This book is a delightfully light read...and I loved it for all the reasons I love Jane Austen books.
It's a romantically inclined book about Liz BenniThis book is a delightfully light read...and I loved it for all the reasons I love Jane Austen books.
It's a romantically inclined book about Liz Benning, whose life has distinct parallels to Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Part of the fun of reading this book is experiencing Liz's mishaps and misunderstandings and realizing how they tie in to Austen's novel.
Liz is the kind of character who I found myself relating with a little too much...the world is "against her," though she's admittedly blind to her own shortcomings. The premise behind the book is that Liz is going to have a "happiness project" over the course of a year, spending every month focusing on something to bring her more personal happiness.
Given that her brother-in-law (who's up for picking on Liz in any way he can) has a bit of a bet with her about it...and an interest in getting her to help him with his projects, there's layers of laughter throughout the book. At one point, I found myself wondering if it would be a happy ending (I mean, how can it be an Austen-like book without that?!?). And therein lies some of the delight: the path to happily ever after is full of rocks and twists and chuckles....more
This is a veterinary thriller that kept me hopping and guessing. Walker is one of the authors I've recently discovered, and I appreciate that she hadThis is a veterinary thriller that kept me hopping and guessing. Walker is one of the authors I've recently discovered, and I appreciate that she had the gumption to self-publish. Her books are enticing...and maybe a little too much at times.
She knows her stuff (she's a working veterinarian herself) and you get details that keep things authentic. She also has a mind for working the plot and keeping the conversation real.
She's also unabashedly Catholic: this book has Catholic elements and a definite theme of good versus evil. However, I credit her for just writing a good book and not worrying about making it Catholic. One of the characters is a priest, but he's not out to convert anyone.
While one of the main characters felt a little cardboardy to me, there's no denying the level of intrigue within this plot. You get backstory and you get to guess a bit...you also learn some things about genetics. One of the central themes of this book is about man playing God and the line between life and death. It's an interesting theme to consider, and one Walker doesn't preach about (and oh, would that be tempting as an author!). Instead, she crafts the plot and the characters in a way that you walk away with moral considerations that you can work out for yourself.
There's some language and some violence in this book, so you may want to preview it before you pass it along to someone who may be sensitive to those things.
All in all, a fun read with benefits (namely, the late nights!). Recommended!...more
Discovery had me delighted from the beginning. For one thing it has nuns in space.
Sit with that for a while. An order of nuns, the Rescue Sisters of SDiscovery had me delighted from the beginning. For one thing it has nuns in space.
Sit with that for a while. An order of nuns, the Rescue Sisters of St. Joseph de Cupertino, whose focus is in space.
Over the years, I’ve followed quite a few of the adventures of the Sisters in space, and a few of them, like Sister Ann, have become friends I meet again. This, though, is the first full-length novel with the Rescue Sisters in it; my other brushes with them have been short stories in collections Fabian has contributed to.
Discovery also has an alien spaceship and plenty of human drama. In fact, there’s an underlying mystery, at least two missions that I remember, and some great dialogue. Oh, and some romance. (Not much. But…some.)
The alien spaceship is the big pull, as high-dollar researches seek to cash in on the possibilities. The crew involved finds itself divided between the intellectuals, with the ideas and research, and the working class, who have the practical “how to get it done” knowledge. In the midst of this struggle, there’s the line between the ethical and moral boundaries that divide them in other ways.
Fabian crafts worlds and stories with the same care some people take with their holiday dinners or their artisan quilts. Her characters and plot interweave to make an experience that will make you want to revisit it and reread it and share it with others.
Deep space nuns, surreal adventures, and more than one mystery: Discovery will keep you turning the pages and longing for more....more
Roger Thomas is expert in his storytelling, and From Afar portrays the Holy Family as real people, personal and touching and relatable. I have rarelyRoger Thomas is expert in his storytelling, and From Afar portrays the Holy Family as real people, personal and touching and relatable. I have rarely read such well-crafted prose, and plan to reread this and savor it again, the way I savor my favorite foods and the very best fiction. This is the kind of literature I want to have around for my kids and favorite people to read....more
There aren’t many authors who do character development with the same thoroughness as Michael O’Brien.
And, say some of my reading pals, few use as manyThere aren’t many authors who do character development with the same thoroughness as Michael O’Brien.
And, say some of my reading pals, few use as many words as he does either.
I can only laugh, because however slowly his novels may move at times, he captures me with his prose and holds me.
His newest novel, The Fool of New York City, is one of the shorter books he’s written: at under 300 pages, it’s not even very hefty. The story within the covers, though, is filled with characters who you know and love by the end, who may fill your mind with their own stories if you let them.
Francisco is found by Billy, and the two become friends. Billy takes care of Francisco and tries to help him remember his life; because of his amnesia, he’s convinced he is Francisco de Goya (as in the 18th century painter) and just aging a lot differently than the rest of the world.
O’Brien’s characters are long on character: Billy is at least 7 feet tall, lives in an abandoned building that he’s remodeling, keeps hens on the roof, and views himself as a rescuer. He’s simple in a way that’s pure innocence and good in a way that’s sheer saint.
