The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

MY TOP 10 FAVORITES FOR 2014

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS Author: Alyson Richman
Publisher:  Berkeley Trade
Genre:  Historical Fiction

My emotions were strongly engaged in this deeply touching story. The author certainly has a style of her own, writing in a lyrical way, bringing to life this dark period in our history. You’ll become entangled in sadness throughout, with the atrocities and horrors of the war. The brutality of the Nazis was unbelievable. 

There was much depth and complexity to the characters. The author certainly brought these people to life in this multi-layerd storyline, and captured life in Italy during WWII in vivid detail. The Garden of Letters is an amazing read!

A LIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS Author:  Jane Kirkpatrick
Publisher:  Revell
Genre:  Historical Fiction

A Light in the Wilderness is an informative read, historical fiction based on a true story that will simply touch your heart. This is the story of three strong women whose lives are woven together with unexpected events that changed their lives forever.




Being a black woman on the Oregon Trail took a lot of strength and courage for Letitia, and she was constantly fighting for acceptance. But Letitia realizes that freedom is having the courage to do what must be done.



DAISIES ARE FOREVER Author:  Liz Tolsma
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Wow! Another powerful read by Liz Tolsma - I couldn’t put this one down. The characters are vibrantly drawn and brought to life in this achingly sad novel – a story of bravery and survival.

This is a totally different perspective of WWII and one that I’m not familiar. I’ve read much about the Holocaust and what the Nazis did to the Jewish people. But this is a story of German refugees, set on German soil, near the end of the war. It portrays how the German people also suffered under Hitler’s wicked leadership. It looked like the war was lost. How many more innocent civilians would Hitler sacrifice to his pride?

THE SILENT SISTER Author:  Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Genre: Women's Fiction

This book is the perfect example of why I love to read. It has it all – a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion. Truly well done!

1990 – Alexandria, Virginia – An empty kayak, surrounded by ice, is found in the middle of the river. A seventeen-year-old girl, Lisa MacPherson, is missing and presumed dead. Lisa had been accused of murder and had taken the easy way out, apparently committing suicide. No body had been recovered, but the police were giving up the search, reasonably sure the body rested somewhere beneath the icy river.

The characters were all interesting and expertly drawn, even the minor ones. The author weaves a tale of dark secrets and betrayal throughout, with many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Drama was included from beginning to end, and the storyline certainly captured my excitement. Diane Chamberlain is fast becoming a favorite of mine. This is one you don’t want to miss! A gripping tale, that is well written, and thoroughly a great read!

THE APPLE ORCHARD Author: Susan Wiggs

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Genre: Women's Fiction

There is so much to love about this book. The storyline with its WWII backdrop pulled me in, and the characters were richly drawn with their complex issues. The author uses many layers to build the story as the past mingles with the present. The storyline includes a mystery, romance, secrets, and redemption.  The Apple Orchard is a book that just makes you feel good – a real joy to read.


VIENNA NOCTURNE
Author: Susan Wiggs

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

This was an extraordinary read! The tempo picked up early on and I couldn’t put it down. A portrait of a woman, a phenomenal musician, emerges in this beautifully written novel.

There is so much to love about this book. It is a rich treat for music lovers, especially those of opera. The plot, while mixing elements of reality with fiction, brings this musical history to life in the most intimate way. The author also brings the melodies of Mozart to life with her beautiful style of writing – it truly amazed me and I was compelled to read on. The storyline never loses momentum and you’re drawn in with its wide cast of eccentric characters. There are scenes in the book that I found deeply touching – a thoroughly great read!

THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN Author:  Kristy Cambron
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

An unforgettable period of history – the harsh realities of the Holocaust – this story will evoke many emotions. It is estimated that one and a half million people died within Auschwitz – Birkenau.

The story unfolds as Adele is sent to the unbearable living conditions in Auschwitz. Adele and others are herded in like animals to the cattle cars that were stagnated with stench, no food or water, and no heat to protect them from the elements.

The skillful storytelling draws you in from the beginning, and the author did an admirable job weaving together two different story-lines. The topic of the Holocaust, and the horrors that Hitler put on the Jewish people, brings with it a deep sadness. This is a story that will capture your heart, and one that never loses momentum. The Butterfly and the Violin, by an incredible author, delivers in every way.

 FOR SUCH A TIME Author:  Kate Breslin
Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers
Genre:  Historical Fiction:

 1944 - World War II was in full swing. Hadassah Benjamin, half Jew, had ceased to exist. She was now Stella Muller, an Austrian bookkeeper. Stella was told her beauty would save her, her blonde hair and blue eyes being rare to her people. She'd spent months in Dachau, living in quarters unfit for livestock, and her dignity was stripped bare. The Nazis used hunger as a weapon, making the weak fall victim to disease and death.

This is a powerful and intense book filled with anger, grief, and humiliation. An absolute must read that will evoke many emotions - a story about the Holocaust. Simply one of the best books I've read on this horrible period of history.

