Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review and Comments: Inside These Walls



About the Book:
For Clara Mattingly, routine is the key to enduring the endless weeks, months and years of a life sentence in a women's prison. The convicted murderer never looks back at who she once was—a shy young art student whose life took a sudden tragic turn. And she allows herself no hope for a better future. Survival is a day-to-day game. But when a surprise visitor shows up one day, Clara finds that in an instant everything has changed. Now she must account for the life she has led—its beauty as well as its brutality—and face the truth behind the terrible secret she has kept to herself all these years.

Critically acclaimed author Rebecca Coleman brings you the haunting story of a woman's deepest passions, darkest regrets and her unforgettable and emotional journey toward redemption.

My Comments:
I know people who are or have been in prison.  It is an unfortunate part of doing criminal defense work.  These men (and in my case they are all men) and I had, during the pendency of their case, a co-worker type relationship.  I didn't consider any of them friends; they were clients, I saw them frequently at work and did my best to help my boss provide them with a defense. Still, as with co-workers, I came to know that they had families, hobbies, likes and dislikes.  

A reality of the system is that the obviously guilty do not often go to trial; they plead guilty in return for a small or large (depending on the circumstances) favor when it comes to sentencing.  What that means from my point of view is that defendants in the cases we take to trial are not generally obviously guilty of some heinous crime, nor are they obviously innocent.  Seeing these clients regularly and interacting with them as human beings has given me a different perspective on criminals that I had when I started in this business.  One thing I'll admit I've been curious about is what happens when we are done?  What happens after the sentence has been passed and the defendant has been taken into custody?  Inside These Walls is a novel that tells the story of one definitely guilty woman, what her life in prison was like, how she got there and how life changed.

Clara is a devout Catholic.  She goes to Mass weekly and confession often and the confessional plays a major part in her earthly redemption.  The chaplain tries to lead her to forgive herself and those involved in her crime; though I doubt he realized all that went into putting her in that position.  MILD SPOILER TO FOLLOW

Part of what got Clara into the situation that landed her in prison was the priest abuse scandal.  I think Rebecca Coleman did a good job of showing the collateral damage done by these priests (and those who covered for them) without bashing the Catholic church.  In fact, the Church as a whole comes out looking pretty good.  Confession clearly comes across as a medium of growth.  The chaplain is a good guy who genuinely cares for the women in his flock.  

The story was told in the first person by Clara.  Part of it is just her mental musing; other parts are letters to journalist who came along at the time when she needed to tell the story.  I liked the writing style and found it very effective.  

Honestly, I don't think the end of the book was very realistic, but it was happy, and given the publisher (Harlequin MIRA) I guess that was to be expected.  I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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:  Do you have any spiritual New Year's Resolutions?

My Answer:  Yes.  To pray more.  I got a tablet for Christmas and downloaded the iBreviary app and so far have been praying it more often than before.  I also signed up for a bunch of stuff to be sent to my email--Bible studies, Catechism passages and more.  Sometime I read it, sometimes I don't but I know I read it more than I would if it wasn't showing up in my inbox.

No blog posts this week except a review of a mindless romance.  However, I'll share a picture I took of my daughter after Mass on Christmas.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Island Promises: Review


Island Promises: Hawaiian Holiday\Hawaiian Reunion\Hawaiian Retreat (Harlequin Anthologies)

About the Book:
THE EX-WIFE

Megan McNeil is genuinely happy to escort her little girls to their father's wedding in Kauai, Hawaii—even though she feels like a third wheel. One gorgeous groomsman definitely disagrees. But are they both carrying too much baggage to begin a new romance?

THE BEST MAN

Devlin Marshall won't let anything spoil his buddy's big day—not even his own rocky marriage. Secrets and mistrust have divided him from his Amy, but the love in the air seems to be catching….

THE SISTER

Family comes first. Deep down, Gabi Foster knows it, but this holiday is hurting her career. Can a sweet, sexy surfing instructor convince her that love is worth more than a business deal?

