It’s true – the book is always better than the movie. In 2015, I watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and loved it. It’s my go-to movie for relaxation. At a 4th of July party, my eighteen-year-old niece encouraged me to finish reading the book. “It has so much detail,” she said. “Especially the ending. It wraps everything up.” At her encouragement, I downloaded the audio version through my local library to my smartphone, put on my earbuds, and joined the twenty-first century.
I must admit. I looked forward to my daily walks, to my household chores, and time behind the wheel so I could “read” Pride and Prejudice and travel back in time through the words of Jane Austin.
I loved to feel annoyed with Mrs. Bennett, cringe when Mr. Collins talked, roll my eyes at Lydia, and sympathize with Lizzie, Jane, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley. All of them made the mundane things of life feel enjoyable as I joined them in their world while I did my work in mine. It also made me long for a time of manners and decorum, something I feel we’ve lost in our culture.
I laughed when the characters “told each other off” with such eloquence, and then wished them health and happiness before they left.
I enjoyed the lessons I learned through this story. How often do I make assumptions about people before I have all the facts? How important is prestige and money in life? How do I treat others? Am I willing to change my views?
The ending left me content. I know I’ll return to this book again and again to enjoy the rich language, the method Jane Austin used to craft her story and lose myself back in time. And to remind me of the use of manners.
Now, I need to download my next good read and go take a walk.
I read this book in a little over a day, but I’m afraid I won’t finish it for a long time. It left me feeling grumpy. Yes, grumpy. And I will spend a good chunk of my brain power in thought. As I read the book, I felt like I stared into a mirror. And that made me grumpy. What about it left me unsettled? Did some of the personalities strike too close to home? The answer – yes – and then, what’s next? Is it too late to make a change? Is it even possible at this time in my life?
Abby captured personalities, real life situations and scenarios. I didn’t know what to expect when I won a copy of this book during a Facebook promotion. A woman, successful and devoted to her family, dies. After an investigation, her death is recorded as a suicide. But – she didn’t leave a note with an explanation. Now, her husband and daughter are left to wonder why and examine their life in detail. Was their behavior a factor? Why did she do it?
I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi, exams the family left behind, but also gives insight into the situation from the deceased as she watches from above. It was a novel approach to a nationwide epidemic. As the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., it affects families daily. I’ve experienced the grief of the survivors as I stood at the grave of four people who lost the battle against mental illness in the past few years. There is no comfort for the families left behind.
I’m glad I read it, but I have to admit, I was also glad to finish it. It kept me turning the page in spite of the pain that registered deep as the story progressed.
I won’t reveal the character who reminded me of me. I think that is up to each reader to determine and I don’t want to influence them. But I’m guessing most readers can identify with one of them. I didn’t want to face some of the truths revealed to me in this story of a once happy and contented family. Tragedy rocketed them into a new reality, as happens in most families.
It’s been a while since a novel made me exam my life in detail as this one did. I know this bad case of “the grumpies” won’t last for me. I will take my new awareness, exam it, make a plan of action, implement it, and move on. I hope I become a better version of me as a result of reading, I Liked My Life.
I won a copy Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk from a Facebook giveaway. I began reading it on Saturday morning and finished it on Monday afternoon. I found myself picking it up in spite of a flurry of activities, anxious to discover what came next.
As I read I thought, “This would be a great book for teens to read.” Even though it’s been almost fifty years since I fell into this age group, the feelings and thoughts of my youth came back in vivid memories as I read. Carolyn wrote how my brain tells me that I felt.
I liked the style of the writing. The main characters had flaws so they didn’t feel like cardboard caricatures. It had just the right amount of descriptive scenery to transport me to rural Pennsylvania, but not so much that I skipped those paragraphs. I thought the feelings between Paul and Rachel developed at a speed that felt real. Often times, one party feels differently and it takes time for the relationship to morph from friendship to deep feelings of affection. I liked the way Carolyn handled those thoughts and reactions, as well as how innocent situations can escalate out of control.
I also liked the way the author wove her beliefs into the story without it feeling preachy. It sent me a clear message about the struggles that some teens face and their wish to discover a way to handles their passions.
Coming of age stories fall into “one of my favorite” categories for novels, and this story lived up to my expectations.
I would recommend this book for teens, especially those in a dating relationship, and for those who wish to understand them. I plan to pass on Rightfully Ours to a local high school library so teenagers can enjoy this fast-moving, readable novel with plenty of action and a mystery that held my interest.
I received a complimentary copy for Turning in Circles from the author Michelle Buckman.
Once I began reading Turning in Circles, I had a hard time putting it down until I finished the book. The interaction between the two sisters kept my attention as I read the frustrations experienced by Savannah as the close relationship she had with Charleston dissolved. In spite of Savannah’s efforts, Charleston made choice after choice that kept me interested and disappointed at the same time.
Michelle Buckman’s characters felt real and believable. The story increased in drama the further I read. I visualized the settings as I read.
