Book Blast: The Lion and the Rose

03_Book One_William Rising

The Lion and the Rose (Book One: William Rising)

Publication Date: June 18, 2014
eBook; 338 Pages | ASIN: B00L4K5GKE

Genre: Historical Fiction

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The Lion and the Rose, Part One: William Rising is the first book in an epic historical saga from debut author Hilary Rhodes. Extensively researched and compellingly told, it introduces us to the passionate drama and violent upheaval of eleventh-century Europe. The world as we know it, and the English language, would have been vastly different were it not for the driving ambition of one man: William the Conqueror. But conquerors are made, not born, and William was made in fire and blood. How does a boy become a man, surviving a tumultuous and terrifying childhood? And how does that man become a legend?

William Rising plunges us into this world of danger and betrayal, of choosing sides and dying for absolutes. It follows the creation of a conqueror, as he grows up abandoned, learns to fight at an early age for anything he hopes to keep, and is sculpted into a remorseless, far-sighted, ruthlessly efficient soldier and statesman. From his origins as an orphaned, penniless bastard boy, to his personal and political trials by fire, to the climactic battle with his rebellious barons where he finally comes of age, the young duke increasingly establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with. But as the shadowy intrigues of English politics, and the all-consuming question of an heir for a childless king, begin to draw him into their web, it may just be that William of Normandy has a destiny far greater than even he has ever dreamed.


03_Book Two_The Gathering StormThe Lion and the Rose (Book Two: The Gathering Storm)

Publication Date: September 29, 2014
eBook; 294 Pages | ASIN: B00O2E30GG

Genre: Historical Fiction

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The Lion and the Rose: William Rising introduced us to the young William, Duke of Normandy, and his treacherous and terrible childhood, beset by battles, betrayals, and heartbreak, as he fought his own barons to survive and claim his birthright. The Gathering Storm plunges us even deeper into the violent upheaval and passionate drama of his unfolding story. Now twenty-two, William has won his most pivotal battle and taken control of his inheritance, but impossible struggles loom as he fights to put Normandy back together — and very few of his enemies are actually defeated. Furthermore, across the Channel, the question of an heir for a childless king begins to loom large, and the ruthless and scheming Godwin, Earl of Wessex, will stop at nothing to claim it for his family.

Written with the same meticulous historical research and flair by debut author Hilary Rhodes, The Gathering Storm raises the stakes to the utmost level, and a crown and a kingdom hang in the balance. In these pages, lords rise and fall, England and Normandy are drawn into a perilous collision course, bishops, barons, dukes, queens, and earls play a dangerous game of power and glory, and those who are not strong enough are trampled underfoot. The crows circle and the banners are raised, and the last Saxon king and the greatest Norman duke are destined to face each other in a battle that will change the course of history.


04_The Outlander KingThe Outlander King (The Aetheling’s Bride, Book One)

Publication Date: June 1, 2015
eBook; 476 Pages | ASIN: B00XM9QJ1K

Genre: Historical Fiction

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The story of The Lion and the Rose and the Norman Conquest continues in this spellbinding new historical fiction series from author Hilary Rhodes, pulling back the curtain on the lives of two remarkable women connected across centuries: Aislinn, a seventeen-year-old English girl caught up in the advancing army of the “outlander king,” the man who will become known to history as William the Conqueror. Thrust into the center of the new Norman court and a dizzying web of political intrigue and plotting princes, she must choose her alliances carefully in a game of thrones where the stakes are unimaginably high. Embroiled in rebellions and betrayals, Aislinn learns the price of loyalty, struggles to find her home, and save those she loves – and, perhaps, her own soul as well.

Almost nine hundred years later in 1987, Selma Murray, an American graduate student at Oxford University, is researching the mysterious “Aethelinga” manuscript, as Aislinn’s chronicle has come to be known. Trying to work out the riddles of someone else’s past is a way for Selma to dodge her own troubling ghosts – yet the two are becoming inextricably intertwined. She must face her own demons, answer Aislinn’s questions, and find forgiveness – for herself and others – in this epically scaled but intimately examined, extensively researched look at the creation of history, the universality of humanity, and the many faces it has worn no matter the century: loss, grief, guilt, redemption, and love.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR02_Author Hilary Rhodes

Hilary Rhodes is a scholar, author, blogger, and all-around geek who fell in love with medieval England while spending a year abroad at Oxford University. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in history, and is currently preparing for doctoral studies at the University of Leeds, fulfilling a years-long dream to return to the UK. In what little spare time she has, she enjoys reading, blogging about her favorite TV shows, movies, and books, music, and traveling.

