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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT (The Restoration Chronicles #2) By Lynn Austin

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers
Release Date:  October 7, 2014
Pages:  477
Genre:  Religion

Reviewed By WC
Rating: 4 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Book:  The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple--but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges...this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.

WC's Review: 
Predictability has its own savor. The outcome of this entertaining Christian novel is obvious from the beginning, but the predictability enhances this tale of Jewish captivity in Babylon in the 5th and 6th centuries.

The Persian takeover of the Babylonians opens a window of opportunity for the Jewish captives to return to Jerusalem. Through the benevolence of King Cyrus, 40,000 Jews under the leadership of Zerubbabel return to rebuild the temple.

However, many remnants remained in Babylon, and this is their story. Led by the priest Ezra, who initially shuns his calling to lead the Jews, this time to establish their homeland, they once again begin the long journey, encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zachariah.

There are an abundance of leading characters, each with his own strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly, more than one strong woman plays a dominant role in motivating others to believe and act according to God's law.

About the Author:  For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother (age 98), and daughter concerning the change in women's roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve's Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Eight of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.


Publisher:  Cedar Fort, Inc
Release Date:  2/2014
Pages:  352
Genre:  YA/ Contemporary Fiction
Rating:  5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Book:  Aria's life is full of secrets--secrets about her mother's death, her father's cruelty, and her dream to go to Juilliard. When Aria meets Thomas, he draws out her secrets, captures her heart, and gives her the courage to defy her father. But when tragedy strikes and Thomas disappears, Aria is left alone to transform her broken heart's melody into something beautiful. Porcelain Keys is a captivating love story that will resonate long after the last page is turned. 

Wanda's Thoughts:  The author combines the strong dynamics of family relationships, a young love that blooms, an abusive father, and a gifted musician. This is a story that puts life into perspective with a strong theme of forgiveness. You will surrender your heart to the endearing characters, and the writer’s style is simply inviting and superb.

Had I known this was a YA book, I wouldn’t have downloaded it to my Kindle. However, I’m so glad I did. This is a beautiful and touching story that musicians will especially love. This is the story of Aria, an accomplished pianist, who is accepted into Julliard, and perseveres young love, loss, and sadness. Just superb!

About the Author:  SARAH BEARD is the author of Porcelain Keys, a YA contemporary romance. She has a degree in communications from the University of Utah and splits her time between writing and raising three energetic boys. She is a cancer survivor and hopeless romantic, and enjoys reading, composing music, and traveling with her family. She lives with her husband and children in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow Sarah on twitter at @authorsarahb, or at

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lighten up, y'all - Classic Southern Recipes made Healthy & Wholesome By Virginia Willis

Publisher:  Ten Speed Press
Release Date:  March 3, 2015
Pages:  232
Genre:  Cookbook
Rating: 3 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description: 
A collection of classic Southern comfort food recipes--including seven-layer dip, chicken and gravy, and mudslide cookies--made lighter, healthier, and completely guilt-free.

Virginia Willis is not only an authority on Southern cooking, a French-trained chef, and a veteran cookbook author; she is also a proud Southerner who adores eating and cooking for family and friends. So when she needed to drop a few pounds and generally lighten up her diet, the most important criterion for her new lifestyle was that all the food had to taste delicious.

The result is Lighten Up, Y’all, a soul-satisfying and deeply personal collection of Virginia’s new favorite recipes. All the classics are covered—from a comforting Southern Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grits to warm, melting Broccoli Mac and Cheese to Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie. Each dish is packed with real Southern flavor, but made with healthier, more wholesome ingredients and techniques. Wherever you are on your health and wellness journey, Lighten Up, Y’all has the recipes, tools, and inspiration you need to make the nourishing, down-home Southern food you love.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Lighten up, y’all includes 10 chapters of recipes with Southern flavor, but done in a healthy way – no need to feel guilty. Included are Smothered and Covered Chicken and Gravy, Shepherd’s Pie, Carrot Cake, and it goes on and on.

