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

Friday, January 30, 2015

GOD'S STORY IN 66 VERSES: Understand the Entire Bible By Focusing on Just One Verse in Each Book By Stan Guthrie

Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  January 6, 2015
Pages:  256
Genre:  Religion

Wanda's Thoughts:  
I’ve spent two weeks with this book using it as a daily devotional, and will continue on until I finish the 66 verses.  At times the Bible can be very intimidating and difficult to digest, But God’s Story in 66 Verses puts it all in perspective.  In addition to the key verses, there is a brief outline of each book, which will help refresh your memory – those so important stories of the Bible. 

This book would be a good introduction to those who are new to reading God’s word, but as a supplementary to the Bible, not in place of the Bible.  And to those of us who‘ve been studying God’s word for a long time, it will help us to continue to absorb and fit together the unified message.  But most importantly, as we read these 66 verses, we will be the recipients of spiritual nourishment.  My rating is 4 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review
About the Book: Grasp God's Word in sixty-six easy verses

The Bible can seem like a big, intimidating book--mysterious, archaic, and often hard to understand. Written over a span of fifteen hundred years, and completed nearly two millennia ago, God's Word sometimes feels like a mishmash of stories and literary styles. How can twenty-first-century readers--like "you"--make sense of it all?

Author Stan Guthrie's answer: begin by zooming in on "one key verse" for each of the Bible's sixty-six books. Seeking to bring clarity and simplicity to the study of God's Word, Guthrie has written a concise, easy-to-digest collection of wisdom anchored by one verse for each book, from Genesis to Revelation--a verse that summarizes or lays the foundation for that book, placing it in context with the rest of the Scriptures. Read this book, and you'll feel as if you've read the entire Bible--but you'll also yearn to continue exploring its depths and mining its riches on your own.

THE COCONUT LATITUDES: Secrets, Storms, and Survival in the Caribbean By Rita M Gardner

Publisher:  She Writes Press

Publication Date:  September 16, 2014
Pages:  206
Genre:  Memoir

Book Description:  "The Coconut Latitudes" is a memoir about a childhood in paradise, a journey into unexpected misery, and a twisted path to redemption and truth. Leaving a successful career in the U.S., a father makes the fateful decision to settle his wife and two young daughters on an isolated beach in the Dominican Republic. He plants ten thousand coconut seedlings and declares they are the luckiest people alive.

In reality, the family is in the path of hurricanes and in the grip of a brutal dictator. Against a backdrop of shimmering palms and kaleidoscope sunsets, a crisis causes the already fragile family to implode. "The Coconut Latitudes" is a haunting, lyrical memoir of surviving a reality far from the envisioned Eden, the terrible cost of keeping secrets, and the transformative power of truth and love.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
This is an intriguing story with vivid descriptive writing - simply captivating! The reader can easily feel the world the Gardner family lived in. With a strong theme of forgiveness, the writer takes you on a journey of sadness, survival, and healing. This is a heart-wrenching and riveting story about a dysfunctional family living in the Dominican Republic during turbulent times.

Rita Gardner's father makes a decision to leave a successful career in the states and move his family to a coconut farm, in a small village in the Dominican Republic, that he describes as Paradise. It is ruled by the dictator, Rafael Trujillo, and is in political turmoil.

Rita and her sister, Berta, were exposed to evenings of drunken rantings by their father that never seemed to end, and often turned into something scary. Their mother rarely exhibits any affection toward her daughters, and Rita sadly never receives much needed hugs from her mother. And the story unfolds ...

My only negative comment - I wished for more information about Mitch. What happened to him?

The Coconut Latitudes is an incredible and well written memoir that is certainly worth reading. My rating is 4+ stars. 

I received an autographed copy of this book from the author as a Goodreads winner.

About the Author: Rita M Gardner
Rita Gardner grew up on her expatriate family’s coconut farm in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Living in a remote coastal village, she was home-schooled and began reading, writing and painting at a young age. She returned to Florida to finish school and later moved to Northern California where she follows her passions – writing, trail hiking, traveling and photography. Her published essays, articles, and poems have appeared in literary journals, travel magazines, and newspapers. She has been awarded writing residencies at Hedgebrook (Washington) and Lit Camp (California.) She continues to dream in Spanish, dance the merengue, and gather inspiration from the ocean; her favorite color is Caribbean blue.
In December 2014,her memoir,"The Coconut Latitudes" was listed in "Best of 2014 in Expat Books" by The Displaced Nation, an international blog for creative expatriates worldwide.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: December 1, 2014

Pages:  460
Genre:  Christian Historical Fiction

Book Description: 
Julie Klassen Is the Top Name in Inspirational regency Romance

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play.

