Friday, December 31, 2010

Review-Then Came the Evening, by Brian Hart

Brian Hart,Bloomsbury, January 2010, $25.00 Hardcover, 272pp, 9781608190140

Book Description from the Jacket Cover

Bandy Dorner, home from Vietnam, awakes with his car mired in a canal, his cabin reduced to ashes, and his pregnant wife preparing to leave town with her lover. Within moments, a cop lies bleeding in the road. Eighteen years later, Bandy's son -- a stranger bearing his name -- returns to the town, where the memory of his father's crime still hangs thick. When an accident brings the family -- paroled father, widowed mother, injured son -- back together, the three must confront their past, and struggle against their fate. Like a traditional Greek tragedy, suffused with the mud, ice, and rock of the raw Idaho landscape, Then Came the Evening is tautly plotted and emotionally complex -- a stunning debut.

My Review

Bandy Dorner emerges from his wrecked car after being roused awake by two policemen. Searching for focus in a dazed stupor, what happens next will send him away to jail for almost twenty years. His wife Iona, having fled with her lover Bill has no interest in Bandy, and his life in prison is hellish. He has not heard from Iona and he has asked his parents not to visit. Then in 1990 as he is near the end of his time served he receives a letter from Iona, with a startling confession that he has an eighteen year old son, Tracy. Naturally, Tracy wants to meet his father, and they meet while he is in prison. It is during this time that Tracy finds out about his father’s old cabin and decides to live there as he waits for his father’s return. When Tracy arrives at the house it is a gutted run down shell. The entire contents, everything including plumbing, ripped and carried away. After he has a serious accident while renovating the cabin, Iona runs to her son with a parental panic of foreboding deep in her gut.

When Bandy is released, the three live together, each having endured much pain and suffering already. They begin to sort out their feelings and whether they will ever live as a family. Their future and potential for forgiveness and hope for unity is what makes this story so good. I don’t think I would want to ever meet Bandy Dorner and I’m not sure I understand Iona at all. Tracy tries to strike a balance as he wants a relationship with both parents.

Then Came the Evening is a sadly pathetic and sobering story of a broken family. Brian Hart is a talented writer, a first time novelist who grabs the reader from the first chapter. His writing describes each scene with careful attention to details using poetic prose providing visual clarity.

Some quotes from Then Came the Evening.....

“The moon was high and bright, the color of milk in a blue glass; three days from being full, it was cleaved on one side. He blinked several times at the thin halos surrounding the moon but they remained. They were an illusion: a snowball dropped in black water, ripples spreading from it. The house was dark and looked abandoned. The snow was blue on the road. The cold and the silence were woven together and stretched so tightly that there were creaking sounds in the air, nautical sounds of binding rope. ....The night air washed over him and he was not sad or conscious of his body and its weight: He was free.” (Hart, 126)


“Iona turned and watched the final dance of the fall-time, tree-filtered sun cross the untreated floorboards. The shadow of the ladder to the sleeping loft made bars on the floor, a skewed rail track on the wall. Then the sun went and in an instant the room felt cold.” (Hart, 16)

This is a serious and dismal story yet its characters’ struggles and dreams carry a familiar message of hope. It exposes a fragile family with difficult choices and unstoppable consequences. I embrace Then Came the Evening:an unforgettable read.

Note: Then Came the Evening is now available in paperback too.

Wisteria Leigh
December 2010

Disclosure: The copy of this book was a gift from the publisher, Bloomsbury/USA. This review represents my candid opinion without influence or monetary compensation.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review-Stranger Here Below, by Joyce Hinnefeld

Joyce Hinnefeld,Unbridled Books,September 28, 2010, $24.95/$28.95 CAN, Hardcover, 299 pp., 978-1609530044.

Book Description from the Publisher

In 1961, when Amazing Grace Jansen, a firecracker from Appalachia, meets Mary Elizabeth Cox, the daughter of a Black southern preacher, at Kentucky’s Berea College, they already carry the scars and traces of their mothers’ troubles. Poor and single, Maze’s mother has had to raise her daughter alone and fight to keep a roof over their heads. Mary Elizabeth’s mother has carried a shattering grief throughout her life, a loss so great that it has disabled her and isolated her stern husband and her brilliant, talented daughter.
The caution this has scored into Mary Elizabeth has made her defensive and too private and limited her ambitions, despite her gifts as a musician. But Maze’s earthy fearlessness might be enough to carry them both forward toward lives lived bravely in an angry world that changes by the day.
Both of them are drawn to the enigmatic Georginea Ward, an aging idealist who taught at Berea sixty years ago, fell in love with a black man, and suddenly found herself renamed as a sister in a tiny Shaker community. Sister Georgia believes in discipline and simplicity, yes. But, more important, her faith is rooted in fairness and the long reach of unconditional love.
This is a novel about three generations of women and the love that makes families where none can be expected.

