Bergers Book Reviews

Mennonite on the Edge


Author: Cynthia Yoder
Publisher: CreateSpace
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 978-1523398898
Pages: 232
Price: $10.95

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MaryJo is recently married and has just moved to New York City with her new husband, Adam. Although she seems to be settled in their tiny Manhattan apartment, she finds herself growing restless and wondering about her existence there. And when she hears upsetting news from home, her confusion grows.

Leaving her Mennonite life behind in Lancaster has suddenly taken on new importance in MaryJo’s eyes, and Adam doesn’t know what to make of it. Why is MaryJo questioning everything? Is she suddenly unhappy with him, and can their marriage survive her concerns about their fast-paced New York lifestyle?

Mennonite on the Edge is an interesting exploration of the abrupt geographical and spiritual changes this Mennonite couple experiences in uprooting themselves from their homes and families in Lancaster and moving to the big city. Unlike the traditional romance, this story begins with the courtship already completed, and now MaryJo and Adam have to learn to live with each other and find a common ground in their marriage. I really enjoyed watching them both grow through these struggles and find out what truly makes them happy.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 17, 2017 Posted by | romance | Leave a comment

Jump, Little Wood Ducks


Author: Marion Dane Bauer
Photographer: Stan Tekiela
Publisher: Adventure Publications
Genre: Nature
ISBN: 978-1-59193-585-8
Pages: 32
Price: $14.95

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Three little ducklings are huddled together safely in their nest, high up in a tree. Mama encourages them to jump, and join her and their other siblings at the bottom. But after each plea from Mama, the three ducklings express their concern about jumping from such heights. Finally Mama says exactly the right words for the ducklings to decide to make their leap. And soon they happily follow Mama off into the world.

Jump, Little Wood Ducks is filled with up-close photographs of wood ducks in their nests, in mid-air, in the water, and on the ground below. This cute story shares a humorous look at the bravery each duck needs to have in order to make their own leap to the ground. The closing pages explain the nesting habits and other interesting facts about wood ducks. This is a fun read for home and classroom use.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 14, 2017 Posted by | nature | Leave a comment

Murder Is Chartered (A Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mystery)


Author: Diane Weiner
Publisher: Cozy Cat Press
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 9781946063120
Pages: 180
Price: $14.95

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Susan Wiles is getting sleepy as she drives home on a winding mountain road, but she’s startled awake when something hits her car. That something turns out to be someone – Melissa Chadwick, the assistant principal from the charter school – and she’s dead. Susan calls her daughter, a detective, who immediately realizes her mom didn’t kill Melissa. She was already dead when she fell from the bridge above.

Several people could have wanted Melissa dead, and Susan puts on her sleuthing cap for another case. But as she gets closer to tracking down the killer, she finds her own life being threatened. Taking chances most sensible people would probably avoid, she finds herself in precarious positions, hoping to come out alive. But her persistence pays off, and justice is served.

Murder Is Chartered is part of the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mystery series. Since this was the first book I’ve read in the series, I had a hard time keeping track of characters who must have been introduced in prior books, and I wasn’t able to discern much of their stories to date. Susan’s behavior at times became a bit too much for me to believe, and I had a hard time with her recklessness. But readers who are just looking for a lighthearted mystery series will most likely enjoy her wacky investigation.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 10, 2017 Posted by | mystery | Leave a comment

Closed Casket


Author: Sophie Hannah
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-245882-7
Pages: 320
Price: $26.99

Author’s website
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Lady Athelinda Playford has just made a curious change to her last will and testament – one that will certainly infuriate her children. But although it’s highly illogical, she is determined to carry forward with her plans. Her new beneficiary, Joseph Scotcher, is terminally ill, and may die in the very near future.

On the evening of her announcement, a murder is committed – one that makes no sense at all. And someone claims to have witnessed something she can’t possibly have seen or heard. Lady Playford anticipated foul play and had on hand Detective Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool, who rush to solve the case, as several people had both motive and means to commit this murder. When the official investigator shows up, Poirot’s inquiries are halted, but the Belgian detective doesn’t let this pompous man dictate his actions, and proceeds to unveil the murderer.

