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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️THE KING'S DAMSEL (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) By Kate Emerson

Publisher:  Gallery Books
Pages:  368
Release Date:  2012
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback

Book Description:  In the fifth novel in Kate Emerson's highly acclaimed Secrets of the Tudor Court series, a young gentlewoman catches King Henry the Eighth's roving eye.In 1533 and again in 1534, Henry the Eighth reportedly kept a mistress while he was married to Anne Boleyn. Now, that mistress comes to vivid life in Kate Emerson's The King's Damsel.
A real-life letter from Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, written on September 27, 1534, reported that the king had "renewed and increased the love he formerly bore to another very handsome young lady of the Court" and that the queen had tried "to dismiss the damsel from her service." Other letters from Eustace reveal that the mystery woman was a "true friend" of the Princess (later Queen) Mary, Henry's daughter by Catherine of Aragon. Though no one knows who "the king's damsel" really was, here Kate Emerson presents her as young gentlewoman Thomasine Lodge, a lady-in-waiting to King Henry's daughter, Princess Mary. Thomasine becomes the Princess's confidante, especially as Henry's marriage to Catherine dissolves and tensions run high. When the king procures a divorce in order to marry Anne Boleyn, who is suspicious and distrustful of Mary, Mary has Thomasine placed in Anne's service to be her eyes and ears. And that's when she gets the attention of the king...
Rich in historical detail and featuring a wealth of bonus material, The King's Damsel is sure to keep readers coming back for more in the exciting series!


Wanda's Thoughts: 
Thomasine (Tamsin) Lodge, a young heiress, becomes a maid of honor to Princess Mary Tudor. She was overcome by homesickness, missing her stepmother, Blanche, and all her many privileges she had as a child. She had never been a servant. If she did not make herself pleasing to Princess Mary’s Court, and those she met there, there would be consequences. By the time the first year had ended, Tamsin had adjusted and became a part of her new family. Soon she was providing entertainment for the household by telling stories to the princess and her court. The character of Tamsin is strong, yet sensitive, and vulnerable.

Sir Lionel Daggett became Tamsin’s guardian, and she had an intense dislike for him from the beginning. He was a wicked man who controlled her inheritance. Daggett commanded Tamsin to impress the king by using her charms to become his damsel. If she didn’t obey, she would be married off to any man who offered him a large enough bribe. This was all to his advantage, that he might prosper – she was to become his advocate.

And the story unfolds with the account of Anne Boleyn’s life and how she played the “game of love” to win over Henry VIII, and later becoming Queen Anne. Henry VIII, King of England, had his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled because of his love for Anne Boleyn.

The research behind this story brings credibility to The King’s Damsel. I must admit I had a desire to see how the character interactions would play out. It is rich with description – the setting is vividly depicted – and the historical aspect is so very well written.

But I did struggle with this book. The pacing drags in the beginning, but finally picks up about mid-way through. There are many historical references throughout, and the story blends both fact and fiction into what should’ve been a compelling tale. Unfortunately I found it to be just lukewarm. The book had an interesting premise, but it just failed to deliver. My rating is 3 stars.

About the Author:  Kate Emerson is a pseudonym used by Kathy Lynn Emerson, author of the Face Down Mysteries featuring Susanna Appleton, 16th century gentlewoman, herbalist, and sleuth, the award-winning How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries, and a wide assortment of other books.

She was born in Liberty, New York and recieved an A.B. from Bates College and an MA from Old Dominion University. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and other professional organizations. She currently lives in rural Western Maine with her husband and three cats.

"Kate Emerson" is her pseudonym to distinguish her historical novels set in the Tudor era (England 1485-1603) that feature real but little known historical figures as the protagonists.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT By Ann Rule

Publisher:  Free Press
Release Date:  2010
Genre:  Non-Fiction/True Crime
Format:  Hardcover

About the Book: 
In this new true crime book, New York Times bestselling author Rule investigates the case of a woman whose supposed suicide may not be what it seems.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Ronda had served 8 years as a Washington state trooper before resigning from the force. She had been the youngest female cadet ever hired and life seemed to be turning out just as she’d hoped. She soon met up with several misfortunes in life and after her disappointing resignation from the Patrol she started working in a store security for Wal-Mart. Ronda’s life seemed to be crashing down around her. Her first marriage had ended in divorce, and now her second marriage, that had lasted less than a year, was about to end. But Ronda always managed to bounce back, never feeling bitter or sorry for herself. On a December morning in 1998 Ronda was found dead in her home and her death was declared undetermined, and then suicide.

Barb Thompson, Ronda’s mother, would never accept that her daughter committed suicide. She would dedicate the next several years of her life trying to prove that her daughter was murdered.

Ann Rule has written a very fascinating, but haunting story with multiple sides, a disturbing story with so many possibilities, and unfortunately a story with no resolution. I was completely absorbed in this story throughout. My only complaint was the poor editing, with several grammatical errors throughout. My rating – 4 stars.

About the Author: Ann Rule was a popular American true crime writer. Raised in a law enforcement and criminal justice system environment, she grew up wanting to work in law enforcement herself. She was a former Seattle Policewoman and was well educated in psychology and criminology.

She came to prominence with her first book, The Stranger Beside Me, about the Ted Bundy murders. At the time she started researching the book, the murders were still unsolved. In the course of time, it became clear that the killer was Bundy, her friend and her colleague as a trained volunteer on the suicide hotline at the Seattle, Washington Crisis Clinic, giving her a unique distinction among true crime writers.

Rule won two Anthony Awards from Bouchercon, the mystery fans' organization. She was nominated three times for the Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. She is highly regarded for creating the true crime genre as it exists today.

Ann Rule also wrote under the name Andy Stack . Her daughter is Goodreads author Leslie Rule.

Monday, December 14, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️The Cavendon Women By Barbara Taylor Bradford

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  March 24, 2015
Pages:  448
Format:  Kindle
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a stunning and dramatic saga of love and loyalty. The aristocratic Inghams have been served by the Swann family for centuries. The Cavendon Women follows these two families' journeys from a weekend in the summer of 1926 through to the devastation of the financial crash of 1929.

It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926, when, for the first time in years, the Earl has planned a family weekend. Everyone is intrigued by the invitation, and everyone has their own reasons for accepting it. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. And as old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns' loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it is up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade, and a new way of life.

