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].

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review-Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Written by Jennifer Donnelly
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780385737630
Our Price: $18.99

Synopsis from Book Cover and Random House

"BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Parisfor winter break.
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart."

My Review

All Andi Alpers wants to do is forget. Forget that the tragic death of her brother ever happened. She believes it is her fault, that her parents blame her and that the reality is her brother is dead. She will never see him again, and the events leading up to his death haunt her each day. To cope with her loss, she functions, just barely at times due to her heavy reliance on anti-depressants.The depression zaps her energy, her drive, her will to live. Her father travels much of the time and her mother, an artist, fills her days painting, lost in her own world of pain. When her father shows up, he believes his solutions are the best for both Andi and her mother.

Andi, stuck in Paris with her non-communicative father is faced with an ultimatum. He agrees to her proposition to produce an outline for her final thesis, work she has so far neglected. If he accepts the project, he will agree to allow her to fly back to Brooklyn. She stumbles upon the diary of Alexandrine, a young girl who lived during the French Revolution. The events and lives of those in the ill-fated journal present a compelling mystery. Andi’s compulsion to finish her project is desperate and frenetic. Eventually, with a crash of kismet, her life collides with the past.

The beginning of the story was slow, rather banal and my interaction was passive. However, as soon as you emerge in Paris, the mysterious plight of Alexandrine, uncovered in the pages of her diary makes this book suddenly glow with a brilliant radiance. Andi begins to see life through death and a harmonious blend of the two characters creates a duet of tympanic rhythm that reveals a powerful message.

Donnelly presents an imaginative novel with a deeply penetrating view of the historical events that took place during the French Revolution. It’s important to note that the inconsolable numbness to life and the feeling of self-loathing and deep depression portrayed in the character of Andi Alpers is sadly heartbreaking. The timeless message of self-love and forgiveness makes this a highly recommended novel.

Disclosure: This was an ARC sent to me by Random House.

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran, Book Release-February 2011.

One of my favorite author's Michelle Moran has a new book soon to be released in February 2011. Can it really be only three months till February?

Madame Tussaud takes place during the French Revolution. I just finished reading Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly (review forthcoming), also from that time period. The French Revolution has always fascinated me. I think my passion for this historical setting began when I read A Tale of Two Cities, by Dickens. I vividly recall scenes from this novel that I read in high school, and the impressions have remained with me all my life.

I was so thrilled to read that Michelle Moran has written a book about Madame Tussaud. I love the cover don't you? I have read Michelle Moran's other books, always exciting and educational. I am surprised she has journeyed away from Ancient Rome, but I am delighted. I can't wait to read Madame Tussaud.

Synopsis from Michelle's Blog

"The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire…but who was this woman and how did she become one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous story comes to life as only Michelle Moran could tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin…
Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American Ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, and when word arrives that the royals themselves are coming to see their likenesses, Marie never dreams that the king’s sister will request her presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. Yet when a letter with a gold seal is delivered to her home, Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.
As Marie becomes acquainted with her pupil, Princess Élisabeth, she is taken to meet both Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen, to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into to a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.
Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution…Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more importantly, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?
Spanning five years from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom."

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Salon-November 14, 2010

Is it really November already? Honestly, between getting ready for the winter season: yard clean-up, raking and leaf blowing the endless accumulation of the annual tree foliage piling up daily, stacking wood, cleaning the gardens and just all that fun New England stuff...I am worn out. Well, not exactly, but it has kept me busy.
Yes, I have been neglecting my blogging, yet not my reading. I have lots to write about, and with the winter bearing down, I know I will have a lot more time.

So, how many of you like the end of daylight savings time?
I really dread this time of year because of the shortened daylight, but love it just the same. The rainbow of autumn brilliance and the crisp bite into a fresh picked apple makes me smile. The recent cold frosty mornings are a refreshing transition from the stifling heat this summer delivered. I am honestly delighted that I can breathe again. I guess that is why I love the Northeast so much.

