Saturday, December 29, 2012

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.

I haven't blogged at all this week.  I could tell you that I've been overwhelmed with the holidays but that's just not true.  I guess I'm getting a little burned out.  I've been reading Kindle freebies and other such junk and have just had no desire to blog.  Hopefully I'll get out of the funk soon.  What about you?  Do you every get blogging dry spells?


Saturday, December 22, 2012

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.

Just two posts this week for me, neither of which have anything to do with Catholicism.  I' ve been busy getting ready for Christmas.  Don't tell my youngest, but she's getting a Kindle Fire and Mom has spent a lot of time downloading apps and figuring out how it works so when she turns it on Christmas morning it will do something.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Big Sky River: My Review



About the Book:
Sheriff Boone Taylor has his job, friends, a run-down but decent ranch, two faithful dogs and a good horse. He doesn't want romance—the widowed Montanan has loved and lost enough for a lifetime. But when a city woman buys the spread next door, Boone's peace and quiet are in serious jeopardy.
With a marriage and a career painfully behind her, Tara Kendall is determined to start over in Parable. Reinventing herself and living a girlhood dream is worth the hard work. Sure, she might need help from her handsome, wary neighbor. But life along Big Sky River is full of surprises…like falling for a cowboy-lawman who just might start to believe in second chances.

My Comments:
I enjoyed this book, which is pretty typical of Linda Lael Miller's books.  He's been mourning his wife since she died, and has let his sister raise his two boys for the last five years.  She's licking her wounds after divorcing her self-absorbed husband, a Manhattan surgeon.  His brother-in-law gets hurt and he has to reclaim his sons.  Her ex asks her to take his daughters (who she loves) for a few weeks.  Can this group somehow form a family?  

Like most of Miller's books, this one has a couple of steamy scenes, though they were more flowery than explicit.  Interestingly, they decided not to be intimate when the kids were around until they got married.  I liked both Boone and Tara, and the kids were great.  It may not be great literature but it was a fun read.

Those who have read the other books in the series will enjoy catching up with the couples featured in them, and I'm guessing there is at least one more book in this series.  Here are my reviews of the other books in this series:  Big Sky Country and Big Sky Mountain.  

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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Christmas Homecoming



About the Book:
Seven Christmases have passed since Sonia Pettit last heard from her daughter Jody. Since Jody’s departure, Sonia’s world has been turned upside down. Her husband has died of a broken heart, and her son, bitter over his sister’s destructive actions, has become rebellious. 

Her greatest desire is to have her family together at Christmas, but after what Jody has put them all through, can Sonia truly forgive her daughter?

Jody Pettit O’Dair ran away to experience a life of adventure and excitement, but since her 
departure, her world has been turned upside down. She’s been abandoned by the man she met and married, lost her job, and is unable to care for her two children. With nowhere else to turn, this prodigal daughter begins the long journey home and prays she will be welcomed after walking away so long ago. 

Will Jody find forgiveness in the arms of her family as easily as she received it from God?

My Comments:
I never expect Christmas stories to be anything but sweet and happily ever after, and this was no exception to the rule.  However, it really didn't do anything for me and I chose to skim the second half of this 53 page novella.  

I'd like to thank the folks at Litfuse for the complimentary review copy.  

Contest:

Grab a copy of MaryAnn Diorio's "A Christmas Homecoming" for JUST .99! MaryAnn is celebrating by giving away a Paperwhite Kindle! Details below!



One "merry" winner will receive:
  • A Paperwhite Kindle
  • A Christmas Homecoming by MaryAnn Diorio
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 22nd. Winner will be announced on 12/23/12 at MaryAnn's Blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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.

Another light blogging week.  I reviewed a book of two romantic novellas.  I also wrote about Catholic Schools.  


Friday, December 14, 2012

Catholic Schools

What should a Catholic school be like?  How does the average Catholic school live up to that ideal?  Can a school like that survive in today's world?  If not, what compromises are acceptable, and which are not?

Ideally, in my opinion, Catholic schools would be much like one I attended for a short time in the late 1960's.  It was a parish school, totally supported by parishioner contributions, and it made room for all parish children (even if they had to put 40 students in a class, which they did).  It did not have non-parish kids because it was the only Catholic parish in town, and why would Protestants want to send their kids to a Catholic school?  We went to mass daily, confession monthly, opened and closed the day with prayers, said grace at lunchtime and took religion daily.   Now, I realize that that school was non-ideal in it's own way.  I'm sure the teachers were even more underpaid than Catholic school teachers are today. My class (and I'm sure others) had over 40 kids--and I can't imagine there being a lot of individual attention for kids with learning problems in an environment like that.  Parents could opt the kids out of mass attendance by sending them to school later than mass began, and that daily mass was not aimed at kids at all, so by the time they reached the junior high years, most kids had figured out how to ditch mass and did.