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

Wanda's Thoughts:  1817 - England - Regency Era - The Foster family was facing financial difficulties and needed a more affordable place to live. Pembrooke Park was offered to them, but the house had been vacated and boarded up for eighteen years. The terms were easy - they were to inhabit the old manor house for twelve months, with a staff of five servants to keep them comfortable. And the story unfolds with a mystery, romance, and many twists and turns.

The writing is what you would expect from Julie Klassen. It is well researched, and perfectly penned in her signature style. I always look forward to a new release from this author. I've read all of her books and always have high expectations. However, I'm sorry to say, this book was not for me. There were a few bright spots in the book, but few and far between. I was drawn into the storyline early, but soon lost interest. I found myself caring very little about the characters and eventually I began skimming - I wasn't able to stay motivated. It was difficult to keep track of the many characters, and the story should've been wrapped up at a quicker pace - too long.

Ending on a positive note, the story had a beautiful setting, and the conclusion was good, although rather predictable. The early books written by this author are still my favorites and had more of an impact on me. This one was just lukewarm. My rating is 3 stars.

About the Author:  Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Midwest Book Award, Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and has been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards, Minnesota Book Awards, and ACFW’s Carol Awards. She blogs at
Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Friday, January 23, 2015

LAVINA By Mary Marcus

Publisher:  The Story Plant
Expected Publication:  April 28, 2015
Pages:  358
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father's critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob's new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina's son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.

And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.

A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, LAVINA is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Murpheysfield, Louisiana – 1960’s – There was much discrimination and racial tension during the civil rights era. The black women cleaned, cooked, and many times raised the children of affluent whites as their own, before the days of civil rights and integration. The story demonstrates strong truths about racism during the era of Martin Luther King.

This book is not just about race, but also the struggle to find one’s identity and to become accepted. There are strong themes of heartache, hate, attachment, and love. I must say that I found slight similarities to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and yet they were so different.

The core of the book is formed by three extraordinary characters, and cleverly gives the story three different perspectives. The history of the day is dramatically told in their own distinct voices, which brought the story to vivid life.

Lavina – A lovable character that exuded strength, and managed to carry on and care about others despite an unjust system. She loved Mary Jacob like her own child. She really added humor to the story.

Mary Jacob hated her father most of her life. She’d always thought of him as having a hard and rigid heart, and knowing there was no love between them. The only reliable love and comfort she felt as a child was from Lavina, the family’s housekeeper. She thought of Lavina as her mother. Her biological mother was confined to bed because of being ill and there was very little interaction between them.

Billy Ray, son of Lavina, and not very likable, had been lonely for most of his fifteen years. Nobody had been in his life except his mother and he harbored so much hate and anger in his heart. But as he got older, music became a huge part of his life and he was finally able to express himself, putting his thoughts and feelings into his music.

The author certainly poured her heart and soul into this novel. I was drawn into the different narrative voices, but one of the most effective aspects of the book was the use of the vernacular – you can hear the characters speaking – just excellent!

One negative comment – I didn’t like the profanity used, especially by Billy Ray, finding it to be offensive, and it serves no purpose in my opinion. That being said, I found Lavina to be a compelling, touching, and thought provoking read. Just excellent! 4+ stars.
I received an advance reading copy of this book from The Story Plant in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn’t. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women’s Literary Journal and others.
My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.

Why I Write

Reading a book has always seemed to me to be the greatest magic trick. You hold an inanimate object in your hands, you look down and wham, you’re transported into an entirely different reality. You encounter people you know instantly and go to places you’ve never been before. Deep reading is a relationship of complete trust when it’s really working.

To say my best friends are books may be an exaggeration–but my favorite books are like best friends: they make me laugh, they entertain me, we have fun together, I find out appalling things, wonderful things and I’m continually moved.

I never get sick of them (and books never get sick of me) unlike my human friends. Books are also very low maintenance (unlike people) requiring no more than a nice shelf and a little dusting once in a while. And of course, books don’t have anything else to do other than hang out with me (unlike my flesh and blood friends and family who have such busy schedules).

I have an electronic reader now that I like, but am just a little afraid of, that stores thousands of books and that seems to me to be both slightly sinful as well as gluttonous but in the nicest possible way. When I get in bed with my electronic reader and it lights up the dark, I feel like a teenager with a flashlight.

All my close friends are so called creative types; consequently no one really except strangers or half acquaintances ever ask me why I became a writer. I was thinking about it this morning why writing has always seemed to me to be the only thing to do (other than painting or pot throwing or drawing, though I can’t do any of those) and that’s because writing is the only form of power I really trust. And doesn’t involve telling other people what to do. Which I never seem able to do with any kind of authority or enthusiasm.

