Sunday, January 31, 2021

Monday Memes

 Welcome to my blog.  This post is linked to Mailbox Monday, where book bloggers brag about all the books that arrived this week and to Its Monday, What Are You Reading, where book bloggers recount their reading week.   

This week I read and reviewed a book on prayer.

I used my Kindle Unlimited subscription to read

I'm not going to review it, but I enjoyed it, as I have the other books in the series. 

This afternoon I had an hour-long Zoom call with Kathleen Basi, author of A Song for the Road. I haven't decided how I am going to "package" it for this blog, but you will be hearing more from her and about her book.  We talked about her book and characters, her setting and whole writing process.  

Review: Ten Ways to Pray


About the Book:

Whether you are just beginning to develop a consistent prayer practice or are looking for a new approach to spiritual growth, Ten Ways to Pray will explore a variety of traditional forms of Catholic prayer that enable you to draw closer to God and the communion of saints.

This practical introduction to ten traditional forms of prayer from the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame will help you develop a richer spiritual life that draws you closer to the triune God and the communion of saints. Carolyn Pirtle provides intriguing bits of history, engaging spiritual and theological commentary, and step-by-step guidance for trying ten distinct ways of praying that Catholics have utilized across the centuries and around the world in order to develop your own prayer practice.

These include praying:

with scripture
to consecrate time through the Liturgy of the Hours and the Angelus
through experience in the Examen
through action in the Works of Mercy
through the beauty of nature, art, and music
through silence

My Comments:

Every year I make New Year's and/or Lenten resolutions to improve my prayer life.  In keeping with those resolution, I often obtain a book, and many of them languish on my bookshelf or NetGalley queue because I'm going to get to them when I have time to read them or whatever the excuse of the week is.  Since Ten Ways to Pray was a NetGalley offering in January, I grabbed it.  

It really is one of those "no excuses: books.  The writing style is conversational and easy to read.  The book is broken into chapters for each type of prayer.  Each chapter begins with "What is this form of prayer", a section that describes the form. Next is "Why might a person pray this way?" that gives you an idea of whether this form of prayer might be for you.  "When and where can one practice this form of prayer" is pretty self-explanatory, but it addresses real issues people have in their lives--you aren't going to be able to spend 30 minutes in contemplation if you are the only adult in charge of three small children who are awake.   The next section in each chapter is "How does one pray this way in practice" which gives concrete ideas for doing this type of prayer.  For example, the section on praying with Scripture gives the five steps for lectio divina.  

While the book has an extensive bibliography to allow readers to more fully explore topics of interest, this book is only 192 pages and is a quick easy read.  Since the Bible is my book for the year (see Do You Prefer Your Bible Fast or Slow) I'm going to focus on the section on praying with Scripture.  

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

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Money Books to Consider

 Getting your financial house in order is a New Year's resolution for many, and lots of authors are willing to help you do so.  I'm looking through my NetGalley shelf and have found several books I acquired with the idea of reviewing them on my now-dead financial planning blog:  Racing Towards Retirement.  I lost my enthusiasm for that topic, and blogging in general until recently, and I've chosen to review the books here, rather than there, because people actually read this blog.  None of these are new to the market but you could learn something from all of them.

About the Book:

 A perennial bestseller for over two decades, now Bach returns with a completely updated, expanded and revised edition, Smart Women Finish Rich, to address the new financial concerns and opportunities for today's women.

Whether you are just getting started in your investment life, looking to manage your money yourself, or work closely with a financial advisor, this book is your proven roadmap to the life you want and deserve.

With Smart Women Finish Rich, you will feel like you are being coached personally by one of America's favorite and most trusted financial experts. The Smart Women Finish Rich program has helped millions of women for over twenty years gain confidence, clarity and control over their financial well-being--it has been passed from generations to generation -- and it now can help you.

