Thursday, October 31, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Happy All Saints Day.  Happy Birthday to the New Orleans Saints!  Actually, All Saints Day is a pretty big deal in New Orleans; it is the day families visit the graveyards and clean them up and add fresh mums.

Now that Halloween is over, all the stores will be full of Christmas stuff.  If you are looking for a great Christmas book for a young child, I'm giving away one, and I'd love to have you enter.
My shoulder still hurts; PT does seem to be helping though.
So far, since my office Biggest Loser contest started, I've lost about 3 pounds.  I've had a bit of Halloween Candy tonight; hopefully it won't show on the scale tomorrow.
My husband had cute Halloween costume.  What do you think?  He said he wanted to be something scary.

Trick or Treat was cut short tonight because of rain.  At least there was no fight from the trick or treater.
Tomorrow is half a day of school followed by optional parent teacher conferences.  I've always been one of those moms who showed up religiously for those things.  This is the third time around and I'm probably not going to go, but will call the school and ask them to have the teacher call me.  Frankly, I don't want to stand in line to talk to the teacher for two minutes to have her tell me what I already know.  If there was a major problem, parent-teacher conference day isn't the day to deal with it.  Teachers always say that the parents they see on these days aren't the ones they need to see.  What do you think--do you attend parent teacher conference day?  If you are a teacher, how useful are these days to you?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Review and Giveaway: The First Christmas Night

The First Christmas Night

About the Book:
Here is a beautiful retelling of the birth of Jesus on that joyous night in Bethlehem so long ago. The poem begins with the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem through Christ's birth, the angels' appearance to the shepherds, and the visit by the Wise Men. The simple, yet elegant, verses will appeal to little ones and are accompanied by the rich oil illustrations of Christine Kornacki. Ages 4-8.

My Comments:
It is books like this that make me wish my kids were still little.  As noted above, this tells the story of the first Christmas and does it with the meter of The Night Before Christmas.  Here is a sample:
Twas the very first Christmas when all through the town not a creature was stirring--there was not a sound.  The moon, shining bright in the heavens so high, gave the luster of midday to the Bethlehem sky. The animals were nestled in warm cozy places, with looks of contentment of each of their faces.  And Mary and Joseph, so tired from the road had just settled in to a humble abode. 
 Well, you know the rest of the story.

The book is beautifully illustrated and the cover shows the style of the pictures.  In short, this is the perfect book to read to young children to tell them the Christmas story. 

I'd like to thank the publisher and Flyby Promotions for providing me with a complimentary review copy.  My copy will be donated to my daughter's Catholic school and when I was describing the book to the librarian/early childhood religion teacher, she said it sounded like the perfect book to read to the Pre-K and Kindergarten religion classes.  I agree.  Grade:  A.

Not only does my daughter's school get a copy of the book, so does one of my readers.  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling me who you want the book for (my son, my daughter, my names necessary).  Also leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win.  For an extra entry, share this on your blog or on facebook and leave me a link.   Good luck.

About the Author
Keith Christopher is a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and educator, and he has served as editor and producer for several major music publishers. In addition to writing and studio producing, Keith served on the faculty at the Blair School of Music of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.

About the Illustrator 
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life. After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape, including illustrating the best-selling The Sparkle Box for Ideal's Children's Books. Christine's recent work also includes illustrating the six-book series for the American Girl historical doll characters Marie-Grace and Cecile.  She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Christmas Wedding Quilt: My Review

About the Book:

When they were young, cousins Ella, Rachel and Jo were always together at their family's lake house. As they grew up, though, they grew apart…until now, as the three must band together to grant a beloved aunt's dying wish: to finish the quilt she began as a gift for her daughter's Christmas wedding. 

Let It Snow by USA TODAY bestselling author Emilie Richards  

Searching for vintage quilting fabric, independent Jo is reunited with the man she thought she'd marry—and proves that sometimes the second time's the charm…. 

