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

Monday, June 30, 2014

NIV FAST FACTS BIBLE: Fascinating Trivia from the Most Read Book in History

Fast Facts Bible-NIV by Zondervan Publishing
Wanda's Thoughts:  Disappointing – The Fast Facts Bible is plain and simple and there was absolutely nothing to draw me in.  Perhaps it would be good for YA Sunday school class or small group that is studying  certain books of the Bible, and then to be given the trivia questions to see how much they have retained.  But I must say, I didn’t find the trivia questions to be that interesting and useful.

It was advertised as being designed to help you get to know God’s word.  It is a basic Bible with no concordance or any extras normally found in a good Bible.  In my opinion, so much more could be learned with a Life Application Bible that has annotations for hard to understand verses. 

I sat on this review for a few weeks hoping to come up with some good reasons for buying this book, but, unfortunately, I just can’t recommend it.  It has no depth and I don’t feel it’s a great way to enhance your scripture reading or learning God’s word.  2 Stars. 

I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for and honest review.

Publisher:  Zondervan
Release Date:  April 22, 2014
Pages:  1280
Genre:  Bible

Book Description:  This Bible is designed to creatively engage Bible readers who have a passion for finding out interesting facts about the Bible. It features unique Bible book introductions that point to fascinating details that can be found in each of the Bible s 66 books. At the end of each book is a full page of intriguing questions that will drive readers back into the text to discover the answers for themselves.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SPARKLING GEMS from the Greek: 365 Greek Word Studies for Every Day of the Year To Sharpen Your Understanding of God's Word By Rick Renner

Sparkling Gems From The Greek by Rick RennerPublisher:  Teach All Nations 
Release Date:  January 2003
Pages:  1045
Genre:  Religion/Devotional

About the Book:  Unlock a Cache of Enduring Riches In Sparkling Gems From the Greek. Rick Renner unlocks an amazing cache of rich, enduring treasures mined from deep within the Word to unveil a wealth of brilliant wisdom and sound counsel that will enrich and redefine your life. Sparkling Gems is arranged in a devotional format with more than 1,000 in-depth Greek word studies, crafted into 365 daily devotions that are sure to inspire and provoke you to plunge deeper into your own search for more hidden treasures from God's Word. Three exhaustive indices an English to Greek index, a Greek to English index, and a Scripture Index are also included, making Sparkling Gems a highly effective reference tool for your own personal study library. So let wisdom and enduring riches define your life as you delve into the depths of God's Word with Sparkling Gems From the Greek by Rick Renner.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Sparkling Gems is absolutely the best devotional I’ve ever read.  It is truly a treasure!  Each day’s scripture is explained in depth, but in an inspiring and easy to understand way that will be a guide in your everyday life.  Rick Renner writes with clarity, depth, and simplicity using Greek word studies for a better understanding of God’s word.  There is a scripture passage for every day of the year that will surely provide spiritual refreshment and encourage personal growth with God.  I highly recommend this book.  5 stars.

Rick Renner
The Author - Rick Renner, author of more than 30 books, is well known for his top-selling classics Sparkling Gems From the Greek and Dressed To Kill, which have sold more than a million copies combined. Rick's broad understanding of the Greek language and biblical history opens up the Scriptures in a unique way that enables readers to gain wisdom and insight while learning something brand new from the Word of God. A highly respected leader, teacher, and author within the Christian community, both in the U.S. and abroad, Rick and his wife Denise have traveled the earth for three decades, teaching the Word of God. They work together to see the Gospel preached, leadership trained and churches established throughout the former Soviet Union. 

In addition to serving as senior pastors of the Moscow Good News Church, Rick and Denise are the founders of the Riga and Kiev Good News Churches, the Good News Training Center, and the Good News Association of Pastors and Churches, through which they oversee several hundred churches. The Renners also founded Media Mir, the first Christian television network established in the former USSR that today broadcasts to a potential audience of 110 million people. Their highest goal is to know Christ and to present Him to others in a meaningful way. Rick is the founder and senior pastor of the Moscow Good News Church. Rick and Denise reside in Moscow, along with their three sons and their families. 

