The Well: Review of a Retelling of a Familiar Story

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As I said a couple months ago, Walk in Her Sandals made me a fan of Stephanie Landsem. So I went out later that week to get a couple of her books from the library. Due to life and everything else, I am just now publishing the review from that reading. (Blame NetGalley and Blogging for Books for having such an awesome selection this fall.)

Two things I usually don’t like reading, novels by other women (I know, that sounds horrible 😔) and historical novels, are both here. Normally, I wouldn’t have given this book a second look, but after reading Walk in Her Sandals, I knew I could trust the author, so I specifically looked for this book. I’m glad I found it and I intend to buy a copy.

The Well follows the story of the daughter of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26). Not a terribly far stretch that a woman with 5 husbands has two kids. The first half of the book introduces the situation and connects you to the characters. Then, we reach the visit from a mysterious stranger and everything changes.

Just like in Walk in Her Sandals, I’m impressed by how much homework the author clearly did. And not only did she do her homework with the story she told, but with the way she told it. The two main characters, Mara and Shem, illustrate very well the feminine and masculine genius, the sexual complementarity that our Church teaches. From a Theology of the Body perspective, this book is very illustrative of what John Paul II was talking about.

The story has something to say for everyone. It has sacrifice, hard work, love, healing, hope and a wide variety of characters. Wherever you are in life, this book has a message for you and I’m sure that message is from the Holy Spirit.

One reviewer on Amazon complained that it has a sad ending. I wouldn’t call it a sad ending. I don’t think Mara, the daughter, would consider it sad at all. I think she would say it was all for the glory of God. I don’t want to give too much away, but it does touch on another popular story from Scripture.

The Well is available at your favorite book seller now. It was the first in the Living Water Series and I look forward to reading the whole series.

 

 

 

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The (not-so) Private Prayers of John Paul II- A Review

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Apparently somebody who is very Catholic regularly donates to my local Goodwill. There is always a selection of Catholic Bibles and a Catechism. A year or so ago, I discovered a copy of Kimberly Hahn’s Life-Giving Love. Last week, I was there in search for clothes for an upcoming cosplay convention and discovered a whole slew of St. John Paul II books. It was hard not bringing them all home. I settled on The Private Prayers of John Paul II.

This collection of prayers written by John Paul II was exactly what I needed right now. If you are to read it straight through like I did, it’s a very quick read at only 250 pages, most of it either short essays or poetry. I would recommend, however, getting a copy for reference and certainly to take with you into Adoration. In fact, I think every Adoration Chapel needs a copy.

Between the reading and my hot chocolate with just a splash of Bailey’s, I was lulled into a peaceful place every night I read this book. I could almost hear John Paul II through these pages (I am a JPII Catholic). The prayers cover a wide variety of topics. They were mostly written in the 80’s and 90’s, but what he says is often very applicable to the United States in 2017. The translator really conveyed the fact that John Paul II was a tremendous writer. Very little of the real poetry of his prayers was lost in translation.

Apparently, this is volume two of four in a series of books of (not-so) private prayers. I say “not-so” because many, if not most of these prayers are from public addresses and letters. It is lovely to have them all in one book, though. I will have to look the other three books in the series up sometime. They are all found fairly easily used on your favorite book-selling website. Or you can luck out at your local Goodwill like I did.

 

Image and Likeness: Reflections on Theology of the Body

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When I saw the call out for submissions for this anthology I got so excited! I wished I could contribute, but none of my short stories seemed appropriate. So I decided I needed to read it as soon as it came out. And I was really, really excited when Ellen Gable agreed to give me a free copy to review!

It was not disappointing in the least. This anthology covers many aspects of St. John Paul II’s significant work, and often from different perspectives. It is a mix of poetry and short stories. Most of the short stories are straight fiction, but one is sci-fi and another is hard-boiled detective mystery. Some of the perspectives are very unique, highlighting various parts of the human condition:the humanity of a priest, the terror of a girl facing an unplanned pregnancy, a person in mourning, people facing inconvenient truths…

This book includes a number of very talented Catholic authors, a few I had heard of, others I will be looking up after reading this.

This book definitely illustrates the idea found in quotes such as this:

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Fiction is the way through which we can capture imaginations. You can better illuminate complicated ideas through stories. All of these stories will capture your imagination and give your brain more to chew on days after putting the book down. These stories and poems are examples of literature that needs to become more mainstream. Only then can we hope to really develop a culture of life.

If I was to make any complaints, I would only have two: 1) I think that the darker stories could have been broken up more with the lighter stories. Some nights when I was reading this, it felt like I got two or three really dark stories in a row. 2) This book concentrated on the more traditional aspects of Theology of the Body, namely anything involving sex, marriage, and beginning and end of life issues. Some work has been done by theologians, Susan Windley-Daoust comes to mind, to extend his theology to other aspects of being human. Maybe this could be an idea for a sequel? Maybe I can find something to contribute next time?

I did get this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I’m looking forward to reviewing more Full Quiver Publishing books. I already have a few on my Kindle.

Rad Women Worldwide is pretty radical!

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I read this book in one morning while waiting for my van at the repair shop. It was a good use of my time.

Rad Women Worldwide is a book of short, exciting, interesting profiles of women from all over the world who made history in a large variety of fields (sports, politics, education, the arts, the environment, exploration…). It made a point of not being European or American-centric, although it didn’t completely ignore contributions from those parts of the world either. It was written in a textbook style. The simple language seems to indicate that the intended audience for this book is around middle school. In fact, it has been approved to be used in schools as part of the Common Core curriculum around the 6-8 grades.