My Review

STRANGER HERE BELOW, is an intensely rich novel that left me temporarily paralyzed. Hinnefeld is an author with a story to tell that reaches beyond the last page. The three main women in this book Maze, Mary Elizabeth and Georginea are interconnected to each other with a family history that has far reaching influence. Even though the book ends in 1968, themes and events that shape the characters lives still still hold value today. I can’t say I identified with any specific woman, but more an amalgamation of all many personalities. Women who read this will no doubt experience a similar connection, perhaps more of one than another, but with heartfelt empathy for all.

It is hard to fathom the influence the men in the story held over the women’s lives through the generations with 21st century eyes. Yet, given the time period of the setting, it is not surprising. I was unable to abandon the lives of these characters. I kept flipping back to reread passages with many thoughts to ponder and meaning to interpret. The lives of those who live in Stranger Here Below are compelling, not easily forgotten, nor is the reasoning presented in Sister Georgia’s life reflection:

“She had spent fifty years hiding, she knew now, from the black-coated men who drove the engines of the world. Youth--she and Tobias, Maze and her young man and their friends--so powerless in the face of their laws and their wars. yet children were born, Marthie among them, faces without masks and hearts still pure, their futures unknown.”

Hinnefeld presents her novel in chapters that fluctuate among the varied characters and from a time period that spanned from the 1870‘s through 1968. In my opinion, this technique kept the reader on edge from the onset. Absorbing throughout, this attracted the reader with multiple perspectives and the multi-layered depth given by hearing from all three women.
This is a deeply reflective and noteworthy historical fiction novel I highly recommend.

Wisteria Leigh
December 2010

Disclosure: The copy of this book was sent to me for review as a participant in Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program and represents my unbiased opinion.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

Monday, December 27, 2010

TLC Blog Tour-The King's Daughter

Christie Dickason,Harper Collins Publishers,Publication Month:December 2010, $14.99,Paperback, 496pp,978-0061976278.

Book Description from the Publisher

The daughter of James I, the Princess Elizabeth would not be merely her father's pawn in the royal marriage market.
The court of James I is a dangerous place, with factions led by warring cousins Robert Cecil and Francis Bacon. While Europe seethes with conflict between Protestants and Catholics, James sees himself as a grand peacemaker—and wants to make his mark by trading his children for political treaties.
Henry, Prince of Wales, and his sister, Elizabeth, find themselves far more popular than their distrusted father, a perilous position for a child of a jealous king. When Elizabeth is introduced to one suitor, Frederick, the Elector Palatine, she feels the unexpected possibility of happiness. But her fate is not her own to choose—and when her parents brutally withdraw their support for the union, Elizabeth must take command of her own future, with the help of an unexpected ally, the slave girl Tallie, who seeks her own, very different freedom.
My Review

James I is not a familiar king to me and curiosity brought me to agree to this blog tour. I was drawn to this novel of Dickason’s more for the historical fiction elements of his daughter, Elizabeth. She is portrayed as an intelligent and energetic woman who is a puppet to her father, available as an object to parade and show those of interest her suitability as a wife. The potential alliances this will achieve has her mercurial father, King James I in constant flux. He uses her as a toy, and it always appears as a game of power to him and a source of irritation for Elizabeth. James I comes across as an arrogant and cold father with little love for his daughter. She is treated with equal harshness by her mother. Her slave Tallie, is granted her manumission, but it will take Tallie’s help and courage to stand up to her father to free herself.

This was a quick and delightful read by an author who imagined the life of Elizabeth. Without primary sources to help her formation of the character, she presents a likable and lively personality. Her author’s notes separates the truth from the fiction, always appreciated. I enjoyed this book and would hope that Elizabeth was in life as she is portrayed, an astute witty female determined to find love and happiness in her life.