Told with Barbara Taylor Bradford's trademark attention to detail and passionate prose, The Cavendon Women will grip readers as they follow the beloved characters through times of triumph and turmoil.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
The Cavendon Women, a sequel to Cavendon Hall, fell flat for me. The Book is predictable, problems are solved too easily, and I had a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between the many characters.

1926- 1929 – This family saga was built on the four Ingham sisters, all who emerge as strong and determined women, and the Swanns, who served them. The Inghams and Swanns have lived together for over 170 years and both families displayed an extraordinary amount of loyalty to each other. Cavendon Hall wasn’t what it used to be. The Great War had changed everything.

My favorite character was Cecily Swann, a successful fashion designer. She not only sold her clothes in London, but also in America. She had a future filled with challenges and she’d become truly independent. Miles Ingham was a part of her past. He’d broken her heart when he married another woman, but she still loved him and didn’t think she’d ever forget him.

And the story unfolds with various melodramas, complications, and romance. So much of the story came across as unrealistic, with pretentious dialogue, and excessive reiteration throughout. The ending did have some redeeming qualities, but again, problems were too easily wrapped up. My rating is 3 stars.

About the Author: Barbara Taylor Bradford is the author of 30 bestselling novels, including The Cavendon Women, Cavendon Hall, and The Ravenscar Dynasty. She was born in Leeds, England, and from an early age, she was a voracious reader: at age 12, she had already read all of Dickens and the Brontë sisters. By the age of twenty, she was an editor and columnist on Fleet Street. She published her first novel, A Woman of Substance, in 1979, and it has become an enduring bestseller.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s books are published in over 90 countries in 40 languages, with sales figures in excess of 88 million. Ten of her novels have been adapted into television mini-series starring actors including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Liam Neeson, Deborah Kerr and Elizabeth Hurley. She has been inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame of America, and in June of 2007, Barbara was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to Literature.

She lives in New York City with her husband, television producer Robert Bradford, to whom all her novels are dedicated.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️NIV UNDERSTAND THE FAITH STUDY BIBLE

Publisher:  Zondervan
Release Date:  September 22, 2015
Pages:  1484
Format:  Hardcover

Description:  
The NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible, with content from Christianity Today, provides a deep grounding in Scripture. You will appreciate the way this Bible keeps the joyful, astounding nature of the gospel always in view when addressing doctrine and the pressing questions about faith. Its content will help you understand what you believe and why while inspiring you to live for God.

Wanda's Thoughts: 

The NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible has a beautiful cover – a real eye catcher.  The font was crisp and clear making it especially easy to read.  I so appreciated that!  The features that I found most interesting and helpful were the Doctrine 101, Everyday Faith, and Living Parables. 

Unfortunately this Bible left me wanting more.  I just couldn’t relate to this as a study Bible.  There were no study notes to correlate with the scriptures, and I really missed that.  I will certainly continue to use it as a supplementary to my collection of Bibles, but more for reference.  My rating is 3 stars.

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


Saturday, November 28, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Michael Symon's 5 in 5 for Every Season By Michael Symon

Publisher:  Clarkson Potter
Release Date:  September 29, 2015
Pages:  256
Genre:  Cookbook

Book Description:  5 fresh ingredients + 5 minutes of heat = 165 recipes
 
Ridiculously easy from-scratch recipes to get you in and out of the kitchen in a flash every day of the week—now with sides and holiday dishes, too

The follow-up to the bestselling Michael Symon’s 5 in 5, this new book delivers 165 quick, easy, fresh recipes organized by season with an entire section devoted to making the holidays simpler than ever. Each chapter features inspired main courses as well as recipes for sides and 5 fun ways to celebrate the season, including no-bake summer fruit desserts and spiked drinks to warm up with in winter.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
I love the simplicity of the recipes, with the easy to follow directions, and they are certainly quick and affordable. Included are delicious dishes that take little effort, but have depths of flavor.

There are 165 recipes for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Holidays, and with beautiful illustrations. I've tried the Sweet Onion Smothered Pork Chops that I would give a 5 * rating, and a very simple Grape & Feta Salad that was delicious! I have many more recipes marked to try. Also included is a list of pantry items needed to make every recipe in the book.

I immediately liked this cookbook and know I will use it often. My rating is 5 stars.

Monday, November 16, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Cavendon Hall By Barbara Taylor Bradford

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  April 2014
Pages:  416
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover

Book Description: 
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess's wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl's daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again.
Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
1913- Cavendon was one of the greatest stately homes in England. The Swanns of Little Skell Village had been working at Cavendon Hall for over 160 years, ever since the days of the first earl in the 18th century. The Inghams, an aristocratic family, and the Swanns, the loyal servants, were closely intertwined and bound together by respect. The Swanns knew everything about Charles Ingham – the sixth Earl of Mowbray, and his family.

Early on in the story line a horrifying tragedy occurs to a family member of the Ingham family, creating much drama. This terrifying act could have destroyed the family, but the Swanns take control and do everything in their power to protect the Inghams. And the story unfolds ---

This book brings you into the world of British style drama with similarities to Downton Abbey. I loved the diverse characters - finding them to be appealing, and there were many, but I was able to connect to them as the relationships are explained easily.

As many of the reviews have indicated, the story line is a bit implausible, dialogue repetitive, and the major problems are too easily resolved. None of the above deterred me from reading this novel, and I plan on reading the next in the series, The Cavendon Women. I really enjoyed this book! Barbara Taylor Bradford has been a favorite of mine since the Woman of Substance series. She has a natural talent for writing about strong, sensitive, and vulnerable women. My rating - 4 stars.

About the Author:  Barbara Taylor Bradford is the author of 30 bestselling novels, including The Cavendon Women, Cavendon Hall, and The Ravenscar Dynasty. She was born in Leeds, England, and from an early age, she was a voracious reader: at age 12, she had already read all of Dickens and the Brontë sisters. By the age of twenty, she was an editor and columnist on Fleet Street. She published her first novel, A Woman of Substance, in 1979, and it has become an enduring bestseller.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s books are published in over 90 countries in 40 languages, with sales figures in excess of 88 million. Ten of her novels have been adapted into television mini-series starring actors including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Liam Nelson, Deborah Kerr and Elizabeth Hurley. She has been inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame of America, and in June of 2007, Barbara was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to Literature.

