Monday, June 28, 2010

In My Mailbox

This weekly meme is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren! Check out her blog to see what others are reading.

Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest by Adam Elenbaas


This harrowing, poignant, and deeply memorable true story of a minister's son escaping his anguished youth in the American heartland, to gain spiritual awareness through the uses of mind-expanding native plants and shamanic rituals in South America, is the most evocative tale of psychedelic experience since Jeremy Narby, Terence McKenna, and Daniel Pinchbeck.

In the tradition of memoirs like Daniel Pinchbeck's 2012 and Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries, Adam Elenbaas's Fishers of Men chronicles his journey from intense self-destruction and crippling depression to self-acceptance, inner awareness, and spiritual understanding, through participation in mindexpanding-and healing ayahuasca ceremonies in South America and beyond.

From his troubled and rebellious youth as a Methodist minister's son in Minnesota, to his sex and substance abuse-fueled downward spiral in Chicago and New York, culminating in a depressive breakdown, Elenbaas is plagued by a feeling of emptiness and a desperate search for meaning for most of his young life. After hitting rock bottom at his grandfather's house in rural Michigan, a chance experience with psychedelic mushrooms convinces him that he must change his ways to achieve the sense of peace that he has always desired. Several subsequent psychedelic experiences inspire him to embark on a quest to South America and take part in a shamanic ceremony, where he consumes ayahuasca, a jungle vine revered for its spiritual properties.

Over the course of nearly fifty ayahuasca ceremonies during four years, Elenbaas discovers the truth about his own life and past, and begins to mend himself from the inside out.

Wired Kingdom by Rich Chesler


When a Blue Whale tagged with a web-cam as part of a television nature program broadcasts a brutal murder at sea, an FBI agent with a fear of water finds herself in a deadly race to reach the animal before an unknown killer can destroy the digital evidence it carries. For Special Agent Tara Shores, the many possible suspects each present obstacles as unique and perilous as the sea itself. Is the murderer one of the web viewers vying for the controversial reality show’s million-dollar prizes? The extremist environmental group threatening violence unless the whale is liberated from its high-tech tracking device? The wealthy Hollywood power-couple who own the show? Or the troubled, young inventor of the whale-cam? And just who was the beautiful woman slaughtered live on the web?

Navigating an ocean of manipulation and deceit, the detective’s best hope for a solid piece of evidence is the original murder video, still attached to the back of the 100-ton creature which roams the Pacific tethered to its electronic leash. But when the tag’s GPS locator mysteriously fails, it seems that finding the beast will prove impossible.

As the Special Agent dives deeper into the case, what she initially dismisses as a publicity stunt for the glitzy reality series soon sweeps her out to sea in a riptide of greed, sex, and high-tech crime.

Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer by Andrea D. Lyon


Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded.

Dubbed the “Angel of Death Row” by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her career, she has defended those accused of heinous acts and argued that, no matter their guilt or innocence, they deserved a change at redemption.

Now, for the first time, Lyon shares her story, from her early work as a Legal Aid attorney to her founding of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases. Full of courtroom drama, tragedy, and redemption, Angel of Death Row is a remarkable inside look at what drives Lyon to defend those who seem indefensible—and to win.

There was Annette who was suspected of murdering her own daughter. There was Patrick, the convicted murderer who thirsted for knowledge and shared his love of books with Lyon when she visited him in jail. There was Lonnie, whose mental illness made him nearly impossible to save until the daughter who remembered his better self spoke on his behalf. There was Deirdre, who shared Lyon’s cautious optimism that her wrongful conviction would finally be overturned, allowing her to see her grandchildren born while she was in prison. And there was Madison Hobley, the man whose name made international headlines when he was wrongfully charged with the murder of his family and sentenced to death.

These clients trusted Lyon with their stories—and their lives. Driven by an overwhelming sense of justice, fairness,and morality, she fought for them in the courtroom and in the raucous streets, staying by their sides as they struggled through real tragedy and triumphed in startling ways. Angel of Death Row is the compelling memoir of Lyon’s unusual journey and groundbreaking career.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, in which two sentences are shared froma ramdom page in your current read.


