Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh NOOOOO-Rachel Crow is Eliminated-Your opinion


This video speaks for itself.  What do you think?
Should Rachel Crow have been eliminated?
This performance was stellar. My heart breaks for her. Rachel it is not over...


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

by Chris Haughton
Candlewick Press
To be released 2012

I received a surprise package from Candlewick Press today with the book Oh No, GEORGE.  I couldn't help but flip it open to read about the boldly colorful owl-eyed dog called George.  Harry, his owner goes out and George copes with numerous temptations that test his resolve.  As the author allows us to listen in on how George thinks, you just know trouble is inevitable.  Chris Haughton, hits the nail on the head with simple text, making this a perfect early reader and read aloud. With humor and perceptive expressions, the author captures the essence of George- a "wanabegood" pet who struggles with the ultimate test of will power.  Children will empathize with George's feelings,  when he gets into mischief.  A fun, lovable story for anyone who has tried to understand what goes on in their own pet's mind. This character should have a long life in the artful hands of Chris Haughton.

The copy of this book was furnished for free by the publisher. My review is my honest and unbiased point of view.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011]. 

Monday, December 12, 2011


Soon to be released in paperback!!

Penguin is due to release the enormous best-seller, A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness on December 27, 2011. If you haven't read this part historical fiction, part paranormal romance, you need to mark your calendar, or pre-order this compelling novel.  I became hooked from the beginning and now I am restless waiting for the sequel. 

Several posts back I summarized recent reads from my bookstand. One of my favorite books in that list was A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness.  The setting is Oxford University and below I have a clip with Harkness giving a walking tour of Oxford. The story centers around the characters of Diana Bishop, a researcher who descended from a brilliant notable ancestry of witches. She has known she has some unique sorcery capabilities, but has been in a cloud of denial her whole life. She calls up a book called Ashmole 782 from the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library with unexpected results. Her hands sense the power within the pages and quickly sends the book back to the ancient stacks. Matthew Clairmont has observed this from a distance, anything but an ordinary geneticist, he is a vampire with a long history with seemingly endless resources and a strong interest in Ashmole 782.  Matthew is only one of countless daemons, witches and vampires who covet the same book. Harkness speaks of their first date in the video. It is myth busting for Diana and provides a challenge to her as she must create a menu that will please a vampire.  She learns that his taste in fine wine is paramount to food, but that's about all. A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is part of the ALL SOULS TRILOGY, SHADOW OF THE NIGHT due to be released in the summer 2012. 

Deborah Harkness-Walking Tour of Oxford

Book Giveaway Details

My readers will be thrilled to have the opportunity to win a copy of the the paperback edition of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES that will be released by Penguin on December 27th. 

Contest runs from today through December 31st. 
To enter you must:
1. Leave your email address in code and follow my blog. 
2. Extra chance if you post on facebook and/or twitter, leave link. 
3. Extra chance if you blog about it, leave link. 
4. Leave a comment about the video, question for the author, or general comment about the book and contest. It's up to you. :)
5. Contest limited to participants in US and Canada.

Good Luck to all!

The Betrayal, Brides of Gabriel, by Diane Noble

Brides of Gabriel, Book 2
Diane Noble
2011, 291 pages

I  was surprised to discover this was Christian Fiction and also book two in the Brides of Gabriel series.  I did not read book one, but the plot is easily picked up as the author recaps the details from book one. Nevertheless, the story is entertaining and full of drama as you can image there would be when one man is a husband with multiple wives in a polygamist community. This book in the series features Bronwyn who upon the death of her husband is wed to Gabriel MacKay. Her sister wife and friend is Mary Rose and the family is part of a caravan of Saints traveling to the promised land called Salt Lake Valley. The problem arises when an unspeakable secret is realized. The wives struggle with decisions that question the religious leaders, including their husband Gabriel. They are driven to make plans that are dangerous but critical for their survival.

Noble frames this second book around the Mormon faith, yet it could easily speak of any evangelical faith whose overzealous elders drive to convert and overpower the weak with strict compliance to rules that supersede true spirituality.

This book was given to me by Library Thing for Early Reviewers. My review is unbiased and my honest opinion.

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

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Across Many Mountains, A Memoir by Yangzom Brauen

A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom
Yangzom Brauen
St. Martin's Press
October, 2011-304 pp

 ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS is the journey of three women, grandmother, mother and daughter from March 10, 1959, the day marked as Tibetan Uprising Day (considered the day when the Tibetan turmoil began).  This memoir is written from the point of view of the daughter, Yangzom Brauen.  It is a multigenerational approach that begins with the author’s grandmother and ends with her own story today. It is an astonishing narrative that provides the reader with the gripping history of her family, Tibet, Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. It is an eye opening read that delivers a message of determination, strength and understanding. As the Tibetan people and the government of China continue to clash, the Dalai Lama provides spiritual wisdom and hope from India.  The author skillfully assumes the persona of mother and grandmother to testify on their behalf. ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS just might tempt the reader to pursue further reading about Tibet and Buddhism as it did for this reviewer. I applaud Yangzom Brauen for telling this remarkable family history.

This book was sent to me for review by Library Thing/  Early Reviewers.  My review is my candid and unbiased opinion of this memoir.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Christmas Giant, by Steve Light

The Christmas Giant
Written and Illustrated by Steve Light
Candlewick Press


The Christmas Giant is a warm and fuzzy treasure.  Humphrey the giant and Leetree, his little elf companion are given the task to grow and deliver a tree to Santatown.  Steve Light captures the friendship, love and tenderness of this special Christmas story through his endearing illustrations and accompanying text. Sometimes allowing his pictures to tell the story, children, especially emergent readers will love this memorable story.  With a clever plan, the Giant and Leetree solve a difficult problem that leads to a spectacular ending. I plan to read this one to my kindergarten students this week and will let you know their reactions.  The illustrations are beautifully detailed using pen and ink with soft pastels. The reader will no doubt notice new things each time they read the story. Librarians, media specialists and teachers will want this one in their classroom collections. Themes of friendship and problem solving make this outstanding.

