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

Friday, October 31, 2014


Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya ParmarPublisher:  Ballantine
Release Date:  December 30, 2014
Pages:  368
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  For fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank comes a captivating novel that offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Vanessa Bell, her sister Virginia Woolf, and the controversial and popular circle of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group.
London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.
Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.
But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.
The work of exciting young newcomer Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister exquisitely captures the champagne-heady days of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Vanessa and Her Sister brings to life the Stephen family. London – 1905 – The four Stephen siblings, Thoby, Adrian, Vanessa, and Virginia are now sharing a home in the Bloomsbury neighborhood. Their entourage of friends, the Bloomsbury group, mostly Cambridge graduates, connect the family and the story. The main focus of the story is built on the two talented sisters, Vanessa, the artist, and Virginia, the writer. The story is told through journal entries, correspondences, telegrams, and postcards. 

Vanessa is a very talented artist, but has yet to sell a painting. She is able to lose herself in her painting, and feels that painting does not qualify as work. She never felt as beautiful as her sister, Virginia, who has a definite vibrancy about her. Virginia has a way of captivating men, who fall in love with her beauty. It is evident early on that Virginia has some mental issues that she has to deal with throughout her life. She becomes terrified that Vanessa will marry Clive Bell, and believes the family will unravel if one of them gets married. Vanessa moves forward with her life when she finally marries Clive and soon gives birth to a son, Julian. Virginia, with all her insecurities, complains that Vanessa isn’t paying enough attention to her and begins to feel envious and irritated. And the story unfolds as the inevitable happens - an act of betrayal. 

It was obvious early on that this book and I were not meant to be – I just couldn’t get into it. I kept trudging through and finally became somewhat engaged in the storyline. It was hard to keep track of all the friends, although it was somewhat helpful to have many of them listed in the beginning of the book. The story just didn’t flow for me – it felt disjointed throughout. Unfortunately, I just never became interested in this “Bloomsbury group.” My rating is 3 stars – it certainly was not my cup of tea.

I received this book as a Goodreads winner. 
Priya Parmar
About the Author:  Educated at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, Priya Parmar is the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress.

Her new novel, VANESSA AND HER SISTER will be published by Ballantine/Random House on 12/30/14.

She divides her time between Hawaii and London.

Monday, October 27, 2014

NKJV STUDY BIBLE: Full Color Edition - The Complete Resource for Studying God's Word

Product Details
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  October 21, 2014
Pages:  2400
Genre:  Bibles
2nd Edition - Hardcover

Wanda's Thoughts:  

I have a vast array of Bibles in my collection and this will definitely be one of my favorites – an extraordinary Bible! 

The Bible brings to life the Authors, an Outline of each book, Culture Notes, Photos, Timeline, Maps, and this second edition is now presented in color.  I found the annotations to be a very important feature, offering helpful explanations to the Scripture verses.  Also included are the Articles – over 100 articles for closer study of Christian doctrines – this was a favorite feature.  And there is so much more -truly a study Bible that will enable you to get the most out of reading God’s word. 

Two negative comments – The Bible is heavy, making it hard to handle, and the words of Jesus are not printed in red.  But these comments do not alter my 5 star rating.  An absolutely superb Bible!
I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

About the Bible:  "The NKJV Study Bible, Second Edition, " the most comprehensive study Bible available, is now better than ever!

The acclaimed "The NKJV Study Bible" is the most complete study system for pastors, teachers or students who desire accurate study in God's Word. It is now better than ever, including more features to make it the best all-purpose study Bible available. Using the trusted New King James Version, "The NKJV Study Bible, Second Edition" has "the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor." Nelson's skilled team of scholars has produced THE study system to reach for when accurate study in God's Word is the goal.