My Comments:
RaeAnne Thayne is one of those authors whose books I grab when they show up on NetGalley, so this one went on my reading list.  It is a pretty typical Harlequin anthology--three short romances connected by setting and a couple of characters.  Everyone is in Hawaii for a wedding.  Devlin and Amy manage to rekindle their romance and the other couples meet and fall in love.  The first two stories are squeaky clean, but the third is not, though it isn't terribly graphic. I liked the first story best of the three.  I was looking for a quick mindless read when I picked this one up and I got it.  Grade:  B-.  Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

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:  Tell us about your family's Christmas traditions. Nope, no stories of highly religiously relevant things the kids love to do.  Of course we go to mass and we've done more than our share of Children's masses over the years, though I think we are over that stage now.  Santa comes on Christmas Eve because that's what my folks did.  The suit was lost in Katrina so we've had to change that tradition a little for the little kids, but Santa magic still happens.  Also we tend to have something every year to entertain the grownups as well as the kids.  Someone will bring Nurf guns or something similar for an all-out sibling/cousin battle.  Last year my brother made paddles (the spanking kind) for the kids but the only ones who got hit with them were the adult men posing for pictures.  In short, we aren't the smiling with matching outfits while sitting around the tree singing carols kind of family--but we manage to get along and I'm always saddened to hear of families who don't.

Please pray for me.  I took my daughter to see Sister Act last night and tripped on the way out and sprained my foot.  I'm on crutches and on pain pills.  Needless to say, I'm not getting a lot done.  

Two posts this week may interest you:  The Biographical Bible and a Giveaway of an Amish Anthology. 

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Big Sky Secrets


About the Book:
Self-made tycoon Landry Sutton heads to Hangman Bend's Ranch to sell his land to his brother Zane. Though he's got cowboy in his blood, Landry plans to return to city life before the dust even settles on his boots. Of course, he didn't count on falling for Big Sky Country…or Ria Manning. 

Ria's starting to settle into country life herself…until she has a close encounter of the terrifying kind with a buffalo. Turns out the peeping monster belongs to the cowboy next door—and he has her running even more scared than his bison. She wants a home where the buffalo don't roam, and the men don't either. Could Landry's homecoming be her heart's undoing?

My Comments:
Neither Ria nor Landy had the storybook upbringing.  Both have tried to fit in, and failed, (though strangers would consider both to have been successful) and both moved to Montana to do what they wanted, not what was expected.  They move quickly from animosity to lust to love, just like most of the characters in this series.  Landry's brother Sutton is the only one of the other Big Sky characters to play a major part in this story, but many of the others get mentioned.  However, they aren't mentioned enough to confuse anyone who hasn't read the other books, and their appearance doesn't seem to be a useless add-on like in some series books.

If you like Linda Lael Miller books, you'll like this one; if you don't, it is no different than the rest, which of course means it has a really steamy scene.  Grade: B

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: The Biographical Bible


About the Book:
The Biographical Bible offers an engaging overview of Scripture through the lens of the fascinating figures who populate its pages. Through insightful reflections on the lives of over eighty individuals, this unique book captures the essence of these colorful characters, warts and all. They are people who have much in common with twenty-first century people of faith. Here the reader will find a lively and insightful narrative that brings the Bible to life as no other book does.

My Comments:
I've mentioned at different times that one thing I like about Biblical fiction is that it fleshes out and brings to life characters about whom we really know little.  This book looks at the world as it was in Biblical times and tries to tell "the rest of the story".  As with any book like this, there is quite a bit of supposition.  

I didn't read the whole book.  I don't know if my copy from NetGalley was similar to the copy I would get if I purchased a Kindle edition, but if it was, I don't recommend the Kindle edition.  You can "look inside" on Amazon and see that the book is filled with pictures and with sidebars or text inserts quoting various scripture scholars over the years.  While the varying colors and typefaces may work on the paper edition or perhaps on a color tablet, on my black and white Kindle, it just made the text seem redundant.

A couple of the characters about whom I read stuck in my mind.  Abraham sacrificing Issac was mentioned.  After wondering why God would ask such a thing of Abraham, it was suggested that perhaps Abraham loved Issac too much--that in some ways he had made a god of Issac.  His willingness to sacrifice Isaac proved that the Lord was God, not Issac.  The book also mentioned that we never saw Abraham speaking to Isaac after that.  Regarding how easily Isaac was fooled by Jacob, the author postulated that perhaps Isaac had Downs Syndrome, which would explain his lack of fertility and the fact that he did not fight back when Abraham tried to sacrifice him.  

The book is definitely written from a Protestant perspective.  It talks about all the sons of Mary.  

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

Review: The Christmas Cookie Collection


The Christmas Cookie Collection

About the Book:
The New York Times Bestselling Author of The First Love Cookie Club returns to Twilight, Texas,with one brand-new story and three stories never before in print!

There's a legend in Twilight, Texas. It says that if you throw a penny in the fountain, you will live  happily ever after with your high school sweetheart.

Carrie, Raylene, Christine, and Flynn are all members of the Christmas Cookie Club. Each has a story to tell, and each discovers the miracles of the season and the power of love.

Carrie: Reconnects with her high school sweetheart . . .the only man she's ever loved.