She lives in New York City with her husband, television producer Robert Bradford, to whom all her novels are dedicated.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️CHARLOTTE'S STORY (Bliss House Novels) By Laura Benedict

Publisher:  Pegasus
Release Date:  October 15, 2015
Pages:  400
Genre:  Fiction/Paranormal
Format:  Hardcover

About the Book:  The fall of 1957 in southern Virginia was a seemingly idyllic, even prosperous time. A young housewife, Charlotte Bliss, lives with her husband, Hasbrouck Preston “Press” Bliss, and their two young children, Eva Grace and Michael, in the gorgeous Bliss family home. On the surface, theirs seems a calm, picturesque life, but soon tragedy befalls them: four tragic deaths, with apparently simple explanations.
But nothing is simple if Bliss House is involved. How far will Charlotte go to discover the truth? And how far will she get without knowing who her real enemy is? Though Bliss House may promise to give its inhabitants what they want, it never gives them exactly what they expect.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
This was a difficult book for me to review because of possibly revealing too much. I don’t want to spoil it for future readers.

Randolph Bliss had built Bliss house in 1870. It was unlike the other grand houses in the area, having both a ballroom and a full theater on the third floor. It was a house that seemed to show more preference for stateliness than comfort. The house was tall and ungainly, but had a touch of romance to it, with its formal and lush gardens. Bliss house had a reputation for unnatural death and the presence of lingering death – a house that seemed to be haunted. And the family had certainly seen more than its share of tragedy over the years. There were some who said that Randolph Bliss had committed some crime that caused the house to be cursed.

1957 – Charlotte, married to Preston (Press) Bliss was now mistress of Bliss house, and the couple had two young children, Eva and Michael. Charlotte actually believed in ghosts long before she married Press and became a part of Bliss House. Charlotte’s mother had died when she was four years old, and when she was six, Charlotte had a haunting experience involving her mother’s ghost when she appeared to Charlotte.

And the story unfolds as tragedy occurs at Bliss house along with strange and unnatural happenings. Nothing is as it seems, and dark secrets are slowly revealed. Charlotte becomes very restless and tortured with grief and guilt as she searches for answers.

The author certainly has a vivid imagination with all the strange occurrences. Charlotte’s Story has a very dark story-line with a varied cast of eccentric characters. I thought the ending was just outstanding, with a resolution I did not see coming. It was a compelling tale of suspense that was haunting and rich with description. All of the characters do intertwine and are important to the story-line.

Unfortunately I never became absorbed in the story-line until about 200 pages into the book – it seemed to drag on and on. Finally the author picked up the tempo and intensity and I became fully engaged. This is certainly a worthwhile read! I waffled between a 3 and 4 and decided on 3.5 stars.


About the Author:  Author of dark suspense novels, including CHARLOTTE'S STORY: A Bliss House Novel, the second Bliss House book. BLISS HOUSE (a Southern Gothic ghost story) is now available in paperback. Laura's earlier novels, DEVIL'S OVEN, ISABELLA MOON and CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS, are available in paper and as ebooks. She lives in the southernmost part of a Midwestern state, surrounded by coyotes, owls, snakes, and the occasional bobcat.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️ANNA'S CROSSING (An Amish Beginnings Novel, #1) By Suzanne Woods Fisher

Publisher:  Fleming H Revell
Pages:  336
Release Date:  March 3, 2015
Genre:  Amish Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback

About the Book:  When Anna Konig first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the "Charming Nancy," their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naive farmers--dubbed "Peculiars" by deckhands--across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna's serene nature. For her part, Anna can't seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship's carpenter, despite warnings.
When an act of sacrifice leaves Anna in a perilous situation, Bairn discovers he may not have left his faith as firmly in the past as he thought. But has the revelation come too late?
Amish fiction favorite Suzanne Woods Fisher brings her fans back to the beginning of Amish life in America with this fascinating glimpse into the first ocean crossing as seen through the eyes of a devout young woman and an irreverent man. Blending the worlds of Amish and historical fiction, Fisher is sure to delight her longtime fans even as she attracts new ones with her superb and always surprise-filled writing.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
1737 – Anna Konig and a group of Amish people were leaving Ixheim, Germany, going to a New World. They were leaving their peaceful and pastoral valley for a world of unknowns, and the voyage was filled with uncertainties. They sacrificed and endured so much just to own a piece of sod in America. The Peculiar people, of a peculiar sect, were headed to Penn’s Woods and their passage was secured on a vessel, the Charming Nancy.

The people were confined to the lower decks, which were pitiful, with the stale air, stench, and sickness. Life was tenuous and could be altered in an instant. They suffered delays, endured seasickness, cold, and much more.

The characters were unique with effective and realistic dialogue ---

Anna had a rare strength of character and showed much determination and compassion. She’d left her home, grandparents, church, and everything she’d loved and lived for to embark on this journey. Anna had lived in a sheltered world, not caring about earthy possessions.

Bairn had a mystique about him and was a man full of contradictions. He was a wayward soul who claimed to not believe in God, but was filled with kindness, especially towards Anna. Bairn’s title is carpenter of the Charming Nancy and is the third person in charge. He lived in a world filled with temptations, and felt a lot of turmoil in his life.

Felix, a mischievous 8 year-old, was like a brother to Anna. He is a very curious Amish boy and as a result finds himself in trouble throughout the story. His mother’s sadness affected him in a deep way.

The character of Georg Schultz is not likable at all, being shadowy, relentless, and utterly despicable.

Christian Muller – As the minister, his duty was to be sure everyone followed the straight and narrow path and conformed to what it meant to be a church member. He had a meddlesome wife, Maria, who constantly kept things stirred up.

Anna’s Crossing had an intriguing premise, with a story of expectations, despair, and faith. The author did a beautiful job with the vividly described scenes. There were some scenes that I found to be very dynamic. Unfortunately it took me to long to become engaged in the storyline and I found myself plodding through sections and losing focus.

The book is readable, but not exceptional – just lukewarm. My rating is 3.5 stars.

About the Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling, award winning author of fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books, host of the radio-show-turned-blog Amish Wisdom, a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine.

Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain. A theme in her books (her life!) is that you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate the principles of simple living.

Suzanne lives in California with her family and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To her way of thinking, you just can't life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Suzanne can be found on-line at: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com

Sunday, October 18, 2015

SMOKE By Catherine McKenzie⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Lake Union Publisheing
Release Date:  October 20, 2015
Pages:  351
Format:  Kindle
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Book Description: 

From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.
After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.
For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.
As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.


