One of the activities I look forward to every year is our vacation to the beach. For many years North Carolina has been our family’s favorite destination. Most of my family love the water, the sun, the lazy days and great food that everyone prepares. I in particular love the carefree timelessness I get to spend with my spouse and loved ones especially my grandchildren. But one of my favorite things back then and still is today is taking a book I’ve been longing to read and spending the day immersing myself in it. Getting lost in the pages of one of my favorite authors is sheer delight. For years it was a long standing tradition that my girls and I would save a Mary Higgins Clark classic and read it there. Then as time went by we would try to select one of the latest best sellers and start it before we traveled so we could save the best parts for the beach. (We take our reading serious in our family).
So needless to say one of my second favorite things to do is to walk the beach nosily and peek at what other people are reading. The vast majority of people who are not monitoring little children’s safety usually have a book in their hands. I often wonder are people regular readers or are they taking the time to read that one book a year. In any case I love to see what people are reading. In years past the trends were the vampire books, then the many shades of grey books, the Harry Potter books sprinkled with the usual spy and mystery novels. When I see someone reading something I read and loved I usually try to start up a conversation about the book. (I know, I’m one of those annoying people that interrupt reading to discuss a book), but I love to talk about a favorite author or book. It keeps a good story alive a little while longer and it’s similar to networking. Usually someone who is open to discussing a book will tell you about other novels they have read and enjoyed and vice versa. That’s the beauty of summer or vacation reading and why I enjoy it so much.
So where am I going with this. I wanted to give a few suggestion for summer reading in case you have not read these authors or the following books. Oh, and just for the record, you don’t need a beach, a community pool or a yearly vacation to get away from it all. A porch, a yard, a balcony or a community park is all you need to enjoy a good book. With a great read, a nice glass of wine or beverage of your choice a mini vacation is just moments away. That being said, I hope you enjoy some of these suggestions and take the time to get away from it all, even if it’s just for a moment. All the following suggestion are a mix of old and new and can be found on Amazon, B&N and your local library.
Winter Garden or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Defiance – A.L. Sowards
A Cry in the Night or Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
Before We Were Yours or A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate
The Beach House or The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
The One Man by Andrew Gross
The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts
These words express, so to speak, the wonder of heaven and earth; they could be said to give a glimpse of God’s own wonderment as he contemplates his ‘masterpiece’—the Incarnation of the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary.” —Saint John Paul II
Do you have two and a half minutes in your day that you can give to God? This is the beauty of the rosary. You don’t have to pray the rosary all at once and you can pray it anywhere!
Do you struggle with praying the rosary: finding time, fighting distractions, worrying about your mind wandering? In Praying the Rosary Like Never Before, Edward Sri offers practical suggestions that come from the rosary’s tradition and, most especially, St. John Paul II. These helpful tips will make the rosary a constant companions through the different seasons, moments, and challenges we all face. These tips serve as easy on-ramps for those who don’t pray the rosary regularly motivate avid devotees of the rosary to go deeper with the Lord.
“Offering God a decade or two in the midst of my daily life gives him something beautiful, even if I give it without my full, relaxed, undivided attention,” says Sri. “I’m giving God some space in my day and filling it with words of praise for him.”
You will find answers to common questions such as the significance of the Hail Mary, whether the attention given to Mary distracts us from God, the meaning of all the repetition, where the rosary came from, what to think about for each of the mysteries, and whether one should focus on the prayers or the mysteries.
You will also find biblical reflections on the twenty mysteries of the rosary that provide practical insights to help you not only understand the twenty mysteries but also live them.
Review of Praying The Rosary Like Never Before
Praying The Rosary Like Never Before by Edward Sri is a beautifully written book on the importance and relevance of the rosary. It is designed to encourage and enlighten those who find it arduous or quaint and to energize and bring new meaning to those who are faithful to this timeless devotion. Edward Sri encourages Christians and Catholics alike to encounter Our Lord through these biblical mysteries with the person who knows him best, His Mother. No matter where you are in your faith journey, Christ can be met in the holy mysteries of the rosary.
The beauty of this book is its simplicity. It addresses all the concerns for those want to use this devotion, but feel they don’t have the time or are easily distracted. He explains how to pray it during your busy day by breaking it up into decades. With one decade taking only two to three minutes each, a decade can easily be accomplished while doing housework, cooking or riding in a car. Even on those hectic days when you can’t unwind and give it your full attention a rosary can always be said as the words that are being raised in prayer are biblical and holy.
Edward Sri explains the importance of the rosary in history, especially in the life of St. John Paul II and the spiritual influence and joy it brought to his life and papacy. He explains how Mary helps us encounter Christ more profoundly than on our own. It also helps us honor Mary’s place in salvation history. The rhythm and cadence of the rosary is calming and allows your mind to contemplate Christ’s life and reach a deeper level of prayer and commitment of faith. In addition, this book takes the time to give a profound and beautiful account of each mystery (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious) taking the rosary into a deeper level of contemplation for those who pray this devotion daily and want to go delve deeper into the life of Christ. Whether you are a novice or a loyal patron of the rosary, Praying The Rosary Like Never Before is a book that will benefit everyone in their faith journey.
