#OpenBook: November 2017 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. I added a new category, Christmas stories, this month because I am all about reading Christmas novels and novellas. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction: Christmas Stories

best of all giftsBest of All Gifts by Sheila Cronin. Two Thanksgivings ago, I read Sheila Cronin’s The Gift Counselor, a perfect Christmastime read. In that story, we meet Jonquil, a young widowed mom who has carved out a unique job as a department-store gift counselor. She helps customers examine their motivation for the gifts they give, while advising them on good gift choices. Jonquil uses data gathered at work for her thesis so she can complete an advanced degree. Jonquil’s story continues in Best of All Gifts, in which we find that her work nemesis is assigned to be her assistant, her new thesis advisor seems to have it in for her (and she’s inexplicably attracted to him), and the father who disappeared when she was eight years old resurfaces. And there’s more: Jonquil’s son has a very scary health crisis and she just isn’t sure that Claude, the contractor she began dating in the first book, really wants to marry her. And Thanksgiving is coming. Read my full review.

christmas at gate 18Christmas at Gate 18 by Amy Matayo. A Sports Illustrated cover model tired of being objectified for her looks (but not tired enough to quit her job) meets a Hollywood executive when they’re both stranded in the Dominican Republic due to a late-season hurricane just before Christmas. I enjoyed the story. I didn’t so much enjoy the attempt at “chemistry” between the two that mostly devolved into Colt’s objectification of Rory. It wasn’t very explicit, but it definitely took away from the message the rest of the story seemed to be trying to convey.

Fiction

they see a familyThey See a Family by Amanda Hamm. Kay reaches out to her friend William for help when an accident kills Kay’s sister and brother-in-law, leaving their baby and toddler in her care. Kay and William had been friends for a long time, and both harbored unspoken crushes. As they navigate the pitfalls of caring for two young children and dealing with Kay’s grief, each tries to figure out how to reveal the feelings of growing love to the other — even as they cook up a plan to become a family out of necessity. Highly recommended. (Advance review copy received from author; book coming in late January.)

sweetbriar cottageSweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter. When Noah finds out his ex had never followed through on filing their signed divorce papers, he angrily demands that she set things right. Josephine, who admits the fault in both the failed marriage and messed-up divorce, tries to go one step further and deliver the paperwork to his remote ranch to save him a trip to town. Then the two are stranded due to car trouble and snowy weather, and Josie makes mistake after mistake as she tries to help the two of them out of increasingly difficult circumstances. Finally, when they find themselves in a true crisis, Josie opens up about her harrowing past. This is an intriguing story, well-paced, with lots of flashbacks and a loose end or two.

odds of you and meThe Odds of You and Me by Cecilia Galante. Bernadette “Bird” has less than two weeks to complete her probation for writing bad checks to pay for diapers and food for her young son. A single mom with a complicated history with her mom, Bird is trying hard to make a new start when she discovers her former coworker James, a badly-injured fugitive with a stolen gun, hiding in her local church. Bird must grapple with the dilemma of whether to help him as he once helped her, while balancing her job, parenting, her grief about some events in her past, and her difficulties with her mother. This book contains a few inaccurate representations of what the Church actually teaches.

surprise meSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella. This author never disappoints — she puts terrific characters in believable situations, and she lets them (and the reader) feel just the right amount of discomfort. When a young couple’s doctor tells them on their tenth anniversary that they’ll probably live long enough to be married 68 years, they panic: how will they keep it fresh? But their manic, hilarious (and expensive) attempts to surprise each other come dangerously close to breaking them up. A fun read. (Netgalley review.)

YA/Children’s

Final Julia's Gifts Front revJulia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable. Prepare to be charmed! I loved Julia’s hopefulness, shown that December of 1917 when she spent nearly all she had on a gift for someone she had not yet met. These gifts figure significantly in the story — because she brings them to a war zone with her, in the hopes that she’ll get to give them to her one true love. Instead, she finds that she’s called to sacrifice them in ways she never imagined. This is a well-researched piece of historical fiction about a time period that’s often overshadowed by the World War II era. This was written for the YA audience, but adults will enjoy it too. Read my full review. (Advance review copy received from author.)

caleb and kitCaleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel. Caleb has cystic fibrosis and the burdensome care routine and restrictions that keep him alive are getting him down and causing problems with his peers. In the summer he meets Kit, a girl his age who’s pretty much on her own. The two of them form a secret friendship where they can both take a break from the burdens each of them bears. Beautiful novel for middle-school students, with a sensitive treatment of what it’s like for a young teen to live with a chronic illness — and for his family.