I read this book to the delight of my Kindergarten classes this week during Media Class time.
They fell in love with Leetree and Humphrey. The students really understood the friendship and sharing toward a common purpose that lifts off the pages. They couldn't wait to see what was in the box the two delivered to Santa. Thank you to Steve Light from all the kindergarteners at my elementary school.

I was sent a hardcover signed copy of this book as a gift from the author.  I want to thank Steve Light for this surprise gift won in a raffle. My review is my unbiased and honest opinion of this picture book.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Catching Up-A Long Few Months

Thanksgiving Flowers from my cousin, Russ
After what seems like a long hiatus, I have summarized my last couple of months reading.  I have gathered this recap mainly for my own benefit. In the process, I hope perhaps one of more of these titles will attract your interest.  I doubt I will publish lengthy reviews on these, but my hope is to offer my brief, very brief comments.  These are books read over a period of time, a time of healing for me and deep self-reflection. With regrets, my writing has had to take a back seat to my health in order to focus on other priorities. With my ever shining optimism...I will pick up somewhere, regroup and begin to visit my blogger friend's posts soon.   I have missed my social network of bibliophiles and I hope everyone had a beautiful Thanksgiving. I did, and I know how very blessed I am. 

Yep, a purple poinsettia!!

August-November Books Read

53. Across Many Mountains, by Yangzom Brauen, A Memoir (A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom. (Library Thing Early Reviewer)

Across Many Mountains was an engrossing read about three women of different generations, mother, daughter and grandmother.  Many of you know how much I like to read about powerful and inspiring women. If you are that type of person, and want to learn a bit about Tibet and their struggle for freedom....this is a must read. I loved it!! So much so, I have been searching for more information and background about Tibet and China.  ~Wisteria Leigh

54. Catherine the Great, Non-Fiction, Portait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie, Random House, 978-0-679-45672-8. November 11, 2011 Release.

Another strong woman who came to life with Massie's magic. I am in awe of Catherine the Great and couldn't put this well written biography.  Her story is a fascinating read that unravels with unencumbered grace from beginning to end. Robert Massie is an amazingly talented writer. Anyone who loves history, particularly about famous women monarchs will enjoy this one. You might want to pick up an additional copy and give it this year to a biography reader in your life.~Wisteria Leigh 

55. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, Penguin Press, Chinese American Biography, 978-1-59420-284-1. (Self-purchase)

This was great! The point of view of a mother who is driven to push her daughters to excellence and the consequences she must face and accept. This one surprised me. I was expecting something quite different.   As a teacher, I see the pressures put on many students, some can handle it, others can't. Naturally, all parents want the best for their children. So did Amy Chua. 
I enjoyed her journey of discovery when she realizes the fate of one daughter was sabotaged from the beginning.  I was anxious to read this for some time. Chua wrote a superb and honest reflection of her story. ~ Wisteria Leigh

56. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness,  Viking Press (Penguin Group), 978-0-670-0-02241-0. (561 pages), First book in the All Souls trilogy. Love, love loved this one!!! (Vampires, Witches, Alchemy, Science and magic). Published 2011.

I will tell you, I loved this one so much, I can't wait for the second book. Refreshing and fun novel. Deborah Harkness created her own magic as my hands were velcroed to this book.  Really...I liked it better than Twilight. ~Wisteria Leigh

57. Conquistadora, by Esmeralda Santiago, 978-0-307-26832-7, Alfred A. Knopf, historical fiction, Puerto Rico 19th century, Women plantation owners, sugar plantations, slavery. (421 pages).

I must really love Spanish writers as I have noticed a pattern in my reading over the last few months. Whether the setting is Spain or some other Latin culture, or it is a translation from a work by a Spanish writer, I have enjoyed each one. I am a huge fan of Isabel Allende, and the writing of Esmeralda Santiago although much different, is impressive with an equally satisfying gift of story telling prowess. The courageous character Ana Larragoity Cubillas, is driven and self-reliant. The setting of Puerto Rico is close to me, as I lived in a small town outside San Juan as a child. Another strong female role placed this time in an engaging period of history that is seldom written about. Beautiful!! ~Wisteria Leigh
58. The Northside, by Nelson Johnson, 978-0-937548-73-8, Non-fiction, Atlantic City/African Americans.(358 pages), Plexus Publishing, Inc. (Historical Novels Review-self purchase).

A valuable and interesting history of the creation of Atlantic City. The author uncovers the "real history" and the blood, sweat and tears of the African Americans who migrated north to build a vacation destiny for rich whites. The story of how a small community known as Northside emerged as a result of another racial imbalance in history. Fascinating cover to cover. ~Wisteria Leigh

59. Midnight on Julia Street by Ciji Ware, 978-1-4022-2272-6, (512 pages), Sourcebooks, historical fiction. Release August 2011.

Review to appear in Historical Novels Review. A heads up...I adore Ciji Ware and Midnight on Julia Street is one of my favorite books of those I have read...and I have read many.  The sultry New Orleans setting with a story that offers intrigue and mystery when a downtown historic building is the center of a battle. In a town where everyone appears to be related, and everyone knows someone, the history of the condemned building will reveal secrets no one could have imagined. Ware at her quintessential best! ~Wisteria Leigh

60. The Betrayal, by Diane Noble, Brides of Gabriel Book 2, 978-0-06-198094-7, historical Fiction, 1842, Salt Lake Valley, Harper Collins (Avon), (290 pages). (Early Reviewer Library Thing).

