Illustrated Cincinnati by Daniel J. Kenny

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Pictorial Hand-book of the Queen City

I love this book!

Published in 1875, the author jam-packed this book with descriptions and sketches of hotels, places of entertainment, public buildings, schools, colleges, banks, parks, and churches. It gives details about transportation, club houses, boat clubs, and charities.

The sketches of early buildings include the people and modes of transportation on the streets. Perhaps the author did not realize that such sketches would provide details about clothing, omnibuses, railcars, and landaus pulled by horse teams to readers long after such things were not even a memory for those still living.

A sketch of the Burnet House shows what an impressive hotel it was—and Abraham Lincoln is on its register!

I read this book during my research for my book set in Cincinnati, A Not So Persistent Suitor. I used some wonderful information from the book about the Tyler Davidson Fountain on Fifth Street in my story. I referred to the book time and again while writing my story set in 1883-84.

Recommended for readers who love the history of Cincinnati and Ohio.

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Historic Downtown Cincinnati

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Written by Steven J. Rolfes and Kent Jones

Images of America

This book begins with sketches in 1788, when Cincinnati (originally named Losantiville) began. The early sketches included one of Fort Washington, the city’s first fort. It illustrates how much the city has grown!

The author includes some history of the Civil War as well as a section of the city’s famous businesses. Photos for early clothing stores paint a picture of what it must have been like to shop in those early days.

Books in this series are always very well done. They have old photographs and sketches that are so helpful in my historical research for my novels.

I read this book during my research for my book set in Cincinnati, A Not So Persistent Suitor in 1883-84. Studying old photographs often brings a sense of what it must have been like in those bygone days.

Recommended for readers who love the history of Cincinnati and Ohio.

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Cincinnati on the Go by Allen J. Singer

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Images of America

History of Mass Transit

This book is packed with old photographs and sketches to illustrate various periods of how Cincinnatians got around.

Singer discusses steamboat travel and commerce in the 1800s. The Ohio River flooded city streets at various times in its history. The author shares interesting photos of folks getting around flooded streets by rowboat.

Carriages, canals, and inclines were also modes of transportation in the city.

Trains became an important way to travel in the 1800s and into the 1900s. An old menu for a 1950s dining car fascinated me.

Books in this series always have old photographs and sketches that are so helpful in my historical research for my novels.

I read this book during my research for my book set in Cincinnati in 1883-84, A Not So Persistent Suitor. One of my characters often rides the incline to get to her college in the suburbs. She most often rides rail cars, which were horse-drawn cars that followed a raised rail in the streets.

Recommended for readers who love the history of Cincinnati and Ohio.

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The Inclines of Cincinnati by Melissa Kramer

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Images of Rail

This book is packed with old photographs and sketches of Cincinnati’s five inclines. Once a popular way to get to the suburbs of Cincinnati, the last one closed in 1948.

The city’s first incline opened in 1872. It was known as the Main Street Incline and also the Mount Auburn Incline. The Lookout House was built at the top of the incline. The entertainment complex drew up to 10,000 guests on a regular basis.

Mount Adams Incline opened in 1876 and closed in 1948. Highland House was the name of this incline’s resort where about 8,000 guests regularly enjoyed concerts, such as those by the city’s symphony orchestra.

The author did a good job finding old photographs and sketches and her descriptions further explained the photos.

I love books in this series and look for them in my historical research for my novels.

I read this book during my research for my book set in Cincinnati, A Not So Persistent Suitor in 1883-84. One my characters often rides the incline to get to her college in the suburbs.

Recommended for readers who love sweet treats and those who love the history of Cincinnati and Ohio.

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Cincinnati Candy by Dann Woellert

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

A Sweet History

This book about the early history of confectioners in Cincinnati is a fun and easy read.

Readers may recognize early candy makers like Goelitz and Mullane. I’m uncertain how to spell the Doscher’s family name—Doscher’s Candies is painted on its storefront and a photo of an invoice says A.&J. Doescher, Wholesale Confectioners.

Regardless, there’s lots of fun historical tidbits about the candy industry in Cincinnati—even the surprising role the city’s candy makers played in Sweetest Day.

I read this book during my research for my book set in Cincinnati, A Not So Persistent Suitor. My heroine works in a soda and candy store where the shop is set up in a similar manner to Mullane’s.    

Recommended for readers who love sweet treats and those who love the history of Ohio.

Lights! Camera! Christmas! by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Mysteries of Lancaster County series, Book 9  

This is the first book I’ve read of this cozy mystery series. Three sisters share ownership of a Victorian home and a business called Secondhand Blessings.

Elizabeth, who took care of her aging parents until they died, shuns changes, of which there are plenty in this story.

Recently-divorced Mary paints beautiful ornaments that sell the next day and must be replenished.

Martha, a widow coping with the recent loss of her husband, maintains the store’s books and sells baked goods.

It’s Martha’s baked goods that capture the eye of Martine Fontaine, star of It’s Always a Party with Marti, who decides she must tape her Christmas baking show in the sisters’ home.