Wanda's Thoughts:  Elizabeth and Ben, after 10 years of marriage, were getting divorced. Elizabeth had worked woodland fires for 10 years, since she was 26 years old, and then became the arson investigator for the regional district. She’d taken an investigator course as part of her arson training and was now working as a private investigator for the prosecuting attorney. Ben came from money and works at a private high school, one that costs forty thousand dollars a year to attend. It is where Ben attended. I found Ben to be rather laid-back about the divorce and the fire, which threatened the home that he and Elizabeth lived in.

44-year-old Mindy is married to Peter, a manager at the bank, and they have two teenage children. They are part of the middle class. Mindy had worked at the high school science lab, but lost her job when the budget was slashed. Now her domain was entirely domestic. Her constant attention was on her kids, and Mindy was finding it hard to keep up with the world outside her family. Her kids’ lives seemed to take up most of her time.

Nelson residents were told to remain on high alert. The town could be in real danger because of a fire spreading up the north side of the Peak eating through timber. Now there is evidence of arson and a local teen could be involved. And the story unfolds ---

Both Mindy and Elizabeth are complex characters, and the lives of these two do intertwine throughout. I never became fully engaged in the character of Mindy, even though she was an intricate part of the story. I found that part of the story-line to be just lukewarm. However, I immediately connected to Elizabeth, finding her to be the best part of the story-line.

There are complex relationships, a mystery that slowly unravels, some romance, and a satisfying conclusion. This finely layered novel, with and interesting premise, certainly evokes vivid realism through both the well-described scenes and the vibrant presentation of characters. My rating is 4 stars.

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

About the Author:  Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. A graduate of McGill University and McGill Law School, Catherine practices law in Montreal. An avid runner and skier, she's the author of the international bestsellers SPIN, ARRANGED, FORGOTTEN, HIDDEN and the novella, SPUN. HIDDEN was a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Book-world bestseller for five weeks. Catherine's newest novel, SMOKE, will be published on October 20, 2015.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

MY MOTHER'S SECRET: Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story By J. L. Witterick

Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  2013
Pages:  208
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ About the Book:  A novel based on a true story, a mother and daughter risk their lives to provide shelter to two families and a German soldier--all unbeknownst to each other--in a tiny two-room house in Sokal, Poland, during the Nazi invasion.

Based on a true story, MY MOTHER'S SECRET is a profound, captivating, and ultimately uplifting tale intertwining the lives of two Jewish families in hiding from the Nazis, a fleeing German soldier, and the clever and "righteous" mother and daughter who teamed up to save them.

Franciszka and her daughter, Helena, are unlikely heroines. They are simple people who mind their own business and don't stand out from the crowd. Until 1939, when crisis strikes. The Nazis have invaded Poland and they are starting to persecute the Jews. Providing shelter to a Jew has become a death sentence. And yet, Franciszka and Helena decide to do just that. In their tiny, two-bedroom home in Sokal, Poland, they cleverly hide a Jewish family of two brothers and their wives in their pigsty out back, a Jewish doctor with his wife and son in a makeshift cellar under the kitchen floorboards, and a defecting German soldier in the attic--each group completely unbeknownst to the others. For everyone to survive, Franciszka will have to outsmart her neighbors and the German commanders standing guard right outside her yard.

Told simply and succinctly from four different perspectives, MY MOTHER'S SECRET is a reminder that there are, in fact, no profiles of courage and each individual's character is a personal choice.

This book was inspired by the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa, who, with her daughter, saved the lives of fifteen Jews in Poland during the Second World War. She also hid a young German soldier in her attic at the same time. Before the war, there were six thousand Jews in Sokal, Poland. Only thirty survived the war and half of those did so because of Franciszka.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
A story of hope and survival, My Mother’s Secret is a remarkable book inspired by true events that took place during the Holocaust in Sokal, Poland.

Germany invades Poland in 1939. Hitler’s popularity is growing and he seems to have a hypnotic power over the people. In 1941 things go from bad to worse when Jews lose their freedom and are treated horribly with brutal acts committed daily. The unbelievable sounds of screaming coming from the ghetto filled them with terror. Jewish families are living in constant fear each day, not knowing if it will be their last.

Franciszka is an incredible woman who displays motivation, cleverness and courage. She is a warm and loving mother to Helena, but is willing to risk their lives to save others. She hides two Jewish families and a German soldier in a small house and shed, and she never asks for anything in return. A touching story, indeed! This story is told in the simplest way and is a book quite appropriate for YA’s. 5 stars.

About the Author:  J. L WITTERICK - MY MOTHER’S SECRET, which is based on a true story, is J. L. Witterick’s debut novel.   It is a bestseller in Canada and has been published in a number of countries around the world.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Our Souls at Night By Kent Haruf⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Knopf
Release Date:  May 2015
Pages:  179
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover

Book Description:  A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.


Wanda's Thoughts:  I’m saddened that this is the last of Kent Haruf’s books - such an outstanding author.

I was deeply touched by this story-line. Again, it is old-fashioned storytelling told in the most simple, special, and pure way.

Louis and Addie, both widowed, are in their 70’s. They have been neighbors for a long time, but are only slightly acquainted. They are both lonely and lacking companionship as they embark on an unusual, but touching relationship. The message is powerful as they share their memories, secrets, and regrets, talking to each other late into the night.

This story is both beautiful and bittersweet with endearing characters that you’ll surrender you heart to. Simply superb! 5 stars.

About the Author: Kent Haruf was born in eastern Colorado. He received his Bachelors of Arts in literature from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965 and his Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973. For two years, he taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps and his other jobs have included a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado, a hospital in Arizona, a library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, and universities in Nebraska and Illinois.

Haruf is the author of Plainsong, which received the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction, and The New Yorker Book Award. Plainsong was also a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award. His novel, The Tie That Binds, received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the Pen/Hemingway Foundation. In 2006, Haruf was awarded the Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

All of his novels are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Holt is loosely based on Yuma, Colorado, an early residence of Haruf in the 1980s.

Haruf lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado, with their three daughters. He died of cancer on November 30, 2014.

Friday, October 2, 2015

WATER FROM MY HEART By Charles Martin⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Center Street
Date of Publication:  May 19, 2015
Pages:  368
Genre:  Fiction
Format:  Hardcover

About the Book: 
New York Times bestselling author Charles Martin's breathtaking novel of love and redemption.Charlie Finn had to grow up fast, living alone by age sixteen. Highly intelligent, he earned a life-changing scholarship to Harvard, where he learned how to survive and thrive on the outskirts of privileged society. That skill served him well in the cutthroat business world, as it does in more lucrative but dangerous ventures he now operates off the coast of Miami. Charlie tries to separate relationships from work. But when his choices produce devastating consequences, he sets out to right wrongs, traveling to Central America where he will meet those who have paid for his actions, including a woman and her young daughter. Will their fated encounter present Charlie with a way to seek the redemption he thought was impossible--and free his heart to love one woman as he never knew he could?

