WWRW

WWRW: Liberty & Virtue

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Long time no review!  Let’s link up with What We’re Reading Wednesday over at Jessica’s Housewifespice Place.

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I’ve had it for months, now, but I finally got around to Chasing Liberty by Theresa Linden.

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Once I got started, it didn’t take me long to finish it, either.  If you’re looking for characters you can love, love to hate, or hate to pity… you’ll find them in Chasing Liberty.  

Here’s what it’s about:

Liberty 554-062466-84 of Aldonia lives in a responsible society that cares for the earth and everyone on it. They have learned to balance resource consumption with replacement initiatives, unavoidable pollution with clean-environment efforts. Science ensures that every baby born is healthy. The government ensures that every baby born is needed. All are cared for, taught, and given a specific duty to perform, their unique contribution to society. Why is Liberty so unsatisfied? In less than two weeks, Liberty must begin her vocation. Every girl in Aldonia wishes she had Liberty’s vocation. Liberty would rather flee from Aldonia and live on her own, independent of the all-controlling government, the Regimen Custodia Terra. The high electrical Boundary Fence crushes any thought of escape. The ID implant imbedded in her hand makes it impossible to hide. She has no choice but to submit. Liberty is slated to be a Breeder. As vocation day draws near, a man with an obsession for Liberty attacks her and injects her with a drug. She’s about to lose consciousness when someone comes to her rescue, a man in a mottled cape and dark glasses. She wakes in an underground facility where people watch over Aldonia with an array of monitors and surveillance equipment. These people are full of secrets, but she discovers one thing: they rescue a man scheduled for re-education. They rescued him. They can rescue her.

I love how Linden handles the suspense in this one.  She knows how to end a chapter, that’s for sure.  She also has a good hand with the dramatic irony, which uses the two points of view (first-person Liberty vs. 3rd person subjective with the bad guy) to play off of each other, one cranking up the tension on the other in one scene, and then vice-versa in the next.  Another thing the author handled well was the Liberty’s motivation for putting into action the final sequences, hurtling the characters into their point-of-no-return.  I was not left wanting for why things were happening, but neither were things ever dragged out.  The conflicts were clear and engaging.  The numerous characters were so clearly drawn that I never felt there were too many, which is a hard thing to manage.  Kudos to Theresa Linden for Chasing Liberty.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel!

I’ve asked Theresa for an interview here, so check back for that.  In the meantime, go buy her book and you’ll be in for a rip-roaring thrill ride that will rip out your heart and stomp on it!

Today’s second book is The Virtuous Jane Austen: Short Reflections on Character by Rhonda Ortiz.

The Virtuous Jane Austen: Short Reflections on Character by Rhonda Ortiz

What a charming little book! Yet it’s still a bargain at 99 cents.  Why?  Because it offers something sweet but new.  I’ve seen Austen often discussed as a writer of manners, but when seen as a writer illuminating virtue, Austen’s work takes on greater life, depth, and import. Well done!  Come back next week when author Rhonda Ortiz shares her own story about character building… through NFP?  It’ll make sense next week.

What’s on your summer reading list? 

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

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WWRW: Unleashed by Sonja Corbitt

It’s baaaaaack!  It’s the What We’re Reading Wednesday linkup over at Jessica’s Housewifespice!

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I’ve had the distinct honor to be part of the CatholicMom.com Unleashed book club.  And guess what book we’re reading!  No, seriously! YOU’LL NEVER GUESS!

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Why, yes, it’s Unleashed by Sonja Corbitt! What’s it about, you ask?

Sonja Corbitt was an evangelical Baptist before she converted to Catholicism. In Unleashed, she shares her passion for the scriptures by weaving the Word of God with her own experiences to show readers how the Holy Spirit flows through their lives in relationships, prayer, and even in times of suffering.

Sonja Corbitt’s passionate faith and natural storytelling ability combine to create a refreshing message of how God, in his continual pursuit of us, speaks to us through the positive and painful circumstances of life, relationships, and his Word.

In Unleashed, Corbitt testifies that prayerful and regular study of the scriptures is the key to hear the voice of God, to see the Holy Spirit at work even in times of suffering, and to receive all the graces God wants to give.

Corbitt has been captivating Catholic women across the country with her message about God and his desire to know them in a deep and personal way. Endorsed by her bishop as a “credit to her faith,” Corbitt inspires Catholics everywhere to engage with the scriptures with renewed vigor and energy.

This is another one where I wish Amazon had six stars to give.  I admit I took this book on with great trepidation.  Part of that is because Snow Crash has freaked me out about anything charismatic (not AT ALL the fault of the charismatic movement but the fault of a buttkicking fiction story).  So a book dealing with the Holy Spirit?  I was a bit, “Um.  Okay.  Deep breaths, Erin.  We can DO this!”

