Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What's your next read? How about a trip to the circus?

What's your take along book for this holiday weekend?  I never make a trip to the cabin, go camping, or plan a day at the beach without taking along a book.  Sure, sometimes I never get more than a few pages read, but often things slow down enough that I can settle down for a delightful read.
This weekend I am taking along Kristy Cambron's new book THE RINGMASTER'S WIFE which I will be reviewing on this blog in just a few days.  But I thought would share some background on the book and author Kristy Cambron before then.  I am looking forward to this read; many may know that Ringling Brothers Circus was based in Sarasota, Fl, but did you know that their summer headquarters was Baraboo, Wisconsin?  The whole central and southern part of Wisconsin has a rich
circus history as several circuses made us their summer home.  I just love it when I can find a local
connection to what I am reading.

Time to pack for my holiday reading.

About the book: 

The Ringmaster's Wife (Thomas Nelson, June 2016)

An ounce of courage. A split-second leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life---one that's reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures to call her own, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World's Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny---a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England, boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her life is planned out for her. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties in the grandest ballrooms the country has to offer. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund's path crosses with Mable's and the Ringlings' glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, instead choosing the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers' circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster's Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the greatest show on earth!

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal Reviews' "Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction)" forFebruary 2015.
Cambron is an art/design manager at storytelling ministry. She holds a degree in art history from Indiana University and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and communications for a Fortune-100 company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dwelling Places: Words to LIve in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

One word "headlines" provides the umbrella focus for a series of devotions for each of the four seasons of the year (Fall, Advent, Lent, and Summer) in Lucinda Secrest McDowell's lovely devotional DWELLING PLACES: Words to Live in Every Season.  The title DWELLING PLACES provides the capstone thought -- that we should seek our place right there in God's dwelling places.  Each devotion within the season, focusing on its own unique word, is written with a pertinent scripture, closing prayer or message from God, and a delightful inspirational reading.  Being June, I naturally chose SUMMER as the place to begin my readings: the headlining word for summer being Growth.  The first devotion raised the question many of us have asked, "Now that I am a Christian, when will I be fixed or 'all grown up'?  McDowell likens our maturation as a Christian to planting a garden -- Toad's garden in the Frog and Toad books. Toad's fretful watching over his garden (which he believes is afraid to grow) brought me to thoughts of my own garden.  A late May cold, rainy spell, a few visits from unwelcomed wildlife, and a week of neglect while we were away resulted in a bedraggled early June sight.  I've been gardening since I was a child and I've never felt so discouraged.  How could I be such a failure?   Replantings, some transplants, multiple weedings, and warm June sunshine, and now like Toad, I can look out on a rainbow colored sight.  McDowell's theme that growth, whether in our garden or our faith, is not constant really hit home.  There may be need for do-overs, extra care, and dutiful "weeding" before we notice any growth.  And as the author shares, we will need to continue to soak up the sunshine and life-sustaining water of God's love and promises.

Summer's heat has hit as I write this review, making the next devotion in the summer section equally appropriate.  With heat comes thirst and "Thirsty" is the word for the second meditation.  If your life feels parched, get McDowell's new book. Let her remind you like the woman at the well where to seek lasting hydration.  And if you're a parent, you can't miss the meditation with the keyword "Children".  Read closely as McDowell illustrates that just as we don't want our children to live as orphans, ignoring our parental roles in their lives, no matter their ages, God is our eternal parent, always there.  Why then do we choose to live as orphans?

I received a copy of DWELLING PLACES from Litfuse for my honest review.


Dwelling Places: Words to Live in Every Season (Abingdon, June 2016)
Do you long for serenity and refuge, peace and hope? Are you seeking a deeper spiritual life through a closer relationship with God?
If you’re tired of dwelling in busyness and noise, then perhaps one word a day can change your life. Award-winning author Lucinda Secrest McDowell knows that if you spend time each day turning to God’s Word for wisdom and guidance, your faith can flourish and grow.
Through short and inspiring readings, McDowell unpacks a single word—such as mercy, beauty, gratitude, or grace—to reveal a biblical blessing or challenge relevant to where you are. Full of stories and illustrations to empower you to live the word you have just read, each devotional ends with a benediction, written as if God were speaking directly to you.
These “dwelling places” that offer the joy of God’s promise and presence cover four seasons: fall, Advent, Lent, and summer. Whether in the midst of busy holiday schedules, holy days, ordinary moments, or changing seasons, a deeper faith can be as simple as a single word.