An historical fiction drama about polygamy and the relationships of women who are sister wives is presented in this Brides of Gabriel book called The Betrayal. I was expecting a placid read of life in Salt Lake Valley, but Noble has other plans for her story.  It is not my favorite book in the list presented here, but it was a fun read.  To be fair, the subject matter does not interest me. Very straight forward and predictable.  This was just an average read for me, but I did finish it. ~Wisteria Leigh

61. Sleeping With the Enemy,  by Hal Vaughan, (Coco Chanel's Secret War), 978-0-307-59263-7. (282 pages),  Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. (Self purchase).

I looked forward to reading this book so much, I put aside others that I had been hoping to read next. The story of Coco Chanel and her life during World War II is presented by Hal Vaughan who claims to have exposed the reality of Coco Chanel and her collaboration with the enemy. 
Fascinating to read about Chanel and what Vaughan believes is truth. Read it and form your own conclusions. This one is well worth a look. ~Wisteria Leigh

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Subscribe to Shelf Awareness-Enter to win a free book

A SECRET KEPT, by Tatiana de Rosnay
Recently released:St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (September 14, 2010)

The publication booksellers turn to for news on the book industry is now publishing a version for book lovers! Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers is a FREE emailed newsletter with reviews on the 25 best books publishing each week along with author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways and more. Right now they’re running a contest for new subscribers. Check out the button on our website to sign up.

 Tatiana De Rosnay Website
 Author of Sarah's Key

Subscribe to Shelf Awareness and enter to win a free book!

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire

I came across this new book by Anne Ursu and wanted to share the recent release. (9/27/11).

My students love the idea of  fractured fairy tale.  I think the idea of how creative the author can be with an already published story is fascinating to them. This one looks great and I am anxious to read it myself. Take a look at the publisher's synopsis:

A stunning modern-day fairy tale from acclaimed author Anne Ursu

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.  Harper Collins

Anne Ursu Website

It's a rainy, dismal day in New England, but fortunately the weekend has a promise in our forecast for a welcome relief when a crisp chill of autumn sets in for a visit. Welcome back, Autumn!!!

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

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Monday, September 5, 2011

Three Summer Reads I Want to Share-The Magicians, The Northside and Conquistadora

I have not posted in quite a while and that is for a multiple of reasons. I have not been able to do a lot of writing and therefore wanted to recap for my blogger friends some interesting books that absorbed me this summer as I am recuperating.  Here are three books to start you off with many more I hope to summarize in the next week. Although my reviews are much abbreviated, I think you will gather my opinion in any case.  Thanks for understanding. Wisteria

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
ISBN-10: 0670020559
416 Pages
Viking Adult; 1 edition (August 11, 2009)

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman,I was asked to read The Magician King, this books sequel that would publish in August, 2011. I had not read The Magicians and the publisher graciously sent it along as well.This is my idea of an adult version of a world like Narnia. The writing is totally different and the plot as well. A young adult engrossed in fantasy novels finds himself quite unexpectedly in an exclusive school for would be magicians. "The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined...."(back cover).Fans of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia will appreciate this adult fairy tale and will be awaiting the sequel The Magician King. Fortunately, both are available now in bookstores.

I am currently reading The Magician King, where the travels of Quentin and his friends continue.   If you love fantasy, this is a must read.

The copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher for review.  Above is my honest unbiased opinion. 

The Northside, by Nelson Johnson
Plexus Publishers
November 2010
358 Pages

The Northside by Nelson Johnson, is a spectacular non-fiction book about the rise of Atlantic City. The focus is mainly on the contributions of African Americans in the mid-20th century as Atlantic City emerged from a small barren island.  I will be reviewing this for Historical Novels Review for the an upcoming issue. I will post a copy of that review once the magazine is published. In the mean time, this is a book any lover of American History will devour with earnest. I couldn't put it down. There is so much history pulled together in this narrative style that is shocking and Johnson is brilliant to document this time period with such skill.  In fact, before I had been sent the copy for review, I had already purchased my own copy after browsing in my local bookstore.  My extra copy is bound for a colleague who can't wait to get his hands on it. Nelson Johnson also wrote Boardwalk Empire, a book that is on my wish list for sure.

I purchased the copy of this book at Amazon.

Conquistadora, by Esmeralda Santiago
Knopf (July 12, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0307268327
432 Pages

Conquistadora, by Esmeralda Santiago is my top pick from my summer reading. It is a sensational historical fiction saga, based on Puerto Rican history and the clash between plantation owners and their slaves. It is also the story of an incredibly strong and rebellious woman named Ana, who has a fearless drive to succeed in life. She becomes a sugar plantation owner in Puerto Rico and despite growing rebellion, she is unyielding. This story takes the reader up to  the time of the Civil War.  The effects of what happened in the Southern States has far reaching implications in the Caribbean Islands and Ana is determined to secure her future.  I purchased this book to read as the history of Puerto Rico drew me to the story as well as the character of a strong woman who emerges to compete with men at a time that it was frowned upon.  I also lived in Puerto Rico when I was a child and attended Spanish schools. Although the memories of my past experiences are fading, I will always have the fondest memories and recall extremely happy times with my family. Puerto Rico introduced me to the language and culture and delicious fruits that were abundant then only there. Fortunately, we live in a time when guava, coconut, mango, papaya and other foods are no longer considered exotic. Read Conquistadora, you will succumb to Esmeralda Santiago's exquisite writing and fall in love with a beautiful story.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

I purchased a copy of this book at Amazon.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review-Under Fire, by Margaret McLean

Margaret McLean
A Forge Hardcover
Summer 2011
$24.99, Hardcover
400 pages

 Review by Wisteria

Readers of my blog know I don’t review too many thrillers/trial fiction. I have read many of John Grisham’s and Scott Turow's legal dramas with enthusiasm. I was really interested in reading  and reviewing UNDER FIRE for two reasons, one, the author is female and two, Margaret McLean was a practicing criminal prosecutor and  currently teaches law.  I'm glad I followed my sixth sense on this one because I read it in one day recently when the heat index was over 110 degrees. Talk about being under fire.

