Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Review: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel: How to More Fully Live Out Your Relationship With God


About the Book:

Pope Francis illuminates a new, vibrant way of experiencing the Gospel through moving, intimate, and deeply meditative reflections that encourage us to live fully with meaning, purpose, and strength.

We live in an unprecedented time that has threatened to upend our daily rhythms, our work, our homes, even our faith. More than ever, we need books like Reflections on the Sunday Gospel to stir us to hope, to comfort, to peace. We need to remember what we live for and how good God is.

These reflections—published in English for the first time, drawn both from homilies given by Pope Francis and readings from the Fathers of the Church, including Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, and Saint Ambrose—do more than offer a way to enter into the liturgical year with weekly readings to enrich your devotional time. They offer Christ, and the power of His resurrection. They offer His words of assurance: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33, ESV).

Ultimately, as Pope Francis guides us through these timeless words, we will glean how even the giants of the faith needed God as much as we do, and how we can draw near to a good and faithful God no matter where we are or what season we’re in.

My Comments:

Usually when I get a book on NetGalley, the publication date is within a few months.  Generally publishers ask us to hold our reviews until about thirty days before publication.  I just noticed that the publication date for this book is November, 2022, which at first raised my eyebrows, but then got me thinking.  

If you are not familiar with the Catholic Lectionary, it is the book that contains the readings for Mass that day.  While there is some flexibility on weekdays, if you go to Sunday Mass anywhere in the world, you are going to hear the same Scripture readings as all other Catholics.  The Lectionary presents these Sunday readings in a three year cycle with each year focusing on a different synoptic gospel.  This year that gospel is the Gospel of Matthew.  When Advent begins, we start another church year and will move on to a different Gospel.  This year's cycle is the same as the one starting in November, 2022.  

So, now that you've had a quick lesson on Scripture in the Catholic Mass, what about the book?  As noted, it contains writings of Pope Francis about the readings each week.  This week's readings are here.  
In case the link doesn't work when you are reading this, the First Reading is from Exodus and tells the Israelites not to oppress people. The Second Reading is from Thessalonians and Paul is praising them for showing his preaching by their lives.  The Gospel is Jesus saying you shall love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.  
Chapters in the book begin with Pope Francis' reflection.  In this case he points out that the loving God and loving neighbor are inseparable as people are made in the image of God.  He also states that we cannot separate prayer and devotion and service to others.  He says "In the middle of the dense forest of rules and regulations--the legalisms of the past and present--Jesus makes an opening through which one can catch a glimpse of two faces:  the face of the Father and the face of the brother. He does not give us two formulas or two precepts;  there are no precepts or formulas.  He gives us two faces , actually, only one real face, that of God reflecte din the many faces, because in the face of each brother...there is God's own image.  
Following the Holy Father's teaching is a reading from the Fathers of the Church, in this case, St. Maximus the Confessor, who in this excerpt talks about love.  This does not appear to be one long teaching but rather excerpts from a variety of things, based on the ellipses and brackets.  One quote I liked was "He who loves God cannot help but love every man as himself, even if he abhors the passions of those not yet purified". 
I'd say the teachings from Pope Francis are pretty much the type of things he is known for--don't judge, love, care for the poor etc.  If Pope Francis is like fingernails on a chalkboard to you, you probably won't like this book.  If he is "your" Pope, you will.  I like him, so I'm giving this book a B+

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

My Review: Jingle All the Way

Jingle All the Way: A Novel by [Debbie Macomber]

About the Book:

Trapped in the middle of five siblings, Everly Lancaster always had big dreams. Now a top real-estate executive, Everly finds her work is her life, leaving no space for anything (or anyone) else. Sensing her stress, Everly’s boss insists she take December off. At first, a month away seems crazy—how will the company survive without her? But Everly’s mother convinces her otherwise. She deserves a vacation—plus, when she returns, she’ll have no excuse to skip family Christmas like she did last year.

But after her vengeful assistant books a guided cruise in the Amazon instead of the luxury beach vacation she expected, Everly is horrified to realize that she’s about to spend the next two weeks trapped—with no Wi-Fi!—in the rain forest. Not even Asher Adams, the ship’s charming naturalist, can convince Everly that the trip will be unforgettable. Slowly but surely, she realizes he is right: the sights are spectacular. And with each passing day, Everly’s relationship with Asher deepens, forcing her to take a long, hard look at her priorities.

