An overly rich treacle tart, sweet and flavorful but hard to get through.

THE BOOK OF MAGIC

In the conclusion to Hoffman’s Practical Magic series, a present-day family of witches and healers wages a final battle against the curse that has plagued them since 1680.

Thanks to an ancestor’s bitter curse, anyone who's been in love with and/or been loved by an Owens family member for the last 300 years has met death and tragedy (with rare exceptions involving risks and personal sacrifice). Hoffman’s prequel, Magic Lessons (2020), detailed the origin of the curse. In this series finale, Hoffman brings the three most recent generations together: sisters Sally and Gillian, whose youthful adventures introduced the series in Practical Magic (1995); their beloved elderly aunts, Jet and Franny, and long-lost uncle Vincent, children themselves in 1960s Manhattan in Rules of Magic (2017); and Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia, whom she’s shielded from knowledge of their unusual heritage and its curse. The novel opens with Jet about to die, aware she has no time to use the knowledge she’s recently gained to end the curse herself. Instead, she leaves clues that send her survivors on a circuitous path involving a mysterious book filled with magic that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Then an accident makes the need to break the curse acute. What follows is a novel overripe with plot twists, lofty romances, and some ugly violence along with detailed magic recipes, enjoyably sly literary references, and somewhat repetitive memories of key moments from the previous volumes. While centered in the Massachusetts town where the Owens family moved in the 17th century, the novel travels to current-day England (briefly detouring to France) and becomes a battle of good versus evil. The Owens women’s greatest challenge is knowing whom to trust—or love. Hoffman strongly hints that the danger arising when someone chooses incorrectly is less a matter of magic than psychology and morality. Ultimately, for better or worse, each Owens woman must face her fear of love. For all the talk of magic, the message here is that personal courage and the capacity to love are the deepest sources of an individual’s power.

An overly rich treacle tart, sweet and flavorful but hard to get through.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982151-48-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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