I really loved and appreciated this little gem of a book. Its beauty and simplicity helped me realize on my worst of days I can still lift my heart and mind to prayer and on those days I have the luxury of time I can take this devotion deeper and open my heart and soul to the wonders of Christ’s life and his amazing Mother who journeyed with him along the way. I can honestly say this book has something for everyone and is different from other books I have read on the rosary. Each chapter addressed a concern or gave relevant information to help me take this devotion to a higher level. I really enjoyed the study questions at the end of each chapter too. I could take as long or as little time contemplating them and they helped review and address any thoughts I had on this prayer. It delved deeply, but uniquely into each of the mysteries and at the end of the book Edward Sri provides a Scriptural Rosary for deeper meditation that can be said at home, in church or at Adoration perhaps. All in all it was a wealth of beautiful information that did nor overwhelm, but enhanced my knowledge and desire to continue this practice.
Praying The Rosary Like Never Before is worth the time and effort for every person who has an occasional devotion or a daily devotion in order to enhance and encourage knowledge of this beautiful prayer. It is meant to bring those who say the rosary to a higher and more consistent level of prayer and contemplation. It gives advice on how to fit a daily rosary into a hectic schedule and how to maximize the beauty of this prayer for those who are seasoned veterans. It is a book that will be cherished and savored and referred to again and again. It would make a great gift for a friend or family member who wants to learn more about the rosary or increase their knowledge and love for this beautiful devotion to Mary and her Son. You can’t help but be better for it.
I want to thank Franciscan Media via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Praying The Rosary Like Never Before by Edward Sri for a fair and honest review.
Eight years after immigrating to the United States, German-born Lukas Ley embodies the American dream: successful athlete, gorgeous girlfriend, loving family. But beneath the surface, eighteen-year-old Lukas is driven by ambition, resolved to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, a failed physical throws his plans for flight school off course. Unlike his war-hero older brother, Lukas’s purpose is unclear. He can’t fly, and in the eyes of the military, he’s good for only one thing—the front lines.
From the foxholes of war-ravaged Luxembourg to the devastation of an enormous German offensive, Lukas’s journey is fraught with peril. But when he’s taken as a prisoner of war, he realizes life is about to get much worse. In the enemy camp, Lukas is viewed as a German fighting for the wrong side. Ripped from the innocence of an idealistic youth, he becomes a man beaten by the horrors of war. Now his only hope of survival is to hold tightly to his faith in God and his love of family and home. But even if he manages to make it out alive, can he ever be whole again
My Review of DEFIANCE
Gripping and powerful, A.L. Sowards latest novel Defiance packs a one two punch among those who love stories surrounding WWII. Defiance takes the reader along the journey of a young soldier Lukas Ley and the battles he has to fight both on and off the field.
Lukas Ley has been anxious to join the fight against Germany ever since his father was taken prisoner and died at the hands of the Nazi’s. Now in America and a high school graduate Lukas is ready, willing and able to do his part. Hoping to join the air corps Lukas’ hopes are dashed when it’s discovered he does not have perfect vision. When Lukas finally receives his draft notice and reports to duty he finds he will be joining countless others in the US Army’s Infantry. Disappointed but ready to serve in any capacity Lukas readies to depart. Saying goodbye to those he loves is bittersweet as he leaves behind his mother, an injured elder brother back from the war and his sweetheart Belle, the girl next door.
When Lukas arrives in Europe he is immediately assigned to a company in Luxembourg. Unfortunately, there is no getting his feet warm as he is thrown into action immediately. Lukas’ ideas of war before he left home is nothing compared to what he encounters. His convictions and his courage is tested again and again. As the fighting grows more intense, Lukas finds he has to rely on his new found brothers and a valor he doesn’t know he has. His faith and desire to survive will be challenged like never before. As time wears on and he is eventually taken prisoner Lukas finds he is becoming a different person, one that he does not recognize. As his innocence fades in the wake of the many atrocities he witnesses he begins to lose sight of the young man he once was. With the help of his band of brothers and the love of his family, Lukas must dig deep to find his way back to his faith in God and in himself.
