Archive for February, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Eric Bana, Natalie Portman and Scarlett
Johansson, opens this coming Friday, February 29. It is based on the
novel by Philippa Gregory, in which two sisters–Anne and Mary
Boleyn–compete for the affection of King Henry VIII.

Find this book in our catalog.

REVIEW: Publisher’s Weekly 05/27/2002
Sisterly rivalry is the basis of this fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn. Anne, her sister Mary and their brother George are all brought to the king’s court at a young age, as players in their uncle’s plans to advance the family’s fortunes. Mary, the sweet, blond sister, wins King Henry VIII’s favor when she is barely 14 and already married to one of his courtiers. Their affair lasts several years, and she gives Henry a daughter and a son. But her dark, clever, scheming sister, Anne, insinuates herself into Henry’s graces, styling herself as his adviser and confidant. Soon she displaces Mary as his lover and begins her machinations to rid him of his wife, Katherine of Aragon. This is only the beginning of the intrigue that Gregory so handily chronicles, capturing beautifully the mingled hate and nearly incestuous love Anne, Mary and George (“kin and enemies all at once”) feel for each other and the toll their family’s ambition takes on them. Mary, the story’s narrator, is the most sympathetic of the siblings, but even she is twisted by the demands of power and status; charming George, an able plotter, finally brings disaster on his own head by falling in love with a male courtier. Anne, most tormented of all, is ruthless in her drive to become queen, and then to give Henry a male heir. Rather than settling for a picturesque rendering of court life, Gregory conveys its claustrophobic, all-consuming nature with consummate skill. In the end, Anne’s famous, tragic end is offset by Mary’s happier fate, but the self-defeating folly of the quest for power lingers longest in the reader’s mind.
Other Books Like The Other Boleyn Girl:

A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleynby Laurien Gardner Find this book in our catalog.
REVIEW: Publisher’s Weekly 01/02/2006
After 2005′s heavy-handedThe Spanish Bride: A Novel of Catherine of Aragon , Gardner’s second entry in her wives of Henry VIII eyewitness series takes a more lighthearted look at the tragic Anne Boleyn. Queen Anne’s rise and fall is recounted by her maid Frances Pierce, a country girl brought to court after her impulsive leap to protect the king’s paramour from a flung handful of mud. As Frances stumbles her way through the life of a royal servant, encountering court intrigue and political upheaval, she becomes Anne’s closest confidante, thanks largely to her sincere devotion and naïve lack of ambition. Seeing the world through Frances’s rose-colored spectacles, Gardner remains sympathetic to this controversial queen and tells her tale lovingly all the way to its sad end. Readers looking for a lower-calorie Philippa Gregory will be pleased. With nothing particularly revelatory in the historical backdrop, the novel is free to concentrate on characterization and romance, with agreeable result

A Rose for the Crownby Anne Easter Smith Find this book in our catalog.
REVIEW: Publisher’s Weekly 11/14/2005
Inspired by the historical record of Richard III’s bastard children, Smith invents a spirited, “tawny-eyed” mistress for the 15th-century king in her sweeping debut. Kate Bywood is plucked from her peasant life at the age of 11 to join the household of her mother’s noble cousins, the Hautes, as companion to her timid cousin, Anne. A brief, unwilling marriage to an older, wealthy merchant leaves Kate a young widow with a considerable fortune. A second marriage to George, an opportunistic Haute cousin who prefers the stable boy to Kate, leaves her yearning for love. In a chance encounter, she meets Richard of Gloucester, and the ensuing secret romance is filled with the passion and intimacy her marriage lacks. George is killed during an attack in the forest, and Kate bears Richard three children. The narrative flies when the lovers are together, but once Richard marries Anne Neville, and he and Kate are separated for long stretches, the story loses its spark. Readers hungry primarily for romance may also tire of Smith’s details about the complicated internecine rebellions and rivalries among pretenders to the throne. Nevertheless, this story fills in some historical gaps and conjures a winning heroine.