Fahrenheit 451 is the scariest book that has ever been written.

I’d be insane or dead if it weren’t for books.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DREAMERS AND DECEIVERS: True Stories of the Heroes and Villains Who Made America By Glenn Beck

PUBLISHER:  Threshold Edition
RELEASE DATE:  October 28, 2014
PAGES:  320
GENRE:  History

About the Book:  The new nonfiction from #1 bestselling author and popular radio and television host Glenn Beck.


Everyone has heard of a "Ponzi scheme", but do you know what Charles Ponzi actually did to make his name synonymous with fraud? Credit for inventing radio usually goes to Marconi or David Sarnoff and RCA, but if you've never heard of Edwin Armstrong or Lee de Forest, you know only half the story.

You've probably been to a Disney theme park, but did you know that the park Walt believed would change the world was actually EPCOT? He died before his vision for it could ever be realized. History is about so much more than dates and dead guys; it's the greatest story ever told. Now, in this powerful follow-up to his national bestseller Miracles and Massacres, Glenn Beck brings ten more true and untold stories to life.

The people who made America were not always what they seemed. There were entrepreneurs and visionaries whose selflessness propelled us forward, but there were also charlatans and fraudsters whose selfishness nearly derailed us. Dreamers and Deceivers brings both of these groups to life with stories written to put you right in the middle of the action. You know that Woodrow Wilson was a progressive who dramatically changed America, but did you know that he was also involved in one of the most shocking national deceptions of all time? You know I Love Lucy, but the true story of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball is much better than anything they produced for television. You've heard of Upton Sinclair, the socialist author who gained famed with The Jungle, but it was a book he wrote two decades later that proved the depths he was willing to go to maintain his reputation.

From the spy Alger Hiss, to the visionary Steve Jobs, to the code-breaker Alan Turin, once you know the full stories behind the half-truths you've been force fed, once you meet the unsung heroes and obscured villains edited from our schoolbooks, once you begin to see these amazing people from our past as people rather than just names, your perspective on today's important issues may forever change. Find out why this series has become America's new go-to history book.

WC's Review:  Excellent, just excellent. Anyone who has a remote familiarity with this country's evolution has got to read Beck's fabulous truths about folks who had brilliant ideas for the advancement of society and those who wanted to control and manipulate the masses.

Desi and Lucy, Alan Turing the code breaker, the visionary Steve Jobs and computers, and the inimitable Walt Disney fit the first category. Everyone knows that Desi truly loved Lucy, but suffered from the insatiable lust that dominates the lives of creative geniuses. Later on the rest of that story...

Of far less character, if one can believe it, were terrorists Sacco and Vanzetti, the nefarious Charles Ponzi, communist ideologues Woodrow Wilson and FDR, of Richard Nixon and the despicable Alger HIss. Most folks don't remember who these anti-American heroes were. An understanding of the motives of these ne'er do wells is paramount to comprehending the utopian leanings of the present administration, under which our adolescent media continues to wallow in orgasmic frenzy.

Tom Brokaw should know better but doesn't. How can a man who writes about the greatest generation still breathe hatred for Nixon? Simple. Tricky Dick convincingly exposed the communist Trotskyism of the media savior Hiss.

What to make of Upton Sinclair? Does anybody read "The Jungle" anymore? Whatever happened to his blockbuster, "Boston?"

Beck gets it, as he always does.

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

Online, he is the editor of and the publisher of

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

LIONS OF KANDAHAR: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds By Rusty Bradley, Kevin Maurer

Publisher:  Bantam
Date of Publication:  2011
Pages:  280
Genre:  War/Military
Reviewed By WC

About the Book: One of the most critical battles of the Afghan War is now revealed as never before. Lions of Kandahar is an inside account from the unique perspective of an active-duty U.S. Army Special Forces commander, an unparalled warrior with multiple deployments to the theater who has only recently returned from combat there.

Southern Afghanistan was slipping away. That was clear to then-Captain Rusty Bradley as he began his third tour of duty there in 2006. The Taliban and their allies were infiltrating everywhere, poised to reclaim Kandahar Province, their strategically vital onetime capital. To stop them, the NATO coalition launched Operation Medusa, the largest offensive in its history. The battlefield was the Panjwayi Valley, a densely packed warren of walled compounds that doubled neatly as enemy bunkers, lush orchards, and towering marijuana stands, all laced with treacherous irrigation ditches. A mass exodus of civilians heralded the carnage to come.

