Archive for May, 2013

Plutarch Award for the best biography of 2012

Friday, May 31st, 2013

The Passage of Power by Robert Caro (Find in our catalog) has won the inaugural Plutarch Award for the best biography of 2012.

This is what it says about the book in our catalog:  “Pulitizer Prize biographer Robert A. Caro follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career, describing Johnson’s volatile relationship with John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy during the fight they waged for the 1960 Democratic nomination for president, through Johnson’s unhappy vice presidency, his assumption to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination, his victories over the budget and civil rights, and the eroding trap of Vietnam.”

The award is voted on by members of Biographers International Organization from a list of nominees selected by a committee of members of the craft. The finalists were:

* A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman by Alice Kessler-Harris

* The Lives of Margaret Fuller by John Matteson

* The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss


Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Howard Jacobson became the first two-time winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction when his novel Zoo Time took the award May 15, the Guardian reported, noting that the winner “as is traditional will be presented with a locally-bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig named after their winning title.”  (Find Zoo Time in our catalog)

Jacobson, who had previously won in 2000 for Mighty Walzer, said, “This is the only literary prize that actively seeks out and rewards comedy. Other prizes often view it as sort of embarrassing writerly malfunction–which is treacherous, in my view, when you consider the comic origins of the novel and the strong comedic traditions of English writing in particular.”

This is what our catalog says about the book:  “Novelist Guy Ableman is in thrall to his vivacious wife Vanessa, a strikingly beautiful red-head, contrary, highly strung and blazingly angry. The trouble is, he is no less in thrall to her alluring mother, Poppy. More like sisters than mother and daughter, they come as a pair, a blistering presence that destroys Guy’s peace of mind, suggesting the wildest stories but making it impossible for him to concentrate long enough to write any of them.

Not that anyone reads Guy anyway. Not that anyone is reading anything. Reading, Guy fears, is finished. His publisher, fearing the same, has committed suicide. His agent, like all agents, is in hiding. Vanessa, in the meantime, is writing a novel of her own. Guy doesn’t expect her to finish it, or even start it, but he dreads the consequences if she does.

In flight from personal disappointment and universal despair, Guy wonders if it’s time to take his love for Poppy to another level. Fiction might be dead, but desire isn’t. And out of that desire he imagines squeezing one more great book.

By turns angry, elegiac, and rude, Zoo Time is a novel about love-love of women, love of literature, love of laughter. It shows our funniest writer at his brilliant best.”


Top Book Club Picks in April

Friday, May 24th, 2013

The following were the most popular book club books during April based on votes from more than 80,000 book club readers from more than 35,000 book clubs registered at  Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

5. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

6. The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom

7. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

8. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

10. The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


Chautauqua Prize

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Timothy Egan won the $7,500 Chautauqua Prize for his book Short nights of the Shadow Catcher: the epic life and immortal photographs of Edward Curtis (Find in our catalog). Presented annually by the Chautauqua Institution to a book of a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction “that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts,” the award also includes all travel and expenses for a one-week residency at Chautauqua.

This is what it says about the book in our catalog:  “Edward Curtis was dashing, charismatic, a passionate mountaineer, a famous photographer–the Annie Liebowitz of his time. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his great idea: He would try to capture on film the Native American nation before it disappeared. At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan’s book tells the remarkable untold story behind Curtis’s iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance–six years alone to convince the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. He would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his twenty volumes. But the charming rogue with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise–his great adventure succeeded in creating one of America’s most stunning cultural achievements.”– Provided by publisher.


Lean In Further

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

If you have read and enjoyed Lean In:  women, work, and the will to lead by Sheryl Sandberg, you might also like Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business by Pamela Ryckman (Find in our catalog).

This is what it says about Stiletto Network in our catalog:  “In numbers never seen before, ambitious women are joining forces in every major American city, forming salons, dinner groups, and networking circles – and collaborating to achieve clout and success. A new girls’ network is alive and set to hyperdrive, and it’s upending all the old rules about how power is allocated and business practiced.

Stiletto Network is an up-close and personal account of the groundswell of women’s groups changing the face of business: the “Power Bitches”; “Brazen Hussies”; “S.L.U.T.S.” (Successful Ladies Under Tremendous Stress); and dozens more. It’s about what happens when bright, caring women - from captains of industry to aspiring entrepreneurs - come together to celebrate and unwind, debate and compare notes. But it’s also about what happens when they leave the table, when the talking stops and the action starts. You’ll learn how they mine their collective wisdom to real­ize their dreams or champion a cause, how they lift up their friends and push them forward, ensuring each woman gets what she needs – be it information, an introduction, a recommendation, a partnership, or a landmark deal.

You’ll read about women such as Kim Moses, who created the most downloaded app in the history of Warner Bros. And Jennifer Nason, who oversaw the largest high-yield bond offering of 2010. And Mallun Yen, who joined the founding team of RPX, one of the fastest-growing start-ups in history, and steered it toward a $1 billion IPO. And Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and Melanie Sabelhaus, who created the most successful fundraising pilot in the history of the Red Cross. All of these movers and shakers were propelled by Stiletto Networks.

Stiletto Network is the first book to shed light on this groundbreaking movement. Sharing story after story of women banding together to help other women, the book’s witty, compassionate, and revealing narrative serves as both an inspiring call to action and a fascinating inside look at the new networks that are reshaping the business world.” (American Management Association)


Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Don DeLillo has been named the first recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, which honors “an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but for its originality of thought and imagination.  The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that–throughout long, consistently accomplished careers–have told us something about the American experience.”  DeLillo will be presented with the new lifetime achievement award during the National Book Festival in September.

Here are some of DeLillo’s books in our catalog:

The Angel Esmeralda: nine stories [audiobook (CD)]

The Body Artist: a novel

Cosmopolis: a novel

Falling Man: a novel

The Names [electronic book]

The Players [electronic book]

Point Omega [audiobook (CD)]



New Social Reading Site

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

BookLikes, a new social media reading site,  has just moved from beta to full release.  According to TeleRead,  a site devoted to news and views on ebooks, libraries, publishing and related topics, Booklikes combines “different aspects of social media sites such as Tumblr and Goodreads to become a place for readers to share thoughts and reviews.” TeleRead added, users “can create different posts about anything… follow other users, read their posts and discover books they’ve read.”

In my own humble opinion there is nothing quite like the pleasure of a face-to-face meeting with like-minded people to share one’s reading experience.  To this end, Harford County Public Library provides many book discussion opportunities of all kinds.  To make that personal connection, check out our Headlines and Happenings for a book discussion group at a branch near you.


Jen’s Jewels with Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Being married these days is no easy task. With so many demands on our time from work, the kids, and our extended families, it’s a challenge to keep up with our busy schedules. Imagine what it must be like for someone married to a minister of a megachurch. The thought of having to compete with God and the church’s parishioners on a daily basis for some quality time with your spouse would definitely be an added strain to a marriage.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Lisa Takeuchi Cullen addresses this very topic in her debut novel, Pastors’ Wives. It’s the story of three ministers’ wives who question their own faith, love, and sense of duty to their marriage and the church as they try to support their husbands’ life missions. With a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional megachurch and the role it plays in the community, this riveting depiction is a must-read for those who have ever questioned their own faith.

As part of this interview, Plume, a division of the Penguin Group, 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. Good luck! Be sure to keep up-to-date on all the latest news in the publishing business by stopping by or follow me on Facebook or Twitter @JenniferVido. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: Despite being a debut novelist, you are no stranger to the publishing business. 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.
Lisa: Oh, my. "The woman behind the words" sounds so mysterious! …which is not how anyone I know would describe me. I’m a New Jersey mom with two extremely chatty little girls—I don’t know where they get it—and a husband who hides in the basement and plays the clarinet. New Jersey is my adoptive home state; I was born and raised in Japan, and I first came to America to attend college (I got my bachelor’s at Rutgers and my master’s at Columbia, both in journalism, which, I’ll tell you right now, is not a field that requires advanced degrees). I worked for nearly two decades as a journalist, mostly in magazines. My last job as a journalist was as a staff writer for Time magazine. I quit in 2009. Now I make stuff up.

Jen: Please describe for us your "Aha!" moment when you decided to write a fictional book and add the title novelist to your impressive list of accomplishments.
Lisa: You wouldn’t think I was impressive if you saw me right now, in my pink bunny slippers and my hair still unbrushed! My "aha" moment—if you can call it that—happened during my drive to work, when I idly realized an article I had just written about Pastors’ Wives for Time would make an awesome TV series. Not that I had any idea how to go about that. Somehow I soon found myself with a TV agent and a producer. Many complications ensued. Suffice it to say it all ended in disaster. My wonderful book agent urged me to write the story anyway, this time as a novel. I did. We sold Pastors’ Wives to Plume/Penguin in February 2012.

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long did it take for you to complete the manuscript? And, what was the most challenging part of writing a novel in comparison to your previous experience as a consummate journalist?
Lisa: The article I wrote for Time published in 2007. And I just happened to find the file marked Pastors’ Wives DRAFT 1, and it was dated September 2009. But I know I didn’t really get cranking on it till 2011. The most challenging part was the plotting. I live and die by outlines, and this was my first attempt at a novel. I needed a very clear, very detailed road map. And then, of course, there’s the sitting-down-to-write part. As a mom, I could really only count on writing during school hours. Which meant I found myself doing everything but until after lunch, and then writing like mad until I had to leave for pickup.

