Tag Archives: Alice Hoffman

Book Club Reflection: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

29 Sep

A few weeks ago, my book club met to discuss Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things. I wasn’t a big fan of the book and I dragged my feet to get through it. I find these usually make the best book club discussions and I did feel we had a good one that night. It was a mixed bag of feelings. A quick straw poll gave us six out of fourteen that enjoyed the book.

The setting was really vivid in the book. Hoffman is from New York and that helps explain her ideas to set a book in such a volatile year, one that many of us had never heard of in American history. Our facilitator looked up a lot of history on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The owners of the factory were acquitted of manslaughter in the criminal case. A civil case was filed and the men were fined about $75 per casualty. The insurance payout they got was more than the cost of damages by about $400 per casualty. One of the owners was caught locking doors at a factory again and was fined $20 (source). This meeting was in mid-September and many people had finished the book around 9/11 so the images of people jumping out of a building to their deaths were horrific, especially close to such a date. Many were also reminded of the Dhaka Fire, a garment factory that caught fire in Bangladesh in 2012 though casualties, in this case, were caused more by improper exits than any locked doors (source).

One of the things I said bothered me was that the Triangle Shirtwaist fire seemed really removed. It was pointed out to me that Eddie was a photojournalist, someone who sees things through a lens and has to have some level of removal to photograph the things he saw. Eddie was a character with a lot of distance around him as evidenced in his distance from his father. Some felt that the fire was the impotence for Eddie trying to reconnect with other things in his life and was the beginning of his character development. He had been disconnected and desensitized by what he saw growing up in the Ukraine and he had let it affect him for a long time. Seeing such a tragedy spurred him to change.

There’s not much to say about our other main character, Cora. She always thought of herself as a monster yet the characterization of the human oddities made them seem less monsterish than the humans around them. The biggest mystery surrounding Cora was her mother. I thought Maureen was her biological mother and that it wasn’t just an emotional parentage, but some disagreed. The coloring between the two girls didn’t match though that could be explained by a father. We all felt it was rather reminiscent of Moses.

I was not the only one who thought the romance was incredibly cliché and that taking it out would have made the book better. It made some people think of Romeo and Juliet or a Lifetime Movie. This almost made sense because with Coralie’s innocence, all she knew of romance was from fairy tales and books, but Eddy would have known better. It was too juvenile for someone of his background.

Coralie’s father is one of the other major characters in the story though we thought he faded a lot in importance as the story went on. One member was expecting something dark from their relationship but in the end, it wasn’t as terrible as we expected. She was reminded of the story Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I think that would have made a better ending.

The side characters were more interesting than many of the main characters. Some favorites were Beck, Hochman, Mr. Weiss, and Levy. These four men made up the father Eddie was missing in his life. I think Levy is the best example of all of them, but Hochman did good things for Eddie growing up. Interestingly enough, Hochman is a real historical figure.

It was pointed out how many animals were in the story. The trout in the pail repeated a lot, representing Eddie being unable to let go of Coralie. There was also Mitts, North, the tortoise, the elephant, and the black lion. Many of the characters were kinder to animals than they were to other humans throughout the book. The factory owners had dogs that they treated like kings but didn’t care about the lives of those around them. Beck would shoot a man as soon as talk to him, but he loved his wolf. We trust animals more than men.

One thing that bothered a lot of us was the hitman sewing his victim’s mouths shut. We got that it was supposed to send a signal to those that were fighting for a union, but it was more like a serial killer than a hired hand. It was a bit too far.

There was a big fire and water motif in the book. Eddie’s story starts with running away from a fire in the Ukraine. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was the beginning of the story and Eddie’s character development and it all culminated in the Dreamland Fire. Coralie’s story was all in the water. She grew up on the water, found the girl in the water, and was saved by water from the fire. Maureen also had been burned, though with acid. Eddie’s father jumped into the river which was when Eddie mentally gave up on his father. Many of the major changes in the book took place in one or the other.