Amina Diallo is a Muslim Senegalese immigrant accused of burning down her home and market business. During an attempt to save her and her fifteen year old son Malick, a Boston firefighter is shot and killed. The last person who saw the victim alive is his partner Andy who recalls seeing Amina pointing a gun.   Amina is charged with murder and arson. Her case causes high profile attention and rapidly instills anger and hostility toward the accused. The murder of a firefighter in the line of duty has already pronounced her guilty in the eyes of the world.

Amina has retained Buddy Clancy, her somewhat eccentrically quirky, laid-back and seasoned defense lawyer. He has an affinity for colorful often purposeful bow-ties and he and his dog Rehnquist always wear a matched pair.  Buddy’s niece Sarah Lynch was a prosecuting attorney fighting the gangs. When tragedy impedes her ability to continue, she focuses on playing hockey, giving up law.  When her uncle Buddy ropes Sarah into agreeing to meet with Amina, just to talk, Sarah is reluctant. During the meeting, she learns something interesting about Amina, and suddenly realizes she believes in her innocence.  Sarah agrees to work with her uncle on the defense side of the court.

The plot is plausible and the writing easy going. The character of Buddy Clancy definitely steals the show or the trial scene anyway. He is in command at all times with witty quips and humor that often has him on the hot seat with Judge Killian. Nothing seems to phase the patient Buddy, and he is the antithesis of his aggressive and impatient niece Sarah. They make for a near perfect legal team and in my opinion the drama of the court trial is the most exciting. At the end, the author leaves room for what you think will be a sequel or series.

If you like trial quick paced puzzling criminal fiction, UNDER FIRE will deliver sharp trial banter.  Margaret McLean’s background is a huge benefit as she expresses her story with authenticity. UNDER OATH, her second novel is due out in April 2012, fortunately with the same amusing character Buddy Clancy and his dog Rehnquist.

Disclosure: I was sent  a copy of this book by the publisher at no cost.  My review is an honest reflection of my opinion.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review-The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
384 Pages, $19.99US/$19.99CAN

Review by Wisteria Leigh
I must be the last person to have read THE HUNGER GAMES, and so I will be brief with the summary. 

In future North America in a nation called Panem. It consists of twelve districts that surround the Capitol. After an attempted coup came the Dark Days. Originally there were thirteen districts. After the uprising one was decimated and the other twelve were held accountable by the Capitol city. In order to maintain order and firm control over the people they devised an annual competion called The Hunger Games. Once a year at the Reaping, a lottery was held in each district where one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen were chosen to compete at the games. It was not a time to celebrate as these games were deadly. The youths were made to fight to the death in an arena televised to the entire country of Panem. It was for the entertainment of the leaders of the Capitol. There could only be one winner. 

You may think as I did that this book is gruesome and of no interest to me. Surprisingly, this is not true at all.  This book is wonderful. The characters are so well defined that despite the premise of the games, you will be a nail-biting spectator. You can't help but empathize with the sacrifice that a sister makes for her sibling. Disgust and loathing for the game organizers is natural and makes you shutter with disbelief.  The plot is highly engaging and will satisfy the most reluctant young reader. Adults and teachers will find lessons abound in this thriller.

It is forecast of the future, a dystopian society that offers a window through media entertainment with a first hand look at human nature, the good and bad. This book rivets you in place as you speed through the thrilling action provided by Suzanne Collins' remarkably original story. Fortunately, I have both CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY on my bookshelf. Don't miss your opportunity to read this one. You will love it!


Disclosure: The copy of this book was provided by Scholastic Press

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Review-MARCH, by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks
Penguin Books
January 31, 2006
304 pages, Paperback

I was introduced to Geraldine Brooks’ enchanting writing ability in her recent book CALEB'S CROSSING. (See Review). I have kept MARCH on my nightstand for several years with the intent to read it. My interest in the Civil War and Louisa May Alcott’s novel LITTLE WOMEN was what originally drew me to this book. My expectations as I began to read MARCH were high and as soon as I read the first few pages I knew this was another extraordinary novel by this author.

Alcott’s widely cherished classic, LITTLE WOMEN lends Geraldine Brooks the character of Mr. March, father and husband who was an absent father in Alcott’s story. Brooks styles an imaginative interpretation of his life as a young boy and later when he is marries  Marmee and they have a family of four girls.  Readers will recognize the scenes of Alcott’s story that are threaded in the plot as well as major historical events like Harpers’ Ferry and the clandestine efforts of the Underground Railroad. Brooks’ research and examination of diaries and other primary sources, provided a palette of the past that emerges in the scenes depicting chilling episodes surrounding the brutality of slave life, the primitive medical care and unsanitary conditions on and off the battlefield and how the Civil War altered all families lives forever.  

When the Civil War breaks out, Mr. March is a wealthy established citizen of New England who shares an idealistic passion and abolitionist views with his wife. As the frenzy of the crowds roar, he becomes energized with youthful enthusiasm. He believes he will make a difference and he impulsively signs up to serve as a chaplain. Marmee is surprised and concerned about his decision, but decides to hide her reluctance.  

