Sunday, July 06, 2014

Swan Point: My Review

Swan Point (A Sweet Magnolias Novel)

About the Book:
Determined to build a new life for her family after her divorce, Adelia Hernandez has bought a home in the historic Swan Point neighborhood of Serenity. Promoted to manager of Main Street's most fashionable boutique, she feels revitalized and ready for a fresh start as a single mom. But barely into this new independent phase, she crosses paths with the sexiest man to hit Serenity in years. 

Gabe Franklin, back in town to make amends for past mistakes, has no intention of settling down, but Adelia's proving irresistible. Cheered on by their friends, "the Sweet Magnolias," Gabe is bringing long-absent passion and laughter into Adelia's life. To his surprise—and hers—sometimes a rolling stone is just what it takes to build the rock-solid foundation of a family. 

My Comments:
Fans of the Sweet Magnolia series will enjoy this installment in the long-running saga.  Those new to it may have a little trouble keeping track of all the characters and their relationships, and will wonder why some were even mentioned.  For the uninitiated, the Sweet Magnolias are a group of women from this small town.  Most grew up together, though they have expanded their circle to include other main characters in the books.  It is the prototypical small town where everyone knows (or at least thinks they know) everyone else's business.

One thing I didn't like about the book is the references to Catholicism.  The references weren't necessary to the story, and frankly Sherryl Woods gets it wrong.  On the one hand she has people staying in bad marriages because of Church rules, but then has them doing things against other Church rules without a mention.  I can't give more details without spoilers, but I've seen it in other books by Woods.

The book is squeaky clean, no one goes to bed with anyone that we know of. 

Gabe and Adelia are both likable characters who have been hurt in the past.  Adelia is coming off a bad marriage; Gabe had a bad childhood.  Adelia knows she is worth loving and won't settle for less; Gabe doesn't think he is worth loving and won't reach for real love.  Will they get together?

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

Saturday, July 05, 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.

Happy Fourth of July!  Ok, it is the 5th but the whole weekend is the holiday, right?  Tonight at Mass we sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful, Let There Be Peace on Earth and God Bless America. I was at the parish in which I grew up, the parish I attended with my Dad for the last eighteen months of his life.  His church buddies were glad to see me and while I didn't know it when I went there, he was one of the Mass intentions.  

Why was I there?  Well, I decided that since we had a long weekend it would be a good time to start going through my folks' house.  Since the house is going to my brother when probate is done and since he lives next door and can keep an eye on the place, no one has been in any hurry to do anything about the house.  Basically no one wants to fool with it.  However, one day someone will have to so I took the first cut today, boxing up stuff I was sure no one would want and that we couldn't sell or done (appliance manuals, medical records, membership cards and the like, used underwear...)

There is just so much stuff there that I'm overwhelmed.  My thought was to deal with the easy stuff; either throw it away or give it to new owners and then we can go through the marginal stuff -- diplomas, yearbooks, old pictures.  What to keep? What to toss?

Question of the Week:  Tell us about a priest (or more) who have been significant in your life.  I'll talk about two:  Msgr. Stephen Adrel was the priest who married my parents.  He was the pastor of the church in my mother's hometown for most of my childhood.  I remember meeting him a week or so before I started first grade in the parish school and he made me feel so special.  I always loved seeing him on the playground (he came over most days to see the kids at recess) even if I didn't like going to Mass.  We used to go to my mom's hometown every summer for a couple of weeks and he always remembered me when we shook hands after Mass.  No other priest I knew at that time knew my name.

The other priest who has been significant is the pastor of my parents' parish, Fr. Louis.  He is one of those priests who has the gift of being able to remember names and after I started taking my Dad to church regularly, he knew me and when my Dad was having problems, told me to call if I needed anything. During the last few weeks of my Dad's life he there for my Dad and for me.  The last few days of my Dad's life, Father visited more than once a day.  His gift is making people feel the love of God through him and I thank God Fr. Louis was there for us when my parents died.

This week I reviewed a beach read.  I let readers know my two cents about the Hobby Lobby Case.   Of course I had to write about a romance novel, right?   Finally I introduced my readers to some children's books about other cultures.  

Friday, July 04, 2014

Book Review: The Girls of August

About the Book:
Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.

My Comments:
I loved the writing.  I found myself reading passages out loud because I loved the way they sounded. The story was told in the first person and felt like I was sitting on the porch listening to her telling me what happened.   I liked reading a book about women who were not young anymore--these women were in their forties, for the most part.  Even though I really enjoy romance novels, I liked the fact that this book did not have a stock plot.  The beach setting was fabulous and Anne Rivers Siddons made it come to life in my mind.

What didn't I like?  I didn't like the way the three old members of the group treated the newcomer.  I found them to be mean and rude.  While I can  understand them not inviting this 23 year old into their inner circle, I found them to be rude to Baby.  I also found there were a lot of things going on that were never really explained--they were brought up and as a reader I'd hope for more information but it never came.  We know that all three of the older women will be facing big life changes when they get home, but the book ends with a boat on its way, not with them at home.  What made Baby marry a man that much older than she is?  What was her relationship with her family?  To me there were just too many loose ends and unanswered questions--we joined these women for two weeks on the beach, but we don't know what happens when they go home.