If you want to make changes in your diet for a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing flavor, you will probably benefit from this cookbook. I’ve read through every recipe. Many look interesting that I will definitely try. Unfortunately there are quite a few I will not – they just have little appeal to me. My rating is 3 stars.

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

About the Author: Virginia Willis is the author of the acclaimed cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all! Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2008). Her latest book, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company (Ten Speed Press, 2011) was rated as one of the top rated cookbooks of 2011. Virginia was also recently named by the Chicago Tribune as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ANGELS: Who They Are and How They Help - What the Bible Reveals By Dr. David Jeremiah

Publisher:  Multnomah Books
Publication Date:  2009
Pages:  240
Genre: Religion/Theology
Rating-5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Book:  The Remarkable Truth about the Agents of HeavenPeople have long been fascinated by stories of angel sightings, yet many contemporary beliefs about angels are based on misconception and myth rather than solide, biblical truth.

As he's done so brilliantly for decades, respected Bible teacher Dr. David Jeremiah uses Scripture to unveil the remarkable truth about these agents of heaven and their role in our world and our lives.

What are angels? What is their role in God's plan? Are they present? Do they appear? Do they give us personal insight about our work and our worship?

In this broad and thorough survey of Scripture, Dr. Jeremiah clearly and simply separates fact from fiction as it relates to angels. His enlightening findings are supported with illustrations and insights from prominent teachers, such as Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, C. S. Lewis, and more.

Dr. Jeremiah's down-to-earth style guides readers around the hype about angels and directly into the "substance of things unseen!"

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Over the years much has been written about angels. Unfortunately so much of it is rather far-fetched and just not reliable. I found this book to be very informative, but most importantly Scripture is the foundation used throughout. An interesting aspect explained is that we should not assume angels would serve or help non-Christians. The Bible describes angels as “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

Dr. Jeremiah certainly provides interesting insights on angels, and at the same time this well written book will inspire you. The Bible contains more than 300 direct references to angels, and you’ll soon realize there is more to angels than you could ever imagine.

Topics I found interesting –

• We should never worship angels.
• Angels are warriors for God.
• God sends his angels to deliver and protect his people.
• Angels are great comforters.
• Angels are messengers.
• Gender of angels is always masculine.
• Angels do not earn their wings.
• Angels are created beings – God made angels.
• Angels are innumerable, far more that we could count.
• Angels will be with us at the time of our death – escorting us to our final destination.

About the Author:  Dr. David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, and chancellor of San Diego Christian College. He is also the founder of Turning Point, a ministry committed to providing sound Bible teaching through national radio and television broadcasting. Dr. Jeremiah has authored numerous books, including the best-selling "Captured by Grace," "Life Wide Open," "My Heart's Desire," and "Sanctuary."

Monday, March 23, 2015

THE MEMORY HOUSE By Linda Goodnight

Publisher: HQN Books
Pages:  384
Expected Release Date:  March 31, 2015
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Book: 
New York Times bestselling author Linda Goodnight welcomes you to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, and a house that's rich with secrets and brimming with sweet possibilities

Memories of motherhood and marriage are fresh for Julia Presley--though tragedy took away both years ago. Finding comfort in the routine of running the Peach Orchard Inn, she lets the historic, mysterious place fill the voids of love and family. No more pleasure of a man's gentle kiss. No more joy in hearing a child call her Mommy. Life is calm, unchanging...until a stranger with a young boy and soul-deep secrets shows up in her Tennessee town and disrupts the loneliness of her world.

Julia suspects there's more to Eli Donovan's past than his motherless son, Alex. There's a reason he's chasing redemption and bent on earning it with a new beginning in Honey Ridge. Offering the guarded man work renovating the inn, she glimpses someone who--like her--has a heart in need of restoration. But with the chance discovery of a dusty stack of love letters buried within the lining of an old trunk, the long-dead ghosts of a Civil War romance envelop Julia and Eli, connecting them to the inn's violent history and challenging them both to risk facing yesterday's darkness for a future bright with hope and healing.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Fans of historical fiction and romance will be riveted and deeply moved by this rich and compelling novel. The author skillfully merges together two story lines, present day and civil war era. The writing is descriptive and inviting, drawing you into the character’s lives.