The story begins in Virginia in October 1861 during the battle of Bull’s Bluff in Virginia.   It is written from March’s point of view as her writes home.  The reader is allowed to intimately insinuate into his thoughts and read his letters home to his wife.  He hides the the truth to shield his family from the war’s bloody grasp. Yet, the reader is privy to everything he experiences and believes. The images that unfold are raw, unedited and powerful. This book soars with sensitivity and resonating prose that lingers page after page. It is a beautifully written novel with multiple themes to reflect on. The language will lure you back again and again. Geraldine Brooks, is an originally inventive storyteller. It is easy to understand why MARCH received the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. 
Highly recommended. 

Geraldine Brooks Website
Interview about MARCH from Geraldine Brooks Website
Disclosure: I purchased the copy of this book.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's new at The Quilt Shop: see how easy this is?

After my recent surgery, my special friend Roni who works with me at school gave me this Tumbler quilt kit. I was hesitant, but as an avid sewer of too many years to count I was thrilled to start a new adventure while recuperating this summer. Well, I started the other day and I am now a quilter madwoman. Here is a little's not done yet, but you'll get the idea.

The Quilt Shop has so much to see and the projects and ideas will captivate your inner creativity.  There are so many helpful sewers who work there. Especially Roni, who I can't thank enough.

What's new at The Quilt Shop: see how easy this is?: "I have a dear friend Donna that I work with. I knew she was a quilter at heart, she just hadn't figured that out yet. I gave her a tumbler..."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review-Shadows on the Gulf, by Rowan Jacobsen

A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetlands
Rowan Jacobsen
Bloomsbury USA, 2011
204 pages, Hardcover

Book Excerpt
In early April, the Nature Conservancy’s Alabama chapter had established a mile and a half of new oyster reef on Coffee Island, off the Alabama coast. I was the best-oyster-restoration project this country had ever seen. It had seemed like a heartening success until the Macondo well beneath the Deepwater Horizon blew out on April 20 and sent a tidal wave of oil straight toward that reef. I’d been interested in reef restoration for years and decided to visit those oysters a few days before the oil did.” (page 3, Rowen Jacobsen)

Review by Wisteria Leigh

Anyone who thinks the oil spill event last year in the Spring of 2010 is a worry of the past, think again. When you read
SHADOWS ON THE GULF you will indeed worry and should. We all know that our planet suffers from ages of multi-layered abuse generated by human misuse and neglect.  The questions Jacobsen wanted answered and what he learned as he visited the Gulf waters and tributaries that form the Mississippi Delta, the wetlands and essential waterways that branch off the Mississippi River are documented in his engrossing new book. He supports his ideas and writing from the multiple articles and other sources listed by chapter at the end his book. 

If you have ever seen complex domino layouts with intricate patterns set-up for competitive sport, then you will have some idea of how an ecosystem will shatter.  When you bump the starting point, a chain reaction ensues that leads to the breakdown of the entire structure.  So if we look at an ecosystem like a domino layout as it falls apart, we are actually witnessing this same idea in nature. You wouldn’t think that eels, seaweed and a whale’s diet are connected, but they are.  As Jacobsen points out, whether or not you eat Gulf shrimp or any other fish, from the Gulf, even fresh water fish, should concern all Americans.

With numerous examples, the writer details life along the Gulf in the wake of the oil spill. In
SHADOWS ON THE GULF you will read about menhaden, tiny silvery fish that eat plankton.  What is the importance of these tiny little fish to our lives?  The author presents many scenarios for you to think about.  Are chickens on American farms safe from the eco-disaster in the Gulf?  What is a Dead Zone?  Why should we be concerned  if we don’t eat fish?  When will oysters come back to the Gulf?   Why are the cypress trees dying and who cares?  What can the oil companies do to help damage already done? What does the government have to say? What do the residents fear?

Jacobsen’s journey along the rivers, tributaries, swamps and Gulf waters allows the reader to witness the beauty and complex ecosystem that is constantly changing.  At times the change is gradual and other times drastic and dire, but regardless, according to Jacobsen, the change will impact all of us. It has only just begun. He answers his own questions and through his study, offers information that will help bring clarity to the murky miasma that surrounds this catastrophe.

Rowen Jacobsen creates a sense of personal ownership throughout.  He will make you drift in thought upon the precarious future of our frail ecosystem.
SHADOWS ON THE GULF is profoundly sensitive work with unnerving realism and value to all readers. Highly recommended.

Personal Note:
This book was sent to me through the Library Thing Early Reviewer program. I was mesmerized chapter by chapter with deep curiosity.  Events before and after the oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon platform on April 20, 2010 has the author’s chilling perspective.  I felt I learned so much about this catastrophic event and subsequent clean-up efforts. Rowen Jacobsen is critical, yet straightforward and his passionate embrace of the ecosystem and life itself is infectious. 

Want more information?
10-100 Restore Coastal Alabama 
Rowen Jacobsen Website

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011]. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blog Tour-Helen Hollick-Sea Witch:Voyage One and Giveaway

I am so excited to be a part of Helen Hollick's 2011 Blog Tour. As many of you know Ms. Hollick is one of my favorite historical fiction writers. I have read and reviewed many of her novels, most recently, The Forever Queen and The Chosen King. When I was offered the opportunity to be included on of this Blog Tour introducing my readers to her Pirate Trilogy, (series will continue after the third voyage) I couldn't resist.  Read on to see how you can enter to win your choice of one of the three books in her series.