For more information please visit Hilary Rhodes’ blog.


Monday, July 27
Kinx’s Book Nook

Tuesday, July 28
Book Nerd
What Is That Book About

Wednesday, July 29
The Never-Ending Book
To Read, Or Not to Read

Thursday, July 30
Books and Benches
Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, July 31
The Lit Bitch
Queen of All She Reads

Sunday, August 2
Genre Queen

Monday, August 3
The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 4
Room With Books
Passages to the Past

Wednesday, August 5
100 Pages a Day
The True Book Addict

Thursday, August 6
A Book Geek
Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, August 7
CelticLady’s Reviews
Let Them Read Books

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Review: Murder By Disputation

Death By Disputation (A Francis Bacon Murder Mystery Book 2)
Written by Anna Castle
Published on December 21, 2014 by Anna Castle
Historical Fiction; 312 pages


Thomas Clarady is recruited to spy on a group of radical Puritans at Cambridge University. Francis Bacon is his spymaster; his tutor in both tradecraft and religious politics. Their commission gets off to a deadly start when Tom finds his chief informant hanging from the roof beams. Now he must catch a murderer as well as a seditioner. His first suspect is volatile poet Christopher Marlow, who keeps turning up in the wrong places.

Dogged by unreliable assistants, chased by three lusty women, and harangued daily by the exacting Bacon, Tom risks his very soul to catch the villains and win his reward.

Death By Disputation is the next foray is a very fun series by Anna Castle. I enjoyed her first immensely; however, I found this book a little disappointing. I still enjoyed it but not as much as the first. The story begins as a murder mystery, then quickly transitions to a political mystery and finally a potential romance. All three stories seemed to be major plotlines. I would have liked to focus on one major plotlines and then the others would be minor plotlines. I felt that the murder mystery was just an afterthought instead of a true mystery that needed to be primary focus.

But don’t get me wrong! I still enjoyed the book. I love Ms. Castle’s portrayal of all the characters. Tom is such a fun and lively character. I liked the conflict that we was feeling throughout the story. I found the religious politics very interesting; especially as Tom got deeper and deeper into the Puritan community. His conflict between is mission and having empathy for his targets made for some really good reading. Furthermore, I loved Ms. Castle’s naming of her characters. The names of the Wingfield family were just perfect!

A great minor character that is quickly turning into a major character is Trumpett. She is just amazing; fun, brash, and quick-witted. She provided some needed levity to the story. I really look forward to how her and Tom’s relationship develops.

Even with a few plot issues, this book was a fun read with lots of political and religious intrigue. The characters are fun and lively. I look forward to Ms. Castle’s next Bacon adventure.


Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
Written by Liane Moriarty
Published in 2014 by Putnam
458 pages
Literary Fiction


Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Liane Moriarty has written a gem in Big Little Lies. She has made parents and school politics very provocative and deadly. And what is sad, I can see this story play in any elementary school in America. There are so many aspects of this book that are universal…rape, domestic violence, divorce, snobbery, prejudice…just to name a few.

All three of the woman in Big Little Lies are wonderful characters with her own unique issues to face. The pain of each woman is so real and you hoped that each one would come out in one piece, mentally and physically. Ms. Moriarty tackled some very serious issues with these women. Madeline, Celeste and Jane make up a trio of broken women and Ms. Moriarty told their stories with complete honesty and truth. I always find it amazing how a woman can hide her pain from everyone; and, in the reverse, not digging deep in another’s pain. Ms. Moriarty captured this perfectly. Another thing she captured was the notion of female solidarity. When push comes to shove, women will rally and take care of their own.

