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Friday, May 20, 2011

Please Stay Tuned

I'll be away for several days, so there will be about a two week gap before I'm back to blogging book reviews.  I've got some good reading material packed, so hopefully I'll come back with some good suggestions.  Hopefully, you'll come back to the blog to read them. 

Jesus as the Ultimate Man

BE A MAN! Becoming the Man God Created You to Be  by Fr. Larry Richards

Father Larry Richards' book was the handout at this year's local Catholic Men's Conference.  Fr. Richards is the Keynote Speaker at the 2012 conference, and if his book is any indication, he is going to let us men have it!
Be a Man! by Larry Richards: Book CoverBe a Man is a very challenging read.  All throughout the book Fr. Richards uses very straightforward language to get the reader to face the fact that he is most likely not living the life that God intended him to be living.  From a man's relationship to Jesus, to his role as spiritual leader of the family, to his duty to change the world, Be a Man covers it all.

I really enjoyed this book and was challenged by it.  Fr. Richards starts off the book by telling us that we're all going to ends the same way for all of us.  When we die, we have 2 options for eternity, and the good news is, we get to choose where we spend it (unless you believe in Predestination, but that's a topic for a different blog).  The problem is, too many men are leading lives that indicate that they are choosing the wrong option. 

Fr. Richards makes the case for Jesus being the ultimate man, and then spends the rest of the book providing ways to live out the life God intends for you.  Each chapter focuses on a new area to work on, and contains practical tips.  Some of the tips are very challenging, such as devoting 1 hour every day for the rest of your life to prayer...I find that one very challenging, but one that I'm also going to pray that I can someday commit to. 

At the end of each chapter, there are study questions, so I think this would be a great book for men's groups looking for something to study.  I highly recommend this book for all men, not just Catholic men.  I think it has the potential to change your life.  I look forward to hearing Fr. Richards speak more on the topics in Be a Man! and next year's conference.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two Books from Down South that Will Bring Your Spirits Up High


These are wonderful stories.  Critics claimed Saving CeeCee Honeycutt  to be a cross between The Secret Life of Bees and The Help (by Kathryn Stockett).  This time, I agree with them.  I loved The Secret Life of Bees!  I have not yet read The Help.  (I know it's really really good and I need to read it.  It's on my list.) 

I can say of both Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Secret Life of Bees that they are about a young girl in a bad situation who finds comfort and love from a Southern black woman.  They are both engaging and uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable.  When you need a good story that's not heavy and will leave you happy, pick up either one of these books. 

In The Secret Life of Bees, South Carolinan Lily Melissa Owens has lost her mother and lives in misery with her father.  Rosaleen, who cooks and cleans in the house, acts as a stand-in mother for Lily.  But, they a forced to flee and go to Rosaleen's relations to live.  With these caring women and the new culture she comes to love, Lily begins to heal.

In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Cecelia Rose Honeycutt has not yet lost her mother to death, but she has lost her to mental illness, forced to be the caretaker for her mother while her father disengages from the family.  Eventually, CeeCee goes to live with relatives in Savannah, Georgia.  Her Aunt Tootie's cook, Oletta, brings CeeCee love and wisdom and helps her mend the cracks in her heart.

I read the Life of Bees many years ago when it first came out, so I don't remember it with the detailed recall I have of Saving CeeCee, which I just finished today, but I think Secret Life of Bees is a little more serious/darker than Saving CeeCee.  But I liked them both.  I love books that are great stories and leave me happy!!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: Book CoverSaving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman: Book Cover       The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Book Cover                  

Finally.....I Read It


I might have been the only English-speaking female old enough to read it that hadn't read it, but now I can say I read it.   And, I liked it.
Pride and Prejudice (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Jane Austen: NOOK Book Cover
At work I see so many take-offs of this book and other Austen stories and books based on Austen.  One of my favorite authors (Shannon Hale) has a series of books about Austen fans, so I thought I really needed to read this, and I'm glad I did.

Austen is much easier to read than the Brontes.  I was expecting a book that would take a long time to decipher, but that was completely wrong.  I also read the Barnes and Noble Classic version which has good footnotes and definitions for unusual words.  I'm looking forward to reading some of the extrapolated works of other authors.  One of my co-workers said many of them she has read have not been great but she does like Amanda Grange's books.

