Archive for September, 2012

Real Women in Fiction

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Historical fiction sometimes feature true-life characters; individuals who created or witnessed history long ago. The following books capture real women whose re-imagined lives make for fascinating reading.  Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid’s Tale. She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century. Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory. Spies, poison, and curses surround her…. Is there anyone she can trust? In The Kingmaker’s Daughter, #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents a novel of conspiracy and a fight to the death for love and power at the court of Edward IV of England. The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women. At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer. A captivating debut that imagines a passionate friendship between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert, when they were young and exploring the Nile in 1850.



PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award was announced August 29.  The winner is:  Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick (Find in our catalog).

This is what it says about the book in our catalog:  “James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Genius, now brings us a work just as astonishing and masterly: a revelatory chronicle and meditation that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality-the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world. The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanishes as soon as it is born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long-misunderstood talking drums of Africa, Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable development of our modern understanding of information: Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the brilliant and doomed daughter of the poet, who became the first true programmer; pivotal figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the creator of information theory itself. And then the information age arrives. Citizens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficionados of bits and bytes. And we sometimes feel we are drowning, swept by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets. The Information is the story of how we got here and where we are heading.” From the Hardcover edition.

Author notes:  “He wrote the worldwide bestseller Chaos, which was nominated for the National Book Award. He was the 1990 McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University. (Publisher Provided) James Gleick was born in New York City on August 1, 1954. He received a degree in English and linguistics from Harvard College in 1976. He helped found Metropolis, an alternative weekly newspaper in Minneapolis. After the newspaper folded, he worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times. In 1989-1990, he was the McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University. He has written several books including Chaos: Making a New Science, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier, and The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.” (Bowker Author Biography)


Christian Fiction – Inescapable by Nancy Mehl

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Inescapable by Nancy mehl (Find in our catalog). The message of this suspenseful novel is in the title:  certain things in life are inescapable, including the love of God the Father.  Despite dangers and misfortunes Lizzie Engels eventually believes that and runs back to that love.

Lizzie has been running  for a few years:  first, away from her Mennonite background after having a baby and being rejected in her hometown of Kingdom, Kansas. Five years later the life Lizzie has built in Kansas City for herself and her daughter Charity starts to fall apart.  Lizzie is accused of stealing money from Harbor House, a shelter for abused women where she works. She has also begun to receive threatening notes and is being followed by a creepy guy in a red cap. The only way, Lizzie decides, to keep herself and Charity safe is to run back to the last place she wants to return to - home in Kingdom.

Back in Kingdom, as Lizzie begins to get to know again her hometown and its people she realizes that what she saw through teenage eyes and judged wasn’t necessarily the way it was. As she and her daughter begin to settle and to renew friendships, the danger she thought she left behind begins to threaten in Kingdom. Has she endangered those around her by coming home?  Who can she trust?  Is there no one or no place that she and Charity can escape to to be safe and loved? Run along with Lizzie as she discovers that some things are just inescapable.

Posted by Christy

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The PEN American Center announced the winners and runners up for the 2012 PEN Literary Awards August 29.  Awards include the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.


It might interest readers to know that this book is also available for listening (Find in our catalog), and as an e-book on our Overdrive site.  Editor

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

Friday, September 21st, 2012

The PEN American Center announced the winners and runners up for the 2012 PEN Literary Awards August 29.  Highlights include the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing:  Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game by Dan Barry (Find in our catalog)

Here is what it says about the book in our catalog:  “On April 18, 1981, a ball game sprang eternal. What began as a modestly attended minor-league game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings became not only the longest ever played in baseball history, but something else entirely. The first pitch was thrown after dusk on Holy Saturday, and for the next eight hours the night seemed to suspend its participants between their collective pasts and futures, between their collective sorrows and joys’the ballplayers; the umpires; Pawtucket’s ejected manager, peering through a hole in the backstop; the sportswriters and broadcasters; a few stalwart fans shivering in the cold. With Bottom of the 33rd , celebrated New York Times journalist Dan Barry has written a lyrical meditation on small-town lives, minor-league dreams, and the elements of time and community that conspired one fateful night to produce a baseball game seemingly without end. Bottom of the 33rd captures the sport’s essence: the purity of purpose, the crazy adherence to rules, the commitment of both players and fans. This genre-bending book, a reportorial triumph, portrays the myriad lives held in the night’s unrelenting grip. Consider, for instance, the team owner determined to revivify a decrepit stadium, built atop a swampy bog, or the batboy approaching manhood, nervous and earnest, or the umpire with a new family and a new home, or the wives watching or waiting up, listening to a radio broadcast slip into giddy exhaustion. Consider the small city of Pawtucket itself, its ghosts and relics, and the players, two destined for the Hall of Fame (Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs), a few to play only briefly or forgettably in the big leagues, and the many stuck in minor-league purgatory, duty bound and loyal to the game. An unforgettable portrait of ambition and endurance, Bottom of the 33rd is the rare sports book that changes the way we perceive America’s pastime, and America’s past.”