Jen: Pastors’ Wives is a truly engrossing story depicting the behind-the-scenes drama of a fictional megachurch. How did you arrive at the premise?
Lisa: Thank you so much! The idea came out of a feature article I wrote for Time magazine. The Pastors’ Wives I’d met and interviewed for the article were such fascinating, complex women that I couldn’t get them out of my mind. My interest in the subject intersected with some personal events: my mother died of cancer, then my father of a broken heart. I suffered a crisis of faith. As writers, we have the great privilege of writing through our issues, so that’s what I did. My three main characters—Ruthie, Candace and Ginger—all helped guide me through my own crisis.

Jen: One might say that your fictional Greenleaf Church mirrors some highly popular megachurches in existence today. As for research, did you meet any resistance from these entities? And, what was the most fascinating tidbit you discovered along the way?
Lisa: I think a lot of us who don’t belong to the world of megachurches are fascinated by the superficial things: the razzle-dazzle, the telethons, the sheer wealth. But I think the enormous popularity of these institutions speaks to what we as a society seek. The writer Susan Cain has some very interesting thoughts on this in her book "Quiet," in which she argues that our reverence for extroversion extends even to religion. Maybe. I do know that millions of Americans get something out of it. I researched and visited churches big and small, and interviewed dozens of Pastors’ Wives. Not a one of them turned me away. The wives spoke to me with searing candor, leaving me all the more impressed.

Jen: Let’s talk about the three main characters, all of which have a major stake in this church. Ruthie, a Catholic Jersey girl, becomes immersed in the Greenleaf community when her husband accepts a ministerial position. How does Ruthie’s new role as a pastor’s wife cause her to question her own spiritual beliefs?
Lisa: I think Ruthie always questioned. She always had doubts. But like most of us, her faith was so interwoven with the fabric of her family life that she never dared pick at the stitches. When her mother dies and she follows her husband away from her family and into megachurch life, she’s forced to confront her own beliefs. She realizes she doesn’t share her husband’s faith, and she’s terrified. She thinks: "How long could two people sustain a marriage when one believes what the other does not? I could love a man of God. I could, and I did. But as I edged toward the side of the infidels, could a man of God love me?"

Jen: Candace Green is the matriarch of Greenleaf Church. Her role as wife and spiritual confidante to the senior pastor Aaron makes her undeniably the most powerful woman in the church. How does her relationship with her sons impact the future ministry of the church?
Lisa: Candace is very, very good at her job, which is unofficial Chief Operating Officer of the church. This lady could run a small country. She adores her two sons, one of whom runs a planted offshoot of Greenleaf called Newleaf. But there are two problems. One, Timothy’s heart is in his overseas ministry, not his fledgling church. And two, Timothy is married to Ginger, a woman Candace feels is incompetent, at best, and untrustworthy, at worst. Candace wouldn’t trust Ginger to run a bake sale, let alone a church. So Candace orders a surreptitious audit of Newleaf finances, which leads to a shocking revelation and a crisis in their relationship.

Jen: Ginger plays the pitiful role of the outcast in the Green family. How does her inability to put the past aside affect her relationship with the other members of her immediate family, and her friendship with Ruthie?
Lisa: I’ve never lived with a terrible secret like Ginger does. So I can only imagine that perpetual pit-in-the-stomach fear of being found out. She’s scrabbled her way out of an awful life and into Paradise Estates, the pristine gated community where Candace and Aaron have provided her and her family a lovely home. Candace dotes on Ginger’s children. Ginger knows she can’t offer the manna of the Greens’ love on her own. When she befriends Ruthie, she starts to see herself as her new friend sees her: a good, generous woman. But her fear of losing everything still drives her radical actions.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Lisa: Thank you for mentioning my website,! It’s my pride and joy. I keep a regular blog on which I detail my adventures in book publishing and TV writing. There’s also a bio page, and pages for each of my books, and a page for links to stuff I’ve written…it’s basically a whole lot of me. Which isn’t to say I think I’m so great. It’s just that the book business is what it is and a girl has to flog her books!

Jen: Are you present in social media? And, what is the best way for my readers to keep abreast of your latest news?
Lisa: Please friend me on Facebook (, like my Facebook author page (, and/or follow me @lisacullen on Twitter!

Jen: Any chance for a sequel? And, are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?
Lisa: Well, I still think Pastors’ Wives would make a fun, soapy TV drama…don’t you? Maybe on Lifetime? As for my next novel, yes, I’m hard at work on a murder mystery set in Okinawa, Japan. It too is inspired by an article I wrote for Time. (Apparently I have no ideas of my own.)

