The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

“In this engrossing new book, Robert S. Levine has penned a nuanced and detailed study of the ‘hopes and frustrations of Reconstruction’ during Andrew Johnson’s presidency. While focusing on the relationship between Johnson and Frederick Douglass, the author also includes the views of numerous African American writers who witnessed Johnson’s transformation from self-styled ‘Moses to Black People’ to betrayer of Reconstruction. The Failed Promise is a lesson for our times as we continue to confront our nation’s unfulfilled promise of racial equality.” 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow

Tuesday, Sep 21 from 7 – 8 pm online 

HCLS is pleased to welcome author Robert S. Levine as he discusses his new book, The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, which tells the story of Frederick Douglass’ heated struggle with President Andrew Johnson over the rights of Black Americans in the years immediately following the Civil War. 

Professor Levine recounts the conflicts that led to Johnson’s impeachment from the perspective of Douglass and the wider Black community. Douglass believed that the Union victory in the Civil War, aided by nearly 200,000 Black soldiers, meant that African Americans should gain the full rights of U.S. citizenship, including the right to vote. Sadly, Black Americans and other minorities are continuing to fight for such rights. Douglass’ struggle with Johnson speaks to the promise and failure of Reconstruction, and to the struggles of our own moment as well. 

Learn more and register at bit.ly/failedpromise

Robert S. Levine is a distinguished University Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including The Lives of Frederick Douglass, and he is the General Editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, the world’s most widely used American literature anthology. Visit his website for more starred reviews of The Failed Promise as well as a bibliography of his other writings.

Read it! Watch it!

by Emily B.

Book to film adaptations are some of the most beloved and memorable works of pop culture, and devoted fans are always excited to see their favorite novels made into movies or TV series. Whether the adaptation is completely faithful to the book or takes dramatic liberties to make the material fit the medium, reworking an author’s vision in a new format complements and enhances the reader’s understanding of the original work. Check out these awesome books, then see the stories come to life on screen! 

Paddington by Michael Bond (book and movie)
Follow the adventures of Paddington, the marmalade-loving bear from Peru, as he adjusts to life with a family of humans in London. The movie adaptations are the equivalent of a warm hug – wholesome and fun for all ages.
For all ages.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie)
After planning a big trip to Antarctica, the family matriarch Bernadette disappears with no notice, and it’s up to her teenage daughter to figure out what happened. Cate Blanchett stars as the titular character in the film adaptation.
For adults.

You by Caroline Kepnes (book and TV series)
An eerie tale narrated by an obsessive stalker and master manipulator, Joe, who will stop at nothing to be with his dream girl. In the television series, Penn Badgley perfectly plays the role of the unassuming creep.
For adults.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and TV series)
The perfect twisty summer read, Moriarty’s novel features elementary school drama, female friendship, and mystery. Season 1 of the television show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel, and season two continues the story and expands on the aftermath of the book’s ending.
For adults.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie with subtitles)
The heartwarming tale of a curmudgeonly old man, Ove, whose world is turned topsy-turvy when a young family moves in next door. Will this new family be able to crack Ove’s tough exterior?
For adults.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (book and movie)
This autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s tumultuous childhood growing up in Iran amidst the Islamic Revolution. The film adaptation was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2007 Academy Awards.
For ages 14+.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (book and most recent movie)
Louisa May Alcott’s beloved coming-of-age tale of the four March sisters has been adapted many times. Most recently, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation garnered six Academy Award nominations and took home the prize for Best Costume Design.
For ages 14+.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie)
The heart-wrenching story of Starr, a teen who witnesses her best friend’s murder at the hands of a police officer and has to deal with the emotional and political fallout that ensues.
For ages 14+.

Emily is a Customer Service Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.

Two Tales of Two Sisters

An ornate curved dagger with a jeweled hilt appears against a swirling red background, with "Magic is in her blood" at the top and Tasha Suri, Empire of Sand across it along the bottom.
Book cover of Empire of Sand

by Kristen B.

Empire of Sand opens with a young woman painting a window sill with her blood, looking to ward against the daiva spirits of the wild sands. In some ways, the rest of Tasha Suri’s duology revolves around these older spirits that have been subjugated by the Ambhan Empire – and by those who consider them monsters and those who count them as family. Suri’s books are set in a lush, vibrant world based on the Mughal Empire – complete with vast deserts and verdant oases. Here, the Emperor governs but the Maha rules. Here, the upper class consists solely of Ambhan people and the Amrithi are outcast because of their magic.