Baltimore Book Festival

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

When: September 28-30, 2012. Fri & Sat: noon-8pm; Sun: noon-7pm

Where: Mt. Vernon Place, centered on 600 North Charles St, Baltimore MD 21201

The Baltimore Book Festival features hundreds of author appearances and book signings, 100+ exhibitors and booksellers, non-stop readings on multiple stages, cooking demos by celebrity chefs, poetry readings and workshops, panel discussions, walking tours, storytellers and hands-on projects for kids, street theater, live music, and a delicious variety of food, beer and wine. Read more…

Family Fun. The Baltimore Book Festival offers tons of fun activities for children and their families.

Music and More!  Throughout the weekend, talented local and regional bands grace the official music stage of the Baltimore Book Festival.

City Paper Book Swap.  Bring a book, get a book! City Paper’s Book Swap returns with books, from the lesser-known to classics. Visit the tent, located in the North Park (east side), to trade your used books all weekend long.



12th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival on Book TV

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Saturday, September 22 10 a.m. Book TV offers live coverage of the 12th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival  from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Programming includes event coverage from the history and biography pavilion as well as interviews and national viewer phone calls with many authors. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)


Atmospheric Manor House Mystery

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton by Elizabeth Speller (Find in our catalog).  Fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series and readers who enjoy well-drawn characters and rich historical details will enjoy this mystery set in a country village decimated by the toll of World War I.  It is an accurate depiction of the English countryside in the 1920s, which was stripped of most of its young men and struggling to recover both economically and spiritually from the wounds of war.  This is the background that mystery writers such as Agatha Christie used to such good effect to explore the nature of evil hidden at home.  The book is a wonderful recreation of a classic manor house mystery, without any of the cosiness you might perhaps expect.  Fans of the Downton Abbey TV series will be fascinated with all the details of life between the wars for people of every class.  It is this layering of details and the interaction of the characters that draw the reader in.

This is what it says about the plot in our catalog:  “When Great War veteran Laurence Bartram arrives in Easton Deadall, he is struck by the beauty of the place: a crumbling manor, a venerable church, and a memorial to the village’s soldiers, almost all of whom died in one bloody battle. Now peace prevails, and the rest of England is newly alight with hope, but Easton Deadall remains haunted by tragedy–as does the Easton family. In 1911, five-year-old Kitty disappeared from her bed and has not been seen in thirteen years; only her fragile mother still believes she is alive. While Laurence is a guest of the manor, a young maid vanishes in a sinister echo of Kitty’s disappearance. And when a body is discovered in the manor’s ancient church, Laurence is drawn into the grounds’ forgotten places, where deadly secrets lie in wait.”

This is so much more than a pastiche of a country house mystery.  I enjoyed the somewhat stilted and narrow-minded thought processes of the amateur sleuth, and thought they rang very true.  The characters do not descend into caricature, though the whole range of an aristocratic family and its retainers is given to the reader.  The book explores the wounds of war and also the complications of family dynamics; how wounds of many kinds remain unhealed through the generations and how secrets are covered up for good or ill.  Many things well-known in family and community remain unspoken and are revealed to outsiders only under duress.  Elizabeth Speller slowly builds an atmosphere of despair in the house and village. It looks as though things will drag on as they are forever - until things take a sudden shocking turn.

I was reminded of the true story of a country house and of a missing child told in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: a shocking murder and the undoing of a great Victorian detective  by Kate Summerscale.  That book too has the same atmoshere of despair and dysfunction in a world of privilege.  Perhaps you might like to read that  next?


New Books for Book Clubs

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Here are some new books getting a lot of media exposure.  They would all make great picks for book clubs.  Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.  “A novel set on a remote Australian island, where a childless couple live quietly running a lighthouse, until a boat carrying a baby washes ashore.”



The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  “LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE.  Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.  Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live. Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him–allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years. And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy. A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise–and utterly irresistible–storyteller”

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.  “Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this novel is based on the author’s personal story. For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood, the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.”

Dare Me by Meg Abbott.  “Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives. Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” — both with the team and with Addy herself. Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain. The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Award-winning novelist Megan Abbott, writing with what Tom Perrotta has hailed as “total authority and an almost desperate intensity,” provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.”

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  “Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.”


Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards

Friday, September 14th, 2012






The winners of the 2012 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, sponsored by the Faith, Hope and Love chapter of the Romance Writers of America include the following books in HCPL.  Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

Long Contemporary: Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson

Short Contemporary: (tie) Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii by Robin Jones Gunn. (The book tied with a Kindle book, Light the Fire by Mary Manners)

Long Historical: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Short Historical: Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher

Women’s Fiction: Broken Wings by Carla Stewart

Romantic Suspense: Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper