Saturday, June 28, 2014

Learning About Other Cultures

Carole P. Roman must figure that one way to get her books featured on my blog is to send them to me.  Today I woke up from nap to find yet another package from her.  Since her books are cute and educational, I'll go ahead and share them with you.

Each of these books is much like the other.  Each features a boy and a girl telling you about their homeland.  They tell you what they call their parents, what their money is called, games they like to play, what common names are, some famous place in their country and more.  The story is the same in each book, only the details change.  I think this would be a great series of books for a school or a homeschooling mom to acquire.

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 postClick here to sign up.

Our question of the week this week is "Tell us about your pastor'.  My pastor is Fr. Mike.  He is in his mid-50's and has been a priest for about 10 years and our pastor for almost three.  He grew up in a broken home and unlike many people in this area, went to public school.  His coach took him under his wing, and Fr. said that Coach often took the kids to Mass before a game.  After graduating from high school Fr. attended LSU for a while, joined the military for a while and lived in another state for a while.  He was a graphic artist and didn't go to church.  He was still in touch with his coach, and when he moved back to Louisiana, his coach convinced him to attend a Cursillo weekend.  While there, he had a conversion experience.  He started attending Mass and going to Eucharistic Adoration.  He became involved in his parish.  Then in adoration one day he heard God calling him to the priesthood.  

Fr. Mike isn't the most outgoing or gregarious pastor I've ever seen but he is at most events in the parish or the school.  Today a bunch of kids from my daughter's class were washing cars in the parking lot to raise money for the son of one of the teachers who is being treated at St. Jude's this summer and one of the cars they washed was his.  I think most people in the parish think we are lucky to have him.

No Catholic books this week for me.  I am giving away a general market romance, and I reviewed a "chick lit" book.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kate's Escape from the Billable Hour

About the Book:
Kate Billings, a burnt-out, second-year attorney working in the dysfunctional world of Big Law, regains consciousness after a late night, career-ending meltdown at the office. Can she scramble to undo the damage? Or does she even want to? 

Kate is a Red Bull-dependent, yoga-hating attorney at Krapp & Lipschitz, L.L.P., Arizona's largest and worst-dressed law firm. At first blush, Kate leads an enviable life. At only 26, she earns a six-figure salary, owns a quaint downtown bungalow, and has managed to shed the 80 pounds that have plagued her for most of her adulthood. 

A devastating performance review by firm partners Krapp, Butts, and Waddleberger, however, calls Kate's chosen career into question. Her confusion is compounded by a stranger’s innocent inquiry: "Are you happy?" Finally, when Kate receives her annual bonus -- consisting of a smoked ham and skin concealer -- she cracks. Upon realizing that she has been passively allowing her life to unfold under the belief that at some point things would just click into being perfect, Kate ransacks the partners' offices, quits her job, and buys a one-way ticket to Barcelona, planning to stalk ("it's not 'stalking,' it's 'reconnaissance'") the Spanish exchange student she has been secretly in love with since high school.

My Comment:
Chick lit meets Big Law.  Which will win?  Will the big money, prestige and all-nighters of the silk stocking law firm win out over the love Kate has been longing for since she was a teen?  Will the partners see Kate's worth and reward it, or will she be yet another associate used and discarded?  Those familiar with the sweatshops that are major law firms will recognize many elements in this story.  Those who love chick lit with its heroines pining for the perfect love while spending money on luxury goods and getting themselves into silly escapades will find themselves in familiar territory too.  What about you?  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Giveaway and Review: The Promise

About the Book:
Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it's time to move on from his loss. But as the town's only doctor, the dating pool is limited. That is, until a stunning physician's assistant applies for a job at his clinic. 

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She's already been burned by a man with kids, and she's come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she's used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She's willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options. 

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary—it isn't enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.

My Comments:
Robyn Carr is one of those authors whose books I grab when they are offered for review.  I've enjoyed the other books in the Thunder Point series and I enjoyed this one too.  Many of the regulars make at least brief appearances but the story stands on its own; you do not have to have read the others for the story to make sense.  While Scott and Peyton are intimate before marriage the scene, unlike those in many Carr books, is not very graphic. 