Lucinda McDowell


Lucinda Secrest McDowell is the author of 11 books, including “Live These Words,” “Amazed by Grace,” and “Quilts from Heaven.” She has contributed to an additional 25 books and has been published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she speaks internationally through her ministry “Encouraging Words.” An award-winning writer who has earned accolades from prominent writers’ conferences and retreats, McDowell has also worked in radio broadcasting, in retreat planning, and on church pastoral staffs. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in Connecticut.
Find out more about Lucinda at

Friday, June 24, 2016

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Paula McClain established herself as a successful novelist with her runaway hit THE PARIS WIFE a few years ago.  She returns with another historical novel based on a real woman in CIRCLING THE SUN, the fictionalized account of Beryl Markham, who set a world record flying solo from England to North America.  Most of the book focuses, not on that historic flight, but on Beryl's life in Africa in the early twentieth century.  Raised by her father on their horse ranch after her mother and brother fled back to England, Beryl (then only 4 years old) grew up a tom boy who played and hunted with the Kip natives, especially one boy called Kibii.  As a teen, Beryl excelled at both riding and training horses.  In the 1940's Beryl, herself wrote an autobiography WEST WITH THE NIGHT, which was reissued in the 1980s and enjoyed a wide readership.  Our book club read WEST WITH THE NIGHT when we first formed 8 or 9 years ago, and it is one of the books that has stayed with me.  Although not an easy read, it clearly showed Beryl's love of nature and also provided a unique look into the British Empire's presence in Africa.  It is because of Beryl's own writing that I was drawn to a novelization of her life.

McClain has tried to keep both the natural and social elements in the novel, while making Beryl's rocky life the focal point.  On her own at 17, Beryl innocently enters into a marriage with a man who quickly turns abusive and controlling.  Soon Beryl leaves to train horses and live on her own.  Two affairs quickly follow, one with Denys Finch Hatton, who will remain the only man she truly loved. She, Denys, and Karen Blixen were part of a love triangle for several years; Karen Blixen wrote the famous OUT OF AFRICA under the name Isak Dinesen after living in Africa for more than twenty years.  While Beryl's choices and lifestyle are not ones I admire, it is clear that many of her decisions, good and bad, were driven by the skewed society that the Brits had created in Africa.  Some people worked very hard for decades to only lose all they had, while others lived workfree, decadent and indulgent lives. Silly social rules left by an old, pre-WWI England often hindered life.  Parts of the background story remind of Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY or the recent PBS series INDIAN SUMMERS (which takes us into another part of the British Empire in the early twentieth century).  Despite her errors in men, Markham clearly was a strong woman who made her mark by being strong.  CIRCLING THE SUN has been optioned for a movie, and I can see that Hollywood will enjoy making her a hero, perhaps too much of one.  This is the first book I have read by McClain, but I am sure I will return to her writings again.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Image result for mapmakers childrenThe Mapmaker's Children tells two stories, over 150 years apart, bound together by a house and a doll's head found in that house.  Fractured by years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, Eden Anderson and her husband have bought a house in a D.C. suburb, hoping it would offer a refuse of healing for Eden and their marriage.  It is only when Eden discover's a broken porcelain doll head in an opening in the pantry, does she begin to understand that the house that they'd remodeled to be modern and convenient has a secret history.  As she tries to make sense of her own life and to learn details of the home's past, we readers are led back to the days prior to the Civil War where we meet Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, who has traveled to New Charlestown to the home of the Wills family.  Within days, John Brown will be hanged for his raid on Harper's Ferry. Filled with sorrow and loss, Sarah vows to help carry on the family's involvement in the Underground Railroad.   Few know that she has already helped by creating pictorial maps that help escaped blacks find their way to safety and aid.

Both Sarah and Eden seem destined to childless lives, but find hope and purpose in unexpected ways.  Sarah's story seems a bit deeper, with its wartime setting and heroic decisions, but both women's stories show courage and heart, and that family takes many shapes and forms.   I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Medical Judgment by Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

Medical Judgment - eBook  -     By: Richard L. Mabry M.D.
Richard L. Mabry, M.D., now retired from his medical practice, has made a name for himself as the author of medical thrillers with a heart.  The "heart" element is definitely evident in MEDICAL JUDGMENT, his latest suspense novel.  Dr. Sarah Gordon wants desperately to heal from the deaths of her husband and young daughter, but does not know how.  She has not even been able to attend an entire church service since the funeral eight months ago.  Then suddenly it appears someone is stalking her, even setting a fire in her garage.  Sarah reaches out to her husband's best friend, lawyer Kyle Andrews who responds with almost eagerness to her need.  Soon Detective Larson begins a search to see who might hold grudges against Sarah, an ER doctor, or her late husband.  Despite his help, Sarah continues to feel that she cannot trust anyone completely.

Danger toward Sarah quickly escalates, and while readers are privy to thoughts and actions of the perpetrator, his identity is closely hidden, making the book even more suspenseful.  Kyle's desperation to be in Sarah's life makes him a suspect, but the times he spends with the local pastor makes his guilt unlikely.  Mabry has peopled this book with multiple characters with pain and loss in their recent pasts -- events which could set someone on a course for revenge or a path to forgiveness and new beginnings-- and that makes picking the likely villain complicated. I suspect the ending will be a surprise, or at least the motives behind the stalking will be.  Scenes at the ER add medical authenticity to the book, but the story is not really a medical thriller.  I received a copy of Mabry's book from Litfuse for my opinion.