My Comments:

While marketed to women, this book has good advice for men too.  It is written in a chatty, conversational style that is both encouraging and challenging.  David Bach encourages readers to put their money where their values are, to take stock of where they are, to work at getting rich in small increments, and to teach their children about finances. He gives a basic overview on investing and talks about how taxes figure into everything.  He encourages readers to not only save money and invest, but also to make more money--to ask for the raise, to leave jobs that don't pay well.  If you don't have a financial plan for your life and know little about investing, this book is a good place to start.  Grade:  B+

My Comments:

I usually paste in the book blurb but in this case it is huge, so I'm just going to tell you that if you know nothing at all about investing this is a good place to start.  The writing style is much more blog post than college economics text book, but Ted Snow covers all the basic terms you see when you look up stocks such as market capitalization, p.e. ratio and free cash flow.  He discusses stocks, bonds, options and more and tells you how you can make money on them--and why you might not.  The book includes eye-catching graphics.

I doubt there is anything in this book that most experienced educated investors don't know--and really, that's a good thing.  He doesn't share any secret formula or tell you that if you only _____ then you are guaranteed to have a gain of X%.  However, if you don't know the difference between and ETF and an option, this is the book for you.  Grade:  B+

About the Book:

In 2010, 24-year old Grant Sabatier woke up to find he had $2.26 in his bank account. Five years later, he had a net worth of over $1.25 million, and CNBC began calling him "the Millennial Millionaire." By age 30, he had reached financial independence. Along the way he uncovered that most of the accepted wisdom about money, work, and retirement is either incorrect, incomplete, or so old-school it's obsolete.

Financial Freedom is a step-by-step path to make more money in less time, so you have more time for the things you love. It challenges the accepted narrative of spending decades working a traditional 9 to 5 job, pinching pennies, and finally earning the right to retirement at age 65, and instead offers readers an alternative: forget everything you've ever learned about money so that you can actually live the life you want.

My Comments:

Grant Sabatier uses himself as Exhibit "A" on how to turn your financial life around .  He gives pretty standard career advice about making sure you are paid what you are worth, learning all you can not only about your job but the jobs of others as well, and not being afraid to change jobs when necessary  He advises that you get a side-hustle of some sort and then gives some very basic investing advice.  

I'd say the strength of the book is the advice on how to handle your main job and how to acquire a profitable side hustle.  The other financial information is pretty basic--but then lots of people need basic.  Grade:  B

About the Book:

The road to financial well-being is complex. En route, you face an overwhelming variety of complicated choices--from deciding which job to take to determining how best to spend or save--that can impact your financial life in ways that are often difficult to predict.

Author Paul Bennett knows there is no decision that is not connected to your financial well-being. With over twenty-five years of experience, as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(TM) professional he also knows that navigating those decisions doesn't have to be so hard. The Money Navigator examines:
- Key insights into human economic behavior
- Reasons why investors make poor decisions
- Why financial and insurance products are so misunderstood
- How a Money Navigator--a full-scale CFP(R)--can help you invest well and manage your financial life with ease.

​With fresh insights and real-life examples backed up by in-depth research, each chapter of The Money Navigator offers you practical takeaways for you particular situation, whether you find yourself on the cusp of retirement, are already retired, or are facing a life transition. Bennett's expert navigation and advice propels you toward the life you always imagined and equips you with the tools to attain your goals.

My Comments:

The strength of the book is the way it asks you to look at  how you make decisions and points out how that process may not be in  your best interest.  

While there is basic investment and financial planning information, it is pretty basic.  

Unfortunately, much of the book sounds like an ad for a financial planner.  Grade:  B-

Monday Memes

This post links to It's Monday What Are You Reading and Mailbox Monday.  

Well we all survived last week.  I'm one who was disappointed in the results of the election for two reasons--first I wanted the results to be definitive, one way or another, and second, I didn't want a Democrat-controlled government, but I was not at all pleased with the "rally" last week or Trump's behavior in the last four years, especially last week.  But on to books. I reviewed two Susan Mallery books:

My Review

 I got several new NetGalleys recently:

I had accumulated quite a few financial planning NetGalleys so I did a big post highlighting several of them  

What have you been reading?

While not book-related, I reviewed three clothing boxes I ordered (Amazon, StitchFix and Thred-up)

Friday, January 22, 2021

Amazon Prime Wardrobe Personal Shopper vs Stitch Fix vs Thred Up

 My favorite store, Dress Barn, shut down a year ago.  Yes, I know they have a website but its not the same and the prices are higher.  I'm sure Covid isn't helping, but I got a substantial Macy's gift card for Christmas and just wasn't impressed by what I saw there.  Depending on my weight this month, I'm at the top of the standard sizes, or the bottom of the plus sizes.  I'm not 16 and don't want to look like I am, but my budget is far closer to H&M than Saks.  