The book, if anything, gives good reasons not to jump into non-marital intimate relationships.  In short, Peyton ended up being used by a man who would never have kept her around if she had refused to move in with him.  I enjoyed watching her grow from a hurt young woman into someone who realized who she was and what she wanted out of life--and how to get it.  Scott was a man I could love if I was single and ___ years younger.  He is steady, reliable and loves his kids and makes them first in his life.  He knows it isn't all about him and I like that in a hero.  

 I'd like to thank Katie at Little Bird Publicity for sending me a review copy of the book.  Grade:  B+

Katie has agreed to give one of my lucky readers a copy of The Promise.  As I said above, while the characters in this book end up in bed, we don't get any graphic descriptions of who does what to whom.  To enter this giveaway,leave a comment about what you like to see in romance novels as far as bedroom scenes.  Do you want a closed door between them and you?  A vividly painted picture?  Lots of flowery language?  Practically an instruction manual? 

 Make sure there is contact information in your post or profile.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

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 postClick here to sign up.

Question of the Week: My Right to Life calendar says that the National Right to Life convention is this week in Kentucky. What do you to do promote Right to Life? I donate money and pray; at this time, that's about it, except that I periodically tilt at windmills on other people's blogs.
I love summer.  I love having time to read and blog.  No religious books this week--though I have a couple in my TBR stack.  My posts this week are reviews of a book by a prison doctor, a Southern cookbook, a story about a battered woman, and a sweet clean romance.  

Kindle Freebie: Maximum Insecurity

About the Book:
After three decades as a successful ear surgeon, William Wright, MD is bored beyond belief. He dabbles with retirement, but finds idleness infuriating. He has to do something.

Then he sees an ad for a doctor’s position from the Colorado Department of Corrections at a supermax prison. Now that, he thinks, would be different. His wife has some thoughts on the matter too. She thinks her husband just lost his mind and is on a collision course with a prison shiv.

After his first day on the job, he wonders if she wasn’t onto something. His first patient is an arrogant, callous youth convicted of five cold-blooded murders. Dr. Wright has to steel himself not to bolt.

Nothing prepares a doctor for life at the Colorado State Penitentiary. He quickly discovers treating maximum security convicts is like treating recalcitrant murderous four-year-olds. Always willing to threaten their doctors with bodily harm, they are more interested in scamming drugs than treatment.

Told with self-depreciating humor and scathing wit, Maximum Insecurity describes Dr. Wright’s adventures practicing medicine in a supermax correctional facility without, he’s glad to say, getting killed even once.

My Comments:
I've told you all before that my day job working as a paralegal, and that my caseload includes criminal cases.  Like most people in the criminal law business, I know people who are in prison, and I'll admit to a certain curiosity about what it is really like in there.  Dr. William Wright writes about what it is really like to be the doctor in a supermax prison, a prison where they put the inmates who are a danger to themselves or others in a regular maximum security prison.  These supermax prisoners are locked in individual cells 23/7 and only allowed out to exercise/shower for an hour a day, with no other inmates.  I'd go stark raving mad.  Given so much free time, one thing these inmates do is come up with reasons they need to see a doctor (and then they try to convince the doctor they need drugs).  

Dr. Wright's stories are funny, though the book is a little repetitive at times.  I got it as a freebie on Amazon, and it was definitely worth more than I paid for it.  Grade:  B.

Review: The B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery Cookbook

About the Book:
Locals go to the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery in Water Valley, Mississippi, for its Skillet Biscuits and Sausage Gravy breakfasts, made-to-order chicken salad and spicy Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese sandwiches, and daily specials like Shrimp and Grits that are as good as momma made. The B.T.C.’s freezers are stocked with take-home Southern Yellow Squash Casseroles and its counter is piled high with sweets like Peach Fried Pies as well as seasonal produce, local milk, and freshly baked bread. 

“Be the Change” has always been the store’s motto, and that’s just what it has done. What started as a place to meet and eat s is now so much more, as the grocery has become the heart of a now-bustling country town. The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook shares 120 of the store’s best recipes, giving home cooks everywhere a taste of the food that brought a community together, sparking friendships, reviving traditions, and revitalizing an American Main Street.