  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page  
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Organ music seemed to be blasting from the very trees. It swelled to crescendoes, faded, and roared out again: a baroque combination of chords, rests, and flourishes that made Lynley think that at any moment the phantom himself would come swinging down from the opera chandeliers. At the appearance of the Bentley, the two men parted, the one shouting a final violent imprecation at Nigel Parrish before he stalked off in the direction of the high street.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
p. 204

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A book meme by Shelia at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

It has been awhile since I have been here to update this list. So here goes.

Last week I finished Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias and hosted the booktour on Wed. June 16. I have finsihed Dancing with Jou Jou by Barbara Louise Leiding a few weeks ago and will post the review this week. I also finished Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris, Breakup: Enduring Divorce by Leo Averbach, By Heart, Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson. Will post the review for Shakespeare's Landlord this week as well.

Now I am finishing up A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George and will be starting The Caliphate by Andre Le Gallo in a few minutes. Have also started Happy Hour by Michele Scott. Should have reviews up for these later this week.

Hope you all have a great week. Enjoy your reads.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In My Mailbox

This weekly meme is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren! Check out her blog to see what others are reading.

I am back at last: have been recovering and am now ready to move forward. Thank you all for your patience. It has been a fun week--my first book tour! Thank you Silvio Sirias and CondorTours. I also want to say Happy Father's Day, especially to my great husband Paul.

My mailbox was full this week after a slight hiatus. Lots of new material means a lot of reading time will be required. I had to turn The Poisonwood Bible back into my library(only overdue by a month-shame on me). So I ventured out and purchased the book for the 4th or 5th time-I don't know who I keep lending it too but this one will stay home. I will read it in between the books I have received for review. And now to the list.

This week I received:

Shoulder Bags and Shootings by Dorothy Howell courtesy of FSB Media

In Shoulder Bags and Shootings you will meet Haley, who’s life is beyond fabulous. She just spent two amazing weeks in Europe with her boyfriend Ty Cameron, owner of Holt’s Department Store where Haley works. But, events turn for Haley when she finds the body of her nemesis in the trunk of Ty’s grandmothers Mercedes. Topping the list of suspects, Haley must solve this murder quickly before she becomes a killer’s next fashion fatality!

Parting River Jordan by ML Barnes

Deanna "Dee" Ramsey is NOT nosy; she's just concerned. And the happenings at church are giving her lots of reason to keep her eyes and ears open. Then the retirement of Rev. Amanda Alden, founder of River Jordan Full Gospel Church, initiates a power struggle between the smooth-talking Rev. Albert Beem and the formidable Mother Marva Jessup, long-time president of the Mothers Board. Things go from bad to worse when the feuding factions separate into TWO churches and try to share the building they've literally split down the middle. After the separation, the Mothers Board quickly hires a handsome young single minister for their church. Pastor Darnell Davis's energy and attitude bring out the worst in Rev. Beem. Despite his best intentions, Pastor Darnell finds that Rev. Beem has the same effect on him. While the two ministers battle for the hearts and minds of the members, Pastor Darnell finds himself doing Romeo and Juliet with Rev. Beem's only daughter! After an electrical fire disrupts the "Stupid Bowl Service," Deanna overhears part of a conversation and learns that the fire was no accident. Someone is plotting to destroy River Jordan. Can Dee uncover the plan and save the church or will Parting River Jordan be the end of everything?

Shadow of the Swords: An Epic Novel of the Crusades by Kamran Pasha

An epic saga of love and war, Shadow of the Swords tells the story of the Crusades—from the Muslim perspective.

Saladin, a Muslim sultan, finds himself pitted against King Richard the Lionheart as Islam and Christianity clash against each other, launching a conflict that still echoes today.

In the midst of a brutal and unforgiving war, Saladin finds forbidden love in the arms of Miriam, a beautiful Jewish girl with a tragic past. But when King Richard captures Miriam, the two most powerful men on Earth must face each other in a personal battle that will determine the future of the woman they both love—and of all civilization.

