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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

MRS. LINCOLN'S RIVAL By Jennifer Chiaverini (2 Reviews by Wanda and WC)

ThMrs. Lincoln's Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Dutton
Release Date:  January 14, 2014
Pages:  432

About the Book:  The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini, reveals the famous First Lady’s very public social and political contest with Kate Chase Sprague, memorialized as �one of the most remarkable women ever known to Washington society.” (Providence Journal)

Kate Chase Sprague was born in 1840 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second daughter to the second wife of a devout but ambitious lawyer. Her father, Salmon P. Chase, rose to prominence in the antebellum years and was appointed secretary of the treasury in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, while aspiring to even greater heights.

Beautiful, intelligent, regal, and entrancing, young Kate Chase stepped into the role of establishing her thrice-widowed father in Washington society and as a future presidential candidate. Her efforts were successful enough that The Washington Star declared her �the most brilliant woman of her day. None outshone her.”

None, that is, but Mary Todd Lincoln. Though Mrs. Lincoln and her young rival held much in common—political acumen, love of country, and a resolute determination to help the men they loved achieve greatness—they could never be friends, for the success of one could come only at the expense of the other. When Kate Chase married William Sprague, the wealthy young governor of Rhode Island, it was widely regarded as the pinnacle of Washington society weddings. President Lincoln was in attendance. The First Lady was not.

Jennifer Chiaverini excels at chronicling the lives of extraordinary yet littleknown women through historical fiction. What she did for Elizabeth Keckley in Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and for Elizabeth Van Lew in The Spymistress she does for Kate Chase Sprague in Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival.

Wanda's Review:  Mrs. Lincoln's Rival is a work of fiction that is inspired by historical facts. The author did a tremendous job with the details of the Civil War, as President Lincoln struggles with the difficult realities of that time. At times I felt bogged down with political details and almost abandoned the book, but kept reading and I'm so glad I did.

The author paints a stunning picture of Kate Chase who is elegant, outgoing, and filled with charm and I soon became engaged with her willful character. Kate was a true and loyal daughter to Salmon P Chase and they both had an ardent desire for him to become the President of the United States. Kate was very involved with her father's political career, and as his eldest daughter, Kate would have become First Lady since he was a widower. 

But their ambitions are thwarted when the Republican Party selects Mr Lincoln as their candidate and Mr Chase is sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury. It was rather ironic that Mr Chase ran the Treasury with skill, but his own finances not so well.

And the story unfolds through the Civil War, President Lincoln's days in office, the rivalry between Mrs Lincoln and Kate Chase, and finally the assassination of President Lincoln.

I became most engaged in the storyline during the rather turbulent relationship between Kate and William Sprague, the "Boy Governor" from Rhode Island. 30 year old Sprague was a cavalry officer and fueled with charm. He was very wealthy, worth millions, and owned cotton mills in Rhode Island. His accomplishments were quite extraordinary, but Kate was warned that he was less than he seemed. 

The writing is simple and flowing and easy to read. I found the rivalry between Mrs Lincoln and Kate Chase to be secondary to the storyline and is certainly not what grabbed my attention. If you have any interest in the Civil War, there is a wealth of information, and much to be learned from this book. My rating is 4 stars.

WC's Review:  If indeed, as author Ms Chiaverini says, Kate Chase is truly one of the most fascinating women ever to grace the swamps of Washington, there must exist a dearth of available candidates. It is true, however, that Kate wields significant influence over her inestimable father, Salmon Chase, but she is not likable. Mrs Lincoln is not likely to win friends and influence people to a greater degree than Kate.

This fictionalized historic biography is more a recollection of Secretary of the Treasury Chase and his intimacy, both favorable and otherwise, with the president, than it is a telling of Kate's conflict with the "hellcat", Mrs Lincoln. Salmon Chase, after all, who considered himself a favorite, was defeated by Lincoln in the election of 1860, but accepted his cabinet position with the expectation that his desire for the office of chief executive would be realized in four years.

Kate's eventual marriage to William Sprague, boy governor of Rhode Island, is fraught with dysfunctional behavior. John Hays, Lincoln's secretary, is a delight, as is Kate's younger sister, Nettie, who many times surpasses Kate's perception of significance.