Today the average cost per student in a Catholic school in our archdiocese is about $5,000.  The average tuition is about $4,000, with the difference being made up with parish subsidies, donations, grants and fund raising.  Still, for many young families, $4,000 is a lot of money.  The official Church teachings may encourage big families but tuition bills surely do not (and high school tuition is double that for elementary school). In our area, families who can afford to avoid the public school system generally do.  Because Catholic schools, expensive as they are, are often lower priced than other private schools, and because our area is culturally Catholic, our Catholic schools are filled with kids who are not parishioners and who do not regularly attend Mass on Sunday.  While I am sure different schools have different demographics, in our parish school only about 25% of the kids are registered parishioners (though the vast majority are at least nominally Catholics and most live in the neighborhood).  I think more people think of Catholic schools as private schools rather than community schools.

One big selling point of Catholic schools is that they maintain standards--academic standards and behavioral standards.  While kids may graduate from public schools as functional illiterates, 90+ percent of graduates of local Catholic high schools go to college.  While kids may get away with XYZ in the public schools, Catholic schools don't tolerate it.  Parents love this.  Who wants their third grader in a classroom with a bunch of illiterate ten year olds?  Who wants their first grader's vocabulary of four-letter words to increase due to what they hear from classmates?  Who wants their 13 year old boy sitting in class next to a girl whose breasts are hanging out of her low-cut, tight shirt?  Who wants to have to worry about physical altercations in the classroom or on the playground, much less fist fights turning into knife fights or gunfights?  Who wants the class disrupted by vocal tics from a child with Tourette's syndrome?  Who would choose to have their child's class disrupted daily by a frustrated child who was significantly behind the rest of the class and chose to play class clown rather than class dummy?  Who wants their sixteen year old daughter sitting next to a pregnant classmate?  As parents we want what is best for our children and none of those situations are ideal for our kids; but what about when our kid IS the situation?  Where do kids who don't meet the standards fit in the world of Catholic education?  Is, or should it be any different, from where these kids fit in the world of private schools as a whole?

Catholic high schools around here are strictly college preparatory--four years of science, English, math, history and religion.  Two years of foreign language, two years of PE, a year of fine arts and a computer class are also generally required. While some high schools are more selective than others, there are graduates of Catholic elementary schools who cannot find slots in convenient high schools because the schools know the kids can't handle the academics.  The less-selective schools lose many of their lower-standing students to public schools before graduation.  Are we "upholding high standards" if we simply fail out or counsel out those who fail to meet the standard?

I have a daughter who is about to graduate from a public magnet high school that maintains very high academic and behavioral standards.  It has been a good school for her and she'll head off to college next year with between 15 and 30 hours of college credit.  She has spent the last seven years surrounded by smart kids whose parents value education.  While some of her friends' parents have made choices in their personal lives which are incompatible with Catholicism, in general the kids she is in school with have been raised to act in much the same way she has.  As my daughter's mother, I'm glad this school was an option.  It saved me a ton of money over Catholic schools, provided her with a peer group similar to or better than she'd find in a Catholic school and gave her a top-notch education.  However, as someone interested in the overall improvement of our local public schools, I'm not sure it is a good idea.  Yes, it is helping the overall test scores for our district, which gives those in charge something to brag about.  Yes, it does draw a lot of kids who would otherwise be in private schools.  Yes, it does provide a superior education to a few kids too poor to attend private schools--but socio-economically the magnet schools serve a much higher population than the regular public schools.  On the other hand, it pulls some of the top students and teachers out of the neighborhood high schools, taking away role models and reducing demand for high-level classes.

I have an autistic son who failed to meet the academic and behavior standards of a Catholic high school.  They upheld the standards, not the kid and we went to the public high school where the standards may not have been as high, but where kids mattered.

My youngest is in our parish school.  Tonight I heard a fellow mom bemoaning the behavior of one of her child's classmates who was academically behind and a behavioral problem.  She made it sound like if that child remained in the class, she would have to consider moving her child.  I don't blame her for being upset.  She is paying substantial tuition and her child is being exposed to language she'd rather the child not learn, the teacher is having to devote inordinate attention to that one child, and her child is seeing examples of other inappropriate behaviors.  But what about the kid who is causing the problem?  Should that child be expelled?  That would solve the mom's problem, but what about the troubled kid?  Jesus dealt with people where they were and encouraged them to improve; he didn't just accept the perfect, or even the "normal".  One of my daughter's friends switched schools this year because her mom was unhappy with the way the school dealt with a student who was picking on my daughter's friend, but the child doing the picking was going through a lot at home and I'm sure that child's parents were happy that the school was working with them.  I know how much I always appreciated those who understood my son and cut us some slack where necessary, but I also know it was very tempting to wish that the Catholic high school kids who were teasing him would be expelled.