Today I will have a review for you on Sea Witch, The First Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne. On July 22nd, Helen will join me as a guest to talk about England, her home.  Take a moment to glimpse at the trailer.  Perhaps you too will become bewitched by the allure of Ms. Hollick's special craft.  Prepare to be beguiled.

Review by Wisteria

The First Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

Helen Hollick
Silverwood Books (June 20, 2011)
$16.99, Paperback
316 pages


Of course we all know that pirates are not ordinarily as charismatic as the movies would lead us to believe. But what if they were?  Johnny Depp has certainly proved his box office value, irresistible heart tug and memorable character in his Pirates of the Caribbean Series. “Savvy”?  Now Helen Hollick introduces adult readers to Jesamiah Acorne an alluring revile for your affections, perhaps even more memorable than any fictionalized pirate in history so far.

Jesamiah Acorne grows up brutally bullied by his half brother Phillipe Moreno who, disgusted by their father’s past, seeks revenge through Jesamiah’s life.  Jesamiah finds freedom and the start of a new life as a bold buccaneer taking to the ocean and living on a ship.  One day, Jesamiah’s band of pirates fail in the quest to plunder a British vessel. As their plan backfires, Jesamiah peers through his telescope and his eyes rest on the stern of the ship. In the small circle view he spies a figure. He is surprised to see a young girl, a woman, but that can’t be.  He experiences an enchantment, unaware that he is bewitched by the white witch, Triola Oldstagh.  What he doesn’t realize is that they will meet again, but Triola is well aware of their destiny for she has “the craft.”  Triola is not the only woman to seek Jesamiah for herself. Tethys, lives in the ocean deep and is a supernatural spirit of seduction who wants to claim Jesamiah for herself with the passion of the Greek Sirens from mythology. Only Tethys does not want Jesamiah alive.

Helen Hollick takes the reader on a journey of high sea adventures, uniquely envisioned characters and romantic dazzlement. The predestination of the love match between Jesamiah and Triola is always just beyond reach, as Jesamiah is tugged back to the ocean forcing him to choose between his desire for freedom on his ship or his love for Triola.  The Sea Witch is a suspenseful romance with sudden surprises, twists and turns and exciting drama that will ride a tide to the end. Jesamiah has that magnetic charm that will raise a twinkle in your eye and captivate your heart with a bold spirit of adventure.

Sea Witch takes place around 1716 in the oceans between Africa and the Caribbean.
Could Triola and Jesamiah be a new love match to live on in historical fiction literature, or will the sultry waves of the wraith Tethys win the spoils?   Sea Witch contains a pirate’s treasure of pleasure, highly recommended.

Voyage Two: Pirate Code
Voyage Three: Bring it Close
Voyage Four: Ripples in the Sand (To be released 2011/2012)
Please join me on July 22nd when Helen Hollick will be my guest as she talks about England, her home.

Contest Rules

  • Leave a comment on today's post, or any of the next two tour posts, July 22nd and July 31st. Make sure you leave an encrypted email address if you are the winner. In your comment please let me know which book you would like to win if chosen. 
  • If you comment on the three different posts you will have three chances.
  • 6 additional chances: become a follower of my blog
  • 10 additional chances: become a follower on my Facebook Network Blog
  • This contest is open Internationally
  • Contest ends on August don't wait. 

Good Luck to Everyone....I hope you enjoy all the voyages!!!

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review-The American Heiress, by Daisy Goodwin

Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin's Press, June 2011
480 Pages

Review by Wisteria

When I read the title, The American Heiress, you may think as I did, “Who cares?” Prepare to read a highly entertaining story and I guarantee, you will care as much as I did for Cora Cash, The American Heiress. Daisy Goodwin will take you back to a glimpse of The Guilded Age as the story of Cora Cash unfolds. It is a world of glitz, respectability and if nothing else the illusion and appearance of public propriety.

To visit the behemoth mansions of Newport, RI, a visitor sees these stately, grand, pretentious homes as cold ghosts of a past era. Walking along the cliff-walk overlooking the oscillating seas and the wildness of the ocean, most would find it is hard to fathom how a little over one hundred years ago, this was the epicenter of high society and culture. Back then, the grounds and homes were untouchable to all but the very elite. This is the setting of The American Heiress, a story about Cora Cash, the daughter of an opulent tycoon has both beauty and intelligence coupled with a domineering and social piranha.

Mrs. Cash has dreams for her daughter and visions that a suitable match will also secure her own position at the pinnacle of the social strata. After her coming out, an event that has tragic consequences, Cora travels to England with an eye on capturing an English nobleman for her husband. With a vast fortune in tow she sails to Europe on her father’s yacht. On board she is accompanied by her maid servant Bertha, and her own horses. Once in England, while out riding one day with a party of friends, she is thrown from her horse.

Somewhat like a fairy tale, Cora meets her Duke and they are married, but what follows is a bumpy ride that is unpredictable. It will remain to be seen whether it will end happily ever after. The Duke is in need of money, and fortunately for him, the girl he marries is an heiress, impressively rich. The novel is very well written and highly engaging. Cora is a captivating and courageous heroine, extremely naive, but an embraceable character. She is approachable and easy going, easily loved and wanting to always do the right thing. In trying to please, she alienates her husband, or so it seems.

This is not a story of wealth and status in The Guilded Age, but a story of betrayal, deception, devotion and love that crosses over all socio-economic barriers. It’s just not all about money, the lessons gleaned and the lives within The American Heiress will touch every reader. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book at no charge by Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program. 