Closed Casket kept me guessing, trying to unravel this perplexing case before Poirot revealed everything. However, as Agatha Christie often did, Sophie Hannah keeps some of the important clues off the page, and it’s up to the reader to do the research for themselves. This is an interesting and engaging story, but I prefer mysteries where everything is hidden in plain sight, and the reader has a chance to solve the case, also.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 7, 2017 Posted by | mystery | Leave a comment

Colorful Creations: Butterfly Mandalas


Author & Illustrator: Jess Volinski
Publisher: Design Originals
Genre: Art / Creativity
ISBN: 978-1-4972-0261-0
Pages: 80
Price: $9.99

Author’s website
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Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore, and Jess Volinski takes her Colorful Creations series to a new level of artwork. Butterfly Mandalas is filled with mystical mandalas combined with beautiful butterflies for us to fill in with crayons, markers, or colored pencils. Inspirational messages accompany this unique artwork. But in addition to these black and white line drawings, Volinski includes information on how to create a pleasing palette using the color wheel. Sample colored designs provide inspiration for our own masterpieces, and several color wheel diagrams help us choose the right colors to create mood or harmony.

Volinski’s designs begin as beautiful artwork and are just waiting for us to add our own personal touch to bring them to life. I highly recommend these adult coloring books.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 1, 2017 Posted by | art | Leave a comment

Poets & Saints


Author: Jamie George
Publisher: David C. Cook
Genre: Christian
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0998-1
Pages: 240
Price: $16.99

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In an effort to discover the histories of some of the more famous names in Christianity, Jamie George and All Sons & Daughters took an epic journey to Europe. While visiting the places these saints lived, they determined to create music to engage the listener in their visions, as well as tell their stories on the page.

Poets & Saints traces the lives of C.S. Lewis, Saint Patrick, John Newton, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Francis, William Cowper, Saint Augustine, George MacDonald, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Saint Peter. These saints’ stories unfold, along with the author’s musings on how their teachings speak to him today. A related CD contains music that corresponds to the readings on each of these great Christians.

Studying the lives of the saints encourages us today as we deal with some of the same struggles they lived with back in their own times. Poets & Saints captures their unique essence while also reminding us of their humanity, and the music is a beautiful accompaniment in reading their stories. I highly recommend this book and music set.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Christian, music | Leave a comment

Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul


Author: Bonnie Gray
Publisher: FaithWords
Genre: Christian
ISBN: 978-1-4555-9820-5
Pages: 400
Price: $14.99

Author’s website
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[Jesus said,] “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NABRE) When the world tugs at us and life feels too stressful, it’s hard to remember these words of comfort. Whispers of Rest is just what the frazzled soul needs, providing 40 days of God’s love to revitalize us.

Forty daily readings are organized into six sections: Being the Beloved, Choosing as the Beloved, Dreaming as the Beloved, Healing as the Beloved, Daring as the Beloved, and Shining as the Beloved. Each of these readings shares Bible stories, personal reflections, and inspiration, as well as questions to ponder and a challenge for the day. We’re encouraged to pray and journal our responses to God’s loving messages to us. In addition, Bonnie Gray has set up a Facebook book study group and inspirational videos and coloring pages that can be accessed at her website.

In the hustle and bustle of daily living, it’s hard to get quiet and remember just how much God loves us. Whispers of Rest provides a wonderful daily reminder. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Christian | Leave a comment

Author Interview: Lin Wilder

Bergers Book Reviews offers a warm welcome to Lin Wilder, who has stopped in today for a chat:

Why do you believe the Holy Spirit was guiding you home to the Catholic Church?

I’ve had to ponder this question because I have never considered it. Specifically, your last phrase: “home to the Catholic Church.” Consequently, my initial thoughts were to disagree. But yes, after a good deal of reflection, I realize that is exactly what happened: The Holy Spirit did guide me home to the Catholic Church.

Why do I know this to be true? Because at no other Church was that deep yearning filled, the recognition of the place I’d been searching for felt, the knowledge that finally, ‘I’m here’ appreciated: Home.

It’s a peculiar feeling, talking and writing about such deeply personal and often painful memories and experiences: Itchy, restless, uneasy. Exactly why I suppressed the promise I had made to my friend about writing my story. But okay, I asked for this, here goes.