Present Day - Julia Presley was still feeling the horrors from six years ago when her six-year-old son, Mikey, had been abducted and never found. Her marriage had dissolved within a year of Mikey’s disappearance, and she was suffering loss, grief and betrayal. Julia was keeping busy at the point of exhaustion, taking care of a bed-and-breakfast she’d purchased. The Peach Orchard Inn was a two story Southern mansion, which had survived a Civil war and the century and a half since. Julia didn’t believe in ghosts and spirits, but strange things had been happening at the Inn, and history seemed to be lingering in the walls and crevices of the mansion.

Eli Donavan was a man with a criminal record who’d spent seven years in prison. He was carrying a lot of shame and remorse, even after six months of freedom. He’s been contacted that he has a six-year-old son. A son he’s never met and doesn’t even know his name. The boy’s mother was dead and it was up to Eli to raise him. Eli was certain he was not fit to be a father. He needed work to provide for his son and started at the Peach Orchard Inn doing odd jobs for Julia in exchange for room, board, and a small salary. Julia is all the things he appreciates in a woman, and a tender romance develops, but not without problems.

Civil War-1864 – Peach Orchard Farm had been home to three generations of Portland’s, including Charlotte Portland’s husband, Edgar, and their nine year-old-son, Benjamin. Charlotte had fallen in love with the house when she was a bride of sixteen. Edgar was a strange man, and she despaired at ever fully knowing him. He was not an affectionate man, full of hatred, bitterness, and with wounds running deep inside. She was never able to fully love Edgar. Union soldiers, who were in need of a house to use as a temporary hospital, had suddenly invaded their quiet country life.

Captain William Gadsden, a decent and caring man, led the Union soldiers. The Captain promised Charlotte that no harm would come to her or her family. The soldiers respected the Captain, and Charlotte was convinced that he was a good and godly man.

The Yankee Captain regularly sought out Charlotte and paid much attention to her and her son. The Captain certainly complicated her life – their paths should’ve never crossed. She was a woman married to a Confederate and was determined to stay faithful to her husband. She was fearful of displeasing God, even if being unfaithful was only in her heart. It was a forbidden love and they both were yearning for something out of reach.

And the story unfolds with the author cleverly tying together two story-lines with strong parallels. The Memory House is an uplifting, feel good read. My rating – 5 stars.

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

About the Author: NY Times and USA Bestseller, Linda Goodnight writes novels to touch the heart as well as to entertain. Her emotional stories of hope have won the RITA , the Carol, the Reviewer’s Choice, and numerous other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. She and husband have a blended family of eight, including two teenagers recently adopted from Ukraine. Many of her books are about family and children and rightly so, as she draws her deeply emotional stories from her surroundings, her great love of family, and from personal experiences as a nurse and teacher.
Readers may connect with Linda through her website at or on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

LAST ONE HOME By Debbie Macomber

Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Release Date:  March 10, 2015
Pages:  336
Genre:  Women's Fiction
5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description:  Debbie Macomber, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Blossom Street and Cedar Cove series, will win readers’ hearts with her utterly fresh and poignant new stand-alone novel.

In Last One Home, three sisters who couldn’t be more different try to repair old wounds—and discover that, through all the ups and downs of life, they remain family and can depend one another.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Last One Home is a very light and “comfy” read, but with strong family dynamics throughout.

Cassie had burned her bridges with her family, sisters, and past life. She had sacrificed everything that was important to her because she’d been young and foolish. She’d been a naive and rebellious teenager who’d been convinced she was doing the right thing by marrying the father of her baby. She’d lost all her self-esteem and pride and paid repeatedly through the years for her bad decisions.

