Just in Time for Halloween

9780399564512  Witches and vampires take on a literary bent with Deborah Harkness, who returns with Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, in Time’s Convert.   If you missed the All Souls Trilogy introducing the cast of characters, Harkness thoughtfully brings you into the family with clever references as she tells the new story of what it takes to become a vampire.

Alternating between contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, the story fills in the background of one of its main characters. Matthew de Clermont, now Diana’s husband,  when he meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during the war.   Matthew, a vampire, offers Marcus the opportunity for immortality and a new life.  Marcus’s transformation is not an easy one and his newfound family often clashes with his inbred beliefs.  In the present, Marcus’s fiancee is undergoing her own tranformation to becoming a vampire, and Diana is coping with her two year old twins who seem to have discovered their powers.

If you are a reader of magic, the supernatural, and romance, Time’s Convert will satisfy.  And if you are a fan, Discovery of Witches has been filmed and showing in the UK, with Matthew Goode from Downton Abbey playing the handsome vampire.  Not yet in the United States; maybe PBS will add it to its collection next year.

Related Review: Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches at Oxford University

After visiting Oxford University’s Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum, I had a new appreciation for Deborah Harkness’ All Saints Trilogy, beginning with “A Discovery of Witches.” Harkness based her fictional stories on real characters and a real book. In an interview she noted:

“Elias Ashmole was a seventeenth-century English antiquarian and scholar. He gave major bequests to Oxford University, including the collection of books and objects that provided the foundation for the Ashmolean Museum (which is still in operation today). Ashmole’s books and manuscripts were first kept at the museum and then moved to the university’s Bodleian Library in the nineteenth century. The Ashmole manuscripts include numerous rare alchemical texts. One of the manuscripts, Ashmole 782, is currently missing. As a scholar, I’ve done a lot of research in the Ashmole alchemical manuscripts and always wondered what Ashmole 782 might contain.”

In the Ashmolean Museum bookstore I found a copy of “Alchemy and Mysticism: The Hermetic Museum” by Alexander Roob – the closest I could get to the missing book. A heavy tome,full of wood cuttings and illustrations connecting medieval mysticism with alchemy. Images include hieroglyphs and early scientific illustrations in the fields of medicine, and chemistry. Too heavy for my suitcase, I left it to be rediscovered by another.
Review of “A Discovery of Witches”

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The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

9780670025596_p0_v3_s260x420The final chapter of the Deborah Harkness three book trilogy in The Book of Life has me yearning to restart from the beginning of Book One. Finally, witch Diana has overcome the powers of darkness and united all creatures through magic and a little genetic research. Finally, she had become a woman of formidable power, a professor by day and head of a feisty Board of vampires, daemons, and witches by night – with her handsome brooding vampire lover, Matthew, at her side. The ending was satisfying and inevitable, but the journey is everything. If you have read the first two books, you will appreciate how cleverly Harkness uses history and ancestry to bind the story.

If you are a fan of Gabaldon’s Outlander, and can suspend belief while Harkness carries you away – all the while grounding you in the cycle of family dissension and worldly politics, you will find the same contented flavor of adventure, romance, and intrigue with the All Souls Trilogy. Harkness ends with a not so subtle message appropriate for today’s worldly unrest. If only we had her magic threads to tie us all together.

The Book of Life can stand alone, but if you want the total experience, start from the beginning – or at least read the reviews:

Guilty Pleasure

No book has grabbed my attention lately, although I’ve started several. “Visitation Street,” “The Edge of the Earth,” “Falling to Earth” – all have my bookmarks. Even in sunny Italy, “Beautiful Ruins” held no fascination.   Soon, two of my favorite authors – JoJo Moyes and Deborah Harkness – have promising publications that will save me.

In the meantime, I confess – I’ve been wallowing in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series. With over 1000 pages in each book, I’m halfway through the second and enjoying my guilty pleasure.

Have you read them?

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Looking Forward to Reading in 2014

Finding a favorite author can lead to fervent stalking of their next publication.  Writers do not always churn out stories quickly enough to appease the appetites of their anxious readers, but expectations run high when a new book is coming.  Here are a few I am looking forward to reading in 2014:

From Favorite Authors:

Sarah Addison Allen: Lost Lake  {January}

JoJo Moyes: The One Plus One {February|}

Jeffrey Archer: Be Careful What You Wish For (Clifton Chronicles cont.) – {March}

Emma Donoghue: Frog Music {April}

Harriet Lane (author of Alys Always) – Her   {June}

Deborah Harkness: The Book of Life (continues story of witch Diana Bishop) – {July}

And from a new author:    Vivien Shotwell:  Vienna Nocturne  {February}

Do you have any books on your 2014 reading list?  happy_new_year_background_vector_illustration_267362

Have a Happy New Year of  reading!