Archive for February, 2013

New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Robert Caro won the New-York Historical Society  American History Book Prize for The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, the fourth volume in his biography of the 36th president, the New York Times reported.  Caro will be honored in April during the historical society’s annual Weekend With History event, where he will also receive an engraved medal and the title “American Historian Laureate.”

Find this book in our catalog

Here’s what it says about the book in our catalog: “Book Four of Robert A. Caro’s monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as “one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece.” The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career–1958 to1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark. By 1958, as Johnson began to maneuver for the presidency, he was known as one of the most brilliant politicians of his time, the greatest Senate Leader in our history. But the 1960 nomination would go to the young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. Caro gives us an unparalleled account of the machinations behind both the nomination and Kennedy’s decision to offer Johnson the vice presidency, revealing the extent of Robert Kennedy’s efforts to force Johnson off the ticket. With the consummate skill of a master storyteller, he exposes the savage animosity between Johnson and Kennedy’s younger brother, portraying one of America’s great political feuds. Yet Robert Kennedy’s overt contempt for Johnson was only part of the burden of humiliation and isolation he bore as Vice President. With a singular understanding of Johnson’s heart and mind, Caro describes what it was like for this mighty politician to find himself altogether powerless in a world in which power is the crucial commodity. For the first time, in Caro’s breathtakingly vivid narrative, we see the Kennedy assassination through Lyndon Johnson’s eyes. We watch Johnson step into the presidency, inheriting a staff fiercely loyal to his slain predecess∨ a Congress determined to retain its power over the executive branch; and a nation in shock and mourning. We see how within weeks–grasping the reins of the presidency with supreme mastery–he propels through Congress essential legislation that at the time of Kennedy’s death seemed hopelessly logjammed and seizes on a dormant Kennedy program to create the revolutionary War on Poverty. Caro makes clear how the political genius with which Johnson had ruled the Senate now enabled him to make the presidency wholly his own. This was without doubt Johnson’s finest hour, before his aspirations and accomplishments were overshadowed and eroded by the trap of Vietnam. In its exploration of this pivotal period in Johnson’s life–and in the life of the nation– The Passage of Power is not only the story of how he surmounted unprecedented obstacles in order to fulfill the highest purpose of the presidency but is, as well, a revelation of both the pragmatic potential in the presidency and what can be accomplished when the chief executive has the vision and determination to move beyond the pragmatic and initiate programs designed to transform a nation. It is an epic story told with a depth of detail possible only through the peerless research that forms the foundation of Robert Caro’s work, confirming Nicholas von Hoffman’s verdict that “Caro has changed the art of political biography.”"



Unusual Uses for Olive Oil

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

  Unusual Uses for Olive Oil by Alexander McCall Smith

Pity Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, the hapless and naïve learned gentleman, author of that definitive text Portuguese Irregular Verbs.  He goes through life only vaguely aware of the chaos he leaves in his wake.

In this latest installment in the ongoing adventures of Professor Dr. von Igelfeld, our much honored scholar in that magnificent field of philology seethes over any undeserved honors that might befall Professor Dr. Unterholzer, who is certainly not as erudite as the much more distinguished von Igelfeld – Unterholzer and his ridiculous sausage dog!  And so it is with great and deep hurt that von Igelfeld faces the possibility that Unterholzer just may be in line for one of the most prestigious awards that a philologist or linguist can receive.  Ah, but then he is introduced to the wealthy widow, Frau Benz, and further, he finds himself favored in her eyes, which could lead them both to the altar and consequently him to the finest Schloss in the area, if only he can keep his mouth shut and avoid insulting her.  But adventures with wealthy widows won’t be half as much fun as doing something he’s never done before – climb a mountain with experienced climbers!  Only von Igelfeld would consider such an activity.  Mountain climbing just simply can’t be that hard by the learned professor’s way of thinking.  What could be the trouble and fuss?

After his first several adventures in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, it stands to reason that our distinguished professor will face all of his newest challenges with the usual aplomb.  And if he occasionally lacks grace and poise, well, harrumph!  It can’t be his fault, can it?

D. L. S.


Thursday, February 21st, 2013

(Belcamp, Maryland – February 20, 2013) Meet New York Times best-selling author Jeff Shaara for a fireside chat and book signing at the annual A Night Out @ the Library on Friday, April 19, 2013, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jarrettsville Library. Tickets can be purchased now for the event plus there are a limited amount of VIP tickets for a private reception with Mr. Shaara prior to the fireside chat along with reserved seating and parking.