Raylene: Discovers that the daughter she gave away at birth is living right in Twilight . . .

Christine: Has given up on love . . . until the man of her dreams walks through her shop door.

Grace: It's Christmas Eve and Flynn and Jesse Calloway are thrilled to be expecting a new baby. Then Flynn's car hits a patch of ice, and Jesse must move earth . . . and heaven . . .to save her and their unborn child.

My Comments:
If you are a fan of Lori Wilde's Twilight Texas books, you'll enjoy this sweet Christmas edition.  All these stories are short, all have steamy scenes (except Grace) and all are just a little too over-written for my taste.  Still, if you like sweet Christmas romances, you may like these.  Grade:  C+

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Author Interview and Giveaway: An Amish Miracle



About the Book:
Always Beautiful by Beth Wiseman
Becky Byler is eighteen and overweight. She is overwhelmed by the embarrassment she feels when comparing herself to other girls her age. Having lost all hope, she considers taking her own life. As she stands before rushing water, unable to swim, Becky begs God for a miracle. In just several months, Becky sees her prayers answered as food and temptation lose their hold over her. She’s finally pleased with how she looks, but does she like the person she has become? And has the man she has dreamed of been right beside her all along, loving her exactly as she is?

Always His Providence by Ruth Reid
Widow Rosa Hostetler has one month to pay her delinquent taxes before the county auctions her farm. She’s prepared to sell whatever is necessary to pay the lien, but she isn’t willing to request money from the community’s widow fund. She’s embarrassed and refuses to admit she needs help. Rosa depends on income from selling eggs, but when that income is threatened, only a miracle can help Rosa accept the kindness of a neighbor.

Always in My Heart by Mary Ellis
Hope Bowman believes God is punishing her for giving up her firstborn son when she was a teenager. She’s hidden this secret from her husband, who is thankful for their daughters but longs for a son. Hope prays desperately, but the son God sends her isn’t a new baby but the fifteen-year-old boy she gave up years ago.

Includes Reading Group Guide and Old-Order Amish Recipes

My Comments:
I was offered a review copy of this book, along with a giveaway copy.  Unfortunately I just haven't had much reading time lately, and just wasn't in the mood for Amish romance, so I passed on the offer.  I was asked if I'd be willing to give away a copy, even if I didn't want to read it myself, so I agreed.    I was also given the opportunity to publish the interview below.

Giveaway:  To win, simply leave me a comment telling me what you want most for Christmas this year.

Author Interview:
 1. What was your favorite part of working on this Amish novella collection?

Beth Wiseman – “This was my first time to work with Mary Ellis and Ruth Reid, and both of these ladies are so lovely! Second to that would be the themes. Who doesn't love a miracle? Miracles happen to those who believe! And I believe!”
Ruth Reid – “This was my first time to collaborate with other authors on a book. I really enjoyed working with Beth and Mary and I had fun writing their characters in my story.”
 Mary Ellis – “I loved brain-storming with Beth and Ruth! They were absolute delights to work with. And I loved where I wrote Always in my Heart. My husband and I rented an off-season condo on the beach in Georgia for a month. I wrote everyday in my beach chair (bundled up, of course) while watching the waves roll in. By the time he dragged me home, I was almost finished.”

2. Tell us a little bit about your story from An Amish Miracle.

Beth Wiseman – “An Amish Miracle. My story--Always Beautiful--follows Becky Byler on a journey of self-discovery. Becky's been overweight her entire life, and she has let that dictate the way she sees herself, and how she believes others see her. But when she becomes so depressed that she considers taking her life, she cries out to God for a miracle--to be thin and beautiful. God grants Becky the miracle she longs for, but as God has a way of doing--there is another miracle in play, and Becky must come to realize that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and shouldn't be judged by outward appearances.”
Ruth Reid –“In Always His Provision, Rosa Hostetler is a young widow who is about to lose her farm for unpaid taxes. She desperately wants to believe in a miracle--and that's exactly what it will take--because she's too stubborn to accept money from the widow's fund. When Rosa's husband gave his life to save Adam Bontrager from a burning barn two years ago, Adam vowed to look after his best friend's widow. But it'll take a miracle for her to be able to forgive him and accept his help.”
Mary Ellis – “Hope Bowman believes God is punishing her for giving up her firstborn son when she was a teenager. She’s hidden this secret from her husband, who is thankful for their daughters but longs for a son. Hope prays desperately, but the son God sends her isn’t a new baby but the fifteen-year-old boy she gave up years ago.”