Big Little Lies passed an ultimate test for me. To be considered a great (in my lowly opinion), when I read the last page I don’t want the story to end. I want to know more about the characters and what comes next. That is what happened here. I was so disappointed when I got to that last page. I didn’t want the story to end. I wanted to know more which to me says Big Little Lies is a great book.


Favorite Scene: Order of the Phoenix

Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has always been my least favorite book in the series. However, after re-reading it more slowly this time, I have come to appreciate it more. I didn’t get as frustrated with Harry as I have been in the past. I found that I was more frustrated with Dumbledore than Harry. Funny how your thoughts and feelings change as you re-read your favorite books. I really thought I would have a very difficult time finding a favorite scene in Order of the Phoenix; however, I found two that really stood out to me. One is fairly obvious and then other one – not so much.

The Obvious Favorite Scene:

I love the scene at the end where The Order stands with Harry to meet his aunt and uncle after the end of the school year. After feeling so alone throughout the year, Harry sees that he isn’t alone after all. He can stand tall when he meets his dreaded relatives. Mad Eye is just the best in this scene.

…he found a surprise awaiting him on the other side: a group of people standing there to greet whom he had not expected.

“Hello, Harry,” said Lupin, as Mrs. Weasley let go of Harry and turned to greet Hermione.

“Hi,” said Harry. “I didn’t expect…what are you all doing here?”

“Well,” said Lupin with a slight smile, “we thought we might have a little chat with your aunt and uncle before letting them take you home.”

“I dunno if that’s a good idea,” said Harry at once.

“Oh, I think it is,” growled Moody, who limped a little closer.

“We thought we’d just have a few words with you about Harry,” said Mr. Weasley, still smiling.

“Yeah,” said Moody. “About how he’s treated when he’s at your place.”

Uncle Vernon’s mustache seemed to bristle with indignation. Possibly because the bowler hat gave him the entirely mistaken impression that he was dealing with a kindred spirit, he addressed himself to Moody.

“I am not aware that it is any of your business what goes on in my house – ”

“I expect what you’re not aware of would fill several books, Dursley,” growled Moody.

“Anyway, that’s not the point,” interjected Tonks, whose pink hair seemed to offend Aunt Petunia more than all the rest put together, for she closed her eyes rather than look at her. “The point is, if we find out you’ve been horrible to Harry -”

” – and make no mistake, we’ll hear about it,” added Lupin pleasantly.

“Yeah, if we get any hint that Potter’s been mistreated in any way, you’ll have us to answer to,” said Moody,

Uncle Vernon swelled ominously. His sense of outrage seemed to outweigh even his fear of this bunch of oddballs.

“Are you threatening me, sir?” he said, so loudly that passersby actually turned to stare.

“Yes, I am,” said May-Eye, who seemed rather pleased that Uncle Vernon had grasped this fact so quickly.

“And do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated?” barked Uncle Vernon.

“Well…” said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolving magical eye. Uncle Vernon leapt backward in horror and collided with a luggage trolley. “Yes, I’d have to say you do, Dursley.”

He turned away from Uncle Vernon to survey Harry. “So, Potter…give us a shout if you need us. If we don’t hear from you for three days in a row, we’ll send someone along…”

The Not So Obvious Scene:

This scene is after Mr. Weasley has been attacked by Nagini and still in the hospital. Harry blames himself because he thinks that Voldemort has possessed him. However, Ginny is able to bring him back into the company of his friends. I think this is when Ginny became a major character in the series. She has finally entered into the fold as a trusted friend.

“Oh, stop feeling all misunderstood,” said Hermione sharply. “Look, the others have told what you overheard last night on the Extendable Ears -”

“Yeah?” growled Harry, his hands deep in his pockets as he watched the snow falling thickly outside. “All been talking about me, have you? Well, I’m getting used to it…”

“We wanted to talk to you, Harry,” said Ginny, “but as you’ve been hiding ever since we got back – ”

“I didn’t want anyone to talk to me,” said Harry, who was feeling more and more nettled.

“Well, that was a bit stupid of you,” said Ginny angrily, “seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.”

“Harry remained quite still as the impact of these words hit him. Then he wheeled around.

“I forgot,” he said.

“Lucky you,” said Ginny coolly.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, and he meant it. “So…so do you think I’m being possessed, then?”