Mehr is the privileged child of the regional governor, acknowledged but nonetheless the daughter of an Amrithi courtesan. She possesses the full inheritance of her mother’s people, but is protected by her father’s influence. Mehr lives in an uneasy truce with her step-mother, who has adopted Mehr’s younger sister as her own daughter to be raised as an Ambhan noblewoman. Mehr has no ambition for a noble marriage, but when she is discovered practicing Amrithi magic, she is given little choice.

The Maha rules the Empire through the prayers of his mystics. When Mehr accidentally divulges her abilities, she is forcibly married to the powerful mystic Amun and taken away to live a sequestered life in a distant oasis. At the Maha’s Temple, Mehr learns that she and her husband are expected to perform the Rite of the Bound. This magical rite, a choreographed dance with particular poses and gestures, allows the magic of the desert daiva and older gods to flow through the Maha and into the Empire, extending its territory and influence. Through their practice and discipline, Mehr and Amun learn about each other and the tragedies that brought each to the Maha’s temple.

It is this romance of desperation and rebellion that powers the second half of the book. I read this novel in large gulps, needing to know what happened next. As much as I enjoyed the world building, I truly came to love both Mehr and Amun, rooting for them to find a way to be together and free of the Empire. The underlying themes of colonization and prejudice give Empire of Sand an unexpected sense of gravity. There is no doubt but that individual lives were used and abused for the supposed greater good. The consequences of generations of such cruelty cannot easily be constrained or controlled.

A spear points downward against a patterned blue background, with "A curse is upon the throne" in gold script above "Realm of Ash" overlaying the spear, and "Tasha Suri" at the bottom.
Book cover of Realm of Ash

The second book, Realm of Ash, deals with the unfolding repercussions from Mehr and Amun’s story, but from another perspective entirely. We encounter Mehr’s younger sister, Arwa, again as she makes her way to a distant convent for widowed noblewomen. Arwa was, indeed, raised as an Ambhan noblewoman and married a military officer with a bright future. When the garrison is massacred by daiva, Arwa is one of the few survivors and chooses to absent herself from high society. Not entirely surprisingly, the convent is a hotbed of Imperial politics and Arwa soon finds herself on the way to the capital city to serve in the retinue of a princess.

Where her sister has the magic of the Amrithi rites, Arwa discovers that she has a different ability that allows her to access the memories in her blood, remembrances of her ancestors, in the Realm of Ash. The princess’ illegitimate brother lives in nocturnal solitude, researching and experimenting for a way to restore the Ambhan Empire to its former safety and prestige. Arwa must learn to embrace her Amrithi heritage to help the prince and to accept her own worth. Again, a forbidden romance (Ambhan noblewomen may not remarry) lies at the heart of a rebellion against a court built on deception and corruption. And again, I found myself rooting for these two against all odds.

In some ways I preferred Realm of Ash because it shows more of the interconnected elements of the Ambhan Empire, the military and the regular people of Jah Ambha (the capital city), servants and spies. As Arwa and her prince flee into the desert and join a pilgrimage, the wide variety of life outside of palaces and temples make for a wonderful sense of place and history. The bigger picture at play in the second book is, perhaps, only made possible by the laser focus of the first novel.

The fantasy genre is chock-full of strong heroines, women who can outfight anyone and snark about it after … the term kick-ass is usually employed. Mehr and Arwa gave me a much more grounded reality, finding their courage in the face of terrifying odds. Neither young woman wants to be an agent of change or is a rebel at heart. Both have learned to keep their heads down and mouths shut so as not to attract attention or draw criticism. They do have, however, an unerring sense of fairness and a desire to be allowed to live their own lives, loving whom they choose. These sisters indelibly alter their entire world by being brave enough to take the chances presented to them, sometimes fearlessly and sometimes with only a hope and a prayer.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.

On the Road with the New Pop-Up Library

The new van, decorated with colorful circles and photos of Library events, with its awning extended.
PopUp Library at HCLS East Columbia branch.

HCLS is excited to have a new way to bring books and services into our community. The new mobile unit is primarily designed to bring preschool classes and learning resources to children of families who do not have easy access to the Library’s six branches. Classes and services will primarily be delivered to children, birth through three years of age, and their parents/caregivers from asset limited and income constrained families in communities that have also been directly affected by the pandemic. 

