fiction, history

The Ringmaster’s Wife

Author: Kristy Cambron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7180-4154-0
Pages: 368
Price: $15.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England has a secret passion – riding bareback on her Arabian mare. So when Colin Keary arrives with the intention of purchasing her beloved horse, Rosamund is understandably upset. But what she doesn’t expect is Colin’s enticing invitation to run off to America and join the circus.

Mable Burton is living the simple farm life in Ohio, but the excitement of the city is calling her. A chance meeting in Chicago introduces her to John Ringling, but they won’t meet again until several years later in Atlantic City. John has never forgotten her, and they are soon married. Now she, too, is joined to the circus, but only peripherally.

The Ringmaster’s Wife alternates between these two women’s perspectives, as a circus season progresses. Rosamund’s career begins on a shaky note, but as she gains confidence, she has to handle the rivalry that develops between her and the former star. Mable is a strong and steady force in Rosamund’s life, as she cheers for the young lady to be successful. And Colin is an enigma to Rosamund, as she tries to determine if he is interested in her as a woman or simply a circus performer.

Faith and courage in the midst of overwhelming circumstances are the hallmark themes in this beautifully written historical novel. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian, fiction

The Sisters of Sugarcreek

The Sisters of Sugarcreek
Author: Cathy Liggett
Publisher: Tyndale House
Genre: Christian fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4964-0489-3
Pages: 400
Price: $14.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

A deadly fire strikes Faith Community Church in Sugarcreek, killing Henry, a young Amish husband, and Rose, the owner of Rose’s Knit One Quilt Too Cottage. Jessica inherits Rose’s cottage, but struggles to run the shop. Liz is mourning Rose, her best friend and co-conspirator in the Secret Stitches Society, and recruits Jessica to join her. Liz and Jessica figure that Lydia, Henry’s widow, will be the perfect candidate for their first mission.

Now Jessica suddenly finds herself with unexpected help in running the cottage, along with two brand new friends. Tragedy may have brought the three women together, but the bonds of friendship run deep, as Jessica sees just how far Liz and Lydia will go to help her. And as they all discover their changing roles in the community, they also find new opportunities for love.

The Sisters of Sugarcreek features great characters and an engaging plot, and will appeal to women of all ages. I highly recommend this enjoyable Christian fiction novel.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

fiction, literary

The Madwoman Upstairs

The Madwoman Upstairs
Author: Catherine Lowell
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Literary fiction
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2421-1
Pages: 352
Price: $25.99

Buy it at Amazon

Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family. Although the media believes she is heir to a fortune in lost memorabilia, she knows anything of value probably perished along with her father in the fire that took his life. So when one of his marked-up Brontë books shows up at her dorm room, she wonders how it could have survived – and how it got there.

As Samantha debates literature with her professor, the two verbally spar over the Brontës in particular. A self-proclaimed Brontë expert publishes a book purporting to contain the missing (aka “stolen”) items that he thinks exist, and Samantha is furious. But the biggest problem Samantha has to deal with is the sudden realization that she never really knew her father at all.

The Madwoman Upstairs captivated my interest from the very first page, producing endless speculation on the unusual literary mystery it presents. The characters are real and so very human, quirky in their own unique ways. This debut novel is a winner, and I look forward to seeing more from this talented new author.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

audio book, fiction

The Darling Buds of May: The Larkin Novels Volume 1 (Naxos Audiobooks)

The Darling Buds of May
Author: H.E. Bates
Read by: Philip Franks
Publisher: Naxos Audiobooks
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-84379-998-6
Total time: 4 CDs / 4:21:42

Buy it at Amazon

Cedric Charlton arrives on the Larkin doorstep, determined to get Pop to complete his tax form. But the crafty junk dealer has other ideas. Distracting him with food, alcohol, and his beautiful daughter, Mariette, Pop tries to keep him from his mission.

Charlton wants to keep his focus, but finds he enjoys Mariette’s company too much to consider leaving any time soon. And the joys of the country become dearer and dearer to his heart. As his visit is extended, he experiences his first strawberry season, as well as a horse riding competition, and learns how to eat country-style. Will he choose to go back to his tax office, or will he stay with the Larkins for a while and see what country living has to offer him?

