Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I've been remiss in posting book reviews because this summer has been a gobble-fest. So now I share the ones I really enjoyed. 

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison exposed the clothing industry and its evils. Addison has done extensive research to show through story what it's like to work in the factories that are outsourced in poor countries, how the laborers are exploited and often abused, and the greed that makes this happen. The characters are richly drawn and each storyline is equally engrossing. How it made me want to do my own sewing because I wouldn't want to be a party to the exploitation of people in the poor countries. But I am torn--no pun intended. Having lived in India and seen what the options are, I would rather see them sewing under harsh conditions than become sexual slaves or worse. How I wish that corporations wouldn't just look at the bottom line. I don't know what the solution is. I tend to buy clothes at thrift stores because I don't like the fashions or the prices. All I can say is that thank God for divine justice. Thanks to BookLook for a review copy. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I've been reading a LOT of books on FORMED on my Kindle (the best $10/mo we spend!!!). I love snuggling up with Michael to read but he goes to bed early, so the kindle is great because I don't even have to use the bedside lamp. Michael can sleep and I can read and snuggle. And it's funny how books come onto your radar. I've been reading a lot of conversion stories even before I knew I wanted to write mine. Isn't God so very good to us?

Something Other than God by Jennifer Fulwiler. I've known a bit of Jen's story through her blog and CD but it was great to read her book for all the details. She has a very logical mind and was taught to always pursue truth. And so she did in her very logical manner when she began asking the important questions about life, death, purpose. The answers led her to Jesus. I found her thought process similar to mine in that once you find the truth, there is no compromising. You have to live what you believe, otherwise there's a cognitive dissonance.

Not God's Type by Holly Ordway is another story of reason leading one to Christ. Holly was an academic atheist and a fencing enthusiast. She laid down her sword for Christ. I loved the little detail of where her sword rests now. And no, I'm not spoiling it. Read the book. It's yet another example of there being no coincidences, just God-cidences.

Subverted by Sue Ellen Browder was an interesting book by someone who not only bought the myths and lies about the sexual revolution but also promoted them. The women's movement didn't get taken over by the sexual revolution by accident; it was orchestrated. One can see the terrible effects of it--divorce, abortion, neglected children--and now the very breakdown between the sexes. Evil. Yet, when Sue Ellen began questioning her own values, she was, by the grace of God, able to extricate herself from the pit and begin to live a grace-filled life.

Night's Bright Darkness by Sally Read is a beautifully written book. Without knowing a thing about her, I thought, she's a poet. She is, and so much more. A feminist and an atheist, she was doing research for an article on women's sexuality and she happened to interview a priest. The rest is history. I don't think she ever finished that piece on sex. I especially loved the tender friendship between her and a Catholic neighbor who seemed to have a new baby every year. How this echoes my own gratitude for the numerous Catholic friends near and far who patiently answered the thousand questions I had, who still walk and talk and laugh and cry with me. 

Abba vs. Allah by Scott Hahn. This was an audio lecture and the book that has much of this material is A Father Who Keeps His Promises: Covenant Love in Scripture. Scott Hahn is an incredible teacher. I could sit and listen to him for hours as he breaks open Scripture. For some reason I didn't take notes so I cannot share all the beautiful details but this is definitely a lecture to listen to again. Jews, Christians, and Muslims share a belief in the God of Abraham. But how we perceive God makes all the difference in the world. We Christians call Him "Daddy" because we have an understanding of Him as a loving Father, one who forgives us, one who will do anything to bring us back home, to the point of sacrificing His only Son. We'd taken a class on Genesis and still I'm discovering the wealth in it. I never picked up on God saying "only son" in reference to Isaac even though Abraham had two biological children, the other one being from the slave-woman, Hagar. And God creates a covenant with Abraham and God never, ever breaks His promises. We can believe! 

95 Questions for Protestants by Roger and Karen Saelstrom is a timely book for the 500th anniversary of the schism in the Church brought about by Martin Luther. The questions Luther posed have been answered. The Church reformed, but it's been catastrophic for those who separated from the Barque of Peter. Where is Christian unity? The Saelstroms answer the questions many Protestants have because they do not understand what Catholicism is, so far have many Christians moved away from the doctrines of Holy Mother Church. It's a great step towards bridging the schism because of how well researched it is. Cardinal Newman observed, "To be steeped in history is indeed to cease being Protestant." My only complaint with this book is that just like Luther was repetitive in his 95 questions, so are the Saelstroms, but it's a minor quibble, given how useful this book is.

St. Thomas Aquinas by Raissa Maritain is a beautifully written biography of the Angelic Doctor for children. It's really an introduction to philosophy as well. 

Twenty Tales of Irish Saints by Alice Curtayne was such a delight to read. I've only really known the story of St. Patrick so what joy to discover these exciting stories of other saints. A great winner for boys and girls who are reading independently.

As you know I have a great pile of books from the Catholic Writing Conference and sometimes it's hard to decide what to pick up first. My new friend Amar was bold enough to say, "read mine first" and so I did. The Joy of the Lord is a great story of one family's spiritual warfare as they grow in holiness. The main character, 12-yr-old Regina, gets visions of the Joyful Mysteries throughout the book, accompanied by the Angel Gabriel. My biggest criticism is that the pacing is slow due to over-writing and over-explaining things. But all in all, a great story. I look forward to reading more from Amar.

When I was at my parents' place in Chicago, I raided their home library as if I didn't have enough new books to read. I discovered a gem of a book: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. What a treasure! What wisdom! Do me a favor and get a copy for yourself and your critique partners. It's a book you will turn to again and again when you need to think about love and marriage and writing and children and creativity and silence. It's a perfect book for when you make a little writing retreat for yourself, whether at home or away.

I also read Kitchen Privileges by Mary Higgins Clark, a memoir of her growing up and becoming a writer and supporting her family when she becomes a young widow. She lived during the Depression and over and over I see how the beautiful Catholic faith has sustained generations of people throughout their lives.

The book I just finished is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I've heard of this classic numerous times but never read it myself until now. What a treasure! A book that you can read again and again. And I must again say what a surprise it is to see a deeply Catholic book without being heavy handed or preachy! This is the type of fiction I long to write and read. Since it's a classic, and I'm probably the last writer on earth to read this book, I'll share some of the lines that resonated within me.

“It doesn’t take long to write things of which you know nothing. When you write of actual things, it takes longer, because you have to live them first.”

“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first time or last time: Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
“If you ever find a man you love, don’t waste time hanging your head and simpering. Go right up to him and say, ‘I love you. How about getting married?’”

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing … something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”
“Dear God, let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well-dressed. Let me be sincere— be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”
As you can see, I'm rich beyond compare. Please do share in the comments the good books you are reading.



Mirka Breen said...

You have read about thrice as much as I this summer, and much more virtuous writing.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, it's only because I'm a glutton when it comes to books.