Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Confessions of a Prayer Slacker

By Diane Hale Moody, I found this non-fiction work to be extremely helpful. Perhaps because it went hand-in-glove with other things going on in my life as I read it. Moody takes us through the dynamics of prayer, common reasons (excuses) why we don't pray, how to address those.... it's a reminder of the incredible importance of daily, heart-felt communication with the Creator of the universe who wants relationship with us! It's a guide of how to prepare for that communication and why to prepare at all. Moody is chatty with some lame jokes which didn't detract from her material, maybe because I needed to read the material. Recommended.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Wednesday Wars

This is a Newberry Honor book by Gary D. Schmidt. And it is fantastic! Holling Hoodhood is in seventh grade; his teacher is Mrs. Baker. She hates him. She makes him read Shakespeare. Only him. You see, every Wednesday afternoon, half of Holling's class goes to Hebrew school at Temple Beth-El. The other half leaves for Catechism at St. Adelbert's. Holling, however, is Presbyterian. That leaves him alone in the 1967 Long Island classroom with Mrs. Baker.

Mrs. Baker becomes a mentor to Holling rather than just a teacher. Holling's growth in many areas is delightful to see. We also get a glimpse of the current events of that era (the Vietnam Conflict,  the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Cold War) and how those events affected suburban families. I have talked this book up to my kids, but made them wait until I finished. A great book.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman, this novel is fabulous! It is set in Sweden, but is universal. Ove is a curmudgeon. And dealing with many changes in his life. And grappling with a decision. Well, actually, he's made the decision, but life circumstances continue to intervene to keep him from being able to follow through on his decision. It all started when his mailbox is crushed by the new neighbors. They're an ethnically mixed couple with two daughters and a child on the way. They talk too much; they don't know how to do things properly and they won't leave Ove alone. Then there is the cat. And his other neighbors, as well as the young men at the café....

I laughed with this book. I cried with this book. I thought of people I know who are similar to Ove (hello, Dad).  It is funny and harrowing and oh, so poignant! Highly, highly recommended!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Faith of the Early Fathers

Compiled by William A. Jurgens, I just finished volume 1 of the 3 volume set. "It is a source - book of theological and historical passages from the Christian writings of the pre-Nicene and Nicene eras." Jurgens also did the translation of the writings. It begins with the Didache, then St. Clement of Rome, an Apostolic Father writing about A.D. 80 while he reigned as Peter's 3rd successor as Pope. Volume 1 ends with Pope St. Damasus I, who reigned from A.D.366-384.

I've been reading this as part of my morning devotions. Many of the writings were to fight heresies. There is nothing new under the sun. The same beliefs still exist, it seems. Many people today are so busy making Christ "relatable" they forget His divinity. A few go the other way; so busy with an unreachable pedestal for Christ they forget the Incarnation. Denying either side of Christ is a heresy and anathema. There are so many more heresies that had to be battled. Has the Church weakened? For now no anathemas are pronounced. It would be intolerant. We apparently need to live and let live. Of course, it's a different world. Evangelization is different. Then, the only Christians were Catholic.... No. The Church hasn't weakened. Just gentle as a dove and sly as a fox.

I have been reading this for some time, since I only read and pondered one reading a day. Some were very exciting and I would wish Jurgens had included more in the book ( these are mostly just excerpts of larger works). Occasionally he included pieces so long I would have to break them down. All in all, a satisfactory addition to my devotions.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

A play, by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Throne, this book picks up the Harry Potter saga nineteen years later with the Potters' second son, Albus Severus Potter, beginning at Hogwarts. Albus has a checkered record there, making dubious friendships and getting sorted into Slytherin and not following in his father's footsteps at all. He doesn't even like quidditch! Finally, at age 14, the tension between Albus and Harry comes to a boil, causing Albus to embark with his best friend on a time-turning escapade to right Harry's greatest wrong, with disastrous repercussions.

The play, of course, is not a vehicle for Rowling's rich descriptive prose. The dialogue is short and terse. I'm not sure how the actual play was staged; the changes of scenery are many and vastly diverse. Each scene is relatively short, too. Tried my patience a bit, but the story is still strong enough to carry you along in spite of the mild irritations. The spells are left bold here, though. I think without additional words to cushion them... if all the books were in play form I don't think I would have yet allowed my children to read them. What is read stays in the head.... I don't know.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Sense of an Ending

This is a stream of consciousness novel by Julian Barnes. Tony Webster, middle aged, divorced, retired, is forced to review his life, his friendships, and his relationships when he receives a bewildering legacy from the mother of a former girlfriend.

I didn't particularly like the book. He reviews his life but makes no changes to it. No growth occurs. The twist in the story is the only insight he reaches. In my opinion, the book doesn't merit the hype on its cover. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 apparently. I am left wondering, "how"?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Red Hat Club Rides Again

This novel by Haywood Smith is just a fun, quick read, especially for ladies "of a certain age". This is a follow-up novel to The Red Hat Club, but you do not have to read the first one to fully understand and enjoy this one. It's told from the perspective of Georgia Baker, one of a group of women who have been friends since they were all involved in a sorority-type club in highschool called the Mademoiselles. There were six of them, however Pru Bonner lost her way through drugs and alcohol. In her recovery she lives out of state. The other five are now red-hatters, over fifty and ready for adventure. They get plenty when Pru falls off the wagon and is endangered in Las Vegas, so the ladies rush to her rescue. Teeny is a gazillionaire, so ready cash makes the difference in staging a kidnapping. Of course there's more "mundane" adventures, too. A mid-life pregnancy test, a health scare, the perils of internet dating, and a surprise celebration. Through it all the friendship remains strong with the help of their twelve rules.

The Red Hat Society, an international organization with chapters worldwide, does not endorse either of Haywood Smith's books about a group of women in one Red Hat Club.