You Better Watch Out by Janice Kay Johnson

Ella is desperate when the unfinished quilt goes missing in her care. But a cocky lawyer might just help her find it— and find love. 

Nine Ladies Dancing by Sarah Mayberry 

Shy Rachel risks exposing her secret life when she falls for her quilting teacher's seemingly perfect son. 

Together, Jo, Ella and Rachel create a Christmas heirloom that's both a wish and a promise—of happiness, hope and love everlasting.

My Comments:
This is a collection of three sweet romances around a common theme--cousins across the miles honoring the request to finish a wedding quilt for another cousin.  I liked Let It Snow but the other two didn't do much for me.  Grade B for Let It Snow; C for others.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homespun Christmas: My Review

Homespun Christmas

About the Book:
Independence, New Mexico, needs a lifeline, and Myka Solis is determined to provide one. She thinks her craft business can transform the dying town into a vibrant, creative hub. And she knows exactly the person who can help: Joshua Nez, the confident big-city architect who's back in town to rebuild his own life.

Thanks to Josh's expertise, Myka finds herself leading a revitalization effort that draws in the entire community. But working with Josh has to stay a business-only arrangement. Josh has dreams, too, and his involve opening an architecture firm far away from Independence. If only Myke can show him they both have a future in their hometown…together.

My Comments:
Two kids were raised in the same small town.  She was a golden girl--popular, attractive, and smart.  She married a local boy and they put down roots, until tragedy struck and her husband died.  He lived next door.  They were friends, but that was all, and he was "trouble with a capital T".  He left town as soon as he could, with no desire to return.  When the economy causes his business to fail about the same time his father died, he returned to town to wrap up loose ends and plot his next move.  Guess what happens next?

I liked watching Myka and Josh get to know each other again and examine what they wanted out of life.  I found the revitalization part of the plot interesting but unrealistic.  

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

Saturday, October 26, 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.

This week our question of the week is: Who is your favorite saint?  
My answer:  The Blessed Mother.  I know it's not creative, but I guess I've never had a real attraction to any particular saint, and I do know Mary.

This week I reviewed a sweet romance, an autobiography of an abused wife , a collection of interviews of Pope Francis , and  a Christian romance.  I also participated in 7 Quick Takes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Christmas in Snowflake Canyon: My Review

About the Book:
Holiday gifts don't always come in expected packages…especially in the town of Hope's Crossing. 

No one has ever felt sorry for Genevieve Beaumont. After all, she has everything money can buy. That is, until she discovers her fiancé has been two-timing her and she's left with two choices: marry the philanderer to please her controlling father or be disinherited and find a means to support herself. 

Genevieve's salvation appears in the most unlikely of prospects: Dylan Caine, a sexy, wounded war vet whose life is as messy as hers. Dylan's struggling to adjust after his time in Afghanistan, and the last thing he needs is a spoiled socialite learning about the real world for the first time. True, she may have unexpected depths and beauty to match. But he knows he could never be the man she needs…and she knows he could never be the man she thinks she wants. So why are they each hoping that a Christmas miracle will prove them both wrong?

My Comments:
I really enjoy my periodic visits to RaeAnne Thayne's Colorado town of Hope's Crossing. 

Everyone always thought Genevieve Beaumont had it all--good looks (that she worked at), friends (who were wealthy and connected) and money (Dad's, of course).  While planning her wedding, she was Bridezilla beyond compare, which of course made her few friends.  She fled to Paris after breaking her engagement when she learned her fiancee was cheating. While there she spent time with friends and spent money; finally her parents summoned her home and told her she had to fix up her grandmother's house and sell it if she wanted money.  She went into a local dive, got drunk and hit the wrong person.  Dylan came to her aid and both of them ended up in trouble with the law and sentenced to community service with the Wounded Warrior recreation program.  Dylan was suffering from the losses he sustained in Afghanistan and closing in on himself until forced to help with this program.  

Since it is a romance, and since it is set a Christmas, I don't think I need to tell you how it all works out, do I?

