Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blog Hiatus

I am taking time off from blogging for a while.

Need time to attend to other important things.

Hope to be back soon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mercy Row Review

Title:  Mercy Row
Author:  Harry Hallman
Pages:  175
Publisher:  Octane Interactive
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Source:  PDF from Publisher
ISBN:  9781626753181 (ebook)
Rating:  3-stars

Book Blurb:
A young man flunks out of school and becomes a successful businessman and the leader of the Irish Mob in North Philadelphia.  He battles rival Italian gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago.  With the help of his partner in crime and the Irish gangsters of North Philly, he triumphs over adversity to become one of the most powerful criminal leaders in 1920's and '30's Philly.  At the same time he helps build and eventually leads a large construction concern that is responsible for building the iconic row homes of North Philadelphia.  This all takes place during prohibition and the great depression a time in American history that spawned the largest criminal networks in the world.  During the process of creating his criminal and legitimate enterprises he meets and falls in love with a beautiful women and starts the family that will one day succeed him.

About the Author:
Harry Hallman was born in 1944 and raised in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia. His father was Harry Hallman Sr., a champion billiards player who also owned a poolroom located at Allegany Ave. and Lee Street, called Circle Billiards. In his youth, the younger Hallman spent many hours after school at his father's pool hall.  These youthful experiences laid the groundwork for his novel Mercy Row, including the colorful language used in the text.  He served four years in the US Air force including two tours in South Vietnam as a photographer.  He is married to Duoc Hallman, who he met in Vietnam, and has two children, Bill and Nancy, and one grandchild Ava.  Hallman is a serial entrepreneur who has created several marketing services companies and continues to work as a marketing consultant.  "My favorite possession, from my childhood, is a baby book my sister gave my mother (Florence) when I was born.  There's a passage in this book, written by my mother in 1991 when I was 47, that seems to sum up what I have endeavored to be all my life:  'Bud (my childhood name) grew up to be a great boy and man. Gruff, but a heart as big as could be -- This is what a man from the Kensington section of Philadelphia is.'"  Hallman wrote this book in 2012 when he was 68 years old.  This is his first novel.
Web site  www.mercyrow.com

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Emeralds of Ahlambra Review

Title:  Emeralds of the Alhambra
Author:  John D. Cressler
Pages:  444
Publisher:  Sunbury Press Inc.
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Source:  PDF from Publisher
ISBN:  978-1620061978
Rating:  3-stars

Book Blurb:
"For hundreds of years, Islam, Judaism and Christianity coexisted in peace, sharing languages and customs, and embracing a level of tolerance and mutual respect unheard of today. Working together, the people of these three faiths spawned one of human history’s great intellectual and cultural flowerings in medieval Spain. 

The historical novel, Emeralds of the Alhambra, reawakens this remarkable era via the relationship between William Chandon, a wounded Christian knight brought to the Sultan’s court in Granada, and the strong-willed Layla al-Khatib, who is on a quest to become the first female Sufi Muslim mystic in a male-dominated society. As Chandon’s influence at court grows, he becomes trapped between his forbidden love for Layla, his Christian heritage, the demands of chivalry, and political expediency. Chandon must make a choice between love and honor, war and peace, life and death, a choice which ultimately will seal Granada’s fate as the last surviving stronghold of Muslim Spain. 

The novel is set in Granada at the resplendent Alhambra Palace during the Castilian Civil War (1367-1369), a time when Muslims fought alongside Christians."