Nonfiction

tied in knotsTied in Knots: Finding Peace in Today’s World by Greg Willits. This is a book I’ll probably revisit again, with highlighter in hand. I appreciate Willits’ openness about his own struggles with anxiety and what it has cost him. However, I was distracted by all the personal stories and I know I missed the crux of the book because of that. It was too easy to get carried away by the personal accounts. This book begs for a second read, this time with less concentration on Willits’ own story and more on the advice he offers. The end of the book features a useful guide to the Rosary and the Novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

reading peopleReading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel. I love all things personality theory, so I was prepared to love this book. But it was really more of a beginner’s guide; I’d read many of the books Bogel used as resources for this book. There wasn’t much in there that was new to me, and I don’t think the book really kept the promise it made in the subtitle. I’d have called it “a beginner’s guide to seeing the world through the lens of personality.” Bogel spent a lot of time sharing what she discovered about herself with each form of personality theory, but there wasn’t much on what everyone else can learn.

PrintThe Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane Houdek. The reflections begin with a gratitude-themed essay that is perfect for Thanksgiving and continue through Advent and the Christmas season. Each entry in this book is only a couple of pages long (so you won’t feel stressed-out trying to keep up with it) and has three parts: a quiet reflection from Pope Francis, followed by “A Christmas Reality” — a reality check from the author on how to live out Pope Francis’ teaching, and “Your Christmas Gift Today,” an action item that’s not something so taxing that it will cause you to feel you have yet another obligation on a day that’s already packed with things to do, places to go, and stuff to check off your ever-growing list. Read my full review. (Advance copy received from publisher.)

another place at the tableAnother Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison. This book about the plight of foster children in very difficult circumstances was written from the point of view of a foster mom. She’s very honest about her wish to be able to save all children who are facing extreme family challenges, even when she knows she’s spread too thin already. She’s also honest about the occasional error in judgment — which, let’s face it, we all make as parents. But it’s clear that she is operating from a true love of children and a wish to give kids who’ve had a horrific start in life a chance at a better future. Due to its sometimes graphic nature, this book is for older teens and adults.

catholic hipster handbookThe Catholic Hipster Handbook by Tommy TIghe is packed with plenty of Catholic inside baseball without making the reader feel unworthy. This book won’t teach you how to be a cool Catholic. Instead, it revels in what’s cool about being Catholic and invites the reader to revel in it too. Tommy Tighe gathered together 15 cool Catholics, many of whom you’ll find speaking and tweeting and writing and hosting Catholic radio shows, to help put this handbook together. Read my full review. (Advance reading copy received from publisher.)

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: Forgiving Mother

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Born of a mother-daughter relationship that goes way beyond “it’s complicated,” Marge Steinhage Fenelon’s Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace (new from Servant Books) speaks to the heart of those who carry the burden of wounds from the past.

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I need to state right up front that I have a good relationship with my own mom. But this book about healing touched me deeply — because there are relationships in my life that have been difficult and hurtful, and I’ve hung onto those hurts for too long.

Citing the Gospel story where Jesus heals the blind, crippled man at the Sheep’s Gate (John 5: 2-9), Marge shares this thought that anyone who’s holding onto old hurts can relate to:

Do you want to be made well? Believe it or not, for a very long time, my answer to that question was no. I was afraid of what it would take to be made well, so I preferred to stay just as I was, ignoring my pain and hiding my past. (Chapter 1)

Healing is hard. It takes work. Jesus isn’t going to wave a magic wand and make everything better. We have to want it, and we have to work for it.

