Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: A Winter Wonderland

About the Book:
In "A Winter Wonderland" by Fern Michaels, Angelica Shepard leaves New York for Christmas in Colorado to relax and unwind - but an out-of-control snowboarder almost has her laid to rest. When she wakes up in the hospital, all she remembers is the handsome angel who saved her. "The Joy of Christmas" by Holly Chamberlin introduces Iris Karr, who thinks "not all happiness is good for you," when she decides to move away instead of marrying her sweetheart Ben. Even years later, living with that decision isn't easy - until a familiar face comes to call her home for the holidays. In Leslie Meier's "The Christmas Thief," Elizabeth Stone is ready for a white Christmas in Tinker's Cove, Maine - until a fancy Yule ball at the Florida hotel where she works dumps snow on her plans. The sponsor's jewels have gone missing and the police are asking about her ties to a cute mystery guest. Good thing Elizabeth's mother, Lucy Stone, flew down to surprise her. 'Tis the season for a little investigating. In "The Christmas Collector" by Kristina McMorris, estate liquidator Jenna Matthews isn't one for Christmas nostalgia. But when one grandmother's keepsakes suggest a secret life, unwrapping the mystery leads Jenna - and her client's handsome grandson - to the true heart of the holiday spirit.

My Comments:
The fun thing about Christmas anthologies is that they give you a chance to sample writers whose works you keep seeing, but not buying.  I've never read any of these authors before but will definitely give Holly Chamberlin another chance.

None of these stories was terribly sophisticated or long and they were easy reads.  "A Winter Wonderland" was a pretty basic romance set in Colorado.  She's an actress who figures her time on stage is about at an end; he is a surgeon who just lost a patient and isn't sure he wants to remain a surgeon.  I really enjoyed "The Joy of Christmas".  It was a little darker than the average Christmas romance, but in the end... I really didn't care for "The Christmas Thief" but those who like a little "who dunnit" with their romance probably would like this one--it is part of a series about some crime solving old ladies.  "The Christmas Collector" fell flat for me but it included a second chance at first love.

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

Saturday, October 27, 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.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post.  Click here to sign up. 

Not much reading this week, but I had some pre-scheduled posts  that went up this week.  A Farmer's Daughter is a Mennonite Cookbook.  I also reviewed The Amish Family Cookbook this week.  My Kind of Christmas and When Snow Falls are romances.  Last but by no means least is the review of a book by a Sunday Snippets regular,  The Bible Tells Me So.  

Review: The Bible Tells Me So

About the Book:
30 Lessons. 2 Testaments. 1 Mass.
If you are a middle-school catechist or homeschooler looking for tried-and-tested ways to use the Bible to teach the Catholic faith to a roomful of tired kids, this is the book for you.

The Bible Tells Me So recounts one year of Bible-based Catholic teaching for 6th-graders, featuring both Bible-sourced Catechesis, and the give-and-take between teacher and students. It’s intended to provide a firm Scriptural foundation for today’s Catholic children, and give them an invaluable familiarity with the Bible and their faith at the same time.

The Bible Tells Me So is divided into three Units: 1 and 2 treat the Bible chronologically from Genesis to Revelations, emphasizing the Catholic understanding of Scripture. These classes are taught directly from the Bible. Unit 3 then examines the Mass in lessons which draw from the knowledge gained in the preceding units, using the Bible and a Missalette.

Prepare young Catholics for the New Evangelization: read The Bible Tells Me So.

Imprimatur granted by the Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, SC.

My Comments:
One thing I missed out on as a teen in the 1970's was a class on scripture.  We used the Bible (or at least the New Testament) and of course as a Catholic who attended Mass regularly, I heard a good bit of the Bible at Mass yet it wasn't until the year I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover that I got any idea of how it all fit together (and even then there was a lot that I didn't "get".  Most of today's catechetical programs are stronger on Scripture than our parish's program was "back in the day"; unfortunately it is those of us educated "back in the day" who are now teaching in those programs.  