“A deeply moving and enlightening novel on the co-existence of religions.”
─Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

“…Cressler has woven an imaginative and intricately persuasive story…[a] vivid and gorgeous world of romance, intrigue, murder and negotiations between multiple religions in medieval Spain…[a] story of love between human beings, for God, and for the creation so graciously bestowed on us. A thoroughly gripping and engaging first novel.”
─Professor Susan Abraham, Harvard Divinity School

“…Seamlessly weaves history, religion, passion, loyalty and romance into a compelling, beautifully-written narrative which brings [the reader] into the richness, majesty and complexities of this different, yet alluring world…”
─Rabbi Rachael M. Bregman, Temple Beth Tefiloh and Rabbis Without Borders

“… More than ever, we need stories like Cressler tells, confirming the transformative power of relationships. Cressler illuminates the beauty and meaning found in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, reviving an important shared history…”
─Eboo Patel, Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core

“…A work of honesty and sensitivity that renders in depth, and with painterly detail, the living contours of a great civilization that the modern world needs to re-discover…A moving story of love across boundaries, set at a critical point in history…with unmatched and vivid descriptions of place, lifestyle, manners and practices…”
Salma Khadra Jayyusi, poet, writer and literary historian.
Founder and Director of EAST-WEST NEXUS/PROTA for the
dissemination in English of Arabic cultural achievements.

“[Cressler’s] compelling characters and vivid imagery bring this tale of intrigue and barrier-breaking relationships to life in a way that even a visit to the Alhambra did not...[Celebrates] the power of love to forge human hearts into timeless bonds.”
Cathy Devlin Crosby, Cofounder of Neshama Interfaith Center

“A captivating love story that speaks deeply to the purest and most humane places of the heart. A highly enjoyable and enthusing novel.”
─Aytekin Erol, Lawyer Society of Cinematographic Work Creators, Istanbul

“Emeralds of the Alhambra has it all – mystery, intrigue, duels and interfaith romance…Cressler artfully draws us into the fascinating lives of the novel’s main characters with vivid prose. We experience the blows and blood of the fierce battles between enemies, as well as the luminosity and laughter of spell-bound lovers…Transports readers back to medieval Spain and offers them a peek behind La Convivencia and all the rivalry, romance and complex relationships that existed between Jews, Christians and Muslims.”
─Tayyibah Taylor, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Azizah Magazine

…A story of passionate love…And the spiritual quest for God...Cressler adds a most important element to the mix by weaving in the "problem" of how to reconcile interfaith concerns, [making] this wonderful novel especially prescient for the third millennium.”
─Marian Monahan, Cofounder of Neshama Interfaith Center

“History, conquest, and a captivating love story…Dares us to engage in conversations with those of different faiths. This is more than a novel, it is a resource.”
Angela Harrington Rice, Senior Executive Producer, Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters 

“[Cressler] has a finely-tuned, sensuous capability to drink in and pass on exquisite sights, smells, colors, sounds and tastes…[At] the deepest level…Cressler helps [the reader] understand the…overwhelmingly powerful force that love truly is…and the role love plays in the experience of the Divine.”
─Father Gene Barrette, Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette
“Cressler weaves a beautiful love story between a man and woman who overcome the boundaries of language, religion and dogmas to form a union epitomizing Andalusian civilization. I lost myself in this engulfing story and fell in love with [Cressler’s] own humanity and sense of tolerance. We need to come together, as he writes so beautifully in the Emeralds of the Alhambra, as peoples of the world, to endure times that are becoming increasingly violent and fanatical.”                                           
─Acar Nazli

“Seeped in a rich and sensual history, this is a tale of love and faith that transcends time…Cressler reminds us of the transformative power of a hope and courage rooted in love, a reminder that is essential as we face the seemingly insurmountable conflicts of today.
─Anita Hall

“…An eye-opening novel and a beautiful story full of daring, intrigue [and] love…It is a story you will not find anywhere else, and it must not be missed!”
─Robert Wilhelm

“…The riveting story line of battles, political and religious skullduggery, and the star-crossed love of William Chandon…and Layla al-Khatib…makes this…a real page-turner!”
─Roger A. Meyer, MD

“…Transported me back to [the] 14th century, where the landscape…looked different…but the problems of humanity were the same How do we live together in peace?...[Cressler’s] painstaking research and his care for detail are evident. I would not be surprised if someone decides to make an epic movie based on Emeralds of the Alhambra.” 
─Kemal Korucu