“Well, can you remember everything you’ve been doing?” Ginny asked. “Are there big blank periods where you don’t know what you’ve been up to?”

Harry racked his brains.

“No,” he said.

“Then You-Know-Who hasn’t ever possessed you,” said Ginny simply. When he did it to me, I couldn’t remember what I’d been doing for hours at a time. I’d find myself somewhere and not know how I got there.”

Harry hardly dared to believe her, yet his heart was lightening  almost in spite of himself.

There you go! Those are my favorite scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. What are yours? Please leave me a comment and let me know!



Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Written by Truman Capote
Read by Michael C. Hall
Recorded by Audible Studios on February 11, 2014
Originally published in 1958


Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote’s provocative, naturalistic masterstroke about a young writer’s charmed fascination with his unorthodox neighbor, the “American geisha” Holly Golightly. Holly – a World War II-era society girl in her late teens – survives via socialization, attending parties and restaurants with men from the wealthy upper class who also provide her with money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, the seemingly shallow Holly slowly opens up to the curious protagonist, who eventually gets tossed away as her deepening character emerges.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s most beloved work of fiction, introduced an independent and complex character who challenged audiences, revived Audrey Hepburn’s flagging career in the 1961 film version, and whose name and style has remained in the national idiom since publication. Hall uses his diligent attention to character to bring our unnamed narrator’s emotional vulnerability to the forefront of this American classic.

To date, my only exposure to Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been the film adaptation with the lovely Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. After reading this novella I have found that it did not due it justice at all. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a very provocative depiction of a young girl living a life that many people would deem corrupt. I can imagine when this story was published in 1958 and the uproar it caused. Holly talked of sex, homosexuality, drugs, organized crime and other taboo subjects like they were everyday ideas; not the “turn the blind eye” kind of topics of the 1950s.

I can’t decide if Holly was a truly unique, strong woman or an incredibly broken one who created this life just to survive. She definitely had spunk; but at the same time, she was so sad and lost. There were many times I found it hard it hard to like her at all. She treated people so flippantly. She really had no use for them until she needed them. Was she self-absorbed, selfish and short-sighted or mentally unstable (bipolar?) and abused. After reading this novella, I really can’t buy into the Audrey version. She was so incredibly complex but at the same time so incredibly simple.

In my mind, I think Truman Capote identified and wanted to be Holly Golightly. Holly was his ideal human, man or woman. I can see a lot of Capote in Holly (from what I have seen and read about him). Her flippancy, alcohol use, and her brutal treatment of others leads me to believe that Capote captured himself in Holly Golightly. She had no ties and wanted none – or so she thought. The most heartbreaking moment for me was when she let Cat go in Spanish Harlem. It wasn’t romantic like the movie. It was cold but at the same time so sad and depressing. Holly realized, at the last minute, that she had a connection with Cat but she still turned her back on him. I’m just so relieved that Capote gave Cat a happy ending even though he give us one for Holly. Who knows where she landed…presumably like a cat.

I’m really glad I spent the time listening to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Michael C. Hall did a great job reading it. I thought he captured the narrator, “Fred”, very well. It was just under three hours listening time and I highly recommend that you take the time and listen to this provocative novella. It won’t be a waste.


It’s Monday! What are you reading?!


Welcome to It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well…you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! Hosted by Book Journey.

Last Week:

This Week:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…


Death by Disputation by Anna Castle

24083300Thomas Clarady is recruited to spy on a group of radical Puritans at Cambridge University. Francis Bacon is his spymaster; his tutor in both tradecraft and religious politics. Their commission gets off to a deadly start when Tom finds his chief informant hanging from the roof beams. Now he must catch a murderer as well as a seditioner. His first suspect is volatile poet Christopher Marlowe, who keeps turning up in the wrong places.

Dogged by unreliable assistants, chased by three lusty women, and harangued daily by the exacting Bacon, Tom risks his very soul to catch the villains and win his reward.