Like the other books in the series, there are a few hot and heavy moments but no intimate scenes.

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Friday was the first weigh in for our office "Biggest Loser" competition.  They are rating on percent of body weight lost.  I lost a little over a pound and I'm in last place right now.  We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Saturday was my usual trip to my Dad's.  We were chatting with Father before mass and he asked about my youngest, who often accompanies me.  He also asked what grade she was in and when I told him she was in fourth grade, he said they'd have to let her serve Mass when she comes.  My Dad's pastor is probably the most people-oriented priest I've ever met.  The parish is probably close to a thousand families and he knows the names of most of the people who are regulars, and picks out visitors and says hi to them.  He's been there 20 years and is up for re-assignment soon,though he (and the parish) are hoping he'll be reassigned there.
The reason my daughter didn't go with me last week was because she was camping with her Girl Scout troop.  I didn't go, purposefully, to give her the opportunity to be independent.  I'd been the troop leader for the last four years and this year my girls bridged to an established troop with a long-term leader who loves that age group.  I've kept a low profile, both for her sake and for my daughter's sake (she's on the clingy side). They came back Sunday.
Monday I started physical therapy for my shoulder.  It's great fun, what can I say.  I  have to say I do have greater range of motion now than this time last week.  Hopefully it will not take six weeks to get this done.
I've been walking on the treadmill and reading every night this week.  Hopefully it will pay off when I get on the scale tomorrow.
Wednesday was Parents' Club at school.  I won two door prizes!
Tonight was Chuck-e-Cheese night for school.  I despise that place; food is mediocre at best, it's noisy and expensive.  When my big kids were little they used to have animated puppets that would come out hourly and sign camp-type songs.  I thought they were cute.  Now they have video screens showing kids trying to sing.  Oh well, I did my motherly duty and spent my money.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Search for Purple Cows

A Search for Purple Cows: A True Story of Hope

About the Book:
A wife and mother's amazing journey from darkness into a life fully restored in God's light.

A whimsical comment from a kind stranger, "Be sure to search for purple cows," brings hope to a woman and her children fleeing from a life filled with trouble. In A Search for Purple Cows, Susan Call reveals to the world how painful a relationship can be when love deteriorates into a cycle of abuse and betrayal. Her moving memoir chronicles how she first met her husband, a handsome, stylish, generous man with whom she worked. Eventually they fell in love, married, and had two children. Their life seemed idyllic--they had a beautiful home and everything a family could desire. But soon, inside those walls, Susan was tormented by her husband's alcoholism, domestic abuse, and infidelity that cast her family into a world fraught with fear and despair. God found her in the midst of her pain and showed her, through the unlikely source of a Christian radio station, that a journey toward Him was possible even in the most unthinkable circumstances. Susan eventually found the strength to move on and start anew. Written with candor and grace, A Search for Purple Cows will leave you laughing, crying, and believing that God is present and able, ready to bring hope and healing.

My Comments:
It is easy for those of us in safe relationships to think "why is she still with him; I would have left the first time he hit me; there wouldn't be a second".  Susan Call tells her story and we can see why she doesn't leave-in her own way she is as broken as he is.  Slowly, with strength from God, she is able to move out and on and to eventually forgive.  It is a hardwarming read, though it deals with heart rending subjects.  Grade:  B.

Thanks to B&B Media for providing a complimentary review copy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: On Heaven and Earth

About the Book:
For years Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Argentina, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka were tenacious promoters of interreligious dialogues on faith and reason. They both sought to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large. On Heaven and Earth, originally published in Argentina in 2010, brings together a series of these conversations where both men talked about various theological and worldly issues, including God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization. From these personal and accessible talks comes a first-hand view of the man who would become pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world in March 2013.

My Comments:
When Pope Francis was first elected, publishers seemed to rush to print anything they could to tell the world about this man.  This book is one of those efforts.  It is interesting to see the Jewish perspective on moral issues of our day and religious issues in general and to see how they compare and contrast to the Catholic views of the man who is now Pope Francis.  Both Bergoglio and Skorka and respectful of the positions of the other and yet firm in their own beliefs.  Topics discussed include prayer, women, euthanasia, education, money, politics, same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce and more.  