Christian LeBlanc teaches sixth graders about scripture in his parish's program.  He has the advantage, and disadvantage, of being in the Bible Belt, a part of the country where it is not unusual for a Catholic to be asked about our unique beliefs "Where in the Bible does it say to do that?".  Christian gives kids the answers to those questions.  

The Bible Tells Me So: A Year of Catechizing Directly from Scripture is a series of thirty-two lessons that guide you through the Old and New Testaments from a Catholic perspective.  Basically, it appears to be a compilation and expansion of his weekly blog posts which read like transcripts of his classes.  The chapters are interesting reading because they inform about scripture and they also give a new catechist an idea of how to teach, without getting bogged down in crafts, games or other such things.

I don't know enough about Scripture to say whether the "facts" he gives are true, or the conclusions warranted, but they seem to comport with what I know about Catholicism.

The book includes black and white photos from the white board he used during class as well as some black and white pictures of art representing the sacred.

In short, there are a lot prettier religion books out there but this one contains a lot of information in a very readable format.  Grade:  B+

I received a complimentary review copy from Christian LeBlanc.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: A Farmer's Daughter

About the Book:
Welcome to the warm and inviting kitchen of Dawn Stoltzfus, a young Mennonite wife and mother who was raised on a dairy farm where simple, wholesome food was a key ingredient of the good life. In A Farmer's Daughter, she opens up her recipe box, wipes away the crumbs and wrinkles from the well-loved recipes, and shares them with cooks and food-lovers everywhere. She offers us over two hundred delicious recipes that reflect the comfort foods she learned to cook from her mother, the same hearty and creative recipes she made and sold at The Farmer's Wife Market.

Along with the simple, wholesome recipes for starters, main dishes, sides, and desserts, readers will find charming stories from Dawn's Mennonite upbringing, tips and tricks for easy meal planning and preparation, and ideas for serving with flair. Anyone who loves to feed their loved ones hearty, wholesome meals will treasure this cookbook.

My Comments:
Usually when I review a cookbook I like to make a recipe or two, so I can let you know how good they are.  Unfortunately, it has been crazy around here lately and I haven't had time to cook except on auto-pilot (making the old stand-bys that I always have the  makings for in the house) or remote control (what I can tell a teen to make over the phone).  The recipes in this book aren't complicated, and if I had everything to make something in the house, my teens surely could follow this cookbook and make something; however that would require planning, and that's been in short supply around here lately.  

In any case, the recipes seem kid-friendly.  Most are made with basic ingredients and there is not an excess of overly packaged stuff in them.  Many of the recipes have variations listed on the page with them and there are some meditations scattered throughout the book.  The book is a bound paperback, but it seems to lay open rather well.  There are no pictures. The Amazon link above will all you to preview some of the recipes in the book.    All in all, I'll give it a B.

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: When Snow Falls

About the Book:
After growing up in cheap motels, moving from town to town with her sister and mother, Cheyenne Christensen is grateful to be on her own. She's grateful, too, for the friends she found once her family settled in California. But she's troubled by the mystery of her earliest memories, most of which feature a smiling blonde woman. A woman who isn't her mother.

Although Cheyenne has repeatedly asked for explanations, the people who could help aren't talking. Cheyenne is set on finding answers, but without so much as a birth certificate, it won't be easy.

Things get even more complicated when her closest friend is attracted to the man Cheyenne has secretly loved for years. For Eve's sake, she decides to step aside—which lands her right in the arms of Dylan Amos, oldest and baddest of the hell-raising Amos brothers. He's the kind of guy she's sworn to avoid. She can't afford to make a mistake, not when she finally has a chance to learn who she really is and change her life for the better. But…maybe there's more to Dylan than she thought. Maybe letting him go would be a bigger mistake.

