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

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Publisher:  Noontime Books
Release Date:  August 15, 2014
Pages: 416
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed By WC
About the Book: 
On a humid morning in 1806, seventeen-year-old Susanna Quiner watches helplessly from behind a tree while a band of Potawatomi Indians kidnaps her four older sisters from their cabin. With both her parents dead from Swamp Fever and all the other settlers out in their fields, Susanna rashly decides to pursue them herself. What follows is a young woman's quest to save her sisters and the parallel story of her sisters' new lives.

Over the next five months, Susanna tans hides in a Moravian missionary village; escapes down a river with a young native girl; discovers an eccentric white woman raising chickens in the middle of the Great Black Swamp; and becomes a servant in a Wyandot village longhouse. The man who loves her, Seth Spendlove, is in pursuit after he realizes that his father was involved in the kidnapping. Part Potawatomi himself but living a white man’s life, Seth unwittingly sets off on his own quest to reclaim his birthright. He allies himself with a Potawatomi named Koman, one of the band of men who originally abducted the Quiner sisters, but who now wishes to make his own retribution. Together they canoe through the Black Swamp and into enemy territory looking for Susanna, and while they travel Koman teaches Seth about their shared heritage.

Fast-paced and richly detailed, Thieving Forest explores the transformation of all five sisters as the Quiners contend with starvation, slavery, betrayal, and love. It paints a fascinating new picture of pioneer life among Native American communities, while telling a gripping tale of survival.

Review by WC:  Thieving Forest is a splendid page turner, filled with vibrant and resourceful characters who struggle for meaning in the Ohio Valley in 1806.

Set in the Black Swamp region of Ohio, bounded on the west by Fort Wayne and on the east by Lake Erie, the five Quiner sisters experience the horrors of kidnapping and the desolation of the dark wilderness. Led by the resilient and persevering teenage sister Susanna, who forages her way through the Thieving Forest to rescue sisters Naomi, Penelope, Aurelia, and Beatrice, this enticing tale captures the imagination and delves deeply into travails of wilderness survival.

Highly recommended for those of us who still harbor an appreciation of what our ancestors went through to build this great nation of ours.  5 Stars

About the Author: Martha Conway's first novel, 12 BLISS STREET, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, The Mississippi Review, Folio, and other journals. She has taught fiction at UC Berkeley Extension and the Online Writer's Studio at Stanford University, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

EVERGREEN By Rebecca Ramussen

Publisher:  Knopf
Publication Date:  July 8, 2014
Pages:  352
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Book Description: 
From the celebrated author of The Bird Sisters, a gorgeously rendered and emotionally charged novel that spans generations, telling the story of two siblings, raised apart, attempting to share a life.

It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband into the wilderness of Minnesota. Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a new baby boy named Hux. But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, the unthinkable happens: a stranger arrives, and Eveline becomes pregnant. She gives the child away, and while Hux grows up hunting and fishing in the woods with his parents, his sister, Naamah, is raised an orphan. Years later, haunted by the knowledge of this forsaken girl, Hux decides to find his sister and bring her home to the cabin. But Naamah, even wilder than the wilderness that surrounds them, may make it impossible for Hux to ever tame her, to ever make up for all that she, and they, have lost. Set before a backdrop of vanishing forest, this is a luminous novel of love, regret, and hope.

Wanda's Thoughts:  The writer takes you on a journey of sadness, survival, and healing when one tragic event changes the lives of three generations of a family. Evergreen is an intimate and heart-wrenching portrait of this family.

The unique characters were a bit quirky and somewhat eccentric, but for the most part I enjoyed them all. I loved the wilderness setting in Minnesota, but I must say I felt the living conditions were a bit primitive for this time frame – my only negative comment. This is a deeply sad story and brought to life by Rebecca Rasmussen’s beautiful descriptive writing. A riveting story by an amazing author, indeed! My rating is 4+ stars.

About the Author: I am the author of the novels Evergreen (forthcoming from Knopf) and The Bird Sisters (Crown), but I am also a mother, wife, teacher, pie baker, nature swooner, birder, lover of all things old...

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Monday, February 16, 2015

THE PRESIDENT'S CLUB: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity By Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster
Publication Date:  2012
Pages:  641
Genre:  American History
Reviewed by WC
About the Book:  The Presidents Club, established at Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration by Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, is a complicated place: its members are bound forever by the experience of the Oval Office and yet are eternal rivals for history’s favor. Among their secrets: How Jack Kennedy tried to blame Ike for the Bay of Pigs. How Ike quietly helped Reagan win his first race in 1966. How Richard Nixon conspired with Lyndon Johnson to get elected and then betrayed him. How Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter turned a deep enmity into an alliance. The unspoken pact between a father and son named Bush. And the roots of the rivalry between Clinton and Barack Obama.

Time magazine editors and presidential historians Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy offer a new and revealing lens on the American presidency, exploring the club as a hidden instrument of power that has changed the course of history.

WC's Review:  It is unsettling to sit back and consider that two of America's most incompetent presidents were the most sought-after advisers by successors.

Would you really want Nixon and Carter to advise you on how to run the country? Bring back wage and price controls and CDs that offer 18 percent while paying a mortgage of 21!

Nixon may have had experience and insight into foreign relations, however, threatening to subsidize Russia and China into submission, but Carter remained adamant in demanding that Arafat be recognized for his genius in keeping Israel confined and restricted in its role in the Middle East.

The exclusive president's club was formed when Herbert Hoover couldn't leave well enough alone. For reasons that remain unclear, Harry S Truman invited the architect of economic disaster back into the White House to give advice on how to keep the poor poor, a requisite which Carter-advised Obama is bringing to fruition.