And if I’m talking as though I’ve met him, it’s because that’s how I feel after reading this book, that I met Billy Revere and shared some omelets with him, perhaps watched him as he jogged through Central Park.
Francisco eventually finds his way into his true identity, thanks to Billy’s patient support and help. There’s even a bit of a “happily ever after” to this (not so un-O’Brien-like, that)…but not without some wondering.
There were parts of this story that were harrowing and there’s a depth of feeling that I appreciated…I didn’t relate with the specifics, but there’s a mourning and a sorrowing within the story, central to both the main characters, that is, quite possibly, very human. It’s beautifully extracted and woven together in a beautiful tapestry....more
When I first heard of Rosamund Hodge, I didn’t realize I was jumping into YA fantasy…I just heard that she was a good writer.
After I read the first noWhen I first heard of Rosamund Hodge, I didn’t realize I was jumping into YA fantasy…I just heard that she was a good writer.
After I read the first novel, I purchased the next two that were available, and I burned through them in a fit of fiction-induced bliss.
Seeing that Hodge has a new book out is akin to what I used to feel, years ago, when I saw that King or Koontz had novels in hardback. Her writing, though, is not horror, though it may be troubling and make you reconsider the world you live in.
Hodge, so far, has focused on reimagining fairy tales and classic works. Her latest, Cold Smoke, Bright Fire, is enough Romeo and Juliet for me to almost want to pick up Shakespeare (but oh how I hate reading screenplays).
Bright Smoke has plenty of differences and special added features from Shakespeare: in the world of Hodge’s making, the city Viyara, the “Ruining” is coming, the world may fail at any moment, and the dead are coming back to life.
“The Juliet” is, in fact, a girl turned into a weapon through magic; Romeo believes her dead (as she believes him dead); and there are other characters who flesh things out in ways that would take me longer to explain than for you to read.
It’s a world, in some ways, that feels a little too close to home, and that’s where Hodge’s brilliance shines through. In a story that is so very clearly fantasy, she has tucked truths that apply to us in a world that could well be falling apart (but then, they said that 2000 years ago).
This is the first of a duology, so if you thought you’d be caught at the end wanting more-more-MORE, you would be correct.
What’s interesting, though, is that this is the kind of YA fiction that I would share (and have shared) with the young people (and adults!) in my life. Hodge operates within an ethical and moral boundary that, while intense and perhaps more than a bit violent (hence it’s YA and not middle grade), is also realistic.
Which feels strange to say about a fantasy novel.
A challenge for me, I think, might be to read the original Shakespeare and tie the parallels in with Hodge’s writing. In fact, the inner teacher in me would love to see that done in a school setting…with all the tripe I’ve seen in reading lists in the last few years, here’s a novel to consider instead!...more
“Hey, Mom! I want to read that book when you’re done!”
When my almost-12-year-old said that to me, I almost fell over laughing. After I invited her to“Hey, Mom! I want to read that book when you’re done!”
When my almost-12-year-old said that to me, I almost fell over laughing. After I invited her to read the subtitle, she quickly retracted.
But someday, I expect that she will have a copy of this book. This is a book that made my short list for every Catholic mom.
What Carrie Gress has done in Ultimate Makeover is wonderful: compiled 12 chapters of encouragement, down-to-earth advice and Godly wisdom for moms of all ages and stages.
Gress takes a look at feminine vices and points out that they “can only be transformed into virtues through challenges. … Similarly, the virtues can’t be attained without resistance. Motherhood offers opportunities to replace our vices with virtues, remaking us into the person God intends us to be.” To that end, she has structured the book as a way to view motherhood and its challenges “in light of God’s unique call for your life.”
This book reads like an older, wiser mom friend sitting beside you, sharing that pot of tea and putting an arm around your shoulders. Gress has a way of tackling the big, scary realities of motherhood, reminding you of the blessing, and pointing out the spiritual tools you’ll need to conquer the challenges. Oh, and she never ever lets you forget that it’s all God!...more
Confession: I hadn’t heard of Clare T. Walker — she goes by Clare Walker in the Register — but after I read Startling Figures, I was hooked, and I dovConfession: I hadn’t heard of Clare T. Walker — she goes by Clare Walker in the Register — but after I read Startling Figures, I was hooked, and I dove right into The Keys of Death (CreateSpace, 2016) (which, at the time of publication, I’m still trying to finish … if only December didn’t demand so much of me!).
Walker has pulled together three short stories (or maybe they’re properly called novellas?) and even my most critical editorial eye couldn’t blink long. They’re engaging, and, while they’re Catholic, they’re not shoved-down-your-throat-Catholic. The plots are tight, and the writing’s good.
There’s the veterinarian who has to solve the mystery of the people and pets getting killed in the area.
And when a physicist figures out how to actually be in two (and, sometimes, three or four) places at once, he finds himself facing unexpected consequences.
I won’t even spoil the third story by explaining the concept, but it hooked me and kept me guessing and reading.