I know our Catholic schools are walking a tightrope.  I know that even the most idealistic principal has to pay the bills.  When a school is filled with kids who meet their Sunday Mass obligation on Friday morning (yep, when the confirmation kids were told to sign in at Sunday Mass, the DRE got a couple of calls from parents who explained that the kids met their Mass obligation at the school Mass during the week) too much religion could cause parents to look at other schools.  When avoiding "those kids" is a major reason parents cough up substantial tuition payments, then having one or more of "them" in your child's class makes you look elsewhere.  Are Catholic schools more Catholic--more filled with kids whose parents practice Catholicism, more universal in their outlook toward kids who have problems, more a part of parish life in areas where the public schools are considered good and generally utilized by the middle and/or upper classes?

Yea, I know it seems like I've got a lot of conflicting beliefs.  Looking at it idealistically, I wonder whether we should have magnet schools; looking at it as the mother of a gifted daughter, I'm glad we got the opportunity to use that school.  As the mother of an autistic son, I know he has caused more than his fair share of trouble for the schools he has attended.  I also know that the problems he caused were not caused deliberately with the intention of causing problems.  I know I was less than happy with the way the Catholic high school treated him and me.  Idealistically, I think schools should deal with the students they are dealt.  Realistically, I don't like it when my kids are picked on any more than anyone else does.  While I may idealistically wonder whether Catholic schools should exist or if their existence, at least in my community, does as much harm as good; as a mom trying to pick the best school for my daughter, I chose a Catholic school where, perfectly or imperfectly, she'd learn about the faith I am trying to teach her.  What's the answer?  Is it ok to think that society in general should make a certain decision, while making a different decision for myself?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holidays at Crescent Cove



About the Book:
Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about friends, family, and good food. But this year, the holidays will truly bring the residents of Crescent Cove home.

Thanksgiving At Crescent Cove
Amidst visions of turkey and pumpkin pie, sweet Grace is ready to greet Thanksgiving in a quiet celebration of home and heart. But things don't go according to plan. Her father—to whom she hasn't spoken in years—comes walking through the door, expecting a reunion and her help. And of course this is the exact moment her friend Jake has finally decided to make a declaration. Will the spirit of Thanksgiving be enough to help Grace accept her family and her friend's love?

Christmas At Crescent Cove
It's Christmas, and Bri never expected to find a handsome stranger sleeping in her barn. But she never expected to be living in Crescent Cove again with her two adopted daughters. Since 'tis the season to open your home to those in need, Bri decides to let David spend the holidays with her new family, and he gives her and the girls a precious gift—the true meaning of Christmas.

My Comments:
These two short romances set in a beach town were a fun way to pass a few hours.  Nothing serious, nothing  thought-provoking, nothing unexpected, and no intimate scenes.  Grade:  B.  

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

Saturday, December 08, 2012

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.

The only post I have this week is a review of a Kindle freebie romance.  

I'd like to ask you all for prayers.  Back in the late 1990's when I first got online I discovered AOL message boards.  One in particular was a favorite--a Catholic Moms board.  Those of us who posted regularly were generally 30 something moms with young kids, and over the years a core group of us has stuck together and we now have a private group  on facebook.  Now we are generally the parents of teens, or in many cases, grandparents.  A few of us even still have young kids.  A few months ago, one of the "anchors" of the group, a woman with great wisdom and compassion, a woman who always seemed to know what to say to pull us together when we started to fuss and bicker, announced that she had lung cancer.  Kathy is in her mid-fifties, will become a grandmother for the first time this spring, and is the mother of a teen with special needs.  She is also the wife of a man who has a non-cancerous brain tumor (but don't think non-cancerous means non-harmful).  This week she received news that the cancer has spread to her liver.  Please pray for her and her family.  

Congratulations to Sunday Snippets regulars Kate Basi and Christian LeBlanc and new reader Seth Peters who won Jesus Christ The Infancy Narratives.  

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Kindle Freebie: Santa Wore Combat Boots



About the Book:

Emma Turner feels like her life ended with the death of her husband. Three years later she’s doing the best she can for her children and moving through life on autopilot. She doesn't believe true love can happen twice in a lifetime. As a matter of fact, she doesn't believe in much anymore. Putting her trust in one honest man might be just what she needs to move forward.