From there, chaos ensues. Too many accidents that nearly kill Martine have Martha, an amateur sleuth, trying to discover who is behind them before the star of the show is killed.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery and found myself trying to figure out the culprit along with the sisters. I especially love that the story is set at Christmas. Conflicts with Mary’s children and Martha’s children seem real and enhance the story.

A satisfying read. Recommended for those who enjoy cozy mysteries.

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Three Reasons Dicken’s A Christmas Carol Packs an Emotional Punch

by Sandra Merville Hart

With Christmas just around the corner, I read Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Christmas Carol, and discovered at least three reasons why his story is a beloved classic.

The first thing I noticed are the engaging descriptions that bring depth and meaning to the story. He paints vivid pictures of the settings and characters in a way that captures the reader’s imagination.

The many beautiful images made it difficult to choose an example to illustrate this point. One that made me smile was Dickens’ comments about Scrooge’s nephew:

If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge’s nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him, too. Introduce him to me, and I’ll cultivate his acquaintance.

Simple yet vivid descriptions fill the classic tale.

Dickens also writes about realistic characters. At first glance, Scrooge comes across as a stingy boss who refuses an invitation to a family Christmas dinner and a request to give to the poor. He only grudgingly grants his clerk Christmas Day off.

The writer then tells Scrooge’s back story in a creative way. Ghostly journeys into Christmas Past reveal a boy alone in a boarding school when all his classmates go home for Christmas. The sight touches our hearts.

Dickens also includes timeless truths in his tale of a lonely, unhappy old man. Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, maintains an optimistic outlook despite his anxiety over his son’s health. Tiny Tim’s faith and courage touches everyone around him. Scrooge’s nephew forgives his uncle for rejecting his family.       

The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge two imminent deaths if nothing changes—one deeply mourned and one barely noticed.

Dickens’ novel lives on in our hearts. Some reasons for this are his engaging descriptions, realistic characters, and timeless truths. The story vividly reminds us how one life affects another.

A timeless tale.       

O Little Town, A Romance Christmas Collection

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

What a very different set of novellas! The main thing that each story shares is a connection with the school in Mapleview, Michigan, and the main story is set in that town. The titles from the Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” fit all the stories. They all end at Christmas.

In Hopes and Fears by Amanda Wen, Frederick has always loved Emma, even when they were fiercely competitive as children. Past mistakes prevent him from accepting the love Emma has for him. This 1912 story grabbed my attention right away and is a wonderful, feel-good, historical read.

While Mortals Sleep by Janyre Tromp takes place during World War II. Though historical, it deals with murder, danger, and long-held bitterness giving it a very different feel from the first story. It’s suspenseful and kept me turning pages because I feared our heroine would make the wrong ultimate choices.

The Wondrous Gift by Deborah Raney begins in February with the staff of a Christian school in Mapleview learning the school will close in two weeks. This doesn’t allow much time for planning and that urgency draws our hero and heroine together. Both Rachel and Caleb make new plans that don’t involve working at a school, but clash when their dreams settle on the same property. This contemporary story also held my attention.

I like to read Christmas stories during the holidays and each romance—one historical, one historical suspense, and one contemporary—is well-written with hidden clues to tie them together.

Christianbook.com

Flora’s Wish by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

The Secret Lives of Will Tucker, Book 1

It’s 1887, and Flora Brimm must get a fiancé to live long enough to marry her and produce an heir to her grandfather’s Natchez home, where her crippled sister resides. If not, her cousin stands to inherit it and he will sell the estate.

Unfortunately, four men have died before their intended wedding day, earning her the nickname “Fatal Flora.” The fifth man she agrees to marry must make it to the altar. She doesn’t love Will Tucker, but time is running out. They must marry.

Lucas McMinn, a Pinkerton agent with personal reasons for arresting Will Tucker, has his hands full when taking on the task of protecting Flora from her fiancé.

There’s a lot of action and adventure in this story. The characters are believable and likeable. There was plenty of suspense and danger as well. Romantic scenes often happened in the midst of danger and had the effect of lessening the suspense for me.

Recommended for readers of inspirational historical romance.

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Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Subtitle: A plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People who would really rather Sleep All Day

I bought this book at a writers’ conference several years and was inspired by the creative way the author put the book together.

The font changes a few times on a single page. Sentences vary in size on the same page. There are fun sketches throughout. A quote runs down the side of a page.

And pearls of wisdom abound.

There are chapters on “The Land of No,” “The World of Yes,” and “Making Creative Dreams Real with MicroMOVEments.” The book is packed with practical advice, ideas, and inspiration.

I love the phrase “Great Big Dream Flapping Wings” where the word “Dream” has wings. It’s an example of what you’ll find throughout the book.

Another thing I like is that I can pick it up and read a section and set it down with my imagination fueled.

Recommended for writers, painters, actors, artists, quilters, designers—anyone working in a creative field. If you are looking for your creative dream or fear pursuing your dream, this book may inspire you.

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