One theme very few of us picked up on was the contrast between those women fighting for rights such as the factory owners’ daughter and the missing girl and woman who are helpless or abused like Cora and Maureen. The abused women are scared to speak up while the others are screaming to be heard. It’s those screaming who end up in more trouble, but those hiding had to fight for their rights as well.

Thanks for reading about our discussion. We’ll meet again in October with a creepy read for fall. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2/5)

27 Aug

I’ve tried Alice Hoffman before. That time was also for a book club and we read The Ice Queen. I gave it 1 out of 5 stars. But I tried again (for the same book club) and this time I’m a bit nicer. 2 stars.

ExtraordinaryThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Summary from Goodreads:

Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that amazes and stimulates the crowds. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man photographing moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as an apprentice tailor. When Eddie captures with his camera the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance.

New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times.

I had a lot of problems with this book. Coralie and Eddie were both interesting, but Hoffman’s style made me less engaged in them that I could have been. Everything she writes seems unimportant because I feel she grazes over everything, including the horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster. Eddie seemed so removed from the action that I felt removed. Coralie had no spine and was hard to relate to. Unless you grew up under an oppressive and poor father, I don’t think you could relate to her. You could only feel sorry for her. I thought the book was excruciatingly slow to start. The fire wasn’t until half way into the book! I was mentally done at that point. The ending was good and I enjoyed that, but it didn’t make up for all I’d had to slug through up to that point. I was really disappointed.

The characters felt more modern than I anticipated. Eddie was a very typical rebel nowadays, not what I was expecting from the time period. It was somewhat believable, but I think it was a bit of a stretch to help readers relate to historical characters. I thought Coralie and her father were very well set in the time period. I liked that the characters were from the fringes of society. It made them more fun to read.

Eddie was my favorite. Maybe due to his rebel status, I found him the most relatable. We’ve all rebelled in some way or another and Eddie was a good character for everyone to like. He had a heart of gold, which definitely helped.

Alice Hoffman Image via the New York Times

Alice Hoffman
Image via the New York Times

I liked the descriptions of the human oddities the most. Hoffman wrote about them in such a way so that I could forget their deformities. They became very human, wich is how Coralie must have seen them. They were all people, no matter how they looked and how others looked at them.

The parts about Coralie’s father whoring her out bothered me. There’s a line between making your daughter swim in an ice-cold river to draw customers and making her swim naked and the Professor had no problem crossing that line. The book seemed very fantastical and almost childlike until that point and I was bothered by it because of the contrast.

Coralie and Eddie pursued their own fortunes and that’s what made them happy. Eddie couldn’t be stuck under his father’s guidance and follow in his footsteps. He found his own way. Similarly, Coralie was trapped but not able to escape young, like Eddie. Her father was a tyrant instead of a shadow. They both needed to escape and finding each other was good. The book is a good example of finding your own way in life and being happy with it.

Writer’s Takeaway: The style Hoffman uses seems to glaze over major events because of the ethereal feel. The factory fire seemed like a dream instead of a real-life disaster to me and it was hard to give it the attention it deserved. I think the writing didn’t focus enough on how the characters were feeling and reacting, focusing more on what was going on and the feelings would have helped ground the action.

Not one I enjoyed, but better than the other title I’ve read by this author. 2 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Coney Island, New York – Alice Hoffman | The Book Trail
Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman | Caffeine and Books
Fields and Fantasies presents… The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman | Bookshelf Fantasies
Review of The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (coming in February, 2014) | Navigating the Stormy Shelves

WWW Wednesday, 19-August-2015

19 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


MiniaturistCurrently reading:  I want to get Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell back soon. I need an ebook in my life.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai would be fine, too. As long as I get an ebook. Please, Book Gods?
Good progress The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I listened to more on my drive back from Chicago on Sunday. However, as it seems all of my books are, this is temporarily on hold. Read on to find out why!
On hold with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. Again, something more pressing has come up.
I finally received my eAudio of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn! Yes, this is why everything is on hold right now. This is a long book and I need to get through it before it’s returned so I’m putting my other audio aside for now and pushing through on this one. I’m making decent progress because of Bout of Books. I hope I can keep it up.
While I was on vacation, I needed a new book and was lucky to find The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton on sale at an indie store in Chicago. It’s so pretty!