My Comments:
If you are a fan of old-fashioned Southern food, this is the cookbook for you.  You can learn to make skillet biscuits to serve with sausage gravy (sorry the book does not give the calorie count or the fat grams, but the ingredient lists definitely tell you this is not a low-fat treat).  You can make gumbo or "Hotty Toddy Beer Chile" to serve while you cheer for the Ole Miss Rebels.  Vegetables are not steamed to a bright green; they are baked in casseroles with cheese and breadcrumbs (Southern Yellow Squash Casserole or Artichoke and English Pea Au Gratin) or with cheese, cream and cornbread (Cornbread squash casserole).  How does Honey Pecan Catfish sound?  If you are still hungry after the main course you can try Fried Pies, Charlie Brown Cookies or The Steel Magnolia Cake.  

The book itself is attractive and is a hardcover book printed on good quality paper.  There are photos of many of the recipes.  

Besides the recipes, the book contains features about small-town life in Mississippi.  You learn about football weekends, the milk man and the local drugstore.  They even mention that it is hot in the summer in Mississippi.

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a review copy available via the Blogging for Books program.  Grade:  B+  You can read an excerpt here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: No River Too Wide

No River Too Wide (Goddesses Anonymous)

About the Book:
Some betrayals are like rivers, so deep, so wide, they can't be crossed. But—for those with enough courage—forgiveness, redemption and love may be found on the other side. 

On the night her home is consumed by fire, Janine Stoddard finally resolves to leave her abusive husband. While she is reluctant to involve her estranged daughter, she can't resist a chance to see Harmony and baby Lottie in Asheville, North Carolina, before she disappears forever. 

Harmony's friend Taylor Martin realizes how much the reunited mother and daughter yearn to stay together, and she sees in Jan a chance to continue her own mother's legacy of helping women in need of a fresh start. She opens her home, even as she's opening her heart to another newcomer, Adam Pryor. But enigmatic Adam has a secret that could destroy Taylor's trust…and cost Jan her hard-won freedom.

My Comments:
This series has been a favorite since the beginning and this episode does nothing to change that.  While perhaps a bit cliche'd  in its treatment of domestic abuse (but then there is a reason that certain behaviors are indicative of domestic abuse) No River Too Wide is a heartwarming read.  However, I think Richards needs to stick to romance/women's fiction; the who dunnit part of the plot was the weakest.  

As with the other books in the series, there is a woman (Janine) who needs a safe place to get her life back together.  As with the other books, the  goddesses provide both material and emotional help.  It is through helping others that they themselves experience growth and increased happiness.

There were a couple of times I found myself searching my memory for backstory to remind me who the characters were or how they fit together but for the most part the story stood well on its own. 

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: Wild Iris Ridge

About the  Book:
Lucy Drake and Brendan Caine have only one thing in common… 

And it's likely to tear them apart. Because it was Brendan's late wife, Jessie—and Lucy's best friend—who'd brought them together in the first place. And since Jessie's passing, Brendan's been distracted by his two little ones…and the memory of an explosive kiss with Lucy years before his marriage. Still, he'll steer clear of her. She's always been trouble with a capital T. 

Lucy couldn't wait to shed her small-town roots for the big city. But now that she's back in Hope's Crossing to take care of the Queen Anne home her late aunt has left her, she figures seeing Brendan Caine again is no big deal. After all, she'd managed to resist the handsome fire chief once before, but clearly the embers of their attraction are still smoldering…

My Comments:
Both spent their teen years in a small town.  He was a few years older and had just returned to the small town where he wanted to settle down, get married and have kids.  She had just graduated from college and wanted to explore the world.  They were attracted, he said he'd call, but he never did.  Instead, he met and wed her best friend.  Because of that,things have always been tense between them.  Now her friend is dead and she's home to lick her wounds after being fired.  Circumstances bring them together and sparks fly (and of course those sparks are encouraged by family and friends).  
I always enjoy these visits to Hope's Crossing though it is getting a little hard to keep track of all the townspeople.  Nevertheless, the story stands on its own if you can overlook a bunch of useless characters.  

I liked the contrast between Lucy's father, a rich lawyer who all but abandoned her and who is having problems with her teen stepsister and Brendan, who is determined to do right by his kids.  There is nothing sexier in my opinion than a good father.

If such things are important to you, there are no intimate scenes.  

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

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Sheila and the gang to talk about this week's reading.  I love summer when there is no homework to interfere with my reading time.  

I read Debbie Macomber's latest.  It is part of a series set in a bed and breakfast in Ceder Cove Washington.  While some of the regulars from Debbie's Cedar Cove stories make appearances, this isn't a multi-threaded soap opera like those books.  Rather, each story in this series is a stand-alone romance about the guests in the inn.  However, the innkeeper's story carries from book to book.