A strong point of the book is the accuracy of events relating to the development of the impending conflict and resulting battles of the civil war, Lincoln's handling of and Chase's view of the war, the Emancipation Proclamation, and what to do about the issue of slavery. Characters, both significant and lesser, fit in precisely where they are supposed to.

Kate's courting and marriage to Sprague is a major distraction, as is the elaborate detail and description of balls, levees, and other expensive soirees entertained by the elite of Washington.
The Author:  Jennifer Chiaverini is the author of ten Elm Creek Quilts novels and An Elm Creek Quilts Sampler and An Elm Creek Quilts Album, as well as Elm Creek Quilts and Return to Elm Creek, two collections of quilt projects inspired by the series and is the designer of the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster fabrics. She lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.
Jennifer Chiaverini

Saturday, January 25, 2014


The Lonely Tree by Yael PolitisGenre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Holland Park Press
Sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc
Release Date:  May 26, 2013
Pages:  444

About the Book:  Tonia Shulman does not share her father's dream - forging a Jewish State out of the chaos of British Mandate Palestine. She hates the hardships of life in Kfar Etzion - an isolated kibbutz south of Jerusalem - clearing rocky hillsides, bathing in rationed cups of trucked-in water, and being confined behind barbed wire. Her own dreams have nothing to do with national self-realization; she longs for steaming bubble baths and down comforters, but most of all for a place on earth where she can feel safe. She is in love with Amos, but refuses to acknowledge these feelings. She knows he will never leave his homeland and Tonia plans to emigrate to America. But can she really begin a new life there? 

Tonia's story in The Lonely Tree is interwoven with the true story of Kfar Etzion, a kibbutz that was overrun by the Arab Legion during pre-War of Independence hostilities.

Wanda's Thoughts:  This is an intricate tale of a Jewish family living in Palestine during the British Mandate and the horrors of war. It is a story rich in drama and one that will not soon leave your mind with its strong cast of multi-layered characters. And the story unfolds from 1946 - 1967 with many historical facts revealed throughout.

Fifteen year old Tonia Shulman definitely has a mind of her own and is rather hard to like early on in the story. She and her family move from Poland to Palestine, first to Tel Aviv and later to a religious kibbutz, Kfar Etzion, that her father helped to establish. 

There are extreme hardships living here at the kibbutz, and Tonia felt trapped with no way out, and a father who was so stubborn. Josef was obsessed with the creation of an independent Jewish state. Everyone knew that five Arab armies would invade as soon as the British pulled out and it was a war they'd never win. The Jews had problems - no money, no weapons, and little experience in fighting, surrounded by a sea of Arabs. This was not the life Tonia wanted. She longed for a life of comfort and security. Her dream is to escape Palestine and make her home in America. 

Tonia loved Abba, but she wanted a life of her own.  She felt ashamed of him because he would not provide for her education. He only cared about his kibbutz and Tonia had to beg from strangers. Ilana Rozman and her wealthy family provided Tonia's way to a prestigious Hebrew school in Jerusalem, a school that was occupied by kids of doctors, professors, and government officials. They were spoiled, rich kids and this annoyed Tonia, but she realizes she is dependent on the Rozman family's good will to make her dreams come true. She was hoping to earn her diploma and apply for a student visa to the United States and admittance to an American University. 

Tonia meets Amos Amrani, a handsome Yemenite, who fights in the Jewish underground. Amos was bright, proud, and ambitious. A love blossoms between Amos and Tonia and Josef is strongly opposed to their relationship. Tonia would need to relinquish her dreams if she allowed herself to fall in love with Amos. He would constantly be called to arms, and she would live in dread. It just seemed hopeless to become involved with Amos.

There are many struggles and surprises along the way as Tonia fights to overcome a myriad of obstacles and finally finds her way to Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

The book goes through stages of terror, sorrows, and joys - a very emotional read. There is a large cast of characters with complex issues and a storyline that builds to a stunning conclusion. Just extraordinary! 5 stars and this is one you don't want to miss.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Yael Politis
About the Author:  I grew up in Michigan, but have lived all my adult life in Israel where I have worked as a dishwasher, secretary, librarian, office manager, agricultural laborer, management systems analyst, English teacher, Hebrew-English translator, technical writer, marketing writer, and proposal writer.