THE APPLE ORCHARD (Bella Vista Chronicles #1) By Susan Wiggs

The Apple Orchard by Susan WiggsPublisher:  Harlequin MIRA
Release Date:  April 29, 2014
Pages:  448
Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction

Book Description:  #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs brings readers into the lush abundance of Sonoma County, in a story of sisters, friendship and the invisible bonds of history that are woven like a spell around us. 

Tess Delaney makes a living returning stolen treasures to their rightful owners. She loves illuminating history, filling the spaces in people's hearts with stories of their family legacies. 

But Tess's own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, and a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. 

Then Dominic Rossi arrives on the doorstep of the San Francisco shop Tess hopes to buy, and he tells her that the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. Tess has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel. 

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she hadn't heard of. 

Isabel is everything Tess isn't: all softness to Tess's hard angles, warm and nurturing where Tess is tightly wound. But against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, with Isabel and Dominic by her side, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. 

Wanda's Thoughts:  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. And the relationship between Tess and Dominic was beautifully rendered – not forced at all.


Tess Delaney, a strong character with a vivid personality, was a professional treasure hunter. She returned stolen treasures to their rightful owners. Most times it involved a lot of hard work, but it was a very rewarding job. There were many intriguing stories connected to the restored treasures, many of them bittersweet. Sometimes mysteries were uncovered, and discoveries better left buried. Tess cherished her independence and freedom, but sometimes felt lonely. She believed that memories could make a person vulnerable. 

I felt connected immediately to Dominic Rossi. Dominic had several roles to fill. He was a single father going through a divorce, worked at a bank, and was the executor of Magnus Johansen’s will. Dominic reveals to Tess that she has a grandfather, Magnus, and a sister, Isabel, whom she’d never seen. 

Isabel, a very warm character, never knew her mother, who had died in childbirth, and was raised by Magnus and Bubbie. She was dealing with her grandfather’s accident and has just learned she has a half sister, with whom she’d be sharing her legacy. She had no resentment toward Tess – she welcomed her. Isabel believed happiness was found in the simplist things in life. 

Magnus Johansen had an accident picking apples at Bella Vista, and is lying in a coma, and will probably not recover. Magnus is in his 80’s and had already survived the best and worst life had to offer. Magnus’s money problems had finally come to a head. Unless a miracle happened, all of Bella Vista would be lost. The bank was about to take it away. Magnus and his war bride, Eva, had built the apple orchard together. His life had been taken from him as a boy because of the war, but Magnus had an inner fire of determination and became a survivor. 

Annelise Winthur, still spry at 80, was a woman of modest means. Tess had found a valuable necklace for Annelise that had been lost since 1941. It had been her mother’s necklace, given to her by Annelise’s father. Her mother had been wearing the necklace the day she was seized by a corrupt officer during the war, and put to death by the Nazis. 

The Apple Orchard is a book that just makes you feel good – a real joy to read. My rating is 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harlequin in exchange for an honest review. 

Susan WiggsAbout the Author:  Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She lives at the water's edge on an island in Puget Sound, and she commutes to her writers' group in a 17-foot motorboat. She serves as author liaison for Field's End, a literary community on Bainbridge Island, Washington, bringing inspiration and instruction from the world's top authors to her seaside community. (See She's been featured in the national media, including NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and is a popular speaker locally and nationally. 

According to Publishers Weekly, Wiggs writes with "refreshingly honest emotion," and the Salem Statesman Journal adds that she is "one of our best observers of stories of the heart [who] knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book." Booklist characterizes her books as "real and true and unforgettable." She is the recipient of three RITA (sm) awards and four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly for her books. The Winter Lodge and Passing Through Paradise have appeared on PW’s annual "Best Of" lists. Several of her books have been listed as top Booksense picks and optioned as feature films. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have made national bestseller lists, including the USA Today, Washington Post and New York Times lists. 

The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Readers can learn more on the web at and on her lively blog at

Saturday, June 21, 2014

THE WHITE PRINCESS (The Cousins' Wife #5) By Philippa Gregory

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
Reviewed by WC
Publisher:  Touchstone
Release Date:  July 23, 2013
Pages:  544
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  Caught between loyalties, the mother of the Tudors must choose between the red rose and the white.