I also enjoyed the next entry in Robin Carr's latest series.  

Life in the not so distant past in the South was featured in two books I read

I reviewed The Beekkeeper's Ball, which I read some time ago:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

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.

Question of the Week:  June is the month of the Sacred Heart. Has your family done the Sacred Heart Enthronement?  

My Answer:  Yes, my parish was pushing it a few years ago and we signed up.  However, I have to admit that other than adding two pictures to my wall, we haven't done any follow-up.

Last week's question of the week dealt with Catholic schools and I answered the question here.    I reviewed two books this week.  One mentioned my Alma Mater.  The other was a romance set in the modern day, which flashed back to Denmark during WWII.  I really enjoyed them both.

Catholic Schools--Should We Have Them?

My Sunday Snippets Question of the Week last week was about Catholic Schools.  I said I'd answer in another post and I just realized I never did.

The review won't be published for a while, but I read a book last week about the integration of the local high school in a small town in Virginia.  One thing I noticed is that all the the African-American teens would have been better off staying in the Black schools.  In the Black school they would have been the leaders, taken advanced courses and participated in a variety of extra-curricular activities.  They would have had their homecoming and their prom and all the other things high school kids consider important.  In the White school they were abused outcasts stuck in remedial classes and the prom was cancelled because of them.  In many cases it wasn't the kids' choice to go to the White school; it was their parents'.  While the decision to integrate was better in the long run and better for the majority of African-American children, the decision, in essence, made sacrificial lambs of those first students.

What does that have to do with my opinion about Catholic schools?  In both cases I think there is a choice that is right for society and a different choice that may be right for individual kids.  I've made the choice I think is best for my daughter--she attends my parish school, but I have serious questions about whether we as a church should be investing so many resources in our schools.  Once upon a time parish schools were for all the kids in the parish and they were supported by the parish, not by the parents.  Even when they started charging tuition, there was a note that you should see the pastor if there was a problem paying, that money shouldn't be the reason your child wasn't in the parish school.  That note isn't there anymore.  While there is some tuition assistance for emergency situations, you don't sign your child up for the parish school if you can't afford the substantial tuition.  While that situation has led to parishes spending a smaller percent of resources on the school, it has also led to higher tuition.  Still, in many parishes the CCD program is a second-class citizen to the school--and even if it isn't, the fact that the school kids don't go means the kids of the parish (and their parents) are in different groups--two communities, not one.  On the high school level, at least around here, the schools don't even pretend to be for all kids--they want the best and the brightest, and they don't provide the classes or the services the non-college bound kids need.

While there are those who blame the increased cost of Catholic schools on the lack of religious sisters, even if I could wave my magic wand and give every parish the number of sisters it had in the early 1960's, costs would still be substantial.  Those sisters taught 40+ kids in a class, and few parents would tolerate that today, even if the state would.  A Catholic school I attended in sixth grade had one class per grade, grades 1-6.  There were 35 kids in a class.   The office staff was a principal who taught part-time and a secretary.  There was one teacher per grade, two moms who worked part-time in the library and one special ed teacher and one aide.  Compare that to my daughter's school where there is a principal and assistant principal (both teach a class or two), a counselor, a secretary, an account clerk, two librarians (one teaches a religion class or two and the other is the technology guru) and the classes (one per grade Pk3-8) have under 30 kids (and in a couple of cases, under 20 kids).  There is also a music teacher, a PE teacher and a part-time Spanish teacher.  Besides having to pay all that staff (and provide health insurance for them) we have to buy computers etc and keep replacing them.  Schools are expensive to run and they are't going to get cheaper.  I just don't think they are the best use of a parish's resources, but as long as I can afford it, and as long as I believe that is the best education for my daughter, that's where she will go.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Bygone Era: Review of The Right Thing

About this Book:
On a scorching August day in 1963, seven-year-old Annie Banks meets the girl who will become her best friend. Skinny, outspoken Starr Dukes and her wandering preacher father may not be accepted by polite society in Jackson, Mississippi, but Annie and Starr are too busy sharing secrets and playing elaborate games of Queen for a Day to care. Then, as suddenly as she appeared in Annie's life, Starr disappears.
Annie grows up to follow the path ordained for pretty, well-to-do Jackson women--marrying an ambitious lawyer, filling her days with shopping and charity work. She barely recognizes Starr when they meet twenty-seven years after that first fateful summer, but the bond formed so long ago quickly reemerges. Starr, pregnant by a powerful married man who wants her to get out of town, has nowhere to turn. And Annie, determined not to fail her friend this time, agrees to drive Starr to New Orleans to get money she's owed.

