Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What to Do With Teen Parents?

Photo compliments of epSos.di
For some reason I've gotten several romance novels lately that have involved single parents, and a couple of them have had couples who, when the pregnancy test came back positive, were separated from each other by one or both sets of their parents.  It got me thinking about how our society today deals with young (lets define "young" as still dependent on their parents) couples who find themselves "in a family way".

Once upon a time, the solution to the problem was clear--a wedding was quickly planned and the baby arrived a little early.  Everyone could count to nine, and did, but a few years and a few kids, and it wasn't everyone's favorite gossip anymore.  However as divorce became more common, especially among the young and those married under pressure, waiting until the baby arrived to make decisions became more common.  As I read somewhere regarding teen pregnancy "Marriage is a permanent solution to a temporary problem".  I used to agree with that thought, now I am not so sure.

My regular readers know I am Catholic.  Most people know that the Catholic church does not recognize divorce. Most people also know divorced Catholics.  Most people have heard of Catholic annulments, even if they don't really understand them.  Without going into a treatise on Canon Law, the short story on annulments is that the Catholic church has certain criteria that must be met in order for a marriage to be valid.    While marriages that are properly performed are presumed to be valid, if a person does not wish to be married to his/her spouse, after a civil divorce, s/he can ask the Church to study his/her marriage to determine whether it met the criteria for a valid marriage, and, if it did not, to declare it null.  One of the criteria is free consent.  If you put a gun to my head and make me say marriage vows, it isn't valid because I didn't freely consent.  The Catholic church makes quickie marriages difficult to impossible these days; in part to avoid confecting marriages that are invalid due to defects in consent or lack of maturity in the spouses.  Basically it seems that the thought is that if the kids don't get married in the first place, you don't have to worry about them getting divorced down the line.

As I said earlier, I used to think that was a good approach.  However, in the last few years I've begun to wonder.  I don't think we should put inordinate pressure on these kids to get married, particularly if they don't like each other anymore. However, I know of several young couples who got pregnant.  They loved each other and stuck together throughout the pregnancy.  They moved in together and have made a home for themselves and their baby.  I daresay they slept together.  One couple married outside the Church before the baby was born, one got married in the Church when the baby was four years old; a third just had their baby and hasn't decided whether they will marry or not.  Once upon a time any parish priest would have tried to get these couples to the altar as soon as possible; now avoiding the long-term problem of divorce is seen as more important than encouraging these kids to establish a stable family into which to bring that child.  I just wonder whether our efforts to protect the sanctity of marriage have helped contribute to a culture that increasingly sees marriage as an optional, rather than ideal state, even when children are involved.

What do you think?  Should young pregnant couples be encourage to marry, or encouraged to wait until after the baby?

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Rancher's Secret Wife: My Review

About the Book:
After knowing the woman for all of three hours, soldier Reese Cooper married waitress Cheyenne Jones. She was pregnant and scared, alone in Las Vegas—and he was about to ship out on a dangerous tour of duty. But months later, Reese comes home to Dawson, Oklahoma, no longer the strong cowboy who vowed to help Cheyenne. Shrapnel and a guarded heart changed everything. But with a wife and baby counting on him, Reese is about to learn what real courage is all about.

My Comments:
I was in the mood for short mindless romances and NetGalley provided this one and others.  If you can get past the highly improbable premise for this book it isn't a bad story.  Reese came home blind and is having to re-learn how to do everything.  Luckily for him, he is part owner of the family ranch and he is a member of a large supportive family.  Cheyenne thinks that no one loves her.  The father of her baby abandoned them.  She was adopted by her parents, and later overheard them make a comment which she took to mean she was not loved.  Together the two of them get to know each other and fall in love.  Reese seemed awfully good at adapting to blindness and citizens of this small town readily took to Cheyenne, so realism isn't a big part of this book.  Still, I enjoyed it and will give it a B-.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Lakeside Family

About the Book:
In the space of a minute, Nick Brennan learns he has a nine-year-old daughter—and that she desperately needs his help. All this time, his high school sweetheart, single mother Josie Peretti, thought he knew about their child. And that he just didn't care. About the ill little girl—or Josie, the woman he's never forgotten. But Nick made a long-ago promise never to forsake his family the way his father did. A promise he vows to make good on now…if only Josie will bless him with a second chance.