3. What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

Beth Wiseman – “People don't always see us the way we see ourselves, and vice versa. And at the end of the day, there really is only one true Beholder.”
Ruth Reid –“When Readers read, Always His Provision, I hope they will see that no matter what situation we find ourselves in (financial or deep hurts) God will provide for our needs. He is our provider.”
Mary Ellis – “I hope readers will realize that miracles really do happen in everyday lives. We must keep a close and personal relationship with God, and wait to see what wonderful things He has in store for us. Never stop praying for miracles in your own life.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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 spiritual gift do you want for Christmas this year?  My answer:  Faith, Lord, please increase my faith, because with increased faith I think the other gifts come.

Well, it's been quite a week for me.  When I'm not busy reading books, blogging or chasing kids or otherwise recreating, I'm working for a living.  I've mentioned here before that I'm a paralegal and that one of the attorneys for whom I work does criminal defense work.  We just finished a two week trial and sent the father of five kids, who had been in jail for over three  years,  home to his family.  The joy on that side of the courtroom was overwhelming, as was the sorrow and pain on the other side, where the victim's family sat.  If you go to NOLA.com and look for articles on David Warren you can read all about it, but the bottom line is that in the days following Hurricane Katrina a police officer shot a looter because he said he saw something in the man's hand that might have been a gun and the man did not stop when told to do so.  Later, another police officer burned the car containing the body.  Three and a half years ago, Warren was arrested.  Three years ago he stood trial with the officer who burned the body and others who were accused of covering up the shooting, and was convicted.  We appealed and the appeals court agreed that Warren should have stood trial by himself as there was no evidence he knew about the burned body or any cover-up.  This time he stood trial by himself and the story told at trial ended with a bloody body in the back of a car. This time we won.  

I've had people ask me whether I think he was guilty.  My boss told me many years ago that his job was to defend his clients, not judge them, and I decided that if I was going to stay in this business, that was going to have to be my attitude too.  I will say that one thing I've learned over all these years is that criminal defendants are human--and I mean that in a good  way.  As kids we played cops and robbers and it was easy to get the idea that the crooks or bad guys were bad, only bad and not loved or lovable.   Criminal defense work teaches you that these people aren't all that unlike you and me.  They are brothers, fathers, husbands, and yes, just like me, sinners.  In this case the victim has a long rap sheet (which we were not allowed to put in evidence) but it was obvious that his family loved him and is hurt by his demise.  Please pray for both involved families; that they may find healing and peace.

I published two book reviews this week.  Just Like Other Daughters is about a woman with Down's Syndrome who falls in love and married.  Last Chance Knit and Stitch is a romance.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Last Chance Knit & Stitch: My Review



About the Book:
Molly Canaday wishes she could repair her life as easily as she fixes cars. She was all set to open her own body shop in Last Chance when her mother ran off and left her to manage the family yarn shop instead. Now guided by the unsolicited-though well-intended-advice of the weekly knitting club, Molly works to untangle this mess. But her plan unravels when the new landlord turns out to be difficult-as well as tall, dark, and handsome.

Simon Wolfe returns to quickly settle his father's estate and then leave Last Chance for good. Still wounded by a broken heart, Simon is surprised when the town's charming streets and gentle spirit bring back good memories. Soon the beautiful, strong-willed Molly sparks a powerful attraction that tempts him to break his iron-clad no-commitment rule. Can Simon and Molly find a way to share work space-and build a future together in Last Chance?

My Comments:
I've been reading this series from the beginning and always enjoy my visits to this small Southern town.  Like many series books this one includes a lot of characters who have little involvement in the story but who add to the homey atmosphere.  Ms. Miriam is still playing matchmaker.  

Molly and Simon both grew up in Last Chance.  Molly was the daughter of the revered football coach; Simon's dad owned the car dealership.  Both are talented and working in fields they love.  Both know they are not what their parents want them to be.  Both need to learn some self-love before they are ready to give love to others.  While they are the main couple in the book, Molly's friend Les also finds love; not Molly as everyone in town expects but with an older woman.  

While this book can by no means be considered a serious read it does deal with serious topics including how our marriages affect our children, how parents need to allow children to chart their own courses in life and how spouses need to pay attention to each other's needs and desires (and I'm not just talking about bedroom desires). Hope Ramsay's "take-away" idea in this book is that we tend to have more regrets about the things we did not do than the things we did.  

While definitely not a chaste book, it is not terribly graphic either.

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

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Review and Comments: Just Like Other Daughters


Just Like Other Daughters

About the Book:
Alicia Richards loved her daughter from her very first breath. Days later, when tests confirmed what Alicia already knew—that Chloe had Down syndrome—she didn’t falter. Her ex-husband wanted a child who would grow to be a scholar. For Alicia, it’s enough that Chloe just is.