Richly imagined, deftly plotted, and highly entertaining, Shadow of the Swords is a remarkable story that will stay with readers long after the final page has been turned.
The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst courtesy of Doubleday Book Giveaway
From the bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel comes a dazzling literary mystery about the lengths to which some people will go to rewrite their past.

Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book—a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo haven’t spoken in years—an estrangement stemming from that tragic day—she drops everything to go to him.

The “last chapters” of Octavia’s novel are layered throughout The Nobodies Album—the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo’s dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning reveal, Octavia must consider how this story will come to a close.

Universally praised for her candid explorations of the human psyche, Parkhurst delivers an emotionally gripping and resonant mystery about a mother and her son, and about the possibility that one can never truly know another person.
The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand courtesy of Hachette Book Group

Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy's closest friends for what will be revealed. Once again, Hilderbrand masterfully weaves an intense tale of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of endless summer island life.

The next 6 books are all courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

everything lovely, effortless, safe by Jenny Hollowell

A young woman caught at the turning point between success and failure hopes fame and fortune will finally let her leave her old life—and her old self—behind

Birdie Baker has always dreamed of becoming someone else. At twenty-two, she sets off to do just that. Walking out on her pastor husband and deeply evangelical parents, she leaves behind her small-town, small-time life and gets on a bus to Los Angeles.

Nine years later, Birdie's life in Hollywood is far from golden, and nothing in the intervening years—the brutal auditions, the tawdry commercials—has brought her any closer to the transformation she craves. Caught between success and failure, haunted by guilt about a tragedy in her long-forsaken family, Birdie is at the brink of collapse when she meets Lewis, a beautiful but naive young actor with his own troubled history, whose self-destructive impulses run dangerously parallel to her own.

When her big chance finally comes, Birdie must reconcile the wide-eyed girl she once was with the jaded starlet she has become and try to find herself and her future somewhere in between. Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is the story of a young woman's struggle to make her own way in the Technicolor land of make-believe.

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

In The Name of Honor by Richard North Patterson

Home from Iraq, a lieutenant kills his commanding officer—was it self-defense or premeditated murder? An enthralling novel of suspense about the high cost of war and secrets

The McCarrans and the Gallaghers, two military families, have been close for decades, ever since Anthony McCarran—now one of the army's most distinguished generals—became best friends with Jack Gallagher, a fellow West Pointer who was later killed in Vietnam. Now a new generation of soldiers faces combat, and Lt. Brian McCarran, the general's son, has returned from a harrowing tour in Iraq. Traumatized by wartime experiences he will not reveal, Brian depends on his lifelong friendship with Kate Gallagher, Jack's daughter, who is married to Brian's commanding officer in Iraq, Capt. Joe D'Abruzzo. But since coming home, D'Abruzzo also seems changed by the experiences he and Brian shared—he's become secretive and remote.

Tragedy strikes when Brian shoots and kills D'Abruzzo on their army post in Virginia. Brian pleads self-defense, claiming that D'Abruzzo, a black-belt martial artist, came to his quarters, accused him of interfering with his marriage, and attacked him. Kate supports Brian and says that her husband had become violent and abusive. But Brian and Kate have secrets of their own, and now Capt. Paul Terry, one of the army's most accomplished young lawyers, will defend Brian in a high-profile court-martial. Terry's co-counsel is Meg McCarran, Brian's sister, a brilliant and beautiful attorney who insists on leaving her practice in San Francisco to help save her brother. Before the case is over, Terry will become deeply entwined with Meg and the McCarrans—and learn that families, like war, can break the sturdiest of souls.

This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia

A sudden death, a never-mailed postcard, and a long buried secret set the stage for a luminous and heartbreakingly real novel about lost souls finding one another

The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit: the two of them and the three eclectic boarders living in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes, and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story—one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida, and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love—how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and how even when all seems lost, how tightly it brings us together. With emotional accuracy and great energy, This Must Be the Place introduces memorable, charming characters that refuse to be forgotten.

