memoir, politics

What Makes Trump Tick

Author: Peter Ticktin
Publisher: Mascot Books
Genre: Memoir / Politics
ISBN: 978-1-64543-711-6
Pages: 160
Price: $19.95

Author’s website
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President Donald J. Trump attended New York Military Academy as a teenager, and Peter Ticktin was his classmate and friend. In this memoir, Ticktin shares some of his insights about President Trump, and how this time in NYMA molded his character and determination.

The military academy forces boys to grow up quickly, as they learn how to navigate the bullies and respect authority. This training can either make or break them, and President Trump was one who thrived in this environment. As a result, Ticktin believes that President Trump learned to fear no one and to always do what is right in any given moment. It was this strength that led the American people to vote him into office in 2016.

After describing some of their experiences in NYMA, the author shifts to his own personal blog posts from 2016 until July 2020. In these posts, Ticktin expresses his thoughts on how President Trump handled the adversity he faced in his first four years in office, and he has no doubt that four more years will follow.

What Makes Trump Tick is an interesting and informative read. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian, memoir

The Audacious Molly Bruno

Author: Marie Armenia
Publisher: FaithWords
Genre: Christian
ISBN: 978-1-5460-3320-2
Pages: 272
Price: $14.99

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Molly Bruno lived her faith in action, and was a powerful prayer warrior. In this memoir, her daughter, Marie Armenia, shares some of Molly’s life lessons, as well as stories about her life.

Some of the life lessons Molly conveyed to Marie include how to be a good daughter, wife, and mother. She shared her joy of evangelization and how every encounter could lead to an opportunity to witness. Prayer was very important to Molly, and she modeled it in everything she did. Molly lived a joyful life, full of love for her Savior, and she wanted everyone around her to share in that joy.

Molly is the inspiration for the character of Miss Clara in the film “War Room.” After meeting with the directors, she prayed that the film would reach many people in sharing the good news about Jesus. The Audacious Molly Bruno is an uplifting and inspiring look at the life of a strong woman of faith. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

memoir, nature

Bass Fishing, Brown Dogs & Curveballs

Author: Jerry McKinnis
Publisher: JEM Publishing
Genre: Memoir / Fishing
ISBN: 978-0996253505
Pages: 354
Price: $20.00 (autographed if purchased through author’s website)

Author’s website

If you know anything about bass fishing, or at least grew up watching fishing shows on ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network), you know about the very affable fishing enthusiast and television host, Jerry McKinnis. His outdoor fishing show, The Fishin’ Hole, ran for over 40 years and has the longest running tenure of any program ever on ESPN.

Fortunately for all of his fans, Mr. McKinnis decided to write an autobiography of sorts complete with sage advice, humor, and fishing stories that most of us could only ever dream about. As Jerry states on the book cover, “this is a book about fishing but it is not a fishing book.” In other words, Jerry tells us at the outset that “you can read every word on all of these pages and not improve as a fisherman one single bit.” You will, however, thoroughly enjoy learning about this gentle man’s life and adventures and maybe learn something about your own in the process.

You see, for as genuine a fellow as he appeared on TV, that is exactly how he is in the book. You can just hear his voice and calm, pleasant demeanor come through with every word. It’s like he’s sitting right next to you, sharing a cup of coffee over a nice warm fire, and you’re listening to a man who indeed was (and is) one of the most overlooked role models for our time.

Jerry’s recollections range from how he dallied with playing professional baseball as a young man, to becoming a bass fishing guide in Arkansas, and finally establishing one of the most successful fishing programs and television production companies ever.

Along the way we learn about the multitude of entertaining personalities that touched and inspired him on his life journey. Jerry’s stories are also filled with enriched insight, and the reward is that he teaches us some hard lessons he learned…in the hope of inspiring us to create our own life adventures.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Mr. McKinnis or knew that he was a major personality on ESPN for over four decades. You will still enjoy the down-home warmth his stories exude. And if you are an avid fisherman, well then, this book is just the icing on the cake. I give it my highest recommendation.

