Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

To find more books by your favorite author, click on the author's name in the title...

Also, try searching by "historical fiction" if you're looking for novels at a certain time period...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The story is not a problem.  Kingdoms, kidnappings, intrigue and romance are great.  The unique idea of being “graced, “ born with a super-specialized skill  is not a problem.  It’s a part of the adventure.   The excitement is not a problem.  A Ninja-type, warrior girl conquering large numbers of fighters is always intriguing.  The setting is not a problem.  Kingdoms here are as believable as characters.  The premise of being a graced person is not a problem.  Grace is a gift:  in this case, if your eyes change into 2 colors, you will have an enhanced, specific gift, i.e. sword-fighting or swimming.

Using the term grace to describe a gift for killing is not a problem.  The main character, Katsa, learns that her “killing” gift is actually a survival one.  Working for her king to torture and kill is not a problem.  Katsa matures and uses her free will to defy doing intrinsic evil.  She also heads a secret council dedicated to good works.  Katsa’s deciding that she’s not called to marry or raise children is not a problem.  Katsa never knew the love of a family and lived as an outcast and subsequently lost esteem in herself when she worked to harm people for the King.  She decided to use her gifts to help others and does not feel called to marriage and feels absolutely not called to nurture children of her own. 

Deciding that she’ll take a lover in lieu of marriage and in the name of freedom is a problem.  Too-explicit detail of their private intimacy is a problem.  Contraception via a plant in order to engage in an act intrinsic to children and marriage is a problem.  For the young and still innocent among us, the introduction of the idea of incest is a problem. 

Katsa is the epitome of a pendulum-swing in the battle of the sexes that swings so far in the opposite direction, she throws womanhood off-balance again.  She actually gives up her freedom in the belief that she is gaining it.  That is a lie of the times we live in:  the destructive siren-song of contraception and fornication. With all the counter-cultural work to be done in teaching our children a healthy and happy view of marriage, this is not a book to read alone.  It needs discussion.
I know we currently live in a world that insists water flows uphill when it comes to human sexuality.  Be aware that this book  will not help correct this myopic vision.  It's a fun read and not likely to jar the typical world-view.  Your children need better messages.


Monday, May 14, 2012


Someone asked me if I'd be posting again....  I did have a hiatus due to surgery (doing well).... Am thinking of potential posts....thanks for inquiring...


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Accidental Detective Series by Sigmund Brouwer

I want to say it’s a cute series, but that might not do it justice. These are well-told mystery stories.

Summer brings together some cousins who get a chance to visit, work a farm, get away from home, and incidentally, solve a mystery.

Outline: the mystery I read involves a woman bank robber who was ill-used by a bank owner who receives his just comeuppance.

This is published by a protestant book company. The book is not what I would call deep, and that makes it just-right. The references to God, miracles, and prayer is natural and normal, so we can just absorb the positive message that correspond with the life experience of so many without needing to address the differences that still separate Christian brethren.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Peak by Roland Smith

This was a Pretty Exceptional book And better than most Kinds I’ve been reading lately.

Peak (as in mountain) first lands in trouble from his stunt climbing a skyscraper. It wasn’t the first building he left his tag on, but it was the first one he forgot to check and see what was going on inside that day. The mayor’s visit set Peak up to be snagged by the cops at top and filmed by a TV crew.

The notoriety brings forth Peak’s absent dad who offers to whisk him out of the country until the media uproar dies down.

En route to the Asian city where Peak’s dad enrolled him in school, they make a detour to base camp at Mount Everest, where Peak’s father offers the chance for him to summit the peak as the youngest person yet with the happy consequence of also boosting the fame and fortune of his father’s flagging mountain-climbing company.
There is then the convergence of the perfect storm of conflict against the backdrop of Peak’s mature grappling with the past and continuous neglect of his famous but single-minded father… a hopeless “rock rat.”

The self-sacrifice, courage, and tension between pursuing a passion and balancing relationships is a fabulous read along with a fabulous non-preachy message. There is much to like and all of it engaging.

I’m sorry not to give it full safety rating though it came close. I’d note for parents that Peak’s mom was not married when he was “conceived in a tent.” It is something worth discussing with your tween, especially older ones… note that she was eager to leave her own family of origin (no details given), but it was significant for her. Part of the theme of the book is the effect dealing with his father’s absence and disinterest had on Peak. Also of note is how admirable a mom Peak has. Pregnancy cut short her climbing career, but she never looked back. It was because she could not but focus on her new baby that she lost her competitive edge. She built a loving family with a man who proved to be a good stepfather to Peak. Her advice to Peak upon his embarking on the summit experience is a remarkable speech. No surprise she has a remarkable son.


See: Pre-Marital Sex: Lessons from Reason, Scripture


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eager by Helen Fox

I thought this started like a cool episode of The Twilight Zone: robots and humans. What happens when robots act and look like humans?

In the novel’s future-time robots complete all the menial work. The world has run out of adequate amounts of oil and an imperfect compromise is achieved by having people live in three classes: the technocrats, the professionals, and the city-dwellers. Only the technocrats can travel freely (or afford the latest technology). Though we don't see much of how the urban dwellers live, the professionals use a lot of virtual simulation to experience traveling the world. Going to your local school requires a robot- escort to keep you safe.

Houses are practically alive with all the work being done by central computers and robots who cook, clean and babysit. Fleur and her brother, Gavin, are the children of professionals who become wary of the newest line of robots who act remarkably human... and seem to be able to bypass the prime robot rule: never harm a human.
These newest robots are made by the dominate corporation: LifeCorp. Fleur and Gavin's family take in a robot that was independently made and is able to learn which makes him unlike any robot yet on the market.

