Monday, April 15, 2019

The View from Alameda Island

The View of Alameda Island

About the Book:

From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy—a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.

Lauren won’t pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life, she meets a kindred spirit—a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren’s husband wants his “perfect” life back and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves.

My Comments:

This book was unbelievable.  I don't mean exceptionally good or exceptionally bad; I mean that so many improbable things happened that by the end of the book there was no doubt that it was fiction.  While there was nothing that happened that in and of itself was impossible, the combination just had me shaking my head.  

One of the impossible stories had to do with a Catholic priest.  After many years in the priesthood, the last few on the "bishop track" Fr. Tim decides that while he still has faith in God and in the Church, he no longer wants to be a priest--he wants to work for an organization that serves the poor, and, of course, he doesn't want to be celibate anymore.  Once he makes the decision to leave, he gets into a relationship with a woman he has known for years and in the space of a few months has been laicized and has married the woman in a Catholic church.  

Ok, I can accept that if Robyn Carr is not Catholic she wouldn't realize how impossible that is, but the book main character's first marriages are each abusive in their own way and the behavior of each ex just gets stranger and stranger as the book progresses.  If either one of them had a spouse like those it would be unusual; that they both did?  Just bizarre.  At the end of the book something  happens to the ex's and it is all just too convenient.  

On the other hand, I really liked Lauren and how she stepped up to take control of her life.  Her new man is everything her husband wasn't--focused on her and what is good for her rather than on himself.  

All in all, I've seen much better from Carr but she did keep me reading and involved in the story until the end.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Sin By Any Other Name

About the Book:

The Reverend Robert W. Lee was a little-known pastor at a church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Adulation poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend's message. Weeks later, Lee was ousted from his church in North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gaze Upon Jesus: My Review

About the Book:

What if you had walked beside the Virgin Mary from the Annunciation to the point at which she and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? How might seeing Christ as a child impact you and your faith?

WINE: Women In the New Evangelization offers its second, six-week scripture study, this time following the infancy and early years of Christ as seen through the eyes of Mary and other familiar and imagined women in the gospels.

Founder Kelly Wahlquist and ten other members of WINE uniquely blend scripture reflections, imaginative encounters, and visio divina “sacred seeing” with practical spirituality and discussion questions that will help you take a prayerful and creative journey through Advent and the Christmas season.

Not much is known about the childhood of Jesus, but the Gospels highlight six key moments in his early life:

  • the angel Gabriel proclaiming Jesus’ birth to Mary at the Annunciation
  • a pregnant Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth
  • the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
  • the presentation of Jesus in the temple
  • the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt
  • discovering the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple
Week by week, you will dig deep into each of the scriptural vignettes of Jesus’ early life and grow in your faith as you learn about virtues such as humility, patience, charity, reverence, prudence, and courage.

Each chapter uses an image that allows you to practice visio divina, the ancient practice of praying with sacred art. The images are included in an eight-page, full-color insert.

Gaze Upon Jesus will appeal to women who want to deepen their relationship with Jesus during Advent. Contributors to this inspiring scripture study include: Alyssa Bormes, Sarah Christmyer, Mary Healy, Maria Morera Johnson, Stephanie Landsem, Elizabeth Lev, Joan Lewis, Deborah Savage, Kelly Wahlquist, Katie Warner, and Carol Younger. Popular Catholic media personality Teresa Tomeo, also a member of WINE, wrote the foreword for the book.

As an individual or group study, Gaze Upon Jesus is a memorable way to encounter the God who sent his Son to show us his loving Father’s heart.

My Comments:

I like to write, but I've always said I'm more of a journalist than a novelist.  As much as I like to read and as many books as I have read, I don't have the desire/ability to create characters and to get inside their heads so to speak.  

One type of prayer that is often recommended is reading a story from the Bible and then imagining yourself in the scene and speaking to the characters.  Its not something I do well.  However, with Gaze Upon Jesus, I don't have to do it well; the authors already have. 

Each chapter in the book includes "the rest of the story".  Have you every wondered how Joseph found out Mary was pregnant?  Did Mary tell him?  Did he find out in the dream?  Did someone else tell him?  In this book, Joachim got the job, and after he had decided to take her into his home, Joseph traveled with Joachim to Elizabeth's house.  I'll let you read the book for the full story, but you can see where I'm going with this--the authors fill in the blanks left by Scripture.  I find these types of stories make Biblical characters much more real.

The book also contains prints of great pieces of art that depict the written about incidents, with the idea that you can use them as mediation aids.

I've really enjoyed this book and give it a B+.  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Book Review: The Last Year of the War

About the Book:

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

My Comments

Susan Meissner is one of my must-read authors.  While she writes historical fiction, she usually finds a way to bring the modern day into it.  In this story, Elise, a woman recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's heads to Los Angeles to visit a girlhood friend, before her disease "Agnes" takes her memories completely.  

The story flashes back to the years of WWII and shortly thereafter.  Elise and her family have been deported to an internment camp, where they are kept until arrangements can be made to send them back to Germany, where her parents were born.  While there, she meets a Japanese-American girl, Mariko, from whom she is separated when Elise's family is sent to German in the waning days of WWII.  

Of course the Germany to which they return is a bombed-out shell of the Germany her parents left all those years ago, and the bombing raids at the end of the war destroy even more.  Then comes the occupation, which is not all candy and roses.  Elise never feels at home in Germany and accepts a marriage proposal from a GI--a proposal they both know was made for the sole purpose of getting her back to the US.  We follow her as she returns to a US that is different from the one she left and to a lifestyle that is definitely not what she is used to.  Still, she manages to thrive. 

In some ways this is one of those books where everything just wraps up too neatly.  I liked Elise; she seemed real and ready to take advantage of opportunities presented with out coming across as a selfish person. 

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

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