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Christian Fiction Review – An Amish Reunion

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019


An Amish Reunion: Four Amish Stories

Review by Nancy B. (niceladywithglasses)


First story:  Their True Home, by Amy Clipston Let me say, if this had been the first book I’d ever read by Mrs. Clipston, I wouldn’t have read any more.  Now, with that being out in the open, this short story was barely Christian, in my opinion.  Sexually suggestive phrases were constantly being used.  This story just doesn’t help anyone draw closer to Jesus.   I don’t recommend it.   What I don’t understand is why did Amy Clipston go so far away from decent Christian writing in this story? It’s about 2 young adults, Marlene and Rudy, who develop a friendship that becomes more.  You can tell they are “falling in love” by the increased sexual innuendos.  The characters had no depth.  Not much of a plot, either.

Second story:  A Reunion of Hearts, by Beth Wiseman.

Gideon and Ruth, formerly Amish, have returned to their Amish hometown for a family reunion. Beth Wiseman did a good job of exploring SOME the depths of depression, sadness, anger, and denial, that must go along with the loss of a child.  Yes, it was a serious book, to a point,  but then it rather unraveled when the author decided to talk about the sexual attraction the husband and wife still had for each other.  Kind of a bizarre turn to take from the path I thought she was on in this story. It could have accomplished so much more if she had stayed true to the original storyline.   Most of her story is decent, but I don’t recommend it for anyone but MARRIED adult women, because of the focus on the sexuality between husband and wife, who had been separated but not divorced, for about 5 years.  Mrs. Wiseman  could have taken a cleaner path, but  kept focusing on the fleshly nature, instead of the spiritual nature.  So far, this book has left me feeling cheated out of a good read.    Let’s see if A Chance to Remember, by Kathleen Fuller, is better than these two.

Third story: A Chance to Remember, by Kathleen Fuller

Such a good story, I didn’t want it to end so soon!  Clean Christian fiction about the Amish and an Englishcher.   This is about an 80 year old Amish woman living in Birch Creek, and a man from her past, who comes by for a visit, after not having seen each other for decades. Cevilla and Richard enjoy old memories, and find they have an attraction for each other, after many visits.  Meghan, Richard’s granddaughter, watches over him and drives him to see Cevilla. They are on a little vacation away from California, and Meghan has some issues of her own she needs to settle.  All in all, this novella was highly enjoyable, and the characters had depth, and real personality.  I hope to be able to read more books by Kathleen Fuller.

Fourth Story in “An Amish Reunion

Mended Hearts, by Kelly Irvin 

I was very happy to see this story is a continuation of  some of the character’s stories I read in “With Winter’s First Frost”.

So nicely written, and clean!  Kelly Irvin really does a good job of writing Amish fiction.  She did a great job of writing about the struggles of a young unwed mother, who, after going through a bann, repented and was forgiven by most of her community, although as we know, there will always be those who like to keep gossiping about someone, and tearing them up.  Such  was the case in this story too, but it wasn’t the main focus.  The main story is about Hannah, the unwed mother, her friend Philip, and her ex-boyfriend, Thaddeus, the father of her child.  Thaddeus refused to marry Hannah, and he skipped town,  which embittered Hannah towards him.  The story is truly about forgiveness, and about recognizing that we sin, when we refuse to forgive others.  It’s a great story.





Mystery Monday Review – The Hound of the Baskervilles

Monday, May 13th, 2019

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This novel stars the detective duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The story uses country superstitions, a fiendish hound, and an old family curse. Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead with a rictus of terror on his face. And near the corpse, in one of the most famous lines in detective fiction, “… the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

Conan Doyle skillfully piles up weird little incidents that unnerve the heir to the vast estate, Henry Baskerville. Even the unflappable Holmes is concerned for the safety of Sir Henry. He sends Watson with the heir to his remote Dartmoor mansion. Watson therefore is particularly active in this story and tells his story in letters, diary extracts, and straight exposition.

On the up side, Conan Doyle skillfully describes dreary landscape in order to capture an overall grim tone. Turning a conventional Victorian creepy novel into a Sherlock Holmes tale the plot feel fresh. What Conan Doyle called “female interest” is fostered in the story, mainly due to indirectly describing the hard lot of women, married and not, at the hands of men. There are melodramatic passages but they are a lot of fun.

On the down side, there are is a plot hole so large that even Holmes himself acknowledges it in the reveal when, provoked by questions, he says, “It is a formidable difficulty, and I fear that you ask too much when you expect me to solve it.”





Thriller Review – Fear to Tread

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Fear to Tread by Michael Gilbert

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

British writer Michael Gilbert passed away at 93 in February, 2006. He wrote a couple dozen mysteries and many radio and TV scripts. He was a full-time solicitor (in the UK, an attorney who advises clients on legal matters and prepares cases for barristers to present in the higher courts). But he wrote during his train commute to and from his London office. Writing about two-and-a-half pages a day, he was able to finish a novel in five or six months. Gilbert’s writing is tight and focused.

In the 1953 thriller Fear to Tread, he relates the story of a school headmaster who turns detective, plausibly putting a bookish guy into menacing circumstances. Readers are taken into the dangerous worlds of public schools and the black market, which was a going concern in the UK after WWII. The characterization is persuasive, and the action rocks, so much so that this is more an adventure novel than a mystery.






Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Baited Hook

Monday, April 8th, 2019

The Case of the Baited Hook by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This exciting murder story stars the redoubtable Perry Mason, aided and abetted by his efficient PA Della Street and canny PI Paul Drake. Indeed, this is a familiar plot to hardcore readers of Perry Mason stories. A rich architect brings a masked woman to Mason’s office for a midnight meeting. He warns Mason to keep an eye on the newspapers because the architect may find himself and the woman in a vulnerable position. He also cautions against trying to find out who the masked woman is, not even allowing her to speak. Mason accepts half a $10,000 bill that has been cut as part of his retainer.