And the story unfolds with interesting twists as Cassie and her daughter make a new life for themselves. Cassie returns back home to collect some leftover furniture from her parents’ home. And now, after all these years, she comes face-to-face with her sisters.

The author clearly understands the human heart as she tells this story of love, hope, and forgiveness. The endearing characters will capture your heart. Cassie was such an incredibly forgiving person, and her daughter Aimee was wonderfully portrayed and added sparkle and humor to the storyline. This is a deeply touching and beautifully told story with the sweetness of a new found love. 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Goodreads as a 1st reads winner.

About the Author:  Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 170 million copies of her books in print worldwide. Macomber brings to life the compelling relationships that embrace family, community and enduring friendships, filling her readers with a sense of love and hope.

Macomber is the author of more than 100 novels, most recently the instant #1 New York Times bestseller Starting Now, and The Inn at Rose Harbor; two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; two acclaimed children’s books and the Mrs. Miracle Christmas novels. She is also the author of beloved and bestselling series of novels set in Cedar Cove, Washington (such as 16 Lighthouse Road, 204 Rosewood Lane, 311 Pelican Court) on which Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, Hallmark Channel’s first dramatic scripted television series, is based. She is the recipient of a RITA® award; an RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a multiple winner of both the Holt Medallion and the B. Dalton Award. In 2010, the Romance Writers of America presented Macomber with their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her next novel to be published will be ROSE HARBOR IN BLOOM (August 13, 2013).

In addition to her bestselling novels, Macomber owns her own tea room, Victorian Rose Tea Room & yarn store, A Good Yarn, named after the shop featured in her popular Blossom Street novels. She and her husband, Wayne, serve on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, and she was recently named World Vision’s international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative.

A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington State (the town on which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  February 10, 2015
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical Fiction
4 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Book Description:  Irene and Rand come from very different walks of life. Will they find common ground in their fight to survive?

Irene has grown up in the jungle as a missionary with her Aunt Anita, but now she and countless others are imprisoned by Japanese soldiers at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines. Irene and her aunt are safe there, and she keeps busy with her duty of delivering censored messages to the camp’s prisoners, but like everyone else, she prays for the war to end and for her freedom. Rand is a wealthy, womanizing American, whose attempted escape from the internment camp has put himself and others in danger. When Rand and Irene’s Aunt Anita meet one another in the hospital, Irene learns more of his story and her heart is determined to save his family. But the danger outside the walls of the hospital worsens every day, and life in this exotic place is anything but luxurious. Can Irene find Rand’s family before they disappear forever? And can a humble missionary woman and an arrogant man find common ground in the face of their biggest fears?

Wanda's Thoughts:  Manila, Philippines – WWII – These are trying times where nothing is easy and nothing is as it should be. The horrors of war and survival are told in detail. The Japanese were horribly cruel and maintained strict control of the prisoners. Taking place in the Philippines, in a Japanese internment camp, this is a setting that I was not familiar with during WWII. Conditions were terribly grim and at times unbearable. This is a story of faith, survival and forgiveness told with slight religious overtones.

The writing is just what you’d expect from this author, well researched and easy to read. Liz Tolsma certainly knows how to weave historical facts into fiction. The middle of the story did seem to lose its flow, and my interest declined somewhat, but soon picked up and I became fully engaged again. I highly recommend with a 4 star rating.

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

About the Author: Liz Tolsma has lived in Wisconsin most of her life, and she now resides next to a farm field with her husband, their son, and their two daughters. All of their children have been adopted internationally and one has special needs. Her novella, Under His Wings, appeared in the New York Times bestselling collection, A Log Cabin Christmas. Her debut novel, Snow on the Tulips, released in August of 2013. Daisies Are Forever released in May 2014. When not busy putting words to paper, she enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family. Please visit her blog at and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@LizTolsma). She is also a regular contributor to the Barn Door blog.