Bound by duty Jake Nicklaus never imagined he’d cross the line and fall in love with the woman he swore he’d watch over. If only he’d died on that chopper instead of her husband, she wouldn't be hurting. The only way to heal her heart is to show her how to live again. Finding the magic in Christmas is the perfect way to start.

Will one kiss under the mistletoe change their lives forever?

**This story was chosen as Best Holiday Short Story by the Syracuse Post Standard**

My Comments:
I grabbed this when it was an Amazon freebie and decided tonight that a short sweet read fit my mood completely.  Honestly, my expectations for Amazon freebies are pretty low, unless they are backlist books from authors about to publish new books.  In this case, those expectations were exceeded.  Not only did I not finish the book thinking "this could really use an editor", I really enjoyed this novella.  It was a clean read but there was plenty of attraction between Emma and Jake.  The only thing that might bother someone about this book is that Emma's late husband/Jake's friend appears in the story as a ghost, and Emma is seeking a medium to allow her more communication with her late husband.  Still, its a Christmas story, so in the end...  Grade:  B-.  


Saturday, December 01, 2012

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.

Only one post this week. I reviewed a Catholic romance novel, which was recommended by Sunday Snippets regular Ellen Gable Hrkach.  The title is is Angela's Song and the hero is a 50ish bachelor; the heroine a widow with three kids.  Question for those who read religious fiction or fiction with religious themes:  How much is too much?  In a book not explicitly about a character's religious life/conversion, how much religious content is too much?  Do you prefer books with subtle themes or those which explicitly try to make their point?  Do you like to read sermons or lessons in your fiction?   

I'm going to link to a few old posts that may be of interest, though I will tell you that I haven't taken a look at them  lately and have no idea if the links are still current:
Advent for Families with Children, Keep Christ in Christmas Activities,  and  Celebrate Epiphany

Also, don't forget my giveaway of the Pope's recent book.  Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narrative.  I got my book this week and I'm enoying it.  Giveaway ends Sunday night.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Angela's Song: My Review


About the Book:
Widow and mother of three, Angela 'Jel' Cooke is full of regret about her marriage to her late husband. Her close friends can see that she is keeping busy to avoid her pain. But no amount of cooking, baking, volunteering or late-night games of Yahtzee with her BFF can bring her any peace. When Jack Bartolomucci walks into her life, he challenges Angela to face her demons head on. What follows is a poignant, sometimes hilarious tale of hope and healing.

My Comments:
I really enjoyed reading this very Catholic romance.  That being said, this romance was VERY Catholic.  When looking at faith-based fiction, I always consider how much is too much.  As Catholics, indeed as Christians of any ilk (or for that matter people of any faith tradition), our faith is supposed to be part of who we are and an integral part of our lives; not just something we do for an hour on Sunday morning (or whenever we worship).  However, I'll admit that the folks who talk about Jesus all the time, who have houses that look like they robbed a church, or who otherwise stand out from the crowd due to public displays of faith make me uncomfortable.  Perhaps that's why this book often rubbed me the wrong way.

Since her husband's death, Angela has come to realize that her marriage left a lot to be desired.  Because she has volunteered to work with youth ministry at church (along with a bunch of other ministries, which are described), the parish sends her to a series of classes on The Theology of the Body, which for those not familiar with it, is a work by Pope John Paul II that deals with sex and intimacy in marriage and how it images the love of Christ for the Church.  It presents what are often seen as oppressive rules against fornication, birth control or homosexual acts in a positive way--as in doing right will give you far more happiness than doing wrong, rather than "you'll go Hell if you do wrong".  Of course as readers, we get to listen to parts of the class.  She falls for the teacher, and eventually they begin a very chaste courtship.  During the course of the story we learn that both Jack and Angela attend daily mass and pray the rosary regularly.  Angela starts the day with the Morning Offering.  She gets spiritual direction from her pastor and we sit in on a couple of sessions.  At one point Angela gets very mad at Jack, kisses him passionately (without his permission) and then slaps him.  The next day she won't go to communion because she needs to confess.  Every time they have a meal together, the fact that they say grace is mentioned.  Angela's husband had been run over by a drugged out man.  There is a scene in which she makes a statement in the courtroom at his sentencing.  She forgave him--as opposed to the family of the other victim who spewed hatred.  When Angela and Jack are having a major disagreement not long before the wedding, they go and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and of course afterwards are able to work it out.  Their wedding night includes prayer.  In short, Catholicism  penetrates every part of this book and Creedon is clearly trying to both educate her readers about Catholic sexual morality  and convince them that it will bring happiness in this life, not just save them from damnation.  