During the eventful road trip that follows, Annie will confront the gap between friendship and responsibility;between her safe, ordered existence and the dreams she's grown accustomed to denying.

Moving, witty, and beautifully told, The Right Thing is a story of love and courage, the powerful impact of friendship, and the small acts that can anchor a life--or, with a little luck, steer it in the right direction at last.

My Comments:
Who are you?  Are you the person you want to be?  Are you the person your family wants you to be?  Are you the person your friends think you are?  All of these questions are dealt with by Annie Banks in this book.  Annie grows up in an establishment family in Jackson Mississippi (which is referred to several times as a small town).  Her childhood best friend is Starr, who is most definitely not part of the social elite.  Starr's family left town in the middle of the night and the girls never saw each other again until they were adults.  One morning Annie had yet another negative pregnancy test. That afternoon she went to a ritzy boutique to buy a dress for the law firm party and she runs into Starr, who is pregnant and recently dumped by her society paramour.  Annie agrees to take Starr to New Orleans that night; a decision that will change her life in many ways.

While Annie is part of the social elite in Jackson--an Ole Miss Chi O, a debutante, a doctor's daughter, she is unhappy with the role of lawyer's wife and doesn't really like most of her "friends".  Her life seems perfect, or at least not too bad, and honestly, her life isn't all that bad-this isn't a book about an abused woman--but Annie feels like she spends all her time trying to make other people happy with who she is.  She is 35 years old and a size zero.  She runs with the right crowd and does the right charitable things, but who is she?

Annie's mom is an interesting character.  Through Annie's eyes, her mother is distant and far too worried about what other people think--but even Annie sees glimpses of a deeper woman, and that the end we find out why Annie's mom is the way she is.

My favorite character was Aunt Too-Tai, who is a farmer who wears men's clothing, and who I suspect had something going with her Black hired hand.  

The book alternates between 1963 and 1990, between Starr's childhood and her adult life.  There are a few scenes that take place in the 1970's as well. Sometimes this was a little confusing, but for the most part it worked.  There were a couple of times Amy Connor got her period details wrong.  For example she had people drinking Diet Coke in the 1970's when there was no such thing.  Still, it was an interesting look at the lives of the upper middle class in Jackson (and I suspect other places) in the 1960's, as seen through the eyes of one of them, but one who didn't quite fit.

You may have noticed I have a new button on the right sidebar, proclaiming I'm a "W" blogger. That means I'm an alumna of Mississippi University for Women, and I've joined with other alums to form a blogger group.  My alma mater, The W, is mentioned in this book. 

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Beekeeper's Ball: My Review

The Beekeeper's Ball: Bella Vista Chronicles Book 2

About the Book:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns to sun-drenched Bella Vista, where the land's bounty yields a rich harvest…and family secrets that have long been buried. 

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past. 

But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own. 

The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper's Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future. 

From "one of the best observers of stories of the heart" (Salem Statesman-Journal), The Beekeeper's Ball is an exquisite and richly imagined novel of the secrets that keep us from finding our way, the ties binding us to family and home, and the indelible imprint love can make on the human heart.

My Comments:
I loved this one.  Isabel is about to open a cooking school on the family estate.  At the same time, her half sister, the heroine of The Apple Orchard is planning her wedding.  Thrown into the mix to keep things interesting are Cormac O'Neill, who is there to write a biography of her grandfather, who was a Danish resistance fighter during WWII and Jamie, a pregnant young woman who hires on as the beekeeper and you have the makings of a story that is more than the standard romance.  In The Apple Orchard, Isabel and Tess discover each other and they learn that their father (who neither woman knew) had been the birth son of Annelise and their grandfather, rather than the son of his mother.  In this story they learn why. We hear Isabel's grandfather tell the story of the war years and their aftermath.  We also learn that Isabel has been through battles of her own, and cheer as she sheds the shields she carries because of them.  