My Comments:
This is a sweet, squeaky-clean somewhat religious romance.  While certainly no classic, it was a perfect book to read while watching the water go by from my chair on the deck of a cruise ship.  Nick and Josie are both highly likable characters and it was easy to root for them.  Books like this show you how HOT a loving kiss can be.  Grade B.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our Cruise--My Review

We just took a five day cruise on the Carnival Elation.  I thought I'd give you all my two cents worth about this cruise.  To comply with FTC disclosure requirements, I'll tell you that I paid for this cruise with my own money, though if any cruise ship company wants to offer me a complementary review cruise, I'll be glad to accept.  

Overall:  We had a great time and overall I'd give the experience a B+.

Cost/Value:  One thing that "sold" me on the idea of a cruise was that I had heard it was pay one price,  get a whole vacation.  Personally, I found that the tickets were just the beginning.  We paid about $1700 for four people in one room.  Not too bad for five days of room and board, and transportation to ports.  However, we were leaving my son home (his choice) and so we decided to get passports so we could fly home from Mexico, if necessary.  They were over $100 each.  We had to get to the cruise ship terminal and my son isn't comfortable driving that far from home so we took a cab both ways (we would have saved money by driving and parking--live and learn).  Once on board, we found abundant opportunity to spend money.  Soft drinks were $2.00 each or you could get a sticker allowing unlimited drinks for $6.00/day.  I'm a Diet Coke addict so I got the sticker and surprisingly, just about broke even.  You have to get the drinks from a bar and I often wasn't close to one.  Also, the drinks were from cans, not fountains, and some tasted old.  While regular coffee was included, coffee shop coffees were extra.  Finally alcoholic beverages were extra as well. We aren't big drinkers but lots of folks on board obviously were,  and I would hate to pay their bar tab.  Our other big expense was shore excursions.  We paid over $300 for our excursion to the ruins on Wednesday and over $100 on Thursday.  Another expense to anticipate is a 15% tip on your total shipboard bill.  In short, our trip ended up costing  us about twice the "sticker price"--we we didn't run up a big bar tab.  I don't quite know how to "grade" this item as the "extras" were disclosed and chosen, but still....

Service:  The staff on the ship was great.  Service is their job and they do it well.  They are friendly, helpful, always there, and not in the way.  Our waiters knew our names and the night my eight year old ordered pizza, they gave it to her with a side of french fries.  Our cabin was straightened a couple of times a day.  When we ate at the buffet, we automatically picked up our tray and looked for a place to deposit our dirty dishes etc., but of course that wasn't our job.  My only complaint is that when we first got on board my daughter had a feminine emergency and I went looking for stuff for her.  I approached a staff member who was wearing a t-shirt that said "Just Ask" and was told that a store would be opening later that evening.  When I asked again what I could do, she directed me to the ladies room and said there were machines.  Luckily I had a couple of quarters on me (we had been told there was no reason to carry cash since everything was charged to our room); unfortunately I went to two different restrooms and the machines were empty.  I went back to the woman, who said she'd call housekeeping to fill the machines.  I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing this was the first time this had happened and after running me around like that, she should have called someone to bring complimentary stuff to our stateroom.  Grade:  A- (because of that incident--otherwise would have been an A+)

Food:  When you say cruise, most people think of food, food and more food, and we certainly had that.  There were two main types of places.  The Lido deck had the buffet, grill, sandwich station, pizzeria, and Mongolian barbecue.  There were also two full service restaurants.  The food was plentiful and I'd describe it  as "not bad" but it wasn't all that great either.  The buffet had a salad bar which was pretty good.  Soft serve ice cream was available 24/7 and very popular.  The breakfast was about what you'd expect from a hotel complimentary continental breakfast, plus an omelet station.  They also had bacon, ham, eggs, and hot cereal along with pancakes and french toast.  There were different foods on the buffet every day.  Still, it was buffet food, not bad, not all that great either.  For supper we ate in the full-service restaurant.   We were served hot bread as soon as we sat down.  The menu had two sides--one that remained the same throughout the cruise and another than changed nightly.  A children's menu was also available.  You got a starter, an entree and a dessert.  Portion sizes seemed small compared to what I am used to seeing in restaurants, but they really were appropriate.  Here is what I ate:
  • Monday:  Started with spinach-artichoke dip and chips.  Grilled salmon with veggies.  Chocolate melting cake.  The salmon was good, the dip was ok--Applebees is much better.  The chocolate melting cake was wonderful.
  • Tuesday:  Started with stuffed mushrooms.  They were small and the flavor was ok, but nothing to write home about.  Prime Rib.  Nice tender piece of meat but not much flavor.  Baked potato which I had to open and butter.  Apple pie was good, not great.
  • Wednesday:  Started with fried shrimp with plum sauce.  Ok.  Jerked pork loin.  Again, not bad, not much taste.  Chocolate melting cake was very good.
  • Thursday:  Started with Lobster bisque.  It was lukewarm and didn't have much taste.  Vegetarian enchilada.  Attractive, not much taste.  Chocolate melting cake (notice a theme here)
  • Friday:  Started with  cream of mushroom soup.  It needed more zing, but it was  hot.  Steak.  Tender, cooked just the way I wanted it.  Not much taste.  Baked Alaska.  Basically just Neapolitan ice cream--very thin layer of sponge cake on bottom and meringue on top but it wasn't hot.   