Historical fiction is a genre I embrace because when well written, will stimulate inquiry leading me to research more about the period or the subjects in the book. THE KING'S DAUGHTER intrigues me to that point, with a desire for more.

Disclosure: My copy of The King's Daughter is an ARC provided by TLC Book Tour.

Special Weather Note:
I apologize for not being able to publish my post today until now. (7:00PM) The storm in CT caused widespread power outages due to the high winds. I am still digging out. I hope everyone loves the snow. I do, but today, I am exhausted.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Thanks for Our Troops

Let's Say Thanks

I was sent this website in an email forward from my cousin. I have checked for authenticity on Scopes and it is a valid program. Let's Say Thanks is a website sponsored by Xerox, where you can send a postcard to our troops. The site will give you all the details, but you will love the cards that have been made by children. I hope you check it out and join me in thanking our soldiers during this special Holiday Season.

Check out the You Tube Video Too!

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mariah Carey-Amazing!

This is a clip of Marie Carey's phenomenal performance last night on ABC. I wanted to share one of the special songs she sang. It gives me chills. Hope you enjoy the moment too.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

Friday, December 10, 2010

Enchanted Needs a Foster Home

Reading my email this morning, I opened a note sent from CJ, the President of the Greyhound Rescue and Rehabilitation Group. I swore I would not foster again. I am an advocate for greyhound rescue, and the foster program is what saves thousands of dogs every year, but my Inn is a bit full right now.

With three greyhounds in residence I have been focusing on their care and well-being. They are my adopted fur-kids, Mystery, Lion and Wizard. Recently, I lost Webster in a precious sweetheart who was a rescue twice, once from the track and once from his first home. I wondered if I am ready for taking on a new foster.


Drinking my coffee, and reading Wicked River, The Mississippi, I took a break to catch up on overnight email. That’s when I read about Enchanted, a four year old cat safe greyhound from Florida needing a temporary home, something clicked inside. When you are involved in greyhound rescue, it is hard to explain, but a kismet like cloud will often descend over you and you are stuck in the moment. The mind starts to wander and plan and then visualizing the what ifs.

I looked him up on the greyhound database with no success. Am I crazy, I thought? This is not what I need right now in my life, yet I’m drawn to this dog, his need, saving another greyhound. CJ said he is a sweetheart, and looks like the RCA dog. I like sweethearts, my male Wizard is also a sweetheart, and the two names just seem to fit like a left and right glove. Should I foster him? What do you think guys?

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pump Up Your Blog Tour-Stephanie Vlahov

The Active/Creative Child:Parenting in Perpetual Motion
by Stephanie Vlahov

Stephanie Vlahov has written a parenting handbook based on her experience as the parent of a child, who she has described as an active/creative child. Based on her life with her son Alex she has made eight observations in a chapter titled, “Who is This Child.” If I were a parent of a child who exhibited these traits, I imagine this book would be very helpful. The author also offers her list of ten “Helpful Hints” to support parents who believe they have an active/creative child with sage advice and actual scenarios from her own life. These observations and hints represent the core of this book, which is intended to help parents cope, and offers hope for what she identifies as a challenging lifestyle for the entire family.

For example, she writes,

“The active/creative child will bond with and develop affinities for those things that speak to his or her creative process.”

“The most important thing is not to be judgmental and enjoy the process.”

“Let your child decide how their work of art is to turn out.” in other words, let them create their own work.

“Have fun. You will have a great time exploring your child’s world along with them.”

The author’s advice, shows keen awareness gleaned as a parent of an active/creative child. Although the book’s focus is directed at the active/creative child, it can and should be considered as a guide when raising all children. Teachers follow many strategies known as differentiated instruction when teaching in the classroom today. They identify students’ strengths and design instruction that teachers to multiple intelligences. It is imbedded in educational pedagogy and demonstrates best practice. Parents who read The Active/Creative Child will benefit from many of the strategies that are already commonly implemented in our schools. The author points out the importance of parent involvement at school in the chapter titled, Teachers and the School System. Parent involvement and communication is key for all students.

Overall, this is an interesting personal case study offered by the author, valuable information and well organized that offers a hopeful handbook for parents of children who are seen as active/creative.

Disclosure: This book was a free copy provided by the publisher.

For more information on Stephanie and her book visit

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].