Okay, so some of really fun stuff, like snow, sleet and shoveling are soon to damper the picture, but you know there are those snow days too! If you look at that glass as half full, there is always something to smile about. I guess that's why teaching makes me forever a kid at heart. I watch for those snow forecasts as much as my students. The nightly rituals I learn from my students, wearing pajamas inside out, putting a spoon under your pillow and all those other hopes and dreams for a cancellation make me chuckle. Even though shoveling takes a good chunk of the day, a warm fire in the woodstove keeps it cozy and warm as I open up my current book and get lost in another place.

How about you? Are you ready for winter? Do you like the end to daylight savings time? What are you looking forward to. Any special books you want to share?

Happy Sunday, I hope it's a great one. What are your plans? I'll be reading The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, by Ann Weisgarber and/or Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly. I'm almost done with both and am really enjoying both.

PS...I stacked my wood (2 cord) all by myself. I think I lost 5 pounds. Yippee!!!

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

Winner for The Lost Dogs!!!

Congratulations to Alice Teh for winning the book The Lost Dogs!!!

Alice, I will contact your email address to get your address.

Thanks to the publisher for providing the copy for this giveaway!!

I know you will really enjoy this book and reading about all the dogs who were saved. :)

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

Winners-Raising the Dead

Wow! Am I late with posting winners. I have been so busy this year with school....I am so sorry!!!

The winners for Raising the Dead are:

Majorie & Debbie

I have your email addresses and will send you a note to have you forward me your snail mail address.

Thanks for participating and congratulations!!!
Thanks to Hachette Group for offering the books for this contest. :)

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review-Wicked Company, by CiJi Ware


Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks Landmark
624 pages
October 2010

Synopsis from Sourcebooks, Back Cover

"If Shakespeare had a sister…
In 18th century London the glamorous Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres were all the rage, beckoning every young actor, actress, playwright, and performer with the lure of the stage lights. But competition and back-biting between theatre owners, patrons, actors, and writers left aspiring playwrights with their work stolen, profits withheld, and reputations on the line. For a female, things were harder still, as the chances of a “petticoat playwright” getting past the government censor was slim.
In this exciting and cutthroat world, a young woman with a skill for writing and an ambition to see her work performed could rise to glory, or could lose all in the blink of an eye…
In Ciji Ware’s signature style, real-life characters of the day create a backdrop for a portrait of a glittering era, a love story, and a compelling glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an emphatically man’s world."

Review by Wisteria

I was introduced to Ciji Ware’s masterful storytelling in Island of the Swans and couldn’t wait to read her other works. Cottage of the Sea was an equally engrossing story that reaffirmed my dream of one day living by the ocean. Wicked Company has made me a Ciji Ware devotee, this author not only rights beautiful stories, her text is a lyrical experience throughout. As the melodic plot unfolds she adds unique and charming characters who offer the perfect counterpoint.

The setting is 18th century London centering on the Covent Garden District. Ware points out in her Author’s Notes, that women dramatists were more common than most have come to believe between 1660 and 1800. In her opinion they have been omitted in studies of British literature and her purpose in writing is to shine light on these remarkable women of the British and American theater.

Sophie Hamilton McGann works for her father, Daniel McGann, a printer. She is a bold, intelligent, opinionated and often rash female heroine of fiction. However, many of the plays performed in the novel were based on actual historical events. Surrounding Sophie is at the center of Wicked Company, joined by a cast of historical and fictitious players. Regarded as key figures of the theater world at the time were, David Garrick, Richard Sheridan, George Coleman and several others. What surprised me in this book was the practice during this time of the employment of a government censor. Edward Capelli, lived at this time and he was the Deputy Examiner of Plays. He certainly gave Sophie a difficult time, slashing her dialogue and often refusing his approval entirely. From the beginning Ware establishes Sopie’s independent spirit and often impulsive temper. She often dons man's attire to gain admittance and acceptance. When she meets Hunter, a street juggler she is smitten, but it will be years before he realizes he too has a mad obsession for Sophie. Until then, they are good friends and the paths they follow are not always in sync. Their passion is precious but kismet interferes with a smooth journey for the two. Ware taunts the reader with an anxious love story that seems hopelessly doomed.

