Archive for August, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Monday, August 31st, 2009

There’s a lot to think about in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (Find this book in our catalog). At the same time it is one of those books that draw the reader in so completely that he or she lives uncritically within the covers until they have closed them for the last time. Shuttling smoothly between the Marblehead, Massachusetts of around 1692, the year of the Salem witch trials, and the Marblehead, Salem, and Cambridge of 1991 the author draws us into her worlds: the world of the early colony, with medieval superstition, hardship and fear, and the opposing world of twentieth century academia, with infighting, competing egos – and fear.

When we first meet Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin she is in the middle of taking her four-hour oral doctoral qualifying exams. We see that despite years of study and weeks of cramming she is extremely doubtful of her ability to be accepted for her dissertation. At the last minute, however, she turns her examination around and gives an ace answer to a question about the witchcraft panic in Salem around the year 1692. Suddenly the mood lightens and Connie and the reader realize that she has passed her examination with flying colors. Connie is in fact a rising star in the field of colonial history. She hopes that by cooperating on a forthcoming conference presentation with her mentor, the chair of the history department her reputation will be made. The professor suggests that she does some more research in the field of seventeenth century witchcraft allegations and that she finds some unique primary source document on which to hang her dissertation.

Meanwhile, it is summer and Connie is burned out from her studies, so she agrees to do her mother a favor and go to Marblehead to sort out her grandmother’s empty house and put it on the market. When the house turns out to be an almost ruinous medieval vernacular cottage left empty for nigh-on twenty years and surrounded by a jungle of herbs and poisonous plants we are not surprised, since we have already been introduced to a young mysterious healing woman and her role in a 1681 tragedy that is obviously going to reverberate down the centuries. The reader is predisposed to think that Connie’s grandmother had at least some skill in healing. Connie herself is slow to see the connections between herself, her mother and grandmother and the past, but the reader enjoys following the clues and anticipating their possible meaning. The house itself is vividly described and almost takes on its own role in the story.

Connie is a capable young woman making her way in an extremely competitive field. She has already had considerable success but she fails to see it and still is very immature. She has been sequestered away with her books for years, and though she has had a few unsatisfactory and depressing dates, she really has no experience of men. Then Connie meets Sam, a steeplejack and restoration specialist. There is a mutual powerful attraction, but Sam may find that a relationship with Connie is going to cost him more than he bargained.

Connie begins to clean out her grandmother’s possessions and finds an ancient Bible and in it a mysterious slip of paper bearing the words, “Deliverance Dane.” The quest to find out the significance of the paper eventually leads Connie to think that she might be on the trail of that unique research source that her professor was so keen on. In fact the professor is beginning to take an almost insane and threatening interest in the progress of the quest as Connie follows the puzzle clues from one archive to another.

As the pieces fall together Connie finds out more about the person of Deliverance Dane. Her harrowing story falls into place with Connie’s research results, the flashbacks to the 1600s that the author gives us , and with the disturbing visions of the past that are vouchsafed to Connie. Connie begins to live with fear – could someone be threatening her life and those she loves? Are there forces at work here that she hasn’t understood until now?

This book is a sort of coming-of-age story and a love story. It will appeal to readers who enjoy stories of how the events in the past must inevitably effect what happens today. It will also appeal to readers who like quests for ancient artifacts, codes, ancient signs and puzzles. If you liked The Lace Reader, you will like this, especially if you liked old ruinous houses, the Salem, Massachusetts setting and the element of witchcraft.

In Memoriam Dominick Dunne

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Vanity Fair journalist and novelist Dominick Dunne passed away on Wednesday, August 26 of cancer. He was 83. Click here for his official website, which includes now a short obituary.

Born to a well-connected and wealthy family, Dunne frequently socialized with, wrote about, and was photographed with celebrities. He was an investigative journalist and wrote books and articles on events that happen where high society intersects with the judicial system. Again, he often wrote about what he knew. Sadly, in November 1982, his daughter, Dominique Dunne was murdered. Dunne attended the trial of her murderer and wrote the article “Justice: A Father’s Account of the Trial of his Daughter’s Killer” for Vanity Fair. Dunne went on to write for Vanity Fair regularly and fictionalized several real-life events for best-selling books. He eventually hosted the TV series Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privileg, and Justice on Court TV (later truTV) in which he discussed justice, injustice and their intersection with celebrities. Famous trials he covered include those of O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bulow, Michael Skakel, William Kennedy Smith, and the Menendez brothers.

