The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the Book:

What is revealed when you pull back the curtain of the greatest show on earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with all the comforts money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, the stage is set for a series of events that change her world beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life—one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. When her father sells her beloved horse, she abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner—an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ home—the Ca’D’Zan. In what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in her new life and begins to experience the awakening of faith.

With a mysterious and dazzling supporting cast of characters, Rosamund journeys far from the traditions of the English countryside to the last days of the Roaring Twenties—a journey that forever changes what her life might have been.

My Review:

I had not read much about the establishing of the circus, and certainly did not know the depth of the history that is contained in this novel.

As you follow the stories of Mable, Rosamund, and others, you find yourself being given a lesson. What kind of a lesson?

It is the tale of the search for oneself that can end you either in a bar under a table, or sometimes at the end of a hangman’s noose.  In this case, at the hands of a loving heavenly Father that wants what is best for all of us, if we will only let Him.

We see how with each seeker, they had the chance to change a life, be it their own or another persons. They could choose to wrong them or to give them grace and a hand up.

I found as I read, the real story of Mable and John Ringling was so brilliantly told, that the fiction part of the story was more believable because of that. I forgot who was a real person and who was not. When I read the end, where Ms. Cambron explained her path of research, I found it even more amazing!

Ms. Cambron has a knack and talent for research. While this book started out slowly, and the characters are slower to warm up for you, at the end, you find you are not willing to let them go. It ended too soon, in my opinion, and I found myself craving more.

While there is some romance in this book, it is not the focus of the story. I would recommend this book to high school students and adults.

This book was given to me for review by NetGalley and the publisher. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

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When do reviews cross a line?

As a book reviewer, I tend to read a lot of reviews as well. I like to see what is helpful, what is not helpful and I try to hone my reviews as well.

I was reading some 1 star and 2 star reviews on a book by an author that I know and respect, and it was interesting to me as you could see a difference.

There were some of the reviews that were very helpful, they explained the things they liked and disliked, without attacking the author’s moral code, spirituality, and her person.

They still disliked the book and would not recommend it, but it was done in a very helpful way, so that a reader could be discerning if the book was one for them or not.

Then there were the myriad of others. You knew from the title, the book was not one they enjoyed, but instead of talking about why they didn’t enjoy it in helpful terms, they attacked the author. There were cutting words that if you truly believed you were offended on the basis of Christianity, it called for following Matt. 18, not trashing a person in a public arena.

I actually encourage people to leave lower reviews as I believe they are helpful in deciding if a book is right for us or not. But I never, ever find it helpful to read reviews that attack, cut and leave someone feeling hopeless. That doesn’t help anyone. If you are truly saddened by the author, write her/him privately. Give them a chance to respond. Authors are  encouraged to never respond to poor reviews. It just doesn’t look good. So, there is nothing that would apply to Matt 18 here. If you use bible verses to condemn what an author put in her book in warning, but refusing to contact them personally first, but claiming Christianity as a reason, you lost the whole meaning.

We are responsible for our words, both online and off line. Writing an opinion in an review, while it might be my opinion, does not make it any less kind than if I had an opinion about the neighbors clothing choices. I am free to have that opinion. Should I post online about it under the guise of the name of Christ?

I will underline this with the fact that there is a time to put warnings online about those that are not responsive, but still in a Christlike manner. That doesn’t always mean gentle. But divisive and mean, is never helpful.

 

“Let your words be seasoned with salt..” and I could finish that by saying “when posting online, and book reviews as well.”

It doesn’t witness to anyone to see the cruel words that are spoken in the name of reviews, and in the name of Christ on Amazon or elsewhere.

Think before you type. Think before you speak. Think before you you write a review. “What will help other readers hear what I feel about this book?” If you don’t like the book, “What will help other readers determine if this is the book for them, without cutting down the author to pea sized mush in the process?” and finally, “If I feel this book was beyond what I felt were Christian standards (if it is a Christian book), how biblically should I address that issue? Is it something I should go to the person about?”