I admire Sophie for her tenacious will and resolve as she insinuates herself into the theater world dominated by men. Sometimes I want to shake her silly for her impulsivity, but overall she is an 18th century spitfire who just wants her value as a writer acknowledged and live her life with the man she loves without personal sacrifice.

To understand Sophie, perhaps this piece of dialogue will form an image in your mind. Throughout the centuries this or similar refrains, whether a whisper or a shout resonate around the world by women. Sophie could have been my twin.

“I’ve had days lately when I’m tired and discouraged, but why must a woman always put a man’s wishes and desires first? Why must she invariably honor his dreams and ambitions above all else? Do you really think that’s the only path to happiness for men and women?” (232)

Wicked Company confirms that Ciji Ware is an exquisite writer of historical fiction and without a doubt one of my favorite authors.

Disclosure: Wicked Company was sent to me by the publisher.

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review-The Wolves of Andover, by Kathleen Kent

By Kathleen Kent
320 pages
Reagan Arthur Books
Published November 2010

Synopsis from the publisher:

"A story of love and intrigue from America's earliest days, by the author of the national bestseller The Heretic's Daughter.

In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and for his mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether in the form of the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves—in many guises—who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage, The Wolves of Andover confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories of historical drama.

My Review

If you read Heretic’s Daughter and liked it as much as I did, then The Wolves of Andover will be a gratifying encore! Taking place in Massachusetts, during the Colonial time period beginning in 1649, the setting is a personal favorite of mine. As the author states in her author’s notes at the beginning of the novel, the characters are based on actual people. In 1692, Martha Allen Cartier was accused and hanged as a witch in Salem. She was married to Thomas Cartier and had children with him. Kent weaves a dramatic story of intrigue around these two characters based on her research and family lore.

Thomas, in the novel, is pursued by a party of ruthless men, desperate to capture him. Their cold indifference to life and harsh methods of acquiring information are brutal. The action provided by the relentless stalkers is chilling at times reflecting the barbaric and crude methods of punishment and slow painful death and suffering of the condemned typical during this period. Kent holds nothing back in this boldly graphic and haunting tale.

Martha, comes to live with Patience and husband, Daniel. To date, her woeful nature has discouraged any suitable marital possibilities. She has come to assist her cousin Patience with her pregnancy. Martha is determined to be more than a servant and soon insinuates herself as a strong force in the household. A blooming courtship between the obdurate and wise Martha and the mysteriously silent and serious Thomas is predictable and satisfying. Kent gently teases the reader as their friendship and trust for each other moves forward with just the right sensual tension and sweetness.

As I read The Wolves of Andover, I became curious about the political and religious climate in England during the reign of King Charles I that led to his execution. I love when historical fiction is an impetus to pursue further study of history. Once again, Kathleen Kent has written an inspiring read that will give you much to ponder and generate inquiry into the past.

Disclosure: I received The Wolves of Andover from the publisher.

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

Thank a Veteran Today!

To the American Soldiers,


Monday, November 8, 2010

Blog Tour-The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

Helen Hollick
Sourcebooks Inc.
656 pages
Publication Date: November 2010

Synopsis from Sourcebooks

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

"Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom—and her crown—are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England's shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery."


Until I read The Forever Queen, given a choice, if queried to name a favorite Queen in history, hands down I would choose Queen Elizabeth or Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. The schema most readers, including this reader, most likely possess about Emma of Normandy, who reigned as queen of England with two different kings would most likely be insubstantial. When you read Helen Hollick’s portrayal of the prideful and perspicacious Emma from the 11th century, you may have a new royal to consider among your best-loved Queens.