  • The vehicle will be outfitted with a collection of library materials in a variety of formats, including books, activity kits, and toys, as well as Chromebooks and mobile hotspots. 
  • It also functions as a mobile hotspot providing Internet access to the nearby community during each stop. HCLS staff will provide information on library classes and events and about community resources.
  • When not visiting preschools and daycare facilities, the Pop-Up Library will visit festivals, events, and other gatherings throughout Howard County. 
  • Visit hclibrary.org/pop-up to see where the van will be and to request it for your neighborhood. You can find us at Words on the Street at Colorburst Park in Columbia on September 9 & 23.
  • The mobile unit was funded by a Rise to the Challenge Grant from Howard County Government, Friends & Foundation of Howard County Library System, M&T Bank, PNC Foundation, and HoCo Balt Book Club. 

Women’s Stories from World War II

The cover is mostly in shades of grey, with a woman's face seen from behind turned to the side, smelling a rose. A plane, in a downward spiral, appears across the top. Spots of red in the smoke from the plane, the rose, and circling the name Verity provide a pop of color.

by Kristen B.

One of the current hot trends in publishing involves telling the previously overlooked stories of women during World War II, from code breakers at Bletchley Park and Arlington Hall to spies who worked with the Resistance. It seems they are everywhere right now. My all-time favorite, and one of the first in this sub-genre, is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (technically YA, but I have no idea why).

Two young British women become bosom friends and compatriots in supplying occupied France with intelligence. Maddie is an amateur mechanic and pilot, who works ferrying planes around the UK to various RAF bases and sometimes across the Channel. She loves flying with an undying passion. I learned more about early aircraft than I wanted, to be honest. Men were needed as combat pilots, so women flew most of the personnel and supply shuttles. Maddie has a heart of gold and a desire to make a difference despite her lack of social standing or eduction. She’s the perfect foil to Queenie (code name Verity), a member of the upper class with a wicked ability with languages and acting, who is recruited directly into intelligence work. Not to put too fine a point on it, our girl is a perfect spy. Her nom de guerre means truth, and the entire book hinges on figuring out which parts of her story are true.

The two become unlikely friends through their brief careers, including one scene where they end up lost on their bikes in the rain because all the road signs have been removed. When Queenie ends up captured behind enemy lines, everyone fears the worst. Verity is the main narrator for the book, and to say she’s unreliable doesn’t even begin to capture the reality. The plot is a breathless dash of misadventure and raw calculation, and you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. Sometimes friendship saves the day, and sometimes a book rips your heart from your chest and leaves you a wreck on the sofa. Maybe I’m saying too much … but really, just read it!

Code Name Verity is also available as an eBook from Libby/OverDrive and as an audiobook on CD.

All in shades of blue, the outline of a castle appears in the foggy background with a hedge in the foreground and a plane high overheard.

Equally fraught if less devastating, The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck gives us an unusual and moving look at German women in the immediate aftermath of the war. Three women and their children find themselves living together in a derelict castle in Bavaria, doing their utmost simply to survive. The property belongs to Marianne von Lingenfels, member of the landed aristocracy and wife of one of Hitler’s detractors. When her husband and other conspirators in the 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler are summarily executed, she tries to fulfill her promise to save as many other wives and children as possible.

She manages to find two: Benita and Ania. Benita, a classic German beauty, flees her family’s impoverished life by marrying Marianne’s best friend from childhood. Ania and her two boys escape from the far eastern regions and trudge through much of the country, dodging Russian soldiers and American GIs, before reaching the safety of the castle. The three women and their six children band together in unlikely friendship to outlast the worst depredations and devastations. In one of the most moving scenes, everyone in the castle and the connected village attends an Advent service in the local ruined church, and the power of the sacred music and a clear, cold night brings a much-needed moment of hope.

As the book progresses, we learn each woman’s history and gain some understanding of how they come to be within the castle. Benita suffers all a beautiful woman at the mercy of an enemy can expect. Marianne, used to privilege and a life filled with intellectual rigor, maintains a moral viewpoint that allows for very few shades of grey – despite being in a time and space that demands them. And Ania, my favorite character by far, lives almost entirely within those grey spaces in the most practical manner possible. Her background of supporting the Nazi agenda until she could no longer ignore the atrocities portrays the “good German” conundrum all too well.

The book catalogs the necessary sacrifices and compromises, from the reality of marauding renegade soldiers to the plight of Displaced Persons. It’s a fascinating portrayal of how people move forward, trying to make it through today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year. It made me think about how this is not a sexy, heroic story, nor is it a tragic tale of valiant derring-do and winning through at all costs. Shattuck gives us – gifts us – three fairly ordinary German women thrown together in dire circumstances who survive … because what else was there to do?

