Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

Another week of summer gone.  All too soon it will be time for school to start.  I'll admit it, I like the lazy days of summer when I don't have to oversee homework, get kids to meetings, or get to meetings myself. 

I have a couple of new giveaways this week--one is for a furry dog toy, which if you don't want you can ask to have sent to an animal shelter.  The other is for a handy pillow

I read one book I'd like to share with you.  It is about a drug addicted criminal who became a priest.  I really enjoyed No Turning Back and I think you will too.

What did you post about this week?  Create a post entitled "Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival and in it highlight your posts from this week.  Include a link to this post.  Then, sign Mr. Linky so we can all check it out.  Don't forget to visit other folks.  If you'd like a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoogroup. 

Tiber River Review: No Turning Back

If you are interested in reading an engaging conversion story, a story of a very bad boy who later became a conservative Catholic priest, No Turning Back may be just the book for you.  

Fr. Donald Calloway was the son of a teen-aged mother and father.  Their marriage included moving far from friends and family, and ended up not lasting long.  His mom returned to her father's house for a while before marrying an alcoholic.  In order to support the family, his mother joined the Navy and left him with his step-father while she attended boot camp.  Their marriage too did not last long.  His mom's third husband was a Navy officer, and with him at the lead, the family moved frequently during Donald's pre-teen and teen years.  He resented this and got involved in drugs and crime.  While they were in Japan, he and a friend ran away from home and lived off of petty and not so petty crime, until they were caught and deported.  Back in the US  he did a couple of stints in rehab but never had any desire to quit drugs or crime until one day when feeling really down, he found a book about Medjugorje on the bookcase and began to read it.  

Something happened that night and the next morning Donald told his mother (who like St. Monica had never given up on her son) that he wanted to speak to a Catholic priest.  He ended up with the Catholic chaplain on base and spoke to him for several hours.  While it took time to complete the conversion process, Calloway, according  to the book, was a changed man immediately.  

Shortly after his conversion he felt called to the priesthood, and after rejections from some communities and looking at others, he chose and was accepted by the Marians, an order devoted to Mary and the promulgation of devotion to Divine Mercy.  The story takes us through his formation years and through his current life as a priest.

The book is written in the first person and it is like sitting down to talk with Fr. Calloway.  Some of the grammar isn't perfect, and you get expressions like something "sucked".  Father makes no bones about the fact that Mary led him to Jesus, and that before that happened, his life was a mess.  He sees Catholicism as a take-it or leave it proposition--he doesn't understand cafeteria Catholicism and as a convert he hungered for the "meat" of Catholic teaching rather than the fluff taught in his parish's RCIA program.  

I found the book to be a quick, engaging, inspiring read and recommend it.  I'd like to thank the Tiber River review program for sending me a review copy.  You can purchase a copy from Aquinas and More which claims to the be the largest on-line Catholic bookstore.  

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fortunate Harbor: My Review

Fortunate Harbor (Happiness Key)My youngest and I have been going to the library just about every Monday evening this summer for story and craft time. She really enjoys the crafts and the kids, and mostly listens to the stories too.  I'm much happier with the lady running it than I was with the one doing it when my big ones were small, but I do think she over-reaches on the crafts, given the age group she attracts.  But, to get back to why you are reading this, our library is large with a children's room that is bigger than many entire libraries in which I've been.  This is good because they have so much room to do stuff with the kids and bad because you aren't supposed to leave the little ones un-attended and you can't look at grown-up books in there.  However, the new acquisitions shelf is located where I can see the door to the kids room and the books, both, so I send her into the kids room and quickly peruse the new acquisitions for anything that looks good.  This week I found Fortunate Harbor (Happiness Key) by Emilie Richards.  I've read many of her books before and have enjoyed them, so I grabbed it.

Fortunate Harbor is about five women who live in a run-down Florida development.  Tracy is the owner.   She is the ex-wife of a wealthy businessman who was sent to prison for fraud.  All their wealth is gone, but somehow and for some reason, her ex put this property in her name and the Feds didn't get it.  She has been making a new life for herself here, a life that includes a new man, but at about the same time both their ex-spouses appear.  Why?

Janya is from India.  She and her husband are in an arranged marriage and have been happy.  They recently began to try for a baby, but have not succeeded.  Now her husband is keeping increasingly late hours and doesn't want to do what is necessary if a baby is desired.