If it is important to you, Isabel is in bed with a man before marriage but the scene is not explicit.

I complained about the unrealistic end to The Apple Tree.  This one seemed much more realistic, but it did have one unlikely part, that is probably a cliffhanger for the next book.  We also never hear for sure what happened to Jamie's baby, so that will probably be covered in the next book too.  Still, I'm giving this one an A- and would like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  

Sunday, June 08, 2014

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 know I'm late but this is Sunday Snippets, right?  I was busy living life yesterday.  My daughter's Girl Scout troop went blueberry picking in the morning and I was beat when we got home.  Last night I went out with friends and ready for bed when we got home.  Today my daughter and I are headed to Mass with one of those friends and her daughter.  The friend in an alumna of the same  university and her daughter's Girl Scout troop came to New Orleans from Memphis on the train.  

I have been blogging though.  I toured a Christian novel.  I reviewed a cookbook.   I reviewed a book about monogamy.    

Question of the week:  What do you think of Catholic schools?  Are they an important part of passing on the faith to the next generation or are they an expense whose usefulness has passed, or something in between?

I'll answer that later, in another post. Off to Mass.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Monogamy: The Practical Form of Marriage

About the Book:
William Tucker documents the historical and anthropological story behind how monogamous, lifelong partnerships are the driving force behind the creation and rise of civilization.

My Comments:
Not exactly a long blurb, is it?  Nevertheless, it was a very interesting and very readable book.  

Those favoring modern morality (or lack thereof) often say that monogamy is unnatural.  Those in favor of traditional values often say that sexual arrangements other than monogamy are immoral.  William Tucker agrees that monogamy does not come naturally, but opines that those societies that have chosen and enforced monogamy have been far more economically successful and far more peaceful than those which have chosen other mating schemes.

Tucker begins by looking at the animal world, particularly at our cousins, the primates.  In most species, males try to mate with as many females as possible, while females try to mate with the superior or alpha males.  The problem with this system is that the males put forth a lot of effort to keep other males away and even kill infants fathered by other males.  

Next Tucker takes us through the stages of civilization from early hunter-gatherers to early herders and farmers and onto the famous civilizations of the past.  He looks at their marital relationships and comes to the conclusion that for monogamy to work it needs to be supported and enforced by the culture, but that cultures that practice monogamy are the most successful.  

One interesting observation was that today's well-educated economically comfortable Americans are quick to hypothetically deny the need for monogamy in child-rearing.  They say it is ok to have children outside of wedlock, to have multiple partners of whatever persuasion, but when it comes to action, these are the people who will delay childbearing until after marriage and who will stay with their spouses (at least) until the children are raised.  These, of course, are the economically successful people in our society.  It is the poor who have children early and without a permanent partner.  This contrasts with earlier generations who, if they weren't married before conception, got married shortly thereafter.  One quoted statistic was that years ago (can't remember the date) 40% of first babies were conceived out of wedlock, but only 5% of babies were born out of wedlock.  

One point  Tucker makes is that for monogamy to succeed, society has to support it, and lately our society has not.  Prior to "The Great Society", it was expected that a man would support his family.  Married women, particularly those with children, were not expected to work.  Keeping them out of the workplace (or in "women's" jobs) kept unemployment among men low and wages high enough to support a family on one income.  Like all systems, this one had winners and losers.  The losers here were highly educated ambitious women; the winners were married women with children. Now many lower class women, instead of looking to husbands for support, look to the government.  

All in all, I found this to be a very interesting book and I'm glad to recommend it.  Grade:  A.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Review: Kitchen Confidence

About the Book:
A young food star and new mom, Kelsey is an invaluable friend in the kitchen to everyone settling into their first kitchen of their own. Her recipes, which are broken down into simple steps, teach readers how to cook, highlighting key tools and basic techniques everyone should know. And yet her flavors are anything but basic; Kelsey gives everyone the confidence to start with the 2.0 version of a recipe instead of the boring standards. For example, she makes her house pilaf with quinoa instead of rice, and her addictive fruit salad is a savory first course instead of a lackluster dessert. 

     With 100 recipes and 60 color photographs, Kitchen Confidence brings home all of the energy and spirit of the Cooking Channel show of the same name, making it an excellent handbook for newlyweds, recent college graduates, and those discovering their kitchens for the first time.