Everly and Asher begin to see magic in the possibility of a life together. But as the cruise nears its end, and Everly’s family Christmas approaches, both must decide if love is worth the risk. A merry surprise may be in store in Debbie Macomber’s newest holiday delight.

My Comments:

Debbie Macomber Christmas novel.  Really, that says it all.  It's sweet, predictable, and not very realistic.  If you are in the right mood it is a pleasant way to pass a few hours but no, there is nothing special about this.  

I did like the setting--a cruise down the Amazon River.  Usually when you think of cruises you think of those huge ships that are floating luxury resorts sailing from beach to beach or tourist city to tourist city but this book reminded me that you can take cruises on smaller ships to more unique locations.  

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

Come join us for Show Off Tuesday to read other reviews and recipes and to enter a giveaway or two. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Cookbook Club: My Review

About the Book:

Margo Everson sees the call out for the cookbook club and knows she’s found her people. Recently dumped by her self-absorbed husband, who frankly isn’t much of a loss, she has little to show for her marriage but his ‘parting gift’—a dilapidated old farm house—and a collection of well-loved cookbooks

Aja Alexander just hopes her new-found friends won’t notice that that every time she looks at food, she gets queasy. It’s hard hiding a pregnancy, especially one she can’t bring herself to share with her wealthy boyfriend and his snooty mother. 

Trista Walker left the cutthroat world of the law behind and decided her fate was to open a restaurant…not the most secure choice ever. But there she could she indulge her passion for creating delectable meals and make money at the same time.

The women bond immediately, but it’s not all popovers with melted brie and blackberry jam.  Margo’s farm house is about to fall down around her ears; Trista’s restaurant needs a makeover and rat-removal fast; and as for Aja, just how long can you hide a baby bump anyway?

In this delightful novel, these women form bonds that go beyond a love grilled garlic and soy sauce shrimp. Because what is more important in life than friendship…and food?

My Comments:

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Christmas Delights: Cookbook Review

About the Book:

Savor the Delights of the Season with More than 250 Delicious Recipes!
This festive new compilation of family favorite holiday recipes is full of fantastic flavors of the season that will delight the young and the young at heart! Illustrated in full-color photographs, more than 250 recipes will inspire families with delicacies perfect for every Christmas occasion:

  • Christmas Eve Celebrations
  • Bountiful Breakfasts and Brunches
  • Christmas Dinner (including main dishes and sides)
  • Merrymaking (crowd-pleasers for parties)
  • Cookies and Candy
  • Giftable Treats (jar mixes, etc.)

My Comments

 One thing that comes to just about everyone's mind when you say "Christmas" is food. 

Review: Return to Virgin River

Return to Virgin River: A Novel by [Robyn Carr]

About the Book:

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River.

My Comments:

The fun of reading books that are part of a series is being able to keep up with characters as life moves on.  The downside is that if you get a long-running series, the author may feel it is necessary to to update you on "everyone's" life to the point that there are too many bit players running on and off the stage.  It is a hard needle to thread--to bring in enough old characters to make readers feel "at home" in the new book without overwhelming the book with useless details about bit characters.  Generally speaking Carr does fine with this, though if she errs it is on the side of too much information about too many useless characters, especially for someone who has not read the other books.

There is no plot carryover from the other Virgin River books.  The main plot is the relationship between Kaylee and a local artist.  His relationship with his ex is the main subplot.   Kaylee is trying to heal from the death of her mother and write a novel that has been the subject of writer's block. She is hoping that a new location will help. 

If you are not familiar with the Virgin River books you may get a little confused about who is who,or why they get named, but long-time fans of the series will enjoy visiting with old friends.   

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Hurricane Season: An Audio Book Review

About the Book:

 USA Today best seller Hurricane Season is the story of one family’s unconventional journey to healing — and the relationships that must be mended along the way.

Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have long since buried their desire for children of their own. While Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget her dream of motherhood. But when her free-spirited sister, Jenna, drops off her two young daughters for “just two weeks,” Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As the two weeks stretch deeper into the Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world — and revel in the laughter that now fills their home. Meanwhile, record temperatures promise to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Attending an art retreat four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She finally has time and energy to focus on her photography, a lifelong ambition. But she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home as a single mom.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims a steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that will change her family’s future, even as Betsy and Ty try to protect their beloved farm and their hearts. From the author of the USA Today best seller The Hideaway comes a new story about families and mending the past.