I loved this book. I have always been a fan of WWII novels and have read many, but this is the first from a perspective of a soldier. Lukas Ley’s character was brilliant. He was a mature eighteen year old with life and all possibilities ahead of him. He was anxious more than most his age to serve his country especially in light of what had happened to his father. He was a former native of Germany, but he did not feel conflicted. He wanted to fight for the US to stop the Nazi’s and avenge his father. The author captured his personality cleverly as he was innocent, but not naïve. The gradual changes in his character as the story progressed were visual and believable and I felt everything as a reader as if I was there. His moments of fear and apprehension as a soldier, his sorrow and anger as his brothers were taken from him and his hunger and desperation as a prisoner all realistically and beautifully written. I also loved his band of brothers that fought alongside of him. The supporting characters were unique and added credence to the story. My favorites were Higham, Samson, Martinez and Winterton. I especially shed a few tears over Winterton. The comradery these young men shared was courageous and beautiful to behold. I held my breath as I turned each page hopeful that these young men would be rescued, find peace and finally be home safe.
Defiance by A.L. Sowards is a beautifully written novel about one soldier’s journey on the battlefront in WWII. It’s a story of faith and hope when all seems lost. It’s a story of survival, forgiveness and the power of love. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. It will sweep you away to the battlefront in Europe with a young man named Lukas Ley who will linger in your thoughts long after the last page is turned.
I want to thank Covenant Communications via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Defiance by A.L. Sowards for a fair and honest review.
As he did in UNSAID, Neil Abramson explores the interconnectedness of humans and the animals we share our homes and lives with, in a timely novel that will resonate long after you've turned the last page.
An unidentified virus is spreading through the New York City neighborhood of Riverside, near Central Park. Despite the desperate need for answers, the medical community can only determine the cause is zoonotic, suggesting birds one day and dogs the next as the possible source. Despite the lack of information, the politically ambitious governor orders the National Guard to enforce a quarantine of all dogs. At the heart of this conflict, veterinarian Samantha Lewis is struggling to keep her no-kill shelter open. She finds support in a motley crew of friends that range from a local priest, to a troubled nineteen-year-old emancipated foster child, to a former psychologist whose life was destroyed by addiction. But the one person that Sam needs is the last one she'd ever want to call on--and contacting him will mean confronting every painful memory of her past.
My Review of Just Life
Just Life by Neil Abramson is not just a story about humans and their relationships with their four legged friends but also their relationships with each other.
Dr. Sam Lewis works tirelessly with a small motley crew at Finally Home Animal Shelter, a no kill shelter in N.Y. where animals are given love, care and a safe haven from the streets. Alongside Sam her crew of workers and volunteers try to find forever homes for these animals where puppy mills and pet shops often take first place when choosing pets. But Sam’s days are filled with more concerns than finding homes and giving care. A mysterious virus has hit the community of Riverside and children have become seriously ill. The CDC and local governments are convinced it’s zoonotic and they are looking for answers in the local animal population. Added to Sam’s ever growing concern for the children and her dogs is the threat to vacate. Sam has been given 30 days to relocate and find homes for all her animals. She is sitting on prime real estate and the city is anxious to develop. With the city and a political candidate for governor looking for answers for the mysterious virus a quarantine has been put in place for the community of Riverside. With growing unrest within the community Sam has been asked to locate her father, a renowned veterinarian and expert in zoonotic research. Sam at first refuses as she and her father have not spoken in years. But as fingers begin to point at dogs as the possible virus carriers Sam readily agrees to locate him to save the children and give more time to her dogs. The clock is ticking and pressure mounts on all sides. Everyone must work together to save the ailing children and the large population of dogs in Riverside.
This book will bring all kinds of emotions to the reader. I found myself frustrated for the parents of the sick children and the panic they must have felt. I also sympathized with Sam and her fear that the city in its attempt to find answers quickly would destroy the local dog population. I also felt sympathy for the pets. The author’s description of stray and abandoned dogs broke my heart. I could picture them all in shelters wanting a forever home. It certainly brought home the importance of paying a visit to your local shelter first before paying for a high priced puppy mill dog. Another fascinating feature of the book was the characters Neil Abramson created. All the characters were strong and beautifully written. Sam was driven and denied herself human affection finding trust only in her animal relationships. Greg and Luke were great coworkers and friends both loyal to Sam and the care of the dogs. Beth was funny and cynical, but when the chips were down could be counted on to help in any way. Daniel Lewis I am thankful was contrite and finally on the right side of justice. Andy, a friend and tortured teen broke my heart. His loyalty to the dogs was heartbreaking. Kendall was a tough N.Y. cop, but with a heart of gold. However, my favorite character overall was Father Gabriel. Tough and determined with a loving and compassionate heart for everyone and everything, Father Gabriel stood out for me. This character haunted me even after I turned the last page.
For those who are worried about raw descriptions of animal abuse in this story please don’t. The writer tells this story with prudence and discretion. There is some language, but otherwise no uncomfortable scenes to worry about.
Just Life by Neil Abramson is a moving account of what people and animals can do when they work together even in the worst of circumstances. It’s about loyalty and love among the most unlikely of human characters and the bond between animals and their humans.
I want to thank FaithWorks/Center Street for an advanced copy of Just Life by Neil Abramson via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
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