I've been experimenting with style boxes.  I reviewed Dia &Co a few years ago, twice. Every now and then someone will use my link and I'll get a free styling fee from them, and order another box.  I haven't bought a lot from them as I found the clothes to be expensive and, after a few boxes, very similar to each other.  If you want to try them, here is my link--use it and we each get a box sent to us with no styling fee.  Click here. 

Last summer I read that Amazon has a new service called Prime Wardrobe Personal Shopper.  Basically, Amazon has a certain group of clothes, many of which are their own brands, which are tagged as Prime Wardrobe.  If you are a Prime member, you can go on Amazon, pick up to eight such items and they will ship them to you without charging your card.  Once you get them, you try them on, and then send the rest back via the enclosed pre-paid mailer.  Unfortunately when it comes to fashion, Amazon's search engine is not the best and I get tired of looking at page upon page of stuff.  That's where the "Personal Shopper" comes in.  You tell the app what you like and don't like and then it (and to some extent--probably not much--a personal shopper) pick out 10-12 items for you.  You look at them online and select up to eight.  You can order in the selected color or change it (if other colors are available on Prime Wardrobe).  I was pretty happy with what they sent in the first couple of boxes (read my review) but then it started to get repetitive.  Amazon's styling fee is $4.99 and it is not applied to purchase.  

On my mad tear through subscription box land this time I decided to try Amazon again, and to try Thred Up and Stitch Fix for the first time.  So, what did I get?

Amazon sent me an oatmeal colored Cowl-neck sweater that I really considered buying. 

I got some Lee black trousers which were fine, but nothing I really needed, and they were $45.00.  A black long sleeved t-shirt was $45.00. A $44.90 red cardigan fit funny, and I already have a red cardigan.  This sweater didn't do it for me either, especially at $49.90.  At $34 this grey sweater didn't do much for me either. 


 I ended up buying black leggings for $24.99 and a burgundy sweater for $32.98. 

Burgundy Sweater

If the box had been free, say a gift, I would have kept the cowl neck sweather, the black pants and the black tee, and worn them, but I didn't like them enough to buy them. 

I'd never tried Stich Fix, which kind of started the whole fashion box business so I gave them a shot.

Stitch Fix sent me five items.  They have a $20 styling fee, which is applied to any purchase you make.  The pack included a scalloped neck sweater in a shade of green that made my green eye "pop" so of course I bought it, even if the $58 price tag was kind of steep. 

I also kept a long sleeved patterned blouse at $48 because I thought it looked good on me. I sent back a mustard color cardigan, a red patterned blouse and navy patterned dress.  If this box had been a gift, I would never have worn them.  If you want to try them, use my link, and we'll both get $25 credit.  

Thred-Up is an online consignment shop for used clothing.  They offer a "Goodie" box for a $10 fee that is applied to purchase.  They send you 7-10 pieces, supposedly based at least somewhat on your style quiz, but the note that came with my box said something about it not being personal styling.  I guess what it means is they do the best they can to send you stuff you'll like, but they can only send what they have.  Surprisingly, if I had gotten the clothes in this box as gifts, I would have worn all of them. 

I guess that if you send black, its hard to go wrong, because everything in the box was black or had a pattern including black.  The price of most pieces was around $15 though one sweater was $38.  I ended up keeping a pair of jeans, a black turtle neck, and a pair of black slacks. I think this is going to be my go-to "I don't know what I want, why don't you figure it out" box.  If you use my code, you get $10.00 off your first purchase, and I get a $10 credit too.  I don't know how representative the box they sent me was, but I found it contained several brands that I wouldn't buy new because of the cost..  Had I needed them, I would have paid Thred-up's price.  


Friday, January 15, 2021

Review: The Vineyard at Painted Moon

About the Book

Mackenzie Dienes seems to have it all—a beautiful home, close friends and a successful career as an elite winemaker with the family winery. There’s just one problem—it’s not her family, it’s her husband’s. In fact, everything in her life is tied to him—his mother is the closest thing to a mom that she’s ever had, their home is on the family compound, his sister is her best friend. So when she and her husband admit their marriage is over, her pain goes beyond heartbreak. She’s on the brink of losing everything. Her job, her home, her friends and, worst of all, her family.