 Wanda's Thoughts:
 I’m definitely in the minority on this one.  It was obvious from the get-go that this book and I were not a good fit, and I didn’t feel particularly satisfied at the conclusion.  I found the plot drawn out, especially the first half, and the story-line a bit incredulous.  I had to work to get through this one --- cumbersome and plodding with the plot shifting from past to present. 

On a positive note – there were some rich and powerful scenes with rather intense drama.  I was very moved by the scene between Shelly and Charlie on the beach.  There was also a message of hope and redemption, and a romance and relationships that tie it all together. 

I’m a big fan of this author, but this one just failed to pull me in.  My rating – 3.5 stars.


About the Author: 
Married to Christy. Father of three boys.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

THE FORGOTTEN SEAMSTRESS By Liz Trenow⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date:  May 2014
Pages:  336
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback

Book Description: 
She Kept Her Secret for a Lifetime...

A shy girl with no family, Maria knows she's lucky to have landed in the sewing room of the royal household. Before World War I casts its shadow, she catches the eye of the Prince of Wales, a glamorous and intense gentleman. But her life takes a far darker turn, and soon all she has left is a fantastical story about her time at Buckingham Palace.

Decades later, Caroline Meadows discovers a beautiful quilt in her mother's attic. When she can't figure out the meaning of the message embroidered into its lining, she embarks on a quest to reveal its mystery, a puzzle that only seems to grow more important to her own heart. As Caroline pieces together the secret history of the quilt, she comes closer and closer to the truth about Maria.

Page-turning and heartbreaking, The Forgotten Seamstress weaves together past and present in an unforgettable journey.


Wanda's Thoughts:  Maria and Caroline, separated by decades, but their stories are brought together because of a special quilt. This is a story filled with hurt, deception, and regrets as secrets are revealed. You will lose all sense of time, as you become a part of this story.

Much of the story takes place in a mental asylum, Helena Hall, a place where madness has no respect for modesty. A life was being wasted because of a few short hours of feeling special, of being young and foolish. Her life was being taken away because she had been naïve and vulnerable, but there was nothing she could do to right those past wrongs.

The author creates a lot of character depth and good descriptive writing. Liz Trenow certainly knows the human heart – a masterful storyteller, indeed! This is truly a heartwarming story that I’ll not soon forget. I highly recommend with a 5 star rating.

About the Author:
Liz Trenow's family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years, and she grew up in the house next to the mill in Suffolk, England, which still operates today, weaving for top-end fashion houses and royal commissions.

It was the recollections of Liz's father about how, during the Second World War, the mill worked night and day weaving parachute silk, that inspired her first novel, "The Last Telegram". It is the story of Lily Verner, a young woman who has to grow up very quickly and learn to manage the stresses and trials behind the Home Front in the Second World War.

The love story at the heart of the novel is also based on real life events and characters. In 1939, when war was imminent, Liz's family were so concerned about the plight of their many Jewish friends and business colleagues in Europe that travel to England and work at the mill. One of them fell in love with a local girl and, after internment in Australia and fighting for the Allies in Burma, returned to work at the mill, married and had a family, and lived a long and happy life. Unfortunately the story in "The Last Telegram" is not quite so straightforward!

Liz says: 'It is a coming of age story, a tale of love and loss, and how we come to terms with the mistakes we make.'

Sunday, September 20, 2015

WHEN NIGHT COMES By Dan Walsh⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Bainbridge Press
Release Date:  October 2014
Pages:  246
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Format:  Paperback

About the Book:Jack Turner comes back to Culpepper to give a series of lectures for his old history professor. Within days, he starts having bizarre experiences at night. Like he's traveling back in time, experiencing the epic events in his lectures firsthand. He has no control over these experiences and can't make them stop. Joe Boyd thought he'd left big city crime back in Pittsburgh when he took a detective job in Culpepper, Georgia, a sleepy southern college town. His peaceful life ends when two students turn up dead in two weeks. The coroner is saying natural causes, but something doesn't add up. Rachel Cook, a teaching assistant at Culpepper, can't believe Jack is back in her life again. She's had a crush on him since she was fourteen, but Jack never knew. He instantly seems attracted to her, but she can tell...something is deeply troubling him. Watching all this from a distance is Nigel Avery. He's certain this experiment's about to unravel. It'll be his job to tie up all the loose ends when it does. Bestselling author Dan Walsh is known for page-turning storylines. Fans of his novels The Discovery and What Follows After will especially love...When Night Comes.

Wanda's Thoughts:  I was quite impressed with my first Dan Walsh novel. It was well written, although a bit predictable, but with interesting characters and certainly an intriguing premise. Walsh has a way of laying out the storyline in a clear and concise manner with plenty of unexpected revelations throughout. There were well-researched historical scenes built around World War II events, including Pearl Harbor, and the Doolittle raid of Tokyo.

Not all is what it appears as the story unfolds ---

Jack Turner was returning to Culpepper, his alma mater, as a lecturer on Pearl Harbor. He was looking for a diversion from his life and looking forward to making progress on his new book. Somehow Jack finds himself traveling back in time to 1941 to that fateful day in Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle raid of Tokyo.

Professor Thomas Thornton is Jack’s former mentor and the person responsible for Jack being at Culpepper. The Professor faces many difficult choices throughout as secrets begin to unfold.

Rachel Cook is a sweet, likeable character that works as a teaching assistant in the political science department. Her teenage crush for Jack has never gone away, but has gotten stronger since they reconnected.

The character of Nigel Avery, the villain, is shadowy, violent and relentless. He excelled at surveillance. He is hired to watch the Professor.

Sergeant Joe Boyd – Culpepper, Georgia seemed like a better place to raise his family – nothing bad seemed to ever happen here. He left the excitement of being a homicide detective in the Pittsburgh PD. I was somewhat disappointed in this character, as he seemed to shirk his responsibilities.

The last third of the book has a crescendo of suspense that kept me flipping the pages. It is the perfect choice for readers looking for suspense, historical events, and a touch of romance. My rating is 4.5 stars.

About the Author:  Dan Walsh's debut novel, The Unfinished Gift, won 2 Carol Awards and has been published in several editions and different languages. It continues to be an Amazon bestseller during the Christmas season 5 years later and has sold over 50,000 copies.