My Comments:
This is a sweet story of two people who have plenty of reason to be bitter about life.  Both are the most responsible ones in their families.  She is caring for dying mother who never really properly cared for her; he was left to raise three younger brothers when his mom died and his dad was sent to prison.  Both live on the wrong side of the tracks but she is friends with the crowd from the right side, and plans to move there as soon as her mother dies.  He has never been a part of that crowd, but has always had his eye on her.  

An interesting sub-plot is that Cheyenne has memories that she can't explain; memories her mother won't explain.  There is also the matter of her birth certificate--no one can find it.  Will she ever learn that there is more to her story than meets the eye?

I enjoyed the story, especially the part about Cheyenne's history.  I was a little less fond of the way she and Dylan got together.  To put it simply, it was pure physical attraction on her part, and she really didn't treat him well. It wasn't until after she got to know him (well after they had been physically intimate) that she realized what a good guy he really was.  Grade: B-

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

First Wildcard: The Amish Family Cookbook

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Tina Eicher was born and married in the Amish faith, surrounded by a mother and sisters who were great Amish cooks. At fellowship meals and family gatherings, Tina’s dishes receive high praise and usually return empty. She and her husband, Jerry Eicher, author of several bestselling Amish fiction titles, are the parents of four children and live in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


From bestselling author Jerry Eicher (more than 350,000 books sold) and his wife, Tina, comes this warm and inviting peek into an Amish kitchen, complete with recipes, Amish proverbs, and a dash of Amish humor. Readers will laugh, pray, and eat robustly with The Amish Family Cookbook at their side.

Product Details:
List Price: $ 14.99
Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736943773
ISBN-13: 978-0736943772

My Comments:
I didn't try any of the recipes below, but I did try one for a blueberry crisp.  I went to get my camera but the batteries were dead and I didn't feel like going out for more.  In any case, the pages you see above are representative of the appearance of the book.  The recipes in general are simple, made with things most cooks will have or can easily obtain, and they don't take lots of work to make.  They seem pretty kid-friendly too.  However, there are no photos in the book.  On the plus side, I like the spiral binding.  Grade:  B.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: My Kind of Christmas

About the Book:
The Riordan brothers may have a reputation for being rough-and-tumble, but Patrick has always been the gentle, sweet-natured one. These days, his easygoing manner is being tested by his high-octane career as a navy pilot. But for the Riordan brothers, when the going gets tough...the tough find the love of a good woman. 

Except the woman who has caught Patrick's attention is Jack Sheridan's very attractive niece. 

Angie LeCroix comes to Virgin River to spend Christmas relaxing, away from her well-intentioned but hovering mother. Yet instead of freedom, she gets Jack Sheridan. If her uncle had his way, she'd never go out again. And certainly not with rugged, handsome Patrick Riordan. But Angie has her own idea of the kind of Christmas she wants-and the kind of man! 

Patrick and Angie thought they wanted to be left alone this Christmas-until they meet each other. Then they want to be left alone together. But the Sheridan and Riordan families have different plans for Patrick and Angie-and for Christmas, Virgin River– style!

My Comments:
This book was very typical of the Virgin River series.  Patrick is military and has been given extended leave after an accident in which his best friend was killed.  He is trying to decide whether to return to the Navy, or to marry his best friend's wife (not that he has consulted her about this).  Angie  is an academic overachiever who, after a serious accident, has decided to pursue the social side of life.  They meet and .....

Like the other Virgin River books it contains pre-marital intimate scenes and when they start, both characters characterize their relationship as a fling.  

Like most books that are part of a series, this one contains a large cast who play little role in the story.  However, the story is simple enough and their appearances brief enough that it really doesn't matter if you've read the other books.  Unlike many Christmas romances, this is a full length book.  

I like the Virgin River books, so I liked this one.  If you have read and not liked others in the series, this one is just more of the same.  Grade:  B.  

Saturday, October 20, 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.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post.  Click here to sign up.

I reviewed two Christmas romances: Merry Ex-Mas and A Cowboy for  Christmas.  I also reviewed a Christmas cookbook.  The best book I reviewed this week was about a woman who returned from a trip to Africa after being declared legally dead and how she got her life back.  I definitely recommend Forgotten.  