While this book has its interesting points, the variety of topics covered and the two separate views make it hard to remember who said what about what.  If comparing and contrasting Jewish and Catholic beliefs is of interest to you, this book would be right up your alley. It's not really a theological treatise and it doesn't go deeply enough into any one subject to be an authoritative text, but it is highly readable. 

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy through the Blogging for Books program.  Grade:  B-

Booksneeze Review: Sweet Olive

About the Book:
Camille Gardner is trapped in the middle when a unique Southern town collides with the 'outside world' and big oil.

A talented negotiator, Camille Gardner agrees to take on one last field assignment for her uncle before she settles down to pursue her real passion---working at an art gallery. But she'd rather be anywhere than Samford, Louisiana, the small southern town where she once spent the worst weeks of her life.
To fulfill the obligation she feels to her uncle, Camille needs to entice a group of rural landowners to sell their mineral rights---and allow use of their precious water for the drilling of natural gas. Instead, she finds herself drawn to the local folk art created by those same landowners and attracted to Marsh Cameron, the attorney representing the landowners.

The charming residents and the traditions of this small community leave Camille conflicted about her family obligations---and her own plans for the future. Perhaps she needs to give Samford a second chance.

My Comments:
How many of us end up in careers or other positions because it is what family wants or expects of us?  Camille never wanted to be in the oil business but that was the family business and since her uncle's money was paying for college, she learned about oil (and art) and went into the business.   She wants to get out and is asked to do one more job, a job where her love of art puts her in direct conflict with the needs of the business.  In trying to make everyone happy Camille has to consider what is important in life and how that is not always the easy or pleasant thing to do.  

I loved the setting and in a lot of ways it reminded me of the town in north Louisiana where my daughter is going to college right now (not that I am aware of any artists' colonies in the area).  

This is a sweet charming book that should appeal to most fans of women's fiction.  While it has religious aspects, they are not overwhelming or out of place. 

I'd like to thank the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze®.  Grade:  B.

You can preview the book here, or on the Amazon page linked above.  Judy Christie's website is here.

Saturday, October 19, 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.

This week our question of the week is:  Do you have any suggestions regarding the Rosary? Books? Audios? Ways to pray it?  My Answer:  Nope.  I'm hoping to pick up some ideas.  Saying the Rosary is one of those things I sometimes think I ought to do and definitely not one of the things I want to do.

I am going to be out of Questions of the Week at the end of the year.  Do you like this feature?  If so, please click here to suggest some questions.  

I participated in 7 Quick Takes this week, basically giving a run-down of my week.  When I went to look for the link-up at Jennifer's blog, I saw she had another link-up, about the state of faith in your area.  I answered it, and then today, based on what I did at work yesterday and today, revised it just a few minutes ago.  I also reviewed some romance novels but none were "must reads".  The links are on my sidebar.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Miracle Road: My Review

About the Book:
After tragedy strikes his team, college basketball coach Lucca Romano arrives in the haven of Eternity Springs to reassess his life. Even a winning record and big offers can’t dent the wall of guilt that Lucca has built around himself. Nothing can—except maybe a vibrant new neighbor who won’t give up on him.

Schoolteacher Hope Montgomery believes in miracles. She has to believe—because giving up would mean crumbling under the greatest loss a parent can endure. Hope understands Lucca’s suffering; she lives it herself every day. However, the high school team needs his coaching expertise, so she sets out to draw him from his cold, solitary shell and into the warmth of life in their small Rocky Mountain town. But when a weak moment leads to consequences that shake Hope’s faith, it’s up to Lucca to put aside his heartache and show the teacher that here in Eternity Springs broken hearts can heal—just in time for Christmas.