Dispatched as a diversionary force in support of the main coalition attack, Bradley’s Special Forces A-team and two others, along with their longtime Afghan Army allies, watched from across the valley as the NATO force was quickly engulfed in a vicious counterattack. Key to relieving it and calling in effective air strikes was possession of a modest patch of high ground called Sperwan Ghar. Bradley’s small detachment assaulted the hill and, in the midst of a savage and unforgettable firefight, soon learned they were facing nearly a thousand seasoned fighters—from whom they seized an impossible victory.

Now Bradley recounts the whole remarkable story as it actually happened. The blistering trek across Afghanistan’s infamous Red Desert. The eerie traces of the elusive Taliban. The close relations with the Afghan people and army, a primary mission focus. Sperwan Ghar itself: unremitting waves of fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades; a targeted truck turned into an inferno; the death trap of a cut-off compound. Most important: the men, Americans and Afghans alike—the “shaky” medic with nerves of steel and a surgeon’s hands in battle; the tireless sergeant who seems to be everywhere at once; the soft-spoken intelligence officer with laser-sharp insight; the diminutive Afghan commander with a Goliath-sized heart; the cool maverick who risks all to rescue a grievously wounded comrade—each unique, all indelible in their everyday exercise of extraordinary heroism.

WC's Review: If, and only if, you have never read a book on the travails of the miserable country of Afghanistan,you might entertain reading this one. A good book for those who are supremely interested in the motivations of those who are assigned the onerous task of conducting, and often, mismanaging war.

The soldiers rise above such nebulous shenanigans through their commitments to duty and to their fellow man.
Major Rusty Bradley was wounded during the Battle of Sperwan Ghar in command of a Special Forces A-team, on his third combat tour as a Special Forces team leader. A native of North Carolina, he graduated from Mars Hill College and enlisted in the Army in 1993, serving as an infantryman for six years before earning his commission from Officer Candidate School in 1999.

AWAKENING: Daily Devotions from the Early Church By James Stuart Bell, Jr

Publisher:  Zondervan
Release Date:  October 2013
Pages:  400
Genre:  Religion

Reviewed By WC

Book Description:  In simple, updated language, Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell provides a year of inspiring readings drawn from the earliest teachers and writers of the church the Church Fathers. In every reflection you will be refreshed by deep wells of wisdom and spiritual insight.

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, where glib sayings abound, one yearns to read some deeper wisdom about life and faith on a regular basis. Well, here you have it, a compendium of wisdom, devotion, and biblical insight from some of the most thoughtful and faithful Christians from the early eras of the church's history. And in Facebook sized posts. That's a nice change of pace!

Mark Galli, editor, Christianity Today "

WC's Review:   This book of "Daily Devotions From the Early Church" propels the mind to wonder why folks today do not embrace these truths. Have we become more self-serving and embraced with the notion that man can enjoy a purposeful life without these insights into God and the nature of man?

Nearly 70 early Church Fathers share their reflections of deep wisdom and spiritual insights.

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in Algeria, who lived 76 years during the span of 354 to 430 AD, strenuously advised us to "enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers." Simply stated, pray without ceasing, even though God knows your needs."

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna during the early century, loudly proclaimed that "anyone who does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh is the antichrist." What insight!

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

Publisher:  Multnomah Books

Date of Publication:  2009
Pages:  528
Genre: Religion/Theology
Reviewed By WC

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

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

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

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

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

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

WC's Review:  How many times do we hear that if God is good, then why do we as his children or lost sheep have to tolerate evil and grievous suffering? A better question may be why we expect Heaven on earth?

Suffering develops character and prepares you to fully enjoy and appreciate your entrance into God's kingdom here on earth. Someone seriously grieving and on the brink of ending his life finds this hard to accept. But this is exactly what author Randy Alcorn says.

We suffer to honor God. "Make sure you have received God's gift of eternal life that will deliver you from all evil and suffering after you die."

Life here on earth before we meet God is but a blink of the eye, only shorter. Eternity is so long that we humans cannot grasp the concept. Alcorn suggests that through suffering we gain the proper perspective into spending eternity with our Lord and Savior as well as the Saints of the Bible and our loved ones and those who have accepted the glorious gift of salvation.

A must read.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken from the Eternal Perspective Ministries website,

Monday, January 19, 2015

THE GOOD GIRL By Mary Kubica

Publisher:  Harlequin MIRA
Release Date:  7/29/2014
Pages:  352
Genre:  Mystery

Book Description:  "I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Mia, the daughter of a very prominent family, is abducted and faces a terrifying nightmare. A very interesting premise, but it never really touched me, having very little suspense.