Audiobook of the Week:

51rZT5DkgdL__SL300_Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Narrated by Michael C. Hall)

Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote’s masterstroke about a young writer’s charmed fascination with his unorthodox neighbor, the “American geisha” Holly Golightly. Holly – a World War II-era society girl in her late teens – survives via socialization, attending parties and restaurants with men from the wealthy upper class who also provide her with money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, the seemingly shallow Holly slowly opens up to the curious protagonist.

What are you reading this week?



Review: Persuasion

Written by the amazing Jane Austen
First Published in 1818
Audiobook (June 6, 2006)
Read by Greta Scacchi


At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

Persuasion is my most favorite book of all time. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read it. So, that being said, I decided for my book club (Books, Babes and Booze) selection that Persuasion would be a great pick. Not everyone is my club has read, or even likes, Jane Austen; if they had, only P&P (maybe). I really wanted to share my favorite book with my besties. I told them upfront that Persuasion is my favorite book ever; I really didn’t bear any criticism.

Since I’ve read the book so many times, I wanted to get a different perspective and decided to listen to the audiobook version. This version was read by Greta Scacchi who I really like as an actress. I picked the perfect version; she was absolutely wonderful as the narrator. She brought so much life to Anne Elliot. Her voice reflected her heartbreak, the frustration and embarrassment with her family, and the love of her friends. I loved listening to every second of it. I think you really need to take a leap of faith when listening to your favorite book. The wrong reader can completely ruin a book and, on the flipside, a reader can completely make a book. Ms. Scacchi made this audiobook; she was fantastic. She continues my belief that Persuasion is the greatest ever written (bold statement?!).

Back to my book club. Throughout the month I got text messages on how much someone loved the book. It made my heart go pitter patter. I don’t think there is anything better than sharing your favorite book with your friends and they liked it too. Of course, as modern women we had a difficult time identifying with that age. We all decided we wouldn’t do well. After all, we are all very strong and independent women! I found that many in my book club found this book surprising. Ms. Austen’s perspective on life had definitely changed since her first novel, Sense and Sensibility. In Persuasion, her writing was more mature and accomplished (did I say accomplished?).

I have one last bold statement to make about Persuasion. Captain Wentworth has to be the most romantic hero of all of Jane Austen’s novels. Mr. Darcy who? I absolutely love him! He is proud but also loyal to his friends and to Anne. Plus, he wrote the most perfect love letter of all time. “You pierce my soul!” Can you imagine someone writing those words to you. Just melt my heart!

If you need a truly romantic novel that pierces your soul, please pick up Persuasion. I promise you, you won’t regret it!


Favorite Scene: Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire49130

With Goblet of Fire, Harry’s turns completely upside down. He gets entered into a Tournament he can’t possibly win (or possibly survive), his best friend desserts him for a time and Voldemort is making some really nasty plans. From here on out, Harry must face his destiny of vanquishing Voldemort. Now, I know you are waiting with abated breath to see what my favorite scene is. For some it may by surprising. Unlike Azkaban, I picked a more emotional scene with no light-heartedness at all. Molly Weasley is the closest thing to a mother Harry ever had. When she comforts him in the hospital wing at the end of the Tournament, my heart was completely breaking. I believe, that was the first time I cried while reading a Harry Potter. This scene just completely blew me away. I was so upset that the movie version failed to included this emotional and (to me) pivotal scene. Without further ado, here it is (have a tissue handy):

My Favorite Scene:

The thing against which he had been fighting on and off every since he had come out of the maze was threatening to overpower him. He could feel a burning, prickling feeling in the inner corners of his eyes. He blinked and stared up at the ceiling.

“It wasn’t your fault, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley whispered.

“I told him to take the cup with me,” said Harry.

Now the burning feeling was in his throat too. He wished Ron would look away.

Mrs. Weasley set the potion down on the bedside cabinet, bent down, and put her arms around Harry. He had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as though by a mother. The full weight of everything he had seen that night seemed to fall in upon him as Mrs. Weasley held him to her. His mother’s face, his father’s voice, the sight of Cedric, dead on the ground all started spinning in his head until he could hardly bear it, until he was screwing up his face against the howl of misery fighting to get out of him.

This might be my most favorite scene in the entire series. Maybe because I am a mother myself…who knows. Molly Weasley is such a wonderful, beautiful and strong character. She may end up my favorite scene in Deathly Hallows. You will have to wait and see.