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleynby Robin Maxwell Find this book in our catalog.
Jacket Notes:
Anne Boleyn was the second of Henry’s six wives, doomed to be beloved, betrayed, and beheaded. When Henry fell madly in love with her upon her return from the French court, where she was educated, he was already married to Catherine of Aragon. But his passion for Anne was great enough to rock the foundations of England and of all Christendom. When the pope refused to dissolve his marriage to Catherine, Henry broke with Rome, founded the Church of England with himself at its head, and married Anne. But all too soon his passion faded; when Anne bore him not the promised son but a daughter, Elizabeth, Henry forsook her for another love, schemed against her, and ultimately had her sentenced to death. In Robin Maxwell’s captivating new novel, Anne has kept, unbeknownst to the king, a secret diary that she presses into the hands of a confidante before she is put to death. She says it is a gift for the daughter she will never know. Years later, soon after Elizabeth ascends to the throne, Anne’s confidante brings the precious diary to the young queen. In it, Elizabeth learns the truth about her much-maligned mother: her fierce determination, her hard-won knowledge about being a woman in a world ruled by despotic men, and her deep-seated love for the infant daughter taken from her shortly after her birth. These revelations shake Elizabeth to the core. As her mother’s conquests and defeats unfold before her eyes, Elizabeth finds in them an echo of her own drama as a passionate young woman at the center of power. She too is besieged by the counsels and betrayals of the men around her – including those of her own lover, the ambitious Robin Dudley. Determined to heed the lessons her mother learned at so high a price, Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen”, the most revered of all English monarchs and perhaps the most powerful woman of all time, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.

Paranormal Romance: a fast-growing trend

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

On my bedside table right now is A Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton. I have only just started it, so all I can commit myself to now is that it is very different and also quite absorbing. I am still at the part where all the characters and the premise of the book are laid out and I am wondering whether I would have done better with this paranormal romance if I had read the first of the series first, A Kiss of Shadows. Laurell Hamilton is the author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series of romantic mysteries. The Dark Fantasy series I am in involves Merry Gentry, a half-human half-fairy detective living in Los Angeles and specializing in supernatural crimes. Merry is heir to the throne of one of two competing fairy courts, and has a bodyguard to protect her from those who would do her ill. It’s complicated! What is clear from the relationships between the princess and her bodyguards is that this is going to turn out to be quite a sexy book, so be warned if you don’t care for that. Already I can see that this book would appeal to fans of fantasy, and books about alternate worlds, to fans of sexy romances, and of mysteries.

With such a wide appeal Paranormal Romance is taking off in popularity. Book groups might like to consider reading one or two. To help us find titles, Linda Frydl, a librarian in Frederick County Public Libraries did this little blurb on paranormal romances for a book group I belong to:
“Wikipedia Definition: Paranormal romance is a literary subgenre of the romance novel. Paranormal romance blends the real with the fantastic or science fictional. Beyond the more prevalent themes involving vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel, paranormal romances can also include books featuring characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy. Paranormal romance has its roots in Gothic fiction and is one of the fastest growing trends in the romance genre.
These novels often blend elements of other subgenres–including suspense, mystery, or chick lit–with their fantastic themes. A few paranormals are set solely in the past and are structured much like any historical romance novel. Others are set in the future, sometimes on different worlds. Still others have a time-travel element with either the hero or the heroine traveling into the past or the future.
A good resource for Paranormal Romance is at It includes reviews, new and upcoming releases, author interviews and much more.
The P.E.A.R.L. (Paranoramal Excellence Award for Romantic Literature) is a reader’s choice award, presented annually to the top voted paranormal romances by the ParaNormal Romance Groups naming the “best of year” in ten categories related to paranormal romance and romantic science fiction. Authors such as Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Christine Feehan have written under this genre and won P.E.A.R.L. awards.
The 2007 Finalists of the Pearl Award can be found at this link:

Good Place to Find Reading Suggestions in Historical Fiction

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I saw this announcement on a listserve I belong to and could not pass up an opportunity to give a plug to the Maryland State Library Resource which is at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library. The Fiction Department at Pratt do a stellar job of preparing book-finding tools and readers’ lists which are good for book club reading ideas too. This one is for Historical Fiction:

