Archive for April, 2009

Shadow country : a new rendering of the Watson legend by Peter Matthiessen

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Shadow country : a new rendering of the Watson legend by Peter Matthiessen (Find this book in our catalog) – a HCPL staff review

“Peter Matthiessen is an amazing author. He’s a prolific author, having written dozens of fiction and nonfiction books, a number of which have been either the recipient of, or a nominee for, various prestigious awards. To call his nonfiction efforts “travel literature” would be doing this enormous talent a disservice, since he goes places other people cannot reach and insinuates himself into cultural milieux from which most of his fellow writers are barred. His novels plumb the heights and depths of the human spirit with subtlety, realism, and unblinking objectivity. His characters are not stereotypes, but rather complex, tortured souls trying to sail straight in a world without any reliable moral compass to serve as guide or rudder.

In 1990 published Killing Mr. Watson. This book, which became the first part of a trilogy, is the tangled tale of E. J. Watson, a much-admired and simultaneously feared man of enormous talent and personal magnetism. The stage on which this possible murderer acts his part is the swamplands and keys of southwestern Florida around 1900. This is a harsh place to eke out a living, and many of the area’s inhabitants are loners, fugitives of the law, and people who cannot stand to live according to civilized society’s rigid and hypocritical strictures. But Mr. Watson is the orneriest of all of them—or is he? The book uses the highly subjective voices of numerous fascinating and memorable characters to carry the story along and demonstrate time and again just how subjective our notion of reality really is. The more witnesses we hear from, the farther we seem to be from the truth.

Killing Mr. Watson is brilliantly written, with vibrant characters, an amazingly rich sense of time and place, and a convincing argument for the subjectivity and prejudice that propel human society into its darkest corners.

Matthiesson followed Killing Mr. Watson with two additional installments, each from the viewpoint of a different character, and now the author has combined and rewritten his three related novels into a more compact, even more powerful blockbuster of a book, Shadow Country.”

Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes by Cathy Holton

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


The Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes was the Abingdon Book Group read for April. What I thought was going to be a light and entertaining read for the group, turned out to provoke some very intense discussion. We talked about adultery, sin, the spread of HIV, slavery in the south and its customs & traditions. Wow! The book is set in the south and features an unlikely trio of friends who decide to take revenge on their cheating husbands. This is a very funny and entertaining story with a good ending. A fun book to take to the beach, even as it covers some serious topics.

From Booklist
Not since the Ya-Ya Sisterhood has there been a group of good ol’ gals to rival Holton’s trio of scorned Southern women. Best friends for years, earthy Lavonne, mousy Nita, and feisty Eadie are at once privy to and frequently at odds with the creme de la creme of Ithaca, Georgia, society, courtesy of their husbands’ stations in life. All three are married to pillars of the community, lawyers who care more for their annual Montana hunting trip than they do for their spouses. As the preparations for this year’s getaway ratchet into high gear, the wives uncover evidence that the only conquests their husbands are interested in making are of the two-footed, female variety. Hell hath no fury, as the saying goes, and the wives concoct a deliciously devious scheme to make their husbands pay–big time–for their indiscretions. Irresistibly entertaining, Holton’s debut is hilarious, a cunning, rollicking addition to the popular Southern “steel magnolias” genre. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Other Books by Cathy Holton
The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes
Virginia Broadwell decides to destroy the ladies for the social havoc they have wreaked. What will the girls do?

Beach Trip
A reunion of four friends becomes a cathartic journey into the past in Cathy Holton’s luminous new novel. Darkly comic and deeply poignant, Beach Trip is an unforgettable tale of lifelong friendship, heartbreak, and happiness. May 2009

Some questions for book groups and readers:
Revenge is the theme of this novel – have you ever done something to get revenge – was it satisfying?

What characteristics did the husbands exhibit besides lying & cheating? Which of the husbands (if any) behaved the worst?

Did any of the husbands have any redeeming qualities?

What did you think about the scene at the ranch? Did the husbands get what was coming to them as far as Mr. Ramsbottom’s treatment of them?

Eadie & Trevor have a strange relationship even before Trevor goes off with Tonya – comments?

Why was Eadie a better companion for Trevor than Tonya?

Describe the relationship between Nita & Charles. How does Charles treat Nita & their children? What role have Charles’ parents had in his life? Can we excuse his behavior because of his parents influence? How much are we responsible for our choices as adults?

What did you think of Virginia Broadwell? How was she different from someone like Mrs. Shapiro? How did their values differ?

In what ways is Jimmy Lee very different from Charles?

Lavonne gave up her career for her husband and children, was this a good thing? How did it affect her?

Did you enjoy the humor in the novel? How did the author use humor to enhance the book’s subject matter?

Describe the relationship between the 3 women. How do they support each other?

What were your hopes for the women as you read this book? How did you expect it to end? Was the ending satisfactory? Did the men get what they deserved?

Would you read the sequel or another book by this author?

Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman confirms legal thriller author “at the peak of her powers”

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman, released on April 14, is garnering a lot of press and publicity. Find this book in our catalog

Here’s what it says about the book in our catalog: “The prosecutor—Julia Valenciano. Young and ambitious, and facing a case that could launch her career. The defendant—David Marquette. A successful Miami surgeon and devoted family man. The victims—Marquette’s own wife and three small children. The plea—Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. The perfect father and model husband, David Marquette seemingly just snapped. His experienced defense team claims paranoid delusions caused by schizophrenia drove him to slaughter his entire family.But the state suspects Marquette’s insanity defense is being fabricated to disguise murders that were cold blooded and calculated. Worse, Julia believes Marquette could be responsible for a string of unsolved, brutal homicides. Could he be one of the most prolific and elusive serial killers in the country’s history? To bring him to justice, Julia must embark on a terrifying personal journey back into her own past—something she has struggled to forget for fifteen years. And this will lead her to confront a future so chilling, she’s not sure she will ever be able to face it…Plea of Insanity confirms Jilliane Hoffman as a major thriller writer at the peak of her powers.”

If you like this, you may also like:
The Interview Room by Roderick Anscombe

Feasting on Asphalt by Alton Brown – a motorcycle trek with recipes

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

A librarian from the Abingdon Branch just sent me this book review:

“Here is a review about a book I just finished.

Feasting on Asphalt by Alton Brown (Find this book in our catalog)

I am certainly not one for the hype of food network celebs or just sit down and read a cookbook. This book certainly superseded all of my low expectations.

Alton Brown, Food Network chef, uses wit and humor to document his trek via motorcycle from New Orleans to the top of the Mississippi River. He stops at small dives along the way; places you would almost certainly go out of your way to avoid. He writes about the communities and the people who make up these great places. He supplies about 40 recipes, some given straight from a generous cook or ones he adapted to fill the readers need. (Some recipes are carefully guarded family secrets.) Brown shows us he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, jumping in to make delicious pies just so he can see how it is done. He takes himself and his crew lightly but always gives the utmost respect to all of the people he meets. If you are looking for an interesting read with a mix of food, humor, people, and delectable recipes, this book if for you.

This is totally on the fly but I hope you can use it.” Kristina Stemple

McFaul Center Book Group found Lace Reader too convoluted

Friday, April 24th, 2009

The McFaul Center book group read The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (Find this book in our catalog) for the month of April. This is what the group facilitator reported about their discussion:

“Not many of us liked it and several didn’t even finish it. Just as lace can do, I found that the book completely unraveled at the end and left loose threads that made me feel that it wasn’t worth the time that I spent reading it. Instead of being mysterious, I found it convoluted. I have no idea how the author managed a 2 million dollar sale of this book (along with book 2 whatever it may be). All of us were just shaking our head.”

Check the Harford County Public Library catalog entry for this book to see a couple of magazine reviews. Why not check out the book and see what you think?

Shirley jackson Awards for psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Finalists have been named for this year’s Shirley Jackson Awards, which are given for “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic” in several categories, including novel, novella, novelette, short story, collection and anthology.
Shortlist for novels:
* Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst
* The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem
* Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory
* The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell
* The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
* Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
The other nominees can be found at the Shirley Jackson Awards blog
Winners will be presented on Sunday, July 12, at Readercon 20.

Also, for a list, “Outstanding Recent Horror” picked by Harford County Public Library staff, see Readers Place.

Selections from 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Patty, Harford County Public Library staff member recommends…

“I just read Selections from 90 Minutes in Heaven (Find this book in our catalog). It’s the true story of a man who was in a fatal car accident, was pronounced dead for 90 minutes, went to heaven and returned to life. I read the “Selections” version because I was a little skeptical about the story itself even though it came highly recommended to me by a customer. I thoroughly enjoyed this short read and found it very inspirational and thought provoking. Whether you believe all the accounts of Don Piper, the author, or not, it is clear to me that he really believes it and is traveling world wide to spread his message. I recommend this book to anyone who believes in an afterlife and anyone who isn’t sure.”

Orange Prize for Fiction 2009 – Finalists announced

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Orange Prize finalists are:
* Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman
* The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
* The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt
* Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deidre Madden
* Home by Marilynne Robinson
* Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
The winner will be announced June 3.

Pulitzer Prizes announced yesterday

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The 2009 Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday afternoon, Monday, April 20.

Book-related winners of the Pulitzer Prize were:
* Fiction: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Find this book in our catalog)
* Drama: Ruined by Lynn Nottage (not yet published)
* History: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette
Gordon-Reed (Find this book in our catalog)
* Biography: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon
Meacham (Find this book in our catalog)
* Poetry: The Shadow of Sirius by W. S. Merwin (Find this book in our catalog)
* General Nonfiction: Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of
Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A.
Blackmon (Find this book in our catalog).
Finalists included:
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
All Souls by Christine Schutt
Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust
The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s by G. Calvin Mackenzie & Robert Weisbrot
Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands
The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll
Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart
What Love Comes to: New & Selected Poems by Ruth Stone
Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman
The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe by William I. Hitchcock.

Perfect Book to Take on a Trip – The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood

Monday, April 20th, 2009

This book recommendation was sent to me by a Harford County Public Library staff member:

“I have the perfect book to take on a trip to read in the car on a plane or on the beach or to relax with on a mountain top – The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. (Find this book in our catalog). I love her writing style and it’s a wonderful book for those who like to read about contemporary characters with whom they can identify. I felt like each character was a friend of mine. The only problem is that you might have to have a Kleenex with you!”