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

Happy Halloween! The Rules of Magic

636425476301544428-Rules-of-Magic      Celebrating the power of witches in Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic seems an appropriate way to celebrate Halloween.  Hoffman reveals the back story of the two witch aunts who raise Sally and Gillian Owens in her novel made into a movie – Practical Magic.  This prequel dates back to the childhood of Frannie and Jet,  played in the movie by a feisty Stockard Channing and an aerie Dianne Wiest.

The premise of the family curse bequeathed from the seventeenth century –  that any man who falls in love with an Owens woman will die – controls the romance in the story, but thankfully Hoffman spins this tale with less horror and more introspection.  History plays a big role with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War changing the direction for some of the characters.  And, if you were wondering how two maiden aunts could have nieces?  Hoffman writes in a brother for them in the prequel, a handsome wizard who resists going to war.  The children in Practical Magic are his grandchildren.

A fast and entertaining read – try it while you are munching on your Halloween stash.

And, if you’d like to try Aunt Isabelle’s Chocolate Tipsy Cake for breakfast, the recipe is here.

 

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More Books About Witches:

Beethoven’s Hair

9780767903516_p0_v1_s260x420Revealing the secrets of the dead seems an appropriate topic for Halloween, and Russell Martin’s documentary – Beethoven’s Hair –  not only invites you to meet the ghost of a renowned composer, but also includes details on his contemporaries.

The story includes details of the composer’s life and follows the lock of hair that ultimately reveals the physical conditions that caused not only illness and pain throughout his life but also his deafness.  The lock of hair, taken from Beethoven on his deathbed and lost during World War II, reappeared in Europe and was auctioned to two collectors who share ownership today. Scientific studies conducted on the lock of hair determined his cause of death and possibly the reason for his deafness to be a prolonged poisoning by lead.   This nonfiction account includes speculation about how the hair survived the war, and detailed accounts of the composer’s later life.

9781570917141_p0_v1_s260x420In researching the book, I found the book was developed into a documentary in 2005, with Beethoven’s music in the background as well as abridged into a children’s book by the author.   A friendly librarian gave me this book, which had traveled from Porter County, Indiana, as a gift to its new home in the Honolulu Library – just in time for Halloween.   

Stories Not for the Nervous

Ghost stories for Halloween – or anytime.  Alfred Hitchcock edited a collection of scary tales – short stories, novelettes, and a novel – in the 1965 Stories Not for the Nervous that includes “various tomes of terror, sagas of suspense…groupings of grue…” from the master of suspense.  From a futuristic Twilight Zone short story by Ray Bradbury to a complete novel – “Sorry, Wrong Number” – the collection will have you looking over your shoulder and turning on all the lights.

I found this classic through the Dave Eggers interview in the New York Times book review section.  Eggers wrote one of my favorite nonfiction books – Zeitoun. When interviewed for By the Book,  Eggers admitted to “reading ghost stories and having a blast {when he} found a collection Hitchcock edited.”

Perfect for Halloween or anytime you are looking for old-fashioned scary fun.

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River King by Alice Hoffman

With her trademark mix of magic and trauma, Alice Hoffman’s The River King has an uncanny scary quality that marks how the world deals with injustice.  First published in July, 2000, sadly, the world has not changed and Hoffman’s cautions are still relevant.

As a fan of Hoffman, I’ve read Practical Magic and The Red Garden, but found this Gothic tale of high school bullies and small town rivalries through a recent review by a fellow writer.  The story is set at a New England boarding school, centered around Carlin and Gus, the misfit scholarship students who have trouble connecting with their wealthy fellows;  Abel, the handsome local police detective; and Betsy, the photography teacher who snaps a picture of a ghost. A death, with some supernatural aftereffects, initiates the action – revealing the underbelly of society in the small town and the exclusive institution.  With characteristic attention to the true nature of her principals, Hoffman weaves a tale of romance and mystery – solving  a crime in the end as well as connecting those seeking true love.

Full of ghosts and mysterious happenings – appropriate for this time of year – a spooky Halloween tale, with a little social conscience thrown in – and Hoffman’s lyrical descriptions of people and places.

Related ReviewThe Red Garden