You know what? I love comments! What is your favorite scene from Goblet of Fire? Please let me know. Let the debate begin!

Favorite Scene: Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Azkaban is one of my favorites of the Harry Potter series and it’s the only one without Voldemort in it. The villain (or so we think) is Sirius Black. I had a very hard time picking a favorite scene from this one; there are just so many. I have narrowed it down to three scenes with the last as my favorite.

In third place: More amazing words of wisdom from Dumbledore

“I thought it was my dad who conjured my Patronus. I mean, when I saw myself, across the lake…I thought I was seeing him.”

“An easy mistake to make,” said Dumbledore softly. “I expect you’ll tire of hearing it, but you do look extraordinarily like James. Except for the eyes…you have your mother’s eyes.”

Harry shook his head.

“It was so stupid, thinking it was him,” he muttered. “I mean, I knew he was dead.”

“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him…”

In Second Place: Sirius offers Harry a home

“You’re free,” said Harry.

“Yes…,” said Black. “But, I’m also – I don’t know if anyone told you – I’m your godfather.”

“Yeah, I knew that,” said Harry.

“Well…your parents appointed me your guardian,” said Black stiffly. “If anything happened to them…”

Harry waited. Did Black mean what he thought he meant?

“I’ll understand, of course, if you want to stay with our aunt and uncle,” said Black. “But…well…think about it. Once my name’s cleared…if you wanted a…a different home…”

Some sort of explosion took place in the pit of Harry’s stomach.

“What – live with you?” he said, accidentally cracking his head on a bit of rock protruding from the ceiling, “Leave the Dursleys?”

“Of course, I thought wouldn’t want to,” said Black quickly. “I understand, I just thought I’d – ”

“Are you insane?” said Harry, his voice easily as croaky as Black’s. “Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can I move in?”

Now for the First Place winner: Harry’s threat to Vernon

“What’s that?” he snarled, staring at the envelope Harry was still clutching in his hand. “If it’s another form for me to sign, you’ve got another – ”

“It’s not, said Harry cheerfully. “It’s a letter from my godfather.”

“Godfather?” sputtered Uncle Vernon. “You haven’t got a godfather!”

“Yes, I have, said Harry brightly. He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of wizard prison and he’s on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though…keep up with my news…check if I’m happy…”

And, grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off toward the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last.

I picked this scene as my favorite for it’s levity. When I was reading it, I absolutely laughing out loud. The Dursleys are such miserable people, it was very nice to see Harry scare the bejeezus out of them. It was a perfect threat and Vernon’s reaction was priceless.

What is your favorite scene from the Prisoner of Azkaban?

Deborah Harkness: A Conversation

PB boxed set image

I’m so honored to have the marvelous Deborah Harkness visiting my blog! The All Souls Trilogy has been absolute favorite of mine. THE BOOK OF LIFE has been released in paperback and I hope this gives you the opportunity to dive into her magical world. If you would like to read my reviews of each of her books, I have the links at the end of her conservation. If there is one trilogy you have to read this summer, the All Souls Trilogy has to be it. You will LOVE it!!

A Conversation with Deborah Harkness

Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research. What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE?

A: There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science – past or present – is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably  few scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here?

Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there seems to be a definite  moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find that a strength of fantasy  novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge them to face important moral issues?


 A: Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s  ills have stemmed from someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations – all have been targets of this process of singling others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires and witches rather than confronting issues of race and sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come to different conclusions about member of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept Tours and reinstate themselves back into the sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Do you draw on your own life?

A: Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family: unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents aught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who eaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A: Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could says it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating  the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots – unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?


A: It has been amazing – and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan – to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask how their friends are doing – meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary for a writer.

Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself? 

A: As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.

Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?


A: I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending (which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A: I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.

Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.

My Reviews of the All Souls Trilogy:

A Discovery of Witches

Shadow of Night

Book of Life

For additional information or to schedule an interview with

Deborah Harkness, contact:

Lindsay Prevette / 212.366.2224 /

Shannon Twomey / 212.366.2227 /

Emma Mohney / 212.366.2274 /

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