I have just completed two new historical novels: Olivia, Mourning and The Way the World Is (Books 1 and 2 of the Olivia Series). Both take place in Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 1840s. I love the challenge of recreating daily life in another time and place and based many of the details in Olivia, Mourning and The Way the World Is on letters and journals passed down through my family, over seven generations of lives lived in the Midwest. I received a great deal of insight from my sister, may she rest in peace, who lived in a fairly isolated log home, hunted her own land, and was just as independent and stubborn as Olivia.
Both books are available on Amazon.

Olivia, Mourning:

The Way the World Is

My debut novel, The Lonely Tree, was published by Holland Park Press of London. It received a 2009 Book of the Year award from the YWO writer's site and honorable mention for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award for general fiction.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

THE LIBERTY AMENDMENTS: Restoring the American Republic by Mark Levin

The Liberty Amendments by Mark R. Levin
Genre:  Constitutional History
Publisher:  Threshold Editions
Release Date:  August 13, 2013
Pages:  272

About the Book:  For a century, the Statists have steadfastly constructed a federal Leviathan, distorting and evading our constitutional system in pursuit of an all-powerful, ubiquitous central government. The result is an ongoing and growing assault on individual liberty, state sovereignty, and the social compact. Levin argues that if we cherish our American heritage, it is time to embrace a constitutional revival. 

The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and the delegates to each state’s ratification convention foresaw a time when—despite their best efforts to forestall it—the Federal government might breach the Constitution’s limits and begin oppressing the people. Agencies such as the IRS and EPA and programs such as Obamacare demonstrate that the Framers’ fear was prescient. 

Therefore, the Framers provided two methods for amending the Constitution. The second was intended for our current circumstances—empowering the states to bypass Congress and call a convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Levin argues that we, the people, can avoid a perilous outcome by seeking recourse, using the method called for in the Constitution itself. 

The Framers adopted ten constitutional amendments, called the Bill of Rights, that would preserve individual rights and state authority. Levin lays forth eleven specific prescriptions for restoring our founding principles, ones that are consistent with the Framers’ design. His proposals—such as term limits for members of Congress and Supreme Court justices and limits on federal taxing and spending—are pure common sense, ideas shared by many. They draw on the wisdom of the Founding Fathers—including James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and numerous lesser-known but crucially important men—in their content and in the method for applying them to the current state of the nation. 

Now is the time for the American people to take the first step toward reclaiming what belongs to them. The task is daunting, but it is imperative if we are to be truly free.

WC's Review:  Any book by the renowned Mark Levin deserves five stars. However, this comprehensive study of the failures of recent court decisions which altered the historic intent of our remarkable document is weighty. The reader has to possess a solid knowledge of the framers' purpose in composing a mandate whose primary function was to limit the power of the federal government for all time.

The amendment process was an integral function of the constitution. Levin rightly proposes additional amendments exclusively to get America back on track. Good luck with that.

That members of our present government view themselves as sagacious progressive thinkers who know more than our founding fathers, specifically how to manage and control society, is farcical. 
Above all else, Levin emphasizes the return of representative government to the states and to the people. It is not for nothing that Madison, Mason, et al., were adamant about the inclusion of the ninth and tenth amendments.

Excellent book this is. A must read for the student of American history who has become disillusioned with the errant course of our present, and to an equal degree our past, tyrannical governments.
Mark R. LevinAbout the Author:  Mark Levin has become one of the hottest properties in Talk radio, his top-rated show on WABC New York is now syndicated nationally by Cumulus Media. He is also one of the top new authors in the conservative political arena. Mark's radio show on WABC in New York City skyrocketed to Number 1 on the AM dial in his first 18 months on the air in the competitive 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM time slot. Mark's book Men in Black was released February 7, 2005 and quickly climbed to Number 3 in the nation on the New York Times Best-Seller list. When your book is endorsed by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, you know you have a winner on your hands. In a short period of time, Mark has become one of the most listened to local radio Talk show hosts in the nation.

Monday, January 20, 2014

CLARA by Kurt Palka

Clara by Kurt PalkaGenre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Emblem Editions
Expected Release Date:  March 25, 2014
Pages:  384

About the Book:  Clara Herzog is a privileged, intelligent, and thoughtful young woman whose world is changed forever when 1930s Vienna is swept up by the dark prelude of the Second World War. The cavalry officer she married in spite of her family's objections is soon called away to the thick of the conflict, and it falls to Clara, as to so many mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts through the centuries, to stay at home to provide and protect.

