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:
For additional information or to schedule an interview with
Deborah Harkness, contact:
Lindsay Prevette / 212.366.2224 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Shannon Twomey / 212.366.2227 / email@example.com
Emma Mohney / 212.366.2274 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Kinx’s Book Nook is currently on hiatus. I’ve started a new job and once I settle in I hope to return to my book reviews.
Today, I’m not going to talk about books. Instead, I’m going to review the Erin Condren Life Planner that I received this week. First of all, it is amazing! Second, I can include my entire life in this planner and be organized. Lately, it seems that people use electronic calendars to organize their life. However, I need something more visual and tangible. As you may know, I love books and paper. This Life Planner is exactly what I needed.
There are many options to choose from. I picked the Classic Planner in the multi-colored taffy stripes design. Each planner is personalized and I had my name printed on it. You can have anything that you want on your cover. I love that it is personalized to fit your style and life.
Here is what the Life Planner includes:
- Interchangeable, laminated , heavy duty cover
- Inspirational quotes throughout
- Laminated tabs
- Two-page monthly spreads
- Goals and to-do lists for every week and month
- Weekly spreads divided into morning, day and night
- Meal/exercise/lists etc section for highlighted daily notes and activities
- Clear, snap-in page holder/ruler
- Over 25 lined and designer blank note pages
- Double-sided folder
- 240 colorful stickers to highlight birthdays, special events and reminders
- Bound-in zip lock pocket with 12 gift labels
I love that the covers are interchangeable. I plan to get a new cover for each season; that way my calendar look doesn’t get old. I really appreciate the weekly spread with the morning, day and nights sections. It makes it so easy to schedule your appointments and journal your activities. The stickers really make your calendar pop. I color code my stickers to show which part of my life to schedule.
As most working moms are, I’m a multitasker. I’m juggling several balls in the air at once. However, I need to keep track of every ball. Here is what I have to keep track of:
- Family/Home (Red)
- Work (Blue)
- Barefoot Books (Orange)
- Kinx’s Book Nook (Purple)
- Birthdays (Pink)
- Bills (green)
All of my previous calendars looked extremely messy and events would get lost. Now nothing gets lost. I can keep track of my kids’ activities and when to pose my book reviews without missing a single step.
I did order some extras as well. I got the pens, coil clips, sticky notes and the keep it together bands. I really the coil clips. For instance, I put a clip on my daughters’ dental reminder card and clipped it right into my Life Planner. It makes things look so clean and junky. Plus it’s right there where I won’t forget. You can use the coil clips for invitations, appointment card, etc. It’s a great addition to the Planner.
As you can tell, I love my new Erin Condren Life Planner. If decided that you would like one as well, use this LINK and you will received $10 off your new Life Planner.
I absolutely LOVE World Book Night! For me, giving out books to random people is just amazing. I love all the different looks I get when I hand him/her a new book. I will get a puzzled look, “are you weird?!” look, the “WTH” look, but my favorite is the beaming smile look. It gives you the warm fuzzies when someone says, “Ohhh! I love books! Thank you so much!” I will carry that with me for a long time. Seeing that surprised joy on a recipient’s face is such a blessing.
This is my second year as a World Book Night giver and my book is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I loved this book and I couldn’t wait to share it. I will say it is a very unusual book. There are some very strange pictures inside. When I started handing them out, I did get some odd looks; but, I noticed so many IMMEDIATELY opened it and started to read. I know it’s not a book that they would ever have chosen for themselves. By giving this book, I’m able to open new worlds to readers and non-readers alike.
It’s truly amazing what a gift can do; especially a book. There are so many out there who can’t afford to buy a book. It’s just not in their budget. World Book Night is just a small way to bring smiles to so many people. The gift of a book is a wonderful thing and I will keep doing it as long as I can. And urge everyone to be a giver. It’s so much fun and fulfilling!
** Spoiler Alert**
The following post is all about my thoughts about the third episode of the fourth season. If you have not seen it yet, read at your own risk.
Downton Abbey produced another powerful episode. It began with a house party hosted by Lord Grantham where Downton was to shine once again. However, Matthew’s ghost, class differences, unyielding superiority, and an incredible act of violence prohibited Downton from returning to its glory days.
So many characters have lost their way and don’t know where they belong. Lord Grantham still stubbornly, and embarrassingly, holds on to his old lordly ways. First, he refuses to acknowledge Edith’s beau, Gregson, and then, agrees with Mr. Carson that a very famous opera singer, Nellie Melba, was to eat in her room. All of which was quickly fixed when Ms. Melba sat next to Robert at dinner. He had no idea what to say to her; until she complimented his claret. He seemed totally shocked that she would be conversant in such topics. He certainly has a long way to go before he enters the twentieth century. Gregson, also, had a difficult time with Robert. However, due to Gregson, adeptness at poker was he able to achieve some attention from Robert. It seems Robert lost a good sum to an invited quest that happened to be card shark. In comes Gregson who schooled him on what a card shark is and retrieved all the outstanding IOUs from Robert and other gentlemen at the party. Gregson reluctantly earned Robert’s gratitude and respect. However, we have learned a little more about Gregson. How did he get to be some a card shark? Interesting.
Matthew’s ghost raises his head throughout the Downton party. Lady Mary continues to struggle over the loss of Matthew. She meets a childhood acquaintance in Lord Gillingham who sparks a little bit of her interest. She feels conflicted but she doesn’t discourage the friendship. There is one scene where, I thought, Mary was incredibly self-aware. She told Anna she didn’t know if she was mourning Matthew or the person she was when she was with Matthew. I hope it’s the later and the Mary of old returns. Downton needs her coolness and disdain.