“With beauty and ardency, Emeralds captures the triumph of love over religious and social conventions, progress over history, and warmth over the chilling callousness of war.”
─Sylvia Hall

About the Author:

Dr. John Cressler spent 8 years at IBM Research and 10 years at Auburn before joining Georgia Tech in 2002.  Alhambra is the TED talk presenter’s debut novel and 7th book.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The First Black Tycoon Review

Title:  The First Black Tycoon
Author:  Tom Marshall
Pages:  119
Publisher:  Merrimack Media
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Source:  Publisher
ISBN:  978-1-939166-00-5
Rating:  3-stars

Book Blurb:
The First Black Tycoon chronicles the life of Tyronius, a 19 year old Georgia slave, from 1858 to 1868, who makes an unplanned but necessary escape to save his life.  Due to the unstable conditions in the South, including the advent of civil war, he is forced to hide out in plain sight in a neighboring state.  This heartwarming and sometimes humorous story, while acknowledging the realities of slavery, emphasizes the value of kindness, ingenuity, and family loyalty which ultimately leads Tyronius to success, freedom, and fortune.  This novel, while entirely fictional, does include a few historically accurate landmarks and characters in situations which could have actually occurred.

My Thoughts:
I truly enjoyed this story.  It begins just prior to the American Civil War and the author, Tom Marshall, strikes a fine balance between historical events and cultural mores for that time in history with adventure and humor in the life of the bright and witty main character, Tyronius Coon.  There is something engaging in the story's simplicity and the author's tongue-in-cheek references.

Some of my favorite quotes:
"Mr. Vanderbilt was an extremely intelligent Southern gentleman and one of the kindest slave owners in the state of Georgia.  He personally taught all of his house servants to read and write and he named us after his heroes from Greek and Roman literature.  My name in particular, Tyronius, was some famous Roman senator who warned Caesar that something bad was about to happen."

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." ~ Thomas Edison

"The sign also warned that no habitual drunkards, brawlers, pick-pockets, sneaky drink thieves, moochers, or shit bums need enter."

"Among our people, she is not only a princess but a warrior and before you say anything to her that you think might be sassy or offensive, be aware she could easily kill you with skills her father taught her years ago as a young girl when he was still alive."

About the Author:
Tom Marshall was born and raised in a multiracial family in Boston's South End.  He received much of his inspiration for his first novel from his father's memories of plantation life in Barbados where his late grandfather worked as the head mechanic on a sugarcane plantation in the late 1800's.  Tom lives in Boston with his wife, Derniere, and his dog Louie.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cold Killing Review & Giveaway

You have arrived at the next stop on
the Partner's In Crime Book Tour of:

Title:  Cold Killing
Author:  Luke Delaney
Pages:  448
Publisher:  HarperCollins
William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre:  Fiction/Thriller
Source:  ARC from Author
ISBN:  978-0-06-221946-6
Series:  #1   D.I. Sean Corrigan 
Rating:  4 stars

Book Blurb:
Terrifyingly authentic, London-set debut crime novel with a psychological edge, by an ex-Met detective. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Stuart MacBride. 

DI Sean Corrigan is not like other detectives. The terrible abuse he suffered in childhood hasn't stopped him enjoying family life with his wife and two daughters, or pursuing an impressive career with South London's Murder Investigation Unit. But it has left him with an uncanny ability to identify the darkness in others - a darkness he recognises still exists deep within his own psyche and battles to keep buried there. Now Sean's on the trail of the most dangerous killer he's ever encountered. The perpetrator has no recognisable MO, leaves no forensic evidence and his victims have nothing in common. But Sean knows they were all murdered by the same man. Now all he has to do is find the evidence, convince his bosses and stop the killing ...before his adversary gets too close to home...

