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Saturday, October 07, 2017

Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) by Brandon Vogt

By User:MatthiasKabel (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When Brandon Vogt decided to turn Catholic, some of his friends and family were astonished. He was greeted with 'crickets and confusion'.  Vogt thinks that this is because it is 'countercultural' and provocative because it is travelling in the opposite direction to our Western culture. He argues that these days when practically anything is allowed, it is really the only way to rebel.  It's not rebellious anymore to get drunk, have sex, pursue money or turn atheist. As Vogt writes: 'What's truly radical is to consider a Church that billions of people have embraced throughout history but millions of people ttoday dismiss as bigoted and outdated'. He quotes G.K. Chesterton saying that the Catholic Church 'is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age'.

Vogt points out, and people who are anti-Catholic should remember this, that 'no other group feeds more people, heals more people, teaches more people, or houses more people around the world'. Catholics have a duty to help others, and their considerable charity work shows that many of them are fulfilling their duty.  This is the part that I liked best about the book.

In this excellent introduction to Catholicism, Vogt studies the truth about Jesus and Catholicism in an academic but lively way so that this book is not at all dry.  He goes through the reasons for God's existence and Jesus's life point-by-point, and examines the writings of Jesus's followers who believed in his miracles and that he was raised from the dead.  Vogt makes a very considered study of the skeptic's arguments here which is extremely impressive.

He also doesn't shy away from the scandals of the Church and the difficult teachings on, for example,  abortion and homosexuality and women priests. Vogt considers whether the Church is anti-women and discusses why it only has male priests. However, this is not a long book so he doesn't go into the ins and outs of every ruling.

I liked the sections on the doctrines of the Church and the differences between Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox churches. However, I was surprised that Vogt didn't try the  Anglican Church and that he didn't mention it at all when he was explaining what distinguished the Roman Catholic church. Also, I don't think that he went into rules about Communion which affect an enormous number of people, and the arguments about watering them down.

This probably needs a few readings but it's recommended if you are interested in the Catholic church.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Making of Jane Austen

Did you know that Jane Austen was a 'transnational' figure used in support of women's suffrage,' or that early twentieth century playwrights 'tweaked' her characters and plots to make them more 'feminist'? This interesting and well-researched book has these details and more.  The author looks at the history of illustrations of her novels, plays based on the novels and how they have been used in the education system.  Sometimes, Jane Austen has been seen as a traditional and pious, while at other times she has been seen as an author who wanted social change, especially for women. Her humour has often been seen as mild and gentle, but some have enphasized her biting wit and irony.

This is a good look by Devoney Looser at the different versions of Jane, but I did skim over some parts of it, and I found it a bit dry at times, although I enjoyed reading about the many fascinating people who have been involved in 'making Jane Austen,' such as the Australian Helen Jerome who deserves a biography of her own! It's recommended for academics and readers who want to learn more about how Jane Austen was seen in the past. I will look for more of Devoney Looser's books.

I received this free ebook from Edelweiss n return for an honest review.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Grant & I: Inside and Outside the Go-Betweens by Robert Forster

I like the Go-Betweens and my mother had some connection with Lindy Morrison's mother, but I couldn't get into this book. It seemed to take a long time to get going! I may try again later.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott

Portrait of Mrs Alexander Hamilton by Ralph Earl

Although handsome and ambitious Alexander Hamilton was a ladies’ man, he wanted to marry a woman with character and wisdom as well as looks.  When he met charming Elizabeth Schuyler, he knew that he’d found her.  They were a perfect match.  She would be a courageous wife to the rising star of the developing nation through all the traumas of war, betrayals, scandal and illness. At one stage, she even showed great bravery when her parent’s home was under attack. ‘Betsy’ would also often have to look after the children while he spent long periods away.

Unfortunately, Hamilton’s brilliance caused jealousy and he also had a few flaws in his character which didn’t help his political career so  he unfortunately made several enemies. Elizabeth was also warned by her sister Angelica that Hamilton still had an eye for the ladies…She certainly had a lot to cope with but her life was never dull!

I had recently read a biography of the young Hamilton when I started this book so I expected much from it, and I am happy to write that I loved it. Susan Holloway Scott creates memorable characters in her portrayals of Elizabeth and Alexander. She does this great love story justice and the book is captivating until the end.  This is definitely a keeper, and I will definitely buy the paperback version!


I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart

Brindisi Cathedral
By Freddyballo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7331187

This beautifully written historical novel set in the dangerous Italy of World War One kept me riveted to the page. The story involves Rebecca, a young Australian war correspondent, who is in Brindisi with her handsome husband, Jack, who is also a journalist. When Jack sets off to chase stories, Rebecca wants to advance her career and she is anxious to write articles about the Royal Australian Navy which is stationed in Italy. Although she dislikes Sandro, an Italian-American photographer staying with his grandmother, at first, they start working on stories together and she soon finds herself increasingly attracted to him.  The problem is that they are both very Catholic and Rebecca is married…
This was a moving love story and it became more exciting as Rebecca and Sandro look for a possible traitor in their midst and journey into war-ridden territory, as Italy is under siege from Austria. It’s also extremely well-researched with information about the interesting background to the novel and further books to read in the Author’s Note at the back of the book.  Although I liked Christianity being central to the lives of the main characters, I also found it a problem that Rebecca was married and attracted to someone else at almost the beginning of the book.  However, this did create great dramatic conflict.

