Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Salon-Gettysbury Trip

The Sunday

I have been counting the days for my trip to Gettysburg, and tomorrow morning I will be on my way with my grad class for a three day trip. The last time I visited Gettysburg I was about nine and had no idea what was really so special about this historical landscape. I've finished reading Battle Cry of Freedom, by James McPherson which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to read one of the best books out there on the Civil War. Not to mention it won a Pulitzer Prize.

Nearly 7,000 soldiers were killed at Gettysburg, over 33,000 were wounded. Such staggering figures are hard to imagine. Over 600,000 men were killed in the Civil War and hundreds of thousands were injured. (The Civil War Handbook, by Mark Hughes)

So, I thought it was fitting today to insert a copy of Lincoln's eloquent speech delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg Battlefield National Cemetery on November 19, 1863. This image was taken from the scribed on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is taken from the Library of Congress website at: The Gettysburg Address (Library of Congress Exhibition).

Click to view readable image.

See you when I get back. Unless I post from Gettysburg.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Surprise Awards for Me

I was surprised and thrilled to receive two awards this week. The first one was from
Blodeuedd from Bookgirl of Mu-y-Castel. She received this well deserving award and was kind enough to pass it on to me. Thank you so much Blodeuedd for thinking enough of me. I love it. I love Blodeuedd'd blog and we have become blogger friends and this to me is what blogging is all about. So.....thanks, my friend.

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to any other bloggers you choose.

Congratulations for my award recipients and friends. :)

1. Literary Feline
2. Rhapsody in Books
3. Jenny Loves to Read
4.The Book Resort

I also received a surprise award from Diane at The Book Resort. Congratulations to you deserving!!

This blog invests and believes in the Proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award.

This well deserving award is sent from me to you!! Congratulations!

1. Kittling Books
2. The Bookgirl's Nightst
3. Book Chatter and Other Stuff
4.Books N Border Collies

Friday, June 26, 2009

Review-The Indifferent Stars Above, The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

The Indifferent Stars Above
The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
by Daniel James Brown
William Morrow
June 2009
$24.99, HC, 320pp,
320pp, 978-0-06-13410-5

You think you have heard it all before, until you read the account of Sarah Graves and her bold decision to face the uncertain future with her new husband, Jay Fosdick. Imagine yourself at twenty one ready with hope and promise for a better life. In 1846, to pack up and prepare to travel overland, mostly walking takes tremendous stamina and backbone.

Sarah’s voice narrates this historically rich account as she begins with naive eyes. She and her husband have loaded a covered wagon filled with everything they believe they will need. It’s not as easy as you think as she conveys preparations required for the trip. Housewares, furniture, clothes and all the food necessary, force an incredible burden of weight for the ox to pull. They will have to walk most of the way to conserve the strength of the beast.

They are emigrants filled with enthusiasm and a purpose to buy land, build a home and settle the west. They believe their destiny is hopeful, but destiny will fail them. Star-crossed from the beginning they set out and then join up with a group of travelers, known by the leader as the Donner Party. The famous story of the Donner Party is an event famous in American History.

Sarah’s story details the horrific and terrifying journey of physical survival with that ill fated group. The journey that pushed everyone to their limits of personal endurance. A journey that conjured up ethical actions too sinister to even comprehend.

Unfortunately, a guide by the name of Lansford Hastings posed a shortcut that proved to be anything but. It was virtually impassable and only benefited the greed and the potential profit for Hastings and a business associate. This decision ended up being only one of the many bad luck choices the Donner Party attempted.

The history of the Donner Party experiences in the vicious winter of 1846 that dumped record snowfalls in the Sierra Nevada mountains has been told in numerous historical accounts. The author has done extensive research evident from his prodigious rich bibliography. He credits the first serious account of the Donner Party was written by C. F. McGlashan in 1879 from first person correspondence, called The History of the Donner Party. The published work will include an eight page black and white insert.

Brown’s account of the event is not just a history of a timeline of events, but a compassionate oral history and deeply moving story of the human element. He explains and backs up medical conditions such as hypothermia and hyperthermia with scientific data and references. His analysis and explanations of why and how specific behavioral and physical changes occur adds keen insight.

In his epilogue he writes an account of his personal journey that he mapped and followed to get a feel from a first hand exploration of the difficulty they faced. He cautions his eyes are from the 21st century perspective with no comparison to the suffering of the Donner Party. Steep climbs and difficult terrain cause him to become breathless. He says, “My God, I thought, those people were tough.”

