Archive for May, 2007

The Wedding Dress by Virginia Ellis

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Reviewed by Joan Badie 

This light-hearted, dreamy story revolves around three sisters concentrating on making a wedding gown for the youngest girl who longs to marry but has no prospects.  The setting is post Civil War at a time of few surviving men.  Yet the sisters, to detach from a destitute, forbidding present and future, focus on plans for the youngest to attain a normal life.  Their parents are both gone; the two eldest are supposedly widows as a result of the war’s devastation.

Little gifts and wise purchases provide the material, lace, buttons and thread for the dress.  The sisters support one another, care for each other and in that is their strength and success.  The main character, the middle sister, Julia, sees visions of the war dead and believes in her dreams, wondering of the meaning and planning for the future.  I LOVE this character.  She is so real, warm, emotional and describes the others through her eyes.  Virginia Ellis might have patterned her on her own self. The eldest, Victoria, is loyal, sturdy and supportive.  Clare, the youngest, sensitive and beautiful, is a lover of animals, especially horses. She actually sings to a mule to inspire it to move ahead.

The historical background is aptly described including the farm, the woods, game and domestic animals.  It’s clear how very hard it is to survive on land after the Civil War.  Losses of others scare the girls deeply.  Stories of battles are recounted by a young officer visiting the middle sister with news of the demise of her late husband and the returning, now blind husband of the oldest sister, Victoria.  The social customs are real to the reader as they are portrayed in visits of the reverend, the soldiers and others.

Julia bravely tries to convince the young officer to marry her youngest sister, only to find (to Clare’s relief and delight) he is interested in her. The ending is charming and wholesome.  This book is a delight to read.

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

 Reviewed by Carolyn Wood

Anyone who has read John Steinbeck’s classics such as East of Eden or Grapes of Wrath will be surprised by this light hearted romp through the 50 territories that encompass the United States of America.  John Steinbeck, a product of the early 1900′s, decides in his later years to embark on a cross country adventure with his dog, Charley.  Charley is a large gray poodle who grows on the reader as does the author’s view of the people and countryside that sparkle in the USA. I was surprised by the author’s decision to travel with his dog for a companion rather than his beloved wife.  It is interesting to note the fondness John has for Charley as the companions ride along the open roadways. 

The journey is not always smooth and I was saddened by the personal account of traveling through the southern states during the 1960′s.  Quality prose cannot obscure the societal upheaval during the civil rights movement. Growing pains of the author and the country are evident as the excursion draws to a close. 

John Steinbeck has a talent for developing rich imagery and taking the reader along with him regardless of the setting of the work. I find Steinbeck’s description of the California redwoods leaves me longing to book my summer vacation as I type.

Travel Abroad Through Digital Photography

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Looks like Walt & Kay Pierson have seen a lot of this world. Can you identify these locations from around the world? 

Helsinki

 St Petersburg

Estonia

North Pole, Finland

(Locations: Helsinki, St Petersburg, Estonia, North Pole (Finland))

Digital Photo Travels

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Kay Pierson’s reading of Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson inspired sharing her digital photography talent with the group.

 Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes, NY

Travel titles for the month of May!

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Vacation time is just around the corner!  Check out the reading recommendations for those interesting in travel, locally or around the globe.  Feel free to post a comment if you have read one of the titles.  You can also post a review of a book or travel guide to share with this online community! 

Recessional by James A. Michnener
USA, The People and the Land by James A. Michener
A Guide to Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region by Adam Levine, photographs by Rob Cardillo
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
From the Heart: Seven Rules to Live By by Robin Roberts
Einstein by Walter Isaacson
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

USA, The People and the Land by James A. Michener

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Reviewed by Joan Badie

USA reveals a bit of the author’s past and illustrates his great intelligence, perceptiveness and ability to capture the essence of the country, its people, its history and place in the world.  It’s a composite of interviews ranging from the great leaders of our time including an astronaut to everyday citizens such as a female, high school dropout carpenter.  

 A real overview of our society is depicted.  There is much to be sorry for in our great country.  Our people excelled because of the vitality and determination of immigrants.  But, today there are many citizens who do not contribute but look to take from society. 

Stories about Mark Twain are intertwined with the description of Mississippi and Missouri.  Mining in the Midwest contains many eye-opening photos.  Cities are explained as well as described.  The Northeast, Western States, the South and Alaska are all covered.

James A. Michener did a great job on this book.