 SAVING AMELIE Author:  Cathy Gohlke
Publisher:  Tyndale House Publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction

1939 – Germany – It seemed that nothing was too far fetched for the demonic mind of Hitler. Germany had its focus on a pure Aryan race. They had designs to strengthen Germany’s bloodline through eugenics – to create a pure race, free of the weaknesses brought on by inferior breeding with non-Nordic races. The weaknesses must be eliminated. The research that took place was inhumane and Hitler’s sterilization program was criminally insane.

A story that takes place during the Holocaust; this is a highly intense and emotional story. I was pulled into the drama and became completely engaged with the characters. They are wonderfully portrayed as they struggled with the difficult realities of the Holocaust.

This book was totally absorbing as the author brings to life a very dark period in our history, writing with vivid descriptions. Don’t miss this one – just incredible!

THE PROMISE Author: Ann Weisgarber
Publisher:  Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction

1899 – The prologue begins with a somber scene. The air is filled with sadness at the funeral of Bernadette, Oscar’s wife. Oscar is left, widowed with a 4-year old boy, Andre, who is now a poor motherless child and grieving deeply for his mother.

Catherine Wainswright is an accomplished pianist who has become well known in the Dayton, Ohio area. Unfortunately she makes some bad decisions and her reputation becomes ruined. Performances are canceled, piano students drop out, and gossip shatters her life. Catherine is forced to leave Dayton. She travels 1,000 miles to Galveston, Texas, leaving unpaid bills and a disgraced family, to marry Oscar, a childhood friend. It was the only way she could save herself from her less than honorable past and get on with her life.

And the story unfolds as Catherine settles into a marriage, and life as an instant mother. And then the unexpected happens – a devastating storm develops – the worst natural disaster in the 20th century – a storm where over 6,000 people were killed. Entire families drowned and many were never found. This is a story filled with disappointments, regrets, tragedy, and loss with a thread of romance.

There is a crescendo of suspense during the storm that builds to a stunning conclusion. There was not an easy resolution, with the impossible situations that had developed. The Promise is truly a heartwarming and emotional story.





















Sunday, December 28, 2014

MIRACLES AND MASSACRES By Glenn Beck

Publisher:  Threshold Editions
Release Date:  2013
Pages:  290
Genre:  American History/Biography

Reviewed By WC
  About the Book: HISTORY AS IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE TOLD: TRUE AND THRILLING.

Thomas Edison was a bad guy and bad guys usually lose in the end.

World War II radio host &Tokyo Rose was branded as a traitor by the US government and served time in prison. In reality, she was a hero to many.

Twenty US soldiers received medals of honor at the Battle of Wounded Knee and yet this wasn't a battle at all; it was a massacre.

Paul Revere's midnight ride was nothing compared to the ride made by a guy named Jack whom you've probably never heard of.

History is about so much more than memorizing facts. It is, as more than half of the word suggests, about the story. And, told in the right way, it is the greatest one ever written: Good and evil, triumph and tragedy, despicable acts of barbarism and courageous acts of heroism.

The things you've never learned about our past will shock you. The reason why gun control is so important to government elites can be found in a story about Athens that no one dares teach. Not the city in ancient Greece, but the one in 1946 Tennessee. The power of an individual who trusts his gut can be found in the story of the man who stopped the twentieth hijacker from being part of 9/11. And a lesson on what happens when an all-powerful president is in need of positive headlines is revealed in a story about eight saboteurs who invaded America during World War II.

If the truth shall set you free, then your freedom begins on page one of this book. By the end, your understanding of the lies and half-truths you've been taught may change, but your perception of who we are as Americans and where our country is headed definitely will.


WC's Review:  Let it be said to those who think Glenn Beck is making this stuff up is that we are undoubtedly into revisionist history as well. Some "Common Core" textbooks barely mention George Washington, whom Beck does not mention here, but has dedicated an indispensable volume.

Who was there to objectively confirm what happened at the Barbary War in Tunisia during the Jefferson administration? Would anyone two hundred plus years later dare mention that Muslim terrorism is not a recent phenomenon?

Beck delves into little-known or once popular history. Who remembers Jack Jouett when few can tell you about the ride of Paul Revere? Someone of Longfellow vintage needs to write a poem.

How about the Battle of Wounded Knee when few today have heard of the Little Big Horn? Many of us remain intentionally dumb when we refer to the history of this great land.

Read up! It may awaken us to the motives of our revisionist leaders dedicated to dissolving our country into third world status.

Tokyo Rose? What a lady! Hardly a Gypsy Rose Lee.

The man after whom the famous Chicago's Orchard Depot airport was named was an acquaintance of Al Capone. Anyone remember Scarface Al?

The My Lai Massacre in Vietnam remains as nebulous as the assassination of both Kennedys. Protagonist Lieutenant William Calley's name does not linger in mass America's long term memory.

My Lai followed closely on the heels of another supposed American tragedy in the war in Vietnam, an aphrodisiac conducted to boost LBJ's manhood. The Tet offensive in early 1968 turned Grandpa Walter Cronkite into an American apologist. No one has ever accused that gasbag of revisionist history.