Wanda is a waitress who is fired when the new owners of the neighborhood seafood place re-do it into a tapas bar and she doesn't meet the new image.  She decides to open a shop to sell the pies about which all her friends rave.

Alice is the grandmother of Olivia.  She is a neighbor but doesn't play a large part in this book.

Dana is a single mother who worked with Wanda.  Wanda tells her about the vacant cabin in the area and then hires her at the pie shop.  Dana is terrified of men or of letting anyone know about her past.  Why?

Supporting characters include Tracy's new love interest and ex-husband, an eccentric rich woman and a rival baker and together they make a cozy story of neighbors who look out for each other, and couples who love.  In a lot of ways it is like Debbie Macomber's Yarn Shop books or The Red Hat Club books or the Potluck Club books.  It is light enjoyable fluffy reading, just perfect for a day at the beach.
Grade:  B

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mama Buzz: Crazy Critters and Bark-Off Reviews and Giveaway

I don't own a dog.  My friend Eva, whose office is next to mine at work, doesn't have children.  She at least acts like she enjoys stories about my kids and I enjoy her stories about her dog Izzy.  When complimentary review samples of Crazy Critters and Bark-Off were offered to MamaBuzz bloggers, I asked her if she wanted them.  She thought Izzy would enjoy the Crazy Critter, and while she didn't need the Bark-Off, she had a friend who was looking for some way to curb her dog's barking.  So, without further ado, let me introduce Izzy:

When I gave the Crazy Critter to Eva she exclaimed "Izzy's going to love it!" and then proceeded to tell me she gave it 15 minutes and than told me the order in which Izzy would dismantle the toy, starting with the squeakers in the head and tail. While she turned out to be right about the squeakers, the rest of the toy lasted until Izzy lost interest in it. I wonder if it will be in tatters next time it catches Izzy's eye?

The Bark-Off went to the home of Izzy's friend. Unfortunately the first unit I got was broken in transit, but when I reported it, the nice folks at TeleBrands, who had provided the complimentary review samples, sent me another one.  Unfortunately, the new one came while I was on vacation and has not made it to its new home yet.  I'll report on it later.

Here is a video:

You can purchase both the Bark-Off and Crazy Critter at Walgreens and other stores for about $10.00 or you can order on-line: and

You can get links to other reviews and giveaways at the Mamabzz site.

If you would like to win a Crazy Critter and a Bark Off, here's how:
  1. For your first entry, leave a comment telling me how cute Izzy is, along with your name and email address.  Most original comment gets an extra entry.
  2. For a second entry, follow me, or tell me that you do (and I'll check)
  3. For a third entry, blog, tweet, facebook etc. about my post on furry oil spill victims and leave a link.  
I'll pick a winner August 10.

Furry Victims of the BP Oil Spill

We've all seen the picture of the pelicans soaked in oil.  We've seen the dead fish floating on the water.  We understand that the oil being spilled is a danger to the breeding and nesting grounds of all sorts of wildlife.  However, there are animal victims of the spill that haven't (at least as of this writing) made the national news.  As a result of the spill, a lot of people whose jobs are tied to the seafood industry are out of work, or are afraid they are going to be.  As a result of the President's moratorium on off-shore drilling, many oilfield workers and those in oilfield support jobs are either out of work, or will be soon.  Much as people love their pets, people come first and the shelters in the hardest hit areas are reporting many more pets being brought in than normal.  People may be losing their homes and going where pets are not allowed, or they may just not be able to afford to feed their pets.  In either case, the shelters have to deal with the abandoned pets.

Plaquemines Parish, the parish at the very end of the Mississippi River is one of the hardest hit.  They have a no-kill shelter that is not only taking good care of the animals there, it is trying to keep pets with their families by providing pet food and other necessities to those hurt by the spill.  You can learn more about PAWS here.

I'm sure any donation you can send would be appreciated--and I know of one donation you can send that won't cost you a thing.  Enter my contest for a Crazy Critter, and if you win, ask me to have it sent to PAWS.  Some lonely pet waiting for a new home will love trying to pull it apart.  Please enter the contest and spread the word--here is a way to help those who can't help themselves.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MamaBuzz Review and Giveaway: Total Pillow

Thanks to Mama Buzz, I've had the opportunity to use and review the Total Pillow.  This pillow, which can be used in lots of different ways is shown here.
Total Pillow
About Total Pillow

