In 2007, Christine Valters Painter and her husband, John, made their first visit to Ireland and in 2012, made the choice to move to Galway. There, this bestselling author of The Artist’s Rule and Illuminating the Way and online abbess of the Abbey of the Arts became immersed in Celtic spirituality. From that experience comes The Soul’s Slow Ripening. Here, Painter presents twelve Celtic practices, such as the practice of thresholds, soul friendship, and walking the bounds, to help the reader discern God’s invitation. Each practice is broken into sections: a discussion of the practice as a path of discernment, an appropriate Irish saint, a scriptural reflection, practices which include photographic and written explorations, and a closing blessing. For those who wish to delve deeper, Painter includes additional instruction on contemplative photography and lectio divinia and a list of Celtic Christian spiritual resources. For those looking for a fresh perspective to enliven their spiritual journey, The Soul’s Slow Ripening provides twelve, thought-provoking opportunities.
(Book received for free from Ave Maria Press in exchange for review.)
For over thirty years, Joyce Rupp, O.S.M., has provided insightful, inspiring spiritual guidance through her writing, retreats, and conferences. Indeed, her lengthy list of bestselling books creates a testament to the lifetime Rupp has spent helping others seeking the Divine in their lives. Now, Kathy Reardon has compiled in Anchors for the Soul prayers, poems, blessings, and meditations drawn from Rupp’s works to create daily readings for inspiration and guidance.
This is the perfect book for both those familiar with Rupp and those just discovering her. For those who have already found comfort or inspiration in Rupp’s work, Anchors offers a daily way to pause for a moment and connect with the Source, all in a book small enough to carry in a purse or satchel. Reardon also thoughtfully included a subject matter index for those seeking direction or solace on a particular topic. Those new to Rupp will have the additional opportunity to discover her other works because each daily reading contains a citation to the book and page of Rupp’s work from which it was drawn. In sum, Anchors for the Soul is a wonderful find.
(Book provided for free by Ave Maria Press in exchange for a review.)
In the summer of 1862, the creative retreat of a group of young artists at Birchwood Manor on the Upper Thames goes horribly awry. When the dust settles, the fiance of the artist Edward Radcliffe is dead and a famous diamond called the Radcliffe Blue has disappeared, as has Radcliffe’s muse, never to be heard from again. Later, Edward drowns in despair over losing his muse. A century later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist with a story of her own, discovers a picture of one of the group in a beautiful old satchel and feels compelled to discover the story behind the items. From these threads and others, Morton seamlessly weaves the stories of several generations to reveal the magical, spellbinding truth. Morton is a master at pacing and plot, making The Clockmaker’s Daughter nothing less than a complete delight to read.
(Reviewed in exchange for a free copy of book through Netgalley.)
In Daily Writing Resilience, Bryan Robinson provides a reading for each day of the year designed to improve a writer’s resiliency. He breaks each reading into three parts: a quotation, advice, and short takeaway. Readings cover topics such as exercise, meditation, breath techniques, stress management, decluttering, and mindful eating. While this book contains sound advice that will improve the well-being of the writer and help him or her to continue in the face of rejection, self doubt, etc., Robinson does not provide specific advice directed to writing itself. In that sense, this book may be of some interest to anyone pursuing a creative endeavor, but if the reader is looking for writing exercises or prompts to get over that latest bout of writer’s block, this may not be the best choice.
(Originally reviewed in exchange for a free book through Netgalley.)
The Fleur de Sel Murders opens with Commissaire George Dupin driving outside of his jurisdiction to the White Land of Brittany where salt is traditionally farmed to investigate a cryptic tip given by a journalist friend. Before he can investigate, however, Dupin is ambushed and injured by gunfire. Shortly thereafter, his journalist friend goes missing. To add complexity, Dupin must share jurisdiction with the local authority, including the Commissaire Sylvaine Rose, as they investigate who shot at Dupin, what happened to the journalist, and what is occurring in the unique environment of the salt marshes between the independent farmers, the co-operative, and big business.
What makes Fleur de Sel stand out beyond its beautiful descriptions of Brittany and the peak into the world of salt farming, is the characters. Dupin is almost quirky in the way he repeatedly responds to evidence in a subconscious way, writing vague notes in his notebook. Pairing him with the ultra-efficient, ambitious, and bluntly commanding Rose creates an interesting tension that holds the reader’s attention. Overall, Fleur proves an entertaining read.
(Reviewed in exchange for a free copy of book through Netgalley.)