Mostly, I had fun reading these books. They’re curl-up-on-the-couch good, though they’re definitely for adults (or older teens, though I’d recommend you preview them first). My older daughter has aspirations toward veterinary medicine, and I think Walker’s characters will likely appeal to her … but at almost-12, I’m not sure if the nature of these stories (and what I’ve read so far of Keys) is quite appropriate.
Walker has taken on suspense/thriller fiction from a Catholic perspective, without watering down the “real” aspect of things.
When the opportunity came for me to read BEAUTIFUL MERCY, billed on the front cover as “the perfect companion to the Year of Mercy,” I was anything buWhen the opportunity came for me to read BEAUTIFUL MERCY, billed on the front cover as “the perfect companion to the Year of Mercy,” I was anything but excited.
My reading time has been cut in half because of other obligations, and I have a stack of books I really want to read.
What I’m saying is that I did a lot of sucking it up to pick this book up.
And God used it as a big ole two-by-four to hit me across the head.
This book might be some of the best writing and reading I’ve done on the subject of mercy. Ever.
Kelly writes, in the prelude,
“It’s simple, but imagine how the world would be different if everyone practiced just one work of mercy each day. How would the world be different if these works of mercy defined the way we live our lives? There is genius in Catholicism, but sadly it is little known and practiced.
“Sometimes the best way to think about life is to reflect upon death. When I think about my life and how I have offended God, all the opportunities I have had to love that I have turned my back on, how little I have done with the gifts he has given me, I hope he is merciful. When I reflect on my faults and failings, my mistakes and sins, my pride and arrogance, I hope he is merciful.
“I believe he is.”
What follows is a set of 14 chapters, one for each of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The collection of authors in this book is phenomenal: I’m sure Kelly didn’t actually call Pope Francis, but I can’t help but love that Pope Francis’ words are the introduction to the book:
“As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself to merely affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel.”
Most of the chapters feature two essays, and they are practical suggestions. They are also, though, a challenge. They are reflective considerations of what the works of mercy, in both the corporal and spiritual aspects, mean for each of us as both individuals and as parts of the larger Body of Christ.
For example, consider Lisa Hendey’s reflection on giving drink to the thirsty: she took readers with her to Tanzania, painting a picture of the young girls carrying huge water jugs on their heads. She then zoomed back to her own California home, where a drought had made her more aware of water. Yet, she mentions, it’s more than just about water, isn’t it?
“But let us also remember that the “thirsty” often have needs that will be met more often by words and deeds than by water. I don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find folks who thirst. They are all around me, waiting for me to bear relief to them just as Neema bore that bucket of water.
“The thirsty are the working poor of my own community who labor in farm fields to put food on their tables. My elderly neighbor thirsts for someone to sit with her and to simply listen. A friend who single-parents a child with special needs thirsts for compassion, understanding, and welcome. And often, my own family thirsts for my care and attention when I let my daily busyness stand in the way of lovingly fulfilling my vocation as wife and mother.”
I was equally struck by Sarah Swafford’s reflection on instructing the ignorant. She explains that “ignorant” doesn’t mean “stupid,” but rather, “unlearned,” “unknown,” or even “unaware.” She makes a distinction that this isn’t about pushing our faith on other people, but instead trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us.
“In light of trying to dig deeper into this work of mercy, instruct the ignorant, I think it would be beneficial to distinguish between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is very important; we should have the facts and information we need to communicate the brilliant truths of our Catholic faith. But someone may have all the factual knowledge in the world⏤he or she may even be a “walking Catechism”—yet unless we approach this work of mercy with an eye to imparting wisdom, we may very well miss the mark.
“It is wisdom and faith that take knowledge and seamlessly weave it through the threads of time, history, culture, and personal experience in order to help answer life’s biggest questions: “Who am I?” “What am I living for?” and “Whom am I living for?” Wisdom and faith are the anchors of human life, giving us meaning and purpose even amid the attacks of relativism, utilitarianism, and the culture of death. Wisdom and faith show us that life has a plot, a goal, and living out this journey leads to happiness, peace, and joy—both in this life and in the next.”
This book is full of advice, true, but it’s also full of fire: I found myself considering that maybe my Year of Mercy wouldn’t be a total waste after all. Maybe even in the midst of how crazy my life is, I can make a few small changes that will have a big impact eternally.
In BEAUTIFUL MERCY, I found hope, and I also found an understanding of mercy I haven’t gained anywhere else. Mercy has always seemed to be a nice idea, a good theory, and completely foreign.
God has it, sure.
But…what does it mean? How do I share it? Why do I need it?
This collection was a gift to me, straight from heaven. It seared itself into my mind, and I can’t help but feel closer to God as a result of reading it.
I also can’t help but be better motivated to move forward through my Christian journey.
As Dr. Scott Hahn wrote in the conclusion:
“The crisis of the Church is not reducible to the lack of good catechists, liturgies, theologians, and so forth. It’s a crisis of saints. But it’s a crisis our Father can be trusted to handle, especially if we allow him to keep his promises to us.”
Let us be saints, indeed, and use what’s left of this Year of Mercy to run closer to that goal!...more