Nevertheless, Miracles and Massacres is a fascinating read.

About the Author:  Glenn Edward Lee Beck is one of America's leading radio and television personalities. His quick wit, candid opinions and engaging personality have made The Glenn Beck Program the third highest rated radio program in America and Glenn Beck, one of the most successful new shows on the Fox News Channel. His unique blend of modern-day storytelling and insightful views on current events allowed him to achieve the extraordinary feat of having #1 New York Times bestsellers in both fiction and non-fiction. Beck also stars in a live stage show and is the publisher of Fusion magazine.

Online, he is the editor of GlennBeck.com and the publisher of TheBlaze.com.

Beck is the author of six consecutive #1 New York Times Bestsellers including his latest book, the thriller The Overton Window. When The Christmas Sweater, his first novel, debuted at #1 on the fiction list, Beck became one of a handful of authors to write books that reached #1 on both the fiction and non-fiction NYT lists.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

IF GOD IS GOOD: Faith in the Midst of Suffering By Randy Alcorn

Publisher:  Multomah Books
Release Date:  June 17, 2014
Pages:  528
Genre:  Religion/Theology

Book Description:  Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.

In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God--Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?

These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God.

In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise.

Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world–now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear.

"As he did in his best-selling book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn delves deep into a profound subject, and through compelling stories, provocative questions and answers, and keen biblical understanding, he brings assurance and hope to all."
-Publishers Weekly


Wanda's Thoughts: 
If God is Good --- why do we have pain and suffering? If God loves us, how can he justify all the world suffering? And why do evil people sometimes thrive while the righteous suffers? Why wouldn’t a loving God rid the universe of evil?

If God Is Good contains many stories of people’s challenges and suffering and their triumphs. Some, who have suffered deeply, now have a wonderful relationship with God. God revealed treasures to them that can only be found in the darkness of suffering. When suffering comes, we should ask God to use it for his glory. We are promised that the eternal ending will bring glorious happiness and that all present suffering will pale in comparison. We can rejoice for that coming day when there will be no more death and suffering.

Disasters can bring out the best in people. We cannot see the end that God has in mind, but we can be sure that God’s unfailing love will never let us down, no matter how bleak things appear. We might wish for a world untouched by evil and suffering, but eternal happiness cannot happen without it. We must realize that if God allowed less evil in the world, there would also be less good.

Many times God will deliver us from suffering, and sometimes he will sustain us through suffering. He can calm the storm, and sometimes calms our hearts, and we should praise him for these acts of grace. But we must have faith and trust that God can bring good from all suffering. In the end, Jesus Christ is the answer to all the suffering and evil in the world. We need to remember that Jesus has written this story in his own blood.

From the book – God wrote the script of the unfolding drama of redemption long before Satan, demons, Adam and Eve – and you and I – took the stage. And from the beginning, he knew that the utterly spectacular ending would make the dark middle worth it.

If God is Good is truly a journey of discovery and will answer many of your questions on pain and suffering. I have highlighted many sections of this book and will be keeping it on my shelf for reference and continual reading. My rating is 4+ stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.



About the Author: Randy Alcorn is the founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching biblical truth and drawing attention to the needy and how to help them. EPM exists to meet the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled and unsupported people around the world.

"My ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity," Alcorn says. "I do that by trying to analyze, teach and apply the implications of Christian truth."

Before starting EPM in 1990, Alcorn co-pastored for thirteen years Good Shepherd Community Church outside Gresham, Oregon. He has ministered in many countries, including China, and is a popular teacher and conference speaker. Randy has taught on the part-time faculties of Western Seminary and Multnomah University, both in Portland, Oregon.

Randy is a best-selling author of over 40 books including Heaven, The Treasure Principle and the 2002 Gold Medallion winner, Safely Home. He has written numerous articles for magazines such as Discipleship Journal, Moody, Leadership, New Man, and The Christian Reader. He produces the quarterly issues-oriented magazine Eternal Perspectives, and has been a guest on more than 650 radio and television programs including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, The Bible Answer Man, Revive Our Hearts, Truths that Transform and Faith Under Fire.

Alcorn resides in Gresham, Oregon with his wife, Nanci, and their Dalmatian, Moses. The Alcorns have two married daughters, Karina and Angela.

Randy and Nanci are the proud grandparents of four grandsons. Randy enjoys hanging out with his family, biking, tennis, research and reading.

Taken from the Eternal Perspective Ministries website, http://www.epm.org

Friday, December 26, 2014

HEAVEN By Randy Alcorn

Publisher:  Tyndale Publishers
Release Date:  2004
Pages:  560
Genre:  Religion/Theology
Reviewed By WC

About the Book:  Alcorn answers questions about heaven by sharing from his extensive research on the topic--all from a biblical perspective. Heaven will help readers strive for eternity while they're living on earth.

WC's Review:  We all would guarantee joyous eternity if only we accept the salvation testament in order to enjoy life in the Garden of Eden as God originally intended. Randy Alcorn truly believes this is where Heaven will be.