Another time he is mesmerized by the untouchable beauty of a breathtaking panoramic scene. It is a mirror of what caught Mary Ann Graves attention as she stopped to gaze on this same distant landscape, an etherial visual experience that surpassed any suffering for that moment. On some level the spiritual heals the physical, or perhaps suffering becomes a supplicant to the blinding beauty.

Daniel James Brown’s history The Indifferent Stars Above is a story of hope and faith. It is the story of chance and risk taking and submission to temptation. It is a story of perseverance and surrender. The Donner Party has come to be synonymous with a group of cannibal survivalists who resorted to despicable atrocities and murder. Details in this account prove otherwise. Brown has humanized a history of the Donner Party unseen before in the voice and compassionate retelling through one of its ordinary survivors who proved to be extraordinary. Brown’s writing is novelistic history, accurate historical non-fiction with readable storytelling.

Brown’s unique style has rich depth as he wraps the context in history like a cocoon of importance around the main event. His contrast between the advances in technology and society in the eastern United States versus the hardship, suffering and pain in the West is an ironic juxtaposition. Brown’s history is as gripping as a suspenseful thriller. A special star above the competition. Highly recommended.

For another perspective please see Hoyden's Look at Literature

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review-The German Woman

Paul Griner,

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
2009, $25.00, hc, 320pp.

The German Woman is the story of an English woman, Kate Zwieg, a trained nurse who is married to a German surgeon, Horst Zweig. It is 1919 during WW1 and together they work serving injured soldiers from the battles in East Prussia. Fast forward twenty-five years and Kate is now in London, the summer of 1944, considered the summer that never was. It is now WWII, bombings, air-raids, skeletal framework of once magnificent structures and massive casualties are part of every day life. Kate, is now widowed, when she meets Claus at a political rally. The speaker at the gathering is spewing propaganda falsities to a crowd of onlookers. Kate is incensed by the disinformation and steps forward with a barrage of razor sharp barbs. Claus, or rather Charles, an exiled American with German heritage, works making propaganda films for the Ministry of Information. He is in the crowd and notices Kate, and is attracted to her spirit and he introduces himself to her. Claus is also happens to be a spy supplying valuable information to the German military, although sometimes not as accurate as it should be. He knows his life depends on secrecy and trusting no one, but he meets Kate and romance turns to unexpected love. At some point, he becomes suspicious of Kate and his duality of loyalty will rock his perspicacious resolve. Kate is almost a silent, passive participant as the action is seen through Claus and his struggle.
Paul Griner shows a natural talent of subterfuge as he carefully creates a complex mask of mirrors causing a magicians allusion for the audience to solve. There are passages of beautiful lyrical poetic prose that could fit a musical score.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Circus Performer Are You?

I found this on Cathy's Kittling Books Blog....try it for yourself its fun.

You Should Be a Puppeteer

You are an entertainer - pure and simple.

You know how to engage an audience. You are a natural storyteller.

You are naturally dramatic, even when life doesn't call for drama.

Luckily though, you save most of your drama for your stellar performances.

Mailbox Monday...but Tuesday

My books came to me via Borders and Goodwill. So, my ARC mailbox was empty, but in a way that helps me to catch up a bit now that I am officially on vacation as of today. Yippee!! Can you believe I had a chorus of four greyhounds roo-ing me to wake up at 6:00AM. A barking alarm clock that I didn't even have to set. I hope that the alarm goes off a bit later tomorrow. Ugh!

So what did I do my first day of vacation? I cleaned, of course. I organized my TBR books and bookcases. Then I finished reading The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown, one of the Early Reviewer books from LT. I use a lot of baskets for books that are pending review or TBR. How about you?

How often do you have to organize your books? Are you a pile person? Do you keep every book on shelves or in bookcases? How do you separate different books in your home?
I'm so curious, because sometimes I feel overwhelmed with piles. Today, I feel much better.

Here are my new books that a few bookstores gave to me after I paid them....

-The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara...I have read this before, but I'm going to Gettysburg next Monday and I have to read it again.

-Slavery by Another Name, Douglas A. Blackmon
-The Negro's Civil War, James McPherson
-The New Civil War Handbook, by Mark Hughes
-Brady's Civil War Journal, Savas
-Women in the Civil War, Mary Elizabeth Massey...

