I received a review copy of Bead by Bead: the Scriptural Rosary by Meggie K. Daly. Part memoir, part history, part prayer book, it is a perfect little companion for when it is difficult to pray and stay focused. It can be hard to meditate upon the Mystery and say the Hail Mary so I purchased a rosary book with pictures. Meggie takes it one step further and provides Scripture for each bead. With multiple readings, you will have these verses memorized so you can take them on a rosary-walk and allow yourself to enter into that contemplative stage.
I hope Meggie will write a similar book for the Divine Mercy chaplet. We sure do need it. Las Vegas. Need I say more? Parce Domine.
Pierced by a Sword by Bud Macfarlane was the first book I received at the Catholic Writing Conference. And if you write to St. Jude Media/Catholicity, you can receive your own copy for free. The story is set in modern times with breakdown of family and society. We meet people very much like ourselves who may be practicing Catholics or lukewarm ones or with no belief in God at all and how they play a role in God's plan of salvation. I've always wanted to write a story about prayer standing outside of time and space and Bud has shown this in his book, how the prayers of a poor woman are pouring out God's graces on another soul who needs them desperately. The book is both entertaining and spiritually enriching. My only critique is that the modern use of jump-cuts makes it difficult to enter into the psyche of the characters. But all in all, entertaining. I'm ordering the two other books in this apocalyptic series.
Playing by Heart by Carmela Martino is a lyrical historical based upon two real sisters in 18th century Milan who are given a private education to develop their natural talents. The older sister, Maria, is a mathematician and linguist, who longs to join a convent, whereas the second sister, Emilia, is a musician and composer. She's the narrator of this story, which by turns, is a story of striving for excellence, of persevering in love, and the willingness to sacrifice it all. It is, above all, a story of following your dreams that God has placed upon your heart. I enjoyed this book very much, especially as we've also been watching the lives of the great composers--Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven--and realizing how dependent musicians were upon the nobility who hired them. Carmela has compiled information about the two real sisters, Maria Gaetana and Maria Teresa Agnesi here where you can even listen to one of her compositions.
What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy is a wonderful follow up to her first book, Learning to Swear in America, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Some day I will steal that title :) I can just tell she had a blast writing this book about smart teenagers saving the world (again!). Fast-paced, fun, philosophical, and full of heart--this is a story you don't want to miss. Loved Schrodinger's Scorpion!
I'm thinking Newbery for Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. It is a gorgeously written story about an orphan, Crow, who longs to know where she comes from (Does she come from Penikese, the leper colony?), who her people are (Is she the child of lepers? She might as well be the way some people treat her), and discovering who her family is. Towards the end of the book, Osh, the man who cares for her says, "You're the one worth finding." Yes!