Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

A Call to Mercy by Mother Teresa; Edited by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC

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I received a copy of Mother Teresa’s writings, A Call to Mercy, from Blogging for Books. This book was published to coincide with our recent Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, and also with Mother Teresa’s canonization.

The book is organized to highlight the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. It is full of quotes from her writings. Questions for reflection and prayer are added for the reader.

It is the kind of book that you can pick up at any time and read a portion of. I found it inspiring and moving.

Now I know that there are some folks out there who have an issue with Mother Teresa and her work. I, personally, find her both humbling and inspirational.

You can find A Call to Mercy online at Amazon or at an indie bookstore near you.

Thank you for my review copy!

(above image via Amazon)
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Illuminated by the Message -LOUISA MAY ALCOTT – A Literary Portal to Prayer

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My friend Susan Bailey – whom I know through Orchard House – was kind enough to gift me with a copy of her new book: LOUISA MAY ALCOTT Illuminated by the Message, part of the Literary Portals to Prayer series. This selection is one in a series of books from Catholic publishing house ACTA that takes beloved writings by authors such as Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen and paisr them with similarly themed passages from the Bible.

Using a variety of Louisa’s writings, Ms. Bailey has made connections between some of the most touching passages of Louisa’s children’s books and her journals, linking them to Bible passages of both the Old and the New Testaments. One of my favorite passages links an excerpt about Beth in Little Women as she cares for her broken but beloved dolls to a psalm that cites God as a safe-house for the battered.

This would be a nice volume to keep nearby for daily reflection. It makes me realize how deeply one can interpret Louisa’s work, too.

Thank you, Susan, for my beautiful gift copy!

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Review of RIVER OF GRACE by Susan Bailey

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I’m happy today to be blogging about my friend Susan Bailey’s book: RIVER OF GRACE, which was sent to me via Net Galley. I know Susan from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, and we have a lot in common.

Here’s the description of it via Net Galley:

Catholic recording artist and popular blogger Susan Bailey reveals, in this personal and moving narrative, how several major losses helped her rediscover creativity and faith. Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace—in the Mass and sacraments, in nature, and even in grief—River of Grace guides readers to strengthen their faith during tough times and discover their own hidden gifts.

In just a few years’ time, Bailey experienced one challenge after another: the deaths of her father and mother, financial issues, and the loss of her singing voice. Using the rich imagery of a river of grace, Bailey relates how her devotion to the Eucharist inspired her to see Christ’s presence in her life and helped her to trust again.

Each chapter relates Bailey’s experiences of loss and growth and features original activities and personal rituals that include everything from Joni Mitchell music videos and hot baths to imagery and uncooked spaghetti. These inspirational tools guide readers to reflect on their own experiences. Prayers and poetry are found throughout the book and a set of insightful reflection questions are placed at the end of each chapter.

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I really enjoyed this short and very readable book and immediately purchased a copy of it for a friend who had recently had a loss in her life. The image of a river, along with Susan’s inspirational writings about faith and dealing with loss, make this book a unique and meaningful read. I like how she has included short, optional activities at the end of each chapter. Being Catholic, I can identify and relate to Susan’s devotion to the Eucharist and the healing power that God’s grace can bring to us through it in our time of need.

Thank you for my review copy!

About Susan — from her publisher:

Susan Bailey is a blogger, musician, and speaker who frequently contributes to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. Her work has also appeared on Catholic.net, and Catholic Online. Bailey blogs at Be As One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. She also writes a monthly column for The Catholic Free Press called Be As One. Bailey, who works as a marketing/advertising assistant, was a member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, where she served as chair and secretary and helped organize the biennial Gather Us In conference. Formerly a professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released three CDs and worked as a cantor for fifteen years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (US History and music) from Bridgewater State University. She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and live in North Grafton, Massachusetts.

