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].