The Supreme Vocation

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I do judge a book by its cover. And The Supreme Vocation of Women According to St. John Paul II by Melissa Maleski (Sophia Institute Press 2020) dons a beautiful pink cover with an oil painting Humbled Heart of Mary (Olga Conens 2020).

In her book, Maleski contemplates, analyzes, and inspires. In a world that (generally) vilifies true masculinity and distorts authentic femininity, she provides a way to understand, articulate, and appreciate the beautiful, grace-filled complementarity of man and woman. I highlighted and marked up almost every page; it’s just absolutely rich.

Even reading the Table of Contents is intriguing. Really! Maleski composed ten utterly distinct chapters that together create a bold, unified message for all men and women.

I encourage you to delve into this book and then spread the universal truths revealed to you.

Tamera Alexander and Historical Fiction (from 2011)

Tamera has published many books since I originally posted this, and they have been fantastic books. Read for yourself: Tamera Alexander books.

I’ve never been a big fan of “romance” novels or historical fiction, but I’ve found an author who not only captures my attention but runs away with my imagination.  My greatest attraction to and appreciation of Tamera Alexander’s novels (besides those virtuous, which makes them even more appealing, heroes!) is the boundless comfort she creates.

Alexander enraptures the reader’s senses with scenery of the rugged and challenging Colorado Territory actualizing natural beauty beyond measure.  The small remote town settings, complete with the boarding houses, sheriff’s office, general store, and all, make you feel like you’re strolling along the boardwalk. She skillfully develops characters who live through moments of physical pain, emotional and spiritual struggles, and heartbreak, but the spirit and tone of the book are never without God’s grace, hope, redemption, and healing.  

And Alexander knits all this setting and character development together with such an inviting and natural flow that the reader feels like a living part of this Colorado Territory life, not merely an outside observer.

I’m currently reading Within My Heart, and, in all honesty, I’m tearful that I’m at the end of the Timber Ridge Reflections series.  However, I devotedly await reading The Inheritance.  Hopefully, that will tide me over until Tamera Alexander’s upcoming release A Lasting Impression coming November 2011!

Author: Tamera Alexander
Fountain Creek Chronicles:
Rekindled / ISBN: 978-0-7642-0108-0
Revealed / ISBN: 978-0-7642-0109-7
Remembered / ISBN: 978-0-7642-0110-3
Timber Ridge Reflections:
From a Distance / ISBN: 978-0-7642-0389-3
Beyond This Moment / ISBN: 978-0-7642-0390-9
Within My Heart / ISBN: 978-0-7642-0391-6

and more books here!

Anna Quindlen (book review)

My husband read the dust cover synopsis of Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One when I was early in the book and asked, “So what’s the ‘shocking act of violence’?” Suddenly distressed, I couldn’t imagine anything out of the Latham family’s ordinary life changing. I was just enjoying the ride, watching their daily lives unfold.

You see, without fail, I read the synopsis on the dust cover of a library book or the back cover of a new purchase. Instantly (and subconsciously), I forget what it says. Maybe I want the story to reveal itself to me in its own way, not the predestined way it is being marketed to me. Maybe I’m just plain forgetful. Maybe there is some subconscious motive. Who knows?

Thanks to the novel’s stream of consciousness narration, I developed a soft spot in my heart for all the main characters: Alex (the popular, confident athlete), Max (the reclusive, mysterious musician), Ruby (the decidedly different, artsy writer), Glen (the all-around good guy and faithful husband), and Mary Beth (the mother, the voice of the book, and the heart of the family).

I had to take a moment (alright, more than a moment and a half a box of tissues) to emotionally process the “shocking act of violence.” Mentally, I ran through scenarios in my own family life… “What if…” or “How could…”  And there it is, the author had me so deeply involved I could intellectually and passionately intertwine my life with that of the characters.

As I rode the emotional waves created by way of the natural flow of the Mary Beth’s voice, I landed at the end of the book tired, hopeful, and ever more joyful to be living my life. Good read.

Every Last One
Author: Anna Quindlen 
Publication date: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6574-5

A Bit Late to the Game (book review)

I know I’m a bit late to the game on this contemporary women’s fiction novel, but I give five stars to Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook because the story touched my heart.

The suffering involved in this beautiful story reveals (to a world that commonly and unfortunately links romance with Hollywood-hype) that true love, romantic love, grows via pain (emotional and/or physical). Sparks’s writing intertwines poetry, descriptions of nature, a fluid flashback narrative, and imperfect characters who (whether they know it or not) deeply trust that the human body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that marriage is a union of souls. I can feel the Catholic heart of this novel…even though I do not hear any overt evangelization. It is a beautiful love story.

(and, no, I did not see the movie…I enjoyed the book so much and did not want to undermine the reading experience.)

Side-note: I think the original book cover art (on all Sparks’s novels) accurately reveals the book more than the movie still-shot book cover version. (That being said, I understand and respect the marketing effort.)

An Honest Love Story (book review)

I found a new best friend! Well not really, but if we met in person, the moment could well be an instant sisterhood made in Heaven.

In Ree Drummond’s perfectly titled autobiography The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story, I passionately identified with her story…the messy emotional ups and downs of young womanhood… falling instantly and madly and deeply in love…getting hitched the old fashioned way (in an actual church)…and having that first baby girl.

Drummond’s relatable, comfortable style of writing draws her readers in to admire her life transform from a thoroughly-sure-of-her-destiny young woman who meets up with a life-changing man to a fiercely protective “Mama” who loves her husband even more because now he is “Daddy.”

Her descriptions are revealing, pictorial, and sometimes just downright palpable.

I always love an honest story, especially an honest love story…

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story
By Ree Drummond
Publication date: 2011
ISBN 978-0-06-199716-7

Carla Stewart’s Debut Novel: Way Back in 2010 (book review)

There are books I recommend because they are a “good read.” Then, there are a very few recently published books such as Carla Stewart’s Chasing Lilacs that surpass the entertainment category and help define authentic literary fiction. 

I don’t believe literary fiction is always a genre exclusive of all other genres.  However, Stewart’s Chasing Lilacs artfully focuses upon and searches deeply into character, psychology, and character psychology as well as style (rather than concentrating first and foremost on narrative and plot).

As you read through and experience Stewart’s composition, you discover room for interpretation and opportunities for self-definition.  The entertainment factor is a delightful bonus. At the risk of sounding overly academic, I dare say Chasing Lilacs is a timeless, beautiful exploration.  An amazing debut novel!

(And for those of you who know me, no, I don’t have a heart for this novel just because it’s set in Texas…but it didn’t hurt!)

Chasing Lilacs
Author: Carla Stewart
Pub. June 2010
ISBN: 9780446556552