“We are thrilled to partner with Jeff Shaara for our 2013 A Night Out @ the Library,” stated Amber C. Shrodes, Director, Harford County Public Library Foundation. “Through his novels, Mr. Shaara brings the complex characters of the Civil War to life. Guests will be fascinated by his extensive knowledge on the subject and his detailed portrayal of individuals like ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Chamberlain.”

After writing Gods and Generals, Mr. Shaara published 11 books and met with similar acclaim on topics as varied as the American Revolution, World War I and World War II in addition to the Civil War. Shaara’s most recent book, A Blaze of Glory, which debuted in May, will be the focus of his discussion in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Jeff Shaara’s father, Michael Shaara, was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Killer Angels which was the basis of the 1990s movie “Gettysburg.” Jeff Shaara was approached to write his first book, Gods and Generals, after his father’s death. Gods and Generals is a prequel to his father’s work and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks.

Mr. Shaara has received numerous awards for his work including the National Library Association’s “Boyd Award,” the Lincoln Forum’s “Richard Nelson Current Award” and the “Bell I. Wiley Award” from the New York Civil War Round Table.

Tickets to this fireside chat and book signing are $55 per person and include lite fare, wine and beer. VIP tickets are available for $100 per person. Tickets may be purchased by calling 410-273-5600 or going to

Harford County Public Library operates 11 branches throughout Harford County, Maryland. The library serves more than 175,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of 4.5 million. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting a love of reading within the community.

The Harford County Public Library Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization established to raise funds to augment the financial resources of the Library and to promote awareness of Library services. More information may be found at


Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

(Belcamp, Maryland – February 19, 2013) Best-selling author Christopher Tilghman will be appearing at the Bel Air Library on Sunday, March 3 at 2:00 pm to speak about his new novel, The Right-Hand Shore and kick off Harford County Public Library’s Civil War 150 events. Civil War 150 is a special programming initiative which features authors, speakers, and exhibitions dealing with one of the darkest and most transformative periods in American History. Programs will take place March through June in various branches throughout the county.

The New York Times praises Tilghman’s latest novel. “The Right-Hand Shore represents an outing of some of America’s most troubled ghosts…The Right-Hand Shore is the dark, magisterial creation of a writer with an uncanny feel for the intersections of place and character in American history…Tilghman unfolds his harsh lesson with precision, delicacy and startling humor.”

In The Right-Hand Shore, the Mason family and their former slaves attempt to create a just and viable community in the tumultuous years after the Civil War. Most of these hopes are dashed by the farm’s failure and an unsolved murder, but out of these tragedies comes a forbidden love affair that offers a chance for redemption.

Christopher Tilghman’s life has revolved around his family’s farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. His other books include his novel Roads of the Heart and the short story collections In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run. Tilghman is a Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia.

Christopher Tilghman will be available to sign books after the discussion. The Right-Hand Shore will be available to purchase in hardback for $20; Mason’s Retreat in paperback for $9, or both books for $25; cash or check only. For more information or to register, please call the Bel Air Library at (410) 638-3151. Space is limited so registration is suggested. Please visit or visit any library branch for a complete listing of all the Civil War 150 events.

Harford County Public Library operates eleven branches located throughout Harford County, Maryland. The library serves over 175,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of 4.5 million. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting the love of reading within the community.


Photo caption #1: Christopher Tilghman, author of “The Right-Hand Shore” and “Mason’s Retreat,” will be appearing at the Bel Air Library on Sunday, March 3 at 2:00 pm.

Jen’s Jewels with Delia Ephron

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

With hectic schedules and constant demands on our time, the thought of taking off for parts unknown is rather appealing. Partaking in the journey with a best friend makes it even more attractive. Sometimes we just need to get away in order to clear our heads. Being able to decompress while contemplating life’s many challenges helps us make better decisions.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Delia Ephron addresses this very issue in her latest release, The Lion Is In. It’s the hilarious story of a kleptomaniac, a runaway bride, and a preacher’s wife who take off on an adventure in search of the next best thing. A poignant tale depicting the essence of unconditional friendship, this book is a true testament to the power of courage and love.

As part of this interview, Plume, a division of Penguin Books, has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. As always thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: As an accomplished screenwriter and author, your extraordinary career speaks for itself. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.
Delia: I have a B.A. from Barnard College. I started writing as a journalist at New York Magazine.

Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to pursue a career as a writer.
Delia: There was no “Aha!” moment. My parents were screenwriters, and I was expected to be a writer, so naturally I put it off until the end of my twenties. My first book was a book about crocheting – which seems insane in retrospect – and while I was writing it, just a ton of instructions really, I realized I wanted to be a “real writer.” Also I was almost 30 so things seemed clearer. By that I mean the need to take action and go for it.

Jen: Your latest release The Lion Is In is an unforgettable journey of three women in search of true happiness. How did you arrive at the premise?
Delia: I dreamed it. I had this super powerful dream about three women. They were in a bar and there was a lion. And I knew they were on the run and the lion would change their lives. And the whole thing took place in North Carolina, a state in which I had never been. When I woke up I started writing. Weirdly, I mean really and truly weirdly, when I visited North Carolina after writing a draft I found some very specific things I put in the book.

Jen: Also included in the story as a central character is a magnificent lion named Marcel who literally steals the show. Why did you choose to incorporate a lion into the novel?
Delia: Thank you. I love that you call him magnificent. I love, love, love Marcel. He, the lion, was in the dream. So that was that. A lion for sure.

Jen: How much research was needed in order to have Marcel’s storyline ring true with your readers?
Delia: I really wrote him out of my heart and with a lot of Googling. Then I sent the manuscript to a lion expert at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. I was a nervous wreck, but she said he was absolutely lion through and through. There’s a moment for instance where Rita, one of my heroines, washes her hair in a delicious smelling shampoo and sits in front of Marcel’s cage. He loves to sniff her hair. I thought the expert would tell me I was nuts but she said, that scene was spot on because lions in captivity are scent deprived and they spray air freshener around them to make them happier.

Jen: Each of the three main characters, Tracee, Lana, and Rita, has a charismatic charm with which the reader can relate. Let’s begin with Tracee, the runaway bride and kleptomaniac. How does her penchant for stealing affect her relationship with her best friend Lana?
Delia: All my characters have secrets from each other. Tracee has gotten herself into a heap of trouble, the law is after her. Lana thinks she knows why but she doesn’t. Have you ever had a friend you were devoted to? But too dependent on? That’s Lana and Tracee. By the way my editor calls this book Thelma and Louise plus one crossed with Born Free.

Jen: How does being on the run affect Lana’s ability to face her own demons as a recovering alcoholic?
Delia: This book is about the things we can run from and what we can’t. Lana has left some trouble behind but brought with her a continuing need to cause more trouble. Being sober hasn’t changed that. Also she’s full of guilt and shame, and she’s got some secrets – how will she begin again? Can she? That’s her journey.

Jen: My favorite character in the story is Rita, a preacher’s wife on the lam. Why does she so blindly entrust the aide of these two crazy girls?
Delia: Oh, you love Rita. That makes me happy. It has taken all Rita’s nerve just to walk out the door of her life. Lana and Tracee pick her up on the road; she doesn’t even have the awareness at that moment that her life has choices. Lana and Tracee turn out to be her great good fortune. Rita blossoms in the book, thanks to the sisterhood of Lana and Tracee and the power and love of one remarkable lion.

Jen: In what way does Marcel’s gentle spirit rub off on all three of them?
Delia: My gosh. I can’t give away my plot. Let me just say that sometimes we have to get in the cage with the lion and sometimes we need to roar. Metaphorically speaking.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now. Do you participate in author phone chats for book clubs? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?
Delia: I love to do that. You can email me at I like to do skyping.

Jen: Are you present in social media? If so, what is the best way for my readers to keep abreast of your latest news?
Delia: Here are my social network connections.,,
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?
Delia: I am working on a novel and a book of essays. But I am superstitious about discussing work. I’ll keep you posted. :)

Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. I am truly smitten with The Lion Is In. I highly recommend it to all my readers. Best of luck with your future projects!
Delia: Thank you. I’m thrilled you love the book.

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Delia Ephron. Please stop by your favorite book retailer or local library branch and pick up a copy of The Lion Is In today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?

Okay, please email me at with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Lion Is In. Five winners will be randomly drawn. Offer is void where prohibited.

What is the name of the lion?

In March, I will be bringing to you my interview with Elizabeth Haynes. You won’t want to miss it. Until next time…Jen

Lincoln Prize

Friday, February 15th, 2013

The 2013 Lincoln Prize, sponsored by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and honoring “the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War soldier, or a subject relating to their era,” has been awarded to Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes (Find this book in our catalog).