With the sequel, The Homecoming, book reviewers began to liken Dan's writing to Nicholas Sparks. Dan's 3rd novel, The Deepest Waters, earned his 3rd Carol Award for Best Short Historical. His 4th novel, Remembering Christmas became his first national bestseller and was a finalist for Inspirational Book of the Year.

Since then, Dan has written 10 more novels, including a 4-book fiction series with Gary Smalley. The Discovery and The Reunion, both stand-alones, were also named finalists for RT's Inspirational Book of the Year and both have over 250 5-Star reviews on Amazon. The Reunion has also been optioned for a movie by Team Two Entertainment.

Dan released his first indie-published suspense novel, When Night Comes, Nov 1st.

He lives in the Daytona Beach area with his wife, Cindi, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. They've been married for 38 years and have 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren.




Saturday, September 12, 2015

BENEDICTION (Plainsong #3) By Kent Haruf⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Knopf
Release Date: 2013
Pages:  258
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife must work together, along with their daughter, to make his final days as comfortable as possible, despite the bitter absence of their estranged son. Next door, a young girl moves in with her grandmother and contends with the memories that Dad’s condition stirs up of her own mother’s death. A newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and son, and soon faces the disdain of his congregation when he offers more than they are used to getting on Sunday mornings. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do all they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
This is good old-fashioned story telling at its best and certainly realistic fiction. Several stories are woven together with characters that all have problems of their own, and each will attach themselves to your heart. The characters are ordinary people, but all unique in their own way.

The story comes alive and unfolds in the small town of Holt and I truly felt that I was there.

Dad Lewis has just learned he has just a few short weeks to live.

Mary – Dad’s wife is such a caring person who tries to make his last few weeks meaningful as she reflects on the years gone by.

Lorraine is the daughter who is very devoted to her parents, but with problems of her own. She is in a relationship with Richard – a relationship that Dad does not approve.

Alice is the 8 year-old who will just warm your heart, and lives with her grandmother, Berta May. They are next-door neighbors to Dad and Mary Lewis.

Reverend Lyle is not an ordinary preacher. He is new in town with a wife who doesn’t support him, and a son with deep problems.

Willa and Alene Johnson are my favorite characters. They are longtime residents of Holt County and members of the church. Alene is a 60 year-old retired teacher and unmarried. She is the daughter of Willa and an interesting part of the storyline.

Benediction is beautiful, comforting, and poignant. Included are both sadness and happiness as the author demonstrates how he knows the human heart. I am amazed at the simplicity of the dialogue, and yet Haruf delivers so much impact. He certainly knows how to evoke the emotions.

This is my first time reading a novel by Kent Haruf and I’ve developed a deep respect for this late author and his writing skills. I simply loved this book and I highly recommend it. 5 stars.

About the Author:  Kent Haruf was born in eastern Colorado. He received his Bachelors of Arts in literature from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965 and his Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973. For two years, he taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps and his other jobs have included a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado, a hospital in Arizona, a library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, and universities in Nebraska and Illinois.

Haruf is the author of Plainsong, which received the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction, and The New Yorker Book Award. Plainsong was also a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award. His novel, The Tie That Binds, received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the Pen/Hemingway Foundation. In 2006, Haruf was awarded the Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

All of his novels are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Holt is loosely based on Yuma, Colorado, an early residence of Haruf in the 1980s.

Haruf lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado, with their three daughters. He died of cancer on November 30, 2014.


Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Minutes with Jesus By Sheila Walsh⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  August 11, 2015
Pages:  192
Genre:  Devotional
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description:  Spending time with Jesus will make all the difference in your busy day.

We balance so many things day after day--families, jobs, church, sports. Sometimes it feels like there is no time left for the most important thing: spending time with Jesus. But Sheila Walsh will help us do just that through these concise but substantial daily readings.

Each entry includes Scripture, a brief devotional thought, and a helpful takeaway. Even after just a few minutes of reading, you will have spent time with God's truth in a meaningful way, and be inspired to think on that truth and live in response to it the rest of the day.

Sheila is a master of short but profound thoughts such as "Peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ," which" "have been retweeted time and time again. Readers will be thrilled to find these kinds of encouraging words--along with Sheila's characteristic approach of combining honesty, vulnerability, and humor with Scripture--in "Five Minutes with Jesus. "They'll be reminded of how powerful it is to be in the presence of Jesus, and how much He wants us to stay close to Him every minute of the day.


Wanda's Thoughts: 5 Minutes with Jesus is a compilation of daily devotions that will give comfort, peace, and hope to those who have minimal time to spend reading Scripture. Each day a reading is accompanied by a selection of four or five verses of Scripture that you can leisurely look up and experience the word of God. These readings will encourage you to reflect on what the Word has to say to you and how you can apply it to your own needs. My rating is 4 stars.

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

About the Author: Sheila Walsh (05-07-1956) is a powerful communicator, Bible teacher, and best-selling author with more than 4 million books sold. A featured speaker with Women of Faith®, Sheila has reached more than 3.5 million women by artistically combining honesty, vulnerability, and humor with God's Word.

Author of the best-selling memoir Honestly and the Gold Medallion nominee for The Heartache No One Sees, Sheila's most recent release, The Shelter of God's Promises, has also been turned into a DVD curriculum and in-depth Bible study. The Gigi, God's Little Princess book and video series has won the National Retailer's Choice Award twice and is the most popular Christian brand for young girls in the United States.

Sheila co-hosted The 700 Club and her own show Heart to Heart with Sheila Walsh. She is currently completing her Masters in Theology.

Twitter @SheilaWalsh, facebook.com/#!/sheilawalshconnects

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Martha Stewart's APPETIZERS (More Than 200 Recipes) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️By Martha Stewart

Publisher:  Clarkson Potter
Release Date:  September 8, 2015
Pages:  256
Genre: Cookbook
Format: Hardcover

Book Description: 
Snacks, Starters, Small Plates, Stylish Bites, and Sips

Hors d’oeuvres made modern: Today’s style of entertaining calls for fuss-free party foods that are easy to make and just as delicious as ever. With more than 200 recipes for tasty predinner bites, substantial small plates, special-occasion finger foods, and quick snacks to enjoy with drinks, Martha Stewart’s Appetizers is the new go-to guide for any type of get-together.


Wanda's Thoughts:  This is definitely a notch above any other appetizer book I’ve used. Martha Stewart certainly adds a touch of class, with elegance, to the more than 200 recipes included. And the illustrations of the finished products are absolutely beautiful!

