review

The first not-glowing review!

Who wants a little taste of schadenfreude?

RAnn at This That and the Other Thing has posted her review of Don’t You Forget About Me.  

Considering where I got this book (Full Quiver Publishers [sic]) I rolled my eyes and figured I was about to quit reading some diatribe about birth control pills causing all sorts of health problems.  I was wrong.

HA!  Gotcha, RAnn!

RAnn goes on to write:

If a characteristic of a good writer is getting readers to see themselves in characters, Erin Cupp nailed me in Mary Catherine.

KA-CHOW!

“Hey!” you say.  “Where’s my schadnfreude?”  Well, that you’ll have to get by going over to RAnn’s place and reading the actual review.  Considering RAnn’s review policy and her rating system, the fact that DYFAM got a B is nothing up at which I’ll turn my nose.  It’s kind of like getting not cursed at by the Hell’s Kitchen dude.

OMG, these Gordon Ramsey x DW pics are the best. There's so little ginger!

But wait!  There’s more!

YES.

Really,  people, I could go on like this all day.

I’d like to thank RAnn for taking the time to review DYFAM.  I’d also like to thank you, if you’ve read the book, for hopping on over to Amazon and posting a review of your own… pretty please?  Or maybe on Goodreads?  If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the remedy.

Review: Dog in the Gap by Lisa Colon Delay and Doug Jackson

It’s a quick, lovely read of meditations on how our relationships with dogs can be a reflection on how we form and grow our relationships with God.  This was an especially poignant read for me, as we just put down our loyal, sad-faced lab a few months ago (a topic similarly addressed by Jackson in this book).  I especially related to Colon Delay’s piece on “Responding to the Lead,” as well as to Jackson’s piece, “Adoption, Depression, and My Dog Spurgeon,” on the different types of dogs vs. our different styles of worship (says I with what seems to be my mastiff-in-a-mantilla worship style).

In case it weren’t obvious from the one author having dubbed his dog “Spurgeon,” this is a Christian rather than a particularly Catholic book; as most of my blog readers are my fellow papists, I felt that was a caveat worth mentioning.  However, I personally found nothing anti-Catholic in any of the reflections herein and feel comfortable recommending it to anyone of any religious persuasion–or none at all.  Yes, the spirituality is present, but it’s done with a light and soothing hand.  If you’re a cage-aggressive atheist/agnostic, give Dog in the Gap a try.  You might even like it.

Dog in the Gap is scheduled for an August 19 release.

 

Reviews: Shubert the Firefly!

We are loving these three books!

Product DetailsProduct Details Product Details

The adventures of Shubert the Firefly give kids–and adults–real-life examples of coping skills and conflict resolution techniques.  I really wish I’d had them when First Shift of Kids were of a younger age; it would have helped all three of us have an example of how to deal with meltdowns, fighting, teasing, and more.  The text by Dr. Becky Bailey shows the kids how to choose to be  STARs, and she also models for adults how to deescalate our own frustrations when dealing with frustrated children.  The illustrations by James Hrkach are lively without being too busy, which is important for kids whose frustration often comes from issues with visual discrimination.  Highly recommended on all counts!

 

Testing wildcard:

Review: Sons of Cain by Val Bianco

Ahh, a cozy summer read to bring poolside….  Those would not be the words to describe Sons of Cain by Val Bianco.  On the recommendations of many friends, I finally got around to getting a copy to read for myself.  I first opened it up on my Nook, saw the page count, and then proceeded to say, “I’m never going to finish a book this long, not with the other deadlines I’m facing!”  Fear not, though.  Don’t let the page numbers fool you:  it’s a speedy read.  It has everything:  Catholic clerics behaving badly, conservative hypocrites, secret societies ruling the world from behind closed doors… wait, what?!    Didn’t that book already get written, like, a bazillion times over?  Not like this, my friends, nothing like this.

