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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I'm Not Her By Cara Sue Achterberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  July 14, 2015

Pages:  309
Genre:  Psychological/Suspense
Format: Paperback
Rating:  4.5 Stars

Book Description: 
The truth could cost her everything.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It's temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game? Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
This book has it all – a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion. The writing is simple and flowing, and told from five character perspectives. It is composed of short, manageable chapters that entice the reader to read just one more chapter, and it held me captive throughout.

The character of Ava has such a generous heart and exudes so much warmth. Mitchell, Ava’s husband, is shadowy, violent, and relentless. He is smart, well educated, and seems dedicated to his family. He’s busy heading up fund-raising campaigns, donor meetings, and events for a college. Ava and Mitchell have been married a year and a half and everything seemed to be great. They have a one-year old son, Sam, and Ava has just adopted Jack, Mitchell’s eight-year old son from a previous marriage. Eventually Mitchell’s position at the college becomes more intense and things begin to become unbearable. Mitchell is not himself, no longer the same man Ava married, displaying anger and jealous behavior. Suddenly Mitchell is filing for a divorce and full custody of Sam and Jack.

And the story unfolds as tensions escalate and startling discoveries emerge with lies spinning out of control. There is a big crescendo of suspense that builds into a stunning conclusion.

One negative comment – The character of Jack seemed much too mature for his years. He was eight years old, but reacted to situations as an older boy – perhaps more like a twelve year old.

I highly recommend this book. It is a powerfully written, heartbreaking, and an absorbing book! I’ll be waiting for more books by this incredible author. My rating - 4.5 Stars

I received a complimentary book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:ACCLAIM FOR CENTER OF GRAVITY (July 14, 2015)

"A bold and poignant look into an imploding marriage, told in a chorus of assured voices. Center of Gravity is a compelling, fierce, and ultimately hopeful tale, and McNeill is a writer to watch."
- Josilyn Jackson, author of Someone Else's Love Story

“McNeill’s debut is a heart stopping, nail-biting suspense novel that held me captive until I read the last page."
--Colleen Coble, author of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge and the Hope Beach novels

"A breathless, gut-wrenching, satisfying page turner about the real superheroes of the world who stand up to evil and won’t back down."
--Erin Healy, author of The Baker's Wife

Laura McNeill has been a voracious reader since the age of four and would rather be stranded at the library than on a desert island. In her former life, she worked as an anchor and producer for CBS affiliates in Upstate New York and Alabama. Lauren adores her family, yoga, her new Electra bike, and flavored coffee. Center of Gravity is her first novel with Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

THE RELUCTANT MIDWIFE (Hope River #2) By Patricia Harman

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperback
Release Date:  March 2015
Pages:  432
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Book: 
The USA Today bestselling author of The Midwife of Hope River returns with a heartfelt sequel, a novel teeming with life and full of humor and warmth, one that celebrates the human spirit

The Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. Luckily, Nurse Becky Myers has returned to care for them. While she can handle most situations, Becky is still uneasy helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy.

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness-as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer Dr Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.

But becoming a midwife and ushering precious new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.

Full of humor and compassion, The Reluctant Midwife is a moving tribute to the power of optimism and love to overcome the most trying circumstances and times, and is sure to please fans of the poignant Call the Midwife series.

Wanda's Thoughts:  The Reluctant Midwife takes the reader on a journey through the Depression era. An engrossing story of hardship, hope, and determination, it provides much insight into what life was like during this difficult time. Solid writing that was effective and authentic, with vibrant character descriptions, made this story come alive.
Nurse Becky Myers had been Dr. Isaac Blum’s surgical nurse in Liberty, West Virginia, until 1930 when the bottom fell out of the economy.  Dr. Blum had been a brilliant diagnostician and surgeon, and they had once been a team with a strong bond between them.  But now, because of sad circumstances, Dr. Blum has become a mentally incapacitated ex-physician.  He requires complete care to survive and Becky has become his caretaker. 

The employment rate is now 25 percent nationwide, but much worse in West Virginia. 
For extra money Becky delivers groceries and reluctantly assists the midwife, Patience Murphy.  Sometimes there is money in helping at births, but it makes her so tense.  She also becomes a staff nurse for the Civilian Conservation Corps.  And the story unfolds ---

Simply captivating! An in-depth story that certainly puts the years of the Depression into perspective. I heartily recommend this book! 5 stars.

About the Author:  Patricia Harman has spent over thirty years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center.

She spent over a decade in the sixties and seventies in her wild youth living in rural communes in Washington (Tolstoy Farm), Connecticut (The Committee for Non-Violent Action) and Minnesota (Free Folk). During the Vietnam years, she and her husband, Tom Harman, traveled the country, often hitch-hiking, as they looked for a place to settle. In 1974 they purchased a farm with a group of like-minded friends on top of a ridge in Roane County, West Virginia. Here on the commune, they built log houses, dug a pond, grew and preserved their own food and started the Growing Tree Natural Foods Cooperative.

It was during this time that Patsy attended her first home birth, more or less by accident. "Some people are destined," she has written. "I was staying at a woman friend's commune when she went into labor and I ended up delivering my first baby." Soon after, Harman traveled to Austin, Texas to train with a collective of home-birth midwives. When she returned, she became one of the founding members of The West Virginia Cooperative of Midwives. Her passion for caring for women and babies led her to become an RN as the first step in getting licensed as certified nurse midwife. In 1985, with her children, a yowling cat and her husband she traveled north, pulling a broken down trailer to begin her training at the University of Minnesota where she received her MSN in Nurse-Midwifery.

For the past twenty years, Ms. Harman has been a nurse-midwife on the faculty of The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University and most recently West Virginia University. In 1998 she went into private practice with her husband, Tom, an OB/Gyn, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Here they devoted their lives to caring for women and bringing babies into the world in a gentle way.
When, in 2003, the cost of liability insurance for Obstetrics sky-rocketed from $70,000 a year to $110,000, the Harman's decided to give up deliveries. Though many loyal patients grieved the loss of their favorite mid-wife/physician team, the change in life style gave the author time to begin writing her first book, The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir.

Patricia Harman still lives and works with her husband, Ob/Gyn Thomas Harman, in Morgantown, West Virginia at their clinic, Partners in Women's Health Care. Though she no longer attends births, she provides care for women in early pregnancy and through-out the life span. She brings to this work the same dedication and compassion she brought to obstetrics."