The contents include Snacks, Starters, Small Plates, Stylish Bites, and Sips. My favorite section is the Stylish Bites where I have marked many recipes to try. Also included are Golden Rules for Hosting a Party and Party Planning: Tips and Strategies.

I have several appetizer books, but this one will certainly be at the top of the pile as my go-to. If you are into entertaining you’ll love this book. I highly recommend with a 5 star rating.

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

About the Author: 
Martha Stewart is an American business magnate, author, editor and homemaking advocate. She is also a former stockbroker and fashion model. Over the last two decades Stewart has held a prominent position in the American publishing industry; as the author of several books, hundreds of articles on the domestic arts, editor of a national home-keeping magazine, host for two popular daytime television programs, and commercial spokeswoman for K-Mart. In 2001 she was named the third most powerful woman in America by Ladies Home Journal

Monday, August 31, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Bones Will Speak (Gwen Marcey #2) By Carrie Stuart Parks

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  August 11, 2015
Pages:  336
Genre: Christian Mystery/Suspense
Format:  e-book

Book Description: 
Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he's been appointed God's executioner.

In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim's grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a "lone wolf," a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood—and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race—not grace—provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
There is plenty of mystery and suspense in this intriguing novel. The author creates many dangerous situations as she cleverly weaves together the storyline. This is a stand alone read, but I wish I had read the first in the series. It might have created a more in-depth look into the characters.

The premise was certainly an interesting one, but the tempo varied throughout, dragging along until finally picking up in the last half of the book. At that point I was pulled in as the suspense escalated and continued to build into a stunning conclusion.

The dialog was effective with character development that came alive on the pages.

Gwen Marcey – A forensic artist, and a cancer survivor, struggling to raise her daughter alone. Gwen finds her life upended when she becomes involved in finding a serial killer who seems to be focused on her. She struggles to save herself and her daughter as the story takes on many twists and turns. Gwen is a strong woman, but vulnerable and sensitive.

Aynslee is the rebellious 14 year-old-daughter who is rather self-centered, and struggling to find a bit of freedom from her mom. Sometimes she was a little hard to like.

Beth is my favorite character. She is Gwen’s best friend and sidekick who has a lot of good advice for Gwen concerning forgiveness. I loved her quirky personality.

Solid writing, great characters, and plenty of action are all combined to make this book a great read! My rating is 4 stars.

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

About the Author: Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement as well as civilian participants. She has won numerous awards for career excellence. Carrie is a popular platform speaker, presenting a variety of topics from crime to creativity.


Monday, August 24, 2015

All the Beautiful Brides (Graveyard Falls, #1) By Rita Herron⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Montlake Romance
Expected Release Date:  September 15, 2015
Pages:  341
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense
Format:  e-book

About the Book: 
A young woman lies dead at the bottom of a waterfall, dressed in a wedding gown with a rose stem jammed down her throat. And in the small town of Graveyard Falls, the horrifying vision stirs a long-ago nightmare back to life…

FBI Special Agent Cal Coulter gets called in to investigate the murder, which bears a terrifying resemblance to a series of killings committed thirty years ago: three teenage girls were found dead at the waterfall’s base, all bearing rose stems in their throats. But the high school football star was convicted and imprisoned for those murders, leading Cal to suspect that the killer is still out there.

Now, the body count is rising again. The monster’s sights are set on counselor Mona Monroe, Cal’s best friend’s widow…and the woman he’s always loved. Can Cal stop the killer before Mona becomes the next victim?


Wanda's Thoughts:  This was my first time reading a book by Rita Herron and she truly knows how to spin a tale of mystery and suspense. The entourage of interesting characters kept me guessing about their true demeanor right through to the end. And the story moves at a quick, comfortable pace, with a crescendo of suspense all the way through. The author absolutely writes with a vivid imagination. Not all is what it seems as the story unfolds and the mystery unravels little by little with an intricate and well-crafted storyline.

Be forewarned there are a few sexual scenes and a handful of vulgarities, so if that bothers you, just know you’ll have some skimming to do. I must also add that sometimes the dialogue felt disjointed and rather clumsy. That being said, the net result is a book that constantly entices the reader to read just one more chapter before putting it down. I enthusiastically recommend it to readers who love suspense. 4 stars.

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

About the Author: USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Rita Herron fell in love with books at the ripe age of eight when she read her first Trixie Belden mystery. Although she wanted to be a writer then and actually scrawled her first novel at age twelve, she didn’t think real people grew up to be writers, so she became a kindergarten teacher instead. Ten years ago, she traded her classroom storytelling and puppets for a computer and now writes so she doesn’t have to get a real job.
Having sold over fifty books to date, she enjoys spinning spine-tingling romantic suspense tales filled with murder, mayhem, and spicy romance as well as sexy romantic comedies. Rita Herron currently writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue and she’s writing dark, gritty romantic suspense thrillers for Amazon Montlake.

Monday, August 10, 2015

THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE By Sonja Yoerg⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  NAL
Pages:  336
Release Date:  September 1, 2015
Genre:  Women's Fiction
Format:  Kindle

About the Book: 
A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.

With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.

They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.


Wanda's Thoughts:  A story of adventure, suspense, and romance, you will certainly be touched by a swirl of emotions evoked in this unique book. The finely layered novel provides vivid realism through the descriptive writing – both the well-described scenes and vibrant characters. I was completely absorbed from beginning to end in the storyline that never lost momentum. A compelling story, indeed!

Negative comments – I didn’t like the profanity used, finding it to be offensive, although it was used by just one character, so it is minimal. Also, I thought the ending was rather lukewarm concerning the evil and creepy Root brothers. I was expecting more suspense at the end.

I do highly recommend this novel and my rating is 4 stars.

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

About the Author:  My debut novel, House Broken, was released 6 January 2015 courtesy of Penguin/NAL. My second novel, Middle of Somewhere, will be out on September 1, 2015.

I grew up in Stowe, Vermont, the daughter of a ski instructor. In my first incarnation, I was a animal behaviorist who studied learning in blue jays, hyenas and kangaroo rats. I wrote a book about that. Now I make stuff up.

I run, garden, cook, eat, drink wine, then run some more. My husband and I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It's quiet and pretty, like Vermont.