My Comments:
This is an attractive cookbook with a lot of mouthwatering pictures.  It is printed on high-quality glossy paper and uses attractive fonts and colors.  It is definitely the kind of cookbook that makes you pick it up and look at it.

The description made me think the book was aimed at novice cooks, and it does have some sections that would be helpful to those just starting out.  Kelsey Nixon includes sections on pantry essentials, kitchen organization, essential equipment and essential techniques.  However, I find some of  her "staples" to be more specialty items than things to keep on hand--for example sriracha sauce, capers, heavy cream and brie.  
The recipes themselves too seem a bid complex for someone who was not used to cooking.  The macaroni and cheese recipe calls for scalded milk but it doesn't tell how to scald milk.  On the other hand it gives very clear directions on how to make risotto.  As the description above indicates, this isn't a book of basic recipes but rather one that gives simple directions on how to make somewhat fancy food.  As such I think many of the recipes call for ingredients that are not typically found in the average kitchen, though most are available at the average grocery store.  Some call for equipment above the basic level, though your average bridal shower and wedding gifts generally provide most of the equipment.  The above-basic equipment includes immersion blenders, food processors, and stand mixers.  

I'll be trying a recipe or two and will let you know how it goes.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy via the Blogging for Books program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  Grade:  B.

You can read about the author and see the first pages of the book here.

It's Monday: What Are You Reading

It has been a while since I participated in this meme hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey.  I lost my dad mid-April  and he had been sick for (and wrote about going through his house here) a good while before that so my free time had been limited.  Now that school is out things are starting to calm down and I'm starting to read and blog again regularly. The links below take you to my reviews.  

 My favorite this week was All My Belongings which Litfuse is touring.  

Beach Glass is a romance that looks at how people choose to change.

I had high hopes for The Midwife but it ultimately disappointed.

Dreamweaver Trail is another romance.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Litfuse Blog Tour and $200 Dollar Giveaway: All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

About the Book:
A new identity can’t protect Becca from a past that refuses to go away. Where do you turn when changing your name doesn’t give you the anonymity you want? When running hundreds of miles away isn’t far enough? When your search for a place to belong lands you right back where you began? One phone call destroys all the hope Becca Morrow has for a life beyond the shame of her past. Further discredited by the death of her elderly, ailing patient—the mother of the influential businessman, Isaac Hughes—Becca’s new life is shattered and her longing for love slips away. Working to clear her name, Becca must learn to see the beauty in the ugliness of dying, to accept the tenderness in forgiveness, and—at last—discover that where she belongs isn’t as much about her family history as it is about her faith in the One to whom she’ll always belong.

My Comments:
This was definitely one of those right book at the right time books for me.  About six weeks ago I watched my father die.  This book deals with the deaths of three people.  Like my father's death, these were expected.  Unlike my father's death, some of these were hastened.  We learn quickly that Becca was the one who turned her father into the authorities for killing her mother, who had ALS.  She changes her name and gets a job across the country, a job caring for an elderly woman who is dying.  She avoids talking about her past but the police become suspicious when the death of her charge has odd elements.  

I think the book does a good job of looking realistically at the problems we have caring for the infirm.  It is obvious that Isaac's mother's care was greatly enhanced because of his ability to pay for it.  Mention is made of multiple downsizings made necessary by Becca's mother's illness.  As families become separated by miles, as they become smaller, and as we live longer, more and more of us are going to have to deal with the financial reality of infirmity.  I have to wonder what part that financial reality played in the decisions made by Becca's father.

All My Belongings is definitely Christian fiction.  The characters pray.  They drink sparkling juice, not wine.  Isaac belongs to a men's group from church and they meet regularly.  The final moral is that forgiveness is necessary and freeing.  

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a review copy available for this Litfuse tour.  Grade:  B+

Cynthia Ruchti asks what it takes to overcome your past and become who you were meant to be in her latest novel, All My Belongings. Cynthia has woven a heart-wrenching tale of forgiveness, grace, and learning what it means to truly belong.

Cynthia is celebrating the release of her latest novel with a fun giveaway and a live webcast event!
One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card
  • All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 11th. Winner will be announced at the All My Belongings LIVE webcast event on June 11th. Connect with Cynthia for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Cynthia will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books, fun prizes, and gift certificates throughout the evening.
So grab your copy of All My Belongings and join Cynthia and friends on the evening of June 11th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 11th!

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