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Book Review – Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

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You may have noticed that last week I was mostly MIA… Well that’s thanks to the fact I had started this book. It’s a hefty read just like its predecessor was, and just like the final instalment will be I’m sure. Once again I was transported into a world of humans, witches, vampires, daemons and more… And once again I LOVED it.


Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…

This book picks up right where book one left off. We find Diana and Matthew at the destination of their time walking… the year 1590. Elizabethan England. I am someone who has a lot of love for anything to do with history. I love reading about past eras, whether in fact or fiction. So I was excited to follow this story and devour every single detail I could, not just about the characters but also about the setting…

There is a lot of detail packed into these pages. For me I love a book with a heavy dose of detail as long as it adds to the story being told and in this case it was certainly warranted. There is no way the author would’ve been able to paint such a vivid picture of the Elizabethan era if she didn’t spend the page space on building up every little detail from the clothing, the food, the buildings, the etiquette right down to the smells and strange little quirks of the period. I LOVED the detail that Deborah Harkness went into. I didn’t begrudge one single sentence of her world building. It was beautifully done. I really enjoyed that the same level of care that Harkness took in the first book with describing the scientific aspects of the story was also paid to the historical aspects in this instalment. For me I think what really highlighted the almost unimaginable alien feel of the time period was that we were seeing it through Diana’s eyes. Through her very modern, current day eyes. For as much as she is a history buff, she is still from our way of life. Having her deposited into 1590 highlighted just how much the world has changed.

Time travelling can be a very tricky plot to both write and follow as a reader. I really enjoyed the authors take on this subject… that said, there is always going to be some threads of the story that do raise question marks and it’s certainly no different here. I do wonder about the ‘old’ Matthew who reappears with apparently no knowledge of the events his future self participated in after Diana and ‘current’ Matthew return back to the current day. Think about it too hard and there are a lot of ‘what if’s’ there. Also the creatures that are let in on the secret of the time travelling have their future completely re-written, just by the fact they know what they know. But the implications of all of this can’t ever possibly be fully covered and explained.

On the other hand, the fact that the characters need to be careful about altering history is brought up quite a few times and this is actually one of the parts of the time travelling storyline I really enjoyed. How the author focused on the seemingly smallest things (the set of miniatures for example) and linked through them to chapters set in the current day was the perfect way to tie the story together and keep the pace and story going in the here and now as well as in the past. I loved that we got to check in with characters such as Marcus, Em, Sarah, Ysabeau and Sophie as well as some characters that weren’t familiar from the first book but I’m sure will be by the end of the last. This last point also goes for the characters introduced in the past. I loved getting to meet the people from Matthews past that I had heard of, I loved following Matthew and watching him be able to see people that he had lost long ago. There were some very poignant reunions; the chapters spent on their visit to Sept-Tours were my absolute favourites of the whole book.

The plotlines covering the manuscript and Diana’s powers all progressed at least in part. As far as Diana’s learning of her craft, even though I felt like it was a bit stop/start on the whole, I still really loved the direction this storyline ended up taking. There were some unexpected surprises and reveals about Diana and her powers and it was so satisfying that by the end of this book she had actually moved forward in learning about and managing her powers. The manuscript had a lot of writing time spent on the hunting of it. The actual acquiring of it…Not so much. But that doesn’t at all reduce the shocking discovery about its nature and I’m very interested to see where this particular storyline heads next, it’s gotten steadily creepier and creepier and I’m sure there’s much more of that to come.

Finally…The love story. As much as this is a story about creatures, magic and time travel, it’s just as much a story of a romance. The relationship between Matthew and Diana is the crux of this series. Everything comes back to them and their connection and in this book everything is taken up a few notches and we start to see exactly what is riding on this love story. Both characters develop and grow along with their relationship and I love that there is progress in this respect. Nothing drives me crazier than a love story that’s stagnant. Probably my biggest hope for Diana and Matthew is that they get some form of HEA once all is said and done. I’m still unsure what that HEA will look like, but I am staying optimistic!

So yes, this is a long read. Yes, this has A LOT of detail, historical and otherwise and yes it is based on a romance. I feel that all of these aspects make it work as a brilliant second instalment in this trilogy. It feels like we are hurtling towards all of these threads of stories being tied into finality and I literally cannot wait until July 15th when the final book is released… I can guarantee I won’t be sleeping much that week… I have seriously big hopes…. huge hopes!


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Book Review – Puddle Jumping by Amber L. Johnson

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I’m actually jumping the queue with this book review. I have a review that’s been waiting for me to finish up for a while but ever since I read Puddle Jumping I have not been able to get it out of my mind. Massive book hangover. So I’m thinking that if I write up the review and get aaaaall my feelings out, then I’ll be able to move on to other things.

When the dedication at the beginning of a book tugs so hard at your heart strings that it makes you tear up a little, I think that’s generally a pretty good sign that you’re in for a treat. 

“And for Emory.
Someday you will find your own Lilly Grace.
You paint the world in colors I’ve never seen and I’ll always love you blue because you always love me yellow.”

Beautiful. How can you not love this book already? It’s pretty obvious that the author has some personal experience with the subject matter in this book. It’s written beautifully, and from the heart. It never feels fake or forced or overly dramatic.

This is actually the third book I have read this year where one of the main characters has Asperger’s. Before this year I really knew very little about it, other than knowing Asperger’s is on the Autism spectrum. Even though reading these three books was more coincidence than design, the thing I have loved about all three of them is that I have been able to learn something important. While my knowledge on the subject is still very limited, I know a lot more than I did and I think that’s hugely because authors like Amber L. Johnson have done their research. 

Colton was a rich and vibrant character. Even though the book was a relatively short read, we got to know him well and get an inside peek into his life. His condition wasn’t romanticized. It was pretty clear, even at the end of the book, that Lilly Grace and Colton would always have their struggles but that it would be worth it. Although Colton didn’t communicate his feeling in the traditional way, he has his own way of making his feelings clear. 

“There, rounded in each corner, the colors overlapped his brush strokes that bore the words I Love You over and over and over…creating the backdrop of his heartbreak. And mine.”

Lilly Grace was an extraordinary character. She was such a strong and lively person. She tried hard with Colton, to get to know his quirks and the right way of going about things so that they could make a life together. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy but she stuck with it because she loved him for exactly who he was, and I absolutely adored her all the way through for it. 

“But I would never call loving Colton an accomplishment. It was an honor. It changed me. It made me actually become the person I’d tried so hard to be all those years ago.”

Lilly & Coltons story was written in such a way that you couldn’t help but be dragged into it even from the first page. After purchasing this book I thought I would have a quick peek before doing a few jobs then getting back into it in the evening.  Uh, no. That’s not what happened at all. Amber L. Johnson’s writing sucked me in immediately. The world faded away and by the time I read the last page and looked up from my Kindle I realized it was evening and I was sitting in a dark room with an uncooked dinner sitting on the bench.  Needless to say the family had to survive off takeaways for dinner that night. Warning – if you’re going to read this book make sure you have 3 or 4 spare hours ahead of you. You’re going to need it. 

This book was such a gem on a dreary Wednesday afternoon. I went into it with no real expectations and left completely blown away. People with Asperger’s are pretty amazing people. This is going straight on my “Faves of 2014” list. Needless to say, I will be stalking Amber L. Johnson (in a nice way) to make sure I never miss another book of hers. 

“There was a time when I believed I wasn’t going to fall in love. But I did.
This was followed by the thought that the boy I fell in love with could never love me back. But he does. 
And he loved me in the very best way he knows how. “

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