My Comments:
I enjoyed this romance though I cringed at a couple of crude anatomical references that just weren't needed.  The basic story was sound--two people both suffering from a loss find healing through each other and in this place that seems to heal those who settle there.  While it stands on its own as a story, it is clearly part of a series as there are a lot of characters with little purpose in the story.  Of course it has a happily ever after and unfortunately, it's almost too happy to be realistic, but I won't say more.  

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: My Week in Review

Friday night my daughter came home from college; it was the first time we've seen her since we dropped her off in August.  She not the most chatty person on the phone so it was good to get a chance to talk to her and find out more about life at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.  In short, she is enjoying her classes and life in general.  They are having trouble with ants in her apartment and the internet on campus ate her homework one night, but the Latin teacher believed her and let her take the test over.

I also joined a "Biggest Loser" group at work. We weighed in and put up $15.00.  The pot will be split after 6 weeks.
Saturday I went to my Dad's.  He lives about an hour and a half from here.  His health declined quite a bit about a year ago and we've gotten help in and my two local brothers and I have pitched in too.  My contribution is to go over there most Saturdays and take him to Mass.  He was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago for some minor surgery and then in rehab.  I didn't go over there last week because of the weather, so this was the first time I'd seen him since he finished rehab.  In some ways it seemed like we hit the re-wind button.  When I started doing this a year ago, I really didn't think it would last long--I figured the funeral wasn't far off.  I'd push Dad into church in his wheelchair and he would sit for the entire mass, not even getting up for Communion.  Slowly he progressed to getting up at communion, then sitting and standing as called for at mass.  Eventually, he moved from the wheelchair to the walker, then the cane and finally, a couple of months ago, to just walking.  Now her is back in the wheelchair and sat for the whole mass.  Still, he is able to walk around his house and he is still getting PT.  Hopefully he'll build his strength back.
Sunday we joined some friends to watch the Saints game.  Unfortunately, we didn't win.  Still, it was nice to see all those people again. I probably ate more than I should have, but I did go for a walk before we left.
I went for a walk tonight while my daughter started her homework.  After she finished I got on the treadmill for a little while.
I really hate homework.  We were at it for almost two hours tonight, mostly studying.  After my daughter went to bed I got on the treadmill for about 40 minutes.
I went to physical therapy this morning. My left shoulder has been bothering me and my doctor and I figured that the other shoulder responded well to PT a couple of years ago, so we skipped the orthopedist and went straight to PT.  The therapist said she didn't think it was bursitis this time, but rather adhesive capsulitis.  She said PT was going to hurt this time.  Fun, Fun.
30 minutes on the treadmill tonight.  I can walk and read at the same time.  I've controlled my eating this week and I've exercised; it will be interesting to see what the scale shows tomorrow.  Another hour and a half at homework tonight, two tests tomorrow.  This Common Core math is confusing--or the textbook is, one or the other.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Religious Climate in New Orleans

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, LA

I was looking at Jennifer's blog and noticed her link-up about the religious climate in your area and I decided to play:

1. WHERE DO YOU LIVE? I live in suburban New Orleans, Louisiana.

 2. WHAT IS CHURCH ATTENDANCE LIKE? Not as common as it used to be, but certainly not unusual. UPDATE, Sat. afternoon.  I am working on a high-profile case that will be tried in front of a jury.  As part of that process over 160 potential jurors were asked to complete an extensive questionnaire that, among other things asked if/how often they attended a house of worship, which one, and whether they consider themselves to be devoutly religious.  I have to admit I've been surprised.  While it is not one of the topics I am charting on this run through the forms, my gut feeling is that less than 20% of the people attend church regularly and/or consider themselves devout.  Well over half never attend.  Now, of those who do, I'd say Catholics have a slight majority, but not by much.  Sample size so far, 39.  



5. WHAT KIND OF FAITH DO THE POLITICIANS CLAIM TO PRACTICE? Most are at least nominally Catholic, though many African-Americans are not.