We currently have these Dominick Dunne books in HCPL:
Justice : crimes, trials, and punishments (also in audiobook)
“Here in one volume are Dominick Dunne’s mesmerizing tales of justice denied and justice affirmed.” (catalog notes)
The Way We Lived Then : recollections of a well-known name dropper
Another City, Not My Own : a novel in the form of a memoir
“Told from the point of view of one of Dunne’s most familiar fictional characters-Gus Bailey-Another City, Not My Own tells how Gus, the movers and shakers of Los Angeles, and the city itself are drawn into the vortex of the O.J. Simpson trial.” (catalog notes)
A Season in Purgatory
“They were the family with everything. Money. Influence. Glamour. Power. The power to halt a police investigation in its tracks. The power to spin a story, concoct a lie, and believe it was the truth. The power to murder without guilt, without shame, and without ever paying the price. America’s royalty, they called the Bradleys. But an outsider refuses to play his part. And now, the day of reckoning has arrived. . . .” (catalog notes)
The Two Mrs. Grenvilles : a novel
“When Navy ensign Billy Grenville, heir to a vast New York fortune, sees showgirl Ann Arden on the dance floor, it is love at first sight. And much to the horror of Alice Grenville, the indomitable family matriarch, he marries her. Ann wants desperately to be accepted by high society and to become the well-bred woman of her fantasies. But a gunshot one rainy night propels Ann into a notorious spotlight–as the two Mrs. Grenvilles enter into a conspiracy of silence that will bind them together for as long as they live.” (catalog notes)

Author of The Other Boleyn Girl starts new series about the Plantagenets

Friday, August 28th, 2009

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (Find this book in our catalog)

Shelf Awareness, a book trade e-newsletter had this to say Thursday, August 27: “Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she delved into the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a TV drama and a major film. Six novels later, she has turned her attention to the family that preceded the Tudors on the English throne: the Plantagenets, a family of complex loves, rivalries and hatreds. The first in the new Cousin’s War series, The White Queen was just published by Touchstone.” Ms. Gregory lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Click here for her website. In the “Study” you will find a family tree to help keep track of the relations in the Cousin’s War series.
This is what it says about The White Queen in our catalog: “Philippa Gregory, “the queen of royal fiction” (USA Today) presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses. Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills. With The White Queen, Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series from this beloved author.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

Before Stieg Larsson died in 2004, he was the editor of Expo, the journal of the Swedish Expo Foundation, an organization dedicated to tracking the activities of racist organizations. He was also an expert on Nazi and other extreme right-wing organizations. Not surprisingly, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has within it the most unsavory of evils, loosely linked to Nazis of the past and present.

The novel’s narrative focus is captured in its original Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, and flows from two major plots: a failed investigation of a corrupt businessman, and a crime case of a murder long ago committed and recently resurrected. Linking both stories are the characters of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist is a journalist found guilty of libel for his investigative work on industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. He’s lost his job and his integrity, and he’s about to lose his freedom when he begins his jail sentence for his crime. Millionaire industrialist Henrik Vanger, however, intercedes and asks him to investigate the cold case of Vanger’s long-dead niece, Harriet, who decades before was probably murdered. No body was ever found, but the suspect must be one of Vanger’s unsavory family members. Blomkvist is to conduct the case privately, under the guise of his work on a Vanger family chronicle. If Blomkvist agrees to investigate the old crime, Vanger will give him much-needed information on Wennerström.

Running parallel to this is the narrative of Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, as well as other tattoos and various body piercings. She is small and anorexic-looking, disagreeable, mistrusting of people, probably mentally ill, and a computer genius. She works for a private security firm and collides with Blomkvist in an uncomfortable way – she’s been investigating him for Vanger. That aside, Blomkvist takes her on as a partner in the search for information on the missing Harriet and subsequently the continuing investigation of Wennerström.

The intricate interwoven plots lead readers to a cast of hideous characters, who are as appalling in their portrayal as in their crimes. Neither Salander nor Blomkvist escapes the evil that swirls around them, in a heart-stopping climax where good and evil clash.

The last section of the book may, ironically, seem to slow to a crawl, but after the grisly events of the previous pages, the reader might instead breathe a sigh of relief in this complex follow-up to a corrupt industrialist’s crime investigation.