My Thoughts:
Cold Killing is definitely your choice if you love spine tingling, crime thriller stories.  Although this is not a genre I typically read, Luke Delaney's writing held my interest.  His eerie first-hand knowledge of how bad guys think reinforced the scariness of the story.  (I kept thinking, Are there really such twisted human beings on this planet?...YIKES!).  This was a book that made my palms sweat!  There is definitely suspense and violence.  As a reader, I felt the angst of the victims and just wanted to jump into the book and foil the psycho's cold-hearted plan.  This is Delaney's first book in the new D. I. Sean Corrigan Series.  Delaney promises more heart-stopping adventures to come!

About the Author:
Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Hester Kaplan Interview & Book Giveaway

Title:  The Tell
Author:  Hester Kaplan
Publisher:  HarperCollins 2013
Pages:  325
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Source:  Author
ISBN:  978-0-06-218402-3
Rating:  4 stars

It has truly been my pleasure to become acquainted with Hester Kaplan's writing talents and insights.  Hester graciously agreed to answer some of my burning questions:

1. How did you get inspired to write The Tell?
The first time I ever went to a casino and sat at a slot machine, I had such a strong feeling about it that I had to wonder what was going on and why I was so fascinated.  I looked at the people around me—mostly women—and many of them seemed to be in some sort of trance as they leaned forward towards the machines. I became interested in how and why a woman might become addicted to playing.  I created the character of Mira as someone you might never expect would become a compulsive player—and in that reversal of expectations was the germ of the novel.  

2. Tell us about your writing process.
For me, there’s only one process that works, and that’s to just sit down and do the work, hour after hour, and day after day.  Through writing—and through reading—a writer discovers her own way of approaching and tackling the work.  I find that a regular schedule works for me—8:00 in the morning at my desk and writing until noon.  I reserve the afternoons for my teaching and for editing, and if I’m lucky, reading.

3. If you could meet and talk with one special person who would it be?
Tonight I would love to have dinner with Alan Cumming.  I think he’s a genius.  And very funny.  Tomorrow it will probably be someone else.

4. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you "grew up?"
I wanted to be anything but a writer.

5. Do you have a favorite quote?
My favorite quote is the one that speaks to me on that particular day.  Today?  “Human beings have their great chance in the novel.” –E.M. Forster

6. What were the challenges in writing The Tell?
Every bit of it was a challenge—in a good way. I have to be challenged by the puzzle of a novel or story I’m writing because that makes me determined.  I don’t like to be beaten by my own work!  The Tell is full of secrets and one challenge was how not to blurt them out all at once.  

7. Who designed the cover of your book?  Did you have any input?
The cover design in by Archie Ferguson. I love the cover and think it captures the book perfectly.  Thank you, Archie!

8. What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Stoner, by John Williams.  It’s about a college professor, not a pothead.  I’m also (re)reading The Passion Flower Hotel by Rosalind Erskine.  It was the first dirty book I read as a kid and I’m interested to see what I’m going to make of it all these years later.

9. Do you have any hidden talents?
I wish.  I was a mediocre—at best—college basketball player.  I make a mean pea soup.

10. Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite author is often the one I’m currently reading.  I am a serial fawner in that way.  Still, I always come back to certain authors for their surety of style and their depth of feeling: Alice Munro, John Updike, Philip Roth, Richard Ford.  An incredibly talented new writer I admire is Ramona Ausubel.

11. Anything else you'd like to share with your readers?
Sometimes the gap between the intention of the author and the response of the reader reveals something marvelous and mysterious.  That’s why I love to hear from readers.  Please let me know what you think of the book: hesterkaplan.com

HesterKaplan is the author of THE EDGE OF MARRIAGE (1999) which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and KINSHIP THEORY (2001), a novel. Her stories and non-fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories series (1998, 1999), Ploughshares, Agni Review, Southwest Review, Story, and Glimmer Train. Recent awards include the Salamander Fiction Prize, the McGinness-Ritchie Award for Non-Fiction, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. She lives in Providence, RI and is working on a collection of stories and a novel. Her latest novel, THE TELL, is forthcoming in January 2013 from HarperCollins.