Staying is an option. She can continue to work at the winery, be friends with her mother-in-law, hug her nieces and nephews—but as an employee, nothing more. Or she can surrender every piece of her heart in order to build a legacy of her own. If she can dare to let go of the life she thought she wanted, she might discover something even more beautiful waiting for her beneath a painted moon.

My Comments

This is a starting over story and while it includes romance, the real story is Mackenzie choosing to leave the safe but unsatisfying world of her ex-husband's family business and striking out on her own.  She has it a lot better than a lot of divorcees--her husband is wealthy and writes a generous settlement check, much to her mother-in-law's chagrin--but she has spent her adult life living in their family compound and her sisters-in-law are her best friends.  The story explores how much life changes after even the most amicable of divorces, and how divorce not only affects the couple but the extended family as well in some cases.  

I enjoyed the book and thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade B. 


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review: California Girls

 California Girls 

About the Book:

 Finola, a popular LA morning-show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by the news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.


My Comments:

When couples break up it is easy to blame the other partner. Either the other partner did something to cause you to want out, or the partner initiated the breakup.  In this story, three sisters had break-ups with the course of a week, and we follow them as they move from blaming the other person to accepting their part in it, and moving on.  

I like the way Mallery not only looked at the couples' relationships but also the relationships each of the women had with people in general and how those relationship traits affected not only their romantic relationships but also the rest of their lives.  

I don't think I was every surprised about how things happened, but this was a light interesting read.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Somehow this didn't make it to the top of my list near publication time.  Grade: B.


Monday, January 11, 2021

It's Monday: What Are You Reading


Is the weather as cold everywhere as it is here?  They are supposed to get snow about 50 miles north of us, but no snow in New Orleans.  I hear it raining and it just feels cold even in the house.  On the positive side, the Saints won today WHO DAT!  

We took down our Christmas stuff and I put up a few Mardi Gras decorations.  No parades this year.  

Reading?  Oh, that.  Most of my reading time this week has been spent reading Fundamentals of Louisiana Notarial Law and Practice.  Quick review:  Dry as dust, full of big words, very repetitive and not exciting at all.  Nevertheless it is the book I have to know if I want to pass the Louisiana Notary Exam in February, which I have decided I do want to do.  

My book of the year this year is going to be the Bible and I wrote a post comparing two podcasts I listen to:  Do You Prefer Your Bible Fast or Slow  In the fast podcast, several chapters of the Bible are read each day.  On the slow one, several days can be spent on a handful of verses.  

I'm in the middle of two books:  California Girls by Susan Mallery and Those Who Save Us which is about a young woman in Germany during WWII and a middle-aged woman in the US in the 1990's.  I'm enjoying them both. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Do You Prefer Your Bible Fast or Slow?


Despite the fact that it is probably the most read book on earth, one New Year's resolution many people have is to read the Bible, either all the way through, more, or some permutation thereof.  One way to do that is to pick up your Bible, or go to a website like and read.  Another way is to subscribe to one of many "readings of the day" email lists.  A way that has gained popularity the last few years is via podcast.  Today I'm going to review two podcasts I listen to--one fast and one slow.

The Ten Minute Bible Hour

The Ten Minute Bible Hour  is hosted by Matt Whitman.  According to what I've been able to figure out via Google, Matt used to be the pastor of an Evangelical Free Church.  He was a history major at Trinity College in Chicago, and then went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Now he is a podcaster, Youtuber and speaker.  

In The Ten Minute Bible Hour podcast, Matt is going through the book of Matthew, one piece at a time.  How long is a "piece"? It depends, but anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph, or sometimes he takes a bigger chunk but spends more than one day on it.  To put things in perspective, the podcast is now on episode 298 and he is on Matthew 13:24-30, the parable of the wheat and tares, and this is the second day he is talking about it.  The podcast has five episodes per week, and Matt takes off for a week when there are five Mondays in a month. 

Matt's background as a historian comes out in that he is purporting to tell us how the original audience would have received this text--both the original audience who heard Jesus and the audience who first read Matthew.  What he does not do is follow up with "and here is what it means for you today and what you should do about it".   He mostly leaves listeners to draw their own conclusions about the message that passage has for them.  It's Matt's basic thesis that Jesus came to establish a new Kingdom with new "Kingdom Values" as listed in the beatitudes.  

