Saturday, September 13, 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:With which ministries/activities within your parish are you involved?  I am a lector, I serve on the school board and as the parent of a child in the parish school, I'm in the Parents' Club.  I work the fair every year and I'm usually there all day for the craft fair.  

No posts for me this week.  Maybe next week.

Saturday, September 06, 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 is your favorite hymn or song you hear at Mass?  I have a bunch but Amazing Grace  and How Great Thou Art are right up at the top of the list.  

This week I reviewed Patrick Madrid's latest book:  Why Be Catholic?  I wrote about my continuing experience investing with Lending Club.  I reviewed a Christian novel that looks at roles in marriage.   Finally, I reviewed a book about student nurses in the 1930's.     

Review: Why Be Catholic?




About the Book:
Growing up Catholic during a time of great social and theological upheaval and transition, a time in which countless Catholics abandoned their religion in search of something else, Patrick Madrid learned a great deal about why people leave Catholicism and why others stay. This experience helped him gain many insights into what it is about the Catholic Church that some people reject, as well as those things that others treasure. Drawing upon Madrid's personal experiences, Why Be Catholic? offers a deeply personal, fact-based, rationale for why everyone should be Catholic or at least consider the Catholic Church in a new light.

My Comments:
Why be Catholic?  The bottom line for Madrid is that the Catholic Church teaches the truth so truth-seekers should be part of the Catholic Church.  

Madrid relates the tale of his  high school girlfriend's father who never missed a chance to tell Madrid what was wrong with Catholic beliefs.  Madrid would go home, look up what he was told, and learn that there was a supportable reason the Church taught what it did.  An apologist was born.  

In this book Madrid addresses the sacraments--what they do, why we need them and why God chooses to relate to us in those ways.  He talks about Mary and her place in the plan for salvation.  The saints and their roles are also addressed.  Madrid uses scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers to explain and defend the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Those looking for an intellectual approach to faith will find this a readable convincing text.  Those who choose their faith based on emotion will not likely be convinced, though I did like his story about a woman who left the Church based on a priest not being there when she needed him, and how God, with Madrid's help, brought her home.  

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

Lending Club: Month 2

It  has been almost two months since I started investing with Lending Club.  Here is how they say I am doing:


Not to shabby, right?  Not too shabby, but not as good as it looks.  As you may recall, I started this experiment in July by depositing $1000.00 with Lending Club.  I invested half of it in new loans, in $25 increments, and the other half in notes people were selling on the resale market.  See this post for and explanation of the advantages of each, per my research.  

At this point my Lending Club account is part investment, part experiment and part toy.  I ran out of money to play with so I decided to invest another $1550.00 (so I was over the minimum limit for automatic investing).  Now, some of you can do math, and will look at the graphic above and wonder how to start with $2550.00, earn $22.09, and end up with $2525.75.  Well, here is how.  (you can click on the picture for a better view.


This is one experiment.  You'll see that all the notes on this list have interest rates in excess of 20%.  I bought them all on the secondary market and all are over a year old, and all have perfect payment records.  While there is no guarantee that these borrowers will not default, the risk is quite a bit less than it was a year ago.  Most notes that default do so before month 18, and start showing signs of trouble (lowered FICO score, late or missed payments) before month 12.  Most borrowers holding high interest rate notes with good payment records know they are in demand and if they sell them, they demand a premium.  For this portfolio, I paid the premium, figuring that if I got 20% interest, what did I care what the seller made.  Then I had a loan paid off early, and I lost a few cents on that deal.  I'm going to watch this portfolio for a while.  Nickel Steamroller is a website that crunches the data they get from Lending Club.  They show that, depending on the grade of the loan, somewhere between 25% and 50% of the loans are paid early, though they don't show how early.  If you add the amount in the "payments" column to the "outstanding principal" column, you'll see whether I am ahead or behind for that note after one payment.  Generally speaking, I'm still behind.  

From what I've read, the most accurate way to compute your returns on peer lending is called XIRR.  You have to account for money in and money out and the fact that each note has a different interest rate.  A calculator is here.  Right now it is showing annualized losses on this portfolio of 36.57%.  If I can avoid defaults for a couple of months, that number should improve greatly.  

What about the rest of my notes?  Well, this portfolio is new notes I bought with the first batch of money.  Since I deposited the money July 10, that's the starting date I'm going to use.

If you look at the diagram, you'll see that it lists my weighted average interest rate as 13.6% but when I calculate the returns with XIRR, I only get 6.7%.  Why?  Because it took me almost a month to invest all that money.  Until that time, it sat in a no interest account.  I expect this number to get better before it gets worse.


This portfolio started with $516.95 worth of resale notes.  The nice thing about them is that you do not have to wait an entire month (or more) before getting interest.  If you own it on the day interest is paid, you get the money.  On this portfolio, I have returns of 13.53%.