Jack obviously cares a great deal for Angela, right from the beginning.  He is almost a God figure--he knows what's best, he insists they do things the right way.  He is there for Angela, but doesn't push himself on her.  He wants to take care of her.  As they grow closer, he insists on emotional intimacy and vulnerability.  He urges her to do things she needs to do to get her life in proper balance.  I read somewhere that it is our vocation as spouses to lead each other to heaven.  Jack is  clearly trying to do that to Angela.  

So, the final verdict?  Good story, lots of romantic tension since they did not kiss on the lips until after they were engaged, and then quickly decided to wait until they got married because it flared so much passion.  Characters were very religious people who sometimes didn't seem quite real--well, Angela seemed to struggle a little with Jack's limits on physical intimacy, but she wanted to do it right this time.  It is a very religious story that is clearly trying to teach about Catholic sexual morality and push Catholic spiritual practices.  In short, if you don't like religious fiction, this is far too religious to recommend to you.  If you are a firm believer in the sexual moral teachings of the Catholic Church and want to read a romance novel that comports with them, this will be right up your alley.  If you want to learn about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, this is a pleasant wrapper, though I think you'd learn more reading some of the books listed  at the end of this book than from reading this story.  If you want to know how the average person in the pew lives Catholicism, well, maybe I'm not average, but I think these two are too good to be true.  

I got this book when it was an Amazon Kindle freebie though I'd like to thank Ellen Gable Hrkach for calling to to my attention.  Grade:  B--.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

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.

My Catholic book this week (I'm aiming for one/week, though I don't always manage) is Cravings, which is a book that approaches weight loss from the view of Catholic  spirituality.  A Snowglobe Christmas and Christmas Roses are inspirational Christmas romances.  Running Wild is a general market romance and How Lucky You Are deals with four female college friends years later.  


Cravings: My Review



About the Book:
In this first book on the topic written from a Catholic perspective, award-winning writer Mary DeTurris Poust offers personal, hard-won wisdom on the complex relationship between food and spirituality.

Mary DeTurris Poust draws on the rich appreciation of meals she first gained at the tables of her childhood in an Italian-American family, leading readers into reflection on the connections between eating, self-image, and spirituality. Like Geneen Roth in Women, Food and God, but from a uniquely Catholic point of view, Poust helps readers spot ways they use food to avoid or ignore their real desires--for acceptance, understanding, friendship, love, and, indeed, for God. Poust draws from scripture and the great Catholic prayer forms and devotions to assist readers in making intentional changes in their use of food. She also offers reflections on fasting, eating in solidarity with the poor, vegetarianism, and the local food movement.

My Comments:
This wasn’t the weight loss book I was looking for.  I want the one that tells me how I can lose weight while eating what I want when I want and not exercising.  If you are a publicist or author with such a book to offer, please be advised that if I find your system works, I’ll sing its praises daily.  

Yes, this is another eat less and exercise more to lose weight book.  So, what’s different about it?  Cravings looks at weight management from the perspective of Catholic spirituality.  Mary DeTurris Poust postulates that people who overeat do so to fill some void in their lives, a void that should be filled by God; in other words, getting your spiritual life in order is an important part of the weight loss process.  Most of the advice is pretty much the same as that given by other sensible weight control programs such as  eating slowly and mindfully, eating fresh whole foods rather than processed garbage and acknowledging your own self-worth.  It recommends a food and prayer journal.  What is different is the comparisons between ordinary meals and the Eucharist, which of course are accompanied by suggestions on how to make daily meals more like the Eucharist (which Catholics believe is the “Bread come down from heaven” which keeps  us from ever being hungry again).  Besides quoting popular authors like Leo Buscalia, Poust also quotes scripture and Church documents.

The book does not contain any diet or eating program.  It does not mandate any amount of exercise and does not promise any amount of weight loss. Rather, it is about changing your attitude about and approach to eating. Each chapter ends with  a set of reflection questions and action items.  For example, one of the questions in Chapter Two is “When you imagine yourself becoming the  person you want to be, what scares you the most?  How do you feel about unleashing your true self? What would it be like to value yourself with no conditions attached?”  The  “Practice” in Chapter Three is “Allow  yourself to eat one meal you really love with zero guilt. Savor every bite as a Roman would.  Go out to a restaurant or prepare it at home.  Eat slowly and with gusto.  Invite family or friends to join you.”  

I’ve read other places that Lent should be more than an excuse to lose a couple of pounds--it should be the opportunity for conversion in our lives, and that conversion is something that even the most devout among us need.  However, if you do need weight loss I think this book could be a wonderful Lenten guide since it calls not for just refraining from eating but also for conversion.  The book is eight chapters long so reading one chapter  per week and journaling on the reflection questions and following each chapter’s “Practice” should be a manageable Lenten practice that could result in long-lasting conversion.  