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson

Water for Elephants meets Geek Love in this riveting first novel, an enchanting love story set in P. T. Barnum's American Museum in 1865 New York City
Bartholomew Fortuno, the World's Thinnest Man, believes that his unusual body is a gift. Hired by none other than P. T. Barnum to work at his spectacular American Museum—a modern marvel of macabre displays, breathtaking theatrical performances, and live shows by Barnum's cast of freaks and oddities—Fortuno has reached the pinnacle of his career. But after a decade of constant work, he finds his sense of self, and his contentment within the walls of the museum, flagging. When a carriage pulls up outside the museum in the dead of night, bearing Barnum and a mysterious veiled woman—rumored to be a new performer—Fortuno's curiosity is piqued. And when Barnum asks Fortuno to follow her and report back on her whereabouts, his world is turned upside down. Why is Barnum so obsessed with this woman? Who is she, really? And why has she taken such a hold on the hearts of those around her?

Set in the New York of 1865, a time when carriages rattled down cobblestone streets, raucous bordellos near the docks thrived, and the country was mourning the death of President Lincoln, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a moving novel about human appetites and longings. With pitch-perfect prose, Ellen Bryson explores what it means to be profoundly unique—and how the power of love can transcend even the greatest divisions.

The Good Son by Michael Gruber

New York Times bestselling author Michael Gruber, a member of "the elite ranks of those who can both chill the blood and challenge the mind" (The Denver Post), delivers a taut, multilayered, riveting novel of suspense

Somewhere in Pakistan, Sonia Laghari and eight fellow members of a symposium on peace are being held captive by armed terrorists. Sonia, a deeply religious woman as well as a Jungian psychologist, has become the de facto leader of the kidnapped group. While her son Theo, an ex-Delta soldier, uses his military connections to find and free the victims, Sonia tries to keep them all alive by working her way into the kidnappers' psyches and interpreting their dreams. With her knowledge of their language, her familiarity with their religion, and her Jungian training, Sonia confounds her captors with her insights and beliefs. Meanwhile, when the kidnappers decide to kill their captives, one by one, in retaliation for perceived crimes against their country, Theo races against the clock to try and save their lives.

And finally, I  bought the following book from Books A Million

Warning At One (A Lois Meade Mystery) by Ann Purser

The tenants of Lois Meade's terrace house in Tresham are frustrated by their neighbor's feisty pet cockerel, Satan. His owner, Clem Fitch, refuses to part with his feathery companion-making Lois's tenants fly the coop. Luckily, her son Douglas agrees to rent the house.

But when Clem and Satan are found dead, Douglas-who is involved with Clem's daughter-becomes a prime suspect in some foul business.

I hope everyone has a great week! May the sun shine on you, the breeze caress you, and your cup never be empty.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And the Winner is.....................

Thank you all for participating in my booktour yesterday for Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias.

 A winner has been picked using for a Kuna change purse and decoration.

The winner of my drawing is...


Congratulations on the drawing! It was completed on Thursday, 17 June 2010 at 17:18:07 UTC The winner was drawn using true randomness, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs.

  Thank you so much to Silvio Sirias for spending time with us yesterday and thank you again for participating. Marina send me an email so that I can have the prize sent to you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Tour and Giveaway: Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

Bernardo and the Virgin is based on “actual events—in the eyes of many”. It is a book about miracles juxtaposed against the backdrop of revolution. The story begins in 1980 as the Sandinistas have seized power from the Somoza family.

Bernardo Martinez is a devout Catholic who prays the rosary many times a day, serves as the caretaker of the church in the village of Cuapa, Nicaragua. Two weeks after determining that there is no problem with the power inside the church Bernardo rushes to investigate when the lights appear to be on yet again. Inside he is surprised by the illumination of the statue of the Virgin Mary. One month later she appears to Bernardo asking him to instruct the villagers that they should pray the rosary daily and “work for peace”. Aware that he does not have the stature to be taken seriously, Bernardo’s faith leads him to be obedient.