Now twenty-five, Chloe is sweet, funny, and content. Alicia brings her to adult daycare while she teaches at a local college. One day Chloe arrives home thrumming with excitement, and says the words Alicia never anticipated. She has met someone—a young man named Thomas. Within days, Chloe and Thomas, also mentally challenged, declare themselves in love.

Alicia strives to see past her misgivings to the new possibilities opening up for her daughter. Shouldn't Chloe have the same right to love as anyone else? But there is no way to prepare for the relationship unfolding, or for the moments of heartbreak and joy ahead.

With grace and warmth, Colleen Faulkner tells an unflinching yet heartrending story of mothers and daughters, and of the risks we all take, both in loving and in letting go.

My Comments:
Some of the most difficult decisions parents of handicapped children have to make involve deciding how normal to allow their child to be.  My autistic son isn't interested in social relationships so I'm not particularly worried about him coming home one day declaring he is in love.  For us, the main decisions so far have involved driving, and our choice has been a compromise--yes, he does drive but we limit where and when.  Chloe in this book isn't autistic, she has Down's Syndrome, and like the stereotypical person with Down's Syndrome, she's affectionate.  This is the story of her love life.  Eventually, her mother makes much the same choice about marriage that we have made about driving--yes, she allows Chloe to marry, but she puts up limits in an attempt to protect her daughter (and herself and society).  

The book is told in the first person in three voices.  Most of the story is told in flashback by Alicia.  Every now and then we hear Chloe's take on the scene Alicia has just related.  Then, there are periodic episodes that tell us how Alicia is feeling now, but we don't realize until the end why the story is told that way.  

The characters were an interesting lot.  Alicia is a college professor of English at a small liberal arts school.  Her department head is her ex-husband, Russell, who seduced her when she was a graduate student, and who left her for another graduate student.  Her best friend lives next door.  Jin is a lesbian who raised a son with another lesbian.  Jin and Abby have gone their separate ways but are considering a reconciliation.  Mark is a plumber who becomes a good friend to Alicia (who of course would not consider a relationship with a blue collar guy). Thomas is Chloe's love and he loves Thomas the Tank Engine too.  Chloe loves kittens and Disney movies.  While Alicia is a Quaker who quit believing when God gave her a handicapped child, Thomas's parents are still married to each other and are devoutly religious.  They see the sexual attraction between Thomas and Chloe as and indication that they should marry.  

One topic the book makes you consider is the nature of marriage and intimate relationships. Thomas and Chloe love each other and enjoy being with each other.  They also enjoy sex with each other.  However, they are also like a couple of six year olds; when it comes right down to it, they'd prefer to be home at night and of course each has a different home.  Their relationship reminded me of a couple of six or seven  year olds, with the addition of sex drives.  

The book also deals with Alicia's romantic life.  She remembers how she became involved with Russell, and why they split.  She tries dating several guys and listens to a counselor tell her that she is using Chloe as a shield from romantic involvement.  Will she find love?  Will she recognize it?

Another topic touched on is what to do with adult handicapped children as far as living arrangements.  Russell and the counselor wonder if Alicia is overly protective; not allowing Chloe as much independence as she is able to handle.  It is mentioned that one advantage of a group home is that it provides continuity of care even after the parents pass away.  That's another topic we've thought about.  My son has made it clear that he has no desire to move out.  Now, his level of independence is far higher than Chloe's.  He has real high school diploma, he can get himself where he needs to be when he needs to be there.  While I might not trust him to babysit a helpless infant or a clueless toddler, I don't hesitate to leave my nine year old with him, and have done so for a couple of years.  He cleans my house and is able to fix meals.  What he hasn't been able to do is find a job.  I also question whether he could manage the details of life like bills, though we've never given him the chance to try.  Do we allow him to live with us indefinitely?  It is certainly no bother for us, and honestly, having someone else to do the housework is handy.  But what about when we are gone?  My dad wanted him to live with him as a caretaker/housemate, but my son didn't want to be away from home long-term (my dad lives 80 miles away).  If we don't provide some sort of transition plan, dealing with my son will be left to my daughters.  Who knows where they will choose to live, or how their husbands (if they marry) will deal with their autistic brother.  