Marge’s experience of healing hinged on developing her relationship with the Blessed Mother, noting that

God decides and provides the means by which you eventually can let go of the past, live in the present, and look to the future with hope and confidence. There are two keys to attaining this: trust in God and love of Mary. … Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate healer; he will mend your wounds and restore you to health and vibrancy. Mother Mary will nurture and protect you. In her tender, loving way, she will accompany you each step of the way. She is, and wants to be in every way possible, truly your mother. … [Mary] is anxious to fill the void that has been left in you. She hears—has heard and will hear—your cries of distress, and she anxiously waits to answer them. (Chapter 9)

Marge’s book is a primer on forgiveness. It’s not easy to forgive, especially those hurts we know we’ll never be able to forget. Quoting St. John of the Cross, she notes in Chapter 3 that “the devil can use our memories to gain influence over our souls.”

Healing our hearts, healing our memories, healing our relationships (when possible) is at the heart of this book and the novena prayers accompanying it. The titles of the novena prayers speak to the essence of this book:
Day 1: Lord, give me the grace to want to heal
Day 2: Mary, let me grow closer to you
Day 3: Mary, help me look back
Day 4: Mary, let me see myself as a child of God
Day 5: Mary, let me see my mother as a child of God
Day 6: Mary, let me be transformed in the Spirit
Day 7: Mary, draw me into your heart
Day 8: Mary, let me grow
Day 9: Mary, let me be healed

Marge’s honesty and courage in sharing the harrowing details of the abuse she suffered from her mother as well as the redeeming power of the relationship she developed with Mary, Mother of God and Mother to us all, will encourage any reader who needs to find healing, forgiveness and hope in a difficult relationship. Forgiving Mother is not easy to read. The prayers are not easy to pray — but God’s mercy, freely given, becomes easier to accept as healing begins.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book via Netgalley, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#OpenBook: July 2017 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

things we knewThe Things We Knew by Catherine West. When I reached the last page of this book, I found it very hard to leave this family of characters behind. Catherine West has created a wonderful group of flawed-but-working-on-it characters, most from one family, and all of whom have been wounded by a family tragedy that no one quite understands. Lynette, the youngest and most wounded, holds the key to everyone’s healing, including her own–but it’s been used to lock up the traumatic memories of what a middle-schooler once witnessed. Addiction and dementia in some characters add to the challenges this family faces. I read this book because Carolyn recommended it! It’s definitely the best novel I’ve read this month.

murphys luckMurphy’s Luck by Benjamin Laskin. A very different romance–quirky, captivating and a terrific story. Murphy Drummer has the worst luck. Everything falls down around him, though he manages to escape unscathed. After he’s kicked out of school, his grandfather keeps him at home, where he tries out every hobby under the son while managing never to leave the house. Murphy manages to make a name and a nice living for himself as a blogger. Once his grandfather dies and he does leave, a chance encounter with a woman who always seems to land on her feet raises the possibility that Murphy’s luck just might change.

cub creekCub Creek by Grace Greene. This novel paints a disturbing picture in a beautiful setting. Libbie is running from a tragic past, but her impulsive purchase of a home in the middle of nowhere turns eerie quickly when she feels like she’s being watched and has flashbacks to some of the horrors in her formative years. Her relocation isn’t enough to keep tragedy from following where she goes. There’s hints at some sort of mental illness on top of Libbie’s abusive family background.

loves highwayLove’s Highway by Jane Lebak. This novella is part of the “First Street Church Kindle Worlds” series by over a dozen different authors. I’m a fan of Jane’s work so I read hers first. Casey, a young woman on the run, shows up in Sweet Grove and lets her guard down immediately when she sees someone abandoning a litter of puppies. She can’t help but be captivated by the community there, especially Peter, who’s willing to put off his own future in order to see his brilliant sister through veterinary school. Casey is challenged to learn her own lessons in sacrifice and trust. This story stands alone, but you’ll want to read more about the town–and I do hope Jane will be writing more about these characters!

loves prophetLove’s Prophet by Melissa Storm. A sweet love story that continues the “First Street Church” small-town romance series. Widower Liam has shut himself off from the world, including his young daughter, who’s on a mission to carry out her mother’s dying wish: to complete the family once again. Molly Sue has her heart set on Jennifer, an old friend of her mom’s; will old memories get in the way of new romance?

 

YA/Kids

spokesSpokes by Deanna K. Klingel. Two homeschooled teens team up to train for a triathlon after a tragic hit-and-run claims the life of Kelsey’s mom. With the help of friars from a nearby monastery, Kelsey and Brendon set out to solve the mystery that has police stymied while each of them works through emotional journeys through grief. Recommended for readers in middle school and up.