I do love Queen Emma. I guarantee after reading this historical fiction, she will become endeared to most readers, at the very least a curious fascination. In April 1002, Emma, at thirteen is ripped from her family and native Normandy and sent to marry King Aethelred of England, an aging king. She despises him on sight, he repulses her. And so her life story begins in this magnificent historical fiction marathon that has the potential to sabotage many readers’ will power to put this book down.

Queen Emma is a glorious monarch, strong with unwavering pride and resilience. Her keen intellect and quick wit are a match for any who try to challenge her. She is respected for her competence and loyalty and loved as Queen. She endures horrible abuse by one husband and delights in the passionate love by another. Her subtle power and influence and her innate ability to understand her people and her role as Queen are a testament to her historical significance.

The Forever Queen is the first book in what is planned as a trilogy with the next book called Harold the King. A brilliant and totally fulfilling escape back to Anglo-Saxon England, The Forever Queen is a definite snuggle up with a good book read!


Disclosure: ARC copy of The Forever Queen was sent by the publisher.

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trainer arrested after at least 20 greyhounds found dead at Ebro | ebro, greyhounds, least - News - The News Herald

Words can't express my emotions when I was told about this hellaciously, heinous and senseless crime of intentional animal abuse. I can't even fathom the fear and pain these hounds suffered before they died as a result of their perfidious owners. It has been reported that their mouths were duct taped, could barely breath and starved to death. My heart is breaking for these beautiful greyhounds as they run free now.

Trainer arrested after at least 20 greyhounds found dead at Ebro | ebro, greyhounds, least - News - The News Herald

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Salon-October 17, 2010

Happy Sunday to all! I feel like I have been away for a long time and really miss the interaction with all my blogger friends. At the beginning of the school year, I find it so difficult juggling everything I want to do. Something always has to slip to the back for a while and unfortunately it is my blog. While it is my true passion, it doesn't provide that weekly paycheck. As the school year begins, my focus turns to lesson preparation. management of the media center, teacher collaboration and my classes. It's all about the kids and time with my students.

While I still read a lot, my free time is so limited. To add to the mix, one week after school began, the PTO held their semi-annual bookfair. While this is so exciting for the kids and teachers, it takes place in the media center, so my space is chaotic for two weeks. As this coincides with two nights of open house the media center is a hectic hub of energy.

Last week I participated in a family read night and had a super fun time reading to kids and parents. My friend and I read Miss Nelson is Missing, followed by You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together, by Mary Hoberman. We arrived in costume to the delight and surprised of our students. I was the perky Miss Nelson, and my friend was Viola Swamp. It was such a riot and the kids were mesmerized and roared with laughter. Hopefully, I will have a pic to share of Viola and Miss Nelson.

It's hard to believe that 7 weeks of school has slipped by so quickly, but the school year always flies by.
I hope to have the time to stop by and visit everyone soon. Please forgive my absence during this back to school time.

My dogs are doing well. It is blanket time as you can see Wizard tucked in for the night. Without body fat it only takes a little chill at night to cause them to shiver in the morning. Believe it or not they will sleep covered all night. They are so silly. :)

My front yard is blanketed with a colorful leaf quilt, so for me this crisp New England day will take me outside to enjoy Autumn's charm. Hopefully, I will carve out some time to continue my current read, Obama's Wars, by Bob Woodward. I hope you have a great Sunday, whatever you have planned!

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

Lady of Hay, by Barbara Erskine


Barbara Erskine
571 pages
October 2010

From Sourcebooks Press Release

“With a mesmerizing, wrenching story set both in the present day and the 12th century, Lady of Hay explores how Joanna, a journalist investigating hypnotic regression, plunges into the life of Matilda, Lady of Hay - who lived 800 years earlier. As she learns of Matilda’s unhappy marriage, her love for Richard de Clare, and the brutal treatment she receives from King John, it seems that Jo’s past and present are hopelessly entwined and that, centuries later, a story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to begin again - and she has no choice but to brave both lives if she wants to shake the iron grip of history.”