Through the war, its aftermath, and into the present, Clara must make choices and take risks that are as heroic and life-altering as any that men make in battle. She is an unforgettable character, and this is an unforgettable novel about family bonds and women's deep friendships, about courage and the love that can endure even in unimaginable times.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Goodreads - first reads winner

Although fiction, Clara was inspired by documented and recorded events. The story begins in the 1930's as Vienna is anticipating World War ll.

Clara Herzog was a student at Vienna University in 1931. Clara's ambition was to be a writer and a teacher and perhaps a literary translator - a portable career that would allow her to have a family. It was during this time that she met Albert Leonhardt. Clara's entire family disapproved of Albert from the beginning. Her father, whose love for Clara was the purest certainty in her life, disliked Albert. Her brother, Peter, encouraged her to drop Albert and concentrate on her studies and get a good education. He told her she would regret being involved with Albert. But Clara insisted that Albert was a good man and that she loved him.

Albert's military career in Austria was in ruins and he was at a low point in his life. Days were different now than what they'd been in early Vienna. He was dismissed from the Austrian cavalry and eventually trains horses. Albert and Clara planned to marry when she got her doctorate and had her own career. Her parents did not take the engagement well - and the story unfolds. 

Cecilia, definitely my favorite character, was an admirable woman who displayed strength and courage. Cecilia was Albert's mother, and because of circumstances that unfold, she becomes the main breadwinner of the family. Her apartment in Vienna was always filled with music - she coached singers. Cecilia added a lot to the storyline - a very strong character. 

Clara and Albert have two daughters. Willa - never married and a bit on the wild side, like her father. Emma - the youngest daughter, was rather gentle and the studious one. I never felt connected to either of these characters.

There were many interesting historical details included in the storyline, and some achingly sad moments - the horrible realization of what happened at that time. For the most part the characters were likable and were struggling to cope with the difficult realities of grief and wartime. My quibble with the book was that the storyline moved too slowly and it diminished my enjoyment. The descriptive writing was beautiful, but it certainly slowed me down. My rating - 3 stars.
The Author:
Kurt Palka
KURT PALKA was born and educated in Austria. He began his working life in Africa where he wrote for African Mirror and made wildlife films in Kenya and Tanzania. After moving to Canada he worked on international stories for CTV and GLOBAL TV, wrote for American and Canadian publications such as theChronicle Herald and the Globe and Mail, and worked as a Senior Producer for the CBC. Clara (originally published in hardcover as Patient Number 7) is his fifth novel; it is a finalist for the Hammett Prize.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

FIVE DAYS IN NOVEMBER By Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin

Five Days in November by Clint HillPublisher:  Gallery Books
Release Date:  November 19, 2013
Pages:  256

About the Book:  On November 22 , 1963, three shots were fired in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the world stopped for four days. For an entire generation, it was the end of an age of innocence. 

That evening, a photo ran on the front pages of newspapers across the world, showing a Secret Service agent jumping on the back of the presidential limousine in a desperate attempt to protect the President and Mrs. Kennedy. That agent was Clint Hill. 

Now Secret Service Agent Clint Hill commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy with this stunning book containing more than 150 photos, each accompanied by Hill& incomparable insider account of those terrible days. With poignant narration accompanying rarely seen images, we witness three-year-old John Kennedy Jr.’s pleas to come to Texas with his parents and the rapturous crowds of mixed ages and races that greeted the Kennedys at every stop in Texas. We stand beside a shaken Lyndon Johnson as he is hurriedly sworn in as the new president. We experience the first lady& steely courage when she insists on walking through the streets of Washington, D.C., in her husband's funeral procession. 

A story that has taken Clint Hill fifty years to tell, this is a work of personal and historical scope. Besides the unbearable grief of a nation and the monumental consequences of the event, the death of JFK was a personal blow to a man sworn to protect the first family, and who knew, from the moment the shots rang out in Dallas, that nothing would ever be the same.