“Do you have customers who are passionate about historical fiction? Or are you interested in learning about the 13 categories of historical fiction? The Fiction Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library/State Library Resource Center have put together a new How-to Guide called “If I Could Save Time in a Bottle: A Guide for Historical Fiction Lovers ,” located here . The guide can also be found on the main How-to Guide page under the heading “What Do I Read Next?”
The guide includes an extensive list of Web sites with suggestions for various genres of historical fiction and information on how to find award-winning historical fiction. We hope you find it useful!
Rebecca Sullivan

Rebecca Immich Sullivan
Manager, Job and Career Information Center Enoch Pratt Free Library Baltimore, MD

My First Five Husbands…And The Ones Who Got Away by Rue McClanahan

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I am not sure that most of the Abingdon Book Group would recommend this book. If you are a fan of the Golden Girls, and want to learn more about Rue’s life then you will no doubt enjoy this narrative. If you are a fan of stage and screen then this may also be a good read for you. However, most of the group thought it reflected poorly on the author. She appears self-involved, selfish and often erratic. She certainly has had a lot of husbands and lovers and some readers may be offended by her behavior. The group also questioned her treatment of her son, whom she looks after at times and at others, appears to just dump on her parents. She is very lucky to have supportive parents and as far as we could tell her son suffered no lasting harm. Perhaps Rue had to be so focused on her work in order to ‘make it’ as an actress. It was obviously a very difficult path to follow as a career choice as there is so much competition. She does stick to her belief that she can succeed and in the end she has both fame and a happy marriage.
The group thought the book was not very well written and we got terribly confused over which men were her husbands and which were not. She also makes much of her numerous jobs and goes into a lot of detail about these that becomes a little tedious. It seems like a list of everything she has ever done.
We were very sorry about her cancer, and the latter half of the book, as Rue matures, seems to read better and be more favorable.
This is not a book to dismiss for anyone who likes the inside scoop on their favorite stars, but we were a little disappointed, feeling that with better guidance & editing it could have been a better book. Note: One or two really enjoyed reading this. We all hope she has good health in the future.

From Publishers Weekly
The youngest Golden Girls star offers a chatty, thoughtful and effervescent tour of her surprisingly turbulent professional and private life. Like her TV alter ego Blanche Devereaux, McClanahan charts her experiences through the men in her life (and isn’t shy about assigning ratings to the life in her men—she gives enthusiastic “A”s to Benson’s Robert Guillaume and Brad Davis, who at the time was nine years older than her son). Days after giving birth, she was abandoned by her first husband and pushed into a second marriage (before her divorce was final). She remembers a photo taken of the event: “We looked happy. Much like smiling travelers waving from the deck of the departing Titanic.” Both men continued to play large roles in her life as she navigated through numerous affairs and six marriages. After much stage work, she found success in her late 30s on TV’s Maude. Later, “languishing in Love Boat limbo,” she was rescued by The Golden Girls, which brought her an Emmy and financial security. Fans will relish her sweet and tart memories of friendships and tensions filming that show. A breast cancer survivor, she ends the book happily celebrating an active career and a decade with husband number six. Photos. (Apr. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Take the Risk by Ben Carson, Lincoln Medal Winner

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

According to PW of 2/13/08, author and Baltimore celebrity and role model, Ben Carson was honored Sunday, February 10, 2008 with the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal, which was presented at the White House by President Bush. According to Zondervan, Carson’s publisher, the medal honors individuals who exemplify the legacy of Lincoln; the other honoree this year was former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Carson is a pioneering neurosurgeon and the author (with Cecil Murphey) of Gifted Hands. Dr. Carson is Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Dr. Carson’s latest book is Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live With Acceptable Risk.
Find this book in our catalog.
Jacket Notes:In our risk-avoidance culture, we place a high premium on safety. We insure our vacations. We check crash tests on cars. We extend the warranties on our appliances. But by insulating ourselves from the unknown – the risks of life – we miss the great adventure of living our lives to their full potential. Ben Carson spent his childhood as an at-risk child on the streets of Detroit, and today he takes daily risks in performing complex surgeries on the brain and the spinal cord. Now, offering inspiring personal examples, Dr. Carson invites us to embrace risk in our own lives. From a man whose life dramatically portrays the connection between great risks and greater successes, here are insights that will help you dispel your fear of risk so you can dream big, aim high, move with confidence, and reap rewards you’ve never imagined.

