Tag Archives: practical magic

Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

It goes without saying that Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors of all time. I read all of her work that I can get my hands on–some of you may remember my recent review of The Dovekeepers, which is Hoffman’s latest (and some argue, greatest) novel. Skylight Confessions has absolutely nothing in common with the sweeping epic that is The Dovekeepers, however it most certainly hearkens back to Hoffman’s younger voice. While not quite as developed as some of her other stories (and nowhere near as prosaic and powerful as Practical Magic) it was an enjoyable tale nonetheless.

“Real love, after all, was worth the price you paid, however briefly it might last.”

Skylight Confessions told a story spanning several different lives and several generations. It starts with the love story of John Moody and Arlyn Singer–the destinies of whom both change forever when John takes a wrong turn one night and falls in love (or something like it) with the wrong girl. The book follows the life and death of many of the characters, including John and Arlyn’s children(one heroin-addicted, one perfect), the man Arlyn loves, the neighbor John falls in love with, and the strange woman who follows a ghost to the Moody’s glass house. Some pretty intense stuff, that’s for sure. Look out for heavy doses of symbolism, portrayed by a string of pearls Arlyn’s lover gives her, stones that seem to be everywhere, flight/feathers/wings, and ashes wherever a haunted presence is known. This book delves into a very fucked up family situation–with a lot of tragedy–but still manages not to come across as preachy or unduly emotional.

While this is nowhere even close to being Hoffman’s best novel–or even my favorite–it is still quite poignant. I like how she explores the intricacies of the human experience in her books, and always does a great job illustrating the tiny things/events/times that thread us all together. Life is not always so simple, so black and white. While Skylight Confessions wouldn’t be the first book of hers that I’d think to recommend, it’s a must read for any die-hard Hoffman fan.

3 family secrets out of 5

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The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

It’s no great secret that I love Alice Hoffman. I try to read everything of her’s that I can get my hands on, because she had me at Practical Magic. And because she wrote The Dovekeepers, I was persuaded to give it a go. I mean, the Romans invading and conquering the Jews in the deserts of ancient Israel isn’t my normal fodder… I was worried that it would be very drab because of the thick history laid upon it, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

The story told the plight of four women during this harsh period: Yael, an assassin’s daughter, Revka, a baker’s wife, Aziza, a female warrior, and Shirah, the Witch of Moab. Each had their own story of how they came to Masada (the last Jewish stronghold) and the triumphs and tragedies they experienced there. The mammoth novel was split up into four smaller books, each designated to one of the women. I liked this format because we got to see bits of the story through each of their eyes, rather than being tethered to one character (and frankly, it helped to break up the number of months the story spanned).

Hoffman did interject her normal poetry and prose into this book, although not quite as heartily as in her other novels. It’s much harder to do when you’re struggling to keep track of so many characters, individual story lines, a foreign time/place, and still keep things historically accurate–or so I imagine…

It took me a while to get used to the past tense all the women were using rather than the present, and that’s one thing I wasn’t fond of. That being said, however, Hoffman executed it very well and in a way that made the book compulsively readable and not a work gone horribly awry. This story could have suffered in the hands of lesser authors.

The Dovekeepers is not pool-side reading by any means, but it is worth the time investment. Hoffman breathes life into these characters and her research indirectly educates her readers as to what life was like for the Jews during the horrific Roman invasion.

You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate her latest (and some say greatest) piece of art.

5 of 5 stars


The Love Spell by Phyllis Curott

I put a spell on you… And now you’re mine… 

Now that Halloween’s coming, I guess it’s appropriate to do a review on the erotic memoir of a Wiccan High Priestess. The Love Spell by Phyllis Curott chronicles her journey through life (and the 80’s, ugh…) trying to find what we all want, true love. The only differences between her adventure and ours, however, is that hers is peppered with spells, potions, and magic and ours is peppered with Haagen Dazs, sloppy kisses, and awkward text messages.

Curott starts her story by discussing her loneliness. She is sick of dating dead end men, having one night stands, and generally being unappreciated by the opposite sex. She starts becoming star struck by images of James Dean, long since dead but still arousing to her. Somehow, she sees him as “a working class man with the heart of a poet.” She is entranced by the way he wore his heart on his sleeve, and always expressed how he was feeling in any given moment, without reservations about what others would think. She is drawn to him, yet heartbroken, because he is not of this realm anymore.

Curott ends up joining a coven and earning a true group of friends, most notably a mentor named Nonna. Nonna is the warm maternal figure that should be a part of every woman’s life. She is there to guide Phyllis through her search for love, and there to pick her up when things don’t go exactly as planned. Especially when Phyllis decides to take matters into her own hands and casts a love spell, asking the universe to send her the man of her dreams.

Enter: Derek, a tall good-looking man who is compatible with Phyllis not only physically, but also on a mental and spiritual level as well, which–I can imagine–may be a hard thing to find when practicing a religion outside of societal norms. She can’t believe it– her spell worked! Curott feels an immediate spark between herself and Derek, and it doesn’t take long to find out that he feels the same way.

But will things work out for the new couple? Will Phyllis get the happy ending she’s always dreamed of– with a soul mate by her side and a baby on her hip? Or can nothing–not even magic–hold two lovers together if they just weren’t meant to be?

And what’s the deal with James Dean?

I have to say, this book surprised me. I put off reading it for quite a while because I was worried it was going to be some gushy BS romance novel–which I hate! All that quivering thigh, bodice-ripping just irritates me. But The Love Spell was quite different. I really enjoyed watching Phyllis’ inner turmoil, as well as seeing what a great female support system she had. The whole book made me feel proud to be a woman, which is an uncommon feeling to get from reading a story. I really liked the mythological aspects that were thrown in there, like Dionysus (her proclaimed “daemon,” or spiritual lover) and especially the famous tale of Isis and Osiris. I’ve always found those who chose the pagan path of worship to be interesting, and Curott offered a behind-the-scenes look into some of the ceremonies the covens have and what really happens during magic-making events.

I was a little put off by the first few chapters of the book. It was hard for me to get into because of the long solid blocks without any dialogue. I understand that a memoir revolves around someone’s inner struggle, but for a while there wasn’t a lot of action. Also, the whole “hearing the voice of James Dean” thing while standing at his grave was a bit hard for me to swallow. Maybe I’ve just been deadened by society to that sort of thing, but it seemed a little (highly)…unlikely… When read as a regular fictional novel it’s great, but when you remember that it’s supposedly a true story, it’s a bit hard to buy.

Plus the whole unprotected-sex-with-strangers-because-it’s-the -80’s thing just made me cringe…

But for sure, read this book. For anyone interested in learning more about the occult, wanting to practice making your own love spells/potions, or just in need of a little femininity boosting– this memoir’s for you. And as Alice Hoffman said in Practical Magic,

“There’s a little witch in every woman.”

4 of 5 stars