Wanda's Thoughts - This is a well written and very informative book with its detailed descriptions of those "Five Days in November." It is a book filled with candidness and displayed by many iconic photographs. Clint Hill, Secret Service agent, reveals his vivid memories of those days surrounding the assassination of President John F Kennedy, who died at the early age of 46. 

Clint Hill has clearly lived through much pain, anger, and frustration, and has felt a sense of failure because of that tragic day in Dallas - "If only I had reacted quicker, run faster." He was there when those three shots were fired - a day that ended the age of innocence. 

November 21, 1963 - November 25, 1963 - It started with such high expectations, hope, and promise, as President and Mrs Kennedy, with their young son, John, awaited the presidential helicopter, to begin the trip to Texas. Nothing could appease the tearful little John as his Mummy and Daddy boarded Air Force One and he begs to go with them. There is a last hug for little John and the President asks Mr Foster "take care of John for me, won't you, Mr Foster?" - a very emotional good-bye. And the story unfolds through the events that led up to that tragic day in history - a day the world stopped for four days, and continues as the courageous widow leads the walking funeral procession of the slain President. Jacqueline Kennedy displayed model, grace and dignity, and was a pillar of strength to the nation during this time in history.

President Johnson had declared November 25, 1963, a national day of mourning in the United States. Mrs Kennedy was able to orchestrate and add her personal touches throughout that historic day from the music played for the funeral to the bagpipers, who marched ahead of the horse drawn caisson. 

I'm so glad I read this very touching book, which added so much dimension to the events as they unfolded through those five days. Completely absorbing and wonderfully written. 5 stars.

Clint Hill - Author    
Image of Clint Hill
Clint Hill was a Secret Service Agent assigned to the White House and served Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He was in the motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963, assigned to protect First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, when President Kennedy was assassinated. He is credited with saving Mrs. Kennedy's life. After rising through the ranks of the Secret Service, he retired in 1975 as Assistant Director, responsible for all protective forces. Hill remains in contact with the current U.S. Secret Service and is actively involved in training activities.

Lisa McCubbin - Co-Author - Lisa McCubbin is the coauthor of two New York Times Best Sellers, Mrs. Kennedy and Me (Simon & Schuster, 2012) and The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence (Simon & Schuster, 2010), and the upcoming FIVE DAYS IN NOVEMBER (Gallery, nov. 19, 2013)
An award winning journalist, she began her career as the host of her own call-in radio show before transferring to television news. Starting out as the early morning live reporter covering overnight breaking news and weather on the CBS-affiliate in Bakersfield, California, she moved through a series of assignments, ending up in the anchor chair as co-host of NBC's early morning news program "Sunrise" before the "Today" show. Later she spent six years in the Middle East, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Doha, Qatar as a freelance writer and foreign correspondent.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

THE WAY THE WORLD IS (Olivia, #2) by Yael Politis

The Way the World Is by Yael PolitisGenre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services
Series:  Olivia #2
Release Date:  December 29, 2013
Pages:  334

About the Book:  Detroit Michigan, 1842
After the devastating trauma she suffered in Olivia, Mourning and finally knowing the reality with which she must deal, Olivia strives to rebuild herself – emotionally, socially, and financially.

She starts a new life in Detroit, the young and exciting city on a river where she has come to feel at home. New friends help the healing process, while she continues her search for the two people she loves, who have disappeared from her life. She finds the greatest solace in helping fugitive slaves escape over the river to Canada. She believes, as one of her new friends says, “In this time and place it is the most worthy thing a person can do.”

Olivia remains a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.

Wanda's Thoughts - This is a story of new beginnings for Olivia. She had been violated, humiliated, and tortured and now she finds herself alone and very vulnerable. Olivia Killion, a 19 year old woman, with her whole life ahead of her, is living with a lot of anger. She realizes she needs to move on with her life and make the best of her past decisions, one of which she is feeling a grand betrayal of an innocent life. 

Jettie Place, a strong and rather feisty character, had been Olivia's father's mistress, but now showed Olivia nothing but kindness and love. Jettie has a strong influence on Olivia, and helps her to make some heart-wrenching and unbearable decisions. They were decisions that changed Olivia's life drastically and the story unfolds in the 1840's as Olivia leaves Five Rocks, Pennsylvania and makes her home in Detroit, Michigan. 