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

 

On Barb’s Bookshelf: God Is Not Fair and Other Reasons for Gratitude

Daniel Horan, OFM’s new book, God Is Not Fair and Other Reasons for Gratitude (Franciscan Media, 2017), is a collection of essays exploring how “the very core of Christianity appears foolish in the world.” (p. 3) This makes it Franciscan to the core: St. Francis of Assisi spent his life as a “fool for Christ” in his quest to fully live the Gospel.

God is not fair

My favorite chapters were the ones that concerned St. Francis and Franciscans. The essay titled “What’s Not-So-Special About Franciscan Spirituality” was a comfort to this Franciscan; I may work with words for my livelihood, but it’s tough to put into words exactly what Franciscan spirituality is about! “The Franciscan tradition advances only the Gospel in a way that is at the same time shockingly simple and incredibly difficult.” (p. 41)

The second section of the book, “Gospel and Culture,” is an exploration of how we can go about living the Gospel. It’s not easy, and it’s going to be different for every person–but it’s a question we all must seek to answer.

I had to read almost half this book before finding the reason for the title, but when I got there, the central premise behind the book became clear after the author considered two of Jesus’ more difficult parables regarding fairness, the story of the Prodigal Son and the one about the vineyard owner who paid all workers the same wage regardless of what time they started.

It is difficult for us to accept the gratuitous love, generosity and mercy of God. We hold one another accountable to rules of fairness, sometimes even baptized in the water of religion, but it is not the radical unfairness of God; it is not the radical justice that is equivalent to God’s infinite mercy. (p. 61)

Father Horan and I do not see eye-to-eye on many matters. I knew that before picking up this book, and I wondered a bit what I could learn from someone with whom I disagree on certain subjects. A few statements made in the book reinforced my disagreement with Father Horan–but those are specifics, and I don’t think they’re deal-breakers. Ultimately, this book is written for people seeking to model their lives more closely to the Gospel standard. While the author and I approach this differently, we still aim for the same target.
Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#OpenBook: January 2017 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

this-dread-roadThis Dread Road by Olivia Folmar Ard. An intriguing tale of two young women, a generation apart, who must learn to live with the consequences of romantic choices they make–and one man who figures prominently in both their lives. Annemarie, a college freshman far from home and the reach of her overbearing mother’s attempts to set her up with every eligible bachelor in the region, falls hard for a man her parents certainly wouldn’t approve of. Her immaturity leads her to handle all of this the wrong way, with results that prove disastrous for her family relationship, her mental health and her love life. 50 years later, that same man mentors Claire, an heiress trying to escape her own mother and her own past. This book is third in a series, but you don’t have to have read the others to enjoy it–I recommend you do read them all, though!(Review based on ebook ARC provided by author)

abbys-journeyAbby’s Journey by Steena Holmes. I eagerly anticipated this sequel to Saving Abby, but did not enjoy this book as much as the first. Set 18 years after Abby’s birth and her mother’s death, the book finds a father mired in his grief and beset by (understandable) worry over the fragile health of his only child. Every aspect of the family’s life is controlled by the various lists and journals that were left behind by her mother, Claire. Josh must face his demons when, against his better judgment, extended family members take Abby on the trip of a lifetime–a trip that could cost her life. (Netgalley review; releases 2/14)

blessingsThe Blessings by Elise Juska. A family saga told in vignettes, this novel is set in northeast Philadelphia. As it is a saga, I wanted more–more of the day-to-day life of this family that was depicted in a true-to-life manner. In some cases, years would elapse between events in the various chapters. The story is told from multiple points of view. Recommended for the local color, but there needs to be more to the story.

merry-maryMerry Mary by Ashley Farley. Short novella describing a photojournalist who gets a little too involved in the homeless community she’s studying–right down to taking a baby from a crime scene, then trying to figure out ways to keep the child as she struggles with her own failing marriage and frequent miscarriages. As the story went on I had less and less sympathy for Scottie.

rejected-writers-book-clubThe Rejected Writers Book Club by Suzanne Kelman. The town librarian is invited to a mysterious club meeting for a quirky group of authors whose books are never accepted. When she needs to leave town to care for her high-maintenance pregnant daughter, Janet finds herself accompanied by several writers trying to avert publication of a book containing family secrets. So far-fetched, but definitely a fun read.