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Review: Walking with Mary by Edward Sri

Through Blogging for Books I received WALKING WITH MARY: A BIBLICAL JOURNEY FROM NAZARETH TO THE CROSS, a short (less than 200 pages) but interesting overview of the Virgin Mary’s life, based on historical fact and biblical analysis. Edward Sri has created a very readable and accessible work here, where he explains Mary’s background and life (for that time/area) and couples it with biblical quotes and passages, analyzing them and explaining them so that the reader comes to a better understanding of Mary as both a person and a saint, and thus a deeper understanding of the Catholic Church’s teachings on Mary.

Very readable and highly recommended!

Thank you, Blogging for Books, for my copy!

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: SECRET STORMS by Kathy Hatfield and Julie Mannix von Zerneck

I was recently contacted by Rachel, the publicist for SECRET STORMS, to see if I’d like to read and review this novel. It sounded interesting — a mother and daughter reunited 43 years after the young mother had given her baby up for adoption. It was a true story, too, and I said yes.

Once I started SECRET STORMS I could not put it down! I read 300 pages the first afternoon and finished it the next day. SECRET STORMS (which is subtitled: A Mother and Daughter: Lost then Found) starts in 1963 with teenage, Philadelphia debutante Julie Mannix being admitted into a psychiatric hospital. She is nineteen and pregnant. Her parents feel that hospitalizing her for the extent of her pregnancy is for her own safety and well-being, and they really want her to have an abortion, but she refuses. So Julie experiences her pregnancy while living with some interesting characters who are suffering from various psychiatric illnesses, oddly reminiscent of Girl, Interrupted. Upon having her baby girl, the baby is taken away for adoption and Julie goes home and tries to return to a “normal” life (though her family life is far from normal). Julie continues with acting and has a growing career as a stage and screen actress. She marries the father of her child and they start a life together. However, she never is able to forget her first baby, or truly forgive herself.

Meanwhile, baby “Aimee” grows up as “Kathy”, in a loving family with two brothers. Sadly, her adoptive mother dies from cancer when the three children are all less than ten years old. This is a devastating loss for the family and one from which they never truly recover. Her father tries to keep it together, with first his parents living with them and then by remarrying the beautiful but unpredictable and abusive Gloria. I felt for this family so much. This poor man lost his wife, then had a disastrous marriage, then lost his job and his house and a lot of his income. The kids were amazingly resilient, but it was a sad story.

Eventually, though, Julie and Kathy’s paths cross, and they finally build a life together as mother and daughter.

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I felt so much for little Kathy growing up and all the hardships she faced. I was also fascinated with the unique childhood that Julie had with her somewhat eccentric parents and their lifestyle. It seemed incredible to me that, with a little luck, Kathy was able to find her mother in about 15 minutes using the Internet. If this wasn’t a true story I would have said that was unbelievable!

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy this type of family drama and memoir.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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REVIEW: The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

I received this novel through Net Galley and was excited to read it. Taking place in the 1950’s and 60’s in Ireland, it tells the story of a young, Catholic woman, Marian, who finds herself in love with a Jewish colleague at the school where they teach. When she discovers she is pregnant, she goes away to a “home” to have the baby and then puts the baby up for adoption, thinking he will have a better life in America. Ten years later, and now married to her then boyfriend and with a young daughter, she discovers that their son has lived in a nearby orphanage all his years. Marian and her husband try to get custody of their son, Adrian, and work to fit him into their family, even as they continue to struggle as an inter-faith couple. But first they must convince the establishment that they are capable and worthy of raising their son.

While I really enjoyed this book, and particularly couldn’t put it down in the last few chapters, I was a bit disheartened at the portrayal of the religious people in this book as fanatical, sadistic, and depraved (full disclosure: I’m Catholic). I guess I’m just tired of reading books and seeing movies where 99% of the nuns/priest/brothers are portrayed as evil. That said, I know that deplorable conditions existed in some places (anyone see the movie “The Magdalenes”??).

Beyond that, I found the main character portrayals and the depth of emotions in the main characters the strengths in this novel. How would it feel to find your son after all those years? How do you unite a family that has never been a family yet? How much does our religion guide our lives and relationships?

A thought-provoking book! I’ll look forward to more from Ms. Henry.

Thanks for my copy, Net Galley and T.S. Poetry Press!!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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