My Comments:

I'm usually a reader, not a listener but I had a dental  appointment this week and picked out this gem from Hoopla to listen to while my teeth were being drilled.  Of course that only lasted long enough to get me really interested in the book. I considered finding the written version so I could read it, but I was enjoying the audio, so I kept listening. Slowing down like that and letting the descriptions and feelings hit me and surround me rather than speeding past them as a read makes the book a totally different experience. 

Jenna and Betsy are sisters and were there for each other when their self-involved parents were not. Jenna got pregnant young and shelved her photography dreams to get a sensible job and support her two girls. Betsy met the love of her life, a farmer, when she was in college and gave up a promising advertising career to marry him and live on the family farm.  Betsy's life lacks only one thing--a child--and she has let her desire for a child color her life and pull her away from her loving husband.  Then one summer Jenna is offered the opportunity to attend an artists' retreat and she asks Betsy to keep the girls. 

As those of us who live on the Gulf Coast know, summer, particularly late summer, is hurricane season.  Hurricane Delta is in the Gulf as we speak and like other Gulf Coast residents, my family has been watching the news and making or breaking plans for the weekend.  We have our rituals, our chores that need to be done.  So do the characters in the book.  I think the title also refers to the hurricanes going on in the sister's lives.  For better or worse when a big storm comes through, things change.  As a result of Hurricane Laura, my daughter's boyfriend is working in Lake Charles--but he is working and collecting a paycheck, which he had not been doing since he was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic.  Because of both Laura and Delta, people in West Louisiana have suffered great losses.  Because of the hurricanes, people in west Louisiana will be the recipients of love and generosity from people across the country.  Because of the wind that blew through their lives that summer, neither sister will ever be the same.  

I'll definitely look for other books by Lauren Denton, and who knows, I may even listen to them.  Grade: B+

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Review: The Merriest Magnolia


About the Book:

Carrie Reed has always been known as her hometown Good Girl, yet she still loves Magnolia, North Carolina—after all, this is where her newly discovered sisters, Avery and Meredith, live. But Christmas is on its way and with it, her first love. Dylan Scott is back in town and planning on changing everything she’s ever loved about Magnolia with his real estate development project…but not without a fight.

Returning to Magnolia was never in Dylan’s plans—it holds too many reminders that he would never be good enough, and memories of the girl he left behind. But when a tragedy leaves him guardian of a grieving teenager, Dylan returns, ready to remake the town into something only money can buy, small-town traditions be damned. But with Carrie determined to stop him, he finds himself wondering if redeeming his teenage reputation is worth losing out on his second chance at love.

My Comments:

I enjoyed this second book in a series enough to track down the first and read it too.  

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Review: Christmas at Holiday House

About the Book:

A widowed young mother’s search for the perfect Christmas for her little boy leads her to Silver Bells, Colorado. Abby Powell becomes enamored with the heartwarming small-town community—with snow!—but not so much with her new client’s less-than-jolly son, Ethan Lancaster.

Ethan, a single-minded businessman, has learned the hard way that love and family are not for him. But he never counted on the lovely newcomer to town—or the emotional pull she and her son, Christopher, would have over him. As Ethan and Abby work together to restore Holiday House, the Lancaster’s historic family mansion, in time for Christmas, Ethan’s heart begins to open along with his home.

My Comments:

Abby knows she needs a change, and has decided to pick up her son and move from Arizona where she lived with her late husband, to Texas, where the two of them had planned to move.  Then her college roommate calls--her grandmother fell and needs live-in help.  Can Abby take the job?  So Abby and her son head to Silver Bells Colorado where they spend the holiday season preparing the grandmother's house for a Christmas exhibition and, of course, getting to know the grandmother's son.  Abby's friend also finds love, so this book definitely leaves you smiling.

The plot tension in this book is that both Ethan and his sister spent much of their childhood being shuttled between two warring parents and neither feels capable of really loving.  Since it's a holiday romance I'll bet you know how it ends.  Its a great book for a cool afternoon, as you snuggle in a warm blanket and sip hot chocolate (or Irish Coffee).  

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

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