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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

ON MYSTIC LAKE By Kristin Hannah

Publisher:  Crown
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 334
Release Date:  1999

Book Description:  When her husband announces that he wants a divorce after 20 years of marriage, Anne Colwater retreats to her childhood home in Mystic, Washington, where she rediscovers love, but also emotional hardship.

Wanda's Thoughts:  A strong theme of healing runs throughout as drastic changes come about in the lives of Annie and Nick. Through these life altering events the two of them gain strength from each other. 

The characters are vibrantly drawn and brought to life in this captivating read. I was touched by certain scenes - poignant circumstances that were emotional and intense. The story will certainly touch your heart. My favorite character was Natalie, the daughter who displayed a vivid personality, and had a lot of common sense beyond her years. There were several scenes between Annie and Natalie that just warmed your heart. 

My rating is 4 stars.

About the Author:  Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one novels, including the blockbuster Firefly Lane and #1 bestsellers Night Road and Home Front. She is a former lawyer turned writer and is the mother of one son. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii with her husband.

Friday, April 15, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️COUNTRY COOKING from a Redneck Kitchen By Francine Bryson

Publisher:  Clarkson Potter
Pages:  240
Release Date:  March 29, 2016
Format:  Paperback

Book Description: 
Few people know that national pie champion Francine Bryson got her start on the cooking contest circuit at age sixteen with a savory stuffed pork loin—that won first place. In Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen, Francine invites you into her home to share recipes for everything that graces her Southern table: chicken dinners, savory pies, Sunday suppers to serve the preacher, make-and-take casseroles, dips and other redneck whatnots, backyard barbecue favorites—and, of course, three chapters devoted to her celebrated baked goods, including her most-requested holiday sweets. Feeding people is what Francine loves to do, and here are simple instructions for 125 dishes with 60 color photographs to help you to bring her Southern charm to your table.

Wanda's Thoughts:  I instantly loved this cookbook and I know it is one I will use often. So far I’ve tried just two recipes – Cheeseburger Pie and Meatloaf – and they were both delicious! The Meatloaf is the most flavorful I’ve ever eaten – just superb! I already have most of the recipes marked to try.

Country Cooking is a compilation of scrumptious Southern recipes, and the ultimate in comfort food. The recipes are easy to follow and require ingredients that are easy to obtain, and many that you already have in your food-pantry. Most of the recipes are really simple to make, with clear instructions, and require only a few steps to complete.

I highly recommend this cookbook. You will truly be inspired to try the many mouth-watering recipes. 5 stars

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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

⭐️⭐️THE JAPANESE LOVER By Isabel Allende

Publisher:  Atria Books
Release Date:  November 2015
Pages:  336
Format:  Hardcover
Genre:  Historical Fiction

About the Book: 
From New York Times and internationally bestselling author Isabel Allende, an exquisitely crafted love story and multigenerational epic that sweeps from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during the Second World War.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the Spirits, The Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
The Japanese Lover is the story of Alma Belasco. In 1939 Alma’s parents send her to San Francisco to live with wealthy relatives. It was there that she met Ichimei Fukuda, the son of their Japanese gardener. Their relationship is formed early on as children and continues through the rest of their lives.

And the story unfolds over a period of many years and Alma is living in Lark House, an elderly care facility. It is there that she meets Irina Bazili. Irina assists the elderly residents with their daily routines. Irina and Alma connect and secrets are slowly revealed.

The premise of this book was a good one, but unfortunately it never came together.

I found the book to be disappointing on multiple levels – the characters were shallow and the dialogue was flat. I found myself caring very little to what happened to both the story and the characters. The tempo of the story line moved at a very slow pace with too many unnecessary details. There were multiple subjects that went nowhere and the story felt disjointed. There was just nothing that swept me away or evoked many emotions.

On a positive note – there was historical information woven into the storyline that I found most interesting about the Japanese Internment during WWII.

My rating is 2.5 stars.