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




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: A Snowglobe Christmas



About the Book:
Yuletide Homecoming by Linda Goodnight

Five years ago, Rafe Westfield broke his fiancĂ©e's heart when he left to join the military. Now the battle-scarred soldier is back in Snowglobe. Amy Caldwell tries to keep her distance, but the holidays, family and a sweet stray dog keep bringing her and Rafe together…maybe this time, forever.

A Family's Christmas Wish by Lissa Manley

Abandoned by her husband when she was eight months pregnant, single mother Sara Kincaid vowed to rely only on herself. But then she makes a deal with handsome widowed father Owen Larsen to provide babysitting services in exchange for his carpentry work on her inn. Can two pint-size matchmakers help them see beyond the past in time for Christmas?

My Comments:
Two short Christmas novellas set in a small Montana town.  Two heroines who were abandoned by their fathers and by their first loves.  Two women who learn that trusting God means trusting the men He sent into their lives.  No, the men aren't perfect either.  Rafe was the one who left Amy all those years ago, and now he hopes to win her back.  Owen's wife died, and he doesn't want to risk that hurt again.

These stories are very sweet and heartwarming.  They are also very religious.  The characters pray, go to church, and think about God's will for their lives.  Of course the characters are chaste, but they manage a bit of steam too.  All in all, an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, but nothing outside a pretty formula romance.  

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If You Are a Proud Southerner--or Just Wish You Were


SIGNED COPIES OF SOUTHERN FRIED CHILD***
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Great gift for everyone on your Christmas List…especially Recommended for: 

Southern Fried Children
Southerners who live in the North
Old Women who have had Hot Perms
Teenagers who love horses
Anyone who has ever had a dog who loved them
Friends who love to read
Friends who should read
Favorite friends, neighbors and relatives
Everyone in The Long Blue Line
People whose name you drew randomly
People who have everything

***Author...Jimmie Moomaw... will sign and personalize all copies

ORDER NOW AT...WWW.SOUTHERNSTORIES.COM

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Review: Running Wild

Running Wild: The Men from Battle Ridge

About the Book:
Carlin Reed lives in fear, off the grid, moving from place to place. So Battle Ridge, Wyoming, a small town in the middle of nowhere, seems like a good place to lie low for a while. But after becoming cook and housekeeper to cattle rancher Zeke Decker, Carlin suspects that she’s made her first mistake. Rugged, sexy, and too distracting for his own good, Zeke is pure temptation mixed with something deep and primal that makes Carlin feel almost safe. Soon things are getting way too hot in the kitchen.

Zeke doesn’t challenge Carlin’s terms: cash, dead bolts, and no questions. It is easy to see that she’s a woman in trouble. Problem is, he’s so blindsided by his attraction to her he can’t think straight. Zeke tries to stay all business, no complications—but that game plan is sabotaged the second Carlin gets under his skin. And when her terrifying past follows her to the ranch, Carlin faces a heartbreaking choice: run away from the man she loves, or put him in the crosshairs of a madman.

My Comments:
This was a good story that kept me eagerly reading until the end; but I really didn't care for a lot of the language in this book.  I think that language also kept me from really becoming attached to the characters.  They used crude terms to refer to physical intimacy and body parts and while I realize that part of the reason for it was to show that the characters were  keeping their emotional distance, I still don't like it.  

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Roses: My Review



About the Book:
Celia Anderson doesn't need anything for Christmas except a few more boarders, which are hard to come by in this small mining town. She certainly doesn't have a husband on her Christmas wish list. But when a wandering carpenter finds lodging at her boarding house, she admits that she might remarry if she found the right man--the kind of man who would bring her roses for Christmas. It would take a miracle to get roses during a harsh Wyoming winter. But Christmas, after all, is the time for miracles . . .

Amanda Cabot invites readers to cozy up with a romantic, heartwarming tale of the greatest gift of all--love.

My Comments:
I read this short Christmas novella (172 pages) in just a few hours.  It was a sweet Christmas romance, and while it had definite spiritual content and message, it wasn't really preachy and was an enjoyable way to spend the evening.  

Celia was widowed a few months ago.  While she had grown to love her husband and considered him a good man, she did not want to enter into another arranged or convenience marriage.  Mark came into town looking for the father who had abandoned his family years ago.  As they get to know each other love blooms...

Ok, it wasn't the most original plot in the world and one of them had to find God before they got to live happily ever after, but I already told you it was a Christmas story, so I doubt you ever wondered if Celia and Mark would get together.  

