Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival


Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts for the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post. Click here to sign up.

Question of the week:  Introduce yourself. Some of us have been participating for a long time; others are relative newcomers. Take a minute and briefly tell us about yourself and your blog.

Hi, I blog under the name RAnn though it wouldn't take much detective work on your part to learn my real name.  I'm a resident of the New Orleans area, and mom to three kids.  My 22  year old son is autistic and just started his first real job.  Please say a prayer that it works out.  My 19 year old daughter is starting her sophomore year at Northwestern State University of Louisiana (fork 'em Demons!).  She is a history major and part of the Louisiana Scholars College.  My youngest is ten, and a fifth grader at our parish school.  She is an altar server and a Girl Scout.  I work full time as a paralegal and the attorneys I work for do auto insurance defense and criminal defense.  In my spare time I like to read and write and this blog is primarily a book blog.  

This week I did Seven Quick Takes.  I reviewed a Christian romance about a war widow and her husband's twin. I also reviewed an inspiring memoir about a man who was convicted of killing his wife--and later found to be innocent.  

Somebody Like You: My Review


Somebody Like You: A Novel

About the Book:
Haley’s three-year marriage to Sam, an army medic, ends tragically when he’s killed in Afghanistan. Her attempts to create a new life for herself are ambushed when she arrives home one evening—and finds her husband waiting for her. Did the military make an unimaginable mistake when they told her Sam was killed? 

Too late to make things right with his estranged twin brother, Stephen discovers Sam never told Haley about him. As Haley and Stephen navigate their fragile relation­ship, they are inexorably drawn to each other. How can they honor the memory of a man whose death brought them together—and whose ghost could drive them apart? 

Somebody Like You is a beautifully rendered, affecting novel, reminding us that while we can’t change the past, we have the choice to change the future and start anew.

My Comments:
On thing this blurb doesn't tell you is that Haley is expecting a baby--a baby she never told Sam about.  Now as the baby is getting closer she is finding it harder and harder to hold life together on her own.  Unfortunately, one thing Sam always told her he loved about her was her strength, her ability to manage life on her own, and now she has a problem asking for the help she needs.  

As noted above Sam and Stephen had become estranged.  When Stephen shows up wanting to help there is no only the problem of wondering why Sam and never spoken about Stephen but also the problem of Haley's independence.  I enjoyed watching these two learn about themselves by comparing stories of Sam and watching them learn to love themselves and each other.  

The book is light Christian.  There are no intimate scenes but there are no long sermons that just perfectly fit where the characters are in life either.  While their faith plays a part in the story it isn't a "find Jesus find love" story either.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Seven Quick Takes

It is back to school time.  My youngest started fifth grade, my middle child is a sophomore in college and my oldest just got his first real job. 
Photo: So excited to start 5th grade.  Even my baby grows up.
Doesn't she look excited?

I've been writing blog posts about our recent efforts to get our finances in order and figure out the best way to invest my recent inheritance.  Last night we got the first statement on our new mutual fund portfolio from the financial planners.  My husband's IRA went from being invested in one mutual fund to being invested in twenty-three funds.  I put the whole portfolio in Morningstar and analyzed it there. I understand what they are doing and why, but it still seems like a lot of funds.  You can read about our financial planning journey at Getting our Financial House in Order and at Meeting with the Financial Planner.  
Another topic I've been blogging about is my foray into peer-to-peer lending.  Basically, a website facilitates those with money (investors/lenders) lending money to those who need it (borrowers).  Lenders win because they get more interest than the banks pay (but assume risks they wouldn't if their money was in the bank) and borrowers win because they pay less interest than they would pay a bank.  You can read more at Lending Club:  My New Toy, How I Invested My Money, Buying Notes on Lending Club:  New or Old?, Lending Club:  How to Sell Notes and Lending Club:  One Month Later.
When I started this blog, it didn't have any real focus; thus the name "This That and the Other Thing".  Over the years (yikes, it has been nine years since I started this blog) it has evolved into a book blog, with a few other things thrown in.  I'm thinking about moving the financial posts to another blog, and seeing if it goes anywhere.  On the other hand, I'm by no means a personal finance or business expert, nor am I willing to invest huge amounts of time in blogging.  What do you think?  Should I start another blog for these financial posts (which are, as I noted in some of the posts, a shameless effort to be noticed by search engines to attract new readers).
One chore I'm going to have to attack in the next couple of months is my parents' house.  My Dad died in April and my siblings agreed to keep the house together until it cleared probate, which should happen next month.  My brother is getting the house and has no immediate plans for it, so no one is in any hurry and I'm pretty much the only one who wants more than trinkets from the house.  Still, someone has to do something with all that stuff....
I'd like to invite the 7 Quick Takes group to participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other.  Those of you who have been around a while may have participated in the Catholic Carnival when it used to move from blog to blog and when the host used to weave comments about each participant's post into one unified whole.  Well, when the host no longer wanted to continue and no one picked it up, and when I read people bemoaning its demise, I brought it back as a link-up.  We'd love to have you join us.  The host post should be up tomorrow afternoon on this blog.
I'll close with a prayer we say at the end of Mass weekly in our archdiocese.  Given the situation in Missouri, I think it is a good prayer to spread:

Loving and faithful God, through the years the people of our archdiocese have appreciated the prayers and love of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in times of war, disaster, epidemic and illness. We come to you, Father, with Mary our Mother, and ask you to help us in the battle of today against violence, murder and racism.

We implore you to give us your wisdom that we may build a community founded on the values of Jesus, which gives respect to the life and dignity of all people.

Bless parents that they more form their children in faith. Bless and protect our youth that they may be peacemakers of our time. Give consolation to those who have lost loved ones through violence.

Hear our prayer and give us the perseverance to be a voice for life and human dignity in our community.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.