About the Author:Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at several US colleges. She currently resides in California with her husband. Allende adopted U.S. citizenship in 2003.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️MIDNIGHT ASSASSIN: A Murder in America's Heartland By Patricia L Bryan, Thomas Wolf

Publisher:  Algonquin Books
Release Date:  2005
Pages:  278
Genre: Non Fiction/True Crime
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
In 1900, Margaret Hossack, the wife of a prominent Iowa farmer, was arrested for bludgeoning her husband to death with an ax while their children slept upstairs. The community was outraged: How could a woman commit such an act of violence? Firsthand accounts describe the victim, John Hossack, as a cruel and unstable man. Perhaps Margaret Hossack was acting out of fear. Or perhaps the story she told was true—that an intruder broke into the house, killed her husband while she slept soundly beside him, and was still on the loose. Newspapers across the country carried the story, and community sentiment was divided over her guilt. At trial, Margaret was convicted of murder, but later was released on appeal. Ultimately, neither her innocence nor her guilt was ever proved.

Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf examine the harsh realities of farm life at the turn of the century and look at the plight of women—legally, socially, and politically—during that period. What also emerges is the story of early feminist Susan Glaspell, who covered the Hossack case as a young reporter and later used it as the basis for her acclaimed work “ A Jury of Her Peers.”

Midnight Assassin expertly renders the American character and experience: our obsession with crime, how justice is achieved, and the powerful influence of the media.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
1900 - Iowa - a gruesome murder of an Iowa farmer takes place - a crime that would never be solved. John Hossack's murder was described as being one of the most awful things to ever happen in the state of Iowa. This was a tragic case, not only for the victim and the accused, but also for the family.

There was a long history of conflict in the Hossack family, with numerous family quarrels. John Hossack was unpredictable and prone to bursts of rage. He was a man filled with deep anger and his bad temper could be easily triggered, especially by his wife. But he was remembered in the community as an honorable man and a good farmer.

Margaret Hossack was not popular in the neighborhood. She was a woman who did not make friends easily. It was a case built on circumstantial evidence. Her children surrounded her with loving support, not believing that their mother was capable of this violent murder. She seemed to be a typical farmwife, and committing such a violent crime seemed to be out of character for her.

What really happened that night? Who was the Midnight Assassin? Was Margaret Hossack's story of an unknown intruder plausible?

The Midnight Assassin is sad, disturbing, and eerie, but very slow paced. Most of the book was informative, but was not a real page turner, not having a good flow. I was tempted at times to put it to the side. On a positive note, the authors did their homework on research, and were able to weave together some interesting facts that were quite relevant to this horrible crime. There was some interesting insight on what it must've been like as a woman back in the early 1900's.

My rating is 3 stars - just lukewarm.

Monday, March 7, 2016

⭐️⭐️FEAR THE DARK (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit) By Kay Hooper

Publisher:  Berkley
Genre:  Fiction/Paranormal
Pages:  272
Release Date:  October 20, 2015
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
In New York Times bestselling author Kay Hooper’s new novel, an SCU team investigates a troubling string of disappearances. But how do you find someone who has vanished without a trace?

Something strange is happening in the small mountain town of Serenity, Tennessee. People going on routine errands never reach their destination. It’s as if they simply disappear. Over the past few weeks, it’s happened to five men and women—and now a child.

The local police chief calls the FBI, and a team from the Special Crimes Unit is immediately sent in. Agents Lucas and Samantha Jordan, partners in work and in life, have very different abilities. Samantha is clairvoyant and Lucas possesses a unique ability to find the lost or abducted. With them are new partners Dante Swann, a medium, and Robbie Hodge, a telepath.

The town is already on the edge of panic, but the mysterious events take a sinister turn when a body unrelated to the missing persons case surfaces and one of the SCU agents vanishes. Now, the team’s hunt for the lost has turned into something very personal…and very dangerous.

Wanda's Review: 
There are strange occurrences in the town of Serenity as people are disappearing without a trace. The FBI Special Crimes Unit is brought in to help with the investigation. They are agents with psychic powers who use their special abilities to find lost people.

Unfortunately I struggled with this book, finding it to be disappointing on multiple levels. There was very little depth to both the story line and the characters. I found myself caring very little to what happened to the characters and skimmed through parts of the book. I have many unanswered questions on certain aspects of the story line, and the ending seemed hurried and contrived. I regretted wasting my time on this book. 2 stars.