The story is told from multiple points of view, before and after, but never pulled me in until the last half of the book. I never felt an attachment or much empathy for the characters – they felt shallow, and I found the storyline to be just lukewarm, moving a bit too slowly.

The book is a good psychological mystery, with an ending that I did not anticipate, but I must also add that I found the ending to be disappointing. The book description sounded enticing, but unfortunately it never delivered. My rating is 3.5 stars.

About the Author:  Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. THE GOOD GIRL is her first novel.

GLORY IN THE NAME: A Novel of the Confederate Navy By James L Nelson

Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Publication Date:  2004
Pages:  432
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Reviewed By WC

About the Book: Then call us Rebels if you will we glory in the name, for bending under unjust laws and swearing faith to an unjust cause, we count as greater shame. -- Richmond Daily Dispatch, May 12, 1862
April 12, 1861. With one jerk of a lanyard, one shell arching into the sky, years of tension explode into civil war. And for those men who do not know in which direction their loyalty calls them, it is a time for decisions. Such a one is Lieutenant Samuel Bowater, an officer of the U.S. Navy and a native of Charleston, South Carolina.

Hard-pressed to abandon the oath he swore to the United States, but unable to fight against his home state, Bowater accepts a commission in the nascent Confederate Navy, where captains who once strode the quarterdecks of the world's most powerful ships are now assuming command of paddle wheelers and towboats. Taking charge of the armed tugboat Cape Fear, and then the ironclad Yazoo River, Bowater and his men, against overwhelming odds, engage in the waterborne fight for Southern independence.

WC's Review: 
Any fiction book written about American history is good. Any fiction book about the years of American ignominy between the years 1860 and 1865 is particularly good. This book is better.

Author James L Nelson is familiar with the glorious tragedy of the American Civil War, specifically the war of the ironclads. This familiarity makes for a readable book in that most students of the Southern War for Independence have a meager knowledge of naval warfare. The story of the scrap between the Monitor and the Merrimac is about it.

Nelson goes beyond giving a memorable history of refurbished tugboats and frigates into monstrous ships of impenetrable iron which, on both sides, gave their all on the Mississippi. The folks involved are real people.

Master mechanic Hieronymous Taylor, aboard the revamped Yazoo River tugboat, outshines Captain Samuel Bowater, although Bowater wins the girl. Taylor's proficiency with engines, pistons, drive shafts, and boilers takes center stage with his mastery of the violin.

Supporting characters are alive and serve a purpose. Moses is a deck hand, a master coal shoveler possessed with a rich baritone voice. If "Old Man River" had been written, Moses would have opted for a role on a showboat.

Robley Paine, Sr., is memorable in that he takes the battle of the mighty river into his hands after losing his sons at Bull Run. His three sons eagerly pursue the cause of the South as do the motley collection of deck hands under the guidance of the resilient Taylor.

About the Author: 
James L. Nelson (1962-) is an American historical nautical novelist. He was born in Lewiston, Maine. In 1980, Nelson graduated from Lewiston High School. Nelson attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for two years, and then transferred to UCLA, with the ambition of becoming a film director. Nelson, his wife, Lisa, and their daughter Betsy lived for two years in Steubenville, Ohio, while Lisa attended Franciscan University. They also have two boys, Nate and Jack. They now live in Harpswell, Maine, where Nelson continues to write full time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Publisher:  Minotaur Books

Release Date:  January 6, 2015
Pages:  320
Genre:  Mystery/ Historical Fiction

Book Description:  Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it's more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
1900’s England – The story opens as preparations are being made for Lord and Lady Montfords’ annual summer ball. Clementine Talbot, Countess of Montford, always expected her summer ball to surpass the spectacle of luxury of previous years. But Lord Montford and Lady Clementine had no idea that this year’s ball would be one of the most talked-about events of the season.

The morning after the ball, Teddy Mallory is found murdered, swinging from a gibbet in Crow wood. Teddy was the nephew of Lord Montford, the son of his sister. Lord Montford had been Teddy’s legal guardian and he felt grief stricken and anguish for a young man who’d been part of his family since he was a child, and a child who’d been terribly spoiled all his life. Teddy had always been a difficult boy, always at odds with his surroundings.

Someone had done the unimaginable, a murder had been committed, and probably by someone they all knew. And there was more – there were two unaccountable disappearances from the house. Violet, a housemaid, had mysteriously disappeared, and Lucinda, a houseguest, was missing. Both women were missing at a critical time and took on a darker significance because of Teddy’s horrible death. Could they also be victims?

And the story unfolds as the mystery takes on a myriad of obstacles, and ends with a surprising, but satisfying conclusion.