A Cowboy for Christmas

About the Book:
The third installment in New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde's series set in Jubilee, Texas, gives readers a perfect present-a cowboy for Christmas!

My Comments:
It has been my experience that Christmas romance novels are short and very sweet, kind of like this cover.  A Cowboy for Christmas is an exception to that rule.  Yes, it has a happy ending but getting there is on the gritty side.  

Her husband was a solider, killed in Afghanistan.  Imagine her surprise when she finds he left his insurance, indeed his entire estate to his half-brother, not to her and their son.  Still, that's what happened, so she set out to make a new life for them with what they had.  She lives in Jubilee, Texas which is the scene of a another book I recently reviewed.  She is close to her mother-in-law and her friends.  She loves to bake.  Then one day, several months after her husband died, who showed up at her door but his half-brother?  

He is determined to take care of her; she is determined not to let another man swallow her the way her late husband did.  Both need to be needed; both want to be loved, and in the end...

If found this book to be much more realistic than The Cowboy and the Princess.  I liked both of the main characters and found the story to be more substantial than many romance novels as it dealt with issues between parents and adult children and with the problems of soldiers returning home.  

There is pre-marital physical intimacy but the scenes are not the most descriptive out there.  

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cookbook Short Review: 4 Ingredients Christmas

About the Book:
The internationally bestselling author of 4 Ingredients returns with a gorgeous, full-color collection of easy, delicious, money- and time-saving recipes that are perfect for the holiday season—all using four or fewer ingredients.

The holiday season can be the busiest, most expensive time of the year for home chefs. But creating mouthwatering, festive meals doesn’t always mean spending a fortune—and hours upon hours—in the kitchen. In 4 Ingredients Christmas, Kim McCosker, co-creator of the bestselling 4 Ingredients books, puts culinary joy back into the season with simple recipes that are short on fuss but long on taste. 4 Ingredients Christmas shows how to provide delicious, home-cooked meals, from elegant brunches and fun snacks for Santa, to main courses and tradition-worthy desserts; cook with fewer utensils—one teaspoon, one tablespoon, and one measuring cup; and spend less time at the sink and more time enjoying your company.

The ideal cookbook for busy, budget-conscious cooks, 4 Ingredients Christmas takes the mystery out of preparing cost-effective, home-cooked holiday meals that the whole family—including the chef—will love.

My Comments:
I was only given a temporary digital galley via Edelweiss, so I haven't tried any of the recipes. However, a quick perusal of the galley indicates that the summary above is accurate. The photographs are beautiful and you wonder how anything that simple could be that pretty. Chapters include Brunch, Nibbles, Soups and Salads, Mains, Sides, Desserts, and Drinks. Since I'm a dessert maven, I'll reprint one recipe for you, to give you an idea of what types of dishes are in the book.

Salted Caramel Charms
Makes 24 Pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
7 oz mil chocolate, chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the sugar with 2 teaspoons water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until it dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil and let cook undisturbed until golden brown. Add cream (it will bubble up). Stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until the congealed toffee pieces melt and the mixture is smooth again. Remove from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool and thicken. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Use a teaspoon to scoot out portions of the mixture. Roll into balls, place on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. With 5 minutes to go, in a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the milk chocolate, stirring every 20 seconds, until nice and smooth. Using two spoons, dip all the candies in milk chocolate to coat. Return to baking sheet. Top each truffle with a pinch of coarse sea salt. Refrigerate to set.

As you can see by that recipe, some dishes do require more than just four ingredients, which wouldn't be a problem if those "extra" ingredients were things "everyone" has in her kitchen. However, this recipe appears to call for two different kinds of sea salt (and I don't have any sea salt at my house). Also, while that recipe does not look overly complicated, as an experienced cook I can see at least two places where someone who didn't know what she was doing could end up with a mess. However, they are pretty if you succeed.
Illustration from page 157 of galley

Monday, October 15, 2012

Merry Ex-Mas

About the Book:
Between Yuletide traditions, winter sports and mistletoe hanging everywhere, Christmas is the best time of year in Icicle Falls, Washington. But this year it's not so merry-for three of its residents, anyway. 