I've been listening to this podcast from the beginning and it has given me historical insight into Matthew and the Bible in general that I did not previously have. 

Matt generally starts the podcast with a life story or similar and then says "Likewise, in Matthew chapter..." He can be funny at times and serious at others.  Each episode is about 10 minutes long.  

Matt Whitman is also a Youtuber.  His channel is called The Ten Minute Bible Hour, though most of the episodes go well over ten minutes.  He has done video series on the Book of Luke and on The Acts of the Apostles.  He has also covered various topics related to reading the Bible and Bible versions, but my favorite of his videos cover his visits to various churches.  He has toured and spoken with clergy from Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist and Assembly of God churches (and probably some other ones I can't remember off the top of my head).  He also has a series where he speaks with a Catholic theologian from a college near his home.  

Fr. Mike Schmitz:  Bible in a Year

The Bible in a Year podcast of Fr. Mike Schmitz moves through the Bible much more rapidly that Matt Whitman does.  It follows Jeff Cavin's Great Adventure reading plan. The basic thesis of the plan is that the Bible is the story of our salvation history, and that rather than trying to read it from front to back, to put things in the proper context we need to read by historical periods.  The first such period is "pre-history" and covers the first few books of Genesis, through the tower of Babel.  The second is "the patriarchs" and goes through the end of Genesis.  

Each day's episode is 20-30 minutes long and in it Fr. Mike reads from the narrative books and some complimentary texts from elsewhere in the Bible.  You can download a copy of his reading plan.  In the episode I listened to today, he read from Genesis, Job and Proverbs. 

Fr. Mike reads quickly and well.  Following the reading, he gives a short reflection which pulls a lesson from the text.  In response to the story of the Tower of Babel, he talked about the difference between striving for excellence and striving for glory.  With respect to the story of Job, and Abram, he talked about trusting God.  

Before beginning each of these historical periods, Fr. Mike is going to have Jeff Cavins, who developed the Great Adventure series, on for a "bonus" episode where they give an overview of what to expect during that time  

Fr. Mike is also on YouTube and when my high school daughter walked in on my tonight when I was listening to him, she said she thought she recognized the voice--her religion teacher uses his videos in her class.  I've watched a few and they are interesting and engaging.  

My Comments:

I'm enjoying both of these podcasts.  If you happen to be like I was not too long ago, and need to know what a podcast is or how to access it, podcasts are pre-recorded audio programs that are uploaded to internet sites so that you can download them and listen to them when you want. You can use any number of apps to do so--I use Spotify, but you can use Stitcher or Google Play or .....

Listening to Fr. Mike read is like listening to an audiobook and it slows me down, as opposed to the speed at which I read to myself.  I like his reflections and I feel reasonably confident that what I'm hearing from him comports with Catholic teaching.  

On the other hand, I've never delved as deeply into any book of the Bible as I have into the book of Matthew during the last thirteen months.  I've learned about Pharisees, about Capernaum,  about the organization of Matthew around four big speeches by Jesus and even about the acoustics that would have helped Jesus be heard when he went a short way offshore in a boat to speak.  

I'm sure Matt's beliefs color some of his interpretation, but he's pretty open about when he is interpreting.  He purports to be talking to people who are "all in" to Christianity and to those who are interested in the Bible but don't believe there is a God behind it, and to be leaving it up to us what to make of it.  

In short, I recommend both these podcasts for different reasons and give them both and "A".  

I have received no compensation for writing this review--and you can get your free review copy of either or both podcasts simply by downloading them--actually there is no charge for either one whether you review them or not.  Matt would like you to support  him on and I'm sure Fr. Mike (or more precisely the sponsor of the podcast, Ascension Press) would like it if you would purchase Great Adventure Bible materials.  I reviewed some years ago. 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Monday Memes

 Monday is the day for sharing our book hauls and reviews with other book bloggers.  This post is linked to Mailbox Monday which is about books that are new to us this week. It's Monday, What Are You Reading talks about what we are reading and reviewing.  

I grabbed two books with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.  Have you read either one?

I took off between Christmas and New Year so I had a lot of time to read and write.  I published several reviews:

I also read/reviewed some books for which the reviews will be published later. 