Jen: I would be remiss if I didn’t inquire about your upcoming CBS television pilot, The Ordained. Any updates?
Lisa: It’s been quite a roller coaster ride. The Ordained was produced this spring, starring Charlie Cox, Sam Neill, Audra McDonald, Jorge Garcia and Hope Davis. We shot it in New York City over 13 very, very cold days. Then we edited and tweaked it into an absolutely riveting show…which we just found out the network didn’t include it in its fall lineup. We’re devastated. You can read all about the ups and downs at!

Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. I absolutely loved Pastors’ Wives. I highly recommend it to my Jen’s Jewels readers. Bravo! Best of luck in all of your future projects.
Lisa: Jen, thank you so much for a wonderful interview. I’m flattered beyond belief! Now back to reality as a working mom…

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. Please stop by your favorite bookstore, online retailer, or library branch and pick up a copy of Pastors’ Wives today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to email me with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win!

What are the names of the three main characters in Pastors’ Wives?

In June, I will be bringing you my interview with New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer. You won’t want to miss it. Until next time…happy reading!

May is Mystery Month – Agatha Awards

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Winners of the Agatha Awards, which celebrate the “traditional mystery–books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie,” were honored at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Md., the weekend of May 4 and 5. This year’s fiction winners include:

Novel: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (Find in our catalog).  “No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.” But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.”

Historical Novel: Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson (Find in our catalog).  “Dandy is caught between two feuding families who run rival department stores. Dandy’s services are needed when the heiress to one of the stores goes missing. As Dandy starts to unravel the long-hidden family secrets, she begins to discover disturbing connections and it’s not long before danger abounds.”–Dust jacket.



Quilting Mysteries

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Monkey Wrench by Terri Thayer.  “With two weeks left before the annual Quilters Crawl, Dewey Pellicano is excited to showcase her quilt shop after a four-year absence from the crawl. Quilters from all over visit as many quilting shops as they can within a short time. But Dewey’s giveaway planning and Twitter promotion are cut short when her assistant manager, Vangie, is implicated in her boyfriend’s untimely demise following a protest against a campus drug bust.”


Knot What It Seams by Elizabeth Craig.  “When former folk art curator Beatrice Coleman retired to Dappled Hills, North Carolina, for peace and quiet and quilting, she never expected that murder would disturb the peace… Dwindling membership has the Village Quilters hanging by a thread, and group leader Meadow Downey is desperate to recruit some new folks. With Beatrice’s blessing, she attempts to weave frequent quilt show judge Jo Paxton into their fold. As the town’s irascible mail carrier, Jo delivers trouble wherever she goes. And with all that mail at her fingertips, she knows everyone’s business. Soon Beatrice wonders if they’ve made the right choice. After a car accident sends Jo to meet her Maker, it’s discovered someone tampered with her brakes. Meadow believes someone’s out to eradicate the Village Quilters, but Beatrice isn’t so sure. Now she and her fellow quilters will have to piece together the clues, or a deadly killer might strike again.… Includes quilting tips and recipes!”

The Devil’s Puzzle by Clare O’Donohue.  “After their quilting retreat upstate, the Someday Quilts ladies return to Archers Rest to prepare for the town’s big anniversary celebration. But their plans are unexpectedly derailed by the discovery of a human skeleton in Nell’s grandmother’s backyard-making Eleanor the prime suspect in a murder. But a skeleton isn’t the only thing that’s long been buried. When a wave of vandalism raises fears that the town’s bygone history of witchcraft has been reawakened, secrets are unearthed that could change life in Archers Rest forever.”

Tumbling Blocks by Earlene Fowler.  “With Christmas just a few weeks away, Benni’s queenly boss, Constance Sinclair, demands that she investigate the death of a local socialite. It’s not long before Benni recognizes that there may be some deadly truth to Constance’s suspicions. But with a famously reclusive artist about to put Benni’s quilting museum on the map-and her daunting mother-in-law and her “surprise” new husband visiting-Benni’s holiday is already hectic. Nevertheless, she’ll need to crack the exclusive circle of suspects before one more gourmet goose gets cooked.”

Alice’s Tulips by Sandra Dallas.  “Alice Bullock is a young newlywed whose husband, Charlie, has just joined the Union Army, leaving her on his Iowa farm with only his formidable mother for company. Equally talented at sewing and gossip, and not overly fond of hard work, Alice writes lively letters to her sister filled with accounts of local quilting bees, the rigors of farm life, and the customs of small-town America. But no town is too small for intrigue and treachery, and when Alice finds herself accused of murder, she must rely on support from unlikely sources. Rich in details of quilting, Civil War-era America, and the realities of a woman’s life in the nineteenth century, Alice’s Tulips is Sandra Dallas at her best, a dramatic and heartwarming tale of friendship, adversity, and triumph.”