Nonfiction

a-sea-without-a-shore-coverA Sea Without a Shore by Jeannie Ewing. Ewing’s words will resonate with readers who feel alone in their pain. While this book is centered on suffering, it is infused with hope. The meditations in chapter 8 (“Faith, Hope and Charity”) are some of the most powerful ones in the book. This, I’m sure, is no accident: these are powerful virtues, as they must be to conquer the despair that can so easily come to those beaten down by life’s difficulties. These meditations are not casual or flip: they are heartfelt, reverent outpourings of the soul. The language is formal, even poetic, with a unique cadence. Written in the first person, each meditation invites the soul to cling to God in prayer. (ARC ebook provided by author)

three-little-wordsThree Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend’s daughter who is studying social work. Three Little Words is an honest and harrowing account of life in the foster-care system. The author spent most of her childhood in 14 different foster homes. In some, she received loving care; in others, she was severely abused and saw other children receiving similar treatment. Rhodes-Courter owns her bad behavior and shows true concern for the other children experiencing abuse and neglect in foster care.

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: A Sea Without a Shore

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The weary, lonely and brokenhearted are the audience for Jeannie Ewing’s new devotional, A Sea without a Shore.
Jeannie Ewing often writes on the meaning of suffering. Her words will resonate with readers who feel alone in their pain. While this book is centered on suffering, it is infused with hope. The meditations in chapter 8 (“Faith, Hope and Charity”) are some of the most powerful ones in the book. This, I’m sure, is no accident: these are powerful virtues, as they must be to conquer the despair that can so easily come to those beaten down by life’s difficulties.
These meditations are not casual or flip: they are heartfelt, reverent outpourings of the soul. The language is formal, even poetic, with a unique cadence. Written in the first person, each meditation invites the soul to cling to God in prayer.

This devotional is the kind of book you can flip through, scanning the headings to find just the meditation you need for that day.

a-sea-without-a-shore-cover

 About the Book

Everyone experiences suffering and trials throughout life, whether in the form of death or significant loss of a relationship, finances, a home or job, and even a pet. Loss affects us all, and we are often left feeling empty, lonely, and lost in the midst of such excruciating darkness. Others may attempt to ameliorate our fears, concerns, and struggle, but to no avail. Even our faith may seem to fail us. Jeannie Ewing understands that holy darkness may veil us in a cloud of unknowing for a time, but we don’t have to capitulate to despair. Instead, we can journey through the mysteries and misunderstandings through the eyes of faith. In A Sea Without A Shore: Spiritual Reflections for the Brokenhearted, Weary, and Lonely, you will find a familiar friend journeying with you throughout the often murky and tumultuous waters of grief. No matter the cause of your pain and strife, this devotional will offer short but poignant insights that open your heart to God’s love and mercy.
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 About the Author

Jeannie Ewing believes the world focuses too much on superficial happiness and then crumbles when sorrow strikes. Because life is about more than what makes us feel fuzzy inside, she writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers and is the author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and dozens of other radio shows and podcasts.

Facebook – Love Alone Creates: https://www.facebook.com/lovealonecreates
Click to enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers or one of two paperback copies of A Sea Without A Shore!
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This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Monday Recap: January 2, 2017

 

 

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

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I Played My Best for Him: A meditation on my favorite Christmas song. It’s not a traditional carol, but it sums up what we need to do every day.

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2016 Nativity Scene Linkup: Our Celebration of the Creche: Join our Nativity scene linkup! Share a photo of your family’s Nativity scene on your blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag: #CMnativity. Open through January 8!

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Book Notes for Teen Readers: Romance and Mystery by Cynthia T. Toney: Cynthia T. Toney writes novels for teens that combine Catholic characters, compelling mysteries and a touch of romance. I introduce readers to the “Bird Face” series, which would make great gifts for girls in middle school and up.

Book Notes: “What Pope Francis Really Said” by Tom Hoopes: Tom Hoopes’ book “What Pope Francis Really Said” unpacks the truth behind the media’s rush to judgment. I recommend the book to all Catholics committed to defending and living out their faith.