Alcorn goes to great length justifying his convictions. He cites scripture references to back up his pronouncements. The only reason this book did not receive five stars is that some of his citations remain nebulous. But, he explains, you must be prepared to interpret the Bible literally.

Jonathan Edwards and CS Lewis, among other proclaimed biblical thinkers, are frequently cited.

The true believer will readily approve, but non-believers will struggle. Non-believers remain non-believing when God shows up performing miracles, and will continue to do so until the culmination of the end times.

This is not a book intended to win souls but one that excites the imagination of those who know that we will live in eternity with our Heavenly Father.


About the Author:  Randy Alcorn is the founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching biblical truth and drawing attention to the needy and how to help them. EPM exists to meet the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled and unsupported people around the world.

"My ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity," Alcorn says. "I do that by trying to analyze, teach and apply the implications of Christian truth."

Before starting EPM in 1990, Alcorn co-pastored for thirteen years Good Shepherd Community Church outside Gresham, Oregon. He has ministered in many countries, including China, and is a popular teacher and conference speaker. Randy has taught on the part-time faculties of Western Seminary and Multnomah University, both in Portland, Oregon.

Randy is a best-selling author of over 40 books including Heaven, The Treasure Principle and the 2002 Gold Medallion winner, Safely Home. He has written numerous articles for magazines such as Discipleship Journal, Moody, Leadership, New Man, and The Christian Reader. He produces the quarterly issues-oriented magazine Eternal Perspectives, and has been a guest on more than 650 radio and television programs including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, The Bible Answer Man, Revive Our Hearts, Truths that Transform and Faith Under Fire.

Alcorn resides in Gresham, Oregon with his wife, Nanci, and their Dalmatian, Moses. The Alcorns have two married daughters, Karina and Angela.

Randy and Nanci are the proud grandparents of four grandsons. Randy enjoys hanging out with his family, biking, tennis, research and reading.

Taken from the Eternal Perspective Ministries website, http://www.epm.org

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN By Harriet Beecher Stowe

Publisher:  Wordsworth Classics
Release Date:  1999
Pages:  438
Genre:  Classics
Reviewed By WC

Book Description:  The narrative drive of Stowe's classic novel is often overlooked in the heat of the controversies surrounding its anti-slavery sentiments. In fact, it is a compelling adventure story with richly drawn characters and has earned a place in both literary and American history.

WC's Review:  This is one the experts got right. Uncle Tom's Cabin is indeed a classic. It remains a classic though few folks read it. Folks who understand significance and care about the travails of America's foundation will appreciate this extraordinary book of the horrors of slavery.

Lincoln once greeted the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, with the backhand compliment that through this book she was the gal primarily responsible for creating renewed fervor over the long stagnate issue of humans regarded as property. Some even proffer that she is also accountable for hastening the beginning of the inevitable war of Southern independence/Northern aggression.

The character purity in this historic masterpiece is rarely replicated. Little Eva is a treasure, father St Clare is a genuine man of integrity, as are many plantation owners, the slaves, Aunt Chloe and others in the cabin are righteous, Cassy is clever, and Uncle Tom is proof that men after God's own heart walk the earth. Nefarious slave trader Simon Legree is testament that Satan destroys the souls and spirits of the downtrodden.

There are increasing works on the deep wound that keeps America from achieving true humanity. This remains the most powerful.

About the Author:  Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American author and abolitionist, whose novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) attacked the cruelty of slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential, even in Britain. It made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North. It angered and embittered the South. The impact is summed up in a commonly quoted statement apocryphally attributed to Abraham Lincoln. When he met Stowe, it is claimed that he said, "So you're the little woman that started this great war!"

Sunday, December 21, 2014

STOLEN LIVES: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail By Malika Oufkir, Michele Fitoussi

Publisher:  Miramax
Release Date:  2002
Pages:  304
Genre: Biography
Reviewed By WC

About the Book: 
A gripping memoir that reads like a political thriller--the story of Malika Oufkir's turbulent and remarkable life. Born in 1953, Malika Oufkir was the eldest daughter of General Oufkir, the King of Morocco's closest aide. Adopted by the king at the age of five, Malika spent most of her childhood and adolescence in the seclusion of the court harem, one of the most eligible heiresses in the kingdom, surrounded by luxury and extraordinary privilege.
Then, on August 16, 1972, her father was arrested and executed after an attempt to assassinate the king. Malika, her five younger brothers and sisters. and her mother were immediately imprisoned in a desert penal colony. After fifteen years, the last ten of which they spent locked up in solitary cells, the Oufkir children managed to dig a tunnel with their bare hands and make an audacious escape. Recaptured after five days, Malika was finally able to leave Morocco and begin a new life in exile in 1996.
A heartrending account in the face of extreme deprivation and the courage with which one family faced its fate, Stolen Lives is an unforgettable story of one woman's journey to freedom.