This is what it says about the book in our catalog: “Freedom National is a groundbreaking history of emancipation that joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South. It shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery. These two aims-”Liberty and Union, one and inseparable”-were intertwined in Republican policy from the very start of the war. By summer 1861 the federal government invoked military authority to begin freeing slaves, immediately and without slaveholder compensation, as they fled to Union lines in the disloyal South. In the loyal Border States the Republicans tried coaxing officials into gradual abolition with promises of compensation and the colonization abroad of freed blacks. James Oakes shows that Lincoln’s landmark 1863 proclamation marked neither the beginning nor the end of emancipation: it triggered a more aggressive phase of military emancipation, sending Union soldiers onto plantations to entice slaves away and enlist the men in the army. But slavery proved deeply entrenched, with slaveholders determined to re-enslave freedmen left behind the shifting Union lines. Lincoln feared that the war could end in Union victory with slavery still intact. The Thirteenth Amendment that so succinctly abolished slavery was no formality: it was the final act in a saga of immense war, social upheaval, and determined political leadership. Fresh and compelling, this magisterial history offers a new understanding of the death of slavery and the rebirth of a nation.”



Military Dogs

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Departing from his series characters, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole, Robert Crais’s new book, Suspect, (Find in our catalog), features a character of the canine persuasion; a military dog named Maggie, who is traumatized after losing her handler in an explosion.  This is what it says in our catalog: “The explosive new masterpiece of suspense from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author. LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty–until he meets his new partner. Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED, her PTSD is as bad as Scott’s. They are each other’s last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. What they begin to find is nothing like what Scott has been told, and the journey will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.”

You may like to read these other books about military dogs:

Sergeant Rex: the unbreakable bond between a Marine and his military working dog. “In Iraq we put our lives in each other’s hands (and paws) day after day. We took care of each other no matter what. Rex and I have a bond that will last for the rest of our born days. If ever there was a marine who lived up to Semper Fidelis, the motto of the Marine Corps, it’s Rex.” Deployed to Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death in 2004, Sergeant Mike Dowling and his military working dog Rex were part of the first Marine Corps military K9 teams sent to the front lines of combat since Vietnam. It was Rex’s job to sniff out weapons caches, suicide bombers, and IEDs, the devastating explosives that wreaked havoc on troops and civilians alike. It was Mike’s job to lead Rex into the heart of danger time and time again, always trusting Rex to bring them both back alive. Dowling had turned twenty-five and Rex three just after they arrived in Iraq. Neither of them had any idea what to expect, and no training could fully prepare them for this job. An animal lover since childhood, Dowling had fostered and trained dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and he was determined to serve in the military’s K9 unit after joining the Marines. On their first patrols in Iraq, Rex suffered a seemingly incurable fear of explosions and gunfire, but with Mike at the other end of his leash, Rex gained the courage to perform his duty. Filled with harrowing tales of knife-edge bomb-detection work, including an extraordinary baptism by fire, Sergeant Rex is a heart-pounding account of how an unbreakable human-canine bond helped Mike and Rex to stay focused on their mission and save countless lives. Dowling takes us into the searing 130-degree heat, the choking dust, and the ever-present threat of violent attack that seemed to permeate Iraq’s streets. We experience Dowling’s visceral fear of walking down an IED-laden alley where dismemberment or death can come with any footstep, only his trusted partner, Rex, by his side. Loyalty is one of the hallmarks of any good Marine, and nowhere is that quality more evident than in this astonishing account of Mike Dowling and Rex’s wartime experiences. A moving story of how a man and a dog developed complete trust in each other in the face of terrible adversity, Sergeant Rex is an unforgettable tale of sacrifice, courage, and love.”

The Dogs of War: the courage, love, and loyalty of military working dogs. “Military working dogs gained widespread attention after Cairo participated in the SEAL Team 6 mission that led to Osama bin Laden’s death. Before that, few civilians realized that dogs served in combat, let alone that they could parachute from thirty thousand feet up. The Dogs of War reveals the amazing range of jobs that our four-legged soldiers now perform, examines the dogs’ training and equipment, and sets the record straight on those rumors of titanium teeth. You’ll find heartwarming stories of the deep bond that dogs and their handlers share with each other, and learn how soldiers and civilians can help the cause by fostering puppies or adopting retirees. An incredible story of the largely unseen but vital role that dogs play in our armed forces, The Dogs of War is a must-read for animal lovers everywhere.”