The Women in the Castle is also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook from Libby/OverDrive and as an audiobook on CD.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment

by Aimee Z.

The cover of Heroic Measures shows the cityscape of New York, fading from deep gray-blue at the top to a reddish-orange near the bottom, with the title, author's name, and a silhouette of a dachshund in white superimposed in the foreground.

Septuagenarians Ruth and Alex Cohen have made a momentous decision: they are going to sell their Lower East Side flat in one of the Big Apple’s most desirable locations. According to their realtor, they’ll easily net a million dollars, which is enough to retire with their precious and equally senior dachshund, Dorothy. In their tiny kitchen, Alex wearing his hearing aids and Ruth in her serious bifocals study the open house listing due to appear online in a matter of hours as two calamitous events occur.

Over the radio, a news alert interrupts the broadcast. A large truck in the Midtown Tunnel has overturned. Traffic in Manhattan is suddenly gridlocked. The driver, now deemed a suspected terrorist, has fled, heightening domestic security all the way to Queens.

Ruth and Alex smirk and shake their heads. Ruth, in her heyday, and Alex by association, was once considered a Communist threat; a schoolteacher in her perky beret and peep-toe pumps who’d somehow found herself on the FBI’s secret enemy list.

But their moment of musing about the past is soon shattered with the appearance of Dorothy. The little dog lets out an ear-piercing howl, and to her parents’ horror, Dorothy’s bottom goes out. A race to the vet ensues, and despite the snarl of traffic, news anchors on the scene, and a now significant anti-terrorism military component, Ruth and Alex manage to get Dorothy to the pet ER.

There, they learn that Dorothy has slipped a disc and needs surgery. Devastated, Ruth and Alex return home to their landline ringing. Their euphoric realtor informs them that a bidding war is already brewing on their apartment. With their dog in the hospital, Ruth and Alex must now contend with an open house.

A parade of prospective buyers pours in the next day. Trend-setting young gentrifiers with way too much money, they tramp through the dated apartment speaking offhandedly about gutting everything – especially Alex’s beloved art studio. One woman in boots, eager to feel the apartment’s embrace, plops down on the couple’s bed, lotus-style, waiting to see if her restraints of self-centeredness dissipate.

It’s all completely hilarious, but it’s Dorothy who steals the show. In the hospital, recovering from surgery, she suspects the vet and his team of conspiracy – all over a mysterious wee-wee pad! Heroic Measures takes readers on a clever, satisfying journey, so wry and wicked, at one point I laughed out loud – startling my own dogs.

Heroic Measures is the basis for the film 5 Flights Up, starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton and available as a DVD from HCLS.

Aimee Z., now retired, was part of the adult research staff at HCLS East Columbia Branch. She lives on a lake with her two labs, Dixie and Belle, who enthusiastically approved the content of this review in exchange for a peanut butter and jelly biscuit.

Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam

The cover shows tree branches in a dark silhouette with a dark blue sky, with the corner of a turquoise swimming pool and a lighter blue diving board with triangular metal handles in the foreground. The title, in block letters, is in complimentary shades of turquoise and blue.

by Aimee Z.

Is allyship a myth?  

Rumaan Alam explores this and more in his astute and fascinating third novel, Leave The World Behind. It begins simply enough:  A white Brooklyn family leave their hipster digs for an Airbnb week in the Hamptons. Like many Americans, Amanda, Clay, and their two teens view a beach vacation as an entitlement. It must be perfect – down to the SPF that won’t hinder your tanning goal.  

En route, Amanda orders Clay to stop at a small grocery store where she buys staples for the week: sustainable napkins, sourced maple syrup, even, Alam slyly adds, that “politically virtuous ice-cream, Ben and Jerry’s.” They pull up to the modest beach cottage and are delighted with the view of the water, a hot tub – even a pool. They barbecue, break out a $12 bottle of wine, swim – Amanda and Clay even have vacation sex that night.  Everyone falls into a blissful sleep as you, the reader, curl up with what feels like another mindlessly generic beach read.  

Then: there’s the proverbial knock at the door. It wasn’t a good thing for Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, and it surely can’t be for Amanda and Clay. They know that the only good door knock anyone ever gets is from an Amazon delivery driver. Eventually, Clay peeks through the chained door and is greeted by an elderly African-American couple: G.H. and Ruth. 