7.  WHAT ARE THE ATTITUDES TOWARD FAMILY SIZE? If the Pope wants to pay my tuition bills then he can tell me how many kids to have.

6. WHAT WAS THE DOMINANT BELIEF SYSTEM IN YOUR AREA 50 YEARS AGO? WHAT IS IT NOW? Catholic 50 years ago; Catholic now, but not as strongly.  Outsiders have moved in and Catholics have converted to other faiths.


Review: The House on Main Street

About the Book:
In Apple Valley, Washington, friends are always near, neighbors have no secrets—even if they’d like to—and long-held wishes have a way of coming true. . .
Interior designer Tessa McKenzie has built a good life far from her Washington hometown. She intends to get back to it—as soon as she sells the cluttered Victorian house and antiques shop she inherited from her sister, Emily. But leaving Apple Valley a second time won’t be so easy. There’s her grieving nephew, Alex, to consider. And there’s Sheriff Cade Cunningham, the adolescent crush who could easily break her heart again if she let him.

To Cade, Tessa was simply his high school sweetheart’s kid sister. But now there’s no denying she’s a beautiful and caring grown woman, one he’d like to get to know. Except that Tessa is determined to leave again. If Cade wants to change her mind, he’ll have to show her that small-town life has its lovable side—and that he does too. Most of all, he’ll have to convince Tess they’re good together, and that every step has led her right where she was always meant to be. . .

My Comments:
I enjoyed this sweet, clean romance.  Tessa's intention had been to clean up the mess in Apple Valley and move her nephew to her house, but her nephew is autistic, and as anyone with autistic kids knows, change is even harder for them than for normal kids.  Tessa realizes this and decides to stay for his sake.  

A large part of the book was Tessa learning that small town life, like any other life, has good things to balance the bad.  Yes, the neighbors knew everything about you, but they also cared about you and were ready to lend a hand.  The house/store itself was a metaphor for the lives of Tessa and her sister--yes, there was a lot of junk there, but some real unrecognized treasures too.  

Cade was the kind of guy every girl thinks she wants to marry; good looking, kind, responsible, caring, connected to home and family.  

While this is a romance set during the Christmas season it is not the overly sweet short romance often seen on the shelves during this time of year. 

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Candlelight Christmas: My Review

About the Book:
A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O'Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. The entire O'Donnell clan arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a postcard-pretty town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season. 

One of the guests is a newcomer to Willow Lake—Darcy Fitzgerald. Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she's the last person Logan can see himself falling for. And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas. 

Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire, their two lonely hearts collide. The magic of the season brings them each a gift neither ever expected—a love to last a lifetime.

My Comments:
Christmas editions of series books are generally sweet and heartwarming; this is no exception.  The hero, Logan,  is the spurned father from Marrying Daisy Bellamy (my review).  The baby, Charlie, is now nine and spends summers, Christmas and Thanksgiving vacations with his dad, living the rest of the time with his mom and her Air Force husband.  Darcy, the heroine, is recently divorced.  She loved her husband and his kids and was devastated when he cheated on her with his ex.  To make matters worse, one of her sisters is married to one of his brothers and the families have always spent holidays together.  For some reason that doesn't sound like fun to her so she accepts her best friend’s invitation to spend Thanksgiving, and later, Christmas, with her family, including her good-looking single brother.  However, she resists the charms of the brother because not only does she not want to marry, she doesn't want kids, especially step-kids.

The story has the requisite kids’ wishes for impossible gifts, and of course Santa comes through.  Of course Darcy realizes that by shutting herself off from love she is letting her ex win.  Of course they have a white Christmas.  

The book contains several recipes that are mentioned in the book and it also makes use of the tradition of the Christmas pickle.  I have to admit it is one I've never heard before, though I have seen pickle ornaments.

There is one  pre-marital intimate scene but it is more flowery than descriptive.  

In short, your typical Christmas romance novel.  Grade:  B.  

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

Saturday, October 12, 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.