 

I really liked how the author drew up a world where not only demonic influence was portrayed realistically, but angelic influence was as well.  What I liked even more, however, was that the characters didn’t fall into the typical mainstream biases, where all liberals are good and all Catholics are bad.  On the same note, however, Bianco avoided the pitfall into which so many Christian writers tumble headlong:  that is, where all the liberals are bad and all the Christians (in this case Catholics especially) are good.  Bianco made a courageous choice in showing how depraved people can be and that “faith” can indeed be used  to garner power to evil ends. He also drew a female lead who was far more dimensional than the average chick in an action-packed, blood-guts-and-guns thriller like Sons of Cain.  Considering I’m more of an Austen and Bronte girl than a Clancy or Brown girl, that’s a pretty huge compliment.  I was impressed especially by how Bianco handled the resolution of the novel’s romantic tension without violating anyone’s vows.

I recommend Sons of Cain with the following caveats.  If you, like me, tend to skim over long, detailed scenes of violence, you may find yourself skimming a bit more than expected.   Also, towards the end, the editing seemed to need a great deal more polish than it got–not enough to make me stop reading, because the storyline was compelling, but still, enough for me to mention it as a caveat.  Lastly, I had some trouble with the vigilante-ish leanings of the good guys.  Yes, I understood where they were coming from, and their violence was never, ever poorly motivated; I was just uncomfortable, morally-speaking, with how it was justified in the text.  Perhaps a better moral theologian than I could address that better, but I didn’t want to recommend the book without mentioning that issue.

I’m trying to figure out if Val Bianco is our Dan Brown or Neal Stephenson.  Either way, Sons of Cain did get me thinking–and praying–and those are always good things.

Frightening Yourself on a Road Trip: A How-To

I snagged a copy of Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable just before leaving on a road trip… that ended with our family staying in a cabin in the woods for two days.  What’s the premise of Stealing Jenny?  I don’t think I’m giving too much away, but think Catholic Misery (not Catholic guilt, silly–different animal all together):  a twisted soul kidnaps someone to, you guessed it, a cabin in the woods.  My fertile imagination was glad that I had my family around me the whole time.  There were mice in said cabin, but no kidnappers.  Phew.

My review?  I hate the use the cliche “fast-paced page-turner,” but it fits.  The characters were believable.  That is a huge compliment to a writer when bringing us characters who do things like–gasp!–practice NFP and chastity (sorry, folks, but no matter the morality I have espoused for myself, I am still a child of my culture, and if you’re going to write a character who lives a counter-cultural life, that character had better be three-dimensional).  The suspense was well-developed and well-handled.  There were a few characters I would have liked to see more fully-drawn, but all in all, Stealing Jenny was well worth the read.

If, however, you are planning on a trip to the woods and are easily frightened, save the read for when you’re back and safe at home.

Review: The King’s Gambit by John McNichol

Why did I not know about John McNichol until I was passed a review copy of The King’s Gambit for the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval?  Because, it seems, I have had my head in the sand for the past ten years.  That’s why.  Nobody to blame but selfie, self.

The King's Gambit

Anyways, John McNichol is the author of the Young Chesterton Chronicles… which I’ve not yet read, but I plan on remedying that shortly.  I wanted to review Gambit because I have a pair of young chess players for whom it is increasingly difficult to buy reading material.  Both read at a high school level but are nine years old.  (That’s not bragging.  They also still can’t get through a meal without flinging food everywhere or remember where they left their toothbrushes.  We all have our gifts.  Academics are theirs.) You try finding books for young minds eager for literary adventure without digging up something that’s dumbed down, morally offensive, suggestive, or all three and then some.

“Send them to the classics,” you say.  “Boring,” they say.  I can’t even get them to read Little Women.  I’m about to try Dickens.  Pray for me.

Back to Gambit.  We have an unlikely hero who conquers impossible–like, literally impossible–situations with the help of… wait for it… HIS FAMILY AND THE HEAVENLY HOST.  ::gasp!:: What a novel idea.  I was delighted to read the story of Edward and his battle against life-sized chess pieces.  I was even more delighted to pass it on to my “biggns” without having to explain why Catholics don’t believe that what this character did was right, and why that character’s choice was wrong, and so on.  Nope.  None of that.  I was able to share it with them, confident that they would see their faith upheld, not put down with flimsy characterizations or weak philosophies.

Best of all, they loved the story, too.  Well done, John McNichol! You have yourselves at least three new fans.