Lyon’s Picks: Two New Releases
A Decent Burial
What better way to escape the noise of election-year wrangling than to take a quiet stroll among politicians who can’t talk back? In Congressional Cemetery, beneath the 171 blocky memorials known as cenotaphs, rest the remains of 59 congressmen. According to Rebecca Boggs Roberts and Sandra K. Schmidt, authors of the new “Historic Congressional Cemetery,” there is no way to tell which mark real graves and which are empty, but one thing you can be sure of: they’re all mercifully quiet.
Roberts and Schmidt have provided a great service in documenting – with photos and informative captions – the rich history of the cemetery and the rogues and luminaries buried here. This “fashionable place to spend eternity” boasts the ethereal presence of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, famed bordello owner Mary Ann Hall, Lincoln assassination conspirator David Herold, G-man J. Edgar Hoover, and “The March King,” John Philip Sousa.
Lesser known but equally impressive personages also found their final resting places at Congressional. Men who designed, built, and maintained some of Washington’s most famous buildings and monuments are buried here, as are publishers, journalists, a tavern owner, a baseball player, the son of Apache chief Cochise, 18 of the 22 young Irish women who perished in the arsenal explosion of 1864 (the others are at Mount Olivet), and Capitol Hill’s esteemed historian, Ruth Ann Overbeck, whose cheeky inscription exhorts, “Look it up!”
The authors also offer extensive information on the cemetery’s statuary, vaults, and tombstones. For example, did you know that the graves of Confederate soldiers have pointed tops so that no “damn Yankee” will ever be able to sit on them? “Historic Congressional Cemetery” is packed with fascinating stories celebrating a beloved local landmark that, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, is now also a National Historic Landmark.
“What am I becoming?” asks the heroine of Janine K. Spendlove’s latest adventure. “I don’t know who I am anymore.” If you think that sounds like an attack of typical teenage angst, you’d be half right. The speaker is a teenager, but she’s anything but typical.
In “War of the Seasons, Book One: The Human,” Spendlove introduced Story, a spirited girl who tumbles from Small Town, America, into a fantasyland called Ailionora, where she falls in love with a tattooed elf named Eirnin and discovers that she straddles the two worlds in more ways than one.
Now in “War of the Seasons, Book Two: The Half-Blood,” Story faces a life-changing challenge. During the banquet at which Eirnin is named the new chief of the elf clan, he ingests a poisoned acorn and falls into a coma. That night, the Autumn Princess appears to Story in a dream and tells her that she will supply the antidote if Story will retrieve something of hers being held by the Spring Prince. But she must do so before the onset of winter or ‘elf-boy’ will perish.
In defiance of the elf queen and at risk of her own life, Story sets out to save Eirnin before the Winter King unleashes his fury. On her journey, she battles tree sprites and mountain trolls, is nearly eaten alive by water bogeys, and forges uneasy alliances that make her feel “like I’ve made a deal with the devil.”
Story also discovers things about herself that make her bite her lip in shame. “She could almost hear her father chastising her again. [He’d] never been one to let her off easy: ‘I know you’re young, but that don’t mean you can just say or do whatever you want with no consequences. Just because somethin’ is what you want, it don’t mean it’s the right thing to do.’”
Spendlove’s books are aimed at young adults, but even grown-ups can benefit from advice like that – and can also become absolutely entranced by the magical world of Ailionora. A KC-130 pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, Janine Spendlove lives with her husband and daughter on Capitol Hill and is currently at work on her next novel. For more, visit www.waroftheseasons.com.