This week our question of the week is:   Have you read a book lately that you'd like to recommend to us? Which one and why?  The latest books I'd recommend are the ones I mentioned last week:   Wings of Glass and The Sea Glass Sisters and a modern-day retelling of The Scarlet Letter called The Outcast.

I am going to be out of Questions of the Week at the end of the year.  Do you like this feature?  If so, please click here to suggest some questions.  

This hasn't been a big blogging week for me.  All I wrote were Seven Quick Takes on the Common Core. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Seven Quick Takes on The Common Core

I've been following the debate about Common Core with some interest.  I have two kids who have finished school,  mostly in the public school system and one fourth grader who will probably spend her whole school career in Catholic schools.  The big age span between my big kids and my youngest gives me a different view of "how things were" vs. "how things are" than parents with one or two closely spaced kids get.
I've seen some of the outrageous assignments floating around facebook.  I follow the links and read the articles but what I never see are 1) The CC standard the assignment is allegedly meeting 2) A link showing how the material is mandated or suggested by CC and 3)An explanation of how the assignment leads to the standard.  In short, there have been goofy and/ or inappropriate assignments created by teachers (some teachers, not all) and textbook companies for as long as there have been teachers and textbook companies.  Correlating them with CC rather than GLEs or whatever moniker your state used for whatever standards or objectives it had prior to CC doesn't mean that CC is the problem.
I'm concerned about the testing aspect of CC.  It sounds like it will be expensive, and frankly I think there are a lot of better ways to spend money.  Also, if we want to get a handle on whether CC is doing what it is supposed to do--make our children better at reading and math and more prepared for college or career--we need to evaluate it against what went before.  I'm not about to tell you I'm an expert on curriculum or on student evaluation; I'm not.  However, I'm concerned when I hear that large numbers of students are failing the CC standardized tests.  Is that because the test is harder?  Is that because the curriculum now being used isn't as good?  How do we know?
I looked at Appendix C to the CC standards, which says it is samples of student writing.  I've seen adults that don't have the grasp of composition that that some of those students do.  Call me a pessimist but I have a hard time seeing the majority of kids learning to write like that.
Appendix B gives some exemplar texts (which they specifically state do not represent a partial or complete reading list).  I haven't read very many of them, but I recognize the names of many of the authors and quite a few of the works.  Those I recognize I think are generally appropriate.
I am interested in reading a response from someone who has a poor opinion of CC and can voice it in terms of CC says ______ (citing where CC says it) and I don't think that is appropriate because_______.  At this point, I'm looking at it from an educational standpoint, not a political one--yes, I do think curriculum should be a local decision, and from what I can see CC sets the goals but the curriculum is still a local decision.  I don't really want to get into that discussion right now, I'm more interested in what is right or wrong with the goals themselves.
My daughter's math book is correlated with the CC this year.  I haven't noticed a huge increase in the number of work problems over the old series.  I have noticed the "explain" questions and we have trouble with those, and she is getting algebra problems in fourth grade:  Johnny has 10 fish in the tank.  There are two more goldfish than guppies.  There are 4 mollies.  How many of each kind of fish are there?  She's learned how to solve this problem, which her sibs didn't know how to do at this age.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, October 05, 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:  Have you ever tried the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office)? Why or why not, and, if so, is it something you pray regularly?  My Answer:  Yes.  I learned years ago that it existed and back in the relatively early days of my online experience, I looked it up and found it online at Universalis.  I'd pray it periodically but found it a lot at one time.  I didn't realize it followed a pattern and that if I stuck with it, I'd eventually learn most of those psalms such that I'd be praying them rather than meditating on them, if that makes any sense.  Now, I often read the Office of the Readings while in the Adoration Chapel and/or pray Vespers and/or Compline while there.  So, while not someone who says it daily or even regularly, it is part of my prayer life.  If you want to learn more about it, I reviewed a book not long ago

This week I recommended two books I got free:  Wings of Glass and The Sea Glass Sisters.  I also reviewed a modern-day retelling of The Scarlet Letter called The Outcast.