Philippa Gregory, #1 New York Times best­selling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA Today), presents the latest Cousins’ War novel, the remarkable story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of the White Queen.

When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last.

WC's Review:  "Let's hear it for the boy..." taking excessive liberty from the popular eighties song, this fictionalized historical piece featuring the omnipresent youth who lays claim to the throne of England during the 15th century seems to foretell doom. The boy Prince, whenever and wherever, and as many times as he chooses, appears in Scotland, Flanders, Ireland, the coastal waters of France and England to threaten the crown. Suspected brother of Elizabeth, the young lady forced to become the consort of conquering Henry VII, the boy poses a continued threat to Henry's reign and his relationship with his beautiful bride. Henry, who overthrew Elizabeth's lover Richard III when his legions abandoned him, gains control over the House of York and the English kingdom.

That's about it, although the story resonates with intrigue, deceit, and pretentious acclamations of people in power. Elizabeth, suffering the loss of her beloved Richard and the whimsical incarceration of members of her family in the Tower, prevails. Compounded by her betrothal to conquering Henry and commitment to bear heirs to the crown, and the insufferable insouciance of the King's mother, Liz actually flourishes in her role as Queen of England. So do her sisters, and her mother, who is unwittingly permitted to garner support for the boy to endanger Henry's command of the throne. Henry, somehow, maintains his presence.

Fascinating at times and always entertaining, this well written fictionalized account reads like a misplayed game of chess where the combatants are not really paying attention.
Philippa Gregory About the Author:  Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a TV drama and a major film. Published in 2009, the bestselling The White Queen, the story of Elizabeth Woodville, ushered in a new series involving The Cousins’ War (now known as The War of the Roses) and a new era for the acclaimed author.

Gregory lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Visitors to her site, become addicted to the updates of historical research, as well as the progress of her ducklings.

Her other great interest is the charity she founded nearly twenty years ago; Gardens for The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells in the primary schools of the dry, poverty stricken African country. Thousands of school children have learned market gardening, and drunk the fresh water in the school gardens around the wells.

A former student of Sussex University, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and her commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for US and UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website. 

Philipa's Facebook page:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

THE LOVING KITCHEN: Downright Delicious Southern Recipes to Share with Family, Friends, and Neighbors By LeAnne Rice

I’ve collected my share of cookbooks over the years and this one will be added to my favorites.  This is truly a practical and easy to use cookbook that will enable you to create many mouth-watering and memorable meals.  The easy to follow recipes will make your kitchen feel warm and cozy and will certainly wake up your taste buds.  Many of the recipes can be turned into a full course meal by adding some of your own favorite side dishes. 

The Loving Kitchen by LeAnn RiceThe recipes are organized into 7 categories:
Morning Fare
Bountiful Breads
Starters and Salads
Soups and Sandwiches
Vegetables and Sides

There are notes and tips, for easy reference, to help you create the best dishes possible.  And there is also some Scripture sprinkled throughout.  You are encouraged to cook from your heart by adding love.

We certainly live in a fast paced world, but mealtime can be a time to share good food and conversation with family and friends.  This cookbook will be loved by both beginners and experienced cooks.  It would make a wonderful gift and I highly recommend.  5 stars.
 I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook in exchange for an honest review from BookLook Bloggers. 

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Pages:  272
Release Date:  May 20, 2014
Genre:  Cooking 

LeAnn Rice
About the Author:  Cookbook author, LeAnn Rice, has a heart for welcoming the neighbor, nurturing the family, and feeding the community. She reaches tens of thousands through her popular food blog, To LeAnn, cooking is about so much more than food. It's about inviting others to share your table. Her first book, The Loving Kitchen, is LeAnn's way of inviting you to pull up a chair at hers. 

LeAnn has always felt at home in the kitchen with her fondest memories revolving around food, friends, and family. She did spend a few years as a caterer and event planner but quickly discovered that cooking and serving for money wasn't the same as doing it out of love. 

LeAnn, her son and their ornery cat live down south in sweet tea country. The longer she lives in North Carolina, the more her tongue seems to curl as she talks. And she's just fine with that. Bless her heart.