WC's Review:  Malika Oufkir is a changed woman. Malika will never again be the vibrant, outgoing young lady she was as a nineteen year old beauty in 1972 in the beautifully serene desert country of Morocco. Twenty years in seclusion with the sole mission of surviving changed her forever.

The adopted daughter of the King of Moroco's closest aide, General Oufkir, young Mafkir revels in the luxury of privilege in the court harem. Circumstances change when her beloved father is executed for managing an attempt to assassinate the King. Her family is subsequently thrown into the prisons at Tamattacht and Bir-Jdid.

Extreme starvation and deprivation envelope her and her family, eviscerating the desire to continue to struggle on. But survive they do, largely through the determined efforts of our heroine to see her mother and her sisters and brothers experience the outside world again.

Creative perserverance and faith enable Malika to conquer the quiet desperation of prison life. Brief glimpses of her mother, her sisters, and her two brothers, keep the minute flicker of hope for the Oufkir family alive.

"In prison,' the author writes, "hatred helped me to survive." Years later, Malika realizes she still has a long way to go to overcome her deep resentment of her stolen youth.

Worthy of the effort, this biography captures the inner soul of survivors.  4 Stars

About the Author: Malika Oufkir (Arabic: مليكة أوفقير) (born April 2, 1953) is a Moroccan writer and former "disappeared". She is the daughter of General Mohamed Oufkir and a cousin of fellow Moroccan writer and actress Leila Shenna.

THE AQUARIUMS OF PYONGYANG: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag By Kang Chol-Hwan, Pierre Rigoulot

Publisher:  Basic Books
Release Date:  August 2005
Pages:  272
Genre:  Non-Fiction

Reviewed By WC


About the Book:  North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education." Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea. Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history. 

WC's Review:  Ten years is a long time when you are incarcerated. Ten years is a longer time when you are used to going about where and when you want to, such as it is in Japan.

Author Kang delves into the horrors of his ill-advised journey to the idyllic valleys of North Korea to witness firsthand its celebration of leaders, Dip II Song (Kim II-sung) and Slip on-a Dong (Kim Jong-il). He did not expect his sojourn to last a decade.

This is not a biography of constant torture. Kang is able to enjoy bucolic moments of meditation and solitude with vistas of spiraling mountain peaks and blue skies while planning how to capture a few rats for his nightly supper of Korea's delightful cuisine.

American elitists continue to view the current dictatorship in North Korea as the last surviving bastion of the vestiges of beloved communism.

Kang's tale of subjugation will remain a delusional fantasy to folks who think they are wiser that we are, folks who have taken it upon themselves to compel commoners how to live functional and fruitful lives through the wisdom of avuncular state experts.

Obama is paying attention.

My rating is 3 stars.
Quote by the Author:  “People who are hungry don't have the heart to think about others. Sometimes they can't even care for their own family. Hunger quashes man's will to help his fellow man. I've seen fathers steal food from their own children's lunchboxes. As they scarf down the corn they have only one overpowering desire: to placate, if even for just one moment, that feeling of insufferable need.”
Kang Chol-Hwan, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

KILLING PATTON: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General (The Killing of Historical Figures) By Bill O'Reliily, Martin Dugard

Publisher:  Henry Holt & Co
Release Date:  September 23, 2014
Pages:  368
Genre:  American History
Reviewed by WC

Book Description:  Readers around the world have thrilled to "Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy," and "Killing Jesus"--riveting works of nonfiction that journey into the heart of the most famous murders in history. Now from Bill O'Reilly, anchor of "The O'Reilly Factor," comes the most epic book of all in this multimillion-selling series: "Killing Patton."

General George S. Patton, Jr. died under mysterious circumstances in the months following the end of World War II. For almost seventy years, there has been suspicion that his death was not an accident--and may very well have been an act of assassination. "Killing Patton" takes readers inside the final year of the war and recounts the events surrounding Patton's tragic demise, naming names of the many powerful individuals who wanted him silenced.


WC's Review:  It remains a mystery how Bill O'Reilly comes up with this stuff. How does he know that our most outspoken General had an affair? How much does O'Reilly dream about a missed opportunity to party with Hitler's mistress and wife, Eva Braun? Too young, of course.

Were the drunken soldiers who careened into Patton's limo on a suicide mission?

The portrayals of peers whose lives impacted Patton are vivid. Some come off as good guys: Churchill, George Marshall, and the men of Patton's beloved Third Army; many more others as rapscallions and less than humane: Eisenhower, Montgomery, MacArthur, Roosevelt, and Truman; others as downright evil: Hitler and Stalin. Indeed, it is Patton's insight into the true character of Papa Joe that sets him up for retribution.

O'Reilly makes the case that Stalin may have been involved, that the kowtowing behavior of the rapscallions listed above may have emboldened the efforts of the murderer of Moscow.

Churchill also knew.



About the Author:  Bill O'Reilly is an American television/radio host, author, syndicated columnist, and political commentator. He is the host of the cable news program The O'Reilly Factor. Prior to hosting The O'Reilly Factor, he served as anchor of the entertainment program, Inside Edition.

