Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tales of a Wayside Inn --- An Awesome and Rare Surprise in This Vintage Longfellow Collection

You know those times when you have something to share but you don't know how to properly express the level of awesomeness that goes along with it? That's how I'm feeling right about now. Last summer, I picked up this 1915 copy of Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn in the books-for-sale section of our library. You've read before about our library's awesome shelf of antique books that sell for super cheap---it's irresistible! I try to pick up Longfellow when I see him because I plan to save them for our own Evangeline---four year old Brenna Evangeline.

The reason I got so excited about this copy is because of what's written inside. Don't worry, I'll show you in a minute...just let me tell my story! If you're not familiar with Tales of a Wayside Inn, here's the scoop: Originally published in 1863, the book is narrated in turns by fictional friends who are staying at the real-life Sudbury, Massachusetts inn and are telling stories in the form of poems. The Wayside Inn was actually known in real life as The Red Horse Tavern. It was established in 1716 and was a popular hangout for Harvard students until it closed in 1861 upon the death of the owner. Longfellow visited in 1862 and was inspired after receiving a tour of what he thought to be a "rambling, tumble-down building." 

In 1897, the inn was reopened by a man who wanted to restore it and fill it with the beautiful antiques he'd collected on his travels. One of the pieces he added was Daniel Webster's desk. (Yes, the dictionary guy.) In 1923, Henry Ford bought the inn and that's where this book comes in.

Just like Longfellow's group of friends who stayed at the inn, Mr. Glenn L. Davis and Mr. Max Herzog visited the inn with their wives and recorded the event by signing the inside of this book on August 28, 1930. What's more, they signed it on Daniel Webster's desk! Whomever owned this book also thought it was a special memento because they came back to it 25 years later to record the fire that destroyed Webster's desk in 1955, along with many other beautiful antiques and much of the inn.

There is so much fun history to be read about The Wayside Inn---it's still operating today! It's located along the Old Boston Post Road---one of the oldest in the country, having been in operation since 1673. George Washington passed through there in 1775 on his way to Cambridge to take command of the Patriot army. In fact, it's recorded that both Washington and LaFayette passed by numerous times. Henry David Thoreau noted in his journal that he left his horse there in 1853 while attending to other business in town. 

So, what do you think? Pretty awesome, huh? 
How I love books! Beautiful, wonderful, holders of history.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson -- Book Review

From Amazon (condensed): "In untamed Oregon Country, one young woman fights to keep her family safe. After her parents died, raising her two younger sisters became Grace's responsibility. A hasty decision to head west seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start but has instead left Grace in a precarious position. When missionary Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife agree to let Grace and her sisters stay at their mission for the winter, Grace is grateful. Until they hear from their uncle in Oregon City, the three sisters have nowhere else to go.

As Grace adjusts to life in the West, she meets Alex Armistead who intrigues and infuriates her in equal measure. When tragedy threatens lives at the mission and among the native Cayuse who live nearby, it is Alex who helps Grace help where she can, despite Dr. Whitman's disapproval. As the death toll rises, so do tensions between the settlers and the natives, and Grace soon finds herself and those she loves in more danger than she imagined possible."

I hardly ever pick up a romantic fiction story, but I was super excited to see this new read set in the Eastern Oregon county where I grew up and lived most of my life. Tracie Peterson's simple and touching story, Treasured Grace, is an interesting historical fiction that was simple to imagine as I know this landscape like the back of my hand. I've always been interested in the stories of Whitman Mission and other local Oregon Trail history. My mom and I are actually planning a trip to visit the site of Whitman Mission in the near future. 

I'd read the story of the Whitman Massacre multiple times before, but this time was very difficult having already established a relationship with them. The tragic upon tragic of this story made any happy endings fall flat. Perhaps that's what the author intended or perhaps the story was just too personal but I came away feeling very bummed.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Inkblots by Damion Searls -- Book Review #bloggingforbooks

When I was in the third grade, I was evaluated for the school district's TAG program---Talented and Gifted. I remember sitting at a table the color of a manila envelope and answering questions about abstract art and other things I didn't understand. I must have been deemed "special" enough for the elite smart-kid programs because from then on, I was a guinea pig for all the educational reform experiments the 80s could muster. Whenever I read about The Rorschach "Test", I think about the guidance counselor, Mrs. L, and the manila envelope-colored table.

The Rorschach "Test" isn't really a test but a way of evaluating one's personality traits, emotional state, and "secret thoughts". A subject is shown a series of inkblots and is asked to describe what they see and how it makes them feel. As you can imagine, there's a lot of controversy surrounding whether this is a valid evaluation method and whether or not the administrator can truly "read" the mind and emotions of the subject.

In The Inkblots, author Damion Searls tells the story of Hermann Rorschach, the creator of the test. Like any good biography/history book/mini encyclopedia, the story begins with his family history and follows him through to his death with all the trivia you'd ever want to know sandwiched in between. His professional and personal lives run parallel throughout the book---except when they intersect in ways that reveal a man who allowed his curiosity and thirst for knowledge lead him to true heart relationships with his patients.

Searls' book is the first ever biography written about Rorschach and his test. The connections it makes to historical figures that influenced his passion for psychology and research are interesting to read about without becoming droning. The test's uses and influences, from its inception to current uses and administration methods, are a testament to Rorschach's legacy, despite his early death.

You can learn more about author Damion Searls on his website.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.