Hester's Website:  http://www.hesterkaplan.com/index.html
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/hester.kaplan
Article:  http://beyondthemargins.com/2013/03/the-museum-of-imagination-breathing-life-into-your-writing/
Buy your own copy of The Tell:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062184023

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paperback copy of The Tell

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Tell Review & Giveaway

Title:  The Tell
Author:  Hester Kaplan
Publisher:  HarperCollins 2013
Pages:  325
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Source:  Author
ISBN:  978-0-06-218402-3
Rating:  4 stars

Book Blurb:
An elegant and haunting novel of love and family, The Tell demands that we reconsider our notions of marriage--duty, compromise, betrayal, and the choice to stand by or leave the ones we love.

 Mira and Owen's marriage is less stable than they know when Wilton Deere, an aging, no longer famous TV star moves in to the grand house next door. With plenty of money and plenty of time to kill, Wilton is charming but ruthless as he inserts himself into the couple's life in a quest for distraction, friendship--and most urgently--a connection with Anya, the daughter he abandoned years earlier. Facing stresses at home and work, Mira begins to accompany Wilton to a casino and is drawn to the slot machines. Escapism soon turns to full-on addiction and a growing tangle of lies and shame that threatens her fraying marriage and home. Betrayed and confused, Owen turns to the mysterious Anya, who is testing her own ability to trust her father after many years apart.

 The Tell is a finely-wrought novel about risk: of dependence, of responsibility, of addiction, of trust, of violence. Told with equal parts suspense, sympathy, and psychological complexity, it shows us the intimate and shifting ways in which we reveal ourselves before we act, and what we assume but don't know about those closest to us.

 My Thoughts:
One of my main curiosities throughout The Tell was trying to figure out which of the three main characters would have the most meaningful discoveries regarding personal growth of his or her self, as well as his or her perceptions of others.  Would Mira's love for Owen ever match the depth of his for her?  Would Mira be allowed to follow her philanthropic passions?  Would Wilton turn out to be more than a slick, opportunistic, charmer?  Is Owen willing to tolerate stressful shenanigans?  Are addictions able to be controlled or eliminated or are they always devastating?

 As an author, Hester Kaplan has a gift for delving into human foibles.  Her main characters, Owen, Mira, and Wilton, although very different in temperament, each walk that fine line between social acceptance and personal demons.  They muddle through just like regular people in the reality of everyday life.  All three are looking for companionship, love, connection, and logical answers.  All three struggle with loss, jealousy, functioning during crisis, and honesty.

 The Tell is chock full of wonderful figurative language and outstanding word choice.  Hester Kaplan's words are both rich and precise.

My Favorite Quotes
"Owen presented her the giant artichokes in their tin foil coats.  They looked like steaming jungle oddities."

"He'd [Owen had] been inside only once, after the ancient owner had croaked in her bed and the place had been efficiently emptied by her officious out of state children.  The apocalyptic vacancy of the rooms, the fissured ceilings, the washcloth on the floor of the tub, the isopropyl chill in the air, had awed him.  There was something about all those aristocratic details of leaded glass, inlaid floors, and lights hanging like distended organs that made him think of an old man, useless now in a threadbare suit and expensive shoes whom no one wanted to talk to anymore."

"A casino would either ruin the state or save it, and what went on inside, depending on where you stood, was either gaming or gambling, harmless or moral destruction.  Letters in the paper talked about jobs and revenues and the rights of reservations, while others pointed out the proximity of proposed sites to schools, churches, and nursing homes, as if kids, parishioners, and the feeble were most vulnerable to the evil vapors."