O'Reilly also hosts The Radio Factor, a radio program syndicated by Westwood One, and he has written seven books.

http://us.macmillan.com/author/billor...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE LOOK OF LOVE By Sarah Jio

Publisher:  Plume
Release Date:  November 25, 2014
Pages:  320
Genre:  Romance
                                                                                                                                                                    

Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting.


Wanda's Thoughts:   Jane was told that she must identify the six types of love before sunset on her 30th birthday. If she should fail to do this, she will lose the ability to experience love for herself. She was also told that she would be drawn to a child, on the day of her birth, and she would pass her powers onto her. But the circle must be completed by then. And the story unfolds as six couples experience love relationships.

The premise of the story had a lot of potential and I found myself enveloped in this magical storyline early on. However, as the book developed, it seemed to me to be a different style of writing than I’ve experienced in the past. I’ve read all of Sarah Jio’s books and have enjoyed them immensely. But this one was different. I didn’t approve of the couples who were already married and having an extra marital relationship. Also Flynn being attracted to a woman while watching her through his apartment window was not appealing to me. I’m sorry to say, it cheapened the storyline for me.

That being said, the book did have many redeeming qualities. Many of the characters were very personalized and wonderfully portrayed. There were many poignant moments where some tough choices had to be made – not all of those choices had happy endings. There was also emotion with conflict present throughout. The book is certainly readable and interesting, but in my opinion, just not one of Sarah Jio's exceptional reads. I personally like her old style of writing better. My rating is 3.5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:   Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of THE LAST CAMELLIA, BLACKBERRY WINTER, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH (a Library Journal Best Book of 2011), THE BUNGALOW, and the forthcoming, MORNING GLORY (11/26/13), all from Penguin/Plume. Sarah is also the former health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She has written thousands of articles for national magazines including Redbook, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, and many others. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Sarah lives in Seattle with her husband and their three young boys.


 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS By Alyson Richman

Publisher:  Berkeley Trade
Release Date:  9/2/2014
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  THE NEW NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE LOST WIFE

Set against the rich backdrop of World War II Italy, Garden of Letters  captures the hope, suspense, and romance of an uncertain era, in an epic intertwining story of first love, great tragedy, and spectacular bravery.


Portofino, Italy, 1943. A young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers. She is frozen until a man she’s never met before claims to know her. In desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.

In Portofino, young doctor Angelo Rosselli gives the frightened and exhausted girl sanctuary. He is a man with painful secrets of his own, haunted by guilt and remorse. But Elodie’s arrival has the power to awaken a sense of hope and joy that Angelo thought was lost to him forever.

Wanda's Thoughts:  My emotions were strongly engaged in this deeply touching story. The author certainly has a style of her own, writing in a lyrical way, bringing to life this dark period in our history. You’ll become entangled in sadness throughout, with the atrocities and horrors of the war. The brutality of the Nazis was unbelievable.  

The author cleverly weaves together different time periods in Italy, bringing the characters stories and lives together.  

Elodie, a young Italian girl in her early twenties, was destined to become a great cellist. But outside the world is blackening with the encroaching war. It had been more than twenty years that Italians had been living under Fascism, but in the past five, it had become unbearable. Mussolini’s insatiability for more power overtook him, and his alliance with Hitler was betraying the men, women, and children of Italy. Italy begins preparing for a German invasion.  

The brutality of Fascism becomes even more evident to Elodie when her father is beaten beyond recognition. Elodie and her friend, Lena, become involved with Italy’s early Resistance. The partisans in the mountains were relying on them to get their messages to their contacts in the city. Elodie has two necessary things to complete this mission - her fantastic memory, and her musical talent. And the story unfolds, as Elodie, a cello student from Verona, becomes a staffetta for the Resistance when she carries hidden codes for the Resistance within her music.  

There was much depth and complexity to the characters. The author certainly brought these people to life in this multi-layered storyline, and captured life in Italy during WWII in vivid detail. The Garden of Letters is an amazing read and definitely a favorite for 2014. My rating is 5 + stars.



Ayson Richman is the author of "The Mask Carver's Son," "The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango)," The Last Van Gogh," and the national bestseller, "The Lost Wife." Her books have been published in over fifteen languages. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children. Her novel, "The Garden of Letters" will be published on September 2, 2014 by Berkley/Penguin.
She is currently working on a novel novel about the 19th century courtesan, Marthe de Florian and her Paris apartment which remained untouched for over seventy years.

Friday, December 5, 2014

My Days with Princess Grace by Joan Dale, Grace Dale

Publisher:  In-Lightning
Release Date:  September 14, 2014
Pages:  352
Genre:  Non-Fiction

Book Description:  Get to know the real Princess Grace, from the first years of her marriage to the last days of her life. "My Days with Princess Grace of Monaco: Our 25-Year Friendship, Beyond Grace Kelly" chronicles what it was like to be best friends with an iconic princess, with 70 never-before-seen personal photos, letters and diaries that give a behind-the-scenes look at Grace Kelly's life after she became Princess Grace. Gain rare insight into her final days through a detailed account of her last family vacation the month before her tragic death. This is also the true story of the historic events depicted in "Grace of Monaco," in which Grace Kelly was to return to Hollywood at a time when Prince Rainier almost lost his crown and country. 