VERSATILE TRANSFORMING PILLOW Cradles you with Comfort While Asleep and Awake
Most people spend approximately one-third of their lives asleep on their pillow, however the new Total Pillow has uses for the two-thirds of time spent awake.
There are pillows for all types of issues but no one pillow that bridges all conditions, until now. The Total Pillow™ is for use overnight, on the couch, sitting at your desk, driving, while on a plane or train, in college dorms, or just while watching television.  This donut-shaped pillow transforms in just seconds to more than five supportive shapes for customized relief.  The patent pending locking technology enables the Total Pillow to support the neck, lower back, ankles and knees.
"Consumers own many different pillows for different applications, identifying the need for a multipurpose pillow solution." said Steve Heroux, CEO of Hampton Direct. "The Total Pillow transforms into five different shapes to answer a wide range of conditions."
The Total Pillow's ergonomic design allows your body to be cradled in support whether you're a side sleeper and like support between your knees and/or ankles or are a frequent traveler. It's also great for the businessperson, who needs lumbar support for the long periods of time spent seated.
Available for $19.99, The Total Pillow and can be ordered online at
Hampton Direct, Inc. is a leading international importer and distributor of consumer products. The Vermont-based company's offerings include common household problem solving products that includes the As Seen On TV Wonder Hanger®, Twin Draft Guard® and Total Pillow®.
Total Pillow

My Review:  This is a handy little pillow for all those times when a big square pillow just doesn't seem to fit the bill.  Remember those head support things you used to put in the baby's carseat?  Well, don't use this for the baby, but if you wanted one for yourself, a Total Pillow can be set to cradle your head in the same way.  It also makes a "donut" if you need to sit on one of those.

How would you like to try a Total Pillow?  They are allowing me to give one away to my readers, so here is how you enter.
1.  For your first entry, leave a comment with your name and email address.  Also, tell me how you plan to use it.  Unless all three items are in your comment, it will not count.
2.  Leave a comment saying that you follow me (and if you aren't already, solve that problem before leaving the comment, because I will check).
3.  Spread the word about this giveaway.  Blog, facebook, tweet, leave a link on a message board or send an email to at least 10 friends, with a bcc to me at ruthjoec at gmail dot com  Each thing you do gains you one entry, providing you leave a comment with a link, or telling me about the email.  In other words if  you do three things to spread the work, I should have three comments.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday

I was out of town last week, so this week I have two weeks worth of books to share with you.  My favorite is Resurrection in May which I received from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze Program.  I've already posted my review of this fabulous book.
Resurrection in May

From FSB Media I received All I Ever Wanted (Hqn) which is a cute contemporary romance.  Here is my review.

All I Ever Wanted (Hqn)

If you like art, farms or coffee table books, have a look at my review of  Drawn to the Land: The Romance of Farming  Thanks to Phenix and Phenix for the book.
Drawn to the Land: The Romance of Farming

My six year old got three books this week, all of which are for First Wildcard tours:  

Head on over to the Printed Page to see what everyone else got this week.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog Tour: The Seeker

Seeker, The: A Novel
Seeker, The: A Novel is set at the time just prior to and during the Civil War in Kentucky, a border state that allowed slaves but in which Union sympathies were high.  The heroine, Charlotte is the only daughter of a politician/plantation owner/slaveholder.  She is very close to her old nurse, and her nurse's daughter, who is her personal maid.  One day her father comes home with a new stepmother for her--a stepmother who decides that they own too many slaves and need to sell some, including her maid.  At the same time, Edwin, the man to whom she was engaged to be married, decided to join the Shakers, a celibate communal religious sect which had a colony in the area.  Since her father is away and not able to interfere with her stepmother's plans, Charlotte and her maid run away to the Shaker village, where she knew she'd be forced to free her maid (who she had insisted her father give to her, in writing).  She doesn't want to be a Shaker, but didn't feel she has any other options.  The hero is an artist who she met while he was painting a portrait of her stepmother.  He is an illustrator for Harper's Magazine and returns to Kentucky to draw the Shakers.  He is surprised to find her there.  He goes off to draw pictures of the war and she remains, at least in body.

I liked Charlotte.  She was a pampered Southern Belle who turned out to have some inner strength to handle adversity when it came her way.  She was able to be respectful of the Shaker's beliefs and practices and obedient to them while living there, though she never actually adopted their beliefs. She was willing to stand up to those who were doing wrong to those she loved, and she was willing to love those it was not considered acceptable to love (her slaves).