Cass Wilkes, owner of the Gingerbread Haus bakery, was looking forward to her daughter, Danielle's, wedding...until Dani announced that she wants her father, Cass's ex, to walk her down the aisle. Seriously? And, since every B and B is full, it looks like he, his trophy wife and their yappy little dog will be staying with Cass. 

Her friend Charlene Albach arrives at their weekly chick-flick night in shock. She's just seen the ghost of Christmas past: her ex-husband, Richard, who left her a year ago, running off with the hostess from her restaurant, Zelda's, to start a new life (and restaurant) in Seattle. Now the hostess is history and he wants to kiss and make up. Hide the mistletoe! 

And bring out the hot buttered rum, because the holidays aren't so easy for Ella O'Brien, either. Ella, who's newly divorced, is still sharing the house with her ex while they wait for the place to sell, and they are still fighting over all the things they fought over when they were married. The love is gone. Isn't it? 

But Christmas has a way of working its magic. One of these women is about to rediscover love, another is going to remember what's important in life and the third will find a new dream in the new year. Merry Ex-mas, ladies!

Between Yuletide traditions, winter sports and mistletoe hanging everywhere, Christmas is the best time of year in Icicle Falls, Washington. But this year it's not so merry-for three of its residents, anyway. 

My Comments:
This is the second book in a series about a ski resort town.  I have to say that one thing I'm glad I don't have is an ex-husband but I found it interesting to look at how these three women deal with their ex-husbands.  Honestly, I read the book some time ago, and must have forgotten to finish the review, since it published with just the Amazon blurb.  I remember it was a good, but not exceptional read, but not a whole lot else about it.  Therefore, I'll give it a B.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Book Review: Forgotten

About the Book:
Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead—and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In Forgotten, Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

My Comments:
What if you died and then, six months later, came back to life?  Of course, everyone else's life would have moved on without you.  Emma didn't die; everyone just thought she did, and their lives moved on.  Now she is back, but nothing is the same.  What should she fight to reclaim; to what should she say "good riddance"?  To what should she move?  

I enjoyed spending a few months with Emma as she was forced to look at her "old" life and decide what was worth reclaiming--and what was not.  She had to look at other people's expectations for her, and what she expected of herself.  While all of us have more control over the trajectory of our lives than we sometimes admit, the reality is that for most of us, inertia takes over, and barring some outside force, we continue along much the same path without considering whether another path would suit us better.  

What does Emma decide?  I won't tell you that, it would be a spoiler. However, I will say that though I enjoyed the book, I found the ending to be both a surprise (not a shock, but a mild surprise) and I found it a little too tidy.

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary galley via Edelweiss.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  Grade:  B+

Saturday, October 13, 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.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post.  Click here to sign up.  

Not much blogging this week.  I reviewed a sweet Christmas story about a handicapped young man  and republished a review of Fr. Barron's Catholicism (for credit toward products).  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: A Christmas Home

About the Book:
Watching their children move out and live independently is a difficult task for many parents -- but for George and Mary Ann McCray, it's nearly impossible. Even though Todd, their disabled son, is in his twenties, George and Mary Ann fear that he cannot thrive without their support and supervision. But Todd is determined to be his own person -- and he has a dog named Christmas and an entire community ready to help him find his way.

My Comments:
As the mother of a young adult with a disability I could relate to Todd's parents--both to his father who tried very hard to respect Todd as an adult who could manage his own affairs and to his mother who wanted to make sure her son was ok.  It is hard for any parent to watch their children leave the nest, even though you know they should and you want them to; it is even harder when you know there are so many things they can't do.  I liked Todd.  He realized he had a disability (not sure whether it is a reading problem or an intellectual problem--his parents' level of care suggests something more disabling than dyslexia, but he manages life pretty well on his own) but he tried to make his own way in the world.  

