a magic fan, or especially a fan of love, you must read The Book of Magic. It is a series well worth following.
But I must quote the beginning line: “Some stories begin at the beginning and others begin at the end, but all the best stories begin in a library.” And that tells you how Hoffman feels about books and libraries! At the end there is a list of all the books mentioned in this novel.
Well that’s it for now my friends and as always, let me know what you think…to a degree of course.
Stay safe, remain vigilant and keep reading.