With Adam we travel to Civil War battlefields and learn how people's attitudes about the Civil War changed quickly once it got started.  As with most wars, young men seeking gallantry and glory quickly either became dead or well aware that very little gallantry and glory were accompanied by large amounts of gore and grief.  

I enjoyed Seeker, The: A Novel.  My only complaint is that like Gabhart's other Shaker Novel The Outsider: A Novel it's main character leaves the Shakers.  In Seeker we knew from the start that Charlotte was just using the Shakers as a refuge; that she never had any intention of remaining with them or adopting their beliefs.  I think in some ways their lifestyle is portrayed negatively--as would be expected if the story was written by one who left.  In other words, it seemed to focus more on the negative aspects of their life than the positive--kind of like saying marriage means you are no longer free to date the people you want to, rather than saying marriage means having someone who loves you and is faithful to you.  Both are true, but one sees the good side of the equation; the other sees the limits.  

In short, I enjoyed to book and if you are a fan of historical romances, I think you'll like it too.

 Seeker, The: A Novel is available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  I'd like to thank Donna Hausler with Baker Publishing group for sending me a complimentary review copy.

Grade:  B

Book Review: All I Ever Wanted

All I Ever Wanted (Hqn)

Sometimes when reading a contemporary romance novel, I have this urge to shake the heroine's shoulders and say "Just grow up" and this is one of those books.  Callie Gray works in advertising and is in love with her boss, who just happens to be the guy who, many years ago, gave her her first kiss in the closet of  a friend's house. Unfortunately, other than one short fling, he has never returned her feelings, and is now engaged to a client, who is also a new employee.  Needless to say, things at work aren't going well.  

There is a new vet in town and he is anything but warm and fuzzy, though he is attractive enough that every single woman's pet suddenly had to be seen.  He wants nothing to do with any of them, but ends up hiring Callie to help him build his business--it seems that those single women didn't like the way he treated them.  

Subplots include Callie's parents' relationship and Callie's relationship with her grandfather.

It is interesting how writers can use language to set a mood.  Callie is an ex-cheerleader who will easily tell you that everyone likes her.  She is cheerful and upbeat and tries to make people happy.  Ian, the vet, says its like she's always working the room.  The book is like a cheerleader--peppy, upbeat, almost breathless at time, but hard to take seriously.

It is mass-market romance.  While there are no vivid sex scenes, unmarried couples do go to bed, and there are lots of references to blood flowing to Callie's "girlie parts".  "Four-letter" words are also used, often in places where I just don't think they were necessary.  

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins is a fun light read if you don't mind crude language and non-marital sex.  

Thanks to FSB Media for providing a complimentary review copy.  

Grade:  B

Sunday Snipppets--A Catholic Carnival

Folks have been telling me I need to get a graphic for Sunday Snippets.  Last week we were in St. Louis and went to mass at the Cathedral Basilica, which was covered with beautiful mosaics, which are made of snippets of stone, is my graphic.

You can read about our trip and see some more of my photos.

While on vacation I was able to read an excellent book.

I have two giveaways going now, one for a tasty snack and the other for something to make a nursing mom's life easier.

Last week I had only a laptop with a lousy keyboard and no mouse so I didn't tell you about my posts for that week.  I invite you to take a look at a children's book review.  Finally, I really think you'd like this prayer book.   

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity for Catholic bloggers to share their best posts with each other.  To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled "Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival".  In in, highlight your posts for the week as I have above, with links.  Then leave a link to this post.  Finally, come back here and leave a link to your post.  If you'd like a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoo group.  

Drawn to the Land: My Review

Drawn to the Land: The Romance of Farming

Most of us come from farms--at least if you go back two or three generations.  My maternal grandfather was a farmer, as were both my maternal great-grandfathers.  At least one of my paternal great-grandfathers was a farmer.  The authors of Drawn to the Land: The Romance of Farming are modern Americans who work in the medical field but whose roots are in farming, specifically farming in upstate New York.  They paint a romantic view of modern farming--literally because the book is illustrated with paintings by Elizabeth Cockey. They interviewed local farmers about their farms, crops and livestock and lifestyle.  They point out that farms and farm buildings have been re-purposed as the they have become economically unnecessary.  They seem to favor the organic farming movement over modern factory-style farms.

As someone who think the small farm town in which her mother grew up should never change from the way she remembers it (though you notice that I choose not to live there, or in a similar place), I see the authors' attraction to the romantic end of farming, and if you are looking for an attractive coffee-table book about farming and rural life, I think you'll like this one.