The story itself is a sweet and short one, the kind of story that would make a great Hallmark Christmas special.  However I found the writing to be weak.  

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

Monday, October 08, 2012

Tiber River Review: Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron

This one is a keeper.  Catholicism is one, that if it didn't go completely against my grain to highlight books (I didn't even like doing it when I was in college--I don't even highlight or put notes in my Bible) would be highlighted all over.  It is a very readable book but one that has a lot of information.  I'd like to share a few of my bookmarks with you.

  •     p. 50:  Regarding turning the other cheek:  "To turn the other cheeck is to prevent him from hitting you in the same way again.  It is not to run or to acquiesce, but rather to signal to the aggressor that you refuse to accept the set of assumptions that have made his aggression possible.....The promise of this approach is that it might not only stop the violence but also transform the perpetrator of it.
  •     p. 141:  Discussing Hans Urs von Balthasar's comments on Peter and Paul:  Every priest...is...a descendant of Peter.  Every missionary...is... a son or daughter of Paul.  Without the Petrine discipline the Pauline work would be unfocused and continually in danger of dissolution.  Without the Pauline energy, the Petrine work would devolve into cold management and ecclesiastical bureaucracy.  The two together, in tensive harmony, have propelled the church through the centuries and around the world.
  •     p. 146, quoting St. Joan of Arc:  "About Jesus Christ and the church, I know only this:  they're simply one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter." As an articulation of the peculiarly Catholic sense of the church, it would be hard to improve on that.  

The book begins with a look at the Nativity as the beginning of Christianity and at some high points in the life of Christ.  From there, Fr. Barron takes a look at the beatitudes and the parable of the Prodigal Son.  He points out that the older son, in saying that he has been working like a slave all those years, said nothing of reciprocal love; rather his were the comments of one driven by mercantile calculation.  He then spends a chapter on the nature of God and the Trinity.  While I claim no great expertise in non-Catholic Christian theology or beliefs, I doubt there would be much in these chapters, other than the presumption that the Catholic church is the original Christian church, with which most non-Catholic Christians would disagree.

Chapter 4 is a different story.  It covers Catholic Marian doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary.  It talks about why those doctrines are important in understanding the nature of God and Jesus, and what they mean to us.  Mary's apparitions at Lourdes and Mexico are covered as well.  Chapter 5 is about Peter and Paul and the complimentary natures of their ministries.  Fr. Barron mentioned one of the great issues of the Reformation--what is necessary to be saved, per Paul.

Though this takes more brainpower to read than a trashy novel, it isn't a hard to read book.   Rather, Catholicism is one of those books that should be read a little at at time and the ideas mulled over in your mind and heart.  Grade:  A

I wrote this review of Catholicism for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River, though I received this book for another blog tour.  See my tour post for a video trailer and to read the first chapter.

Saturday, October 06, 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.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post.  Click here to sign up.  

I have several book reviews this week which may interest you:
From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart is a conversion story.
The Trouble with Cowboys is a Christian romance
The Bridge is a Christmas Christian romance
Seasons of Love is an Amish romance

Friday, October 05, 2012

Review: From Willow Creek To Sacred Heart

About the Book:
The bestselling coauthor of Jesus for President chronicles his spiritual journey through evangelical Christianity and his return to Catholicism. A respectful and engaging look at the megachurch movement and a heartfelt expression of love for the Catholic Church's liturgy and its commitment to the poor.