Kindle Freebie: Wings of Glass

About the Book:
From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

My Comments:
I haven't finished this book yet and will revise this post when I do; but I wanted to let you know this is out there, and, for the moment, free.  I recommend getting it while it is still free.

My Review: Take Me Home for Christmas

About the Book:
Too bad not all memories are pleasant! Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town's Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he'll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he's left her to face all the townspeople he cheated.…

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can't bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

My Comments:
I really enjoyed this episode in the Whiskey Creek saga.  It was set during the holiday season but wasn't the typical short sweet holiday romance.  Sophia and Ted were young loves but Sophia ended up marrying Skip instead.  Now Skip is gone and she needs a job.  A mutual friend convinces Ted to hire her.  At the same time, Ted starts dating a long-time friend, Eve.  Which girl will get they guy?

"The gang" doesn't seem as important in this book as it did in the other Whiskey Creek books.  Yes, we have the chance to catch up with old friends, but if you missed the first books you'll wonder why some of them even show up.  

My only complaint about the book is that the author either doesn't know about, or chooses to ignore what she knows about bankruptcy law.  In short, at the end of the book Sophia very publicly does something that at best would lead to her bankruptcy being cancelled and making her responsible for all her debts or at worst would lead to her being charged with bankruptcy fraud, even though she did it with the best of intentions.  

Still, its a romance novel, not a legal treatise and so I'll give the book a B.

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

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Kindle Freebie: The Sea Glass Sisters

About the Book:
Elizabeth Gallagher has been balancing on the ragged edge for a while now. Then a rough case on the boards of her 911 operator’s job collides with a family conflict at home, and Elizabeth finds herself finally coming apart at the seams. A four-state road trip—trapped in a car with her mother—is the last thing she needs. Their destination may be beautiful Hatteras Island, but the reason for going is anything by pleasant. After one disastrous hurricane, and with a second one working its way up the coast, it’s time to convince Aunt Sandy to abandon her little seaside store on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and return to the family fold in Michigan. But when the storm sweeps through, the three women will discover that sisterhood and the sea can change hearts, lives, and futures . . . often in the most unpredictable of ways.

My Comments:
I don't know how much longer this is going to be free, but my advice to you is to check the link ASAP, see if it still is, and if it is, buy it.  It it is not free it is $2.99 on Amazon and I'd say it is worth it.
The writing is beautiful, I'd love to be friends with the characters and Lisa Wingate does a great job of depicting both hurricane season and the seasons of life.  As noted in the title link, the book is a prelude to another, and the first chapters of The Prayer Box are generously provided as well.  However, I didn't finish The Sea Glass Sister unsatisfied, as if I was missing the whole story.  While classified as Christian fiction, it is on the milder end of the spectrum and prayers don't make all the bad things go away.

Thanks to Tyndale for the freebie.  Grade: A.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Review: The Outcast

About the Book:
Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel Stoltzfus is a strong-willed single woman, content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of the religious sect as she is shunned by those she loves most. She is eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop. 

But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.

My Comments:
This book is supposed to be a re-telling of The Scarlet Letter, which I'm pretty sure I read somewhere along the line.  Like the community in which The Scarlet Letter was set, Rachel lives in a community dominated by religion, in her case the Old Order Mennonite church, which is similar to the Amish in maintaining close group ties and eschewing much modern technology.  A difference that is noted is that while the Amish shun members who break certain rules until those members repent, the Mennonites in this book do not, at least not formally.  However, like any society, those who choose to flaunt its rules find themselves on the outside looking in, even while living in its midst.  

I guessed the father of Rachel's baby long before he was revealed in the book, and I actually agreed with Rachel's reasons for not telling.  

I found the story to be very well written and the characters were well-developed.  In reading Amish fiction it is easy to romanticize the lifestyle and the close community bonds.  Without being critical of the faith of these people, Jolina Pertersheim manages to point out the pitfalls of those close community bonds, not only for Rachel but also for a friend of hers who left the Amish.  

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

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