In short, this stuff was banquet food.  It looked pretty and it wasn't bad--it just wasn't very good either.  Grade:  C.  

Accommodations:  We had four people in one stateroom.  That was our choice.  It was cozy.  We had an inside stateroom, meaning we had no window.  With the lights off, our room was DARK.  The girls were in bunks that came down from the walls.  If I got up in the middle of the night, I had to duck under them.  The provided night light was too bright, we ended up improvising with the bathroom light.  The bathroom had a shower only; no tub.  The air conditioning worked too well, not only in our stateroom (we finally figured out how to turn it down by day four) but all over the ship.  I lived in my sweater.  The beds were very comfortable.  Grade:  B+

Shore Excursions:  We did one shore excursion through the ship, and one on our own.  The one through the ship was exactly as advertised.  We had a good time and the food was the best on the trip (basic Mexican but it did have some taste to it).  By the time we tipped the guide it was over $80.00/person for a five hour trip.  Since I would have no idea how to do about arranging a similar trip on our own, and since we have such limited time in port, I'd give the excursion an A.  In Cozumel I noticed that several of the ship-arranged excursions were to a local park, and Google gave me the admission rate.  I also know that Cozumel is tourist central, and some other folks we know recommended just getting a cab to the  park, so that's what we did.  We got cab fare, admission and lunch for about $40/person.  We had a great time both day so I'll give this area an A+.  

Entertainment:  I'm not going to grade this area because  most of this stuff isn't my idea of a good time.  I hate comedians, and really don't want to sit and listen to bands.  They did  production shows three nights and  we went once, and I enjoyed it.  We went to the piano bar one night but it didn't hold a candle to Pat O'Briens.  I really enjoyed sitting on the deck and reading but they need more spots where the wind doesn't blow and the air conditioning doesn't freeze you out (though by the end of the cruise I had found several such places). They had game shows, shopping, an art auction and more.  If you wanted to go to stuff, they had stuff to go to.

Children's Activities:  Carnival offers Camp Carnival for kids under 12, Circle C for young teens and Club   O2 for older teens.  My eight  year old loved Camp Carnival and chose to spend most of her time there.  My teen looked at the Club O2 schedule and chose not to go.  Grade:  A.  

Our Cruise--Days Four and Five

Day Four was spent in Cozumel.  Rather than taking an arranged excursion, we caught a cab and went to Chankanaab National Park.  We enjoyed a day of sun and beautiful clear blue water.  We didn't go snorkeling but you could see beautiful fish just swimming in the water.

Stop one was the sea lion show. 

Off to the beautiful, blue, deep water.

Got to have lunch!

That water!

A little sand too!

We went to a production show on board that evening.  It had a very loose game show theme but mostly it was singing and dancing.

Friday was a day at sea and I got a lot of reading done.  

We got home Saturday morning.

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. 

I'm glad you are here and if you'd like a weekly reminder to post,join our yahoogroup.
We were on vacation this week, and I have pictures to share.  I published only one review this week--Debbie Macomber's latest book.

Our Cruise--Days One, Two and Three

Did anyone miss me?  My family took a cruise on the Carnival Elation this week, going to Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico.  

We boarded the ship Monday afternoon here in New Orleans.

The first thing that happened is that they kept us busy by feeding us.  From there, we proceeded to our stateroom to unpack.  Since we had kids with us, I attended the parent orientation to the children't activities and we all attended the safety drill.  After supper we put my eight year old in Camp Carnival and we sat out on the deck watching as Plaquemines Parish rolled by.  Plaquemines is the most downriver parish in Louisiana and my firm had a lot of Hurricane Katrina cases down there.  However, I can count on one hand the number of times I've been very far south in the parish, and I haven't been past the northern-most city since Katrina, so I was interesting to see; but as you can see, it got dark and then about all you could see was lights.