In case you may have been like me and have not read Pride and Prejudice, it is about the development of two relationships and a comedy of errors or misassumptions.  To say much more would ruin the suspense of the book.  It almost reminded me of Shakespeare, where there isn't much happening but at the same time you can't wait to find out more and there are several misunderstandings which makes finding the truth much harder for the characters.

I really enjoyed the book.  Now, I'm anxious to watch the BBC production with Colin Ferth.  Another co-worker told me it's outstanding.

(Yes, I made the word misassumptions up.  But, maybe it will eventually make the dictionary.  Truthiness did.)

Everyone Should Read This Book

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

I read this book several years ago now, but I think it should become required reading in high school.  This story, narrated by Death, takes place in Germany at the rise of Hitler's power.  It is a supremely good book, and I think everybody should read it.  Before I read this book, I had little interest in history.  After I read this book, I wanted to learn much more about WW II and I began to see the importance of understanding history.  Aspects of this book are based on experiences of the author's relatives in Germany during WW II.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: NOOK Book Cover
The Book Thief is the story of a young girl who comes to live in a foster home and the people she meets in this new place.  But there is much more than an interesting plot to this book.  The story considers the power of words to inspire good as well as to destroy. 

It's hard for me to do justice to this book in a simple review, and I don't want to ruin the story by giving too much away.  I can only emphatically recommend you sit down and read this book.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Technical Report

Blogspot was down for a while and I noticed some comments were gone when it was back online.  Sorry to those who left a comment that was deleted.

Friday, May 13, 2011

THE Book

EVA by Peter Dickinson

At a gathering of fellow booksellers, we talked about recent books we'd read, and I mentioned Cat's Cradle.  One bookseller said that was one of three books that really got them into reading.  They would stay up late at night with the lights on to read and they were hooked and inspired by Cat's Cradle, and two other books, which I can't remember now.

Eva by Peter Dickinson, Peter: Book Cover
It made me think of the first book that really hooked me on reading.  It was Eva by award-winning author Peter Dickinson.  Reading that book was the first time I hid under my covers with a flashlight so I could keep reading into the wee hours of the night.  The story just blew me away.

Eva's parents are scientists, who work with chimpanzees.  After a terrible car accident, they decide to save Eva by placing her brain in the body of a chimpanzee.  Eva doesn't know what has happened when she first awakes.  How she discovers the truth, copes with it, and eventually decides what to do with her life is a fantasic story.  I highly recommend it.  It is a great book for discussion!

I have to give credit to my junior high librarian for introducing me to this book.  Every so often, she would read part of a book to us over the intercom system and end at a suspenseful part of the book.  This was one of the books she read.  I don't know that I would have ever discovered this book without her introduction.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cat's Got my Tongue

CAT'S CRADLE by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: NOOK Book CoverI read this book because it was the monthly selection for the science fiction book group at my local Barnes and Noble.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to the meeting because my child with high-functioning autism had a major meltdown on a bike ride and as things went, I couldn't get to the meeting.  I was disappointed because I really wanted to hear what others thought of it and what they took away from it.  I needed help on this one.

I hadn't read any books by Kurt Vonnegut before so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I do think I liked the book.  It was so strange, it's hard for me to decide if I liked it or not.  I really don't know what to say about it.

The narrator of story tells of his experience researching a biography about a (fictional) scientist who invented the atomic bomb.  He finally finds and interviews his three children--all of whom have very odd characteristics.  As the story goes along, you also learn of a new religion Bokotanism, that was made up by a guy and everyone seems to know he made it up, he admits he made it up, it doesn't seem to make sense, but people observe it anyway.  I didn't really understand that part.  I think I'm a fairly intelligent person, but I just didn't get it.  Maybe because I am religious or because I'm too literal...I don't know.

The story also serves as a bit of a parody of nuclear proliferation, but I don't want to give away how that comes about in the story.

The book is an extremely fast read.  (Most chapters are not longer than four pages, with lots of white space.)  So, give it a try.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye of this Faire Book

WICKED WEAVES (Renaissance Faire Mystery Series #1) by Joyce and Jim Lavene

I was really excited to read this book.  I love Renaissance festivals!  My family and I have such a blast at our local festival.  Some Faires (like the one in Shakopee) are not so family friendly with nearly nude fairies and overflowing bosoms, but ours is fantastic family fun!!