Wanda's Thoughts:  This is truly an insightful and beautiful memoir about a lovely Princess - Princess Grace of Monaco. Taken from the fond memories of a close friend, Joan Dale, a beautiful picture was painted of Princess Grace.

The fairy tale wedding, and the wedding of the century, to Prince Rainier III was just the beginning. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were a magnificent couple. Her presence filled a room, more beautiful than one could imagine, and the Prince was affable, with a magnetic personality, although somewhat shy.

The book takes you through the crises with France, and the threat of Prince Rainier losing his throne. Prince Rainier had to deal with DeGaulle and his ultimatum stating that if Rainier kept his stance of remaining an independent and absolute ruler,he would depose the Prince. The issue was finally resolved in 1962 when Prince Rainier announced that a new constitution would soon be implemented.  

Princess Grace was portrayed as a very genuine person, being compassionate and caring, warm and loving, and most importantly, humble and down to earth. During her 26 years as Princess of Monaco, she had a charismatic presence and a beauty that shone brightly from deep within. There are no tawdry details revealed in this book - kudos to the author for that!

My only negative comment - too much information, and I must admit I did some skimming over a lot of details. But that being said, for the most part, this was a good read. My rating - 3.5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the Author

ABOUT THIS BOOK, from co-author Grace Dale (goddaughter of Princess Grace)

If you want to know the truth about what Princess Grace was really like, then this eyewitness account is the book you've been waiting for (but if you are seeking more gossip and lies about Grace Kelly, there are plenty of other books written by people who never knew her). This is a personal memoir shared by Joan Dale, one of Princess Grace's closest friends, filled with intimate stories and behind-the-scenes details that no one has ever heard before, including:

- The true story behind the events that are completely fictionalized in the film, "Grace of Monaco", in which Nicole Kidman portrays "Princess Grace"

- What really happened when Grace Kelly tried to return to Hollywood?

- Why did President Charles de Gaulle threaten to depose Prince Rainier and take over Monaco?

- What was Princess Grace's marriage really like with Prince Rainier?

- How was Grace Kelly's daily life as Princess of Monaco in the early years, and what was she like as a wife, mother and friend?

- What was it like to go on month-long vacations with the Prince and Princess?

- And, for the first time, discover what Princess Grace's final days were like with her family in a detailed diary of their last family vacation just one month before her tragic death...

This is a unique story unlike any that has been published before of what it was like to be in the inner circle during quiet moments with the Princely Family, and throughout periods of tremendous political crisis, with excerpts from hundreds of personal letters written by Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. Joan Dale was an ordinary young American woman who became best friends with a Princess, and found herself living an extraordinary life in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time.

This book lets you experience life in Monaco during the golden age of Princess Grace, surrounded by Hollywood royalty and crowned heads of the world. From parties aboard the yacht of Aristotle Onassis, to sumptuous galas filled with world-famous stars, extraordinary opulence, sumptuous food and extravagant jewels, to personal moments with Grace and Rainier in their mountain hideaway of Rocagel, and dancing all night in their private apartments at the Palace of Monaco, "My Days with Princess Grace of Monaco" will take you there...



























Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE INVENTION OF WINGS By Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk KiddPublisher:  Viking Adult
Release Date:  January 7, 2014
Pages:  373
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Reviewed By WC

About the Book:  Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
 

WC's Review:  The well bred Grimke sisters of Charlestown, during the decades preceding the War of Southern Liberation, discover they have a profound calling to free their impressed Negroes from the shackles of slavery. Sarah and and her younger sister Nina face ridicule, persecution, and ostracism in their mission to gain equality for their beloved sister slaves.

They also face shunning from the ranks of their chosen faith of Quakerism.

The sisters' lives are spiced and made whole through their affectionate involvement with the young slave, Hetty, whom they affectionately call "Handful", and Hetty's courageous mauma, "Charlotte". The love here is simple and pure, the love that only comes from a relationship with God.

These three, along with Hetty's teenage slave sister, "Sky", make a formidable group as they pursue freedom with the aid of prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, early feminist Lucretia Mott, and free slave Sarah Mapps Douglass. Thee four further tread into the brackish waters of women's' rights.

Sarah's publication of "American Slavery As It Is", had a profound impact upon American society 15 years before the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

This historical enlightenment, by author Kidd and her daughter Ann, flows, many times unpredictable, but never failing to inspire and invoke a desire to know more, to slake the innate thirst in all of us for true independence and freedom.
Sue Monk KiddAbout the Author:  SUE MONK KIDD was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and Anderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers’ conferences. In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction.

When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Timesbestseller list. It has been translated into 36 languages and sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and 8 million copies worldwide. Beeswas named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous awards.