Book Notes: 4 Books for Young Readers from Pauline Books & Media: A new book is always a welcome Christmas gift. I reviewed 4 inspiring reads for children from Pauline Books & Media.

Book Notes: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt: I reviewed a new book by CatholicMom.com contributor Sonja Corbitt. “Fearless” invites the reader to take up spiritual warfare against fear, stress and anxiety.

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Praise Moments: “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad: I spotlighted “Winter,” a new EP by Catholic musician Audrey Assad.

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Meatless Friday: Mexican Omelet: Try this Jersey-diner favorite for your Meatless Friday breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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Tech Talk: 10-Minute Advent Retreat from Catholic Relief Services: For those who don’t think they have time to make an Advent retreat, Catholic Relief Services packs a powerful spiritual experience in a 10-minute online retreat. Here are my impressions of “Holy Family, Refugee Family.”

At Cook and Count

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Cod with Caper-Mustard Sauce

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Mexican Omelet

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Lamb Stew with Roasted Vegetables

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: Who Does He Say You Are? A review of Colleen C. Mitchell’s spiritual work on women in the Gospel.

 

Monday recap 2016 edition

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

The newly-canonized Saint Teresa of Calcutta is especially compelling, I think, because many of us remember when she was still alive, serving the most vulnerable and needy. Saint Teresa did more than serve, though–she inspired through her words and her example.

Heidi Hess Saxton has collected some of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s most inspiring words and paired them with prayers, daily Mass readings and calls to action in a newly-published seasonal daily devotional. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint.

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Advent devotionals based on daily Mass readings are difficult to put together, as Advent does not have the same number of days each year, and there are special feasts (St. Nicholas, the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe) to consider as well. Heidi has taken care to offer a guide to navigating the liturgical calendar as you read this book, so that it can be used year after year. As a reader, I appreciate such attention to detail!

Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta actually runs through the Octave of Christmas, with a bonus meditation for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, so be sure you don’t put it away on December 24.

In the meditation for the first Sunday of Advent, Heidi summarizes the purpose of this book:

As Christians, every part of our life is oriented toward our place as citizens in the kingdom of God. We are called to love. We are called to serve. We are called to recognize the face of Christ in everyone around us, even our enemies, for the greater good of all….As we begin our Advent journey, consider how God is calling you to choose the way of peace for the good of all…beginning with yourself. (3-4)

This daily devotional for Advent is one you’ll be able to stick with; I had a hard time putting it down! I highly recommend praying with this book through the Advent season and Octave of Christmas.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

#OpenBook: September 2016 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

Review of "The Perfect Blindside" at Franciscanmom.comThe Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl. Told from dual points of view, this novel follows Jake, a self-described “snowboarding phenom” and teenage Olympian with a chip on his shoulder and his classmate Sophie, a small-town girl who’s proud of it–and who tends to geek out over local history. With true-to-life characters, an intriguing mystery and a setting so real you’ll imagine yourself walking down Main Street, this novel had me saying “Just one more chapter” over and over again. Read my full review.

silver-threadsSilver Threads by Bette Lee Crosby. Fate takes a starring role in this novel as the Keeper of the Scales tries to equalize the balance of happiness and unhappiness in people’s lives. Unable to prevent the tragic from occurring, all the compassionate Keeper can do is try to equalize balance after it is tipped too far in an unhappy direction. He’s a peripheral character but a very important one, and the reader sympathizes with his difficult task even as they mourn tragedies that tear apart families. 5th in Bette Lee Crosby’s “Memory House” series, this book can stand alone (but why would you want it to? The characters that populate this series are wonderful! This review is based on a Netgalley copy of the book.

rosa-solaRosa, Sola by Carmela Martino. Rosa wants nothing more than a baby brother of her own. But this is more than simple envy over her best friend’s new baby brother. Rosa is an only child, and in 1960s Chicago, that’s a rarity–and she feels like an outsider among all her friends with their large families. Rosa’s wish comes true, but she blames herself for the tragic events that follow. Recommended for readers 10 and up. As this is a sensitive topic, parents will appreciate the classroom discussion guide at the end of the book (it’s great for family discussion as well!)