About the Author: Kay Hooper was born in California, in an air force base hospital since her father was stationed there at the time. The family moved back to North Carolina shortly afterward, so she was raised and went to school there.
The oldest of three children, Kay has a brother two years younger and a sister seven years younger. Her father and brother are builders who own a highly respected construction company, and her mother worked for many years in personnel management before becoming Kay's personal assistant, a position she held until her untimely death in March 2002. Kay's sister Linda works as her Business Manager, Events Coordinator, and is playing a major role in the creation and operation of The Kay Hooper Foundation.

Kay graduated from East Rutherford High School and attended Isothermal Community College — where she quickly discovered that business classes did not in any way enthrall her. Switching to more involving courses such as history and literature, she also began to concentrate on writing, which had been a longtime interest. Very quickly hooked, she asked for a Christmas typewriter and began seriously working on her first novel. That book, a Regency romance titled Lady Thief, sold to Dell Publishing in 1980. She has since published more than 60 novels and four novellas.

Kay is single and lives in a very small town in North Carolina, not far from her father and siblings. Deigning to live with her are a flock of cats — Bonnie, Ginger, Oscar, Tuffy, Felix, Renny, and Isabel — of various personalities who all like sleeping on manuscripts and whatever research happens to be spread across Kay's desk. And living amongst the many felines are two cheerfully tolerant dogs, a shelter rescue, Bandit, who looks rather like a small sheepdog, and a Sheltie named Lizzie.

Kay Robbins is a pseudonym used by her.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook By American Heart Association

Publisher:  Harmony
Release Date:  12/29/2015
Pages:  384
Genre:  Cookbook
Format:  Paperback

Book Description:  The classic cookbook for achieving heart health and wellbeing through a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat--updated and revised with 200 recipes (including 50 new to this edition)

Lose the bad fats, but not the flavor.

Now in its fifth edition, American Heart Association Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook provides the most up-to-date information on heart health and nutrition. Good-for-you food should also be satisfying, and the American Heart Association reveals how easy it is to replace the bad fats in your diet with healthier ones. This classic cookbook offers more than 200 tempting dishes, 50 of which are new, including:

·         Fresh Basil and Kalamata Hummus
·         Triple-Pepper and White Bean Soup with Rotini
·         Taco Salad
·         Hearty Fish Chowder
·         Chicken Pot Pie with Mashed Potato Topping
·         Balsamic Braised Beef with Exotic Mushrooms
·         Grilled Pizza with Grilled Vegetables
·         Stovetop Scalloped Tomatoes
·         Puffed Pancake with Apple-Cranberry Sauce
·         Mango Brûlée with Pine Nuts

The perfect companion for today’s healthy cook, this indispensable collection of recipes proves you can eat deliciously and nutritiously.

Wanda's Thoughts:
What a fantastic collection of recipes! 200 delicious recipes, and they are healthy for you without sacrificing flavor. I’ve tried five of the recipes included – Broccoli Cheese Soup, Rustic Tomato Soup, Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Ricotta and Goat Cheese, Macaroni Salad with Ricotta, and Garlic Chicken Fillets in Balsamic Vinegar. They were all delicious, and I have many more marked to try. I love the simplicity of the recipes, and most of the ingredients can be found in my food-pantry. I also appreciated the nutritional analysis included for each recipe. If you are counting calories this is very helpful.

Also included are helpful hints for staying healthy by understanding the fundamentals of good nutrition and how to apply them to your everyday life.

This is a cookbook that has certainly earned a special place in my kitchen. I whole-“heartedly” recommend it with a 5 star rating.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️CRIMSON STAIN By Jim Fisher

Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date:  June 2013
Pages:  410
Genre:  Non-Fiction/True Crime
Format:  Paperback

Book Description: 
CRIMSON STAIN is the shocking true story of murder in an Old-Order Amish community. The ritualistic murder of Katie Gingerich in rural Pennsylvania set into motion a clash of Amish and modern values about mental illness, domestic violence, and criminal justice. CRIMSON STAIN is a window into the private and mysterious world of the Old-Order Amish. This revised and expanded edition of CRIMSON STAIN tells the shocking and tragic story of the Gingerich family up to the present day. REVIEWS OF THE FIRST EDITION: "A truly unique contribution to the true-crime genre." Phoenix Book Review "A fascinating, heart-wrenching, and sobering account of the consequences of an untreated mental illness and its effects on a community that co-exists with modern society but is separate from it." Sunday Patriot News (Harrisburg, PA) "Fisher writes in a clear, highly readable style." Erie Times-News

Wanda's Thoughts:  This was a disturbing story that takes place in an Amish Brownhill community in Pennsylvania. It’s a very violent and depressing story that begins in 1985 when Ed Gingerich and Katie Shetler, an Amish couple, begin their married life.