 

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Fading Starlight by Kathryn Cushman

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

Lauren Summers is hiding. Her fashion house internship should have launched her career, but a red carpet accident has left her blackballed. The only job she finds is unpaid, but comes with free lodging–a run-down cottage in the shadow of a cliff-side mansion. Unsure of what comes next, she’s surprised to be contacted by a reporter researching a reclusive former Hollywood ingEnue who lives in the nearby mansion.

Kendall Joiner wants Lauren’s help uncovering the old woman’s secrets. In return, she’ll prove the red carpet accident was a publicity stunt so Lauren can regain her former job. With all her dreams in front of her, Lauren’s tempted by the offer, but as she and the old woman get to know each other, Lauren realizes nothing is quite as it seems.

My Review:

I was not sure what to expect when I opened this book. The cover almost seemed to insinuate it was historical, but when I was on the red carpet in the beginning, I realized that was not the case.

I am not a seamstress, but I have been involved in theater now, and I have to say that I likely enjoyed this book more because of that little tidbit, more than I would have even last year. Kathryn made a sympathetic character in Lauren, where you felt for her.

There is little to no romance in this book, while there is the potential of it, but to those that enjoy no romance, this is one. The mention of scandals in Hollywood from the past are mentioned briefly, like mistresses and murder, but very briefly. I believe teens would enjoy this book and learn some wonderful life lessons from it as well.

Overall, the lesson I saw from it was kindness, when someone does not deserve it. Lauren showed love and kindness to someone that was cruel and believed the worst of her. She did this multiple times throughout the story, even though a falsehood seemingly ruined her life and she was being taken advantage of.

This book was given to me for review by Bethany House Publishers. The thoughts and reviews herein are my own.

 

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Close to Home by Deborah Raney

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Description:
Can a widowed Bree Whitman find love again without breaking the hearts of her late husband’s family?
Bree Cordel Whitman is a Whitman by marriage, but sometimes she forgets she wasn’t born into Grant and Audrey’s family. Her late husband, Timothy Whitman, gave his life for his country on a windblown hill in Afghanistan. Bree has let the love of Tim’s family keep her ties to him strong—in the same way she keeps Tim’s memory alive for them. But it’s been almost five years, and she can’t hang onto the past forever.

Fighting the guilt she feels for wanting to love again, she can’t help her dreams about a tall, dark, and handsome man—a man who is not her Tim. How can she accept the flirtations from Drew Brooks without throwing the Whitman family back into grieving? And how can Drew compete with the ghost of a hero and the hero’s very alive family who seem to hold some spell over the woman who shares their name . . . a woman he might just love?

My Review:

I am going to miss this family! I really enjoyed getting to know each member of the family as they walked through the various struggles and joys. Bree, a widow, struggles with feeling a part of a family that she has been a part of. Death changes things.

I could really feel each emotion deeply as she struggled with the ins and outs of relationship choices.

This book series is great in so many ways, but this one addresses young widowhood in a way that not many do. For a newer widow, it might be too raw, but in one that is struggling with the moving on factor, and life in general, it would be very helpful as you walk with Bree through it.

I love how Deborah Raney pulls out real life issues and yet makes it so part of the story, you don’t realize. My favorite part was the grandmother, and dealing with having to keep her safe, but battling the independence. As someone that has cared for grandparents as they aged, I found this so relatable.

 

I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

My Review:

I don’t preorder very many authors. Melanie Dickerson is an exception to my rule. I know that I can give her books as gifts, order them for myself and always be pleased with the quality of the writing and the story.
The Beautiful Pretender was no exception. I found myself in a room of almost 60 noisy theater students and yet, I was able to concentrate and transport myself to another world beyond the theater room. It takes a skilled author to be able to do that for me!
One of the things I loved about this story, was that while it was a rewritten fairy tale, it was filled to the brim with redemption, forgiveness and life lessons that could be applied today to anyone’s life. This book was great entertainment, but also so uplifting for me. It made me stop and think several times. While still light reading, it had a richness of a deeper story. Great job, Melanie!

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Busy, Busy, Busy…

It seems life tends to go in spurts of busy times. For us, this is a very busy time. Generally, in May, I have a chance to breathe and relax. School is mostly over, but not this year. I have been contemplating when I will have time to fit my breakdown in.