Calmly and politely, they explain that they are the owners of the Hampton vacation house that Amanda and Clay are enjoying. Amanda clutches her phone, Alam writes, like it’s a soft toy. She’s convinced they are scammers. Worse, this is a home invasion – especially when G.H. and Ruth cook up some lie that all of Manhattan (where they were staying) has succumbed to a total blackout. 

Suddenly, that beach read you thought you were enjoying has become something entirely different – its focus now a witty and revealing spin on the social dynamics between black and white. And it is. Sort of. 

Eventually, G.H. and Ruth (over G.H.’s private stash of very old whiskey) convince Amanda and Clay that some kind of crisis must be taking place. No internet, a consistently blue TV screen, as well as dead cell phone reception are worrisome though not alarming – until Amanda and G.H. spot a flock of pink flamingos in the pool and an unearthly sound, capable of chaos, brings them all to their knees. 

Eloquent and urgent, especially as we come out of this last and devastating year, Leave the World Behind is the one book everyone must read. 

Leave the World Behind is also available at HCLS as an ebook and an eaudiobook through Libby/OverDrive.

Aimee Z. is part of the adult research staff at HCLS East Columbia Branch. She lives on a lake with her two labs, Dixie and Belle, who enthusiastically approved the content of this review in exchange for a peanut butter and jelly biscuit.

Racism, Health & Action

A photo of a hospital's emergency room entrance, with EMERGENCY in large red letters, acts as a marquee for "Dr. Camara Jones speaks on racism, health, and action."

by Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

What can we do to live in a more just society where more people thrive, and race doesn’t determine people’s health?

HCLS is proud to present Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD, a family physician, epidemiologist, and past President of the American Public Health Association, whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world. Dr. Jones speaks online tomorrow, Tuesday July 13, at 7 pm. Registration is required.

Dr. Jones’ work has been foundational to how our country thinks about race and public health and racial equity more broadly. This live webinar is a great opportunity to begin or deepen your understanding of these issues.

Dr. Jones speaks on how racism is a huge roadblock to achieving health equity in the United States, and how systemic racism, which we can act to dismantle, saps the strength of the whole society. She also provides definitions, frameworks, and other tools to equip participants to engage in a National Campaign Against Racism with three tasks: 1) name racism, 2) ask “How is racism operating here?”, and 3) organize and strategize to act.

In the Q&A segment and subsequent programs, we will bring the conversation to our county. What health disparities do people suffer from in Howard County and what can we do about it? Want a taste of Dr. Jones’ insight and perspective? Listen to this NPR piece.

Join us for the live Zoom presentation and Q&A discussion moderated by Kenitra Fokwa Kengne, Senior Program Officer at the Horizon Foundation. This is the first event in the Racial Equity and Local Action series, presented by Howard County Library System and sponsored by the Horizon Foundation. Register today.

Katie is the Community Education and Engagement Manager for HCLS. She loves people, the big questions, the woods, and chocolate.

It’s summer: TIME – and we’re (mostly) open!

School’s out and the cicadas are gone – it’s time for summer fun! Howard County Library System is open for browsing and borrowing, using computers and printing, as well as attending Tails & Tales in person, outdoor classes for children. Our hours are Monday & Thursday, 10 am – 8 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm, and we are closed on Sundays. At this time, our study and meeting rooms are not available, but we are otherwise open for business.

A family stands in a local park with a map spread out along a low horizontal tree branch.

We can’t wait to see you again! When you visit your local branch make sure to pickup the brand new July/August issue of source. It’s summer and it’s time for… 

Authors. We are thrilled to host two bestselling authors this summer. Daniel Silva (Wed, July 21 at 7 pm) writes the long-running spy thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and Israeli spy/assassin. His latest book, The Cellist, explores one of the preeminent threats facing the West today—the corrupting influence of dirty money wielded by Russia. Gail Tsukiyama (Thu, Aug 5 at 7 pm) offers brilliant historical fiction, often centered on lives of women. Her newest book, The Color of Air, examines the threat of volcanic eruption to a Hawaiian community. Register at hclibrary.org > classes & events.

Reading. It’s not too late to join Summer Reading. Anyone can participate, with challenges and prizes for all ages. Check out Jean’s favorite children’s books for summer, listed on page 8. And Relaxing. Which is better the book or the movie? Decide for yourself from the when you read books, then watch movies adapted from the story. How faithful was it? Or, simply borrow some fun family movies to enjoy together. 