The sisters’ story illustrated what sometimes happens to people we love. We see them make choices that change the course of their life, often with inescapable consequences. We are powerless to stop the unhealthy changes in their life.
Turning in Circles depicts life as it often happens to us or those around us. We can learn from our mistakes and those of others to make changes for a better life.
For a thought-provoking read, pick up your copy of Turning in Circles.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
This book was loaned to me as a recommended read, “It’s great story. I know you’ll like it,” my friend said as she handed me the book. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to it right away. Recently, she asked if I had finished it. That statement catapulted me into action. I started it Sunday night finished it today. I couldn’t put it down.
I found this to be a fascinating book. I saw many similarities with my journey through schizophrenia with my child. Parts of the book were extremely difficult to read as I remembered the emotions I had as I watched my child endure many of the same symptoms. At one point when Susannah shared her perception of body image later in the story, I had to stop and have a good cry. My daughter must have some of the same feelings and it’s hard to read it in black and white.
Susannah did a fantastic job of explaining how the brain works and what happened to her when her brain broke. I couldn’t help but wonder if part of my daughter’s illness could be explained as part of an autoimmune disease. Was that what triggered it for her?
After reading this book, I felt enlightened, encouraged, and in awe of her courage to write her story. It left me with renewed hope in science as it works to unlock the mysteries of the brain. I applaud those around her for their support in the midst of complete confusion and devastation.
I’d recommend this book to those who want to learn about rare illnesses, those who want to read a good memoir, those who want to learn about how our brain functions, and last, but not least, those who want to read a book with an ending that leaves the reader filled with hope.
Earlier this month, I promised to give a review for this book in exchange for the chance to read it. Sometimes I wonder, who gets the most benefit for this opportunity – the author or the reader? After exploring Jeannie’s book, A Sea Without a Shore, I’ll wager that it is the reader.
Jeannie writes from the heart, pouring out her love and devotion to God throughout her book. I felt that she recorded her thoughts and prayers for us, the readers, so we may grow in love and devotion, too. As I read, I found myself recording phrases that stood out to me. Reflections I wanted to plant deep within my heart and soul.
One of my favorites quotes was “Material acquisition is no longer our goal. It is replaced by the practice of simplicity, engaging in matters seemingly small, but staggeringly significant.” This idea resonated with me as a way to live in peace and joy.
A few other nuggets I tucked deep in my heart include the idea of “self-examination with pointing a finger” – in other words, forgive myself. And “that all holy innocents are God’s beloved” gave me peace as I thought about my own grandson’s death years ago.
Because this book has reflections for the liturgical year, I will read each section during the appropriate season to deepen my appreciation and love for my Savior.
I’ll be honest, when I first began reading this, I had a difficult time. I’m more of a “learn from the parable” kind of gal. I think I understand why Jesus taught his followers through stories. Some of us grasp concepts and lessons more quickly through examples. As I started this book,, I found it a bit difficult to concentrate on the words. But, I realized I had the opportunity to read her thoughts and reflections. I decided I wanted to challenge myself to focus on Jeannie’s prayerful thoughts as I read. Plus, I wanted to learn a new style of spiritual growth. I willed my brain to slow down so I could embrace the reflections. I read in small bites so I could indulge myself with the prayerful thoughts. It worked. I did indeed a learn a fresh way to keep me on my spiritual journey.
If you’re looking for a book to deepen your love and devotion to God, I recommend this book. Read it slowly and savor the morsels.
But don’t just take my word for it. Snag your own copy and fall in love with your Savior.
Jeannie Ewing believes the world focuses too much on superficial happiness and then crumbles when sorrow strikes. Because life is about more than what makes us feel fuzzy inside, she writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers and is the author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and dozens of other radio shows and podcasts.
Describe a typical writing day. Are you a morning, afternoon, or night-owl writer?I am an “anytime writer.” You see, my life does not neatly fit into a box (unfortunately for me). I have two young daughters and another baby on the way. Both of our girls have different special needs that require a lot of extra time spent with various specialists, special education programs, surgeries, and counselors. I spent a good portion of my time at the disposal of a doctor’s availability, rather than what is convenient for my family. Because of this, I write when I have time. That might sound like a cop-out, but I don’t waste time. If I have 10 minutes of a lull in my day, I will write for 10 minutes. When the girls are having quiet time and I can snag an extra 20 to 30 minutes, I will write. Most of my best writing happens right after breakfast on a weekend when my husband is gracious enough to watch the girls for me. But most of what I produce is in the evenings after the girls have gone to bed.