Soldier Dogs: the untold story of America’s canine heroes. “A leading reporter offers a tour of military working dogs’ extraordinary training, heroic accomplishments, and the lasting impacts they have on those who work with them. People all over the world have been riveted by the story of Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who was a part of the Navy SEAL team that led the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. A dog’s natural intelligence, physical abilities, and pure loyalty contribute more to our military efforts than ever before. You don’t have to be a dog lover to be fascinated by the idea that a dog-the cousin of that furry guy begging for scraps under your table-could be one of the heroes who helped execute the most vital and high-tech military mission of the new millennium. Now Maria Goodavage, editor and featured writer for one of the world’s most widely read dog blogs, tells heartwarming stories of modern soldier dogs and the amazing bonds that develop between them and their handlers. Beyond tales of training, operations, retirement, and adoption into the families of fallen soldiers, Goodavage talks to leading dog-cognition experts about why dogs like nothing more than to be on a mission with a handler they trust, no matter how deadly the IEDs they are sniffing, nor how far they must parachute or rappel from aircraft into enemy territory. “Military working dogs live for love and praise from their handlers,” says Ron Aiello, president of the United States War Dogs Association and a former marine scout dog handler. “The work is all a big game, and then they get that pet, that praise. They would do anything for their handler.” This is an unprecedented window into the world of these adventurous, loving warriors.”


Book to Movie: Austenland

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The independent movie, Austenland, produced by Stephenie Meyer, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this January. Sony has now announced they picked it up for distribution, expecting to release it this summer.

The movie is based on Shannon Hale’s novel Austenland (Find in our catalog). An obsessive fan tries to overcome her debilitating infatuation with Mr. Darcy (specifically, Colin Firth’s version in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) by going to an English resort that caters to the Austen-obsessed.

This is what it says in our catalog: “Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen – or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?”


Valentine’s Day Famous Couples in Fact and Fiction

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.  “Fact and fiction blend in a historical novel that chronicles the relationship between seminal architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, from their meeting, when they were each married to another, to the clandestine affair that shocked Chicago society.”

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  “Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time. Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives. In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.”

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Here is the magical legend of King Arthur and Guinevere, “vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne.”

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  “Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester. The loneliness and cruelty of Jane’s childhood strengthens her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice.”

The Secret Life of Josephine: Napoleon’s Bird of Paradise by Carolly Erickson.  “The bestselling author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette and The Last Wife of Henry VIII returns with an enchanting novel about one of the most seductive women in history: Josephine Bonaparte, first wife of Napoleon. Born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, Josephine had an exotic Creole appeal that would ultimately propel her to reign over an empire as wife of the most powerful man in the world. But her life is a story of ambition and danger, of luck and a ferocious will to survive. Married young to an arrogant French aristocrat who died during the Terror, Josephine also narrowly missed losing her head to the guillotine. But her extraordinary charm, sensuality, and natural cunning helped her become mistress to some of the most powerful politicians in post-Revolutionary France. Soon she had married the much younger General Bonaparte, whose armies garnered France an empire that ran from Europe to Africa and the New World and who crowned himself and his wife Emperor and Empress of France. He dominated on the battlefield and she presided over the worlds of fashion and glamor. But Josephine’s heart belonged to another man–the mysterious, compelling stranger who had won her as a girl in Martinique.”


Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Friday, February 8th, 2013

This book review was submitted to me by Deborah Rockwell, a member of the Bel Air Fiction book discussion group.  Check Headlines and Happenings for all the book groups meeting at Harford County Public Library branches around the county.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (Find this book in our catalog).

How does one interrogate a murder suspect who has Alzheimer’s?

This is only one of the many questions that comes to mind while reading this unusual book about Dr. Jennifer White.  Much of the story is written from a first person perspective as the author imagines the mind of an Alzheimer’s patient.  We also gradually learn Jennifer’s history, the stories of her two adult children and about her relationship with her late friend Amanda.  The story weaves back and forth from past to present as these plot threads emerge, blending with the progressing story of the murder investigation and Jennifer’s deterioration.

The author deserves credit for not making Jennifer or Amanda very likeable.  We would expect to sympathize with both the murder victim and the victim of this devastating disease, but Alice LaPlante does not permit us to walk this easy path.  If we have empathy for either of these two characters, it is only due to what happened to them, not because of who they are. The other characters – Jennifer and Amanda’s husbands, Jennifer’s adult children, the detective – are fully fledged personalities.  We alternately like, dislike, and suspect of wrong doing all the characters in the course of the book.

This book is recommended for mystery lovers as well as anyone who is interested in reading about the complexity of human relationships.

Deborah Rockwell