Day 78 – Book 80: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES Review

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This book doesn’t seem to fit nicely into any one genre, whether it is romance, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, mystery, or even paranormal-fantasy. The fact that the majority of characters are witches, vampires or daemons is important enough to the main storyline (where did these three creatures come from and how?), but the lives of the main characters is the central theme. 

Meet Diana Bishop, Ph.D., historical scholar specializing in alchemical history and a witch, a reluctant witch that craves to be “normal.” Her love interest is Matthew Claremont, Ph.D., M.D., neuroscientist, geneticist (actually a true renaissance man) and vampire. Throughout the first half of the story Diana and Matthew appear to fight their attraction but build upon their timid friendship in the second half by falling in love and fighting for the opportunity to be in love. This fight, along with the discovery that Diana is not your typical witch genetically speaking, are the two big themes throughout the story. Diana, Matthew and their respective families must fight against the creature hierarchy that states that witches cannot be with vampires or daemons and vice versa. Is this done as a means of protection for the species or out of fear?

The other major theme is the discovery of a book that may shed light on the origins of these creatures and provide information on their potential demise. Needless to say the witches feel that this should belong to them, while the daemons and vampires are just as territorial on ownership. All three creatures fear the book falling into the wrong hands and are willing to fight to retrieve it.

These are not your typical vampires and daemons. The daemons in this story are artistically creative creatures that lean towards being slightly off psychologically speaking. Daemons apparently are born to human parents and don’t “come into” their powers until puberty or around puberty. Witches are born to witch parents (one or both may be witches) and come into their powers around age seven. Vampires are humans that are reborn as vampires and require blood to survive, but these vampires are capable of being out during the day or night, can eat some foods (a basic raw foods diet), like to drink (alcohol), and are long-lived. Vampires are apparently infertile after being reborn or so they are led to believe. 

Diana appears to be the strong, independent type throughout much of the book but she has her moments where she becomes weak and weepy. Granted they are due to a separation from her chosen mate or after being kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned, so she has just cause. Matthew is a typical alpha-male and has difficulty dealing with Diana’s independent streak. The story wouldn’t be complete without a cast of supporting characters. Sarah Bishop is Diana’s aunt and surrogate mother-figure after Diana’s parents are murdered. Her life-partner is Emily Mather, another witch and surrogate mother-figure to Diana. Ysabeau de Clermont is the vampire that “made” Matthew and is the matriarch to the de Clermont/Clairmont/Montclair family. Hamish Osborne is a daemon, financial whiz and perhaps Matthew’s best friend. Marcus is a vampire and scientist and considered to be Matthew’s son.

Suffice it to say that there is a lot going on in this book and most of the action seems to take place over a few months, if not weeks. Sadly, the author leaves you hanging at the end. I presume there will be another book that will resume where this book ends. Don’t despair, the lack of resolution at the end does nothing to detract from the story. 


YAY! A Discovery of Witches is part of a trilogy and the second book, Shadow of Night, is scheduled to be released in Summer 2012. 


Paranormal-Fantasy Genre

Is it just me or does there seem to be a plethora of books out lately dealing with witches, vampires, zombies, etc.? The paranormal-fantasy genre has definitely changed over the years. There are well-written books available and some that aren’t so well-written. Although this is not a genre that I traditionally read, there are some interesting and new choices available. Keeping that in mind, I reviewed my TBR list and chose A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness as my next book (#80 for the year). Given the length of this book, it will probably take me at least 2-3 days of part-time reading to finish it. If you’ve read this one or heard good things, let me know.

Day 75 continued

I’ve just finished re-reading Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and participating in an online discussion on I truly can’t say enough good things about this book, but I’ll try.

I don’t think I can really say too much other than I loved this book! It is whimsical, magical and fantastical yet realistic. There are some dark subjects that are introduced, such as: child abandonment, parental neglect, sibling jealousy, deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, physical abuse and the more mundane small-town animosities. Yet Ms. Allen does a wonderful job of weaving these dark subjects into a great story. It doesn’t leave you sad or depressed but hopeful. I highly recommend this work of incredible contemporary fiction to one and all.

I recently combined my hand-written and online TBR lists and realize that I now have over 250 books that I want to read. Not really a problem except there are new titles being released that are usually added to this list. I think I need to take a week, or at least a weekend, just so I can devote myself to reading full-time and finish a few of these books. Nice dream…

Day 75

I got somewhat of a late start on the actual reading of Dragonwell Dead by Laura Childs, but it was worth the wait…

Another delightful, light tea shop mystery by Ms. Childs. It’s always interesting to see how Theodosia gets hooked into “investigating” happenings (usually murder) around Charleston SC. Of course Indigo Tea Shop, is always front and center as a hangout for friends and tourists. Drayton, her master tea blender, and Haley, the chef and baker, are usually her willing — and sometimes unwilling — accomplices. This does not detract from the action taking place. 
In this story we are introduced to Mark Congdon, a futures broker, and his wife Angie — the owner of a local bed and breakfast. Of course we no sooner meet him then Mark is keeling over with an apparent heart attack. However, it isn’t a heart attack…he’s been poisoned. Theodosia is pulled in because the poison was delivered in her iced tea and due to her friendship with the Congdons. She barely starts her investigation when the B&B burns down due to arson. 
There’s a lot happening in this mystery: murder, arson, possible insurance fraud, orchid envy, and a possible adulterous liaison. All this while Theodosia and Drayton are preparing for an Orchid Society fundraiser. What makes this series work so well is the fact that just when you think you know ‘whodunit,’ the author pulls a fast one and surprises you. These are not predictable mysteries and, for that reason alone, are a worthwhile read…Dragonwell Dead is no exception.

What’s next? Well I’ll be re-reading Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen for an online book group. If you haven’t read any of her books, then you definitely must read this one. Since I’m re-reading this book I don’t think I’ll consider it as book 80. Not quite sure what will be book 80 for this year, but I’ll be double-checking my TBR list to find something suitable. Until then…happy reading!

Too Many Books…

I’m trying to decide what to read next. This is extremely difficult because I’ve got about 160 books on my online TBR list and at least 25-40 on a different hand-written list. When I get the chance I’ll usually add the ones from the written list to the online list just so I don’t forget or duplicate titles. Not a great system, but it works…

As of now the front-runner for book 79 is Dragonwell Dead by Laura Childs. I enjoy reading the “Tea Shop Mystery” series and since I’m not supposed to drink any tea (even decaf) at the moment, this is probably as close as I can get. Just wish all of the books in this series were available in ebook format. If you have an ereader and want this series as an ebook drop a line to the publisher (Penguin Group USA) or author asking that these books be made available in ebook format (my personal preference is epub or PDF).

Day 73 – Book 78

If you like reading Julie Garwood’s books then The Ideal Man will not disappoint you, you’ll love it. The story starts off simple enough, an off-duty trauma surgeon witnesses the shooting of an FBI agent during a sting operation gone awry. Although Dr. Ellie Sullivan can’t actually identify the couple (other than saying it was a man and a woman), she is still considered a potential witness and may be in danger. Enter FBI agent Max Daniels. Max and Ellie hit it off and begin this rather sweet, and weird (in a good way), romance. Max is concerned about the potential that the gun-running couple that got away, may have hired a hit man to kill Ellie before she can testify, as this has happened to previous witnesses. His fears are well-founded as there is a hit man after Ellie.
The fun really begins when Ellie returns to her hometown for her younger sister’s wedding. Her sister, Ava (a self-absorbed, egocentric bridezilla), is engaged to marry Ellie’s ex-fiance. Ava slept with the guy the day after Ellie had brought him home to announce their engagement. (I said she was self-absorbed.) Annie, Ava’s twin sister, is also in crisis mode because she’s pregnant and can’t locate the father-to-be. Oh, did I forget to mention that Ellie also has a demented stalker based in her hometown? So make that two potential hit men after Ellie.
There are a lot of twists to the story that keep it lively and intense. I found myself reading it in one-sitting simply because I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. This is not your typical romantic suspense but it is definitely worth reading. The characters are all somewhat quirky but likeable, well except for the bad guys. Personally I can’t wait for this to be released later this year just so I can purchase a copy to re-read.

Day 72

I’ve just finished reading The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig. This was just as good as her previous titles in the “Pink Carnation” series. Reading these books is like revisiting dear friends after a long separation. It was quite nice to get back to the relationship trials and tribulations (ah new love) of Eloise and Colin. During this story they take their first major trip together and travel to Paris. Of course, Eloise finds time to do more research. I’m beginning to think she’ll never finish her doctoral dissertation. I won’t even get into the family drama that occurs, suffice it to say the Selwick family is just as dysfunctional as others.
The main characters in this story are Laura Grey (aka Laure Griscogne), governess and a newby to the spy game and Monsieur Andre Jaouen, widower and father of two. The verbal sparring between these two was delightful. Of course, Ms. Grey/Griscogne saves the day through her work as a member of the Pink Carnation network. She is quite amusing and doesn’t seem to be the governess type as she is not meek or humble enough for the life of servitude. 
The romance is not as overplayed in this book and is more intellectual in its presentation. This does not detract from the story line of international espionage during war time (France and England in the early 1800s) and, of course, romance. 
I thought the action and dialogue moved a bit slow at times but it was still a great book. I was just a little disappointed that there wasn’t as much Eloise and Colin in this story. It felt like long-lost friends leaving after only a brief visit. Of course, this means that I’ll look forward to visiting with them again in the next book of this series.

What’s next? This is a difficult decision to make because my TBR list seems to grow daily. However, I was recently given the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood (scheduled for release later this year) so this seems to be the front-runner for now. I’ll keep you posted… 

Reading Choices

I’ve often wondered what it is exactly that makes a book a great book and great read. Sometimes it is undefinable. I may read a book that I feel is great and others may not appreciate it at all or vice versa. I’m not talking about what makes for great literature, although that is definitely something to consider, but more about what attracts readers to any particular book or author compared to another. For example, I recently reread To Kill a Mockingbird as part of my local library’s summer reading program. I loved this book as a teenager and appreciated it even more as an adult. Yet I know that there are other readers that either didn’t get it or simply didn’t like it.
There are books that seem to pull the reader in and make for a great and fast read while other books may push the reader away for awhile or make him struggle through with the story or characters before finally dragging them into the story. Some readers simply won’t finish books that they find uninteresting or to be a slow read whereas others will slog through until the bitter end. This isn’t always the “fault” of the writer but may simply be due to differing tastes in reading choices.
Personally I feel that any book that gets a person to read is somewhat worthwhile. No one should be denigrated because of their reading choices. Some may choose to read books considered modern literary classics as well as classic literature and others may choose to read graphic novels, ChickLit, etc. We shouldn’t really care because these people are reading. I can recall my step-son’s third grade teacher stating that she didn’t care what her students read (with some caveats such as no porn, etc.) as long as they were reading. This was a great attitude to have. She didn’t make any of her students feel bad about their reading choices. Perhaps the reading and publishing world should be as considerate. Don’t tear down our reading choices, applaud us because we read!

Day 71

I’m starting a little late, but today is day 71 of the calendar year. I’m currently reading The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig. This book is my 77th title of the year.

I’ve enjoyed reading the previous titles in the “Pink Carnation” series by this author and hope to enjoy this one as well. I’ll provide updates on my progress and a review upon completion.

If you’re interested, you can follow the books I’ve read to date on

I’m preparing a cup of Vanilla Berry Truffle Rooibos Herbal Tisane and getting ready to immerse myself in 19th century romantic suspense. Talk to you soon…