CastleRecently finished: I finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls while I was away. I enjoyed it a lot. It was different from what I was expecting but still enjoyable. I’m amazed at her strength!

And one book review for your reading pleasure. I wrote up my thoughts after re-reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Can’t wait for the movie!

ScorchReading Next: For once, I’m really not sure. I’ve decided that my book club reading A Widow for One Year is unfortunately, one I need to drop. I’m not happy about this, but it’s become a logistical impossibility for me. So at the moment, I’m without book guidance. I think I might grab The Scorch Trials by James Dashner before the movie comes out. I know I’ll get suckered into seeing it. It should be a quick read I can power through during Bout of Books.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 12-August-2015

12 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


CastleCurrently reading:  I should get Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell back soon. I hope. I miss it.
Also waiting for I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. So yeah, no ebook right now is weird for me and I’m not a fan. It makes me angry.
Good progress The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer yesterday. I drove to Chicago for a conference (which is why my response time probably sucks. Sorry.) which means 5 hours of audio time. I’ll have another 5 on Sunday so I hope to be almost done with this one soon!
Steady progress with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. I like it? It’s interesting, but I feel bad for the main character instead of outright liking her. So a bit mixed at this point.
I was able to start The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and so far, it’s interesting. Not the light-hearted read I need right now by any means, but enjoyable. It’s one of those ‘so crazy it has to be true’ stories and it’s mindblowing.

ExtraordinaryRecently finished: I made it through The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. This was way too slow to start for me and it was hard to make my way to a good point. I wish it had been a lot faster because I lost interest and mentally gave up on it.

And a book review! Look at me go. My review for Every Man for Himself by Baryl Bainbridge went up yesterday. Go check it out.

DarkPlacesReading Next: Next for physical book will be A Widow for One Year by John Irving. I think my work book club is falling apart and it’s making me sad.
I hope to start a new eAudio soon, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I’ve had it on hold forever and it’s finally coming up, just after the movie comes out. Could this be more perfect?


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 5-August-2015

5 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Hold HandsCurrently reading:  I almost hit the middle of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. So close. I might have to return it soon so I’m hoping I can renew it without losing it this time.
Oh hold with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Stand by in case I lose Cloud Atlas.
Half way with The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I’m liking it, but still not 100% bought into the main character. You would think with such a long book I would be by now, but no such luck.
I’m on a mission to finish The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. The action was really slow to start and now that I’m over half way, I can finally see where this is going. I hope it picks up a bit more and I can get on with it.
I started a new eAudio: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. It’s his first YA and it’s not the kind of YA I’m used it. It’s very ‘raw,’ which makes sense coming from an author who normally writes for adults. I’m liking it so far. Bohjalian’s daughter narrates the audio. She’s a trained actress and does a great job.

MockingjayRecently finished: Two! Two whole books, both audio. The first is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. It was nice to refresh this one in my mind. I remembered the major actions, but not the details. It’s going to be hard to wait for November to get here! I also finished Andy Weir. This book was really great. I highly recommend it for sci-fi or adventure fans. The narrator has a strong voice so it’s great for any writers struggling with that as well.

One book review up for you all to enjoy as well, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I really liked this one and hope you all do, too.

WidowReading Next: I got the copy of A Widow for One Year by John Irving last week, but unfortunately that’s got to wait. First I need to read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls for a book club. I hope I can get to these soon!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 29-July-2015

29 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


MartianCurrently reading:  I’m on to the next section of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I liked the last section, about Luisa, a lot so I hope this one doesn’t let me down.
No progress with. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Stand by.
Good progress with Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I keep imagining this as a movie and it’s going to be awesome. I’m so excited for November.
Better progress on The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer than I expected. I’m around disk ten now so I’m almost half way done. I’m getting annoyed by all the french road names. It’s reminding me of a Steig Larsson book.
Slow start with The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. The week has been a bit hectic and I haven’t had time to read much. I’m hoping this changes.
Just to make the list of books I’m reading longer, I’m still not done with The Martian by Andy Weir. My husband and I are going to trade it back and forth for our commutes until it’s finished. I hope I can get through it soon, I’m really enjoying it.