A Song for the Road is Kathleen Basi's debut novel.  Available now on NetGalley, it is the story of a woman taking a cross country trip to come to grips with the loss of her family.  I recommend it.  Review to be published in May. 

Before I Saw You is the story of two accident victims whose hospital beds are next to each other, but who can't see each other.  I enjoyed it. Currently on NetGalley.  Review to be published in March.

I always enjoy Thayne's books and The Path to Sunshine Cove is no different. Review in February.

In this cold weather, a trip to Hawaii with Moments Like This was fun. 

Later this month, I publish a review of The Vineyard at Painted Moon about a woman who has to start over in life. 

One of my New Year's resolutions is to get back into participating in these weekly link-ups.  I'll be around to see what everyone else is reading.  

Friday, January 01, 2021

The Woman I Was Before: My Review


About the Book

Of all the emotions single mother Kate Jones expects to feel as she walks into her brand-new house on Parkview Road, hope is the most surprising. She has changed her and her daughter's names and moved across the country to escape the single mistake that destroyed their lives.

But Kate isn't the only woman on the street starting afresh. Warm, whirlwind Gisela, with her busy life and confident children, and sharp, composed Sally, with her spontaneous marriage and high-flying career, are the first new friends Kate has allowed herself in years. While part of her envies their seemingly perfect lives, their friendship helps Kate to leave her guilt behind.

Until one day, everything changes. Kate is called to the scene of a devastating car accident, the consequences of which will test everything the women thought they knew about each other and themselves.

My Comments

Who are you?  If I checked your social media feeds, how accurate (or perhaps it would be better to say how complete) is the picture they paint?  Putting your best self forward is nothing new--its why we dress one way to go to a ball, another way to go to the office and yet another to clean house.  This is the story of three women who learn who the others are, even though each tries to portray an image that isn't quite true.

Kate and her neighbors have just moved into a new subdivision.  We quickly learn that Kate has a secret, a secret that has caused her to move, to change her name, and to forbid her daughter to use social media.  Kate has no friends and resists the overtures of her new neighbors but finally lets them in a little at her daughter's demand.  By the end of the book we learn her secret and to me, that whole part of the story fell flat.  

Gisela is very active on social media showing off her perfect life, but then it all comes crashing down.  Even she didn't realize what an illusion it all was.  

Sally also has a social media perfect life, sort of, but then she too finds that things aren't what they seem to be.  

By the end of the book all three women have started new chapters in their lives and while they may not be #perfect, they have #growth.  

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

On the Horizon by Lois Lowry: My Review


About the Book:

Lois Lowry looks back at history through a personal lens as she draws from her own memories as a child in Hawaii and Japan, as well as from historical research, in this stunning work in verse for young readers.

On the Horizon tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.  Based on the lives of soldiers at Pearl Harbor and civilians in Hiroshima, On the Horizon contemplates humanity and war through verse that sings with pain, truth, and the importance of bridging cultural divides. This masterful work emphasizes empathy and understanding in search of commonality and friendship, vital lessons for students as well as citizens of today’s world. Kenard Pak’s stunning illustrations depict real-life people, places, and events, making for an incredibly vivid return to our collective past.
In turns haunting, heartbreaking, and uplifting, On the Horizon will remind readers of the horrors and heroism in our past, as well as offer hope for our future.

My Comments:

Maybe I don't give fifth through seventh graders enough credit but I can't see most of them liking this book, and they are the age it is aimed at, according to Amazon.  The reading level is right, for the most part, but I don't see the interest being there.  

The book starts in Hawaii with a young Lois Lowry at the beach with her nanny, and seeing the Arizona in the distance.  It then gives some  personal details about the men who lost their lives that day, and some who survived.  It has photos of some artifacts like a survivor's watch.  

It then moves to Japan, to Hiroshima as the bomb was dropped.  Again, it profiles the ordinary people like a four year old boy who died on his red tricycle.  

The prose in haunting, almost poetic at times, but I personally don't see it holding kids' interest.  

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

The Sunday Gospels for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter: My Review


About the Book

This book presents the complete texts of the gospel readings for every Sunday throughout the three-year cycle of the Sunday lectionary in the Catholic Church during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. It may be used for personal study to enhance understanding and appreciation of the Sunday gospel.