Ed was a very heartless man, with a cruel streak in him. He hated farm work, was self-possessed, and rather independent. It wasn’t long until Katie was showing the effects of a marriage that had only given her misery. In 1993 the unthinkable happens when a very mentally disturbed Ed Gingerich, destroys his wife, Katie, in front of their children. This was a horrendous and very gruesome crime!

This is also a story of how the lives of that Amish community are changed forever, and how they suffered because of this horrific crime.

This very disturbing book profoundly moved me! This is a book that will make your heart ache, and it’s one you’ll not soon forget. It is not an easy book to read because of the graphic content. The author certainly did his homework with all of the details included. 5 stars.

About the Author:  Jim Fisher is a former FBI agent and professor emeritus of criminal justice at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he taught courses in criminal law, criminal investigation, and forensic science. He is the author of nine published works of nonfiction, including books on the Lindbergh kidnapping case, false confessions, scam artists, and forensic science. Two of his books were nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Awards by the Mystery Writers of America. He is the author of the popular Jim Fisher True Crime Blog (

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️THE MISTLETOE PROMISE By Richard Paul Evans

Publisher:  Center Point
Release Date:  December 1, 2015
Genre:  Fiction/Romance
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
A love story for Christmas from the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box and The Walk.

Elise Dutton dreads the arrival of another holiday season. Three years earlier, her husband cheated on her with her best friend, resulting in a bitter divorce that left her alone, broken, and distrustful.

Then, one November day, a stranger approaches Elise in the mall food court. Though she recognizes the man from her building, Elise has never formally met him. Tired of spending the holidays alone, the man offers her a proposition. For the next eight weeks—until the evening of December 24—he suggests that they pretend to be a couple. He draws up a contract with four rules:

1. No deep, probing personal questions
2. No drama
3. No telling anyone the truth about the relationship
4. The contract is void on Christmas Day

The lonely Elise surprises herself by agreeing to the idea. As the charade progresses, the safety of her fake relationship begins to mend her badly broken heart. But just as she begins to find joy again, her long-held secret threatens to unravel the emerging relationship. But she might not be the only one with secrets.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Quite magical! The Mistletoe Promise radiantly shines with the spirit of Christmas, a story of love and second chances. This is truly a heartwarming tale that will evoke many emotions. The premise was an interesting one, and it is written with simplicity and grace. My first time reading this author, but ready to read more! I highly recommend! 5 stars.

The Author: 

Richard Paul Evans

in Salt Lake City, Utah, The United States
October 11, 1962



When Richard Paul Evans wrote the #1 best-seller, The Christmas Box, he never intended on becoming an internationally known author. His quiet story of parental love and the true meaning of Christmas made history when it became simultaneously the #1 hardcover and paperback book in the nation. Since then, more than eight million copies of The Christmas Box have been printed. He has since written eleven consecutive New York Times bestsellers. He is one the few authors in history to have hit both the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists. He has won several awards for his books including the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️DRAWING FIRE (Cold Case Justice #1) By Janice Cantore

Publisher:  Tyndale House Publishers
Release Date:  May 2015
Pages: 416
Genre:  Christian Fiction
Format:  Hardcover

About the Book: 
One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart.With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby's best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she's anxious to talk to him about a cold case that's personal to her--one Luke is interested in as well.As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents' lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Abby Hart is a homicide detective in California and good at her job. When Abby was six years old she lost her parents in a mysterious restaurant fire, a homicide that was never solved. Abby is still haunted by this tragedy and is determined to find out who was responsible for murdering her parents.

The spiritual aspect of this book was very well written. It was so nice to read a book not filled with graphic violence and profanity.