You'd think that having a handicapped child would make you more compassionate towards and less judgmental of other handicapped people, and I'll admit that I'm a work in progress in that regard.  I had to smile when one of Alicia's response to realizing Chloe was in love was to think how retarded Thomas looked and acted (he did not have Down's syndrome, his physiological appearance was normal) followed by a realization that the term "retarded" was offensive to her.  I get the same reaction when I see the autistic young adults in my son's group.  My beloved son isn't like that, is he?  Yes, he is.  He's not the same of course, just like my daughters aren't just like their friends but yes, I can see why people who do not know him do not react well to him.  

Well, I've written quite a bit.  Yes, this book touched me.  I liked the characters, I liked the respect for all human life, I liked the realization that even the parents of handicapped kids aren't perfect when it comes to attitudes about the disabled.  I'm giving this one an A.  Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  

Saturday, December 07, 2013

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 title for Mary, and why?  I guess Our Lady of Divine Providence, since that is my parish.

I reviewed a couple of romance novels this week, but nothing I think would interest most of you.  I've been working on a criminal trial this week and I'd like to ask for prayers for the defendant and his family and for the victim and his family.  Maybe I'll tell you more about it next week.


Sunday, December 01, 2013

Kindle Freebie Review: Home for the Holidays



About the Book:
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS - a heartwarming Christmas novella about true friendship, helping those in need, and falling in love. . .What's a girl to do when she falls in love with her lifelong best friend? Small town librarian Lauren Forrester moves to St. Louis so that handsome contractor Jeffrey Warren can find a wife without having to deal with Lauren's moods. But when Jeffrey shows up on her doorstep to convince her to come home for a country Christmas, will the hardheaded pair lose their friendship or find something even more precious?

My Comments:
I got this when it was an Amazon Freebie, though it is not free at the time I am writing this (in July).  It's an old story--they have been best friends forever.  Each is secretly in love with the other, afraid to take the next step for fear of losing the friendship.  Toss in Lauren doing a good deed for a family in distress and you have all the makings of a charming Christmas read.  Grade:  B- (sweet, charming, not very original). 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Sweet Nothings



About the Book:
When Ruby McMillan’s husband announces one morning that he’s dumping her for another woman, she’s unable to decide which indignity stings the most: the dissolution of their eighteen-year marriage or the deflation of her white-chocolate soufflĂ© with raspberry Grand Marnier sauce. Without a good-bye to their two teenaged children, Walter leaves Ruby to cope with her ruined dessert, an unpaid mortgage, and her failing bakery.

With only royal icing holding her together, Ruby still manages to pick herself up and move on, subsidizing her income with an extra job as a baking instructor, getting a “my-husband’s-gone” makeover, and even flirting with her gorgeous mortgage broker, Jacob Salt. For as long as she can remember, Ruby has done what’s practical, eschewing far-fetched dreams and true love in favor of stability. But suddenly single again at the age of forty-four, she’s beginning to discover that life is most delicious when you stop following a recipe and just live. 

My Comments:
When I saw the cover, I figured this would be a breezy, almost silly read.  Surprisingly, it had some depth to it.  I'm on the practical side like Ruby.  I try to act based on fact and not emotion.  I don't chase dreams, I live in the here and now--and sometimes I wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.  Ruby's husband decided the grass was greener and he left her and their two teenagers.  I've read and heard of this happening enough to know it is not an imaginary scenario for too many people, but I've always wondered how men (I don't usually hear of mothers abandoning families) can do that.  I can understand leaving a spouse you don't love for one who catches your eye, but abandoning your children and not providing for them?  Anyway, I digress...

I liked watching Ruby pick herself up and deal with the hand she was dealt.  She grew strong, she took care of her children and she found a new love (I think a little too quickly, but that's me, the logical practical one).  

There is an non-marital intimate scene but I've read racier ones.

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

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 do you plan to do for Advent?

My Answer:  We always have a Jesse Tree and we have an Advent wreath on our table.

I hope everyone had great Thanksgiving.  I was with three of my four siblings and my Dad.  It has gotten to the point that it isn't unreasonable to wonder if this will be his last Thanksgiving.  It has been nice having my daughter home from college.  I'm glad she's happy where she is, but I miss her.  

Not much blogging this week.  I have a box of books giveaway and a review of a memoir by a burn victim.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question:   Do you leave a link back to your blog when you participate in weekly memes? (submitted by Elizabeth)

My Answer:  Of course. I see memes as having two purposes.  First, they are writing prompts.  Second, they help create blogger communities and part of that is leaving links for others to explore.

See other responses at Coffee Addicted Writer

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: Secrets on Cedar Key



About the Book:
In the wake of her husband Andrew's sudden passing, there's nowhere Marin Kane would rather be than back on Cedar Key. Marin plans to run the needlepoint store next to her mother Dora's yarn shop, and settle once more into her tranquil hometown. Then a bombshell arrives: a secret daughter Andrew never revealed to anyone.