Can you tell us about your current work-in-progress?I have 3 of them actually. The first is a book that answers common questions about what to do in specific social or religious situations – a sort of etiquette question and answer book. That proposal has been submitted to a publisher, who is in the process of checking it out. The second manuscript is one I am co-authoring with my husband, Ben. It is a parenting book about using the beatitudes as our beacon for what we do and teach our children on a daily basis. That, too, is in the process of consideration from a different publishing house. The third work-in-progress is my favorite to date. It is a book about the value of waiting and what that looks like from a cultural attitude, as well as a spiritual one. It includes various points of philosophy, but mainly I’m trying to encourage people in their tough times of waiting, especially when it is prolonged. I plan to complete that manuscript before I submit it to a potential publisher.
What inspires you when you’re writing?Prayer – Scriptures, silence, reading reflections and the lives of the saints; music – especially classical or some type of soothing instrumental music; sometimes nature inspires me, and sometimes it could be a conversation with a friend or something I observe while I’m out and about.
What’s your favorite item on your writing desk?Hmmm, probably my perpetual cup of tea!
What’s your favorite genre and why?Memoir, because I love reading about other people’s journeys in life through their own eyes.
Any advice you have for a blossoming author?Just begin. Don’t worry about the details or even the process itself. Just start somewhere and keep moving forward. Your first draft won’t be perfect, so don’t expect it to be. Don’t write with censorship; get into your own flow and let it happen naturally. Our best muse is God, so I always pray before I write.
What is your writing process like?I guess the best word I can use is ‘inspired.’ Just when I think I’ve completed a book, a new idea pops into my head and becomes more developed over time. That’s been the case for this book on waiting. When I write, it could be jotting down ideas on scraps of paper like a typical creative type, or it could mean I actually sit down and type up a chapter on my laptop. But I always, always write down inspired ideas, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?I don’t write fiction, so ?
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time? Reading, taking care of my girls (homeschooling the eldest), chatting with my husband or watching movies with him, taking walks with my dog through our neighborhood.
What or who inspired you to become a writer?I’ve always been a writer, since I first learned to put words together creatively and articulately. It’s a natural talent and also a spiritual charism. I’ve enjoyed creating ideas through writing – whether fiction when I was a kid or poetry as a young adult or original research papers in college – and now non-fiction seems to be where God wants me right now.
How long have you been writing?I started journaling when I was about 9 years old. I received a Hello Kitty diary from a friend for my birthday and wrote in a journal every day ever since!
Are you Self-published or Traditional Published? Why did you choose this type of publishing?I’m a hybrid author, which means I have some books that are self-published and some that are traditionally published. I’ll be speaking more on the advantages and disadvantages of this at the Catholic Writers Conference Online in February. Essentially, I didn’t “choose” this type of publishing. It just worked out that my first book was self-published, because each step of the process I had someone offer to help me through it professionally! My second book ended up being traditionally published, because my editor at Catholic Exchange asked me if I had considered writing a book.
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? Writing can be daunting, so don’t think it’s some romantic way of life. Most of us don’t make a grand living as writers, but we love what we do. If you are called to write, you will want to share your ideas with others in order to inspire, encourage, entertain, or teach them – maybe a combination of these, or something else.
Just for fun:
Do you have any pets? Yes! A 9-year-old pit bull mix, Lily. She’s a character! We love her as one of our family members.
Who’s your favorite musician/band? Well, I love music and a variety of genres of music. I’d say it depends, but my favorite genre of music is Renaissance or Baroque. I especially love Michael Praetorius and Tomasso Albonini.
What’s your favorite vacation spot? The mountains. It’s my dream to live in the Smokies one day.
Do you like coffee or tea? Never liked coffee, but I love tea and drink it daily with a bit of honey.
Did you go to college? If so, what was your major? Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies and Master of Science in Education for School Counseling
Are you a full-time writer or do you also work in another field? If so, what field?My “full-time” job is a stay-at-home mom.
Favorite Season? Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer? I like the changing seasons for different reasons. When I was a kid, my favorite season was summer, but now it’s probably fall. I love the cooler weather and gorgeous colors. Plus, there are so many fun things to do in the fall – hay rides, jumping in leaf piles, visiting pumpkin patches and carving them, apple picking and making homemade applesauce, etc.
I received a copy of “Most Highly Favored Daughter” by Janice Lane Palko during her Facebook launch party. Once I began it, I had a hard time putting it down until I reached the end.
Janice addressed a seldom discussed blight that permeates our world, the deplorable world of sex trafficking. I applaud her for bringing this sensitive subject into a piece of fiction. I liked how her characters evolved as I followed their lives in her story.
I figured some things out before the story revealed it, but the climax and the ending came as a complete surprise. Her ability to weave a story with an exciting resolution to the tale made for a great read. I found it refreshing to read an entire book without bad language and intimate scenes described in detail, yet giving the reader hints of the character’s true feelings.
I don’t read many suspense novels, so this reading experience opened my eyes to a new and enjoyable genre. I liked how the author intertwined faith throughout the story but didn’t make it into an unattainable part of the reader’s life.
If you like suspense mingled with faith, you’ll enjoy this book, “Most Highly Favored Daughter” by Janice Lane Palko. I hope to read more of her books.