GREATER DEVOTIONAL: A 40 Day Experience to Ignite God's Vision For Your Life By Steven Furtick

Greater Devotional by Steven FurtickPublisher:  Multnomah Books
Release Date:  September 9, 2014
Pages:  128
Genre:  Religion

Book Description:  In Greater, Pastor Steven Furtick challenged us to dream bigger, start smaller, and ignite God’s vision for our lives. In this devotional designed for daily guidance, you’ll begin your journey toward the greater life God wants for you. 
Over the next forty days of teaching, scripture readings, and prayer, your life will change. You’ll find the confidence to believe that nothing is impossible with God, the clarity to see what He’s calling you toward, and the courage to take your next step.
Dream bigger. Start smaller. Ignite God’s vision for your life.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Many times we end up settling for less in our lives, becoming frustrated with who we are, and not knowing how to move forward. This devotional will take you from mediocrity to a much greater destiny, a destiny we were meant to have – a “good enough to greater”. 

There are 40-days of devotions, each day giving a Scripture reading, with a reflection, and ending with a prayer focus. Refreshing all the way through, you’ll certainly be blessed by this devotional, and an excellent way to start the day. You will soon believe that God is preparing you for greater things. My rating is 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this devotional from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 
Steven Furtick
About the Author:  Steven Furtick is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, named by Outreach magazine as one of the top 10 fastest growing churches in the nation. In four years, Elevation has grown to more than 6,000 people in regular attendance in three locations. Steven holds a degree in communication from North Greenville University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Holly, have two young sons—Elijah and Graham—and make their home in the Charlotte area.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

STILLWATER RISING (Stillwater Bay #1) By Steena Holmes

Stillwater Rising (Stillwater Bay, #1)Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Expected Release Date:  November 11, 2014
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

About the Book:  After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte's husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.

As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads?within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter's mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte's relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Stillwater was an obscure and quaint little town, with beautiful Victorian houses, surrounded by white picket fences. The population was just under 3,000, but when summer arrived the numbers doubled or tripled because of its proximity to the bay. It was hard to believe that something so horrific as a school shooting could happen in this picturesque town of Stillwater. There had been twelve deaths, twelve lives snuffed out in a tragic way. The children’s innocence had been taken away at an early age in a terrifying way. 

Jennifer’s ten-year-old son was one of the last children to be found that day. The mere mention of her son’s name brought images that would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was expected to move on with her life, but she just wanted to bury herself in her grief. Jen believed it was horrible and unfair to the children and parents of Stillwater to be exposed to a place where so many lives were lost, forcing them to face the horrors of their past. She wanted them to tear down the school and relocate it. She truly believed the town needed time to grieve. 

Robert is the husband of Jennifer, but disagreed with her reasoning. He wanted to pretend the tragedy never happened and didn’t allow or take time to grieve for their loss. 

Charity is the rather disrespectful daughter of Robert and Jennifer. The sweet and charming daughter her parents once knew was gone, and she became a thirteen-year-old with mood swings.

Jordan Stone served as principal at Stillwater Public School. He had been praised for his heroic acts, saving countless lives at the shooting. He was the perfect principal and perfect partner and husband during the aftermath of this shooting. And he was the perfect hero to the children in the school. 

Charlotte Stone was the mayor and wife of Principle Jordan Stone. Charlotte took her job as mayor seriously, and believed the children and their families were resilient and would heal. She believed the children and town needed to face what had happened and move on. She didn’t want the evil that had happened to win, but wanted them to become victors, not victims. Was she trying to push everyone past the grieving before they were ready? 

Julia Berry was the mother of the 16-year-old shooter. Her son was the boy who always seemed to be in trouble. From early on, in his childhood, everyone knew Gabriel Berry had bad blood in him. She wasn’t the murderer or the monster that committed this horrific act, but she’d given birth to him. Julia had become a victim, and many of the town citizens were caught up in tearing her apart and doing hatred acts. 

Samantha Hill was a reporter from UCN. There was a story here, and it was her goal to help the readers become invested in the news. She was one of the first reporters on the scene, and still had nightmares of that horrible day. There was something about this town that made her want to stay on. And she had a feeling the principal was hiding something. 