Joyce Rupp, a member of the Servite (Servants of Mary) community, has spent a lifetime providing spiritual guidance as a retreat director, conference speaker, and prolific author of over a dozen books which have sold more than a million copies. Nevertheless, Boundless Compassion seems to stand out as the pinnacle of her work, perhaps because, as she notes, the call to compassion has been with her since her early days as a young member of her community. Here, Rupp begins with basic instruction in compassion which she focuses first on the self. Working in increasingly larger circles over several weeks, Rupp extends compassion until it includes to every living thing. She concludes the six-week process with advice on sustaining compassion over the long term in the face of suffering. While Rupp roots Boundless Compassion in the Christian tradition, Rupp cites scientific, medical, theological, spiritual, sociological, and psychological sources to explain and support her direction. For use by either the individual or the group, Rupp’s Boundless Compassion provides the keys to a transformation that, if followed with sincere dedication, has the potential to change the world.
Prayers of Boundless Compassion is a companion volume to Rupp’s Boundless Compassion. Here she offers forty original prayers, blessing, and meditations. Rupp designed these prayers to correlate with each of the themes in her six-week course. However, this pocket-sized book can also stand alone and provide abundant material for spiritual contemplation and action. In either case, this small book cannot but help to solidly ground the reader seeking to live a compassionate life.
(I reviewed these book at the request of the publisher, who provided free review copies.)
In the town of Flaxborough, one of its prominent citizens is found electrocuted in his house slippers on the crossbars of an electricity pylon. This rather bizarre death follows the altogether unremarkable death of his neighbor and fellow prominent citizen just a mere six months earlier. Was the electrocution a murder? Are the two deaths connected? And what seedy business could be occurring in this otherwise pleasant town? Originally published in 1958 as the first in the Flaxborough series, Colin Watson wrote a delightful mystery that did not require gruesome crimes and heart-pounding action to hold the reader’s attention. Instead, Watson relied on a solid mystery with a well-plotted ending and deliciously witty insights into small town life and personalities. Now that the Flaxborough series is in the process of being reprinted, a new generation of readers can enjoy a sense of nostalgia while puzzling over a mystery that withstood the test of time.
(Reviewed in exchange for a free copy of book from the publisher via Netgalley.)
America’s Test Kitchen has created the definitive guide to Mediterranean cooking. Although brimming with amazing recipes, this cookbook has so much more. This book opens with a concise overview of the Mediterranean diet and meal planning. The authors proceed to five-hundred mouth-watering recipes that require mostly easily obtained ingredients and cover every aspect of the meal: small plates, soups, salads, rices and grains, pasta and couscous, beans, vegetables, seafood, poultry and meat, eggs, breads, and fruits and sweets. Many of the recipes are vegetarian and are clearly marked as such, as are quickly prepared recipes. Almost more significantly, the text is simply packed with additional information. The notes dispersed through the book contain valuable information for those wishing to ensure a good outcome and learn more about the intricacies of choosing ingredients and cooking techniques. The large, glossy pictures of the finished product typically found in cookbooks are traded for smaller pictures of the end product and important preparation details. Furthermore, nutritional information for all recipes is contained in an easily read chart at the end of the book. For those looking for the one book they need to master Mediterranean cooking, this is it.
(Originally reviewed in exchange for a free copy of book for Seattle Book Review.)
Hot summers are simply made for light novels that transport the reader to different and, preferably, cooler climes. Jenny Colgan, the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner, provides just the ticket in The Café by the Sea. Flora MacKenzie must return to her childhood home on the fictitious cold, stormy isle of Mure off of Scotland. Her London law firm wants to win an American tech billionaire as a client, and he does not want the view from his Mure home obstructed by a proposed wind farm. So, Flora is sent to discover the islanders’ thoughts on the billionaire and win them to his side. Unbeknownst to her firm, however, Flora fled her childhood home years earlier when her mother died, burning her bridges with her family and community as she left. Furthermore, she also has a terrible crush on her detached, self-absorbed boss, Joel. Can Flora mend her fences with her family, impress the client, and finally catch the attention of her boss? Although a little predictable, the characters and setting of Café will charm readers and provide an entertaining diversion during this hot season.
(Originally reviewed for a free copy of book for Manhattan Book Review.)
Have you ever shaken your head in frustration after reading a modern or contemporary poem, certain you didn’t get the “real meaning?” Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry? will convince you to try again. In his book of essays, Zapruder argues that poets do not write in coded messages. Instead, poetry can be understood by anyone by starting with the meanings of words and relying on the power of association, leaving room for leaps of imagination and the possibility of a “central unsayability.” Written with an awareness of our current political situation, Zapruder eloquently contends that, for the very reason that poetry relies on ways of understanding that are not purely logical or rational, we need poetry now more than ever for its ability to help us create a space where we can bridge the many divides we face.
For the reader or writer of poetry and for the person simply seeking a way to be in the world in these troubling times, Zapruder’s essays will prove enormously compelling and thought provoking. This book simply should not be missed.
(Originally reviewed for a free copy of book for Seattle Book Review.)