I loved the setting of the book, feeling there was a strong similarity to Downton Abbey, and I was immediately submerged into the era. The descriptive writing, with many vivid details, was absolutely beautiful, making me feel like I was right there.

Unfortunately, the middle of the story seemed to stall a bit, and my interest declined. The last part of the book did pick up and I became somewhat engaged again, but it felt like a long read to me. I also had problems keeping up with all the characters – so many – I was confused at times. It might have been helpful to have a list of characters at the beginning of the book. My rating is 3.5 stars.

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

About the Author:  TESSA ARLEN, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN is Tessa's first novel. She lives in Washington.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE: The Lakeshore Chronicles By Susan Wiggs

Publisher:  Harlequin MIRA

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Book Description: Sonnet Romano’s life is almost perfect. She has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. There’s nothing more a woman wants – except maybe a baby…sister? When Sonnet finds out her mother is unexpectedly expecting, and that the pregnancy is high-risk, she puts everything on hold – the job, the fellowship, the boyfriend – and heads home to Avalon. Once her mom is out of danger, Sonnet intends to pick up her life where she left off. But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even of that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake – award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger. So Sonnet embarks on a summer of laughter and tears, of old dreams and new possibilities, and of finding the home of her heart. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Return to Willow Lake plumbs the deepest corners of the human heart, exploring the bonds of family, the perils and rewards of love, and the true meaning of home. Profoundly emotional and resonant, this is Susan Wiggs at her finest.

Wanda's Thoughts:  This book had the potential to be a good story, but unfortunately it never quite made it. I felt it was lacking emotion - the story never touched me.

On a positive note, I loved the threads of hope and determination displayed in the storyline, and the relationship between Sonnet and her mother, Nina, was absolutely beautiful.

I read The Apple Orchard by this author a few months back, and found it to be just excellent. But Return to Willow Lake was less than compelling for me - just lukewarm. My rating is 3 stars.

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS UP: Miracles, Memories, and the Pefect Marriage of Sports and Television By Al Michaels, L. Jon Wertheim

Publisher:  Wm Morrow
Release Date:  11/18/2014
Pages:  352
Genre:  Biography
Reviewed By WC

Book Description:  One of America's most respected sportscasters--and the play-by-play voice of NBC's Sunday Night Football--gives us a behind-the-curtain look at some of the most thrilling games and fascinating figures in modern sports.

No sportscaster has covered more major sporting events than Al Michaels. During the course of his forty-plus-year career, he has logged more hours on live primetime network television than anyone in history, having covered all four major sports championships--the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA finals, and the Stanley Cup final--as well as the Olympic Games, the Triple Crown, and many more. He has witnessed firsthand some of the most memorable events in sports, and in this highly personal and entertaining account, he brings them all vividly to life.

Michaels's stories cover unforgettable chapters over the past half century--from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics' "Miracle on Ice" to the earthquake that rocked the 1989 World Series to the drama of what many consider the most exciting Super Bowl ever--Super Bowl XLIII between the Steelers and the Cardinals. Some of the biggest personalities on and off the field are here--Pete Rose, John Wooden, Brett Favre, Tommy Lasorda, O. J. Simpson, John Madden, Cris Collinsworth, Roone Arledge, Bill Parcells, Tiger Woods, Doc Rivers, Dennis Miller, and many, many more. Complementing access with insight, Michaels adds to the stories you thought you knew: Michael Jordan's eyesight; Howard Cosell's prickly, bombastic personality; even Peyton and Eli Manning's sibling rivalry.

From start to finish, Al Michaels gives us an up-close portrait of an industry that is--today more than ever--a vital part of our national culture.

WC's Review: 
"Do you believe in miracles?", Al Michaels exhorted nearly 35 years ago seated in a rickety hockey rink in Lake Placid, New York. The professional, thoroughly objective announcer, whose mentor was Curt Gowdy, let his demeanor slip for a moment and now is still recognized throughout the world for that brief moment in time.

Miracles, memories, and the perfect marriage of sports and television is the wording after the colon in the title. Perhaps. After Super Bowl III, at which the iconic Gowdy presided and at which Joe Namath not only predicted a Jets victory over the Johnny Unitas led aging Colts, but guaranteed it, why would anyone continue to watch?

Truly, the only tree upon which Gowdy could hang his hat was his public statement that the upstart Jets of the newly formed AFL had a chance. Other than that, Gowdy rambled and would have been better off pursuing Cape Buffalo on the Serengeti.

This book is not about Gowdy, who encouraged and admonished Michaels to never get "jaded." It's about the meteoric rise of the young Al Michaels whose chess pieces seemingly moved into place on their own.