If the school closed, what would happen to the 200 students who attended there? Most of the families with small children would most likely move to another area. Also they had to consider the teachers and support staff – they would be without jobs, and teaching positions were not easy to find. And the story unfolds ---

I was drawn into this book early on with its interesting premise – it had the potential to be a good story. Unfortunately the story just lost something, and I started to lose interest – it just didn’t touch me. I never connected to most of the characters, not finding them to have much depth. And there was an over abundance of characters – a bit difficult to keep them all straight.

On a positive note – There were some scenes that really touched me – poignant circumstances of grief that were emotional and intense. The school-shooting topic evoked many questions in my mind. If I were living in that town, how would I have reacted?

Steena Holmes is one of my favorites. I’m assuming there will be a second book in this series and I’m sure I’ll be reading it. But this one is just lukewarm. My rating is 3.5 stars. 
I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shared are my own.

Steena HolmesAbout the Author:  NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author - Steena is the author of the heart wrenching Finding Emma series and the upcoming novel Stillwater Rising.

Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a Bachelors degree in Theology.

In 2012 she received the Indie Excellence Award. Holmes was inspired to write Finding Emma after experiencing a brief moment of horror when she’d thought her youngest daughter was missing. 

She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.
Novels in her Finding Emma series:
Finding Emma
Dear Jack
Emma's Secret
Dottie's Memories

The Memory Child

Stillwater Bay Series:
Before the Storm
Stillwater Rising

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

Killing Patton by Bill O'ReillyPublisher:  Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date:  September 23, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  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:  t 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 miss the opportunity to party with Hitler's mistress and wife, Eva Braun? 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 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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

HEAVEN By Randy Alcorn

Heaven by Randy AlcornPublisher:  Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date:  October 2004
Pages:  560
Genre:  Religion

Book Description:  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.

Wanda's Thoughts:  This very informative book has certainly opened my eyes and has given me a totally new perspective of heaven. I’ve had questions in my mind for much of my life about heaven, and this book addressed many of those questions. You will feel encouraged to delve deeper into the Scriptures to understand even more. After reading many of the Scriptures, I found myself thinking that I hadn’t thought about a particular verse in that much depth, or in that way – very inspiring, indeed!

Two of the most interesting concepts presented in the book were the Intermediate Heaven – not our permanent destination, and the New Earth – our final destination. Just thought provoking! And, of course, Satan hates the New Heaven and the New Earth, and will do everything he can to keep us from redemption and rob us of the joy we will know in heaven. 

There is so much information about the world to come, and this book deals with it in detail. It is hard to wrap your mind around many parts, but it’s enough to fire up your imagination and give you a driven desire to spend eternity in heaven.

It is very clear that there are two possible destinations after death: heaven and hell, and each is just as real and just as eternal as the other. Heaven is not our default destination. We cannot enter heaven as we are. Unless our sin problem is resolved, we will go to our true default destination --- hell. Matthew 7: 13-14 - “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

“The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to heaven.”

I have highlighted many parts of this book and I will be keeping it close by to read sections again and again. It is one of the most interesting and profound books I’ve ever read! My rating is 5+ stars.
Randy Alcorn
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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE YANKS ARE COMING! A Military History of the United States in World War I By H W Crocker III

The Yanks Are Coming! by H.W. Crocker IIIPublisher:  Regnery History
Release Date:  September 22, 2014
Pages:  404
Genre:  History
Reviewed By WC

About the Book:  Bestselling military historian H. W. Crocker III (The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War, Robert E. Lee on Leadership, etc.) now turns his guns on the epic story of America’s involvement in the First World War with his new book The Yanks Are Coming: A Military History of the United States in World War I.