I'd like to thank Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for providing me with a complimentary review copy of this book.  “Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”  Grade:  B-

Book Review: How Lucky You Are



About the Book:
In the tradition of Emily Giffin and Marisa de los Santos, HOW LUCKY YOU ARE is an engaging and moving novel about three women struggling to keep their longstanding friendship alive. Waverly, who's always been the group's anchor, runs a cozy bakery but worries each month about her mounting debt. Kate is married to a man who's on track to be the next governor of Virginia, but the larger questions brewing in their future are unsettling her. Stay-at-home mom Amy has a perfect life on paper, but as the horrific secret she's keeping from her friends threatens to reveal itself, she panics. 

As life's pressures build all around them, Waverly knows she has some big decisions to make. In doing so, she will discover that the lines between loyalty and betrayal can become blurred, happy endings aren't always clear-cut, and sometimes you have to risk everything to gain the life you deserve.

My Comments:
Three college girlfriends, now in their thirties.  Waverly has lived with her boyfriend for years.  He's wonderful but they've never married.  Is there a reason?  Are they the real thing, or is it time to move on?  Her parents are dead, she has no close family.  She owns a bakery that is going broke.  Kate is a politician's wife, until he and his mistress end up on the evening news.  About this time Waverly learns that Amy's husband physically abuses her.  As we follow these friends through a few months of their lives we see them re-evaluate choices they have made, learn that others have problems too, and learn to count their blessings.  

My main problem with the book is that I didn't like any of these women. Somehow Kristyn Kusek Lewis failed to make them resonate with me.  I wasn't horrified or even upset when I learned Amy was abused; she was nothing but a statistic to me.  Waverly seemed to epitomize what is wrong with modern society--she's got a great guy but the lack of marriage (permanent socially recognized commitment) keeps her from really trusting him with her problems (or maybe she fails to commit because she fails to trust).  Kate too seemed almost a stereotype of a politician's wife, until she dumps him for cheating.  Again, Lewis didn't make me care about her.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-


Saturday, November 17, 2012

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.

This week I reviewed an audiobook--My Big Old Texas Heartache, looking both at the audiobook format and at that particular book.  A Cold Creek Noel is a romance.  Breath of Dawn is Christian romantic suspense.  Bible Adventures and Activities is a Catholic children's book that would be a great Christmas gift for a second to fourth grader.  

Bible Adventures & Activities


About the Book:
How do we pass on faith to our children, a faith which becomes integrated into their daily lives?

Introduce your children to the meaningful Bible stories contained within Bible Adventures and Activities, capturing their imagination and inspiring them for a lifetime. This is a great, affordable resource for parents and teachers alike. As a hybrid book comprising Bible stories and activities, your child or student can connect faith to everyday life.

Starting with God's creation and ending with Jesus' resurrection, each Bible story alternates with a corresponding set of activities to reinforce learning. The stories are written in an age-appropriate, easy-to-understand language. Colorful illustrations that are historically and culturally accurate accompany the text and activities for each story, providing helpful visual aids.

Activities include naming the creatures that God made, completing jigsaw puzzles of the Roman officer who had faith in Jesus, solving Moses' maze to the promise land, finding Bible characters in a word search, and unscrambling letters revealing what God has given David. By engaging in these stimulating activities, your child will be attentively focusing on the Bible stories while building creative and critical thinking skills.

Complete with a solutions manual, kids can participate in their own learning experience as they set out on the adventures of the Bible!

My Comments:
This one is a keeper and has earned the enthusiastic endorsement of my eight year old.  As a Catholic parent I have rejected some children's Bible storybooks or activity packs as containing material that goes against Church teachings.  I have accepted some other non-Catholic materials but have often found that their non-Catholic nature comes forth in the stories chosen, or more precisely, not chosen. I have found few non-Catholic children's Bibles that featured the Last Supper as one of the stories, and, if they tell the story about the Wedding at Cana, they downplay Mary's role.  

This book is published by Pauline Books and Media, a/k/a the Daughters of St. Paul so it is Catholic.  The stories do include the Last Supper and Mary is mentioned at the Wedding at Cana. 

Maybe I'm too Pollyanna-ish but I don't like it when books for young kids get too gory about the Crucifixion.  In this book, the Crucifixion is handled in a gentle way.  First there is a picture of Pilate judging Jesus and on those pages the story is told that Jesus was arrested and questioned by the Roman governor, who wanted to find a way to release him. It goes on to say that the crowd called for him to be crucified so Jesus was forced to carry his cross.  Despite all the good he had done, Jesus was crucified.  A few of his friends and his mother watched, weeping, until Jesus called out to his Father before dying.  The next two page spread has the activities, and on it you can see the backs of the crosses, and Mary weeping.  

Each story is followed by a two page spread with activities such as word searches, codes, mazes, or missing letter puzzles.  My eight year old is enjoying them.  