Tuesday was a sea day and I spent a lot of it reading.  A friend told us before we left that we had to try tea at 3:00 p.m. for the desserts and she was right!  

Wednesday we were in Progreso.  We took a tour to see some Mayan ruins and some other attractions.  
Our first stop was to see flamingos in their natural habitat.  

Our tour guide, Arturo

At the top of the temple

Ain't she cute?

Exploring Xcambo

From Xcambo, we headed to a local town where Arturo gave us a very brief rundown on the architecture.  We drove to the church in the middle of town, saw some Mexican children dancing and then got to briefly tour the church. I'm sure glad I don't have to attend mass in a church with no air conditioning and wooden, unpadded kneelers.  

The red coloring comes from red coral
 The next stop was the local cemetery. As we do here in New Orleans, they bury their dead above ground.  We do it because of the water table (and French tradition).  They do it because there is rock not far beneath the soil.  Their cemeteries have a lot of personality, and our tour guide told us all about celebrating The Day of the Dead.

Our final stop of the day was at a beach resort where we had a buffet lunch and a chance to briefly swim if desired.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: The Inn at Rose Harbor

About the Book:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start. Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast—the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn—ready to begin her life anew. Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine.

Her first guest is Joshua Weaver, who has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. The two have never seen eye to eye, and Joshua has little hope that they can reconcile their differences. But a long-lost acquaintance from Joshua’s high school days proves to him that forgiveness is never out of reach and love can bloom even where it’s least expected.   

The other guest is Abby Kincaid, who has returned to Cedar Cove to attend her brother’s wedding. Back for the first time in twenty years, she almost wishes she hadn’t come, the picturesque town harboring painful memories from her past. And while Abby reconnects with family and old friends, she realizes she can only move on if she truly allows herself to let go.

A touching novel of life’s grand possibilities and the heart’s ability to heal, The Inn at Rose Harbor is a welcome introduction to an unforgettable set of friends.

My Comments:
Were you one of of the folks who were so disappointed when Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series ended?  Were you so upset that you'd never again get to have coffee with Grace and Olivia?  Did you think that you were never going to "see" your Cedar Cove "friends" again?  Well, cry no more; they are back, along with a whole new cast--kind of like a TV spinoff when the characters from the old show make cameo appearances but the real action is happening to the new characters in a new setting.  

The writing is typical Macomber--fluffy and sweet.  The romances are clean, kissing is as far as it goes.  While there was close to a resolution for two couples, there is one that I'm guessing will get together and the book ends with two new guests calling to book a stay at the Inn so I suspect we'll see Jo Marie again.  

One complaint I'll make is that the book includes a scene in a Catholic church.  Macomber refers to the area where people sit as the sanctuary.  While that nomenclature may be used in Protestant churches, in Catholic churches, the sanctuary is the area where the altar is, the area where the priest and those assisting him are, not the area for the congregation.  Also, she says that Jesus hanging on the cross was nowhere in sight, although a large crucifix dominated the area behind the altar.  Well, a crucifix by definition, has Jesus hanging on it.  

While not classified as religious fiction, the theme of forgiveness is strong, both forgiveness of others and forgiveness of self.  

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

Reviews of Other Debbie Macomber Books:

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

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. 

I'm glad you are here and if you'd like a weekly reminder to post,join our yahoogroup.

I know some of you were looking for this post earlier but I was out with friends tonight.  If there are people who have slipped out of your life due to busyness, I encourage you to try to get them back.  We were with two couples tonight--my son's Godparents and my youngest daughter's Godparents.  We all used to see each other all the time but as our kids got older and went to different schools and got involved in different things, us getting together got less and less frequent.  We had a great time tonight, and will have to do it again soon.

Not many posts for me this week.  I read one book that aggravated me, and an anti-bullying lecture dressed up like a romance novel.  

Review: Need You Now

About the Book:
When big-city life threatens the safety of one of their children, Brad and Darlene Henderson move with their three teenagers from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas.

Adjusting to small-town life is difficult for the kids, especially fifteen-year-old Grace who is coping in a dangerous way.

Married life hasn't always been bliss, but their strong faith has carried them through the difficult times. When Darlene takes a job outside the home for the first time in their marriage, the domestic tension rises.

While working with special needs children at her new job, the widowed father of one of Darlene's students starts paying more attention to her than is appropriate. Problem is, she feels like someone is listening to her for the first time in a long time.

If Darlene ever needed God . . . it's now.