My Review

Barbara Erskine is a wondrous storyteller. I recently discovered her gifted talent when I became her prisoner of print as I read LADY OF HAY. How this brilliant historical novel slipped by me twenty five years ago when it was first released I will never know. Fortunately, I didn’t miss this new release. Surrounded by a network of book loving bloggers, LADY OF HAY, came highly recommended and I was anxious to pick it up to read. I was told that despite the length of 571 pages, it was definitely a must read. Shortly after that, I was offered this book by Sourcebooks as an Advanced Reader Copy. As I also believe in divine alignment, I quickly accepted this book as a selection.

LADY OF HAY. is one of the richest historical novels I have read this year. I was consumed by the story of Joanna and her tortuous journey to unravel her past. I was captivated by the characters who surround Joanna in this life and what they meant to her when she regresses back and experiences life through Matilda. What was so hard about reading this novel was the frustration of wanting to find out what happened next, yet not wanting the story to end. I could very easily read this book again, it is a rare pleasure to experience. I am eager to select another one of her books to read. A new author to me, Barbara Erskine is now one of my favorite authors.

Disclosure: This was an Advance Reader Copy sent to me by Sourcebooks.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barefoot in Baghdad, by Manal M. Omar


A Story of Identity--My Own and What It Means to Be a Woman in Chaos
Manal M. Omar
$14.00US, $17.99CAN
272 pages
Reprint Edition August 1, 2010

From Sourcebooks Press Release

“This poignant memoir tells a riveting story of hope and despair, of freedom and longing, by Manal Omar as she worked as a Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International, a nonprofit NGO, in Iraq. Omar recounts the extraordinary metamorphosis of Iraq from a liberated country into an occupied one and speaks of her quest to help as many Iraqi women as she could survive the savages of war and occupation.

As an American aid worker of Arab descent, Manal Omar’s background gave her an all-access pass to the dramatic shift in the fortunes of Iraq’s women following the invasion in 2003. Witness to a struggle that few outsiders saw, Omar chronicles the journey of a people determined to rise from the ashes of war and recreate themselves in the face of overwhelming obstacles. This is the story of her friendships with those whose lives were crumbling before her eyes. It is a tale of love, as her relationship with one Iraqi man intensified in a country in turmoil. And it is the stories of the women of Iraq, as they grapple with what it means to be female in a homeland you no longer recognize.”

My Review

After reading Barefoot in Baghdad, I am in awe of Manal Omar, her courage and tenacious spirit of determination is remarkable. As I read this book, I thought how important a read this is for all Americans. When Manal decided to go to Iraq to help women, she was in her twenties. She admits that it wasn’t until she arrived in Baghdad that she really realized the full extent of the risks she was taking in working to establish a center to help marginalized Iraqi women. She arrived in Iraq in 2003 and witnessed a country in constant flux, fighting to emerge as something better.

Manal is Palestinian, and a Southerner from the United States, a practicing Muslim and American. It is clear she is opposed to the war in Iraq and her initial surprise when entering the country was shocking. She was stunned to see the reactions of the Iraqi’s as they saw the American military as their liberators. A shift of consciousness became evident months later as liberator turned to occupier.

Omar describes life inside Iraq, struggling to stay alive as she traveled back and forth for her job. The Green Zone was the most safe place to be, but she would not live there. Anyone traveling the roads in Iraq were facing sudden death. Without a doubt her life was in constant jeopardy. She details the horrors of the years between 2006 and 2007 that were the most brutal, most risky for all who lived their. No one escaped the emotional impact to their lives from the aftermath of assassinations, the sudden disappearances and kidnappings that were random and senseless.

Iraq is like a piece of clay in the hands of different mindsets. The people of Iraq have a vision for their future, the political and religious factions have a vision, the aid workers have a vision, and the American military have a vision. Manal Omar offers a perspective during this complex artistic process. As the form emerges through violence and conflict she sees hope. What happens to Iraq as it enters a period of sovereignty remains to be seen.