Mother Henriette Delille, pray for us that we may be a holy family.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Getting Life




About the Book:
He spent twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He lost his wife, his son, and his freedom. This is the story of how Michael Morton finally got justice—and a second chance at life.

On August 13, 1986, just one day after his thirty-second birthday, Michael Morton went to work at his usual time. By the end of the day, his wife Christine had been savagely bludgeoned to death in the couple’s bed—and the Williamson County Sherriff’s office in Texas wasted no time in pinning her murder on Michael, despite an absolute lack of physical evidence. Michael was swiftly sentenced to life in prison for a crime he had not committed.

He mourned his wife from a prison cell. He lost all contact with their son. Life, as he knew it, was over.

It would take twenty-five years—and thousands of hours of effort on the part of Michael’s lawyers, including the team at the New York-based Innocence Project—before DNA evidence was brought to light that would ultimately set Michael free. The evidence had been collected only days after the murder—but was never investigated.

Drawing on his recollections, court transcripts, and more than one thousand pages of personal journals he wrote in prison, Michael recounts the hidden police reports about an unidentified van parked near his house that were never pursued; the treasure trove of evidence, including a bandana with the killer’s DNA on it, that was never introduced in court; the call from a neighboring county reporting the attempted use of his wife’s credit card (a message that was received, recorded, and never returned by local police); and ultimately, how he battled his way through the darkness to become a free man once again.

Getting Life is an extraordinary story of unfathomable tragedy, grave injustice, and the strength and courage it takes to find forgiveness.

My Comments:
How often have you heard it?  "The crook got off because of a technicality!".  We consider that to be a bad thing--after all, the %$##&*&  was clearly guilty and the police and prosecutors did what they were supposed to do--they tried to put the creep away for a long time.  Michael Morton was clearly guilty in the eyes of the district attorney who prosecuted him.  The prosecutor got him put away for life for killing his wife.  The only problem is that Morton didn't do it.  

There is a case called Brady vs. Maryland which says that prosecutors have to turn exculpatory evidence over to the defense.  In other words, if they interview me and I tell them a story they don't want to hear, one that puts the accused somewhere else, or that describes the perpetrator in such as way that it couldn't be the defendant, the prosecution has to give that evidence to the defense.  Of course the hitch in that system is that either the defense has to know the evidence exists or the prosecution has to volunteer its existence.  While I am sure that most prosecutors do their duty and turn over evidence as required, I also know that Brady violations are a favorite appeal ground for defendants.  Sometimes prosecutors and defense attorneys have honest differences of opinion regarding whether certain evidence is exculpatory; other times prosecutors honestly forget about something and then there are the times when prosecutors don't want some stupid thing that they don't put any stock in blowing a reasonable doubt in their airtight case.  They "know" they are right and don't want anyone to get off on a "technicality".  

This is Michael Morton's story.  Morton was a man who loved his wife and his three year old son.  He left for work one day and came home to police tape around his house and a dead wife.  It wasn't long before he found himself a suspect and then convicted.  He was sent to prison but never lost hope and finally, after twenty-five  years, Morton was released because it was apparent that the prosecutors hid evidence that could have cleared him--and pointed them to the real killer.  

I found the book to be an engaging read and a reminder of why people like my boss are so necessary in this world (I'm a paralegal and one of the attorneys for whom I work does criminal defense work).  While I think our criminal justice system is one of the best in the world, it is administered by people, sometimes people who are more interested in their own public image than in the truth and I admire Morton for being able to come out of that system with his humanity intact.

I'd like the thank the publisher for making a review copy available.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  Grade:  A.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: The Homecoming




About the Book:
At the age of nineteen, Seth Sileski had everything. A superb athlete and scholar, handsome and popular, he was the pride of Thunder Point. Destined for greatness, he lost it all in a terrible accident that put an end to his professional football career when it had barely begun. The people in his hometown have never forgotten what might have been. 

Seth has come to terms with the turns his life has taken. But now he's been presented with an opportunity to return home and show his father—and the people of Thunder Point—he's become a better, humbler version of his former self. 

My Comments:
I really enjoyed this latest episode in Robyn Car's Thunder Point series.  In high school Seth was the star athlete.  Iris was his best friend, but he dated the cheerleaders (and asked her for advice).  Then one night, when he was drunk, the two of them became more than friends--except that when Seth sobered up he didn't remember it.  Iris of course was heartbroken.  Still, she has never forgotten him.  Now she is the high school guidance counselor who tries to convince girls that they are worth more than that.  Seth was the pro athlete who had more money than sense.  An accident put an end to his career and forced him to grow up in a hurry.  Now, years later, he is back in town as the deputy sheriff, and he decides that it is time to be more than friends with his old friend--but for some reason she is reluctant.  

Letting go of the past allows these two to chart a future of love, and gives us a story that was fun to read. I liked both Seth and Iris and cheered them on happily ever after.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival


Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts for the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post. Click here to sign up.



Question of the Week: What did you do on your summer vacation?

My Answer:  Wow, it is hard to believe summer is over already.  It was pretty laid back around here.  I took a couple of trips to Mississippi to go the beach and to start to go through my parents' house.  That job has barely been started; we joke that some families fight over who gets stuff; we are fighting over who has to deal with it.  My youngest and I went to Savannah with the Girl Scouts, which was a lot of fun, and last week my family went to Disney World, which was hot, crowded and expensive.  I don't expect to go again.  

This week on my blog I reviewed a non-religious book about a marriage and included a little Eucharistic theology in the review.  I reviewed a book about the Sacred Heart of Jesus.   

I had two posts about my latest investment craze:  How to Sell Notes on Lending Club and Lending Club, One Month Later.  

Finally, I offer you a chance to win a cookbook.  

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