It sounds funny, but  really, I just don’t have time to schedule it in.

We have sports that consume the first half of the school year and then the theater consumes the other half. This fulfills our P.E. and Fine Arts credits, which we use for school, but it takes a lot of time and effort. The other time, we fit in all the other subjects, but like this week, they seemed to conflict an awful lot and we were working on learning on the road. I had a son that was sitting and staring at a vocabulary worksheet blankly for almost an hour. He was worn out, tired and just could not think.

We spent today working on catch up and I am not sure if any of it sunk in, but hoping so.

We had a snafu with math with computer glitches earlier in the year, so we are still working away on math and will be hitting it harder and harder in the next while. In the last calendar year, so far, we have had three deaths in the family, or near family. We may have a fourth soon and it is hard to emotionally prepare.

This was one of the scenes from the play we were in…

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Homeschooling…when we don’t want to.

“But I hate this!”

“This is so boring!”

“This book is too hard.”

“What a dry book. I don’t want to read this anymore.”

 

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You hear complaints from your kids like that? I am sure some moms do. For me, I have heard these complaints from homeschool moms so many times lately.

“We hate such and such assigned book. It is boring, not interesting, and we didn’t want to read it, so we moved on to something we liked better.”

In theory, that sounds good. We should enjoy reading, find enjoyment in our schoolwork and all that. But when you dig a little deeper, it gets a root of a severe problem in the homeschool community.

School is still school. If we use living books to teach it, there will be books we do not like or enjoy. If you are reading a book for pleasure, and hate it, set it aside. There are plenty of other great books out there. But when it comes to school, it is different.

In displaying the attitudes that I list in the comments above, we pass those on to our children, our students. We teach them that if the textbook is too dry, too hard, too boring, it is okay to not do it. While there can be reasons to set aside a book that is a struggle to learn from, the other lesson we are teaching is a very bad one.

When someone is difficult or hard, it is okay to not persevere.

The biggest lesson I have had to learn as a homeschool parent is perseverance. I don’t always feel like teaching school. I don’t feel like reading a book that I don’t like as well as the next one.

I have had to get creative. I use Audible a lot. It really helps me and I find the boys do not complain about a book when they get to listen to the book while doing something else they enjoy. It ends up giving the feelings of enjoyment, and they are learning at the same time.

I would love to encourage mothers or fathers that are teaching, don’t teach your children to not challenge themselves. I have seen those students as they grow up, that were not challenged to read books that they did not enjoy. It is not a pretty picture. It is the generation of homeschool mothers and fathers that are encouraging stimulation at every turn.

When we seek to make everything “fun”, “Hands on” and “exciting” which are all good things, we can end up taking away valuable lessons for them as well. Patience, perseverance, endurance and most importantly, the lesson of pushing through when life is hard.

I have met people that when life is hard, they give up. Physically, mentally or emotionally. There are times when our bodies cannot handle the stress that is placed on it, but I am more talking about small stressors.

I learned something about our bodies, that if our mothers were stressed while we are pregnant, our placenta gives them the hormones and levels they need to function in a higher  stress lifestyle once they are born as well. If we never push our children or ourselves outside our comfort zone, our bodies never will be pushed to give us the supplies we need to deal with real stress when it comes. Everyone will have stress at one time.

An important lesson in school, that we can teach our children is pushing through when we don’t want to. This might mean reading that Dicken’s novel you hate, (Great Expectations was my nemesis). Or it might mean that you approach it with a lateral decision.

“Kids, this is not my favorite book. What do you think? Should we push through and see what we can get out of it or should we find another one that teaches the same thing?”

I remember a book assigned for the year that I totally disliked. I felt it was poorly written and just a dud. I pushed through and read it all and wouldn’t you know, that was their favorite book we read all year.

Your attitude about a book rubs off on your children. If you complain about reading a book, they will likely not enjoy it. If you get into it and make the boring book interesting, they will enjoy it.

Just to close, as an example, I had a young woman that taught us a couple days a week growing up. Schoolbooks were scarce and she had to use what we had. She had one of the worst science textbooks I have ever seen. It was the top level of boring. Wouldn’t you know, that somehow, through her enthusiasm and joy about the topics, made that science year the most fascinating of my elementary years. Your attitude will make a difference.