Monday, March 9, 2015

DESPERATE ENGAGEMENT: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C. and Changed American History By Marc Leepson

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date:  2007
Genre: American History/Civil War
Reviewed By WC
4 Stars
About the Book: 
The Battle of Monocacy, which took place on the blisteringly hot day of July 9, 1864, is one of the Civil War's most significant yet little-known battles. What played out that day in the corn and wheat fields four miles south of Frederick, Maryland., was a full-field engagement between some 12,000 battle-hardened Confederate troops led by the controversial Jubal Anderson Early, and some 5,800 Union troops, many of them untested in battle, under the mercurial Lew Wallace, the future author of Ben-Hur. When the fighting ended, some 1,300 Union troops were dead, wounded or missing or had been taken prisoner, and Early---who suffered some 800 casualties---had routed Wallace in the northernmost Confederate victory of the war.

Two days later, on another brutally hot afternoon, Monday, July 11, 1864, the foul-mouthed, hard-drinking Early sat astride his horse outside the gates of Fort Stevens in the upper northwestern fringe of Washington, D.C. He was about to make one of the war's most fateful, portentous decisions: whether or not to order his men to invade the nation's capital.

Early had been on the march since June 13, when Robert E. Lee ordered him to take an entire corps of men from their Richmond-area encampment and wreak havoc on Yankee troops in the Shenandoah Valley, then to move north and invade Maryland. If Early found the conditions right, Lee said, he was to take the war for the first time into President Lincoln's front yard. Also on Lee's agenda: forcing the Yankees to release a good number of troops from the stranglehold that Gen. U.S. Grant had built around Richmond.

Once manned by tens of thousands of experienced troops, Washington's ring of forts and fortifications that day were in the hands of a ragtag collection of walking wounded Union soldiers, the Veteran Reserve Corps, along with what were known as hundred days' men---raw recruits who had joined the Union Army to serve as temporary, rear-echelon troops. It was with great shock, then, that the city received news of the impending rebel attack. With near panic filling the streets, Union leaders scrambled to coordinate a force of volunteers.

But Early did not pull the trigger. Because his men were exhausted from the fight at Monocacy and the ensuing march, Early paused before attacking the feebly manned Fort Stevens, giving Grant just enough time to bring thousands of veteran troops up from Richmond. The men arrived at the eleventh hour, just as Early was contemplating whether or not to move into Washington. No invasion was launched, but Early did engage Union forces outside Fort Stevens. During the fighting, President Lincoln paid a visit to the fort, becoming the only sitting president in American history to come under fire in a military engagement.

Historian Marc Leepson shows that had Early arrived in Washington one day earlier, the ensuing havoc easily could have brought about a different conclusion to the war. Leepson uses a vast amount of primary material, including memoirs, official records, newspaper accounts, diary entries and eyewitness reports in a reader-friendly and engaging description of the events surrounding what became known as "the Battle That Saved Washington."

WC's Review: 
Many times during the great skirmish commonly known as the American Civil War was the outcome decided by lack of follow-through. More than one general used the time-worn excuse that his men were just too tired.

General Jubal Early, more assertive than most Southern field commanders, used this excuse twice, both of them decisive. This entertaining account by Marc Leepson details the more recent incompletion at a location within 35 miles of Washington, DC., a place called Monocacy Junction during the summer of 1864, where Early battled the Union forces under the leadership of the more familiar Lew Wallace.

The resilient Wallace, who battled the superior army of Early for several hours, slowly realized he had to capitulate to save his small band of irregulars. Early failed to pursue, thus jeopardizing his ultimate goal of dealing a severe blow to the Northern capital, and negating his chances of capturing Lincoln.

But the purpose was served, Early later asserted, by forcing the massive army of General Grant in Richmond to divide in coming to the defense of Washington, DC, thereby extending the South's chances of survival. Some say his tactics only prolonged the final agony.