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

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

My Two Cents on the Hobby Lobby Case

In case you couldn't guess, I think the Supreme Court made the right call in the Hobby Lobby case.  I don't think an employer who is morally opposed to something, whether that something is birth control (which I admit I morally oppose), or coffee (which I drink) or blood transfusions (which I would certainly have if needed) should have to pay for it.  On the other hand, I don't think it is my employer's business whether I use birth control, drink coffee or have a blood transfusion.  I think we need to get health insurance out of the workplace and I think we need to allow consumers to pick the health insurance benefits that work for their families.

According a form from my employer, my family health insurance coverage costs over $14,000 per year and I pay about half of that.  In addition, I pay co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket for a doctor who isn't in-network.  My insurance doesn't cover dental or optical.  In short, my share of my family's  healthcare expenses is  right up there with food on the top of our monthly expense list (our house is paid for).  Nevertheless, because of the laws it is better for my firm to "give" (my firm doesn't give me anything, I earn it) me health insurance than it is to pay me the cost of that insurance.  Because of that large contribution, I can't get near the coverage for near the price anywhere else.  Because of the laws, the managing partners of my firm get to decide how I am going to spend a large sum of money every month.  They pick the company, the deductibles, the network of doctors, the coverage and the premium.  Why?  

Because my firm chooses not to pay me as much as they pay my boss, my housing choices are limited, and there are a lot of places he could afford to live that I can't.  Still, within the parameters of what I can afford, I get to pick whether I buy a smaller house in better neighborhood or a bigger house in a lesser neighborhood.  I get to decide whether I want all the house I can afford, or whether I'd rather spend less on housing and more on something else.  It's my money and my choice.  I don't have to live in the neighborhood selected by the managing partners.  

If we removed health insurance from the workplace, if it became something that people had to buy just like we have to buy food, housing, transportation or clothing, then the market would adjust and provide products that meet the needs of the consumers.  My guess is that we would see a lot more high-deductible plans that didn't cover routine expenses like birth control simply because it is dumb to run routine expenses through an insurance company.  You'd have a lot less lobbying of Congress to make insurance companies cover this or that because if they do cover it, whatever "it" is, then the price has to increase to cover "it".  

While I think the Supreme Court made the right decision in the Hobby Lobby case, I don't think they should have been in to position of having to decide it.  I don't think Hobby Lobby should be buying its employees health insurance.  I think Hobby Lobby and every other company should pay their employees with money and let the employees decide how to spend that money, and that our laws should encourage that rather than the paternalism of the company or the government deciding what employees need.  

Christmas In July: Review

About the Book:
Grace Flaherty had given up hope of ever seeing her husband again. After all, it'd been over a year since he went missing in combat. So when he strides through the door of her bakery in downtown Christmas one sunny afternoon, she can hardly believe her eyes. But her happily-ever-after is going to take some effort - because Jack has no memory of his family.

All Jack Flaherty remembers about Christmas is that he couldn't wait to leave town. Now he's a local hero with a wife and son he doesn't know. Even as he struggles to rekindle the romance with his wife, he knows in his heart what he wants: a second chance at love.

My Comments:
A quaint small town where everyone looks out for you.  A bakery that sells special treats.  A war hero--an escaped POW.  A cute kid.  What more could today's romance novel want?  Maybe a few less characters--this is the second book in the series and there were a lot of folks I couldn't keep straight and there were referenced to back story that I hadn't read--or maybe to future stories that haven't been published yet.  

I liked Grace and Jack.  Both were trying to escape a less than wonderful childhood.  Grace wants to trade the nomadic ways of a military brat for life in a small town where everyone knows you and takes care of you.  Jack wants to get out of the small town where everyone knows your business and tells you what to do and what you've done wrong.  Jack suffered a blow to his head and didn't remember he had a wife and son.  While in captivity he met a beautiful woman.  Which will he choose?  Since Jack had been gone so long, Grace had decided to move on with her life, and there in the wings, waiting for her was Jack's best friend.  Now Jack is back.  Who will she choose?

Both Jack and Grace are suffering from guilt over a situation that wasn't their fault.  I enjoyed watching them heal.  

All in all, this was an enjoyable read.  While there were bedroom scenes 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley  Grade:  B- (would have been a B with a few less characters).  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Learning About Other Cultures

Carole P. Roman must figure that one way to get her books featured on my blog is to send them to me.  Today I woke up from nap to find yet another package from her.  Since her books are cute and educational, I'll go ahead and share them with you.

Each of these books is much like the other.  Each features a boy and a girl telling you about their homeland.  They tell you what they call their parents, what their money is called, games they like to play, what common names are, some famous place in their country and more.  The story is the same in each book, only the details change.  I think this would be a great series of books for a school or a homeschooling mom to acquire.

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