The Mermaid Chair spent 24 weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, reaching the #1 position, and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times trade paperback list. She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including the New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. Kidd lives in Florida with her husband. 

Please visit www.suemonkkidd.com for more information. Follow Sue on Twitter @SueMonkKidd and Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/suemonkkidd

THE BEVERLY LEWIS AMISH HERITAGE COOKBOOK - By Beverly Lewis, Jennifer Horton

The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook by Beverly  LewisPublisher: Bethany House
Release Date:  2004
Pages:  301
Genre:  Cookbook

About the Cookbook:  A homespun, authentic collection of Amish recipes collected over the years by Beverly Lewis. Many are from her grandmother and other family members as well as dear friends from the Amish world she writes about with such power and authenticity. Now she lovingly shares these with her millions of readers who have come to treasure her ctional insights into Amish life. The additional Amish sayings and line drawings make for an appealing gift. 

Wanda's Thoughts:  These delicious recipes will help you put good wholesome meals on the table without a lot of fuss - so easy to prepare. The recipes are organized by category, making it easy to find your favorite mouth watering recipes.

I've been using this cookbook for about 2 months and already have a few favorites: 
Pumpkin Bread - The best I've ever eaten.
Morning Glory Muffins - Makes a lot of muffins and the extra batter will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
Amish Meat Loaf - Just superb!

If you enjoy comfort food you will be delighted with this cook book. My rating is 5 stars.
Beverly  Lewis
About the Author:  Beverly Lewis, raised in Pennsylvania Amish country and both a schoolteacher and an accomplished musician, has been an award-winning author for over a dozen years. Her acclaimed novel, The Preacher's Daughter, was a 2006 Quill Book Award finalist in the romance category. Her books have appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including USA Today and The New York Times. She and her husband, David, live in Colorado."

THE INDESCRIBABLE GIFT By Richard Exley

The Indescribable Gift by Richard ExleyPublisher:  New Leaf Press
Release Date:  1st published 1997
Pages:  112
Genre:  Religion

About the Book:  One of the most elegant Christmas gift books ever Based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke, it relates the Christmas story as seen by each person who was there Explores the emotions, thoughts, and interrelationships of all of the people in the Christmas story What a great gesture of compassion for God to give His only Son to fallen man. The arrival of our Lord was not in a fitting location for a king, but He began changing lives immediately. Richard Exley has crafted this mosaic of ten vivid and charming vignettes of the very real and human people whose lives were first touched by the Savior: Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the wise men. The vibrant, profoundly moving artwork brings the stories to life, and makes this book an instant heirloom. 

Wanda's Thoughts:  I received this lovely book a number of years ago as a Christmas gift, and always enjoy reading it over the Christmas season. It is a collection of beautifully written vignettes that will lead you through the Nativity. Based on Scripture, it is written in such a way that will allow you to share the thoughts and feelings of Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the innkeeper, and so many more, who were there before and after the birth of Jesus.

I highly recommend this truly beautiful book. It would make a special gift for the Christmas season. 5 stars.

About the Author:  Richard Exley is a man with a rich diversity of experience -- pastor, author, radio host, conference and retreat speaker. After serving churches in Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma for the past twenty-six years, he now devotes his time fully to writing and speaking. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I, Saul By Jerry B Jenkins

I, Saul by Jerry B. JenkinsPublisher:  Worthy Publishing
Release Date:  August 2013
Pages:  400
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Reviewed By WC

Book Description:  Told from the point of view of the disciple Luke, the apostle Paul and "Auggie," a modern-day scholar, I, Saul, is a fast-paced story of intrigue and mystery. Readers will be reminded of Indiana Jones and the DiVinci code as they become absorbed in this page-turner by a master storyteller. Along the way they will learn of the fictionalized but plausible story of the life of Saul who relentlessly persecuted Christ's followers prior to his conversion when he became known as Paul. 

WC's Review:  Author Jerry Jenkins has cleverly juxtaposed the story of God's anointed apostle Paul with the present day discovery of well-preserved papers documenting the complete story of Paul's devotion and thoughts during his final imprisonment in Rome.

Scholars encourage the revelation of Paul's autobiography as the most important discovery since the advent of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

Indeed, the suspenseful events surrounding this discovery reveal a maze of intrigue and danger, highlighted by an American theological professor in his efforts to obtain these documents, aided by his resourceful confidant in Rome and his beautiful fiancee, who has ties with the nefarious masterminds who plan to make millions from Paul's writings.

Truly a fascinating read. Highly recommended.

About the Author:  Jerry Bruce Jenkins is an American novelist and biographer. He is best known as co-author of theLeft Behind series of books with Tim LaHaye. Jenkins has written over 180 books, including mysteries, historical fiction, biblical fiction, cop thrillers, international spy thrillers, and children's adventures, as well as non-fiction. His works usually feature Christians as protagonists. In 2005, Jenkins and LaHaye ranked 9th in Amazon.com's 10th Anniversary list of Hall of Fame authors based on books sold at Amazon.com during its first 10 years. Jenkins and his wife Dianna have three sons and eight grandchildren.