This is my discount portfolio.  I went looking for notes that were selling at a discount, but which were a year old (about) and had perfect payment records.  I invested $378.57 and got 20 notes.  The yield to maturity shown for most of them was between 4 and 6 percent.  I'm showing a return of 6.08% but that counts the discount as interest.  Also, many of the notes paid their former owner, not me, this month.  It will be interesting to see what happens to that number.  

One question with any investment is "How does this fit into my overall plan?"  Is this for long-term money, or short term?  Is this a safe investment, or risky?  How does it compare to others?  From what I've been reading, my discount portfolio is pretty safe.  The notes are past the time of most defaults, and they were high quality notes to start with.  We like to keep enough cash around for a new used car if necessary.  I'm wondering if putting that money in high quality notes with principal values near $10 would be a good place for that money.  One difference between these notes and stocks/bonds/mutual funds is that these notes throw off a lot of cash (principal and interest).  You can see at the top that I've gotten $97.54 in payments in the last two months.  If all the notes I have pay, I'll get $96.86 deposited into my account each month until one of these notes is paid, or quits paying. If I had more smaller notes, there would be even more cash generated from the same principal.  Between that cash flow, and being able to sell notes, I wonder if this would be safe enough for that money.  The interest sure beats what the bank is paying.  

So, what do you think?  Will I get rich with this?  Should I invest more money; get out while the getting is good, or just watch things a while longer?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Blog Tour: Home to Chicory Lane With Facebook Party and Giveaway!




About the Book:
Audrey Whitman’s dreams are coming true. Now that their five kids are grown, she and her husband Grant are turning their beloved family home into a cozy bed and breakfast, just a mile outside of Langhorne, Missouri.

Opening weekend makes Audrey anxious, with family and friends coming from all over to help celebrate the occasion. But when Audrey’s daughter, Landyn, arrives, the U-Haul she’s pulling makes it clear she’s not just here for a few days. Audrey immediately has questions. What happened in New York that sent Landyn running home? Where was Landyn’s husband, Chase? And what else was her daughter not telling her? One thing was for sure, the Chicory Inn was off to a rocky start. Can Audrey still realize her dream and at the same time provide the comfort of home her daughter so desperately needs?

My Comments:
Those who like their Christian fiction on the religious side should enjoy this novel about two newlyweds working out the terms of their relationship.  Those holding more modern egalitarian views of marriage will shake their heads at references to the husband being the head of the home and at marriage vows of obedience.  Both Landyn and Chase are trying to listen to God in their lives and yet they aren't listening to each other.  Frankly Landyn really needs to grow up; she gets mad (rightly so) because her husband makes a major life decision without consulting her, so she quits her job and runs home to Mom and Dad where she acts like a teenager when asked to help with chores.  She refuses to answer her phone or check her messages because she doesn't want people telling her what to do.  

Deborah Raney does a good job of contrasting the broken marriage and immature ways of relating that Chase and Landyn have adopted to the mature and loving marriage of Landyn's parents.  This is clearly a book written to teach a lesson about marriage.

I'd like to thank Litfuse for providing a complimentary review copy.  Grade:  B.

Blog Tour:

The first book in Deborah Raney's new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.

chicory-400-click
 
  One winner will receive:
  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: The Nightingale Girls




About the Book:
Three very different girls sign up as student nurses in 1936, while England is still mourning the death of George V. Dora is a tough East Ender, driven by ambition, but also desperate to escape her squalid, overcrowded home and her abusive stepfather. Helen is the quiet one, a mystery to her fellow nurses, avoiding fun, gossip and the limelight. In fact she is in the formidable shadow of her overbearing mother, who dominates every aspect of her life. Can a nursing career free Helen at last? The third of our heroines is naughty, rebellious Millie an aristocrat on the run from her conventional upper class life. She is doomed to clash over and over again with terrifying Sister Hyde and to get into scrape after scrape especially where men are concerned.

My Comments:
Once upon a time I wanted to be a nurse.  In the early 1970's I read piles of nurse romance novels, many of which were set in hospital schools of nursing where girls in blue striped pinafores moved from being probationers who did menial chores to graduate nurses who were in charge of wards.  Students provided labor in exchange for training; a system that pretty much came to an end in the 1970's.  However, that system started years earlier, and the Nightingale Hospital in London was one of the early adopters.  Their students nurses were paid employees who lived on the grounds and were under the supervision of the hospital 24/7. 

This is the the story of these three young women's first year as student nurses.  It is full of period details like descriptions of the hospital wards, the social season and the East End tenements.  Women of a certain age will remember when marriage was a career-ending event.  Those of us familiar with the "same day surgery" concept of hospital care will contrast that with patients remaining on the wards for weeks until they were completely recovered from whatever ailed them.  

I enjoyed watching these three girls, their friends and their enemies grow during this formative year in their lives and I look forward to reading the other books in the series.  If it is important to you, the only sex scenes in the book were abusive and if you didn't realize what was happening you wouldn't know what it was from the description given.  The book is set in England and uses English spellings and words (most notably "Sister" for a charge nurse.)  

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

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