Reviewer: Gene Berger

Catholic, memoir

Finding the Narrow Path: Patterns, Faith and Searching

Author: Lin Wilder
Publisher: Wilder Books
Genre: Catholic / Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-942545-54-5
Pages: 151
Price: $13.50

Author’s website
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Lin Wilder grew up in a family where mother and children went to church on Sundays, and all the standards of morality were practiced. So when she suddenly realizes she doesn’t believe anything she’s ever learned and rejects the Bible as a myth, she feels lost and bereft. Throwing herself into her work, with ever increasing responsibilities, she determines to make a good life for herself.

Adrift without a strong moral compass, Wilder attempts to navigate through several troubled relationships, hoping to find happiness with a man. At a crucial turning point in her life, she receives good advice to clarify her intentions about what she’s really searching for. This finally opens the door for Wilder to discover the Catholic Church – to finally come home.

Finding the Narrow Path is a love story, but not in the traditional sense. Jesus Christ allows Wilder to drift along aimlessly, never staying far from her, finally inviting her back to Him and into his Church. And when she does return, she finds a love she couldn’t imagine existed, that thrills her more than anything she has ever experienced.

As a Catholic convert myself, I had to smile as I read of Wilder’s overflowing joy at becoming Catholic. Those who have converted and those who are maybe only thinking about converting will really enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian, memoir, Saints

Finding Calcutta: Memoirs of a Photographer

Finding Calcutta
Author: Marie Bissell Constantin
Publisher: Lulu
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-4834-5478-8
Pages: 128
Price: $16.99

Author’s website
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Marie Bissell Constantin took the photograph of Saint Teresa of Calcutta that was unveiled at her beatification ceremony. One of may Constantin took, this one best captured the heart and soul of this great Saint. During three visits to Calcutta while discerning a possible vocation, Constantin had the opportunity to see Saint Teresa in action.

Opening with an anecdote from her school days, Constantin shares a moment in the convent and the life changes that came about as a result of her daily interaction with one of the Sisters. Having other religious relatives sparked her curiosity, and she spent many years attempting to determine if she shared a similar calling. These searches led her to Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity.

In addition to stories of her own volunteer service, Constantin shares some of the horrible treatment suffered by religious sisters as they work among the poor and marginalized in society. As they face persecution and the horrors of war, the habit is sometimes a shield and other times a target.

Although this memoir was written for family, those who admire this wonderful Saint will enjoy seeing snippets of her in real life, and not just as the woman who carried the dying home with her. Those who are attempting to discern their own vocations will also find Constantin’s honesty refreshing and may gain some insights in reading the author’s struggles. I highly recommend Finding Calcutta.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

history, memoir

This Victorian Life

This Victorian Life
Author: Sarah A. Chrisman
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: History / Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-63450-237-5
Pages: 332
Price: $24.99

Author’s website
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Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman love history, and especially the Victorian era of the 1880’s and 1890’s. In an effort to truly experience what this period in history was like, they have engaged in a long-term experiment of actually living a Victorian lifestyle, as much as possible in this modern world. This Victorian Life chronicles their journey.

Sarah is a wonderful story-teller, as she blends actual historical facts and anecdotes with her own experiences. Beginning with the purchase of their new/old Victorian house, she describes how they furnished it with antique Victorian pieces. She also explains how actual antique pieces are often more beautiful and functional than their modern copy-cat versions, as well as why certain antique items are still available while others have long since disappeared. Personal care, along with cooking, sewing, and writing are explained from a Victorian perspective, along with the joys and hazards of bicycling. Ghost stories, historical figures, and her experiences in portrait sitting are also featured. Interesting primary source documents and photos from the time period are scattered throughout the text, bringing the history to life.

While some people may not consider themselves up-to-date in modern technology, the Chrismans are a bit more out of step with the rest of society, in this lifestyle they have come to love. Their home is heated with a kerosene stove, they use oil lamps rather than light bulbs, and they make their own clothes, copying them from antiques they have acquired over the years. This Victorian Life gives a glimpse of the Victorian era from the perspective of truly living in it. I highly recommend this fascinating and engaging book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


This Is Your Captain Speaking

This Is Your Captain Speaking
Author: Gavin MacLeod
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 978-0-8499-4762-9
Pages: 288
Price: $22.99

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Gavin MacLeod is well-known for his roles as Murray Slaughter and Captain Merrill Stubing, and for his work with Princess Cruises. After a lifetime of acting in TV shows, movies and theater, MacLeod shares his thoughts on Hollywood, faith, and life.