Learning. Ready for in-person classes? Join us for outdoor experiences. Prefer to stay virtual? We have online classes and book discussion groups! Pick up one of our NEW literacy activity kits for children or STEM activity kits for teens. 

Adventures. Find tips for new hikers, trail suggestions, and how to make the most of day trips. Play is a form of learning and is especially important for children’s development.

Fresh food. Everything is green and growing! Produce is at its peak, and farmers markets are happening all over the county. Read about simple ways to eat healthy, along with a few recipes and cookbook recommendations (You can also request a bundle bag.). 

Preparing. Summer is always over too soon, but we’re here to help you get ready to go back to school. Kindergarten, Here We Come! is a favorite for parents and kids preparing for their first school milestone. For students entering sixth grade, Middle School Pep Talk features tips about what to expect. 

Being Brave. Share your stories about witnessing or experiencing bias, racism, or discrimination in Howard County – as well as your stories of hope. Your stories may be shared (anonymously) with community leaders, organizations, and groups. The more stories provided, the greater the impact. 

And: We invite everyone to vote (in the Out & About category) for HCLS as the best place in Howard County to visit with kids! VOTE HERE!

Author Works with Daniel Silva

Photo credit: Marco Grob. Author wears a dark jacket, a white shirt, and black framed glasses. He leans against a wall with his arms folded
Photo credit: Marco Grob

by Kristen B.

ONLINE EVENT: Wed Jul 21 7 – 8 pm
Register at hclibrary.org > classes & events

WIN A BOOK!  One hundred lucky Zoom (randomly selected) attendees will win a hardback copy of The Cellist by Daniel Silva. Book giveaway sponsored by Friends & Foundation of HCLS.

What do you consider ideal summer reading? Do you dive into doorstop-sized classics or do you look for a bit of fun fluff to read in the sunshine? I think summer is a great time to fall into a series and get to know one set of characters. Sometimes, it’s the perfect time to re-acquaint myself with a long-running series that I’ve let languish.

Such is the case with Daniel Silva’s spy thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, which began in 2000 with The Kill Artist. Gabriel Allon may be the perfect action-adventure hero. Honestly, I’m surprised there isn’t a film franchise yet. He’s darkly handsome, desperately in love with his young beautiful wife, has a tragic, haunting background, and works as an art restorer of Renaissance paintings. He resides in a cliffside cottage in Cornwall and goes for long brooding walks between missions. What’s not to love?!

About those missions: Gabriel Allon is also an operative for the Israeli version of the CIA (referred to in the books as The Office), and he travels the world with his trusted team protecting the safety and integrity of his homeland against all sorts of criminals, politicians, terrorists, and other nefarious folks. This series never disappoints with books set in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Vatican and Italy, Israel, Afghanistan, Russia, and the US. Often, many of those countries are involved in one story’s whirlwind, time-racing plot. As with many books in this genre, these are not for the faint of heart, as they contain graphic violence and hard people making hard decisions, most of whom will do anything to advance their own agendas and desires.

As I mentioned above, I plan to spend this summer jumping back into this series since I’m a couple of books behind. The last one I read, The Black Widow, published in 2016, is probably the best spy thriller I’ve ever read. It encompasses modern geopolitics, ancient grudges, double agents, and enough heart-pounding action that I’m pretty sure I lost sleep to finish it. The books are also excellent audiobooks, if you prefer to listen (beware the inevitable point of not being able to stop the story, though).

Book cover for The Cellist: A woman wearing a bright red coat and high black heels walks with her back to the reader. The cover is a bright blue that fades to black along the edges.

So, I invite you to join me at an upcoming Author Works event with author Daniel Silva! His newest novel (being published July 13), The Cellist, follows up the acclaimed #1 New York Times bestsellers The Order, The New Girl, and The Other Woman with a riveting, action-packed tale of espionage and suspense. The fatal poisoning of a Russian billionaire sends Gabriel Allon on a dangerous journey across Europe and into the orbit of a musical virtuoso who may hold the key to the truth about his friend’s death. The plot Allon uncovers leads to secret channels of money and influence that go to the very heart of Western democracy and threaten the stability of the global order. The Cellist is a breathtaking entry in Daniel Silva’s “outstanding series” (People magazine) and reveals once more his superb artistry and genius for invention—and demonstrates why he belongs, “firmly alongside le Carré and Forsyth as one of the greatest spy novelists of all time” (The Real Book Spy).

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.