Experience a family's triumphant defeat over lies, betrayal, and loss while still clinging to the One who matters most.

My Comments:
I enjoyed this book--what there was of it.  It has been long enough since I requested it from NetGalley that I don't remember if I noticed it was "Part 1" or not, but had I gone to Amazon and purchased this for $0.99 I would have been unhappy.  Why?  Because "Part 1" means just that--the book just stops in the middle, with a note that in April (this was published in February) you'll be able to read the rest of the story.  Not a marketing trick I wish to encourage.  Grade:  D

Friday, July 20, 2012

Catching Fireflies: My Review

About the Book:
When bullying threatens to destroy a teen's life, painful memories resurface for dedicated high school teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician J. C. Fullerton. With the support of the Sweet Magnolias, they bring the town together to ensure that a promising student's future isn't ruined. And to establish once and for all that bullying has no place in Serenity, South Carolina. 

Both J.C.'s and Laura's passion for the cause is deeply personal, and their growing feelings for each other are just as strong. But with so many secret hurts to overcome, can these two vulnerable lovers find the strength to believe in happily ever after?

My Comments:
If this book was religious fiction, I'd call it a sermon dressed up as a story.  In her forward, Sherryl Woods says that in most of her books the message is subtle while in this one it is front and center.  While the romance between Laura and J.C. is important to the overall story, this is a book about high school bullies and the long-term damage they can do.  Since neither the bully nor the bullied girl are the main characters in the novel, some of the emotional impact isn't what it could be; rather than being a book about the bully or the bullied, it is a book about how adults perceive and respond to bullying, and it is, in my opinion, rather idyllic.  

Fans of the Sweet Magnolia series will enjoy catching up with old friends; those new to it may wonder why so many useless characters make appearances.  

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

Other Books by Sherryl Woods which I have reviewed:

Others you may enjoy:

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Cowboy and the Princess: My Review

About the Book:
Welcome back to Jubilee, Texas, where New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde romantically pairs a beautifully princess with Texas royalty: a rugged, totally hot, real-live cowboy! Wilde’s Jubilee novels celebrate homespun, small-town love—a treat for readers of the contemporary romance fiction of Sherryl Woods, Susan Wiggs and Susan Mallery—and her sexy cowboy heroes are sure to make Linda Lael Miller fans swoon. Nobody can resist these handsome, muscular, outdoorsy American icons, especially not the royal runaway bride in The Cowboy and the Princess, who unexpectedly finds her heart’s true desire in blue jeans smack-dab in the middle of America’s Southwest. You won’t want to miss the fireworks when these two worlds romantically collide!

My Comments:
Most romance novels cannot be accused of excessive realism, and Lori Wilde's The Cowboy and the Princess  is no exception; as a matter of fact is is more unrealistic than most.  He is a loner, but a man with lots of friends who love him.  He doesn't want to settle down and doesn't think he is worthy of being loved.  However, he has a way with horses.  She's a princess from some small European country.  She is supposed to marry the prince of another small European country in six weeks.  It is a political match, not a love one, and she wants just one chance to be "normal" before her wedding.  Her chance comes when the daughter of the ex-President of the US gets married.  She goes to the compound to attend the wedding, and, with the help of the  President's daughter, slips away from her bodyguards.  She is on the highway hitchhiking when he picks her up.  He takes her to a small town in Texas and she settles in for six weeks, taking a job in the store of a friend of his--oh, and he and she decide to have a fling.  Each tells the other that s/he doesn't want anything more than a short fling, but along the way....  In the end they get their happily ever after but the ending is even more far-fetched than the beginning.  

Despite the far-fetched beginning and ending the middle is a really good story with strong characters.  Anne has spent her whole life wanting to do what other kids do--get dirty, go to carnivals, eat concession stand food, but she was a princess and had to act like one, all the time.  It must have been fun for Brady to see the wonder in her eyes as she experience all these new things in Texas.  He was obviously curious about where she came from but he gave her the space she needed.  It takes them a while, but eventually they are intimate before marriage, and while this is not the most explicit book I've ever read, I'd by no means put it in the "clean" romance category.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  Grade:  B 

Also by Lori Wilde:

My Review of The Welcome Home Garden Club
My Review  of All of Me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Monday Memes

This month, Mailbox Monday is hosted by  Ms Q:  Book Addict.   Bloggers list books that arrived in either snail mail or email.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey.  She asks what we are reading now, what we are reviewing and what we plan to read next.

It has been a busy reading week for me.  

and I published reviews of  previously read books:

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