2014 marks the centenary of the beginning of that war, and in Crocker’s sweeping, American-focused account, readers will learn:

How George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall (of the Marshall Plan), "Wild Bill" Donovan (future founder of the OSS, the World War II precursor to the CIA), Harry S. Truman, and many other American heroes earned their military spurs in "The Great War"
Why, despite the efforts of the almost absurdly pacifistic administration of Woodrow Wilson, American involvement in the war was inevitable
How the First World War was "the War that Made the Modern World"—sweeping away most of the crowned heads of Europe, redrawing the map of the Middle East, setting the stage for the rise of communism and fascism
Why the First World War marked America’s transition from a frontier power—some of our World War I generals had actually fought Indians—to a global superpower, with World War I generals like Douglas MacArthur living to see, and help shape, the nuclear age
"The Young Lions of the War" -- heroes who should not be forgotten, like air ace Eddie Rickenbacker, Sergeant Alvin York (memorably portrayed by Gary Cooper in the Academy Award–winning movie Sergeant York), and all four of Theodore Roosevelt’s sons (one of whom was killed)

Stirring, and full of brilliantly told stories of men at war, The Yanks Are Coming will be the essential book for readers interested in rediscovering America’s role in the First World War on its hundredth anniversary.

WC's Review:  The cause, or more definitively, the causes of the world war of 1914 through 1918 remain difficult to define. "On 28 June 1914 the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia" thus triggering the conflict that became known as "the Great War."

And, as they say, the rest is history. Germany, of course, led the onslaught in their quest for continent domination, followed by France (always a canker to Germany), England, Poland, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and ultimately the United States. Arrogant Woodrow Wilson never saw a conflict he didn't like.

Indeed the book focuses on the grand designs of President Wilson who saw himself as the major figure on the world stage whose destiny was as the creator of a post-war utopian community.

He damned near succeeded, thwarted by Senate Republicans and a revengefully recalcitrant emerging hero of an embittered, defeated Germany.

American warriors are given their due, including John J Pershing, Peyton C March, Douglas MacArthur, Billy Mitchell, John A Lejeune, George S Patton, George C Marshall, Eddie Rickenbacker, and the invincible sharpshooter, Alvin C York.

Sight challenged Harry S Truman gets in here as do the four sons of Teddy Roosevelt. Who was "Wild Bill" Donovan?

The short epilogue is what rates this informative book of World War I the rating of five stars.

Monday, October 13, 2014

OBSESSION: BY John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Obsession by John E. DouglasPublisher:  Pocket Books
Release Date:  1998
Pages:  496
Genre:  Current Events - Crime
Reviewed By WC

About the Book:  With a deep sense of compassion for the victims and an uncanny understanding of the perpetrators, Douglas exposes the chilling obsessions that compel the murderers, rapists, and stalkers of modern times.

WC's Review:  Author John E Douglas is obsessed with his topic. A self-proclaimed early profiler, Douglas writes to background and decipher at length the characteristics and modus operandi of rapists, serial killers, and most prominently, stalkers.

He does well. Sometimes, he offers too much information when expounding on the character flaws of demented beings in our society who prey upon the susceptibility of attractive conquests.

Ronnie Shelton, serial rapist of Cleveland, Joseph Thompson, South Aukland New Zealand rapist, New York's notorious "Preppie Murder", John Hinkley, who festered into our psyches to impress Jodie Foster through the assassination of President Reagan, Ed Gein, Gary Heidnick, and Ted Bundy are some of his heavily-examinded personalities.

The message is simple and one with which feel-good, prominent experts would not agree: Serial rapists/stalkers cannot be rehabilitated. Exterminate them or lock them up for the rest of their lives.

Get to authorities who know how to deal with these subhumans immediately, especially stalkers. Unfortunately, many police departments are not trained to deal with heinous crimes of subjugation. Hopefully, a 911 call can lead to a facility specializing in such behavior.

It remains a tragedy of today's society when someone like "Buffalo Bill" is glorified in the movie, "Silence of the Lambs."

4 Stars

About the Author:  John Edward Douglas is a former United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, one of the first criminal profilers, and criminal psychology author. He also wrote four horror novels in the mid 1990s.