The story moves between time spans to relay not only Bernardo’s earlier life but also the lives of those close to him. Sirias intersperses Spanish into the novel, which brings to life the village culture. In the beginning this may be a little difficult for some readers, but as the story progresses readers will adapt to the flow. Bernardo is a sympathetic character with wide appeal. Although Bernardo and the Virgin vividly portrays the characters’ deep religious faith, the story has more of a spiritual tone than a religious tone.

Bernardo and the Virgin is well-written and moving. Silvio Sirias has gifted readers with a deep exploration of humanity as well as spirituality, presenting book clubs with much to discuss as they peruse this novel.

About the Author:

Silvio Sirias was born in Los Angeles, California were he grew up there until the age of eleven, when his family moved his parents "country of orgin, Granada, Nicaragua. His bicultural outlook on life was shpaed by this move. He attended returned to Los Angeles where he attended college. He eventually received his doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona where he worked as a professor of Spanish and U.S. Latino and Latina literature for several years before returning to live in Nicaragua in 1999.

In 2002 he moved to Panama with his wife and several pets.
To learn more about Silvio Sirias please visit his website: Silvio Sirias website

Bernardo and the Virgin can be purchased at the following locations:

This is Condor Book Tours' Amazon affiliate site and ALL 100% of commissions made are being donated to Unicef's Storybook Gift, which sends culturally appropriate storybooks to children in need throughout the world.

The book may also be purchased from the Independent Book store: Dulce Bread and Bookshop

One lucky person commenting on this blog today will win: an awesome Kuna Mola change purse and decoration made by the Kuna artisans in Panama, called Molas. Below is a picture of some of the change purses and decorations along with a link for more information about these artist.

Here's a link to the Kuna artisans and molas:

Please submit questions for Silvio Sirias as he will be stopping by periodically throughout the day.

Shall we begin:
Why did you choose to write the story as a work of fiction instead of a biography?

How close to the actual person is the character Bernardo?

Is it more difficult to write a fictional account of a true event?

Please tell us about your writing process in creating this story?

There will be a live chat with Silvio at the author chat salon at Condor on Friday, June 18th:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Upcoming Book Tour and Giveaway for Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

On Wednesday, June 16, 2010 I will be hosting a booktour of Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias. The author will be stopping by periodically during the day to answer questions and post comments. Please stop by and read the review and chat with the author. This is my first book tour. I am very excited about this tour and this book. It is a terrific story.

 Since this is a giveaway tour, everyone who comments or asks questions to the author on my post Wednesday will be entered to win a Kuna Mola change purse and decoration. Here's a link to the Kuna artisans and molas: 

The winner will be announced on my blog on Thursday, June 17th

The Tour Schedule is as follows:

Tues June 8 Regular Rumination
                   La Bloga

Wed June 9 When I Was in 'nam

Thurs June 10 Sandra's Book Club

Fri June 11 Sententia Vera

Mon June 14 The Tranquilo Traveler
Tues June 15 Brown Girl Speaks

Wed June 16 The Book Nook

Thur June 17 Pisti Totol-Black Bird

Fri June 18 Musings

There will be a live chat with Silvio at the author chat salon at Condor on Friday, June 18th:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: Breakup:Enduring Divorce by Leo Averbach

