Choosing which book to read on our 4th president was a bit challenging, but I settled on Richard Brookhiser's "James Madison" partially because it was only 250-pages versus the 800-page tomes I have been tackling. I opted for this "beach read" (as one reviewer called it) and I was not disappointed.

There was little about Brookhister's book I did not like, including the length. I have read books by other accomplished biographers including McCullough, Isaacson, Chernow and Meacham and have fretted that they often failed to take their subjects to task. Not Brookhiser. He called out Madison on his lack of taking a stance on slavery, on his (and Jefferson's #3) major miscue in believing Florida was included in the Louisiana Purchase, on his ineptness as commander in chief that led to the British being able to burn Washington City to the ground during the War of 1812 (Madison's War), and for his overall poor performance as president. Brookhiser often slipped into "I" and gave his conclusions as to what Madison was thinking when his letters or other resources failed to fill gaps. While some may not have cared for this, I looked forward to it. It felt conversational, plus Brookhiser had gained my trust so I respected his musings.

I do not feel I missed anything major about Madison in this "short" read, especially since I also learned about Madison while reading biographies on presidents #1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. (I haven't read a bio on Andrew Jackson (#7) yet but Madison will be a focus as Jackson is often credited with ending the War of 1812). 

What this biography lacked was sufficient information on Dolley. I am making up for that with my next blogpost on our three first First Ladies. (Jefferson's wife died before he became president, as did Jackson's). 

Through Brookhiser's bio of Madison, I continued to receive an excellent education on the birth of our political system since Madison wrote the majority of the Constitution, on an invaluable friendship between Madison and Jefferson, on the making of politics and a politician, and much more.

Do not discount Brookhiser's bio of Madison as a valuable resource. Like Madison, the book is short. Also like Madison, the book is intelligent and motivated to do the right thing.

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Joanne Lewis Blog


joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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