I am looking forward to reading more books by Pamela Hart.


I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

How To Be A Catholic Hipster. The Catholic Hipster Handbook by Tommy Tighe Ave Maria Press


Do you know about all the coolest Catholic Twitterers, the best Catholic music, the loveliest prayers and the most interesting Catholic blogs? This handbook by Tommy Tighe will help you find all of these! It’s not just a frivolous guide, however. It also contains articles about important Catholic doctrines and history, and it’s worth keeping whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert or even undecided! I greatly enjoyed it. I am not sure about going to a Tridentine Mass, however.  Although it sounds interesting, it’s a hard idea to get used to.  This section did remind me that my parents were shocked that the Mass was in Latin until recently, and I liked the thought of going to a service in Latin when I was a child!





I especially liked the fact that one of the authors reminded readers that the first duty of a Catholic (and, arguably all Christians) is to give. 



I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Paperback

ISBN9781594717079

PRICE$15.95 (USD)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

When Kate becomes the lead counsel for a case against a Big Pharm company MPC which has
allegedly been making migraine drugs causing brain tumours, she becomes involved in very dangerous situations and several mysteries. Who has killed the scientist who was going to be a witness in her case? Why are leading documents in the case going missing? When she starts getting physically attacked, she is forced to get security and finds herself attracted to Landon, who has his own security firm.  But Kate is so busy, her budding romance almost seems like another problem, especially when Landon isn’t a Christian like her…

Ethan, MPC’s leading defence lawyer, is a friend of Kate’s but is he willing to let ambition make him cross the line into unethical behaviour? At the very least, he wants to take advantage of her idealism and he knows that she does everything by the book.  He is put under great pressure by MPC.
This is an exciting story which keeps one reading as Kate attempts to get to the truth of the case and keep one step ahead of Ethan and MPC.  I also enjoyed the romance. However, the story sometimes got rather technical for a lay reader, I felt, and it also seemed contrived at times.  I also thought that the ending was far-fetched until I read an article in The Australian which made me think again! Who knows what is going on behind the scenes these days?


I enjoyed this legal thriller and I am interested in reading more by Rachel Dylan.

I received this free ebook through the Bethany House Blogging Program in return for an honest review. 

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility Jane of Austin by Hilary Manton Lodge

Jane and her two sisters Celia and Margaret have huge problems. Their father has skipped the country because of possible fraudulence and they are forced to close their beloved tea salon because they can't afford to pay the new landlord.  Their only hope is to take refuge with their cousins in Austin, Texas, a long way from beautiful San Francisco. Celia also still misses Teddy, her ex- boyfriend.

When Jane arrives in Austin to stay with her warm-hearted cousins,  she meets Callum, an war veteran who has lost his leg, and Sean, a handsome blond singer. Of course, she falls for Sean very quickly, but is he really what he seems...?
There is also the problem of finding a new property for their tea business.

This is a clever,  original and well-written modern American version of Sense and Sensibility written from the points of view of Jane and Callum, with tea quotes at the beginning of each chapter, recipes of Southern food and atmospheric descriptions of Texas.  Jane and Callum are both lovely characters, although Callum is understandably fairly bitter at the beginning of the book because of his war experience and his problems with some of his family.  The love stories are moving and it was interesting to read a version of Jane Austen's classic which is set in America. The only flaw is that there were a lot of characters and I found this confusing.

This book is also a tea-drinker's delight! As an aside, I liked the fact that Jane never drank coffee - very unusual for an American, I should think!

I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.


How to Listen So People Will Talk Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections by Becky Harling

Are you often distracted by social media when you should be listening? Do you sometimes look shocked when your child tries to tell you something important? Is it hard for you to handle conflict?
Then you need this book! As Maya Angelou said, 'The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear'.  Becky Harling has lots of excellent advice from a Christian perspective to help you improve your listening skills. She also fills the book with useful anecdotes, prayers and exercises. 

Harling writes about the importance of reflective listening.  This will help you to find hidden ulterior motives, such as jealousy or insecurity. She suggests asking yourself about your feelings and what you were looking for.  This is especially useful if you are inclined to offer unsolicited advice. This is very easy to do!

I found the chapter on conflict the most helpful.  Her advice includes finding a point of agreement, letting someone vent and asking for clarification.  Sometimes, you have to deal with toxic people, however, and she suggests ways to do this.  Unfortunately, I am not sure if this book is going to help readers who have to try to cope with deliberately obstructive people, and that is probably it's only flaw.

I received this free ebook through Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

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