D. L. S.

In Memoriam Edward Kennedy

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

With news just out about Edward Kennedy’s death, a number of books about the longtime Massachusetts senator will be of interest.
Last Lion : the Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy edited by Peter S. Canellos. (Find this book in our catalog)

Ted Kennedy : the Dream that Never Died by Edward Klein. (Find this book in our catalog)

True Compass: A Memoir by Edward M. Kennedy. (Find this book in our catalog)

Another Man’s Mocassins: a Walt Longmire Mystery wins Regional Book Award

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The 2009 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Regional Book Award for Adult Fiction has been awarded to Another Man’s Moccasins: A Walt Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson (Find this book in our catalog)
Summary in catalog: “Walt Longmire unravels a mystery that connects two murders across forty years When the body of a young Vietnamese woman is found alongside the interstate in Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sherriff Walt Longmire is determined to discover the identity of the victim and is forced to confront the horrible similarities of this murder to that of his first homicide investigation as a marine in Vietnam. To complicate matters, Virgil White Buffalo, a homeless Crow Indian, is found living in a nearby culvert and in possession of the young woman’s purse. There are only two problems with what appears to be an open-and-shut case. One, the sheriff doesn’t think Virgil White Buffalo—a Vietnam vet with a troubling past—is a murderer. And two, the photo that is found in the woman’s purse looks hauntingly familiar to Walt. In the fourth book in Craig Johnson’s award winning Walt Longmire series, the tough yet tender sheriff solves two murders tied in blood but separated by nearly forty years.”

The Adult Nonfiction Award was given to American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella (Find this book in our catalog).

International Women’s Fiction Festival to Recognize American Author

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader (Find this book in our catalog), has won the 2009 Baccante literary prize and will receive it September 26 during the sixth annual International Women’s Fiction Festival, located in Matera, Italy. Each year, the Women’s Fiction Festival awards its literary prize, the Baccante award, to someone who has made major contributions to women’s fiction. Read more…

The prize judges called the book “an amazing journey through the world of publishing, a debut that turned a self-published story into a massive global success. . . . It’s the story of a wounded woman, a symbol of women readers everywhere, who seeks to understand and interpret the world around her by delving deep inside herself. . . . The Lace Reader is a richly evocative book guaranteed to sweep the reader along in a headlong rush of events, against the brilliantly-described backdrop of modern-day Salem, Massachussetts and with a fascinating cast of characters, guaranteed to keep readers captivated all the way to the shocking ending.”

If you like The Lace Reader, you may also like:
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane : a novel by Katherine Howe (Find this book in our catalog)
“While cleaning out her grandmother’s house near Salem in the summer of 1991, Connie discovers an old key along with a fragment of paper bearing only the words Deliverance Dane. At the urging of her adviser, Connie embarks upon a frenzy of research in local archives. Evidence mounts that Deliverance was a local herbalist and wise woman who became a victim of the witch trials. Finding Deliverance’s “physick book” of recipes becomes a priority for Connie, particularly when she realizes that it may hold the key to curing her new boyfriend of his mysterious ailment” (catalog notes)
The Heretic’s Daughter : a novel by Kathleen Kent (Find this book in our catalog)
“Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft…” (cataolg notes)