As you can see, I'm really into Civil War books right now. With a few exceptions.

-Andrew Carnegie, David Nasaw...I've been anxious to read this biography and it was on a super clearance table. Yippee!!!
-Mr. Timothy,Louis Bayard...A novel about Tiny Tim grown up.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia @ The Printed Page

Don't forget about the contest for The Link. See my sidebar for the post. Good luck.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Salon-Library Thing

The Sunday

Don't you just love Library Thing? How did I ever survive without this wonderful website? I don't know about you, but I refer to this site over and over again throughout the week. Not only does it contain all my cataloged books, but nearly any other book I want to find out about. I have record of many of my reviews and can compare them to other reviewer's opinions. I get recommendations based on my reading preferences and search for books to read based on others opinions.

Last week I was able to chat with Dara Horn on Library Author Chat. She wrote All Other Nights, one of the early reviewer books. Dara answered many readers questions but then took it a step farther with elaborate detailed explanations of her rationale in characterization and plot. Without her insight I would have missed her brilliant metaphorical symbolism.

I have been fortunate to receive many Advance Reader Copies through the Early Reviewer program. I can't thank Abby and her team enough for this opportunity. I have read books that are sometimes not in my comfort zone with surprising pleasure. Most important to me in this program is that they want an honest opinion. Future books are not awarded based on submitting favorable reviews. The success and integrity of the program, is the honesty of the reviewer.

Lastly, I have direct access to my library through my iPhone, so that when I am shopping, my library is always with me. How cool is that. Especially since my new 3G arrived yesterday. Woo Hoo!!!

If you have a Library Thing account and want to be my friend and share libraries, you can visit my library under my name WisteriaLeigh. How about you? What do you love about Library Thing?

Hope you have a super Sunday. It is another beautiful day in Connecticut...suitable for frogs and ducks, temperatures in the 50-60s. A great day to be reading the rest of After You've Gone by Jeffrey Lent and an Early Reviewer book, The Indifferent Stars Above. The Indifferent Stars Above, about the Donner Party has been so much more than I expected. I can't wait to finish it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Last Day of School

It is so hard to believe that another year will be ending this afternoon. Yippee!!
It seems like each year I teach, the years accelerate to a close more quickly than each previous year. Whoever coined the familiar idiom "time flies" sure knew what they were talking about. As a media specialist I teach and know all the students in the school. I can't tell you how warm and joyful it feels each day when kids walk by my media center and just say, "Hi, Mrs.__." Others insist on grabbing a quick hug before rushing off to class. As I said goodbye (till next year) to my students I looked at their smiling, proud faces. They knew they had worked very hard to stretch themselves to do their best. To celebrate their summer and a much needed rest and play time, I wanted to share a couple of their favorite books from this year.

Anansi,the famous trickster from African folklore once again finds himself duped.

David always seems to be getting into trouble, and kids love that. The pictures are hysterical especially when David runs down the road without his pants.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems always excites the kids. This is the sequel to Knuffle Bunny. (Kah-Nuffle)

There are so many more wonderful books we have read throughout the year that I thought I would share these with you. I will introduce another book each week for all of you with kids, teaching kids or just want to be a kid for a little while. Have a great day!

How about you. What is your favorite children story. I still have to place my book order for next year. If you have a recommendation, please let me know. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday on Thursday

I missed my Wordless I'm making it Thoughtful Thursday. This is a photo I was lucky enough to pull over and capture. This is so typical of New England's quickly changing weather. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

i-Phone on the Way

Yes, I broke down and ordered a new phone to replace my old i-Phone. What can I say, but I love my i-Phone. Being a media specialist and always trying the new gadgets and latest in techno cool, I couldn't resist. So I won't eat for a few weeks. I would rather have my i-Phone than a Kindle, but that is probably in the future as well. Besides, I can check my Library Thing account on my iPhone, download books, check Amazon with a button link to my account. It just makes me weep. (happiness) I'm so melodramatic. Will I still have books? Absolutely, there is nothing like holding a book, reading the printed pages and curling up in a comfy spot. Would I feel cozy comfy with a Kindle...I don't think it has the same ambiance.