The profiles were, at most, 4 pages long each. The authors say that a lot of research went into all of the profiles. From what I know, all of the profiles were accurate, even if I don’t completely agree with what they chose to emphasize in all cases (most notably Emma Goldman). In situations in which the woman profiled is still living, the woman herself was asked to approve it. The creators of this book did a great job of highlighting a good mix of stories, many of which are rarely told.

This book illustrates the famous Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I dare any woman to read this book and not be encouraged in their own journey.

I really hope that my more conservative followers don’t throw the baby out with the bath water in regards to this book. Yes, it does feature one LGBT activist and highlights Emma Goldman’s work for birth control, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better book celebrating historical contributions by women around the globe. There were tons of women in this book I had never heard of from Africa, Central America, and Asia because my history classes growing up were so American and European-centric. They are fascinating stories of different cultures that I had never heard before. Instead of shying away from the book because of those two particular articles (two of 40 total), I would challenge you to use it as a spring board into discussion of what the Church teaches and why.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Blogging for Books. Thank you! It is available at your favorite bookseller now.

Review of Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage

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I have confessed here before, I have struggled and still somewhat struggle with Church teaching regarding homosexuality. This places me somewhat outside of the intended audience for this book, but I think that’s a good thing. As a faithful Catholic with questions, I have read a lot on this issue and could probably defend it better than many people who simply accept it without questions.

This is the best reasoned, most complete secular case against same-sex marriage I have ever read. Although I learned about it through a Catholic writer I respect, the book itself doesn’t go into religion until the end when he discusses what the movement for traditional marriage needs to look like in order to succeed. He argues that churches and organized religion need to play a pivotal role in the fight for traditional marriage.

On several occasions in the book, Anderson correctly points out that the redefining of marriage didn’t start with Obergefell v. Hodges but with the sexual revolution, free-love, and no-fault divorce. Same-sex marriage is just the latest effect in an overall break down of the understanding of marriage. Recent history has turned marriage into something consenting adults do out of desire, because it feels good.

As he says over and over again in the book, children are made victims of adult desires and “an adult culture war.” One of his strongest arguments in this book is the damage this entire debate is having on children: The children of the private school that has to shut down because it refuses to teach that homosexual behavior is okay. The children that are raised by a same-sex couple, by default being robbed of either their mother or their father. The children of Christian business people driven to ruin by lawsuits. I am very disappointed that in all of these secular arguments, he doesn’t once mention that the UN itself stated that children have the right to be raised by their own parents.

I do appreciate him tackling the constant comparison made between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. How any thinking person could see that comparison as anything other than patently absurd is beyond me? Race and sexual orientation are like apples and oranges. Come on, gay marriage advocates, you have better arguments than that!

Ryan Anderson is ready to destroy whatever arguments you have.

Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom is available at your favorite bookseller now. It seems to be explicitly for those who already believe that marriage is only between and man and a woman. It tries to give people in that population the tools to defend their beliefs in the public square and a blueprint for what a successful movement needs to look like. As I said in the beginning though, I would like to broaden that to people on the fence and people on the other side. Whatever your beliefs on the issue, you will learn something from this book.

Women Against Abortion: The Most Biased Book I’ve Ever Read

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I picked this book up as a pro-life feminist curious what this book would say about other women in the cause. Would it mention Feminists for Life of America? Would it mention more recent groups such as New Wave Feminists? How would it depict the pro-life movement as a whole? I was greatly disappointed on all fronts. It was a struggle to finish the book, but I figured I needed to in order to give it a fair hearing.

This book profiles several pro-life women who were most active in the 70’s and 80’s. It does seem to try to give a fair depiction of the women’s motives. The author does seem to have a slight admiration (maybe?) for pro-life liberal activists such as Juli Loesch. But that’s about the only nice things I can say about her tone. Frankly, I think it’s a joke that so many Amazon reviewers called this book unbiased. I’m not sure if we all read the same book. I’m not surprised to find connections between this author and Planned Parenthood.

The book concentrates on two parts of the pro-life movement in which she says women were most influential: the growth of crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion vandalism and terrorism. She has nothing positive to say about crisis pregnancy centers. She depicts crisis pregnancy centers as manipulative liars. She depicts those who worked to interfere with abortion clinics’ operations as vandals, trespassers, and criminals. A large part of this book is a profile of Shelley Shannon, the woman who attempted to kill late-term abortionist George Tiller in 1993.

Feminists for Life of America is only mentioned in a couple of sentences. Almost all she says about them is that the aforementioned Juli Loesch was a founding member. Feminists for Life, a pro-woman, pro-life organization that pre-dates Roe v. Wade really deserved to have a more prominent place in a historical work discussing the role of women in the pro-life movement.

The only other compliment I can give to this book is that I did learn some things I didn’t know about the women who were involved in the movement before me. The depiction of events is accurate, even if her biased interpretation leaves much to be desired. If you can get past the tone and language, the substance of the book is pretty factual. She clearly did her research, but she failed to leave her strong pro-choice opinions at the door. I would love to see a book like this that is truly unbiased. I would love to see a book that talks about helping women in addition to some of the darker stuff.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Netgalley. Thank you University of Illinois Press! I wish I had more positive things to say.

Benedict XVI on Peace

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Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy, and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)”

– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, New Year’s Message 2013