Olivia becomes involved with runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad when she comes to the aid of slaves trying to make their way to Canada. Jarad Dansbury has intruded in Olivia's life, but she finds him attractive despite his shameful profession. He has the power to search all establishments suspected of harboring fugitives or slaves. He had been commissioned by the state of Kentucky to return fugitive slaves to their owners. I hope we'll be reading more about this interesting character in the next book of the series. 

Olivia buys a property and soon takes out a mortgage through a bank. At first she finds the idea distasteful, but there simply was no other way. 

I felt connected immediately to the vibrant and well developed characters, including the minor ones - Mr. Abraham, Michelle, and Mr. Wentworth, three characters that Olivia wasn't sure if they were trustworthy. Were they in cahoots, trying to cheat her? It seems that Olivia became suspicious of everyone because of her tragic past. Did they really have hidden motives or were their intentions honorable?

Yail Politis does it again! I was immediately drawn into the storyline from beginning to end. The great attention to detail makes this a great read as the setting becomes alive with the beautiful descriptive writing. The novel builds to a rather poignant ending, but still with unresolved issues. I'm looking forward to the final installment of this series. There could be some interesting revelations to unfold. Yael Politis is fast becoming a favorite author of mine and definitely this book is deserving of a 5 star rating. Don't miss this series - I just can't say enough good things about this book.

This was a very difficult book for me to review, not wanting to include any spoilers.  I recommend first reading Olivia, Mourning, the first book in the series, to have a better understanding of the characters.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Yael PolitisAbout the Author, Yael Politis - 
I grew up in Michigan, but have lived all my adult life in Israel where I have worked as a dishwasher, secretary, librarian, office manager, agricultural laborer, management systems analyst, English teacher, Hebrew-English translator, technical writer, marketing writer, and proposal writer.

I have just completed two new historical novels: Olivia, Mourning and The Way the World Is (Books 1 and 2 of the Olivia Series). Both take place in Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 1840s. I love the challenge of recreating daily life in another time and place and based many of the details in Olivia, Mourning and The Way the World Is on letters and journals passed down through my family, over seven generations of lives lived in the Midwest. I received a great deal of insight from my sister, may she rest in peace, who lived in a fairly isolated log home, hunted her own land, and was just as independent and stubborn as Olivia.
Both books are available on Amazon.

Olivia, Mourning:

The Way the World Is

My debut novel, The Lonely Tree, was published by Holland Park Press of London. It received a 2009 Book of the Year award from the YWO writer's site and honorable mention for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award for general fiction.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


The Swiss Affair by Emylia HallPublisher:  Harlequin MIRA
Release Date:  January 28, 2014
Pages:  384

About the Book:  From the highly acclaimed author of The Book of Summers comes a tale of love, lies and innocence lost.

For Hadley Dunn, life has been predictable and uneventful. But that is before she spends her second year of college abroad in Lausanne, a glamorous Swiss city on the shores of Lake Geneva. Lausanne is imbued with the boundless sense of freedom Hadley has been seeking, and it is here she meets Kristina, a beautiful but mysterious Danish girl. The two bond quickly, but as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

Driven by guilt and haunted by suspicion, Hadley resolves to find the truth about what really happened that night, and so begins a search that will consume her, the city she loves, and the lives of two very different men. Set against the backdrop of a uniquely captivating city, The Swiss Affair is an evocative portrayal of a journey of discovery and a compelling exploration of how our connections with people and with places, make us who we are.

Wanda's Thoughts --- The Swiss Affair is definitely geared to the young adult or college age readers. This is the story of Hadley Dunn, a young woman's coming of age, and her one year of self-discovery while she is abroad. I must say, I had my doubts that I was not going to enjoy this book. But, what a pleasant surprise! Emylia Hall has crafted a beautifully written novel with her descriptive writing. She certainly paints a picture with words - lush descriptions of the scenery in Lausanne - I felt like I was there. And she does a marvelous job getting into the hearts and minds of the characters. 

Hadley Dunn was going to be spending her second year of college abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. French was to be the common language for a year. Lausanne, very elegant and stylish, appears to be a place of privilege. She was far from home, no one knew her, and she was feeling a sense of freedom. 