I highly recommend this book for the seven to ten year old age group.  Grade:  A.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Bible Adventures & Activities. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your family Advent activities and supplies this year, such as Advent wreaths and calendars for kids, as well as Christmas decorations such as nativity scene sets and religious Christmas gifts for the whole family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blog Tour Review: Breath of Dawn



About the Book:
Morgan Spencer has had just about all he can take of life. Following the tragic death of his wife, Jill, he retreats to his brother's Rocky Mountain ranch to heal and focus on the care of his infant daughter, Olivia. Two years later, Morgan begins to make plans to return to his home in Santa Barbara to pick up the pieces of his life and career.

Quinn Riley has been avoiding her past for four years. Standing up for the truth has forced her into a life of fear and isolation. After a "chance" first meeting and a Thanksgiving snowstorm, Quinn is drawn into the Spencer family's warm and loving world, and she begins to believe she might find freedom in their friendship.

The man Quinn helped put behind bars has recently been released, however, and she fears her past will endanger the entire Spencer family. As the danger heightens, she determines to leave town for the sake of the people who have come to mean so much to her.

Fixing problems is what Morgan Spencer does best, and he is not willing to let Quinn run away, possibly into the clutches of a man bent on revenge. But Morgan's solution sends him and Quinn on an unexpected path, with repercussions neither could have anticipated.

My Comments:
Kristen Heitzmann grabbed me from the very beginning of this book.  I don't know quite how she does it, but she had me feeling tension and dread throughout the book.  

I enjoyed Heitzmann's other books, A Rush of Wings and The Still of Night  (links are to my reviews) so being able to "catch up" on the characters was enjoyable; however Morgan is the only one with a major role in all the books and honestly, not reading them would not leave you without backstory you really need to understand this one.   

The faith elements in this book are important, but not in the usual manner of Christian fiction.  Much of the pain in Quinn's life was due to ministers who misused their authority.  I like the comparison Heitzmann made between Quinn's father and Morgan, and between the way Quinn saw God and the way Morgan did.  

I found some of the situations in the book to be somewhat improbable--I really didn't think a person in those situations really would have acted the way some of these characters did sometimes--but then I've never thought someone was trying to kill me.  

I'd like to thank the  folks at Litfuse for sending me a review copy of this book.  Grade:  B+

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Audio Book Review: My Big Old Texas Heartache




About the Book:
Dear Friends and Neighbors: How did life become so complicated? One minute I'm dating the hottest man in Dallas and the next I'm back in Cedar Dell, Texas, surrounded by grannies, gossip, and green bean casserole -- and helping my dad recuperate from a car accident. Did I happen to mention that I caused a scandal in town when I got pregnant at seventeen? No one has ever forgiven me -- not my hard-hearted father, my brother Mr. Perfect, or my pregnant-for-the-first-time-at-forty sister who's gone totally hormonal.
As if this weren't enough, who should also be back in town but Max Cooper, the former high school football star, who is my teenage son's father. And now he wants to date me?!
Who ever thought that so many new horizons and second chances would open for me during one long, hot Texas summer?
Kate

My Comments:
I didn't read this book; I listened to it.  I'm not generally an audio book person but I was in the library last Saturday and this caught my eye.  Since I've started visiting my Dad, who lives an hour and a half away, most Saturdays, I thought perhaps this would be a nice way to pass the car time.  

This is the story of Kate returning home to a small town where she is the object of gossip, until surprisingly, one revelation makes it all go away.  It is the story of her relationship with her father and her siblings as well as the story of her romantic life.  I think the author did a good job of weaving those threads together to create a story that was more than just a standard romance.  However, some of it was really overdone, I think.  I'll admit my experience in small town living is pretty limited, however, I find it hard to believe that she is still considered "The Cedar Dell Slut" seventeen years after having a baby out of wedlock, or that the name of her son's father was of all that great interest to all that many people.  I can't quite figure out why someone who felt as rejected by her father as she did agreed to give up her life to help him.  I'm not sure what she sees in Max Cooper either--I personally preferred the rich lawyer, who seemed a lot more interested in helping her than in taking care of himself.

What about the audio part?  Well, I doubt I'll ever become a real fan of audio books.  To put it simply, they just take too long.  I doubt it would take me much more than four hours to read this 352 page book; on CD it was over ten hour long.  While my husband is correct when he said "Even you can't read and drive at the same time", I don't like to leave books hanging.  Therefore, rather than waiting four more weeks to finish (3 hrs per week while driving to and from Mississippi) I sat and listened to it at home, and that just took too long.  

I do think that listening to someone read and change her voice a bit for each character added depth to the book that I wouldn't get reading it at my usual rapid pace.  Perhaps for a book that really had depth, that would make a difference.  

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