The first time Jubal Early used this excuse was during the first day at Gettysburg, where he failed to take advantage of Union chaos by neglecting to take Culp's Hill. So what if his army had just marched 30 miles from Harrisburg?

Civil War buffs, this is a must read for those of us who wish to complete our perspective of the finer nuances of the War for Southern Independence.  4 Stars

About the Author: 
Historian and journalist Marc Leepson is the author of seven books, including What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life (Palgrave, 2014), the first biography of Key in more than seventy-five years; Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General, a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette (Palgrave, 2011); Desperate Engagement, the story of the little-known but crucial July 9, 1984, Civil War Battle of Monocacy (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007); Flag: An American Biography, a history of the American flag from the beginnings to today (Thomas Dunne Books, 2005); and Saving Monticello, the first complete history of Thomas Jefferson's House (Free Press, 2001, University of Virginia Press, 2003, paperback).

A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, Marc Leepson is the arts editor, senior writer, and columnist for The VVA Veteran, the magazine published by Vietnam Veterans of America.

He has written about the Vietnam War and Vietnam veterans and other topics for many other newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Newsday, the Arizona Republic, Smithsonian, World War II, Vietnam, Military History and Preservation Magazines, Civil War Times, the Encyclopedia Americana, and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.

He has been a guest on many television and radio news programs, including All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, On the Media, History Detectives, The Diane Rehm Show,Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CBC (Canada), the BBC News Hour, and Irish Radio. And he has given talks at many colleges and universities, including the University of Maryland, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Miami, Appalachian State University, the College of Southern Maryland and Georgetown University.

He teaches U.S. history at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia. He graduated from George Washington University in 1967. He was then drafted into the U.S. Army and served for two years, including a year in the Vietnam War. After his military service, he earned an MA in history from GWU in 1971. He lives in Middleburg, Virginia, with his wife. They have two adult children.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Machine, Both Stovetop and Electric - By Bruce Winstein, Mark Scarbrough

Publisher:  Clarkson Potter

Release Date:  February 17, 2015
Pages:  512
Genre:  Cookbook

About the Book: 
The ultimate in pressure cooker books--with recipes for breakfasts, soups, mains, grains, vegetables, and desserts--each adapted for stovetop or electric models.The old-fashioned pressure cooker has been rediscovered by modern home cooks, both for its quick-cooking powers (dried beans are perfectly soft in 35 minutes; risottos are tender in 20 minutes) and for its ability to infuse foods with intense flavor (carrots become sweeter, meat more savory). The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book has recipes for every device, stovetop and electric, no matter the manufacturer. Whether you're seeking an adventurous array of spices, found in dishes such as Cherry Chipotle Pulled Chicken or Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple and Ginger, or pure comfort food, like French Toast Bread Pudding or Classic Pot Roast and Potatoes, you'll find the perfect recipe--each labeled by level of ease--to feed your family. This is the only pressure cooker book you'll ever need.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Wow!  I absolutely love this cookbook!  I’ve been using an electric pressure cooker for about three years, with rather inconsistent results.  This book, with its wealth of information, has given me a new sense of confidence and appreciation for pressure-cooking.  

I like the simplicity of the recipes – most are easy to prepare – but also included are more complex recipes that require a little more effort.  There is something for everyone, a wonderful reference book for beginners, and also more challenging recipes for those who have been into this style of cooking for a while. 

I truly believe pressure-cooking is a science, and it is so important to use correct ingredients and exact amounts.  There is no need to tweak these recipes, and really you shouldn’t.  Most of the recipes require easy obtaining ingredients, and I certainly appreciate that. 

For those of you who want a simplified way of cooking, and mouth-watering recipes with intense flavor, this book will inspire you to try pressure-cooking. 

More pictures would have enhanced this book, but that doesn’t alter my 5 star rating.  This is truly the ultimate in pressure cooker books!