The Darling Buds of May is read by Philip Franks, who does a wonderful job with these voices. While listening, one can easily picture each of the unique characters, as well as the scenery around them. The story is told from multiple perspectives, and it reads more like a play than a novel, with only the props missing. This light-hearted and humorous story is best enjoyed while relaxing on a summer day. I really enjoyed this recording and hope Naxos Audiobooks plans to do more in this series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Home to the Mountains: A Fawn for Christmas

Home to the Mountains - A Fawn for Christmas
Author: William Delia
Publisher: CreateSpace
Genre: Christmas
Pages: 211
ISBN: 9781515068945
Price: $11.58

Buy it at Amazon

Being a lover of the outdoors, I wanted to read a book this past Christmas that reflected the spirit of the season, but yet was set in the mountains or countrysides of rural America. With a little research, I found HOME TO THE MOUNTAINS: A Fawn for Christmas by William Delia. The book pleasantly exceeded my expectations.

After a terrible personal tragedy, Rafford Brown is a man seeking to piece his life back together in his native Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. His journey affords him a chance meeting with Abigail Sherwood, a widow living alone while trying to maintain the upkeep on her extensive mountain home.

His friendship with Abigail and her grandson brings him a sense of family he thought he had lost forever. In the meantime, Rafford has to come to grips with the past, the pain that sent him out into the wilderness away from his former life in the first place. Abigail’s strong-willed daughter, Carolyn, looking for her own answers, doesn’t make life any easier.

The book is compelling with the beauty of wintertime in the Adirondack Mountains ever present. Nature plays a key role in the growth of the characters, but a touch of God’s wisdom adds to the warmth and gentleness of the story.

This is not a Christmas story per se, but one that will light up your holiday season as would a warm blanket enjoyed with a cup hot chocolate on a cold, snowy night. You won’t regret delving into this wonderful book, and it may even become for you, a traditional read.

Reviewer: Gene Berger


The Secrets We Left Behind

The Secrets We Left Behind
Author: Susan Elliot Wright
Publisher: Skyhorse
Genre: Women’s fiction
ISBN: 978-1-63220-708-1
Pages: 384
Price: $24.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

She has finally built a life for herself after a rough beginning. Her husband takes good care of her and her daughter, and she’s happy. Although she knows she’s living a lie, she feels secure in the faith that no one ever needs to know the truth. But one day, a phone call out of the blue changes everything.

As she comes face to face with the one man who knows what really happened – and is demanding that she reveal it all – she finds herself reliving the summer of 1976, when it all took place. Alternating between present-day and 1976, her story comes to life, bit by bit. Will she be able to take her secret to the grave, or will he force her to tell all? Would it really be better to be free of such a burden and just let go of all the lies?

The Secrets We Left Behind is a haunting story of uncomfortable choices and their eventual consequences. I found myself sympathizing with the main character’s youthful, quick decision and hoping for everything to work out for the best. This is a well-written, emotional story that lingers with the reader long after finishing it. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Art of Crash Landing

The Art of Crash Landing
Author: Melissa DeCarlo
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Women’s Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-06-239054-7
Pages: 432
Price: $15.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Mattie hasn’t got a clue what to do, now that she’s homeless and pregnant with no one but her stepfather to turn to. But when she arrives on his doorstep, he informs her that her grandmother in Gandy, Oklahoma has passed away and left everything to her. On a whim, she drives to Gandy to collect her money, and discovers her inheritance will take a few months to process. But, since her aged Malibu’s transmission has died, she’s stuck there for at least as long as it takes to get fixed. And since she’s flat broke, that may be a while.

As Mattie gets to know the town people, she learns more about her mother’s earlier years. Mattie only knows her as a broken alcoholic who kept making a mess of her life, but now she finds out her mother was once a talented girl with a bright future. But something happened that changed her, forcing her to flee town.

Mattie sees only heartbreak and struggle in her own life, which has mirrored her mother’s in many ways. In solving the mystery of what really happened to her mother, she believes she may find her own way. Learning the secret will finally give her peace and the motivation to start over again.