Prior to my conversion to Catholicism, I ‘tried on’ numerous other traditions, faiths and practices. Far more than those I explain in the book. Many of them taught me helpful practices such as meditation during my Buddhist years. My years of attending the Unity Church introduced me to some interesting people and introduced me to useful information like MaryAnn Williams’ Course in Miracles. But like my experience with the Unitarian Church and all the others, it wasn’t enough, all the places I tried on for size felt incomplete. In retrospect, I realize that the Spirit was leading me on.

Only at that Benedictine Monastery in Massachusetts was I overwhelmed with the knowledge, understanding, counsel that yes, I was home. These are, of course, ineffable experiences; words are such a poor substitute but my certainty was and remains absolute. Knowing nothing whatsoever about Catholicism, I knew this was where I belonged. Finally. The place I had been looking for but only knew then, at that time and in that place.

What do you hope the reader will discover for herself in reading Finding the Narrow Path?

I know many people who are searching. Just as I was. And like me, cannot name what they seek. Therefore, we keep pushing in hopes that what we are doing will be enough for us to stop. Let ourselves rest. Whether we believe that our happiness lies in degrees, titles, money, books or fame, these things are empty, the satisfaction from the achievement only momentary. None of us is ever satisfied with them.

I hope that readers may see a piece of themselves in my story. Believe that everything which has happened to them can be used for a purpose far greater than our minds can comprehend- even the dark, evil things which we try to hide. And can begin to sense the extraordinary profligate love which is showered on each of us, by listening to that small, quiet voice. The one which keeps echoing in her mind, heart, and psyche.

And then choose to tell others the secret of their joy.

You’ve worked in hospitals for most of your career. What inspired you to begin writing medical mysteries?

We write what we know.

One day back in 2005, on a hike in the mountains behind my house in the mountains of northern Nevada, a cardiologist and cardiovascular researcher named Dr. Lindsey McCall appeared in my head and heart and wouldn’t let go. I could see her, literally. And I knew she was a woman who had never questioned her ability to do anything, anything at all. What would that be like, I wondered, having that kind of self-confidence?

Early in the writing of the first book, I decided to use the ‘rule’ for the classical novel: The indifferent narrator, someone through whom we learn about the foibles of the protagonist. What better twenty-first century ‘observer’ than an investigative reporter?

But once the characters are created, they take on a life of their own, I have learned. Kate Townsend refused to stay in the background, she gained flesh, bones and muscle as she sat beside me while I wrote. And she was far from indifferent.

And so it began.

How are elements of your faith revealed through your characters?

In the first novel, Lindsey has been forced to stop for the first time in her life. Once she experiences the loss of everything: freedom, fame, ability to practice medicine, the humiliation of a conviction for murder, Lindsey must deal with the demons she never knew were there. It’s a dramatized version of conversion. One that each of us faces to some extent. Right around the time that she appeared in my head, I read the quote of Mark Twain’s: Forgiveness is the fragrance shed by a violet upon the heel that crushes it. And knew this would be the title of Lindsey’s story.

I recall a conversation with my first spiritual director about love. I told him I knew nothing about it. I thought I meant about loving others but it was myself, I was talking about. I think forgiving ourselves is the first and most difficult step on the path to falling in love with Christ. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But what if I don’t love myself?

Indeed.

What are your plans for your upcoming novels?

Malthus Revisited: The Cup of Wrath will be released this fall. I had planned to return to some characters I fell in love with from the 2nd book, Do You Solemnly Swear? A Nation of Law-The Dark Side with a new and different kind of mystery but that will need to wait. The 5th book, to my great surprise, will be historical fiction and will be titled: I, Claudia. The protagonist will be Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yes. Because I published extensively in non-fiction for much of my life, I get occasionally get asked, “Which is easier? Non-fiction or fiction?

The writing of a novel is so completely different from a textbook or chapter on specialized knowledge or an article about the methods of solving problems faced by everyone in the field (all the subjects I once tackled) that it’s hard to know where to start to convey just how humongous is the difference.

Mostly, I think, it reduces to fear. At least it has been for me. ‘Sure, I can write, I’ve written and published for my entire life’. ‘But’ (that wonderful acronym- behold the underlying truth) ‘can I write a compelling story? And when I do, will it end up revealing things about me that maybe I don’t want made public?’

