Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Sin By Any Other Name

About the Book:

The Reverend Robert W. Lee was a little-known pastor at a church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Adulation poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend's message. Weeks later, Lee was ousted from his church in North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gaze Upon Jesus: My Review

About the Book:

What if you had walked beside the Virgin Mary from the Annunciation to the point at which she and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? How might seeing Christ as a child impact you and your faith?

WINE: Women In the New Evangelization offers its second, six-week scripture study, this time following the infancy and early years of Christ as seen through the eyes of Mary and other familiar and imagined women in the gospels.

Founder Kelly Wahlquist and ten other members of WINE uniquely blend scripture reflections, imaginative encounters, and visio divina “sacred seeing” with practical spirituality and discussion questions that will help you take a prayerful and creative journey through Advent and the Christmas season.

Not much is known about the childhood of Jesus, but the Gospels highlight six key moments in his early life:

  • the angel Gabriel proclaiming Jesus’ birth to Mary at the Annunciation
  • a pregnant Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth
  • the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
  • the presentation of Jesus in the temple
  • the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt
  • discovering the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple
Week by week, you will dig deep into each of the scriptural vignettes of Jesus’ early life and grow in your faith as you learn about virtues such as humility, patience, charity, reverence, prudence, and courage.

Each chapter uses an image that allows you to practice visio divina, the ancient practice of praying with sacred art. The images are included in an eight-page, full-color insert.

Gaze Upon Jesus will appeal to women who want to deepen their relationship with Jesus during Advent. Contributors to this inspiring scripture study include: Alyssa Bormes, Sarah Christmyer, Mary Healy, Maria Morera Johnson, Stephanie Landsem, Elizabeth Lev, Joan Lewis, Deborah Savage, Kelly Wahlquist, Katie Warner, and Carol Younger. Popular Catholic media personality Teresa Tomeo, also a member of WINE, wrote the foreword for the book.

As an individual or group study, Gaze Upon Jesus is a memorable way to encounter the God who sent his Son to show us his loving Father’s heart.

My Comments:

I like to write, but I've always said I'm more of a journalist than a novelist.  As much as I like to read and as many books as I have read, I don't have the desire/ability to create characters and to get inside their heads so to speak.  

One type of prayer that is often recommended is reading a story from the Bible and then imagining yourself in the scene and speaking to the characters.  Its not something I do well.  However, with Gaze Upon Jesus, I don't have to do it well; the authors already have. 

Each chapter in the book includes "the rest of the story".  Have you every wondered how Joseph found out Mary was pregnant?  Did Mary tell him?  Did he find out in the dream?  Did someone else tell him?  In this book, Joachim got the job, and after he had decided to take her into his home, Joseph traveled with Joachim to Elizabeth's house.  I'll let you read the book for the full story, but you can see where I'm going with this--the authors fill in the blanks left by Scripture.  I find these types of stories make Biblical characters much more real.

The book also contains prints of great pieces of art that depict the written about incidents, with the idea that you can use them as mediation aids.

I've really enjoyed this book and give it a B+.  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Book Review: The Last Year of the War

About the Book:

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

My Comments

Susan Meissner is one of my must-read authors.  While she writes historical fiction, she usually finds a way to bring the modern day into it.  In this story, Elise, a woman recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's heads to Los Angeles to visit a girlhood friend, before her disease "Agnes" takes her memories completely.  

The story flashes back to the years of WWII and shortly thereafter.  Elise and her family have been deported to an internment camp, where they are kept until arrangements can be made to send them back to Germany, where her parents were born.  While there, she meets a Japanese-American girl, Mariko, from whom she is separated when Elise's family is sent to German in the waning days of WWII.  

Of course the Germany to which they return is a bombed-out shell of the Germany her parents left all those years ago, and the bombing raids at the end of the war destroy even more.  Then comes the occupation, which is not all candy and roses.  Elise never feels at home in Germany and accepts a marriage proposal from a GI--a proposal they both know was made for the sole purpose of getting her back to the US.  We follow her as she returns to a US that is different from the one she left and to a lifestyle that is definitely not what she is used to.  Still, she manages to thrive. 

In some ways this is one of those books where everything just wraps up too neatly.  I liked Elise; she seemed real and ready to take advantage of opportunities presented with out coming across as a selfish person. 

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

Friday, March 01, 2019

Review: The Cliff House

About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne invites readers to Cape Sanctuary, where she weaves together the stories of three women—two sisters and the young aunt who raised them—each facing her own crossroads. Can they let go of past mistakes and welcome joy and love into their lives?

My Comments:

You get three romances for the price of one in this book.  Daisy is steady, boring, responsible and has a secret life.  Beatrize is her sister and in many ways, her total opposite.  When they were kids they were raised by their aunt, a recent college graduate who chose the girls over her life plans--but was the choice necessary?  All three of these women are looking at changes in life; they can either reach out and grab the offered good or cling to yesterday.  Which will they choose?

Like all of Thayne's books, this one does not show anything beyond passionate kissing, though there are enough out-of-wedlock children to make it clear that her characters are not chaste in the traditional sense.

Mostly the book is what you'd expect; a sweet romance without much more substance.  The relationship between the women does get a little more play than in the typical romance novel; but in the end, it is a romance novel and the end is hardly a surprise.

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

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