Parts of his biography are tawdry and incomplete. Others are fascinating for the insight of the many folks Michaels got to know and always befriended. Although not so with aggrandizer Al Davis or alcoholic Howard Cosell, who at least knew enough to choose Muhammed Ali to support his hat.

"Dandy" Don Meredith is briefly mentioned as part of the original Monday Night Football crew. Michaels fails to inform us that Meredith is the author of the best sports quote of all time. "You know, Howie, there is more to life than football." He's right. There is baseball.

A readable book this is, as most sports biographies are. Most readers, supposedly, will figure out what Michaels made up.
Quotes By Al Michaels -
“was rooting for drama, a close game—and excitement. I loved the ebb and flow. I wanted extra innings. I wanted overtime. I wanted controversy, strategy, anything you could talk about with your friends for days afterward.”
Al Michaels, You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television
“Frank,” I said when I reached him late that afternoon, “do you remember in 1978 when you told me that Bill Walsh was the most impressive young coach you’d ever met?” “Did I?” he replied modestly. “And then you told me how impressed you were with that young attorney general in Arkansas, a guy named Bill Clinton?” “Well, I remember thinking highly of him,” he responded, still trying to play it down. “Yes, you did,” I reminded him. “So Frank, now that Walsh is headed to the Hall of Fame, and Clinton is headed to the White House, I’m calling you for only one reason. “Who do you like in the fifth tomorrow at Santa Anita?”
Al Michaels, You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television

WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND By Ellen Marie Wiseman

Publisher:  Kensington
Release Date:  December 31, 2013
Pages:  336
Genre:  Historical Fiction/Women's Fiction

Book Description:  In this stunning new novel, the acclaimed author of THE PLUM TREE merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty—and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Ten years ago, Izzy Stone’s mother fatally shot her father while he slept. Devastated by her mother’s apparent insanity, Izzy, now seventeen, refuses to visit her in prison. But her new foster parents, employees at a local museum, have enlisted Izzy’s help in cataloging items at a long-shuttered state asylum. There, amid piles of abandoned belongings, Izzy discovers a stack of unopened letters, a decades old journal, and a window into her own past.

Clara Cartwright, eighteen years old in 1929, is caught between her overbearing parents and her love for an Italian immigrant. Furious when she rejects an arranged marriage, Clara’s father sends her to a genteel home for nervous invalids. But when his fortune is lost in the stock market crash, he can no longer afford her care—and Clara is committed to the public asylum.

Even as Izzy deals with the challenges of yet another new beginning, Clara’s story keeps drawing her into the past. If Clara was never really mentally ill, could something else explain her own mother’s violent act? Piecing together Clara’s fate compels Izzy to re-examine her own choices—with shocking and unexpected results.

Illuminating and provocative, WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND is a masterful novel about the yearning to belong—and the mysteries that can belie even the most ordinary life.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
What an incredible story! What She Left Behind is a stunning and heart-wrenching story told in vivid detail. You will become entangled in sadness from beginning to end. The author does a beautiful job blending together two story-lines – Clara’s past, beginning in 1929, and Izzy’s quest in the present day. These two characters are wonderfully portrayed.

Izzy – For the first time since she was a child, 17-year-old Izzy had foster parents who cared. Her mother was doing time in prison for shooting her father and she was still living that nightmare. Izzy’s new foster mom, Peg, asked her to help at Willard, an old insane asylum, going through old suitcases to help safeguard anything that might be worth keeping before the buildings were condemned. They were uncovering buried secrets, handling personal belongings of long-dead, mentally ill people. Izzy becomes connected to Clara, a former patient at Willard, and her horrible story.

Clara was going to be trapped in an arranged marriage to a man she didn’t love. She wanted to share her life with Bruno and for the first time in her life she felt loved and cherished. Clara’s heartless father plots against her, lying about her sanity. She eventually ends up in Willard Asylum because she was in love with a man her father didn’t approve of. If you weren’t insane when you entered Willard you certainly became insane with the torture they endured.

And the story unfolds as Clara, with her fractured heart and wounded spirit, fights to be released from Willard. And the duel storyline between Clara and Izzy becomes tied together to reveal an informative read, but a very disturbing topic.

Superlative novel! This book I've added to my all time favorites. My rating is 5+ stars.