Now nineteen, Fiona was the product of a summer affair Andrew had when he was out of town teaching--while Marin was home with their two small sons. All Fiona wants is a chance to meet her half-brothers and Marin--and through them get some sense of the father she barely knew. Marin isn't sure she can ever overcome her sense of betrayal. But buoyed by old friends--and a new love--the answers may unfold, guiding both Marin and Fiona to a true refuge at last.

My Comments:
When you my age and spend a lot of time reading romance novels you spend a lot of time reading about women closer to your daughter's age than to your age.  One think I liked about Secrets on Cedar Key is that it was about a woman close to my age; a woman with grown children whose husband passed away unexpectedly.  

I can't imagine what it would be like to learn many years after the fact that my husband had been unfaithful and had a child without me.  I can't imagine what it must be like to know your father is out there and that he doesn't want to be part of your life.  I really enjoyed watching Fiona and Marin get to know each other.

Marin meets a new man in this book and I really liked him and the way he obviously cared about her.  

The book is part of series and I haven't read any of the others.  I wondered why all those characters showed up so early in the book and it took me a while to keep them straight.  I figured it must be part of a series, and sure enough, it was.

There are pre-marital intimate scenes but they aren't terribly graphic.

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Box of Books Giveaway

As a book blogger I am given complimentary review copies of many books.  Some are the same versions you find in bookstores; others are advanced reader copies (ARCs).  While these days many of these books are digital, I have accumulated quite a stack that needs to go somewhere, so you my readers are invited to enter a giveaway to get a box of books including (but not limited to) the following:

On Distant Shores Sundin
10,000 Babies:  My Life in the Delivery Room by Aladjem
A Bride for All Seasons
Heaven is Here by Nielson
Catch a Falling Star by Vogt
Hidden Mercies by Miller
Sweet Sanctuary by Sawyer
It Happened at the Fair by Gist
The Promise Box by Goyer
Stress Test by Mabry
The Promise by Walsh and Smiley
Whispers on the Dock by Kelley
Sweet Olive by Christie

To enter, leave a comment saying you want to enter.  To earn another entry, share about this giveaway on your blog, on facebook, Google+, Twitter, whatever and leave a comment with  link.  Drawing will be held on or about December 15. US or APO addresses only.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Heaven Is Here: My Review



About the Book:
Stephanie Nielson began sharing her life in 2005, drawing readers in with her warmth and candor. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.

However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.

In the aftermath of this harrowing tragedy, Stephanie maintained a stunning sense of humor, optimism, and resilience. She has since shared this strength of spirit with others through her blog, in magazine features, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, in this moving memoir, Stephanie tells the full, extraordinary story of her unlikely recovery and the incredible love behind it—from a riveting account of the crash to all that followed in its wake. With vivid detail, Stephanie recounts her emotional and physical journey, from her first painful days after awakening from the coma to the first time she saw her face in the mirror, the first kiss she shared with Christian after the accident, and the first time she talked to her children after their long separation. She also reflects back on life before the accident, to her happy childhood as one of nine siblings, her close-knit community and strong Mormon faith, and her fairy-tale love story, all of which became her foundation of strength as she rebuilt her life.

What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is a unique perspective on joy, beauty, and overcoming adversity that is as gripping as it is inspirational. Heaven Is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, and quite literally, in some cases, save us.

My Comments:
Memoirs aren't always my thing.  It takes real talent to write one that doesn't get self-absorbed.  Stephanie Neilson succeeds.  She had a horrific experience and came through it with grace and faith.  Neilson is a devout Mormon and talks about the daily aspects of her faith--being blessed by loved ones, listening to Mormon leaders etc. without being preachy or suggesting that others have to join her faith.  I definitely recommend this one.  Grade:  A.  Stephanie is a blogger; you can read her writing at Nieniedialogues.com.  

I'd like to thank my friend Renee for sending me the book.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

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 nest is full again, for a little while, sort of.  My college daughter is home for the week; of course she has plans to go here with this one and there with that one, but that's what they are supposed to do at that age.

Question of the Week:  For what are you most thankful this year?

My Answer:  For my family, that we are together and safe and particularly that my Dad is still with us and in reasonably good health.  I went to two wakes/funerals yesterday for the parents of friends and realize that my Dad's days are numbered, but,as the readings at Mass have reminded us the last few weeks aren't all our days numbered?

This week has been a slow blogging week but I did review Walking with Mary, which I recommend.  