"Owen went to Mira to pull her away from her foreboding, but stopped where a huge, lumpy, brown clay pot sat like an unloved mutt.  Mottled and covered with blemishes of glaze, there was something especially furious and shitlike about it.  Its ugliness was impossible to miss, and hard not to admire." (how much does this sell for at the fundraiser, you ask?).

"Large windows on each of the two floors spread across Brindle's brick facade.  The building had once housed supplies for the costume jewelry industry.  Later, it had stayed vacant for decades, except for the occasional squatter or rat.  Mira's father, in the family tradition of mindless acquisition, had bought it for reasons unknown to Mira, though she'd said it definitely wasn't because he saw an art school in it or her future.  Occasionally Mira would still find a sparkle or chip of ruby or sapphire glass between the wide wood planks.  She collected them in a jar she kept on her desk."

"The man [Wilton], in his mid-sixties, Owen decided, spoke with a kind of put-on accent of breeding and affluence, half high-up East Coast, half something fake British, and as though he meant everything and nothing at the same time.  A vaguely ridiculous person...a man too much about himself.  The standard blue eyes were watery, the blade of nose off-balance, not the result of a fistfight--he was too wispy for something like that--but from aging imperfectly and maybe dissolutely, and there was the first slackness of skin on his neck.  His wiry body had an almost dissipated look to it, the former muscles gone stringy as if his personal trainer had recently defected..."

"There was something about the man that made Owen think he might understand how the murk of sadness could blur the stars.  When he was a kid on a night like this...he would smell the slime of tadpoles and hear the ferns unfurling around the pond where he grew up and believe that everything was possible in his life.  Later, a night like this had shown him how that possibility could be over when a friend had died."

"At six-foot-six, he [Owen] was more than a foot taller than Mira and had to bend to get his hands around her swooping waist, his pinkies grazing her inviting hipbones.  She had spent the day at Brindle, the striving art school she owned and ran on the other side of the Point Street Bridge, and her dark, chaotic curls held the smell of clay and poster paints.  This was her perfume--industrious, ambitious, alluring, the scent of best intentions.  He adored her in a way that made his legs go watery."

"Owen realized that moments of terror can have their own solipsistic lucidity."  (According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary solipsism means "the theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing;  extreme egocentrism.")

"All those multicolored kids with the funny accents and all those shaky recovering drug addicts--they just don't bring in the bucks like they used to.  My donors are suffering from compassion fatigue.  And the older they get, the less they care.  Old people love their pennies all over again.' "

The Tell will appeal to readers who enjoy reading about human complexities, relationships, and Rhode Island.

About the Author:
HesterKaplan is the author of THE EDGE OF MARRIAGE (1999) which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and KINSHIP THEORY (2001), a novel. Her stories and non-fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories series (1998, 1999), Ploughshares, Agni Review, Southwest Review, Story, and Glimmer Train. Recent awards include the Salamander Fiction Prize, the McGinness-Ritchie Award for Non-Fiction, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. She lives in Providence, RI and is working on a collection of stories and a novel. Her latest novel, THE TELL, is forthcoming in January 2013 from HarperCollins.

 Hester's Website:  http://www.hesterkaplan.com/index.html
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/hester.kaplan
Article:  http://beyondthemargins.com/2013/03/the-museum-of-imagination-breathing-life-into-your-writing/
Buy your own copy of The Tell:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062184023

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Shadow of Night Promo & Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below to win a copy of  Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
AND 6 Alchemical Symbol buttons!

Title:  Shadow of Night
Author:Deborah Harkness
Publisher:  Penguin  2013
Pages:  592
Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
ISBN:  978-0143123620

Book Blurb:
A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.

Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy.

Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past.


Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list with publications following in 37 countries.  What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for A Discovery of Witches? 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 challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And 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 Diana’s world.

Q:  Last summer, Warner Brothers acquired screen rights to the trilogy, and David Auburn, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer of Proof, has been tapped to pen the screenplay. Are you looking forward to your novels being portrayed on the big screen?  What are your favorite casting ideas that you’ve heard from friends and readers?