First, I have to clarify that Unleashed is not about the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Rather it is a step-by-step guide for discerning how the Holy Spirit is speaking to us without words but through repeating patterns that not only spring forth from our own hearts but from the hearts of those around us.  In this book, Sonja gives us sort of a listening device for making out the guidance of the Holy Spirit more clearly, more thoughtfully, with greater peace and confidence.

It’s tackles complex issues with deep-cleansing-breath simplicity.  It holds a mirror up to the soul behind the face in the mirror and says, “Yes, you have work to do, but you don’t have to do it all today. Still you can do something today.”

Do something today.  Get to know the Holy Spirit, not as an abstract monstrosity but as a solid, loving friend.  Perhaps picking up your copy of Unleashed will be that something you do today.

WWRW: No Lifeguard on Duty by Amy M. Bennett

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Whuddup?  It’s Wednesday, when we talk about What We’re Reading with the freshly-delivered-of-her-bebbeh Jessica over at Housewifespice!

Amy M. Bennett is back with another tale of murder, mystery, and man-which-guy-do-I-want-Corrie-to-end-up-with!?  

What’s No Lifeguard on Duty about?  

Summer is coming and at the Black Horse Campground in Bonney County, New Mexico that means warm sunny days, a cool refreshing pool, and… murder?   Corrie Black and her friends are ready to welcome the summer camping season with a party to celebrate opening the swimming pool… but murder becomes an unwelcome guest!   The shock of discovering Krista Otero’s body in the pool the morning after the party is bad enough… what’s worse is that Krista’s death wasn’t an accident. And what’s more confusing is that Krista’s closest friends all have something to hide.  Despite opposition from Bonney County’s finest, Corrie is determined to find out who used her swimming pool as a murder weapon and who is using her home as a base for illegal activities. But someone wants to keep Corrie out of their business… even if it means killing again!

Here’s my Amazon review:  

I loved this second book in the series!  If you’re looking for a clean mystery that will keep you guessing, keep you laughing, and keep you cheering, then No Lifeguard on Duty will be sure to satisfy.  After only two books, it’s like the people of the Black Horse Campground are already my family.  Corrie, Rick and JD have the most tantalizing yet non-trashy ongoing flirting triangle I’ve ever read.  The mystery itself is well-turned and hits all the right notes throughout.  Bring on Book #3!

This is the kind of book that a faithful Catholic can read without being scandalized and a person of no faith at all can enjoy without being irritated, preached at, or otherwise bored to tears.  Amy M. Bennett really knows how to turn out the UST, which is my favorite kind of ST to read.  I’ll also admit here that I was 100% sure I knew “whodunit” until about twenty pages from the end, and it turned out I was 100% wrong, so expect to be surprised by the twists and turns.  The characters all have their motives but nobody is demonized (well, except Corrie’s “date,” but he kind of deserves it…).

No Lifeguard does well as a stand-alone, but if you haven’t already read the first book in the series, I heartily encourage you to do so.  You can also read my interview with Amy here.  

WWRW: The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt

Join up with Jessica at Housewifespice and all the other coolest bookworms for What We’re Reading Wednesday.

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“I am not afraid that the book will be controversial.  I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”

Flannery O’Connor

Today I’m reviewing one of the best, most powerful, most well-crafted, most heart-challenging books I’ve read in a very long time.  I am not exaggerating.  It’s The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt.  

Writers are often told to perfect “the elevator pitch,” a three-sentence summary of one’s book.  If you’re pitching a Catholic novel, I can’t think of a more interest-grabbing elevator pitch than the intro to the Amazon summary for The Lion’s Heart.  

Is love ever wrong?
Paul Meyer has never let anyone get too close.
Until Max.

Spoilers:  Max is not a girl.

Here’s my review as I posted to Amazon:

Whatever side of controversy you call home, this book is a game-changer. Dena Hunt gives us a compassionate story courageously told, depicting the truth in all its dimensions. The characters are clearly drawn as are their passions, conflicts, losses and triumphs. Hunt handles the divergent and convergent points of view of these characters–and their readers–with a hand both light and deft. Readers will never be the same. With The Lion’s Heart, the landscape of faith-based fiction is changed forever.

It’s so hard for me to elaborate on that, because The Lion’s Heart is more art than antagonism, more compassion than controversy.  I dare anyone who thinks the Catholic teaching on this subject matter is based on “hate” to read this book–really read it–and then continue thinking that “hate” is anywhere in the picture.

Double.  Dog.  Dare.

The love–yes, I’m going to use the word love here–between Paul and Max is depicted in every dimension imaginable.  Yes, the more conservative? hard-hearted? among readers may very well be furious that Dena had the guts to depict a romantic relationship between two men that includes elements of selflessness, of sacrifice.  “It can’t be anything like love at all.  Nope. Uh-uh  Never,” they may say.  Well, forgive me for pointing it out, but let’s not discount each other that deeply, shall we?  Dena sure doesn’t.  She gives us the great depths of passion and giving (or what we very well-intenioned-ly may believe is giving) of which all humans are capable of achieving when drawn to share intimately with another human being.