As noted by Manal Omar in the beginning of her book:

“Barefoot in Baghdad takes its title from a popular Iraqi-Turkmen proverb that says, “Walk barefoot and the thorns will hurt you.” It is often used as a warning to those who challenge societal norms.”

Omar has written an engaging reflection of her experiences within Iraq that offers the reader first hand knowledge, emotional moments and a valuable summary of the turbulent times she witnessed. She challenged societal norms with a relentless drive and deep passion that even though warned, would not stop her. An apt title for an indomitable woman of wonder.

Disclosure: This was a book I received as an Early Reviewer for Library Thing.

Watch her video interview with MSNBC.

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TLC Blog Tour-The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant

Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption
by Jim Gorant
Gotham Books
304 Pages
September 16, 2010

From the Publisher

An inspiring story of survival and our powerful bond with man's best friend, in the aftermath of the nation's most notorious case of animal cruelty.

Animal lovers and sports fans were shocked when the story broke about NFL player Michael Vick's brutal dog fighting operation. But what became of the dozens of dogs who survived? As acclaimed writer Jim Gorant discovered, their story is the truly newsworthy aspect of this case. Expanding on Gorant's Sports Illustrated cover story, The Lost Dogs traces the effort to bring Vick to justice and turns the spotlight on these infamous pit bulls, which were saved from euthanasia by an outpouring of public appeals coupled with a court order that Vick pay nearly a million dollars in "restitution" to the dogs.

As an ASPCA-led team evaluated each one, they found a few hardened fighters, but many more lovable, friendly creatures desperate for compassion. In The Lost Dogs, we meet these amazing animals, a number of which are now living in loving homes, while some even work in therapy programs: Johnny Justice participates in Paws for Tales, which lets kids get comfortable with reading aloud by reading to dogs; Leo spends three hours a week with cancer patients and troubled teens. At the heart of the stories are the rescue workers who transformed the pups from victims of animal cruelty into healing caregivers themselves, unleashing priceless hope.

My Review

THE LOST DOGS is not a book I would normally read. Yet, I love animals. Please indulge a brief personal history as I explain why I would turn away from this book.

I have been involved with greyhound rescue and fostering for five years. I currently have three adopted ex-racing hounds who tug at my heart each day. Envisioning their previous life living 24/7 in a small kennel, brief interludes out for eating and exercise, then the 40 mph sprint around a track. With any luck without injury they survive the race and will race again as long as they win. But the losers face an uncertain future. With luck a few find their way into a loving home. I have fostered greyhounds as they transition from life at the track to pet life. I advocate for the hounds and participate with my dogs at Meet and Greets whenever possible. Animal cruelty and animal suffering breaks my heart. Helping the hounds future is paramount and the memories of what I know of their past I bury deep in my memory whenever possible. It hurts too much.

When I was approached by TLC Tours to read and review THE LOST DOGS, by Jim Gorant for this tour I was reluctant. I was afraid to read about this case and didn’t feel I would be able to endure a book about dog fighting. I don’t condone either dog racing or dog fighting and having read about the horrors of both, I become weak for these sweet helpless animals, their pain and suffering too unbearable to think about.

Jim Gorant chose to focus on the rescue and redemption of the fifty-one dogs that were taken from the Bad Newz Kennels owned and operated by Michael Vick. This is not a story about Michael Vick. It is about his pit bull victims. Those he had chained and trained to fight. The background for the case, the discovery and arrest are detailed with just enough to satisfy the curious. From the onset, Gorant shows his professionalism by taking the story beyond the initial abuse to focus his story on the future of these helpless dogs. He brings voice to the resilient dogs who endured savage conditions of hatred, and then experienced the love of a warm toasty blanket. You will not forget Little Red and Jonny Justice as they warm the hearts of so many. I was most touched by little Jasmine, as she takes each baby step to trust again. Her cautious spirit and sweetness will never leave my thoughts. THE LOST DOGS embraces the possibilities with the insight of those who cared.