The author’s experience as a police officer most definitely helped to shape this story line and make the characters realistic. The writing was solid and compelling action was provided to make this book a good read, and one that many will enjoy. However, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The book is readable, but not exceptional – just lukewarm. My rating is 3 stars.

About Janice Cantore:  A former Long Beach, California, police officer of twenty-two years, Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, including patrol, administration, juvenile investigations, and training. She’s always enjoyed writing and published two short articles on faith at work for Cop and Christ and Today’s Christian Woman before tackling novels. A few years ago, she retired to a house in the mountains of Southern California, where she lives with three Labrador retrievers, Jake, Maggie, and Abbie. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. Accused is the first book in the Pacific Coast Justice series, featuring Carly Edwards. Janice also authored the Brinna’s Heart series, which includes The Kevlar Heart and A Heart of Justice. Visit Janice’s website at and connect with her on Facebook.

Friday, February 5, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Playing with Fire By Tess Gerritsen

Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Pages:  250
Release Date:  27 October 2015
Genre:  Mystery/Historical Fiction
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
The story and two timelines evolve around a musical composition, a waltz that seems to leave a curse on everyone who hears it. The music was haunting, complex, and powerful, and it comes with a tragic history.

Julia Ansdell, a violinist and professional musician from America, is happily married with a three year-old daughter. She finds a piece of music that is handwritten in an antique shop in Rome. Julia’s life is suddenly changed because of this Incendio waltz.

Lorenzo Tedesco, an Italian Jew, showed great promise as a musician. His father had a luthier shop where the finest violins in Venice were made. Lorenzo becomes involved in a sad and tragic love story with Laura.

Much of the story-line takes place in Italy during WWII, and this was my favorite part of the story. There were rumors that unthinkable things were happening in Poland - reports of mass deportation and labor camps. Women and children were also being arrested and transported by train. Some of the rumors were too horrible to believe.

An orchestra was formed to drown out the noise of the dying. The purpose of the music was not to entertain, but to disguise and distract. It could never be too loud to hide the horrors of the Jewish people. The atrocities of WWII and the horrors of the Holocaust was a dark period in history.

And the story unfolds as the conflict and tension build. The past mingles with the present and the author very cleverly weaves this story together.

The author delved into WWII history and brought out the unbelievable ugliness of the Holocaust. Captivating throughout, this was a heartfelt tale that was elegantly told. The author certainly knows how to weave true historical facts into fiction. An amazing read! 5 Stars.

About Tess Gerritsen: 
Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.

While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, "Adrift", which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

Tess's first medical thriller, Harvest, was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Her suspense novels since then have been: Life Support (1997), Bloodstream (1998), Gravity (1999), The Surgeon (2001), The Apprentice (2002), The Sinner (2003), Body Double (2004), Vanish (2005), The Mephisto Club (2006), and The Bone Garden (2007). Her books have been translated into 31 languages, and more than 15 million copies have been sold around the world.

As well as being a New York Times bestselling author, she has also been a #1 bestseller in both Germany and the UK. She has won both the Nero Wolfe Award (for Vanish) and the Rita Award (for The Surgeon.) Critics around the world have praised her novels as "Pulse-pounding fun" (Philadelphia Inquirer), "Scary and brilliant" (Toronto Globe and Mail), and "Polished, riveting prose" (Chicago Tribune). Publisher Weekly has dubbed her the "medical suspense queen".

Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

Release Date:  August 4, 2015
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism.

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel's salvation is their maid Adelle's belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle's daughter. But Rachel's life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father's business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Fréderick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

Building on the triumphs of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, set in a world of almost unimaginable beauty, The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, bestselling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Fréderick is a story that is as unforgettable as it is remarkable.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
A fascinating novel! The Marriage of Opposites is based on Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzaro’s life that takes place in St. Thomas beginning in 1807.

Rachel Pomie was a defiant girl, never following the rules and doing what she was told. Rachel was close to her father, Moses Monsanto Pomie who was well thought of, and was well favored in all his endeavors as a prominent merchant. Her mother, Sara Pomie, was a stern and bitter woman with a sharp tongue. Rachel was never able to do anything that pleased her, and few people dared to go against her.