Breakup: Enduring Divorce by Leo Averbach
Reviewed by Deborah L. Baker for Reader's Choice Reviews
Having never experienced divorce, Breakup was a new experience for me.  Nonetheless, author Leo Averbach allowed me to share the incredibly painful process of divorce through his gritty memoir. Averbach experiences a loss so deep and personal that it is hard to imagine. This story told through Leo’s journal shares the process he, his ex wife, and the children go through before the final act of divorce that eventually releases the family to heal.
The language is raw and at times acrid, as Averbach details his life’s downward spiral on learning that his wife is having an affair. He vacillates between trying to save the marriage, love for his wife and wanting her out of his life.  The emotional turmoil is real and heartrending.
Averbach’s wife, Paula, moves out of their home leaving Leo and the children behind. She also struggles with the decision on whether to turn her back on her marriage and family, or give up her newfound love and save her marriage and home. Paula exhibits bitterness and anger with frequent outbursts directed at Leo. His responses range from passive aggressive to outright rage.
Breakup relates the couple’s journey through various therapy sessions both together and separately, as well as their few, futile attempts at reconciliation. As the Averbach’s relationship crumbles, the family’s home environment becomes acrimonious. Through it all, Leo’s journal entries give us a very genuine and unprocessed glimpse of the inner turmoil that divorce can have on a person’s self imagine and ego.
For those going through the process of letting go of your marriage, and enduring the painful process of separation, this book is enlightening. The path to healing is often a long and painful struggle but Leo Averbach tells us in Breakup: Enduring Divorce that it is possible.  As Marcel Proust points out "We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in full." Leo Averbach relates the process of experiencing the hurt, anger, and pain of betrayal and loss in full and uncut.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: By Heart: Poetry, Prison, And Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson

By Heart: Poetry, Prison, And Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum & Spoon Jackson

224 pages
pub date: April, 2010

A collaborative memoir, By Heart: Poetry, Prison, And Two Lives explores the journey of Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson into poetry and understanding. Tannenbaum is an artist and educator who has taught poetry in many different settings including the Arts-in-Corrections program in California. Spoon is an inmate serving a life sentence. The two met at San Quentin Prison in the 1980’s.

By Heart is a moving encounter between freedom and prison, art, beauty and desolation, silence and voice. The story is told through alternating chapters in which each tells the story of their lives and the insights they gained through learning, creating, and sharing poetry. Storytelling was an inherent trait of Tannenbaum’s extended Jewish family. The teachers she encountered during her school days promoted her imagination and helped her to harness her energy into creating stories that gave her new life and freedom. She volunteered in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom and began her journey into teaching poetry.

Spoon grew up in a small town on the edge of the Mojave Desert. As one of fifteen boys, Spoon ran a little wild. He spent his early years exploring nature, spending many hours hanging out in the dry riverbed behind their shack. His school years were largely negative. It appears that early on he was a target for corporeal punishment at school and beatings at home; he received little to no affirmations during these formative years.

Spoon is “real” with his life in prison and what put him there in the first place. He takes full responsibility for his actions while examining what went wrong in his early life that led him down this path. Spoon enrolled in high school and college classes offered to prisoners, spent hours reading and thinking during lockdowns and long weekends. Silence became a powerful friend that allowed him time for self reflection and growth. He had grown as a man during the eight years before he met Tannenbaum in the poetry class.

Tannenbaum does not save Spoon through poetry. The two poets grow through their encounters by sharing their work, exploring voice, and influencing each other’s work. They examine other poets both famous and well known as well as the poems of children and other prisoners. This is about growth and the exploration of humanity. It is easy for society to shut the prison door and forget that there are human lives closed within. By Heart shows us how humanity survives and flourishes within enclosed walls and communication.

There are many issues that can be explored as book clubs share this book. It is passionate and tender, raw and realistic. It is a love story but not love between people; it is about love for ourselves and our humanity. As an educator I was deeply moved by the story of Spoon and Tannenbaum. This is a book that I would wish for every educator to read. It is inspirational and thought- provoking. I recommend this book for book clubs, educators, and all who need to be reminded about humanity and generosity of spirit.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Hi Everyone,

I know that you have been disappointed with this blog during May. But I am now getting back on track. The loss of a friend and the aftermath is never easy. It is so hard to let go, just as a friend, much less for the family.

Time for me to begin moving forward again. In that vein, I will be posting 3 or 4 book reviews over the next couple of days. I am reading away and getting caught up.

And wonderful news:  On June 16 I will be a host on a book tour for the first time, with a giveaway attached! I am so excited. I will update you soon on the book and the author. Meantime, any of you experienced bloggers who would like to give me tips, please do. This is a first for me and I am not sure quite what I am doing as yet. Advice, suggestions, tips will be appreciated!