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].