Join me all over the place:
twitter.com/SonjaYoerg
www.facebook.com/SonjaYoerg
www.sonjayoerg.com


Saturday, August 1, 2015

No One Needs To Know By Kevin O'Brien⭐️⭐️⭐️

Publisher:  Pinnacle
Release Date:  July 28, 2015
Pages:  416
Genre:  Mystery

Book Description: 
A SECRET WORTH KILLING FOR…
In July 1970, actress Elaina Styles was slain in her rented Seattle mansion along with her husband and their son’s nanny. When the baby’s remains were found buried in a shallow grave close to a hippie commune, police moved in—only to find all its members already dead in a grisly mass suicide.

AGAIN…
Now, decades later, a film about the murders is shooting at the mansion. On-set caterer Laurie Trotter ignores gossip that the production is cursed. But then people start dying…

AND AGAIN…
As Laurie digs deep into what happened all those years ago, the truth emerges more twisted than any whispered rumor, as a legacy of brutal vengeance reaches its terrifying climax…


Wanda's Thoughts:  A web of deceit and lies, No One Needs To Know is constructed in a very complex manner, with more than one intricate crafted storyline. This is a story filled with disappointments, regrets, and loss as Laurie Trotter faces difficult choices and challenges.

Laurie’s life has changed drastically because of a foolish affair she had with Tad McBride while her husband was in Afghanistan. She is now a war-widow and mother of an infant son. Laurie is a trained chef and doubles as a waitress and short-order-grill cook at the Superstar Diner. She is respected around town, but her life is falling apart because Tad and his despicable brother are stalking her. Laurie is looking for a safe haven for her son and herself and finds a job in Seattle. She begins to work in a food truck and catering business owned by Cheryl Wheeler. And the story unfolds as tensions escalate and mysteries unravel little by little.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was certainly well written, with stressful and tense moments throughout, and there were great plot twists that kept me guessing. But I must say – I just didn’t find the storyline to be addictive or engrossing. It was just lukewarm. There was a large cast of characters that made it difficult to keep up. The premise of the book was intriguing, but slow moving. It could’ve been wrapped up 100 pages sooner. The ending was acceptable, but rather disappointing, and not very realistic. My rating is 3 stars.

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

About the Author:   “I'm shamelessly promoting my new thriller, NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW (look for it on 7/28), and I'm ready to answer your questions and dish some dirt! Thanks for checking out my books! ” Kevin O'Brien

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I'm Not Her By Cara Sue Achterberg

Publisher:  The Story Plant
Release Date:  August 4, 2015
Pages:  302
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Fantasy
Rating:  3.5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description: 
It was a Tuesday like any other. And then it wasn't. A simple encounter at a supermarket changed Carin Fletcher's and Leann Cane's lives – literally. Suddenly Carin, a pretty, self-absorbed, underemployed college graduate, finds herself living as Leann, an uneducated, perennially poor, obese checkout clerk, and vice versa.

Carin is at first horrified: she’s enormous, she can barely make ends meet, her husband is an abusive loser, and she's saddled with the kid Leann had when she was a teenager. Meanwhile, Leann is initially thrilled: she's escaped destitution, she looks like a model, and people treat her completely differently.

But as the days pass, it becomes clear that life isn't clear-cut for either woman. Carin finds herself attaching to Trevor, Leann's precocious son, and developing feelings for Jimmy, a fellow employee who treats her with the respect few others bother to give her because of her appearance. At the same time, Leann is living a life she's always wanted in a body she's always dreamed about, but that doesn't mean that all of her problems have gone away...and a new one is emerging with Carin's sometimes-boyfriend.

Both women are facing unknowable futures that neither could have imagined. Are they destined to live this way forever? And if so, where will it all lead?

A brilliant, nuanced, and surprising tale about the way the world sees us and the courses we are on, I'M NOT HER is a remarkably assured first novel that introduces a profound new storyteller.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
The premise of this book is certainly a strange one, definitely a fantasy, but I must say interesting. A freak accident occurs and changes the lives of two women, Carin and Leann. Somehow Leann ends up in Carin’s body and Carin ends up in Leann’s body. Leann and Carin have lived totally different lifestyles.

Carin was a shallow girl who only ever thought of herself. She had no financial problems and took many things for granted assuming everything in life would always be easy. She just wanted to live an exciting and glamorous life.

Leann was an extremely obese woman making a living as a cashier at a Shop N Save. She is married to an abusive man, who is a real loser. He smokes dope, gets drunk, and comes home only on weekends and demands all the money Leann has made. They have a six-year-old son, Trevor, who is sweet and innocent. He is also a smart and insightful child. Trevor certainly deserves a better life.

Leann, living in Carin’s body, assumes life will be perfect, but she soon becomes a rude, mean, and ugly person. She soon realizes she misses her son, Trevor. For Carin, it is pure hell living in Leann’s 350-pound body and living in poverty. But she soon finds herself caring deeply for Trevor, and her view on life soon changes. She realizes outward appearances are not so important as she faces difficult choices and challenges. And the story unfolds ---

This writer certainly has a vivid imagination, and I liked the humor and amusing incidents sprinkled throughout. This was a well-written book, however the tempo varied throughout, sometimes dragging along and then suddenly picking up. The characters stand out – perhaps because of their oddness. Each character had their own distinct voice and their own story to tell. There seemed to be more time invested in Carin’s story than in Leann’s. My rating is 3.5 stars. If you’re looking for a fantasy story, with nonsensical happenings, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Definitely an upcoming writer to keep an eye on.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, Cara Sue Achterberg, and Publisher, The Story Plant, in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  Cara Sue Achterberg is a freelance writer and blogger who lives on a hillside in South Central, Pennsylvania with her three remarkable children, three horses, a dog with compromised impulse control (but a sunny outlook), a frequently changing number of chickens, three perfect kitties, and a husband who can build, fix, or tolerate just about anything.

Her novel, I'm Not Her, will be published in August 2015 by Story Plant. A momentary twitch in the fabric of reality leads Carin, a beautiful, self-absorbed, underemployed college graduate, to swap lives with Leann, an uneducated, perennially poor, obese check-out clerk who is bagging her groceries when a Valentine’s display falls on Carin’s head.

Cara's essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, national magazines, websites, and blogs, in addition to local media. She enjoys teaching hands-on workshops on the Intentional Life and will happily address nearly any group on the subject. She has also led women’s retreats, facilitated book discussions, and taught classes on healthy cooking. 


You can keep up with Cara on facebook (Cara Sue Achterberg, writer) or twitter (@CaraAchterberg). You can find links to her blogs and inspiration for teen writers on her website CaraWrites.com.