Long story short, nobody is demonized in The Lion’s Heart.  Nobody.   Every character is depicted from many angles for us to study and recognize as simply, beautifully human.  And, unfortunately, in our polarized world, that’s going to piss off a lot of people.  It’s going to piss off both sides of a Marriage March.  It’s going to piss off every single person on my Facebook friends list, half of them for one reason, and half of them for the exact opposite reason.  And isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that literature is supposed to do?

Brava, Dena Hunt, for giving us this book.  Bravo, Full Quiver Publishing, for putting so much on the line to publish it–a task that the Big Catholic Houses were, forgive me, too cowardly to do.  Bravo/a to you, Pride or Respect, if you have the guts to read it.

Triple.  Dog.  Dare.

 

 

WWRW: Good Grief

 

 

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It’s What We’re Reading Wednesday, a book talk linkup hosted by Jessica over at Housewifespice.com!

Just off the bookshelf, we have Grieving:  Inviting God Into My Pain by J. Catherine Sherman, PhD.

 

This book gave me completely new insights into the experience of grieving, so much so that calling grieving an “experience” no longer feels precise enough.  Grieving:  Inviting God Into My Pain gave me the permission to see the withdrawal that is so common to grieving not as a bad thing but as a regrouping, a preparation for facing a future that now must be restructured.  In fact, I once saw grieving as an agonizing task of mourning the past, but this book invites the reader to consider grief as the embracing of a whole new future.  The spirituality of the book was approached with a hand that was at once very, very gentle and a bit on the mystical side.  If you’re looking for handy horizontally-minded checklists or coldly related case studies, you won’t find them in this book; instead you’ll find quotes from saints and poetic verses that invite your heart, mind and soul to think less on things of this earth and more on what lies beyond.  I will definitely be revisiting Grieving:  Inviting God Into My Pain.

WWRW: End of the Road and The House

WWRWbuttonHey, Tomato Pie fans!  I’m finally getting my ample fanny in gear and linking up with What We’re Reading Wednesday, hosted by the lovely and talented Jessica at Housewifespice.

I just finished reading End of the Road by Amy M. Bennett.  What a rip-roaring good time that was!  What’s it about?

Corrie Black, owner of the Black Horse Campground, hopes for a successful start to her summer season but the discovery of Marvin Landry, a long-time guest, shot dead in his own RV, along with $50,000 in cash missing, does not herald a good beginning… especially since the victim’s handicapped wife and angry stepson seem to have little interest in discovering who murdered him. Was Marvin’s murder planned or just convenient? And is the appearance of a mysterious biker with a shadowy past that includes a recently deceased wife merely a coincidence? Despite opposition from former flame, Sheriff Rick Sutton, Corrie is determined to find out who murdered her guest. But will she find out who is friend or foe before the murderer decides it’s the end of the road for Corrie?

Want to know what I thought?

It has been a LONG time since I read a book that made me literally laugh out loud! In Amy Bennett’s End of the Road, we have a cast of characters that that manages to be hilariously familiar yet fully dimensional. The plot of this cozy mystery kept me guessing up until the very end, kept me cheering for the heroine and the charming heroes who flanked her, and had me tearing through the fast-paced pages to find out what would happen next. All characters had clear motivations and believable flaws, and I got a clear sense of setting with just a few masterfully placed words, even though I’ve not been to New Mexico since I was a wee kid. With Amy Bennett’s End of the Road, reading is FUN again–lots of it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

All of you who’ve written me and told me that my book left you wanting tomato pie and other assorted Italian food?  End of the Road had me baking blueberry muffins on a Sunday and wanting to try piñon coffee (revenge, it seems, is sweet when it’s literary and food-related).  Guns ‘n’ Hoses.  The WESTLAKES?!?!?!  Hair the color of Kool-Aid.  I’m not exaggerating:  it was LOL funny and EOYS (edge of your seat–that’s a thing, right?) suspenseful.

You want to buy yourself a copy now, don’t you?  I also see that the second book in the series, No Lifeguard on Duty, just came out.  I just may edge some things around on my dance card to read that one next.  EOTR was just that good.

 Another one we’re reading:

 

 

The House by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Roberto Innocenti is a Charlotte Mason dream come true.  In this lovely book we watch the rise and fall of the 20th century through the eyes of a house in the Italian countryside.   Lewis’s quatrains both tantalize and humanize the memories of our book learning, but they also give children even as young as my four year old a jumping-off point to ask questions about the century they have yet to meet through study.  The illustrations are rich with nature study, history, anthropology, family life, and much, much more.  Here’s another book I wish Amazon would let me give six stars.  Highly recommended for all ages.