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

Author Bio:  Bruce Weinstein owns Foodworks, a food consulting and advertising business in New York City, where he also lives. He writes and develops recipes for Nabisco, House of Seagram, Bols Liqueurs, Tropicana, and other companies.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson By Noble Cunningham, Jr

Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publication Date:  1988
Pages:  432
Genre:  American History
Reviewed by WC
5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Description: 
"A major contribution." Washington Post
The authoritative single-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most significant figure in American history. He was a complex and compelling man: a fervent advocate of democracy who enjoyed the life of a southern aristocrat and owned slaves, a revolutionary who became president, a believer in states' rights who did much to further the power of the federal government. Drawing on the recent explosion of Jeffersonian scholarship and fresh readings of original sources, IN PURSUIT OF REASON is a monument to Jefferson that will endure for generations.

WC's Review:  Some historians say that Thomas Jefferson was the greatest of America's founding fathers. Noble E Cunningham makes a splendid effort to support this assertion in this highly detailed account of Jefferson's pursuit of reason.

That Jefferson was a man of firm convictions has been recorded in numerous accounts of his life. What needs to be addressed in addition to his accomplishments, which Cunningham to a large extent has done, is Jefferson's fervor to ensure man's rightful place in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Pundits love to proclaim that Jefferson was a spoiled and haughty gentleman of privilege, that he did not truly give a damn about common folk, that he was merely a deist in his relationship with God, and that the horrors of manumission bothered him little.

Jefferson loved the Declaration of Independence, his Notes on the State of Virginia, and was most proud of his success in building the University of Virginia. A man of many talents, Jefferson loved Monticello, farming, architecture, his books, and his friendships with fellow founders Washington and Madison, most of all John Adams, and even with the sometimes recalcitrant Alexander Hamilton. Maria Cosway proved to be a delight as well.

Pay attention when reading this book, for there are many unknown revelations about Jefferson's character and his relationships with friends and foes alike. 

About the Author: 
Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., one of the foremost scholars of the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson, was born in 1926 in Evans Landing, Indiana, he served with the U.S. Army, 1944-1946, and received a B.A. from the University of Louisville in 1948. He earned his M.A. (1949) and Ph.D., with honors, from Duke University (1952). He taught at Wake Forest College and the University of Richmond before joining the history department of the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1964. There he served as associate professor, full professor, the Byler Distinguished Professor (1980-1981), the Frederick A. Middlebush Professor (1986-1988), and the Curators’ Professor of History (1988-1997). In 1997 he became Curators’ Professor of History Emeritus.

Cunningham was the recipient of several major awards and fellowships during his career. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Historical Publications Commission, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a recipient of the University of Missouri Thomas Jefferson Award, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Medal, and the Missouri Conference of History Award. In 1994 he was selected to attend a formal dinner at the White House with other Jefferson scholars and President Clinton.

Cunningham’s exhaustive research in the Library of Congress and the National Archives underlay his pathbreaking explorations of early nineteenth-century American politics. His insights provided the foundation for the work of today’s historians of Jefferson and politics. Cunningham’s prolific scholarship has shaped our understanding not just of Jefferson but of the very nature and development of party politics in the early Republic. Cunningham’s first book, The Jeffersonian Republicans: The Formation of Party Organization, 1789-1801, was published exactly a half century ago. He proceeded to follow the Jeffersonian Republicans as they became the majority party in Congress and took control of the presidency in 1801. The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power: Party Operations, 1801-1809 (1963) examined issues of patronage (both the formation of a policy and the difficulties of putting it into practice), party machinery on the national and regional levels, and the broader subject of the party and the press, a topic that is significant for early American politics. The Process of Government Under Jefferson (1978) remains the cornerstone for any analysis of Jefferson’s presidency and indeed teaches us much about the evolution of the institution of the American presidency. It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Over the course of his work, which included more than a dozen books and numerous articles, Cunningham developed a profound respect for the third president’s abilities to build a political party and a consensus. His biography of Jefferson, In Pursuit of Reason (1987), was translated into several languages, including Chinese.

—Barbara Oberg
Princeton University