Wicked Weaves (Renaissance Faire Mystery Series #1) by Joyce Lavene: NOOK Book CoverSo, I love Renaissance festivals and mysteries!  I was so stoked to read this book.  What more could I want?  Well......

Jessie is an assistant history professor at the local university, who works summers at the local permanent Renaissance Faire.  She has decided to do her dissertation on crafts of the era, so she is apprenticing with a different crafter each year.  This year she is apprenticing with Mary, a Gullah who handweaves baskets.  Mary's husband, whom she has not seem for 20 years, is found murdered at the faire.  Jessie is determined to prove Mary's innocence.  While this is going on, Jessie finally gets together with her long-time crush, Chase.

It's a good story.  It's a good book, but...for me there was too much casual sex.  It's never described, only alluded to.  It seems at first Jessie is a shy person not confident in her relationships, but later you discover, she finds a new fling at the faire every summer.  That just wasn't for me.  I was also confused if the basket weaving she was learning was really a Renaissance craft.  There was one other minor point that truly annoyed me.  Jessie has a twin brother, Tony, who is very different from her.  She mentions twice that she can't believe they came from the same egg.  They didn't or Jessie can't be who she says she is.  I have many twins in my family and as friends, and believe me, they know the biological rules of their twinship.

The mystery itself was a good mystery.  Many people who like the faires and mysteries, may very well like this book, but I don't think I'll be reading the second one.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It Sounds Scandalous, But it's Not...But it's Still Good


In Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor by Allen Hunt, we see the story of the 15 year conversion process of the author, a former Methodist Pastor at a church of 15,000 in Atlanta to a member of the Catholic Church. This is one of the books that I picked up at the Matthew Kelly conference in February, and I'm glad I did.
Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor by Allen R. Hunt: Book Cover
I'm not going to sugar coat it...the biggest reason I became Catholic 8 years ago was because my wife and son were Catholic. We had another baby on the way, so I figured it was time to convert. I wasn't that serious about my Lutheran faith anyway...I think we all go through that in our 20's. At least most of us. Over time, I've come to feel at home in the Catholic church, and I really believe it is the best place for me to grow in my faith and become the person I should be. However, having rather shallow reasons, initially, for converting, I always like to hear conversion stories of people who genuinely discerned the will of God in their life and came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is home.

This is one of those stories. Allen Hunt masterfully mixes storytelling, with a little bit of apologetics, and a whole lot of appreciation for the "Hidden Treasures of the Catholic Church." Hunt describes the Catholic Church as an "old house", and walks through the rooms of the "old house" to discover that it had everything he needed all along. I expected chapters on Mary, Papal Infallibility, Purgatory and Praying to Saints, which are the 4 areas that Protestants get hung up on. Instead, I got an entire book devoted to the Eucharist, the Holiness of the Church, it's Authority and it's teaching, along with some discussion of the problems with having 33,000 different types of Protestant faiths. This was definitely a surprise, but as Hunt put it, (I'm paraphrasing) 'once you've come to realize that the Church is right about the big things, everything else falls into place.' Not what I expected, but also so much more than I expected.
I really enjoyed this book.  I felt bad that the process of conversion for Allen Hunt was painful because of his leadership role in the Methodist Church, but I'm very thankful he is finally happy in his faith life.  The subtitle of this book is "How I Discovered the Hidden Treasures of the Catholic Church".  The treasures Hunt discovers are what I feel are some of the most beautiful aspects of the Catholic faith--the Eucharist, the authority of apostolic succession, the definite stance of the church, and its unity.  Practicing Catholics will find a book revering the wonders of their faith, Catholics who have fallen away will be reminded of what they may have forgotten, and non-Catholics will find some wonders of the Catholic faith they can at least appreciate and hopefully find meaningful in their faith life.  This book is a fast read, so you really should give it a try.
(I do want to express my annoyance with the publisher of this book.  This may sound hypocritical since my own posts have many typos and errors since I usually write them very late at night--such is the life a home schooling mom, but unlike the publisher, I am not charging people money for a blog assumed to be a finished product.  There are fairly frequent typos and errors including too many spaces between some words and forgotten letters.  In one sentence, 1 Timothy is written even though the author was obviously referring to 1 Corinthians.  These types of errors in books really bother me.  But I don't want to leave this on a negative note because the author has truly written a very good book that is definitely worth reading and discussing.)