Review: Walking with Mary



About the Book:
Mary appears only a few times in the Bible, but those few passages come at crucial moments. Catholics believe that Mary is the ever-virgin Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and Earth. But she also was a human being--a woman who made a journey of faith through various trials and uncertainties and endured her share of suffering. Even with her unique graces and vocation, Mary remains a woman we can relate to and from whom we have much to learn.

In Walking with Mary, Edward Sri looks at the crucial passages in the Bible concerning Mary and offers insight about the Blessed Mother's faith and devotion that we can apply in our daily lives. We follow her step-by-step through the New Testament account of her life, reflecting on what the Scriptures tell us about how she responded to the dramatic events unfolding around her.

“This book is the fruit of my personal journey of studying Mary through the Scriptures, from her initial calling in Nazareth to her painful experience at the cross,” writes Edward Sri “It is intended to be a highly readable, accessible work that draws on wisdom from the Catholic tradition, recent popes, and biblical scholars of a variety of perspectives and traditions. With the riches of these insights, we will ponder what her journey of faith may have been like in order to draw out spiritual lessons for our own walk with God.” He add, “It is my hope, therefore, that whether you are of a Catholic, Protestant, or other faith background, this book may help you to know, understand, and love Mary more, and that it may inspire you to walk in her footsteps as a faithful disciple of the Lord in your own pilgrimage of faith.”

My Comments:
One problem non-Catholic Christians have with Marian devotion is that they say it isn't scriptural.  This is a book that looks at what the Bible does say about Mary and what it means.  Why does Jesus address her as "woman"?  What are Mary's famous last words?  What are the parallels between the Annunciation, the Presentation and the Crucifixion?  

One story in the Bible that has always confused me is the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Why is that story there?  Why do we make such a big deal of it, making it a mystery of the rosary?  I liked Sri's explanation--that we will have times in our lives when we experience the type of frantic  pain that Mary must have suffered when looking for Jesus, and we aren't going to understand all the whys at the time, but God has things under control, even if we don't like them.  

I enjoyed this book and its scriptural approach to Mary, and thank the publishers for making a review copy available via Blogging for Books. Grade: B+

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Blogger Hop


Question of the week:  You won a 5 minute shopping spree from your favorite book store? What will you grab?

I'd probably clean out the cookbook section.  Cookbooks tend to take up residence here where novels tend to be temporary visitors.

Check out the host post at Coffee Addicted Writer to see what other folks have to say.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise: My Review



About the Book:
Hardened rancher Ridge Bowman has long told himself he has no need for love—just work and his little girl are enough to get him through. But when his "cleaning lady," Sarah Whitmore, gets injured on his staircase, well, of course he has to invite her to spend the holidays with him. It's only the responsible thing to do.

Only, Sarah isn't really there to work on his house. She came bearing precious artwork belonging to Ridge's late mother, and possibly a secret that could devastate them both. But as Christmas draws closer, so does Ridge—and Sarah convinces herself that she will tell him what she knows as soon as the holiday is over. She might be the key to his past—if only he could be a part of her future….

My Comment:
I've read a bunch of Christmas romances this year, and so far this has been the best of the bunch, which is odd, because I usually prefer longer books than these short romances.  Still, Rae Anne Thayne has gotten to be a favorite author so I usually grab her books when they show up on NetGalley.  The premise of this one, like the premise of many romance novels, is a little far-fetched, but I really liked both Ridge and Sarah and enjoyed "catching up" with the rest of Ridge's family and celebrating Christmas with them.  Like Thayne's other books this one includes some hot kissing but doesn't go beyond that.  In short, this is a well-written heartwarming clean Christmas romance filled with snow,  a sleigh ride and plenty of hot chocolate around a warm fire.  Grade B. (better than I usually give these short formula romances).  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

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've had quite a day; it was our parish craft fair today and I was one of those there until everything was cleaned up and put away.  

This week's Question of the Week: What religious artifacts (statues, pictures, icons, altars, etc) would I find in your home if I stopped in for a visit?
My Answer:  I have picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in my living room wall.  My kids have crosses with kids praying that they got when baptized.  My husband and I have a cross with wedding rings in our room.  I have a statue of the Blessed Mother on a shelf in the den and then in the living room I have this, that a friend brought back from Russia:

I have two posts in particular I'd like to share with this group.  The first is a review of the book Tools for Rebuilding which is a book about revitalizing a parish by reaching out to the unchurched.  The second is a post I call "Of Vestments and Golf Clubs" and it talks about one chapter in the book and I'd really love to hear your thoughts on it.  

I'd like to congratulate Julie on winning the drawing for The First Christmas Night.




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