Not that writing non-fiction is easy. It isn’t. Just that the dream of writing novels felt too big or I was too little-maybe not crazy enough or unhappy enough. So, I persuaded myself that I really didn’t want to write that novel, it was merely the dream of the kid English major I had been many years ago. I loved the research that always preceded an article or chapter or the textbook, the high that came with reading, re-writing and reading again, “Yes, this is the best I can do…it’s clear, it’s accurate, its good.” But with non-fiction, there is no question that the writer is in complete control of the piece. Not so with fiction, far from it.

Now when I write, I understand quite clearly that my job is to follow where the characters lead me. To be open to who they are becoming as they appear on the pages. Not all of them, of course, but those who are the most challenging. Like a character who showed up in the 3rd book, an assassin named Joe Cairns, now a major player in Malthus Revisited.

BIO:
Lin Weeks Wilder holds a Doctorate in Public Health from The University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston and has over thirty years of experience in academic health centers ranging from critical care nurse to hospital director. During those years, Wilder published extensively in fields like cardiac physiology, institutional ethics, and hospital management. After ten years of running an online marketing business, and publishing four self-help books, Lin switched from writing non-fiction to fiction.

Lin’s first novel, The Fragrance Shed by a Violet, was released last July of 2015. The 2nd edition, The Fragrance Shed By A Violet: Murder in the Medical Center, the sequels, Do You Solemnly Swear and A Price for Genius are available at Amazon. The fourth in her series of medical thrillers, Malthus Revisited: The Cup of Wrath will be published in the fall of 2017. Her series of medical thrillers are situated in Houston, Texas with many references to the Texas Medical Center where Lin worked for over twenty-three years. The story of the return to faith, Finding the Narrow Path was an unplanned surprise.

In her free time, Lin Wilder enjoys hiking, exercising, listening to beautiful music, gardening and last but certainly not least, reading. Lin is married to a former Marine and psychologist with 25 years of experience counseling ex- combat veterans. They reside in Nevada with their two dogs.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | author interview | Leave a comment

#BEMORE


Author: Sandi Krakowski
Publisher: Fedd Books
Genre: Christian / Motivation
ISBN: 978-0-9894934-3-7
Pages: 200
Price: $16.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Sandi Krakowski already had a large following on social media when she decided to start encouraging, empowering and equipping others. With the help of God, she made the decision to show people how to BE MORE, and this motivational book was born. In five sections, she guides the reader to be more: connected to God, in tune with yourself, attentive to your relationships, engaged with your community, and mindful of your world.

Each section opens with an introduction before guiding us through a total of seventy-seven secrets. These are two page nuggets of wisdom that can easily be read every day with our morning prayer and meditations. And each ends with a summary quote we can take with us into our busy day.

#BEMORE is a bit light on substance and heavy on cheer-leading. Although this isn’t my personal preference, it does encourage us to get outside our comfort zone and really live our lives. Those who like this kind of motivational message will enjoy it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Christian, self improvement | Leave a comment

Dustrats: Or, The Adventures of Sir Muffin Muffinsson


Author & Illustrator: Adrià Regordosa
Publisher: POW!
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-57687-821-7
Pages: 32
Price: $16.99

Buy it at Amazon

Sir Muffin Muffinsson sits beside Baby Emma, carefully watching her as she sleeps, in case her dreams get carried away. Suddenly seven dustrats, one for each day of the week, creep out from under her bed, intent on mischief. Sir Muffin chases them throughout the house with his trusty vacuum, hoping to stop them before they do too much damage. Each one has picked up on Emma’s dreams and is living the visions they contain.

Dustrats is a simple story, but the illustrations that accompany it are truly spectacular. In each, we see beautiful details of Emma’s vivid imagination. Polar regions, a fantasy forest, medieval kingdoms, and the ocean depths, as well as several other scenes come to life, as Sir Muffin chases the dustrats through the house.

Kids will enjoy playing “find the dustrat” who is hiding among each of the dream elements. Parents will have fun pointing out the picture on Emma’s wall that changes from scene to scene, as well as various stuffed animals on the shelves that move and show varying expressions. There is so much to see and notice on each page that kids will never tire of reading this book. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 6, 2017 Posted by | children | Leave a comment