When the newest robots start taking human hostages, everything comes to a head. Not that I would describe it as a thriller; it’s more an unsatisfying science fiction.
Disappointing du to the potential to engage deeper questions never coming to fruition. In fact, when Socrates shows up as a computer hologram, he actually sweats and avoids the questions about humanity and robots that are posed to him. The conversations alluding to these intriguing questions is unacceptable unclear when the house computer tells Gavin that the two of them have already figured out that animals have rights. An error is made when the robot Eager presents his FEELINGS as the reason he KNOWS he's alive. Feelings are the measure of truth?

The uniqueness of a human soul created in the image of God by a transcendent being is never even broached. Rights as stemming from the transcendence of God… nada. Amazing for such a topic. Socrates is presented as unable to understand the concept of robots and willing to speak of free-will but keep slaves. (Where is Peter Kreeft when you need him?) I don't know enough to speak to the slave part, but I believe Socrates
could understand robots, and I suspect he grasped the transcendence in relation to the human soul. In fact, I think it was his reasoning of a God that got him killed.

Best as I can tell, we are supposed to believe that these robots are comparable to human slaves. And the robot, Eager, is supposed to be taken as human not merely human-like.

One more parental caution was a a depiction of one of the character's mom falling in love with a virtual personal trainer to the point she encourages her husband to wear the same leotards. It's funny (for adults). The question is: does this respect and model the commitment to love your spouse to heaven that we teach our children?

It all comes clear (well, sort of) in the end. We’re presented with the idea that since the world evolved from nothing in which nothing mysteriously becomes conscious, humans beings might just as mysteriously create a conscious being. And since Eager the robot is made of all the same particles that create the universe…he is part of the Earth, so he IS. In response to Eager's "enlightenment," the book hits a transcendental note with a comment of "om" and a blossom falling.

It would have been better as a cool, short, open-ended questioning Twilight Zone episode.


See: Catechism of the Catholic Church


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

I like so much about this book:
It has a sense of humor that sets a tone as appealing as the Key West scenery where it takes place.
The protagonist is sharp, independent, and more appealing than the scenery.

I like the story:Turtle's mom is a cleaning lady who has to send her daughter back home to live with her sister while she works for a family who won't allow children. Turtle has to squeeze in with her lively cousins in a chaotic, kid-centered, small-town atmosphere where she endears herself to the local residents with her unique personality.

I like the adventure:buried treasure; hurricanes; a brief stint stranded on an island and a barefoot summer.

I like the history:pictures at the end tie in the real-life inspiration for characters, events, and setting of the Key West during the Great Depression.

I like the lessons:
Turtle sometimes complains, in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner about the poor behavior of kids and comments cynically on the nature of adults until her transformed opinion is revealed toward the end with this comment on her aunt's house: " doesn't seem quite so small or shabby to me anymore. I can see past the rickety porch and the tin roof and know it's built just like its people, to sway in a storm and not break."

I do not like: having to point out the need to be cautious about ?'s mom's weakness in relationships with men. It's an uphill battle in this culture to help our children grow and internalize God's plan for love and marriage. Role models in books or movies are important. Turtle's mom isn't particularly helpful. An adult can understand this character and her motivations, but I'd be cautious assuming tweens will have mature judgement.

Mom left Key West pregnant, ran through a few relationships with irresponsible men, and fell for another con artist in the end. She's susceptible because she's needy. Her relationship with her own mom was damaging (resolved in the end). I cringed when Turtle had a couple conversations which alluded to one of the men on Key West being her father although she was unaware at the time that there was innuedo in her flippant comments.

Turtle's level-headed maturity is a remarkable testament in her circumstances. As an adult, you can understand that she is the adult in the relationship because she has to be. Unlike the other lessons learned, though, there is not much evidence from the story to redeem this as a life lesson. Mom doesn't seem to mature and neither she nor Turtle seem to wrestle with the ill-effects of this behavior. In fact, Turtle seems to sail rather smoothly right through it. That's a hopeful but not realistic effect of being fatherless.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Free Baseball by Sue Corbett

coops. foul ball. Felix, playing on his baseball team, shakes his bottom at his teammates who are razzing him (a visual swear word).

foul ball two. Felix tells his coach a "white lie" that he feels a "little sorry" for.

foul ball three. Felix's mother can't take him to the ball park when he wins tickets from the local radio show to a local farm team's game. She is a hard-working, single mom and can't get time off work, so she sends him with the babysitter. A number of circumstances, fueled by his understandable resentment, lead to his hitching a ride in the luggage section of the team bus and taking over for the team's ball boy who did not show up for work. It was not qutie a strike but a definite foul that he stowed away when his mother was coming to pick him up! The circumstances of the book explain much better how this could happen.

I can't help but be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to a book that slips in a phrase describing Felix's math class as "dragging on exponetially." :)

Now the story slides into a homerun after these bumpy hits as Felix, who lives and breathes baseball, gets to care for the team's laundry, toss some balls with the manager, mingle with the players and play with the team's smart, mascot dog.

Felix’s mom eventually catches up with him at the end of a baseball-filled day in which Felix endears himself to the team. She tells Felix a wrenching story about his father, a famous and talented Cuban baseball player. The family tried to escape Cuba together, and his father selflessly gave up his spot on an overcrowded boat to give Felix and his mom a chance. He thought he might have a chance to join them later since he was a well-known ball player.

Instead, he was forced for political reasons to denounce them, and for political-protection reasons, he formally divorced Felix's mom. After it became clear that he would not be able to leave the country, he remarried. It’s an exceptional case. Felix comes from a Catholic background, but it’s barely alluded to, and isn’t part of this discussion with his mom. Such an exceptional case would be an interesting discussion...



regina was here

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