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Step by Step by Candace Calvert

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

Three years after a tragic accident left her a widow, ER nurse Taylor Cabot is determined to move on, checking off one item after another on her survival list. Her relationship with a handsome plastic surgeon even gives her hope for the last point—“fall in love again.” At least until crisis chaplain Seth Donovan steps back into her life, reawakening unanswered questions about her husband’s death.

While in San Diego to train community volunteers, Seth hopes to learn why Taylor is backing away from the crisis team and from their friendship. But nothing prepares him for the feelings that arise when he sees Taylor again . . . and sees her moving on with another man.

When a community crisis hits home and puts lives at risk, emotions run high and buried truths are unearthed. Will hope make the survival list?

My Review:

I have read several of Ms. Calvert’s novels before. They are lighthearted, with a touch of suspense in them, with threads of heartbreak, similar to the old TV show ER.

I was not expecting to be as challenged by this novel as I was today. Through a novel, Ms. Calvert takes you through the steps of grieving, dealing with unexpected loss, how to deal with well meaning, but offensive outsiders in your grief, and before you know you are facing your own grief in a way you didn’t realize you could.

I loved the idea of a crisis unit, but some of the parts of the training spoken of throughout the book spoke very deeply. As a doula, I learn how to sit silently and support. There are times when this is so difficult as you wish you could fix, or do, but you just have to have patience and let the body do it’s job. I saw the crisis support team idea as sort of a “doula” team for emergencies.

The story had the hints of suspense like her others did, but I have to say this was one of the best books I have ever read by this author. Well done. I for one, couldn’t put it down.

This book was given to me for review by NetGalley and the publisher. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

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Room for Hope By Kim Vogel Sawyer

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

Neva Shilling has a heavy load of responsibility while her husband travels to neighboring communities and sells items from his wagon. In his absence, she faithfully runs the Shilling Mercantile, working to keep their business strong as the Depression takes its toll, and caring for their twins.

When a wagon pulls up after supper, Neva and her children rush out—and into the presence of the deputy driving a wagon carrying three young children.

Who are these children and will their secret shatter her life or make her stronger?

My Review:

Do you ever think that all books written have to have romance to make them a good read? This one breaks those molds.

While there are hints of real love throughout the story, the twists and turns that this story takes are more real life than fictional. Neva, facing betrayal, deals with it the way most humans do. It is a struggle, a fight to regain face and standing, both in the community and before her own children.

I found the hints of life in the 1930’s fascinating such as references to orphan homes, Jello,  Frigidaire, Bisquick and other name brands that were on the scene in those days. The fragility of life is spoken of when two character die of botulism poisoning, something that we generally don’t think of as much anymore as a threat.

I found this story real, but also an easy read, without heaviness. It was a nice book to read on a sunshiny day!

 

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The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl

 

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the Book:

Television reporter Erica Sparks has just landed her dream job at Global News Network. Beautiful, talented, and ambitious, Erica grew up dirt poor, worked her way through Yale, and is carrying a terrible secret. She moves to Manhattan to join GNN, leaving Jenny, her adored 7-year-old daughter, in the custody of her ex-husband.

But she’s troubled. What a strange coincidence that both events should happen on her watch. It’s almost as if they were engineered. Is that possible?

Erica’s relentless pursuit of the truth puts her life and that of her daughter in danger. Her investigation leads her into the heart of darkness—where the future of our democracy is at stake.

My Review:

Lis Wiehl is a great suspense writer. Her writing holds your attention, yet is not creepy, but just on the edge enough to give you the willies.
I enjoyed this book, and didn’t want to put it down. I am still a bit uncertain that so many bad things would happen to one person, but it was a book.

There were two kinda/sorta swear words in this book, if you are someone that never reads that sort of thing, but really, there are only the two and they are not really written out, but you could almost miss them.
The redemption message was very clear in the story which was nice. It was not a book I rated very high, just because of the way the realism was portrayed, but I did enjoy the suspense of the story.

This book was provided for me for review by BookLook bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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