A parallel plot involves the financial future of an adult who was illegally adopted as a toddler. Her advocate is middle-aged Mrs. Tump, the kind forthright astute woman that Gardner must have admired since he used the archetype so often in his novels.

The action is mainly Mason interviewing evasive sneaks in offices, but Gardner makes talking, mere interviews, fascinating. Gardner makes strong efforts to describe a complex stock swindle and explain a technical legal concept (law of agency) to challenge readers to keep thinking. Focusing on ideas is key in this outing. Easily bored and confused readers should stay away from this one, probably in the top five Most Intricate Mason Novels.

And there are numerous surprises. For one, Mason alludes to the aphorism ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’ which appears in the Sermon on the Mount. Highly unusual in a Mason novel to see a Biblical reference. Even moreso, in his last appearance in a Mason novel, Homicide Sgt. Holcomb, consistently portrayed as a brute and booby, expresses admiration and shakes Mason’s hand:

All right Mason … I don’t like your methods. Someday I’m going to throw you in the can, but I do appreciate good detective work when I see it and I’m enough of a cop to pull for a guy who solves crimes, even if I don’t like the way he goes about it.

This novel also places Della Street right in the thick of the action so fans of Della will be pleased.





Mystery Monday Review – Crows Can’t Count

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Crows Can’t Count by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Partnerships in detective fiction usually are usually studies in contrasting characters. The head of B. Cool Confidential Investigations is Bertha Cool, a comic miser in the Mr. Krab manner. Her partner is Donald Lam, a shrimpy lawyer who got disbarred because he informed a gangster of a legal trick to get away with a murder. Cool is a hard driver while Lam is more subtle, never telling cops, clients, or Bertha all he knows or suspects. To prospective clients, Cool describes Lam as “a little runt, but he’s brainy.”

Crows Can’t Count (1946) involves trusts, emeralds, a pet crow and savvy city women. The running gag – that every female that crosses Lam’s path falls for him – is honored. The unique point is that Cool and Lam travel to Columbia (as in Bogota, not South Carolina) to investigate the precious stones aspect of the case. Lam adjusts inter-culturally but Cool, of course, is her irritable self, stomping on cultural corns left and right. It’s hilarious.

The dialogue-driven stories have believable and vivid characters. The stories demand thinking. “Among his many other virtues,” wrote Anthony Boucher, long-time reviewer for the NYT, “Erle Stanley Gardner is surely the finest constructor of hyper-intricate puzzles in evidence. Besides the Perry Mason mysteries, Gardner wrote a couple dozen Cool and Lam mysteries under the pen name of A.A. Fair. The titles are often generalizations about animals as in Owls Don’t Blink or Cats Prowl at Night.”





Historical Fiction Review – The Devil’s Queen

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

The Devil's Queen

The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Welcome to the complicated and tortured world of Catherine de Medici.  Jeanne Kalogridis has a knack of creating historical fiction that is based in reality but bursting with imagination. The Devil’s Queen immerses the reader in the life of Catherine de Medici from her years as a young girl being manipulated by her family to her later days where the roles have been reversed and she has become the manipulator.

Fascinated by astrology and the fate in the stars, Catherine places trust in Cosimo Ruggieri. As an astrologer, Cosimo convinces Catherine of her path and what can be done to strengthen herself and her family, sometimes through very dark practices. Catherine has a life that, truly, is fraught with trials. From being manipulated as a young woman, tortured in marriage with the affairs of her husband, and children who are spoiled and dark in their own ways. She is willing to do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, but she is in danger of losing herself and her sanity in the process.

The Devil’s Queen is a creative and intricate portrayal of Catherine’s life. The descriptions of visions are incredibly dark and expressive, graphic images of blood and suffering that haunt Catherine every day. The complexity of royal family trees and relationships is front and center in this book. For this reason, I wish a family tree would have been included for a visual reference because the plot got hard to follow at times. If you are a reader who enjoys dark historical fiction, I think you would enjoy The Devil’s Queen. My rating is 4/5 stars.





Mystery Monday Review – Maigret on the Riviera

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Maigret on the Riviera by Georges Simenon

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This 1932 mystery is also known as Liberty Bar. M.’s superiors assign him to investigate a murder on the French Riviera, so the novel is set in Antibes, Cap d’Antibes, Juan-les-Pins and Cannes.

Stabbed to death in his car is Australian William Brown, once a spy during WWI, so M. is told to tread with discretion. M. finds that Brown has come down in the world, owing to poor choices as to hard drinking and unsavory companions. M. finds out that Brown’s lifestyle frightens and disgusts his family, which deprives him of resources and pays him only a monthly minimal allowance. M. also discovers that Brown shared his life among his “four women:” first Gina, his “official” mistress and the mother of the second one, with whom he lived in his villa in Antibes, then Jaja, the owner of a bar in Cannes, where the young Sylvie, the fourth and a prostitute, also lives.

Despite this sordid backdrop, M. feels a connection with the victim because they resemble each other in looks, an uncompromising attitude, and a love for a quiet drink. Also, among the lush tropical flora, garish colors, and tanned beach bunnies, for a brief moment while wearing his usual heavy coat, M. himself better understands why a man on the Riviera for the first time might turn to extreme slacking.

He takes himself in hand, however, and explores two different settings, high and low, to find the culprit. The sadness and the squalor are balanced in the last when M. and his wife have a wonderful conversation in the last couple of pages. In this 17th Maigret novel, written in 1932, Simenon starts to use the existential themes that we meet in his “hard novels.”