Hadley soon meets the very exotic Kristina Hartmann and they connect from the beginning. Kristina's whole being glowed with sophistication and Hadley was impressed with her, never knowing anyone like her. Kristina is involved in a secret relationship that she's not able to be completely honest about, but this makes her even more interesting in Hadley's eyes. 

Joel wilson is an American professor teaching American Literature, specialism - Hemingway. He is twice Hadley's age, but she finds herself attracted to him. Joel seems to be harboring some dark secrets and Hadley's life is about to change quickly. There are many Hemingway references made through Joel's character, which added interest and dimension to the storyline. 

Hugo Bezier, a favorite character, is an elderly writer who has lost his zeal for writing. Hadley often chooses Hugo's company over her friends and their friendship helps to renew Hugo's interest in writing. 

Hadley experiences first love, friendship, tragedy, and loss, and it changes her into a different person. She discovers that in Lausanne she has never been sadder, but also never been happier. And the story unfolds ---

I highly recommend this very poignant and coming of age novel for college readers. Superbly done! 5 stars.

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

About the Author:  Emylia Hall’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, and she was dubbed by Elle magazine (UK) as one of 2012’s three most anticipated debut novelists. She lives in the UK with her husband, who is also an author. The Book of Summers is Emylia’s first novel and is inspired by her childhood memories of vacations spent in rural Hungary.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A PROMISE KEPT By Robin Lee Hatcher

A Promise Kept by Robin Lee HatcherPublisher:  Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  January 7, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Christian Fiction

About the Book - God was going to save her marriage, Allison was sure of it.
But neither her husband nor her marriage had been saved.

What had become of His promise?

Tony Kavanagh had been Allison’s dream-come-true. They were in love within days, engaged within weeks, married and pregnant within a year. Her cup bubbled over with joy . . . but years later, that joy had been extinguished by unexpected trials.

The day Allison issued her husband an ultimatum, she thought it might save him. She never expected he would actually leave. She was certain God had promised to heal; it was clear that she’d misunderstood.

Now living in the quiet mountain cabin she inherited from her single, self-reliant Great Aunt Emma, Allison must come to terms with her grief and figure out how to adapt to small town life. But when she finds a wedding dress and a collection of journals in Emma’s attic, a portrait of her aunt emerges that takes Allison completely by surprise: a portrait of a heartbroken woman surprisingly like herself.

As Allison reads the incredible story of Emma’s life in the 1920s and 1930s, she is forced to ask a difficult question: Does she really surrender every piece of her life to the Lord? For a woman accustomed to being someone else’s savior, that will be even harder than it sounds.

Drawing from her own heart-wrenching story of redemption, A Promise Kept is Robin Lee Hatcher’s emotionally charged thanksgiving to a God who answers prayers—in His own time and His own ways.

Wanda's Thoughts - This is a story of family love, heartaches, forgiveness, and grace. The author did a beautiful job shaping the story while weaving together two different story lines. There is also a strong spiritual aspect of the book that is touching. 

Allison Kavanaugh is a likable character who is struggling to cope with the difficult realities of divorce. She had been married to Tony Kavanaugh and she didn't still love him, but loved the memories they had shared together. Now she carried sad thoughts about her failed marriage and she carried resentment for years of hurts, embarrassments, and destroyed dreams. 

Emma Carter, a warm character with a lot of depth, had always called Allison her favorite. She was a sister of Allison's grandmother, Elizabeth. She always had a way of answering Allison without mincing words. Aunt Emma had fallen in love with Alexander when she was 15 years old, but he'd always had eyes for Elizabeth. Emma's life is not an easy one, with many disappointments to deal with throughout her life. 

Family secrets surface as Emma's life is revealed through journals left behind and the two story lines converge. And Allison had been so sure God had made a promise to her, a promise that had gone unfulfilled. She knew there was still a plan and purpose for her life. And the story unfolds ---

The author has a gentle style and natural grace as a storyteller. The book had a strong storyline, with a good ending, although rather predictable. If you're in the mood for just a nice relaxed read, you will enjoy A Promise Kept. 4 stars. 

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

About the Author:  Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, the Romance Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other awards and recognitions, Robin is the author of 70 novels/novellas. Her books have been translated into Dutch, French, and Chinese (to name a few).

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She and her husband make their home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon and Pinky the feline terror. Join her on her Facebook Page ( and/or Twitter and/or her website & blog.