promise-kitchenThe Promise Kitchen by Peggy Lampman. The story of two women from completely different walks of life: Shelby is an undereducated teen mom who wants her daughter to have better opportunities; Mallory is a high-powered food blogger with old money behind her. They’re linked by a love of good food, though Mallory looks down on Shelby, who works in the supermarket deli. I couldn’t like Mallory no matter how hard I tried; I just could not muster sympathy for this character. (Netgalley review)

things-we-wish-were-trueThe Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen. This is a story of a neighborhood that’s full of secrets. Every time you think you’ve gotten to the last one, there’s another secret waiting that’s worse than the one before. The town looks perfect on the outside but everyone is hiding something–but the worst secret of all is right under everyone’s nose, and it takes a middle-schooler to discover it. Multiple points of view make the story difficult to follow at times. (Netgalley review)

wonderWonder by R.J. Palacio. Excellent book for middle-school readers about a 5th-grader with a craniofacial deformity who learns to make his way in school after years of homeschooling. Told from multiple points of view, the story follows Auggie as he and his family navigate middle-school social pressures on top of very visible medical issues.

ciao-bellaCiao, Bella: A Novel about Searching for Beauty and Finding Love by Ryan M. Phillips. There was so much I wanted to like about this book. Mack owns a bookstore. She’s committed to her faith. She’s the poster child for reality shows like “What Not to Wear.” But she lets her newfound glamour go to her head and tear her away from what (and who) really matters. For well over half the book, you watch her make one bad decision after another as she lets herself be pursued and pushed around by a handsome movie star who’s looking for arm candy. Resolution in the story comes in the last 3 pages, at which point the tale slams to a screeching halt.

Nonfiction

feeding-your-familys-soul-dmcobFeeding Your Family’s Soul by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle. As you cook, chat and pray your way through this book, you and your family will learn about virtues, Church tradition, sacraments, works of mercy, prayers, forming consciences and more. My favorite part of each chapter is the “Extra Credit” where family members are invited to go beyond the lesson and carry out what is learned in some aspect of daily life. These activities can be done by anyone old enough to be in school. Read my full review.

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Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

open book new logo

 

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Monday Recap: July 4, 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

sunflowers in a hurricaneBook Notes: Sunflowers in a Hurricane. My review of a new novel by Catholic author Anne Faye. Terrific characters in this one; it’s a great summer read.

 

 

QOW Summer ice creamQuestion of the Week: Ice Cream Edition. Just for fun–what’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

 

 

find a real friend in JesusBook Notes: Find a Real Friend in Jesus. Gary Zimak’s new book, Find a Real Friend in Jesus, is full of friendly, personal advice from someone who is so invested in his faith that he can’t help but share it with others.

 

QOW-for-FI-351x185Question of the Week: Summer Reading. Our question of the week: How do you handle summer-reading assignments with your school-age children?

creed by scott hahnBook Notes: The Creed by Scott Hahn. Scott Hahn’s new book, The Creed, invites readers to consider the importance of affirming their beliefs, and why we still need to do so today.

 

 

QOW-for-FI-351x185Question of the Week: Summer Activities for the Kids. Our Question of the Week: do your children participate in summer activities, such as sports, camps, or VBS?

Full Cycle coverBook Notes: A Novel for Fathers and Sons. This Father’s Day, consider giving a father-son gift: a novel that fathers and sons can enjoy together. Full Cycle by Christopher Blunt is just such a book.

 

mahi burgers (3) c T smallMeatless Friday: Mahi Burgers with Grilled Pineapple. For your Meatless Friday meal, I introduce a healthy and delicious burger alternative: mahi burgers with grilled pineapple.

Mercy OTEM IGWhat My Daughter Has Taught Me about Mercy #OTEM. I examine the lessons I can learn from my impulsive daughter, who never hesitates to take action when others are in need.

 

At Cook and Count

Pineapple-salsa CPineapple Salsa: a picnic-worthy side that goes with just about anything you’ll be grilling up this summer!

 

 

fuego box 1 FBA Spicy Father’s Day Gift for Foodie Dads: my review of a deliciously spicy combination of ingredients from Fuego Box.

Monday recap 2016 edition