A Year of Books: 2012

reading in bedMost of the books I read tend to disappear from my memory within days of finishing – one of the reasons I started writing reviews was to keep a reference log as a reminder.  Some books this year stayed with me, and I can recall a magic 7 that would be worth recommending again:

Bring Up the Bodies: Hilary Mantel’s second historical fiction featuring Thomas Cromwell has me yearning for the last and third book yet to be published.

A Discovery of Witches and the sequel were fast adventures with a brilliant academic who also happens to be a witch who can time travel. Author Deborah Harkness promises a third in the series next year.

Son – Lois Lowry’s long awaited sequel to her award winning The Giver.

The Prisoner of Heaven –  Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Gothic tales are always an adventure.

The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau – Jon Agee’s picture book with pictures that come to life is one to keep on the shelf.

Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore must be read on real pages to appreciate the blue.

Train Dreams – Denis Johnson’s fictional history of the American West was short but intense.

What favorites from 2012 do you recommend?

Shadow of Night

Modern witch Diana Bishop and her vampire lover, Matthew Clairmont, are back in Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night. Diana and Matthew, scientific creatures who research DNA and alchemy in the new world, time travel back to merry Old England’s Elizabethan Age to hone Diana’s witching skills and look for the elusive book – Ashmole 782 – that started the tale.

Harkness cleverly manages the time differential with threads weaving through the magic, and delivers as much adventure, mystery, romance – and fun – as she did in A Discovery of Witches, her first book in this All Souls trilogy. If you are a fan of sixteenth century English literature, you will marvel at the literary luminaries that Diana meets – Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” will never be the same.

As a recognized scholar and continuing student of Elizabethan London, Harkness adds details that create the clothing, manners, and rivalries of the Old World better than any Renaissance fair. Scientific inquiry is a major catalyst in the plot, and Harkness sets the record straight on who invented the telescope, sending me to google Galileo and Thomas Harriot.

Like the first book, this one is long and complicated with plot twists and surprises.

Read A Discovery of Witches first, if you can – check out my review here

It’s going to be a long wait until the third book’s final installment, but Hollywood is already planning the movies.

A Discovery of Witches

What is the real secret of the philosopher’s stone? Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches connects its immortality, wealth and knowledge to vampires.

Although the story begins slowly with academic references and a strange book recalled from the Oxford library stacks by Dr. Diana Bishop, it’s not long before witches, daemons, and vampires are locked in a battle for the ancient and powerful information the book promises. With a witch pedigree that tracks back to the Salem witch trials, Diana has stubbornly refused to acknowledge or use her magical powers until a handsome irresistible vampire, Dr. Matthew Clairmont becomes her protector and true love.

By mixing scientific inquiry, evolution and DNA, with popular interest in vampires and other worldly magical creatures, Harkness creates a compelling combination of mystery thriller, romance, and fantasy – with a sprinkling of scholarly historical fiction.  If you look closely, she also added a dash of intolerance for bigotry and racism.  As the action escalates, imaginative details on witchcraft and vampire lore, as well as a few well-used myths, supplement the plot line.  The antics of Diana’s childhood home reminded me of Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays at the Castle, but The Discovery of Witches is not for children.

This is the first of a trilogy, and I missed this book’s debut last year, but thanks to a good friend who reads the Mount Holyoke alumni newsletter, I’m back on track.  The second book – Shadow of Night – is already on the New York Times bestseller list, and I won’t have to wait long to find out what happens to the star-crossed lovers as they battle the forces of evil – time traveling back to sixteenth century England.  I can’t wait.