Library of Congress Announces National Book Festival Authors

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

On August 4, The Library of Congress issued this press release about the authors who will be appearing at the forthcoming National Book Festival:
August 4, 2009
Authors James Patterson, George Pelecanos, Nikki Grimes, Marilynne Robinson, Daniel Silva Join National Book Festival Lineup; New Social Networking and Interactive Features Engage Book-Lovers Online
Authors James Patterson, George Pelecanos, Nikki Grimes, Marilynne Robinson, Sharon Creech, Daniel Silva and W. Ralph Eubanks will be among the writers and illustrators joining the stellar lineup for the ninth annual National Book Festival, to be held on the National Mall from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26. The event is free and open to the public.
Patterson will present at the Mysteries & Thrillers Pavilion, and also at the Teens & Children pavilion this year. He is the author of the widely popular Alex Cross series of thrillers set in Washington, D.C., and writes novels aimed at teens as well. Authors Daniel Silva and George Pelecanos—the author of 15 crime novels set in and around Washington, D.C.—will present in that pavilion.
Also coming to the Teens & Children pavilion will be authors Nikki Grimes, Sharon Creech and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, who will appear with his collaborator, Carmen Agra Deedy. Authors joining the popular Poetry & Prose pavilion include Marilynne Robinson, Julia Glass and W. Ralph Eubanks. These authors are among the more than 70 celebrated writers and illustrators participating in this year’s event. (Click here for an updated list of authors).
To provide festival-goers with the latest event news and information, the Library of Congress has added a variety of social networking features, including updates through Twitter and Facebook. To receive up-to-the-minute information for this year’s event such as author activities, day-of event details and much more, follow the Library on Twitter (@librarycongress, hashtag #nbf) or become a Fan of the Library on Facebook (
Book-lovers will also enjoy the launch, at the festival, of the website, which will pull together all of the Library’s literary-promotion programs into a single, accessible platform for readers of all ages.
The Library also will offer a new collection of podcasts, featuring interviews with festival authors. Available free of charge through the Library’s website or on iTunes, these personal interviews make it possible for book-lovers around the country to participate in the event. Event webcasts will also be made available on the Library’s site this year and have been archived from previous festivals.
Don’t forget to download and display the festival poster in your home, school, local library and community. It can be found at Right-click it to download.
Members of the media can register for the festival via the online media pressroom and request interviews with authors at
For more information about this year’s National Book Festival, visit

Midwest Booksellers’ Choice

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Award winners make good book group choices. Winners of the 2009 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Awards, which honor “authors from the Midwest Booksellers Association region and/or books about the region” and are voted on by MBA members, have been announced.
Winners include:
* Fiction: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Find this book in our catalog)
“Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar’s paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles’ once peaceful home. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm-and into Edgar’s mother’s affections. Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father’s death, but his plan backfires-spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father’s murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward. David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes-the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain-create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.” (catalog notes)
* Nonfiction: Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry (Find this book in our catalog)
“In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, the acclaimed author of Truck: A Love Story gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country… Alternately hilarious, tender, and as real as pigs in mud, Coop is suffused with a contemporary desire to reconnect with the earth, with neighbors, with meaning . . . and with chickens.” (catalog notes)
Honor recipients:
* Fiction: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (Find this book in our catalog)
“Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for “a reliable wife.” But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she’s not the “simple, honest woman” that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man’s devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt – a passionate man with his own dark secrets – has plans of his own for his new wife…” (catalog notes)
*Nonfiction: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (Find this book in our catalog)
“Traces the author’s discovery of a half-frozen kitten in the drop-box of her small-community Iowa library and the feline’s development into an affable library cat.” (catalog notes)

Camus, A Romance by Elizabeth Hawes

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Camus, A Romance by Elizabeth Hawes Find this book in our catalog

Most biographers like and admire their subjects, especially after years of researching the person’s life, even if they assume that their words are unbiased and free from slant. They might insist that, in fact, this is truly a detached look at a person’s life held at arm’s length. Elizabeth Hawes, on the contrary, uses her admiration, indeed, love for Albert Camus to uncover his life for interested readers, in an unabashed and openly sympathetic manner. This is, then, not just a biography of a twentieth-century author, but a story about the biographer’s actual search for that author to whose writings and life she is deeply devoted, a kind of memoir of the Camus and also of Hawes.

In a typically biographical fashion, readers learn of Camus’s early life as a student and author, and later as a member of the Resistance during the Second World War, his subsequent affiliation with radical literary movements, his friendship and eventual ideological and literary split with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, his life-long battle with tuberculosis, his foibles and his strengths in authorship and in his personal life. But readers also see the struggle in which Hawes engages as she tracks down friends and acquaintances to interview, as she travels paths Camus also walked, places where he lived and loved.

Hawes readily admits that her research on this author has drawn her more and more into a wish that she could have met him in his lifetime, talked to him, been his friend. And readers develop similar feelings, experiencing disappointment, for example, when they see how close Hawes comes to meeting or interviewing a close acquaintance of Camus, but misses that chance because the person has passed away only recently or is no longer offering interviews. She embraces for Camus what other biographers might hesitate to admit: a desire to be the subject’s friend. In the end, she recognizes that she and Camus are friends, even if he died when she was a student, before her college research on him could be turned onto a more serious path towards a biography. This is the story, then, of a journey in search of a friend. Along the way, readers see before them Camus’s life uncovered, revealed in a gentle, enlightening, and appreciative way, with respect and love.