Recently finished: Um…. yeah. Nothing this week. I haven’t had as much time to read as I’d like with physical therapy. It will be over soon, though. Then I want to hit the books hard.

However, two book reviews! Beat that! One is for Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (2/5) and the other for Harry, A History by Melissa Anneli (4/5). Check them out and let me know what you think.

CastleReading Next: While I’ve been waiting forever for A Widow for One Year by John Irving, it’s going to be put on hold. I’ve got to get to another book club selection, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This has been on my TBR for a while and since we were discussing new selections, I came ready with some I’ve been wanting to read and snuck them onto the list. Winning!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 22-July-2015

22 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


ExtraordinaryCurrently reading:  Slow progress on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m enjoying the story a lot more now that I’m back into it. The first section was rough to get through, but I’m starting to see the connections between characters and it’s getting interesting.
No progress with. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. I lost the hold so this one might be a while.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins flying by. I’m into the part that will make up the Part II movie so it’s all new to me again. I love it.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is going slowly, but it’s enjoyable. I’m on disk 6 of 22 so that’s progress, though granted not much.
I was able to start The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman late last week. So far, so good though I’m going into this with negative connotations because I really disliked the last Hoffman book I read. Just trying to stay impartial.

ManforHimselfRecently finished: I cried finishing Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. I think my own Titanic knowledge made it worse because I knew which characters would live and die. Bainbridge did a great job of incorporating the well-known passengers, much the way the James Cameron movie did. I started watching the movie after finishing this. Still ongoing due to a bad TV.

Only one book review this week, Wuthering Bites by Sarah Gray which a lot of you said sounded interesting. Hope you like my review.

MartianReading Next: I should get  A Widow for One Year by John Irving this week! I’ve been waiting on this one for a while so I’m looking forward to it. I’ll also be starting the audiobook of The Martian by Andy Weir. My husband and I are driving to New York and back for our annual trip so I hope this keeps us entertained while we go through Canada (fastest route between Detroit and Syracuse).


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 15-July-2015

15 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Invisible BridgeCurrently reading:  My hold on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell came in! I hope to get some reading done on this one. I’ve had a lot more ebook time lately because I’m in physical therapy for runners knee and between waiting in the lobby to be called back and doing warm up on a recumbent bike, I get a few pages in each day.
Consequently, I’m letting my hold on I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai expire for now. When I finish Atlas, I hope to pick this backup.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is going well. I’m beyond the point of the first movie and this is the part I don’t remember too well. It’s getting excited. I’ve set aside my PT exercise time as Mockingjay time.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is going slowly. As I feared, with my new commute, I don’t get as much audiobook time. I’m on the third CD of 22. I hope I can renew this one a few times!
I’m really enjoying Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. I love the Titanic so the setting has me really excited. I forgot how much her writing style makes for a quick read and I’m plowing through it. Hope to have this one finished next week.

HotelRecently finished: I cried while finishing Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. The ending was a huge heartbreaker for me and I really loved it. Though I was reminded a bit of The Orphan Train with the ending and kind of saw it coming. Oh well, still a good story.

A couple of reviews for you to check out as well. The first is A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. The long journey through the first book is finally over!
The second is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan. This was my favorite book of June and I highly recommend it!

Crossing to SafetyReading Next: I should get my copy of A Widow for One Year by John Irving next week so that’s forthcoming. There are a few other possibilities, though. My next book club selections are Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. I might jump on those early if I get a chance so I’m not stopping midbook to read one of them later this month. You have to plan ahead as a bookworm!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!