So....I will get my new i-Phone sometime next week. I will make a little movie for you or some other fun project. Wisteria otherwise known as tekeygirl.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser Lines:

"Come up here you deceitful hag!" she thundered down the stairs. "When did I ever ask you to buy a grilled flounder stuffed with roe.?" she attacked as soon as Patina hobbled into the sitting room."We are a simple family-our stomachs turn at the mention of such a dish!" pg.201

of Bees & Mist
Erick Setiawan
Simon and Schuster

Review-Scottsboro by Ellen FeldmanScottsboro

by Ellen Feldman

When you read Ellen Feldman’s book Scottsboro you savor each page like a vintage wine. The story is so mesmerizing tendrils seem to wrap around your chair. The story is so chillingly real you become frozen it its truth. The story is so poetically lyrical you have no doubt that you are hearing the cadence of the colorful Southern speech. Unfortunately, color in the Southern world is only black and white. Unfortunately, the truth in Scottsboro is always grey.

This historical fiction novel is based on the famous Scottsboro case in Alabama in 1931 and The Scottsboro Boys who were accused of a crime they didn’t commit. It is the story of nine black boys who were on a freight train. Unfortunately, for them, that same day two white girls, dressed in overalls, were also riding the same train. What they shared in common was poverty and riding the rails, as they all tried to get from place to place.

At an unscheduled stop the train slowed down and the two girls looked out to see a mob of forty to fifty white men brandishing pitchforks, shotguns, and at least some kind of weapon in their hands. A furious angry chase ensues as the mob is hell bent on capturing “niggers.”

Victoria Price and Ruby Bates are scared as dogs in a thunderstorm. They know a white woman being caught with a “nigger” is worse than being one. When the men discover that they are female, Victoria begins to invent her story accusing the nine captured boys of raping her and Ruby. Ruby is the younger of the two and follows along.

Blacks in Alabama in 1931 could just as easily been strung up by a rope, but the mob, feeling a sense of duty and fairness decide to bring them to town to be tried. Truth be told, they would rather that they die in the electric chair for their alleged crimes.

What follows is the story of Alice Whittier, a New York reporter, who persuades her boss to let her find the story. Alice takes on a quest that covers several decades as she digs for the truth. Her personal life and relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt becomes part of the story. Anti-Semitism is pervasive during this era and the story covers this theme as the lead defense attorney in the second trial is Samuel Leibowitz, a Jewish lawyer from New York. The importance of the Communist Party involvement in the case is also brought out in the book.

Class divisions are blurred as the white community in solidarity condemning the nine try to purify the image of the two girls, who are anything but virtuous. On the other hand, the defense tries to discredit Victoria and Ruby as a prostitute and white trash.

When Ruby Bates decides to alter her testimony, there is a ray of hope for the defense, but will it be enough to break down the walls of racial hatred that are embedded in the community and southern culture? Will the defense have a fair trial instead of the previous trial that was a travesty of southern justice?

Ellen Feldman’s writing is so deeply rich, her dialog begs to be read aloud. The voice of Ruby is brilliantly written and a treasure to savor. Not since Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, has the southern dialect been so artfully written and emulated with such poetic craft. Ruby is a complex emotional character in flux. Yet, her speech is always entertaining and genuine, down to earth and charming with a plethora of witty unforgettable similes.

This story may surprise and shock some who read it, but should it? The ugly truth is that Jim Crow did exist and still does today. This division of race was unfair, unjust, and hopelessly unbeatable. Books like Scottsboro are necessary to bring the truth forward as we continue to see racial and ethnic hatred in the global arena. The greatest fear is burying the past in ignorance. Ellen Feldman’s hypnotic historical fiction novel is destined to become a classic. Highly recommended.

Cross-posted on

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mailbox Monday-- June 15, 2998

Welcome to Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

In my mailbox this week I was lucky to receive the following great books:

1. Scottsboro, by Ellen Feldman (6/10/09) [ARC for LT]
2. Becky, by Lenore Hart (6/13/09)
3. Sacred Heart,by Sarah Dunant 6/11/09)
4. Rome Hanks,(Civil War) by JS Pennell (6/11/09)
5. Foragers Harvest--purchase
6. A Soldier's Book,(Civil War) by Joanna Higgins (06/11/09)
7. American Lion, by Jon Meachem (6/12/09) Win of Pulitzer Prize [ARC for LT]

Thanks to everyone who has sent these for my review.