Contest Giveaway

The publisher has offered a copy of THE LOST DOGS as part of this blog tour. Please leave a comment and your encrypted email address. One extra chance for contestants who follow me. One extra chance if you Twitter this contest. One extra chance if you blog about it. The contest will run through October 31st for US and Canada residents. Good Luck!!

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

Disclosure: A copy of THE LOST DOGS was provided by the publisher and TLC Tours.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TLC Blog Tour-Barbara Kingsolver-The Lacuna

by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Perennial
544 pages
c2009, Reprint Paperback July 2010

From Harper Perennial
Book Description

In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities. Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence. Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption. (Harper Perennial


Barbara Kingsolver is not a new author to me. After enjoying her novels Prodigal Summer and The Bean Trees, I was pleased to be a part of the TLC Blog Tour that would promote her large depth of work. The Lacuna was on my TBR list since it was first published and I was so thrilled that I would have this book to read for the tour.

This book may not be for everyone, but my mind has been on rewind since I finished the book last night. I honestly should wait another day to write this review, as my thoughts have become intrusive projectiles to ponder as time passes. I loved this book. I will caution, the beginning felt random and disjointed leaving me wondering where it was all going. Fear not, your reward for perseverance will be the treat of Kingsolver’s unique storytelling. Her writing is so much richer and deeper than the surface story and knowing this I wanted the story to follow in a linear path. It really doesn’t flow that way. It is an intense novel that will make you think. From Mexico to North Carolina and Washington, DC, historical fact and historical fiction come together in a harmonious blend to teach and entertain.

Lev Trotsky, exiled in Mexico lives life with the constant threat of death from Stalin’s assassins. His days are often spent with his friend, the larger than life muralist Diego Rivera. One of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo adds a spicy splash of color whenever her tempestuous personality appears. I have always been a fan of the Riveras, but reading about their political activism and relationship with Trotsky gave me new perspective.

Historiographically, with 21st century eyes, the frenetic anti-communist movement that defined the 1930‘s to 1950‘s in the United States adds another negative surrealistic view of our past. It makes me wonder how future generations will view our cultural and political global community.

Kingsolver’s contemplative story lifts the haze that allows us to think our country is perfect. “What an extraordinary state of things, we are the finished product.” (p. 466) So, are we a finished entity? Written and published at a time when fear and despair erode the spirit of the country, this alluring and stimulating read will doubtless leave you with cause for reflection.© [Wisteria Leigh]

Barbara Kingsolver's Website

Barbara Kingsolver’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS

Tuesday, September 7th: Literate Housewife (The Poisonwood Bible)

Wednesday, September 8th: Lit and Life (The Lacuna)

Thursday, September 9th: Bibliofreak (The Bean Trees)

Monday, September 13th: Presenting Lenore (The Lacuna)

Tuesday, September 14th: Fyrefly’s Book Blog (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

Wednesday, September 15th: Eleanor’s Trousers (The Bean Trees)

Friday, September 17th: My Two Blessings (The Poisonwood Bible)

Monday, September 20th: Til We Read Again (The Lacuna)

Thursday, September 23rd: Rundpinne (The Bean Trees)

Tuesday, September 28th: Raging Bibliomania (The Lacuna)

Tuesday, September 28th: The Lost Entwife (The Lacuna)

Wednesday, September 29th: Steph and Tony Investigate (The Poisonwood Bible)

Thursday, September 30th: Wordsmithonia (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

Friday, October 1st: In the Next Room (The Lacuna)

Monday, October 4th: Caribousmom (Prodigal Summer)

Tuesday, October 5th: Bookworm’s Dinner (The Lacuna)

Thursday, October 7th: she reads and reads (The Lacuna)

Monday, October 11th: Book Chatter (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

Wednesday, October 13th: Jenn’s Bookshelves (Prodigal Summer)

Disclosure:Thank you to TLC Blog Tours for the copy of The Lacuna.

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