Being born into a poor family makes breaking into show business difficult, but MacLeod rises above the challenges of his upbringing. His years on Broadway are fascinating, as we see a glimpse of how young actors attempted to get into the theater in an earlier era. Soon he finds himself in Hollywood, trying to make a name for himself there. An actor’s work is sporadic, and he jokes about who he sees on the unemployment line from time to time. But he finally gets his big break on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and his career takes off from there.

Interspersed throughout the stories about his work, he shares some of his personal life – two marriages, a bout with alcoholism, and his conversion. But MacLeod spends most of this biography talking about all the famous people he met over his long career. Hopping from one name to the next, he tells of small moments shared with them all, making sure the reader knows how grateful he is for the chance he had to be in show business and to be able to meet them.

I read this book hoping for a testimony of faith. While MacLeod does mention his eventual acceptance of Jesus Christ as his savior, he doesn’t share much of a “before” or “after” story with us. His conversion is matter-of-fact and complete. But this book isn’t really about faith at all – it’s mostly a who’s-who of people he’s met over the years. Christians looking for a great story about MacLeod’s faith and conversion will be disappointed with this book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian, memoir

Learning to Breathe Again

Learning to Breathe Again
Author: Tammy Trent
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Memoir / Christian
ISBN: 0-8499-0954-6
Pages: 240
Price: $13.99

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Tammy Hill met Trent Lenderink when they were both fifteen. Although they went through the normal teenage and young adult turbulent years, they finally married. Life was good as Tammy followed her calling into the world of Christian music with Trent at her side. But God’s plans are often very different from our own, and Tammy never thought her world would come crashing down around her only eighteen years after meeting Trent.

Learning to Breathe Again is Tammy and Trent’s love story, detailing their relationship from its early years until Trent’s diving accident in Jamaica. She also shares her joys and struggles in the Christian music industry.

Tammy Trent is amazingly honest in this touching memoir. Putting her husband on a pedestal at times, she shares her own shortcomings and weaknesses in their relationship. But most of all, she shares her vulnerability, faith and deep love of God with us. I highly recommend Learning to Breathe Again.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


A Cowgirl Always Gets Even

A Cowgirl Always Gets Even
Author: Dawn Nelson
Publisher: Gray Dog Press
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-936178-56-8
Pages: 195
Price: $14.95

Author’s website
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Dawn Nelson is the author of several western-themed novels, and has also dabbled in non-fiction. In A Cowgirl Always Gets Even, she shares some of her misadventures on the ranch, as well as her musings on people and circumstances.

Ranchers will find some of these anecdotes humorous, as she relates tales of ornery bulls and cows. Weather and icy temperatures also play a part in some of these stories. When sharing her thoughts on people, Nelson’s tone is often sarcastic, and she appears to view all non-ranchers in a deprecating light.

There are numerous misspelled words and grammatical errors in this book, and it should have been more carefully edited before being published. If you’re a rancher, you’ll probably relate to some of the incidents Nelson shares. And if you’re not, you may want to take a lesson from them.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Driving the Saudis

Driving the Saudis
Author: Jayne Amelia Larson
Publisher: Free Press
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-4516-4001-4
Pages: 224
Price: $28.99

Author’s website
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When Jayne Amelia Larson hit a lull in her acting career, she turned to chauffeur work to fill the gaps. This provided her a unique opportunity to drive the Saudi family visting Los Angeles for their summer vacation. In Driving the Saudis, she relates some of her experiences in this unusual assignment.

There are some interesting moments in this narrative. When one of the princesses does not handle American currency properly, it’s obvious she feels some shame, which is surprising in royalty. There is a bond that develops between the nanny and Larson, while chaperoning the princess and looking out for her best interests. And there is unexpected kindness that the servants show her as they all become weary of the endless work. There is also lavish spending, elective surgeries, rudeness, and high expectations that all who serve the family will do so quickly and efficiently. The long hours and many demands take their toll, but the promise of a hefty cash tip keep Larson going until the very end.

Unfortunately, this book gets off to an extremely slow start. Larson shares too much about herself, her education, and her career. She offers her thoughts and opinions of the family and their behavior, but there are few actual anecdotes. These are brief, and leave no lasting impression of the individual family members. Instead, we are given just a sketchy overall picture of the family and their collective behavior.

Reviewer: Alice Berger