A. I was thrilled when Warner Brothers wanted to translate the All Souls trilogy from book to screen. At first I was reluctant about the whole idea of a movie, and it actually took me nearly two years to agree to let someone try. The team at Warner Brothers impressed me with their seriousness about the project and their commitment to the characters and story I was trying to tell. Their decision to go with David Auburn confirmed that my faith in them was not misplaced. As for the casting, I deliberately don’t say anything about that! I would hate for any actor or actress to be cast in one of these roles and feel that they didn’t have my total support. I will say, however, that many of my readers’ ideas involve actors who have already played a vampire and I would be very surprised if one of them were asked to be Matthew!

Q: SHADOW OF NIGHT opens on a scene in 1590s Elizabethan England featuring the famous School of Night, a group of historical figures believed to be friends, including Sir Walter Raleigh and playwright Christopher Marlowe.  Why did you choose to feature these individuals, and can we expect Diana and Matthew to meet other famous figures from the past?

A. I wrote my master’s thesis on the imagery surrounding Elizabeth I during the last two decades of her reign. One of my main sources was the poem The Shadow of Night by George Chapman—a member of this circle of fascinating men—and that work is dedicated to a mysterious poet named Matthew Roydon about whom we know very little. When I was first thinking about how vampires moved in the world (and this was way back in the autumn of 2008 when I was just beginning A Discovery of Witches) I remembered Roydon and thought “that is the kind of identity a vampire would have, surrounded by interesting people but not the center of the action.” From that moment on I knew the second part of Diana and Matthew’s story would take place among the School of Night. And from a character standpoint, Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, and the other men associated with the group are irresistible. They were such significant, colorful presences in Elizabethan England.

Q: In SHADOW OF NIGHT, we learn more about the alchemical bonds between Diana and Matthew.   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 on while reading SHADOW OF NIGHT?

A. Whereas A Discovery of Witches focused on the literature and symbolism of alchemy, in Shadow of Night I’m able to explore some of the hands-on aspects of this ancient tradition. There is still plenty of symbolism for Diana to think about, but in this volume we go from abstractions and ideals to real transformation and change—which was always my intention with the series. Just as we get to know more about how Elizabethan men and women undertook alchemical experiments, we also get to see Matthew and Diana’s relationship undergo the metamorphosis from new love to something more.

Q: SHADOW OF NIGHT spans the globe, with London, France, and Prague as some of the locales. Did you travel to these destinations for your research?

A. I did. My historical research has been based in London for some time now, so I’ve spent long stretches of time living in the City of London—the oldest part of the metropolis—but I had never been to the Auvergne or Prague. I visited both places while writing the book, and in both cases it was a bit like traveling in time to walk village lanes, old pilgrim roads, and twisting city streets while imagining Diana and Matthew at my side.

Q: Did you have an idea or an outline for SHADOW OF NIGHT when you were writing A Discovery of Witches?  Did the direction change once you sat down to write it?

A. I didn’t outline either book in the traditional sense. In both cases I knew what some of the high points were and how the plot moved towards the conclusion, but there were some significant changes during the revision process. This was especially true for SHADOW OF NIGHT, although most of those changes involved moving specific pieces of the plot forward or back to improve the momentum and flow.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, whose secrets Diana and Matthew are still trying to uncover in SHADOW OF NIGHT. 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: Unlike Twilight’s Bella and Edward—hormonal teenagers who meet in the halls of a high school—your leading characters Matthew and Diana are established academics who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.  This is a world where vampires and witches drink wine together, practice yoga and discuss philosophy.   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.

For more info on Deborah Harkness and the All Souls Trilogy, check out http://deborahharkness.com.

I’d also like to invite you to join Harkness and her editor Carole DeSanti, the author of The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R, for a virtual book event on BookTalk Nation on June 4th at 2pm EST.  Fans can join by phone and buy personalized copies of the book by ordering online here. 

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