I'd like to thank Phenix and Phenix for providing a complimentary review copy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson

As you may have noted if you are a regular reader, Lisa Samson is one of my favorite authors, so when Resurrection in May became available on Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program, I grabbed a copy.

Resurrection in May is the story of May, a young college graduate who was wandering drunk on the side of the road when Claudius picked her up and took her home to recover.  Luckily, he was a good guy.

Shortly thereafter she headed to Africa on a mission trip.  She'd been raised Catholic but would be the first to admit that she wasn't going for faith reasons.  However, once there she is so impressed by the priest at the mission that she went to confession for the first time in a long time and began to practice her faith.  Shortly thereafter, all the people in the village were killed, but she managed to survive; however her psychological and spiritual wounds were worse than her physical injuries.  Months later she was found and sent back to the US, and then to Claudius' farm to recover.  Resurrection in May takes her through her recovery period, which is years and she basically finds healing by reaching out to someone who needs her, but who cannot help her (or so she thinks).  

I enjoyed the book immensely.  As a somewhat doctrinaire Catholic I would have liked to see May firmly in the bosom of the Church, however her spiritual mentors back in the US aren't Catholic-though she never rejects Catholicism or says it is inadequate; rather the people in her path who lead her to new life aren't Catholic.  

The book is Christian fiction, but it is one of those I'd recommend even if Christian fiction isn't usually your thing.  Yes, May's faith is important to her recovery, and yes the book has a happy ending (though tinged with sorrow) but it isn't an in-your-face call to accept a particular version of Christianity.   Grade:  A.

Guess Where We Went?

We spent a few days this week in St. Louis.  I had been through there several times as a teen, and had even gone up in the Arch once, and when we went looking for places within a day's drive, we thought it looked interesting.

We drove Saturday and found that we didn't have the reservation we thought we did---and unfortunately that hotel and most others were booked.  Luckily we found a place that could accommodate us for one night, and the place we wanted was available thereafter.

Sunday morning, at the recommendation of my college friend Ellen, we headed to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis for mass.  Isn't it gorgeous?

From the Cathedral, we headed over to Forest Park to explore.  A wonderful thing about St. Louis is that many of their attractions have free admission--and they don't knick you to death with garbage fees either.  We spent Sunday afternoon at the St. Louis History Museum.  After eating in their restaurant (convenient, expensive for what we got, but not bad) we toured exhibits about local history, including the Cardinals.  We learned about Lindberg's flight, the St. Louis World's Fair and more.  Since the kids were ready to go, we skipped The Treasures of the Vatican exhibit, which I would have enjoyed, but admission was steep ($20/each) and so we passed.  

Monday morning we headed for the Arch (or as it is formally known, the Jefferson Monument to Western Expansion). We got there early, so we did not have to wait too long for a trip to the top.  That trip takes about four minutes and you ride in a cozy capsule that seats 5.  When you get to the top, the floor is rounded (it is an arch after all) and you can look out some small observation windows.  The view is great.

After visiting the museum at the Arch, we waked down to the river to board a riverboat for the local tour.  It was interesting comparing their riverfront with ours.

As we left the Arch it began to rain (it rained every day we were there) and so we headed for an indoor attraction, the Science Museum, which has no admission fee.  This is a kid-oriented place though they had exhibits on aircraft and space flights which were more suitable for older teens and adults.  Here my little one works with other kids to build a structure.

Tuesday we decided to give the zoo a try.  We landed a free parking space not too far from the pay lot and headed in.  Of course it started to rain.  We weren't familiar with the zoo, and didn't realize that there were lots of indoor exhibits so after we got tired of the rain, we left without seeing much; hoping to return later if the weather cleared up.  It did, but by that time, the parking spots were taken so we coughed up our parking fee and headed into the zoo, where we discovered that we had been right around the corner from a couple of very nice indoor exhibits.  We enjoyed the zoo, and in comparing it to our own Audubon Zoo, we said we loved the flowers that were everywhere (by this time most of the flowers in New Orleans are done flowering) and thought the individual exhibits were very well done.  However, it seemed like you had to walk long distances to see few animals.  

Wednesday we headed for Six Flags and the camera stayed home.  Everyone had a great time and no one got sunburned too badly so I consider the day a success.  Wednesday night my husband and I had dinner with one of my best friends from college.  She wouldn't let me take a picture--though I don't know why, she'd hardly changed a bit--well, no more than I have.  It was fun seeing her and her husband again.

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