I really loved Mattie and found her story immensely compelling. Although she sees herself as trailer trash, she’s a warm-hearted girl who’s just made some really bad decisions in life. It’s so nice to see her grow through her discoveries and turn her life around. The Art of Crash Landing is funny and heart-warming, and I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


A Boy Born From Mold and Other Delectable Morsels

Author: Lorin Morgan-Richards
Publisher: A Raven Above Press
Genre: Literary
ISBN: 978-0-615-35964-9
Pages: 75
Price: $20.00

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

A boy comes to life, mysteriously born from some mold in an old quilt in the basement. Watching the family from a distance, he comes to think his name is Ruin (or Rune proper), and stays in hiding until a tornado forces him out.

A vampire named Zoog is allergic to blood. Fearing his parents’ displeasure, he drinks it anyway, with terrible gastronomical results. A woman feeds her 100 cats on a strict schedule and a precise diet, until one day she runs out of cheese. And a strange little man is mistaken for a garden gnome.

A Boy Born From Mold is an unusual look at some of the stranger things in life. Printed using soft acid free blue linen paper and faux leather, this book is completely handmade by the author.

In a style reminiscent of Edward Gorey, Lorin Morgan-Richards presents these gloomy tales of dark humor. They serve as a reminder that no matter how bad our lives may seem, they’re nowhere near as bad as they could be. At least we can still laugh at the absurdities of life.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Simon Snootle and Other Small Stories

Author: Lorin Morgan-Richards
Publisher: A Raven Above Press
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-615-27052-4
Pages: 68
Price: $20.00

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

In picking up Simon Snootle and Other Small Stories, one immediately notices the fine craftsmanship in creating this little book. Each copy is assembled entirely by hand with acid free linen paper and faux leather.

This collection of short stories tells of characters who have fallen into misfortune, sometimes literally, and can’t quite seem to figure out how to get out of it. The title character, Simon Snootle, spends most of his life in a cistern with the neighborhood cats, a boy desperately longs to be an earwig, and a shrub loves to steal hats and hairpieces. No happy fates await these poor lost souls.

In a style reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe crossed with Edward Gorey, Lorin Morgan-Richards presents these gloomy tales of dark humor. They serve as a reminder that no matter how bad our lives may seem, they’re nowhere near as bad as they could be. At least we can still laugh at the absurdities of life.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

fiction, history

The Amen Heresy

Author: W.H. Muhlenfeld
Publisher: Bascom Hill Books
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
ISBN: 978-0-9820938-4-9
Pages: 340
Price: $15.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Dvir Gottlieb was about to disclose a secret that would stun the religious community. But fearing his untimely demise, he sent word to two of his closest colleagues to be sure his message would not die along with him. Jack Fisher and Sami Salaa are both mystified by the unusual message Gottlieb sent them, but they join forces, along with Ariel Hadar, in solving this ancient puzzle.

Gottlieb had discovered an ancient scroll which would reveal that the Egyptian Pharaoh, Akhenaten, had been the first monotheist, and that he had in fact been the founder of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. But religious leaders in Israel are determined to squash this information before it undermines their hold on their people. And a wealthy Egyptian wants this scroll for himself, so he can start his own cult of worship.

As Jack, Ariel, and Sami search for the copper scroll, they are hunted by those who seek to keep the knowledge secret, or use it for their own gain. Their adventure is fraught with danger and intrigue, but as they get closer to their goal, there’s no longer any option to turn back.

One can’t help but admire these three unlikely seekers. Jack Fisher is an ex-priest and a man with a painful past. Sami Salaa is a Palestinian boy of the streets, with keen intelligence and loyalty. And Ariel Hadar is a beautiful woman who’s tired of men who love her and leave her, and wants something more satisfying and permanent.

The Amen Heresy is well-written and fast-paced, drawing the reader in and hooking him quickly. The plot is interesting and plausible, though one can’t help but wonder if Akhenaten’s religion was actually influenced by Joseph, rather than the other way around. Only your own faith will provide the answer.

Reviewer: Alice Berger