Truman gained entrance into this fraternity by reluctantly advising Eisenhower, who really didn't much give a damn, while Kennedy followed suit with Harry and Ike, joined by Nixon's expertise as vice president.

Thankfully Ford and Reagan wisely remained passive.

Where do authors Gibbs and Duffy, of the New York Times, get their information into the delicious dalliances of this smarmy mutual admiration society?

This book is definitely readable, only for the mind-boggling, fairy tale relationships.  4 Stars

About the Author: Nancy Gibbs is the author of nearly 100 TIME cover stories, including four "Person of the Year" essays and dozens of stories on the 1998 impeachment fight and the 1996 and 2000 presidential campaigns. She wrote TIME's September 11th memorial issue as well as weekly essays on the unfolding story and its impact on the nation. Ms. Gibbs's article "If You Want to Humble an Empire..." won the Luce Awards' 2002 Story of the Year and the Society of Professional Journalists' 2002 Sigma Delta Chi Magazine Writing Award.
Ms. Gibbs joined TIME in 1985, first in the International section. She then wrote feature stories for five years before joining the Nation section.
She graduated in 1982 from Yale, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and also earned a degree in politics and philosophy from Oxford University. In 1993 she was named Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, where she taught a seminar on Politics and the Press. Her writing is included in the Princeton Anthology of Writing, edited by John McPhee and Carol Rigolot.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Publisher:  HQN Books
Expected Publication:  February 24, 2015
Pages:  384
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
About the Book: 
In Amish country, not everything is as simple as it appears...

After suffering a terrible betrayal, Allison Standish flees Philadelphia for the small Amish village of Laurel Ridge. There, she comes into an unexpected inheritance—her late grandmother bequeathed her a mansion housing various shops. Allison intends to sell Blackburn House, until one of her tenants, single father Nick Whiting, challenges everything she believes about her estranged grandmother and the Amish community, and she decides to stay—temporarily.

Soon, strange stipulations in her grandmother's will bring to Allison's door distant relatives and seething townsfolk who think Blackburn House shouldn't belong to an outsider. As anonymous threats escalate, Nick is protective of Allison, and she finds herself falling for the handsome carpenter. But when she discovers her grandmother's death may not have been accidental, Allison must face the truth that someone wants her gone…permanently.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Allison Standish, an interior designer by profession, was off to Lancaster County to claim the property she’d been left in her grandmother’s will. An Italian mansion, Blackburn House, dating from the 1850’s, was her inheritance left by a grandmother who’d never acknowledged Allison’s existence while she was alive. The bequest was conditional on certain requirements being fulfilled. The ownership of Blackburn House would be hers only after she’d run it successfully for a period of one year. If Allison failed to meet the challenge, ownership would be passed on to Brenda Standish Conner, a cousin.

Amish life was prominent in the area and had been since the 1700’s. Sarah Bitler, an Amish woman, and a very heartwarming character, had a shop in the mansion marketing quilts. She’d been rather close to Evelyn Standish throughout her life. Mrs. Standish had been a very proud and strong-willed woman, but had shown Sarah much kindness, setting her up with the quilt shop in Blackburn House.

Allison gets settled into Blackburn and meets Nick Whiting and his son, Jamie. And the story unfolds as bad things begin to happen. It seems someone wants Allison out of the mansion.

The author writes in a comfortable and well-crafted style making it a simplistic read and the conclusion was satisfactory, but rather predictable. Unfortunately this one just failed to capture my attention. I found myself caring very little what happened to the characters, and found myself skimming – it went on too long. My rating is 3 stars.

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

About the Author: 
Marta Perry is a Pennsylvania-based author of over 35 novels, many of them inspirational romances. She uses her rural Pennsylvania life and her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage in writing her books, especially in her Pleasant Valley Amish series for Berkley Books and her new Amish-set suspense series for HQN Books.

Marta and her husband live in a centuries-old farmhouse in a quiet central Pennsylvania valley. They have three grown children and six beautiful grandchildren, and when she's not busy writing her next book, she's usually trying to keep up with her gardening, baking for church events, or visiting those beautiful grandkids.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Publisher:  Riverhead Hardcover
Release Date:  January 2015
Pages:  336
Genre:  Mystery
Book Description:  A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

Wanda's Thoughts:  A great psychological read and definitely a great debut by this author!

I was swept into the compelling storyline early on and never lost interest as conflict and tension builds into a crescendo of suspense. The author cleverly ties together the core of the storyline, and events come to life through three different character perspectives.

Rachel would rather be on the train than almost anywhere else, watching the houses and their occupants along the track. It has become an imaginary world for her. The couples living in these houses represent what she lost and what she was at one time. Rachel is depressed and has lost her marriage to Tom because of her alcohol abuse – her drinking is out of control. She blames herself for the broken marriage and no longer feels desirable to anyone.

Megan is an attractive and seemingly happy married woman, not wanting to look back and remember her past life. Megan is making a new life with Scott, who seems to adore her, and they’ve been married for three years. But Megan seems to have no direction in her life and becomes restless with her marriage.

Anna is portrayed as a rather cold and uncaring person. She is married to Tom, Rachel’s ex, and they appear to be blissfully happy with their baby girl. But Anna hates living in the same house that Tom and Rachel had once resided. She is tired of being constantly harassed by Rachel and feels threatened by her, worrying for the safety of her daughter.

And the story unfolds as Megan mysteriously disappears, and through numerous twists and turns the author brings the story to a stunning conclusion. My rating is 5 stars. Don’t miss this one – an excellent read!

About the Author:  Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction.

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.