Most of my sympathy went to Isobel. She is deeply grieving for her son. She feels incredibly guilty living any kind of life when her son is gone. However, Violet comes to her aid and convinces her to come her Ms. Melba sing. But, in the end, a mother never gets over the loss of a child. Isobel will be mourning for a long time to come and Violet will be there to keep her going. I’m really enjoying their friendship. They are growing very close; but they are able to have some really snarky conversations.
Tom is truly lost. The Downton party sharply brought to his attention how out of place he feels. He had difficulty dealing with the English nobility that attended the party. He looked like a little lost puppy which Edna wanted to quickly pick up and soothe. She seems to be always creeping around Tom. It will be interesting to see how long she remains Lady Cora’s maid. Hopefully, no too long.
And now for the most painful aspect of this episode….Anna. I tried to stay from all of the UK press regarding Downton Abbey. However, I read several hints about this episode and I’m sad to say I figured out what would happen. The pain and shame of Anna was excruciating to watch. What was even more incredible was how she found a new dress and fixed her hair and presented herself to Mr. Bates and the nasty villain that nothing had happened. However, Anna did confide in one person…Mrs. Hughes. Mrs. Hughes desperately tried to get Anna to tell what happened. Anna refused. She didn’t want Mr. Bates to get in trouble. I think more than that it was the shame she felt. Rape is such a horrific crime; not just physically but mentally as well. When Mr. Bates tried to touch her, she quickly backed away. I’m hoping we didn’t lose the loving and incredibly hopeful Anna. Let’s hope Mrs. Hughes helps her regain her dignity and to help her to heal.
That’s it for episode 3. What did you think?
Happy new year everyone! I hope you had a wonderful year. I’m sure you’ve had your ups and downs; but I hope overall it was a blessed and joyous year. And now for 2014! I can’t believe it. Time certainly does fly. Since I’m in a little bit of denial I’m going to look back at 2013.
It was a wonderful year for blogging. I moved away from Blogger and started my own website; which I absolutely love.
- Templar by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, Alex Puvilland
- The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C.W. Gortner
- Matt Archer: Legend by Kendra Highley
- Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell
- While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax
- The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
- Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
- The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
- The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
- Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson
During 2013, I discovered the amazing world of the graphic novel. Templar and Relish were two of my favorites. I can’t wait to discover more in 2014!
Another big discovery for me is the audiobook. Towards the end of the year I started listening to audiobooks during my commute to work. During my commute I have fallen in love with the Dresden Files! I tried to read the first two in the series and I didn’t like it at all. Then I listened to James Marsters and everything changed! I currently listening to Proven Guilty. I love it!!
On the family, it was another crazy and busy year. My girls danced, played basketball, softball and soccer. Busy, busy, busy! Our big vacation was Walt Disney World. It was the best of times and the worst of times! Lots of good times and lots of hissy fits! I actually posted pics of the girls pitching fits on Facebook as a deterrent and it actually worked. Every time I pointed the camera at them, they started. That’s my parenting tip for 2013!
I, also, ran my first 5K race. In fact, I ran in two races. It was really hard, but I did it!! I really want to continue running and to be able to run an entire race. No walking for me!
And lastly, I’m so excited to have restarted my Barefoot Books business. I love books so much and I want to share them with everyone. With Barefoot, I can share them with children. I love seeing little ones turning the pages and watching their faces. The wonder and enjoyments is precious!
Overall, it’s been a wonderful year. I wonder what 2014 will bring. My goals/resolutions for this year are run a 5K without walking, stop biting my nails, spread the word of Barefoot Books, and of course READ MORE!!!
Happy New Year!!
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
Since it’s almost Halloween I thought I would feature some wonderful early readers, The Magic Series and The Monster Stories. These books are great are your new little readers! Each of these stories come from a different country and your child will each story. Plus, The Monster Stories are included the Accelerated Reader Program so your child can receive credit at school.
Cara and the Wizard
Written By: Liz Flanagan
Illustrated By: Valeria Docampo
The Terrible Chenoo
Ages 6 to 11 years
Retold By: Fran Parnell
Illustrated By: Sophie Fatus
The Terrible Chenoo is my 6 year old daughter’s favorite. She even tears up at the end. Don’t let the Monster title fool you. It is a very sweet story.
Join My Team
Have you ever thought about spreading the word of Barefoot. Now is a great time to become a Barefoot Ambassador. It is so rewarding and fun! You can do home parties, art/crafts fairs, school fundraisers, online sales… there so many opportunities to share Barefoot. If you join my team, I will help you every step of the way. If you join now, you have the chance to win so many prizes including a trip to France. WOW! To learn more about the program, all you have to do is click on the image below.
The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer from Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012.
Luckily, Billy from The Coffee-Addicted Writer has relaunched the Book Blogger Hop. Each week the hop will start on Friday and end on Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt just like before. The hop’s purpose will remain the same as it will give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog.
Q: Halloween Edition: What book gave you goosebumps?
A: The Shining by Stephen King. It scared the living crap out of me! After that I read Pet Cemetery. I never read another Stephen King book again. I was so scared I think I cried.
The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee’s View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it’ll allow us to show off more new blogs!
Q: What book (or TV show or movie) have you not read that seemingly everyone else has?
A: I’m proud to say 50 Shades of Grey. I just flat out refuse to read it. I WON”T DO IT!!!!