In the spirit of Merton's Seven Storey Mountain and Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness, Chris Haw's From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart recounts the journey of a young Christian seeking a personal relationship with Christ within the context of a faith community committed to love, justice, and solidarity with the poor. Haw's journey spans contemporary American Christianity--from a nominal Catholic background to megachurch Evangelicalism, to a new monastic community, and then back to Catholicism after an intense spiritual experience on Good Friday. Haw's story and style will appeal to Catholics who champion the Church's social teachings, those drawn to monastic practices and living in intentional community, and those seeking solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

My Comments:
I've read a lot of conversion stories written by those who were devoted Evangelicals.  It seems the usual story is that the person starts reading Church history and develops first a respect for the Church Fathers (who s/he previously did not know existed) and later a conviction that the teachings of the Catholic church are true.  At that point they become by-the-book conservative Catholics who eschew birth control and love Latin. Politics and religion intersect for these people in Republican party and in the fight against abortion.   Chris Haw is not one of these people.

Chris Haw's issue is social justice, and he has made a decision to live among the poor in Camden New Jersey.  He is a pacifist and spends pages writing against the current war in the Middle East.  He talks about environmental racism--the practice of locating polluting and otherwise undesirable industries in areas populated by those who do not have the political power to keep them out--the poor and minorities.  

While he had been baptized Catholic, he never really practiced the faith, and cut his spiritual teeth at Willow Creek, an evangelical mega-church.  Following college he and some friends moved to Camden and got jobs in an inner-city  Catholic school and parish.  Eventually he converts to Catholicism, but he admits he still has questions; in particular about the inability of the Church to ordain women.  Haw loves the beauty of the art and architecture of the Church, but he does not sound like a liturgical purist.  

I enjoyed reading Chris Haw's story of how he came to the Church, as well as his respectful description of his views on social issues, views that make me a little uncomfortable.  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.  You can read about Haw and his other books at his website.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Blog Tour: The Trouble with Cowboys

About the Book:
Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek’s premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Annie’s column is cancelled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie’s never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor: She’ll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he’ll help her answer the reader letters.

Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can’t risk getting hurt now.

The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister’s antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.

When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn’t know what to trust—her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.

My Comments:
Other than the goofy-looking cover, there isn't much about this book I didn't like.  Annie is sweet, reliable, hard-working, responsible, and is taking care of a twenty year old sister who doesn't want to be taken care of anymore.  Dylan is the sweet charming guy everyone likes--but he has been burned on love once and  has not tried to get serious since then.  Annie is dating a nice, steady responsible guy, a guy who has everything but sizzle.  Dylan is everything she doesn't want in a guy--but he has plenty of sizzle.  

The book was quick, easy, clean read.  It is Christian fiction.  The characters go to church, and the Dylan and Annie finally get together when she decides to let go and let God handle her sister and when someone has a talk with her about judging.  

I'd like to thank the folks at Litfuse for sending me a copy of the book for review.  Opinions expressed are my own.  You can view links to other tour posts here.  Grade:  B+

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Bridge: My Review

About the Book:
Molly Allen lives alone in Portland, but her heart is back in Franklin, Tennessee, where five years ago she walked away from a man she cannot forget, a rare sort of love she hasn’t found since.

     Ryan Kelly lives in Franklin and spends plenty of time at The Bridge—the oldest bookstore in historic downtown Franklin—remembering the long hours he and Kelly once spent there.

     Now, Ryan and Molly’s favorite bookstore is in trouble. For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have run The Bridge, providing the people of middle Tennessee with coffee, conversation, and shelves of good books—even through dismal book sales and the rise of eBooks. Then in May a flood tore through Franklin and destroyed nearly every book in the store. By Christmastime, the bank threatens to pull the lease on The Bridge and is about to take the Bartons’ house as well. Despondent, Charlie considers ending his life. And in the face of tragedy, miracles begin to unfold.

My Comments:
I think "Christmas Books" should be considered a genre in and of themselves.  Whether written by the authors of trashy romances or by the authors of intricate Christian family sagas, Christmas books tend to be short (well under 300 pages), heartwarming, and, generally speaking, unrealistic.  The Bridge hits on all  three counts.  In short, if a Christmas story is what you are seeking, this is one; if you want a well developed novel with an intricate plot, look elsewhere.  

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

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