Rachel was married off at a very young age to Isaac Petit, a French Jew, who was 30 years older, with three children. His wife had passed away shortly after their last child was born. Their marriage would be a bridge for the two families, combining businesses and strengths. Her fate was to enter a loveless marriage to a sorrowful man, with three children. Isaac’s sudden death changes her life tremendously. She never loved Isaac; she was only twenty-nine, and too young to be a widow, but she was now responsible for six children.

Frederic, Isaac’s nephew, comes to settle the estate, and run the family business. Rachel was seven years older than he and had been through a lifetime of experiences in those seven years. She’d been a married woman, a widow, and a mother. Frederic seemed to cast a spell on her and she found herself longing for him, but a relationship like this could go no further. It was forbidden within a family. They were related only by marriage, rather than blood, but it could not happen. And the story unfolds as a forbidden love takes place between Rachel and Frederic.

Rachel’s son, Jacobo Camille Pizzarro, is a favorite son and a large and interesting part of the story line. He becomes a well-known artist of the 20th century.

The writing is strong, and the many historical details add a touch of depth. I loved the author’s lyrical style – absolutely beautiful! The story is so vividly told – a unique style of writing, indeed! I've found a new favorite author.  An exceptional read! My rating – 5 stars.

About the Author:  Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.


Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Weist. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel AQUAMARINE was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Friday, January 15, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️THE CHANGING SEASON By Steven Manchester

Publisher:  The Story Plant
Release Date:  February 2016
Pages:  288
Genre:  Young Adult/ Coming of Age
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He'd fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they'd do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn't truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, THE CHANGING SEASON is an experience to savor.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Billy, just graduating from high school, was searching for his calling. He was going to college in the fall, but was still undecided about his future. He wanted to serve a purpose that was meaningful. His life was making a big change, moving into a new season, and he was looking for fulfillment.

The Changing Season is a coming of age story about Billy and his loyal dog, his friends, and a first love. I loved the relationship between Billy and his dog – that loyalty and unconditional love. This is a story that will simply warm your heart. And the story unfolds when a tragic accident happens and lives and friendships are affected and futures are changed forever.

Steven Manchester never disappoints with his superb writing, from his descriptive scenes to his character development. The writing is strong, and the pace of the novel moves along with a few surprises along the way. The story is told in the most simple, special, and pure way. A special read, indeed!  My rating is 5 stars.

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

About the Author:  Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin' Chair. He is also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as the critically-acclaimed novel, Pressed Pennies, A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novella), Just in Time (novella), The Thursday Night Club (novella, released November 2014) and Gooseberry Island (novel, released January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. Visit:

Monday, January 4, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️ORPHAN NUMBER 8 By Kim van Alkemade

Publisher:  Wm Morrow Paperbacks
Pages:  381
Release Date:  August, 2015

Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback

Book Description: 
In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.

In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.

Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.

Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
They were just orphans. Institutional children, disposable, and nothing more than a number on a graph. It was like a concentration camp, but the difference was the Infant Home took care of the children. They were fed and clothed, and of course, the orphanage was not a death camp, but they were subjected to experiments for science.

Rachel was one of the orphans who suffered from these experiments, and the # 8 was embroidered on her collar.

The book alternates between two time-frames, Rachel’s life as a child, and 1954 when she is an adult, working as a nurse. She encounters Dr. Solomon, a new patient, and soon recognizes her as the woman who administered the testing on her as a child. Rachel remembers her time at the orphanage when she was subjected to much radiation exposure, and now she is suffering from the side effects.

This was a very informative and heart-wrenching story that pulled me in from the beginning. I never knew about these very haunting experiments performed on orphan children, and all for research. A very disturbing topic!

My big disappointment with the book was the major lesbian theme running throughout the story-line. I feel it should have been a part of the book description to make it known to the readers. Unfortunately it was not. My rating is 3 stars.

About the Author:  Kim van Alkemade was born in New York City and spent her childhood in suburban New Jersey. Her late father, an immigrant from the Netherlands, met her mother, a descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, in the Empire State Building. She attended college in Wisconsin, earning a doctorate in English from UW-Milwaukee. She is a professor at Shippensburg University where she teaches writing, and lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her creative nonfiction essays have been published in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, So To Speak, and CutBank. Orphan # 8 is her first novel.