Each reading is accompanied by a short commentary, two questions for personal reflection and two prayers, to enable the gospels to be read in the contemplative tradition of Lectio Divina. These reflections have been written by the Revd Dr Adrian Graffy, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

The gospels are from the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, a bold new rendition of the scriptures designed for study and proclamation, and acclaimed for the richness, accuracy and inclusivity of its language.

A companion to this volume, The Sunday Gospels for Ordinary Time, will be released in January 2021.

Revd Dr Adrian Graffy was awarded a doctorate at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and taught Scripture for many years. He is now a parish priest in the Diocese of Brentwood and director of the What Good News website ( He was appointed in 2014 to be a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion for the Catholic Church.

My Comments

Yes, reflections on the Gospels of the day are a dime a dozen, can be emailed to you by any number of organizations/people and cover the entire spectrum of Catholic belief/practice from the Latin Mass aficionados to the Praise and Worship music fans to prolife leaders to social justice warriors.  This one is pretty middle of the pack ideologically.

It covers all all three Lectionary cycles but none of the "green" Sundays.  

To give you a taste of the style/content, I'm going to talk about the readings for today, the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.  Dr. Graffy points out that the Gospel is similar to one read on Christmas, the only difference is the addition of the last verse. He points out that the focus today is on Mary, without whom none of this could have  happened.  He ties in the second reading (which isn't printed in the book) which says that God sent his Son, born of a woman and that the first reading from Numbers invokes God's blessing on God's people as the new year begins.  He then asks the following reflection questions:
  • Do I appreciate the courage and love of Mary and see her as an example?
  • Do I imitate Mary's silence and her pondering of God's goodness in her heart?
Graffy then leads us in prayer
  • We pray that we may follow the example of Mary, the first servant of Jesus Christ, who listened to God's word and responded with generosity. 
  • We open our hearts to God at the beginning of a new year, that God may bless us day by day.
The author is English, the spelling is English but I looked him up and he is Catholic, not Anglican.  

If you are looking for something to lead you into prayer on the Sunday Gospels during these sacred seasons, this is a good option.  

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

Review: All That We Carried


About the Book

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

Michigan Notable Book Award winner Erin Bartels draws from personal experience hiking backcountry trails with her sister to bring you a story about the complexities of grief, faith, and sisterhood.

My Comments

I loved it. 

When an elderly parent dies, hopefully the children mourn, but then life goes back to normal.  There is a sense of loss, and sadness, but there is also the realization that death is a part of life and that it is going to happen to all of eventually.  However, when people die suddenly, well before old age, the loss can deeply upset family members, either pulling them apart or pushing them together in unhealthy ways.  

As noted above, after their parents died in a car accident, the older sister, Olivia, tried to remove as much random chance from her life as possible.  She was always prepared, she always planned.  Nothing bad was going to happen if she could help it.  Her younger sister tried to embrace everything--tarot and Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism.  As her sister noted, she avoided making the wrong choice by not making any choice.  Melanie is also an online persona who blogs, instagrams and vlogs, and makes money at it.  She's a life coach whose goal for her clients is happiness, though she hasn't been really happy since her parents died and her sister refused to speak to her.  She decides to try to repair the relationship with her sister through a back country hiking trip.

We follow the sisters as they follow Olivia's meticulously plotted plan--until they get lost and lose their map.  As things not on the agenda happen the sisters do eventually connect, with the help of a man they meet on the trail.  

The book is published by Revell, which is a Christian imprint.  Part of what each sister does during the incidents that take place in the book is to re-evaluate her religious beliefs.  I never got the impression that religion had been an important part of their childhood, but after the deaths of their parents, Olivia decided there couldn't be any loving God and Melanie had to believe there was something--she just wasn't ready to commit to any one belief.  There is no big "come to Jesus" moment, and, just out of curiosity, I ran a word search for "Jesus" and found the word only once, when Olivia was asking Melanie how Christians could be right about Jesus without other belief systems being wrong.  In short, while the book may be an invitation for you to consider  your religious beliefs, it is not a sermon encouraging you to adopt the author's beliefs.  

I enjoyed joining Olivia and Melanie on this journey of healing and am pleased to give the book an A. 

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

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