About the Author:  Ellen Marie Wiseman's debut novel, The Plum Tree, was released by Kensington Publishing on December 25th, 2012. Set in Nazi Germany, The Plum Tree is an epic story of human resilience and enduring hope that follows a young German woman through WWII as she struggles to survive poverty and Allied bombs, finds the courage to outwit SS officers, and risks everything trying to save the love of her life, a Jewish man. Find Ellen on Facebook at: or like The Plum Tree at: Fan Page:

Friday, January 2, 2015

BELIEVE: Living the Story of the Bible to Become Like Jesus By Randy Frazee

Publisher:  Zondervan
Release Date:  December 30, 2014
Pages:  512
Genre:  Religion

Book Description:  How do you think, act, and be like Jesus?

Whether you have first experienced The Story or are reading Believe on its own, we want to introduce you to the key truths of Scripture in a clear and accessible way.

Randy Frazee, Senior Minister of Oak Hills Church, developed this church-wide discipleship program to take you on a journey to become more like Jesus in your beliefs, actions, and character. This 30-week experience has three 10-week segments that walk you through the 10 key beliefs of the Christian faith, the 10 key practices of a Jesus-follower, and the 10 key virtues that characterize someone who is becoming more like Jesus. Each chapter uses Scripture text from the clear, accessible New International Version to help you live the story of the Bible.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Believe is strategically laid out to walk you through portions of Scripture that will help you to reap in a harvest of belief.

The first ten chapters answer the question, "What do I believe?" The second ten chapters answer the question, "What should I do?" And finally the last ten chapters included is the question, "Who am I becoming?"

This book will inspire you to believe with your heart the word of God and help you to apply it to your daily living experiences. Also included, at the end of the book, are questions that can be used for a group discussion. And there are transitions, written in italic, that offer an explanation to the Scriptures.

One of the chapters I found particularly interesting was the chapter on Peace. Key idea - I Am free from anxiety because I have found peace with God, peace with others, and peace with myself.

Believe is a well organized and informative read that can be a helpful guide in exploring your faith. My rating is 4 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of Believe from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  Randy Frazee is the senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. Oak Hills is one of the largest churches in America, where Randy teaches and leads in partnership with pastor and author Max Lucado. An emerging leader and innovator in spiritual formation and biblical community, Randy is the architect of The Story church engagement campaign. He is the author of The Heart of The Story, The Connecting Church 2.0, The Christian Life Profile Assessment, and coauthored Real Simplicity with his wife Rozanne.

THE UGLY DAUGHTER By Julia Legian and Dawn Burke

Publisher: Legian and Burke
Release Date: February 3, 2014

Pages:  202
Genre:  Memoir

Book Description:  The Ugly Daughter is a thrilling memoir, the gripping true story of a young girl who witnessed horrific murders and who overcame cruel abuse and unimaginable tragedies to find love and happiness.

Julia Legian's emotionally, harrowing and fascinating memoir reveals how she endured a series of unbelievable tragedies and heartbreaking abuse from the hands of her parents and great aunty, and how she rose above her horrendous past to have a happy life. It’s beautifully written with simplicity and shocking honesty. The Ugly Daughter is a wonderful reminder that regardless of your social background or environment you came from, you can rise above the tragedy and survive. This book also clearly demonstrates that anything is possible if only you have firm faith in God or your creator. It’s an amazing story of miracles, shocking reality of domestic violence, survival and extraordinary luck. This really is a powerful and touching story that must be read.

This volume covers Julia's life from growing up in Vietnam to the journey to Sungei Besi refugee camp when her family escaped the horrors and the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The second volume of the story, not yet released, is in production and has legal implications that have to be carefully managed. It covers their arrival in Australia and the challenges and nightmares that they faced there.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
A story of survival - this is the memoir of Loan Thi Nyugen, born in South Vietnam in the early 1970's, who endured so many horrific hardships as a child. She struggled to overcome many obstacles in her life, never giving up, while living in a dysfunctional family. Loan lived with parents who were described as ugly monsters, who abused her constantly. Her Dad became extremely abusive and cruel to her and Loan's anger and hatred grew with the way he treated her Mum. I was touched by the relationship between Loan and her grandmother, who appeared to have an unshakeable faith and an unconditional love for Loan.

This poignant and powerful story is shared in vivid detail, and displays unbelievable suffering and heartache that will not leave you untouched. It is a compelling story that blends acceptance and forgiveness from painful and difficult circumstances. A captivating read! My rating is 4 stars.
About the Author: 
My name is Julia Legian (aka Loan Thi Nguyen). I was born in 1972, South Vietnam. Or was it 1971? Nobody really knows so I prefer to err on the young side. In the 80s my family fled Vietnam as “boat people” and immigrated to Australia.

I'm happily married to my husband, Simion, and I have a wonderful, kind, and loving son, Jeremy.

I'm not a professional writer, just an ordinary person with an extraordinary story I'd like to share with the world