Yiddish Policeman’s Union to become a movie

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

United Press International reports Hollywood filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have signed on to adapt Michael Chabon’s novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union for the big screen. I look forward to it very much since the Coen brothers also made the recent release, No Country for Old Men, which was a hugely successful adaptation of the novel by Cormac McCarthy.

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is recommended in countless reading guides as a terrific book group title. Why not read it before the film comes out so that you or your group are ready to compare the book and the film?
A murder mystery set in the imaginary Jewish homeland that is Alaska.
Jacket Notes:
“The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” pens an homage to the stylish menace of 1940s noir, in a novel that imagines if Alaska, not Israel, had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II.”
REVIEW: Publisher’s Weekly 03/05/2007:
Reviewed by Jess Walter: “They are the “frozen Chosen,” two million people living, dying and kvetching in Sitka, Alaska, the temporary homeland established for displaced World War II Jews in Chabon’s ambitious and entertaining new novel. It is-deep breath now-a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it’s no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here.The novel begins-the same way that Philip Roth launchedThe Plot Against America -with a fascinating historical footnote: what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Roosevelt’s plan went nowhere, but Chabon runs the idea into the present, back-loading his tale with a haunting history. Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book’s timeless refrain: “It’s a strange time to be a Jew.”Into this world arrives Chabon’s Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis. Chabon’s “Alyeska” is an act of fearless imagination, more evidence of the soaring talent of his previous genre-blender, the Pulitzer Prize-winningThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay .Eventually, however, Chabon’s homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies.Chabon can certainly write noir-or whatever else he wants; his recent Sherlock Holmes novel,The Final Solution , was lovely, even if theNew York Times Book Review sniffed its surprise that the mystery novel would “appeal to the real writer.” Should any other snobs mistake Chabon for anything less than a real writer, this book offers new evidence of his peerless storytelling and style. Characters have skin “as pale as a page of commentary” and rough voices “like an onion rolling in a bucket.” It’s a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police.”
About Michael Chabon: Photo; Wikipedia bio
Conversation starters:
Chabon’s work is characterized by “complex language, frequent use of metaphor, and an extensive vocabulary.”
Recurring themes in his work include “nostalgia, divorce, abandonment, fatherhood, and issues of Jewish identity.”
HarperCollins reading group guide for Yiddish Policeman’s Union

Book World News Roundup Feb 12, 2008

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Lynn Andriani in Publishers Weekly, 2/11/2008 reported that the inaugural Essence Literary Awards took place Feb 7 at Le Parker Meridien in New York City. Click here for more details. Terry McMillan received a lifetime achievement award and Bishop T.D. Jakes received a “President’s Award.” The event also launched Essence magazine’s Save Our Libraries Campaign.

Fiction: The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Memoir: Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
Inspiration: Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
Nonfiction: Supreme Discomfort by Michael Fletcher and Kevin Merida
Current Affairs: An Unbroken Agony by Randall Robinson
Photography: Daufuskie Island by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe
Children’s: Marvelous World by Troy Cle
Poetry: Duende by Tracy K. Smith
Storyteller of the year: L.A. Banks, author of The Darkness and other books

According to the New York Times, the winners of the 2008 Lincoln Prize for American History are:

* The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln
and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics by James Oakes
* Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private
Letters by Elizabeth Brown Pryor

Abraham Lincoln’s 199th Birthday

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Today is Lincoln’s 199th birthday. C-Span and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission are launching a two-year celebration of the life of the 16th president that will include a series of programming specials called Lincoln: 200 Years.” For more information on programming and Lincoln events, go to C-Span and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Harford County Public Library has many biographies of President Lincoln, and many works on the Civil War, the Gettysburg Address, Slavery and Emancipation, and the Assassination of Lincoln.

For fiction about Lincoln and other United States Presidents, click on the booklist, “Presidents – Historical and Biographical Fiction” prepared by HCPL Librarians on the Recommended Reading page of Readers Place.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Book Discussion at Joppa

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Joppa’s Evening Book discussion group had a great discussion on January 24th of To Kill a Mockingbird. Find this book in our catalog. These are the jacket notes for the book: “The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior-to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 15 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.”