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review-Caleb's Crossing, by the Pulitzer Prize winning, Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks
Viking/Penguin Group, (May 3, 2011)
Hardcover, $26.95/3$31.00CAN
320 pages

CALEB'S CROSSING, is the story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the son of a Wampanoag chieftain who became the first graduate of Harvard in 1665.  Geraldine Brooks has researched his story and has conceived a fictionalized drama through the diary like memoir of Bethia Mayfield, a woman of fiction, daughter of a Puritan preacher.  They live on Great Harbor Island, today’s Martha’s Vineyard. Their friendship begins through clandestine meetings that leads to a lifelong kinship. Caleb and Storm Eyes are names they give each other. They soon became bi-lingual and share not only language, but a sensitivity to each other’s culture.  Bethia learns that Caleb will soon come to live at her house and study under her father’s strict tutelage, along side her brother, Makepeace Mayfield. 

Caleb and Bethia thirst for knowledge, but as a woman, it is out of her purview and she is expected to fulfill other duties in the home.  This does not deter the recalcitrant and often headstrong Bethia, who manages a way to learn and defy conventional norms despite her fear of Satan.

Caleb and his Native American friend Joel cross over the water that separates Great Harbor from Cambridge, to pursue their destiny at Harvard. The metaphor of that journey across the water is bountiful and imaginative in the hands of Ms. Brooks. Caleb’s crossing is Caleb’s struggle to reconcile his own culture with the fate of his adopted religious beliefs.  Just as ships sail across uncertain and treacherous water the fate of Caleb’s crossing is a story with an unpredictable destiny.

Geraldine Brooks is an extraordinary illusionist with adept visual acuity. Reading her novel Caleb’s Crossing will satisfy the most discriminating literary lover with phrasing that begs to be read again.

“From my canoe I could see the muscles working in the arms of Momonequem as he paddled ahead with father. His oar pierced the water without a splash, sending ripples arrowing back to shore, where turtles catching afternoon sunlight slid from the banks as we approached.” (63)

 “This morning, light lapped the water as if God had split a goblet of molten gold upon a ground of darkest velvet.” (255)

Close your eyes as the images she sketches appear in alluring fade-in transitions.

Countless themes play counterpoint in her novel as the author examines tolerance via racial prejudice, religious and cultural belief and female roles.

CALEB'S CROSSING, is a tragically moving story, memorable and beguiling as the reader has come to expect from the sensitive writing of Geraldine Brooks. An afterword is provided to clarify facts from the writer’s imagination.  Most highly recommended and a favored 2011 pick.

Disclosure: ARC was sent to me at no cost.  The above review is my honest opinion of this novel.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].  July 5, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wu Zhengdan & Wei Baohua - Acrobatic Chinese Ballet

The performance in this video by Wu Zhengdan and Wei Baohua is simply amazing duo who took my breath away!  In case you have never seen this...ENJOY THE MOMENT.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Book Giveaway Winners!!!

Congratulations to Cozy in Texas who won the drawing for:

A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer

Congratulations to Maggie who won the drawing for: 

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Review-Radio Shangri-La, by Lisa Napoli

Lisa Napoli
Crown Publishers
February 2011
$25.00/$28.95CAN, Hardcover
304 pages

Review by Wisteria ©

It has been said that you can go just about anywhere within the pages of a book. When you read Radio Shangri-La I believe this belief is close to achievable.  Lisa Napoli was looking for happiness. In her forties, working in public radio, she was more than unhappy. So much so that she took a course in happiness where she learned that writing down three things that brought her happiness each day would lead to some sort of enlightenment. She diligently did her homework assigned, with limited success.
When an opportunity to travel to Bhutan to help with a start-up radio station, Kuzoo FM, crossed her life path, she surprised herself by taking the job. Her account of her journey to the small country nestled between India and China, seemingly untouched by the modern world is a breathtaking journey of self-discovery.  After all, when the country measures its wealth by the Gross National Happiness and not the GNP, there must be something to this story?

Napoli has a comfortable writing style that flows easily and is a quick light read. She is humorous with just the right balance of her philosophic discovery without being preachy.
If anything, everyone will want to travel to Bhutan, but the cost may dissuade you. The travel and tourism tax collected by the government is about $200.00 per day. Not to mention, the prohibitive cost for a hotel that for most is astronomical.  Travel in and out of Bhutan is an arduous adventure. As the author discovers, because of the mountains that surround Bhutan’s only airport, it is known as the “scariest airport in the world.” That’s  a comforting travel tip to keep in mind along with the seemingly endless hours of travel from the United States.

The author is more than a tourist during her many visits to Bhutan, so her perspective is less visitor and more a foster citizen, temporary yet welcomed.  To replicate her experience would be impossible as a casual tourist. However, the unimaginable beauty and majesty of the Himalayan landscape and its people who hug Bhutan with happiness must be an experience in a lifetime.

I highly recommend Radio Shangri-La for anyone who wants to discover Bhutan, an extraordinary country.  As you follow Lisa Napoli’s quest for happiness, you just might uncover three things that will bring happiness to your own life.

Disclosure: The copy of this book was an ARC provided at no cost for an honest review by Crown Publishers. 

Author Website:

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review-The Queen's Rival, In the Court of Henry VIII

Diane Haeger
New American Library, March 2011
$15.00 U.S./18.50 CAN.
416 pages

Review by Wisteria

Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, through her uncle, Lord Mountjoy’s connections is given the opportunity to serve Katherine of Aragon as a maid of honor in King Henry VIII’s court.  She is bedazzled, a naive 14 year old, with unabashed enthusiasm and visions of endless possibilities. As a family favor she was granted the covetous position. Her appearance at court is not as she expected, she begins to feel unwanted and quickly realizes the allure of court life is a double edged sword. Gossip, innuendo and the quest for individual favor and power permeate the atmosphere, and life is quiet and dull.