Check the side bar for a chance to win an e-reader from Mabry.


Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician who writes “medical suspense with heart.” His novels have won multiple awards: a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel; finalists for the Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice Award; and both finalist and winner of the Selah Award. He and his wife live in Frisco, Texas.
Find out more about Richard at

Friday, June 10, 2016

An Amish Market: four novellas by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, and Vannetta Chapman

An Amish Market: Four NovellasI appreciate these novella collections for reading during  busy times.  A story can easily be completed during one evening or some other short period of time.  I tend to get involved in the books I read, and even if it isn't  a great book I find myself needing to finish it.  With a novella, I can have a light read, complete it, and then move on to other things.  The next night or a few days later, I can move onto the next novella. Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin and Vannetta Chapman all hit homeruns with their unique stories in AN AMISH MARKET which each revolved around some type of Amish store (market).  I especially liked Vannetta Chapman's LOVE IN STORE which featured two older characters.  Love does not only find the young, you know, and it was sweet to see Stella's bitterness, sharp tongue, and rigid view of her life soften.  These quiet and charming stories can be bought in print as a collection, but they are also available separately as single ebooks.

I originally obtained an ecopy from Netgalley for review purposes but my late winter/spring reading pile was so big that I did not get all the stories read before my time slot for having the ecopy expired.
I was lucky to obtain a print copy from our Winnefox library system.  I am always delighted when I find that there are copies of books I want to read within our library system.

Traces of Guilt:An Evie Blackwell Cold Case by Dee Henderson

Traces of GuiltEvie Blackwell, an Illinois State Police detective, has the unique ability to detach herself from the emotions of a crime and objectively look at evidence, which makes her an ideal candidate to work on the new governor's cold case task force.  Before the new group's existence is even announced Evie travels to Carin County to begin work on two cases, both over a decade old.  A good friend and former police officer, Ann Falcon also comes to Carin to share news of Evie's work with the county sheriff, Gabriel Thane.  It turns out that Ann knows all three of the Thane brothers: Gabriel, Josh, and Will and has significant news (and potential problems) for each of them.

Dee Henderson is well known for her writing which combine the thrill of crime novels with strong depictions of family loyalty and love. She's among a very select group of Christian crime/thriller authors that I consistently like their works.  In TRACES OF GUILT, Ann Falcon presents an almost "all seeing" aura as she reveals deeply held secrets to each of the Thane brothers and then provides personal support for them and the two women who need her help to share their secrets. Evie's procedures sheds a light on what must be going on in dozen of cold case forces across the country; her constant questions and insights give us a different kind of thriller.  There are no chase scenes or gun fights in the present story of TRACES OF GUILT; instead, we have the careful unraveling of old secrets and misconstrued happenings.  Fans of Henderson's other books will want to read this one. I received a copy of this book from FAMILY CHRISTIAN BOOKS for my honest review.  Interested readers can purchase a copy at  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

Product Details In her latest novel ANCHOR IN THE STORM, Sarah Sundin continues
her fascination with WWII, and the hardships, sacrifices, and bravery of the greatest generation.
The second book in her Waves of Freedom series, ANCHOR IN THE STORM is again set in Boston, but features another member of the Avery family from Ohio.  This time the story revolves around Lillian Avery, one of the few female pharmacists in the country.  Smart and feisty, Lillian is ready to tackle her new job and hopes to impress Mr. Dixon, the owner of the pharmacy where she will be working.  But Lillian's confidence and bravado is much stronger at work than in her private life.  Self conscious of her leg prosthesis and still wounded from an abusive relationship, Lillian intends to stay far away from all men.  But her brother's best friend, Ensign Archer Vandenberg is set on breaking down the beautiful Avery's defenses.  Soon a common interest -- a fear that there is a drug ring selling phenobarbital to young navy crew members--- brings the two together in a secret plan to find who is writing the forged prescriptions and how the drugs get on Archie's battleship.

Sundin's writing shines in many ways in this novel.  First, she captures the feel of America at war --- rations, separations, women moving into jobs typically filled by men, the battle to keep our coasts free from attack.  She especially excels at showing that life went on during that time; people sacrificed and made do, but they also continued to live.  She also manages to blend criminal drama and romance with the right amount of suspense and tension.  All that said, I was looking for a note at the end that she based the novel on real evidence of illegal drug use was apparent within the Navy protecting the Eastern seaboard.  But it appears that part of the novel is purely fiction, and for me, that takes away from the book's success.  I guess I prefer historical fiction heavily steeped in fact with just the slightest stroke of fiction.  However, if you approach this series, not so much as historical, but instead as fiction with the backdrop of American 40's life, you will be swept away in a good story.
Plus, you'll get to see that gorgeous cover every time you pick up the book!
I received a copy of this title for my honest review.