For this meeting, this moderator was very glad to welcome a male to the group. We hope he will be back because he was such a great participant! We would like to extend an invitation to all male readers: our group is not exclusively female, and we try to select books to discuss with a range of appeal.
Everyone agreed that Harper Lee’s book is a great American classic, and discussed the different characters and events which occurred in the book. One member grew up in Virginia when many of the things portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird were still going on. The group also spoke of the 60′s when so much happened to change the lives of African Americans. Another attendee worked in Baltimore after Martin Luther King was assassinated and experienced going to work when the National Guard were patrolling downtown. Another person who attended seldom or never viewed the terrible treatment of African Americans because she grew up in The North in New Jersey. The moderator was in elementary school in the 60′s living in Pennsylvania. She recalled the views of the adults around her, and of her community, which hired African Americans to work in the local orchards and did not properly respect those temporary workers. So much has changed since this book was published for the better. This was one of our best discussions ever! Joppa Book Group Moderator.
Further Reading:
Publisher’s reader’s guide to To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee biography
Harper Lee wins Presidential Medal of Freedom
An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther Kingby William F. Pepper
Find this book in our catalog.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto By Michael Pollan

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

This is a book review sent me by one of the Harford County Public Library’s book group moderators. If you are interested in taking part in a monthly book discussion meeting, please check the Book Groups page in ReadersPlace for a group meeting near you.

In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

“Michael Pollan continues his crusade against what he calls industrial food: Food that is grown, processed, and/or actually manufactured from chemicals under factory-like conditions, food that looks alluring in the supermarket (often found in the middle aisles plastered with health claims) but is in reality poor in nutrients and flavor or chock-full of harmful things. In other words, pretty much the entire modern American diet. Seemingly the more our scientists know about nutrition, the fatter and sicker the populace becomes. Pollan makes a convincing argument that perhaps all those nutritional experts know a lot less than they’re willing to let on about how food sustains us. To begin with, a lot of the received wisdom about nutrition is either largely unproven or simply wrong. For example, there has been no evidence of any link between our total cholesterol score and heart disease. LDL, referred to as “bad cholesterol” (even though it’s not actually cholesterol but rather a fatty carrier of cholesterol) has only a slight correlation to heart disease. Furthermore, Pollan tells us, it has been shown that isolated (aboriginal) populations have largely avoided the prevalent chronic diseases of modern life (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, tooth decay) despite the amazing variation in their diets: high fat and protein with no vegetables to speak of (Eskimo), low fat with lots of fruits and vegetables (Mediterranean), diets with and without whole grains (as long as no processed grains are included), and on and on. So which diet is really healthy for us? According to Pollan’s research, almost any diet that is not “Western” (i.e., not full of refined sugars, highly processed grains, and an overabundance of calories) would improve our health outlook. Even more important, populations that treat food as a part of a broader tradition and culture, something to be celebrated and savored, tend to live longer with far fewer chronic illnesses. After all, Pollan insists, our mothers and their mothers’ mothers’ mothers’ must have learned something about nutrition through many generations of trial and error.

This book is somewhat shorter on pure entertainment than Pollan’s previous work, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and it does recap some of the facts, findings and opinions in that marvelous earlier work. Yet if you really want to understand how large corporations, elephantine marketing budgets, and the so-called science of nutrition have steered us way wrong and confused us; if you’ve sometimes wondered why America today is the only place and time in history when the population needed experts and journalists (!) to tell us what we can and can’t eat; if you occasionally ask yourself whether all those heart-healthy, reduced fat, low cholesterol, salt-free, American Heart Association certified processed foods on your grocer’s shelves really deliver on their promise; if you scratch your head over living in a country where the poorest citizens are the fattest; if, ultimately, you’re looking to cut through the blather of diet books and scientists to figure out how to approach food shopping and eating with even the slightest degree of sanity—then please read this book with an open mind.”

Further Reading:

Click on Michael Pollan’s website, In Defense of Food