When King Henry is in residence, his love and lustful pursuit of all pleasures makes the court bloom with joy. His pursuit of beautiful women is legendary as are his inevitable callous and ruthless breakups that cast aside his lovers.  Bessie Blount is different and Haeger portrays the vulnerability of the king as he struggles with his desire and need to be with this lover.  From the moment he meets her, his passion is stirred with unique desperation.  History will show that Bessie Blount did become King Henry’s mistress and their union did produce his son.

Haeger has a remarkable sense for creating believable characters. Although historical fiction, the story is teeming with facts. The Queen’s Rival is fascinating to read as most  characters are pulled from history sparking the curious mind to research further.  Henry Fitzroy was adored and loved by King Henry and spellbound by Bessie Blount. Haeger’s story is imaginative, seductive and just as spellbinding. The Queen’s Rival is less about the scheming and struggle for power that defined the Tudor Court as it is about Henry’s fairy tale love for Bessie Blount.

This review originally published March 2011 edition of Historical Novels Review.
The copy of this book was sent to me by HNR at no cost. 

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review-A Race to Splendor, Ciji Ware

Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks Landmark, April 2011
$16.99 U.S./£11.99 Trade Paperback,

On April 18th, 1906, San Francisco residents awoke to waves of destruction when a geological shift of earths pacific plates shift offshore. This April marks the 105th anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that pummeled this city and destroyed nearly 400 city blocks.  The recent ruination of Japan by one of the worst earthquakes on record, and the subsequent wrath of the deadly tsunami, this historical fiction novel is an almost surreal reminder of our own frailty.

Ciji Ware has an admitted drive to tell the stories that weren’t told, those of the women who lived our past and contributed to the history. This story surrounds the life of a formidable woman, Amelia Bradshaw, an emerging architect who arrives stateside to claim her inheritance.  She is shocked to learn that her fool-hardy father, has gambled away her fortune, The Bay View Hotel in a winner take all card game. 
Her court battle to capture her legitimate right is defeated as the corrupt cronies working with the new charismatic owner J.D. Thayer ensure his victory. Forced to seek employment, Amelia is offered temporary work by her friend and mentor Julia Morgan.

After the earthquake insinuates itself into the lives of the residents, the race to rebuild from the rubble begins in earnest.  Amelia’s voice, tells the story and through the survivor’s lives prejudice and avarice embedded for years is unearthed.  Ware uses primary and secondary sources to support her opulent story of desire and greed. She sheds light on the influence of women professionals who, like Amelia and Julia had much at stake and much to prove during the turn of the century.

Ciji Ware continues to radiate the historical fiction genre with a spotlight on women’s accomplishments in history.  Highly recommended this novel glows with a careful blend of history and romance.

Review originally appeared in Historical Novels Review Magazine.  A copy of this book was sent to me by HNR magazine at no cost.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War, Howard Bahr

by Howard Bahr
July 2007
$14.00, $16.25 CAN, pb
304 pp.

Review by Wisteria

The Judas Field is an astounding work of historical fiction that will rip deep into your heart and settle into your soul like a haunting bad dream.    Howard Bahr provides a sharply detailed journalistic view of The Battle of Franklin through the eyes of Cass Wakefield, a soldier who is unable to reconcile the past.  His life is empty and emotionless, haunted by memories he would rather forget. When a childhood friend asks him to recover her kin who died in the infamous battle, he reluctantly agrees to help.

The Judas Field, is based on the events surrounding the actual Battle of Franklin.  It has been called, “The Gettysburg of the West.” and lasted only about five hours. It took place in the yard of the Carter Family, while the family hid in the house during the fight. When silence settled over the area, the casualties combined were over 9,000.

As you travel north to Tennessee from Mississippi with Cass,  the reader will without a doubt empathize with Cass when his painful past insinuates itself into the safe cocoon of reflection he prefers. Uninvited images flash momentarily. War is loud. The repeated pounding and thunderous cacophony of canon fire and the constant ping and ring from ricochetted stray bullets whiz capriciously overhead. The ammunition is meant to kill and maim and bayonets are drawn.   Sometimes, when a prayer is answered a bedraggled soldier will be spared.  It doesn’t matter which side, the bullets and cannonballs originate, they are meant to kill, meant to deafen the sensitive ears and meant to produce the piles of bloody bodies that carpet the hellish landscape. All sense of beauty erased as the scavengers claim clothes, shoes, food and weapons from the dead.

War is quiet. The animals know to flee. The residents of the house disappear from view. as their property and yard become a battlefield. They huddle in a cellar, a barn, or escape to a cave or copse of trees, any shelter in hopes they will be spared. This is ground zero and a there is a still, eerie quiet , so quiet it is as both sides stopped breathing.  The stillness hovers over terrified soldiers as they wait for the engagement of another day. One of many that they have seen and one of the many they will face again.

Howard Bahr has a wondrously rich and picturesque style.  You can’t get much closer to being a true witness than you will with the acutely sensitive descriptions that make his story tangible.  Howard Bahr’s writing allows the reader to visualize, hear and feel the battle. You will witness a slaughter from the soldiers’ point of view. You will see the the nefarious images they encounter of the dead and grossly maimed. It is an unworldly place to be.  Likewise he is sensitive to the emotional pain and thoughts of his characters with phrases that will wrap around you like a warm hug. His prose is poetry.

It is the memories of those who survived, yet are slowly dying of the past that this story is about. The journey, whether the past will win is what makes this story so unique. If you have not read The Judas Field, it comes with my recommended high praise.  I will treasure my copy.

Special note to bloggers who are participating in the 2011 Civil War Challenge at War Through the Generations will want to read this one.

 I purchased my copy of this book while traveling in Gettysburg.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].