Sunday, September 23, 2018

Reviews of More Summer Reads

As I continue to post reviews of the books I read over the summer, I am glad to say that I managed to venture out beyond merely Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) this past summer, reading historical as well as "cozy" mysteries. I am eagerly awaiting the third Magic Bookshop mystery by Amanda Flowers and have also read a more recent book in another series by her as well.

Murder on Union SquareMurder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, are we actually at the 21st book in the Gaslight Mystery series?? It's a brilliant mystery series set in New York City during the early 1900s. Midwife Sarah's doctor husband was murdered four years before the series began, and when one of Sarah's patients is murdered, she meets Detective Frank Malloy, a gruff Irish cop, who, like the majority of the police force, doesn't expend time and energy on cases in which he is not "tipped" by the family. Sarah is shocked and riled by Malloy's uncaring attitude, but she later finds out that under his facade is a man mourning his wife who died giving birth to their deaf son. Sarah, whose parents are one of the wealthy "Knickerbocker" families, joins with Malloy to solve the case and many others that come their way.

This case centers on the murder of an actor (a character in a previous book in the series) at the Palladium Theater on Union Square, a man whom Malloy himself is accused of and arrested for his murder. (I'm skipping a ton of background to avoid spoilers.) The actors are quite the cast of characters, including the aging leading lady, her manager husband, the actor's shrill and grabby "fiancee" (or so she says) who first accuses Malloy who finds the body in the actor's dressing room, and several minor actresses. As the plot unfolds, another character is murdered and the mystery is solved with the assistance of a previous client (another character in a previous book). It's a wonderful whodunnit which took me a while to figure out completely, and it's certainly full of twists and turns galore.

Once again, Victoria Thompson wins us over with a delightful and compelling mystery in this wonderful series that I just can't recommend highly enough.

This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Christina Morland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Elizabeth is informed the very afternoon of the Meryton Assembly that her father is dying of cancer, she has quite the burden to bear, especially knowing that her family must leave Longbourn after her father's death because of the entail on the estate. Mr. Darcy is also struggling with familial problems in that Georgiana has been removed from his care following the debacle at Ramsgate and is extremely unhappy at Rosings Park with Lady Catherine. But being married would give Darcy the legal standing needed to gain back custody of his sister.

After several frank conversations at and following the Meryton Assembly where they meet and talk on the balcony, Elizabeth and Darcy decide to marry, thus providing for the Bennet family after Mr. Bennet's demise and hopefully regaining custody of Georgiana. But when all does not go to plan, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves happier than they ever thought could result from a marriage of convenience.

A very different variation, focusing as much on Georgiana's growth and decisions as it does on Elizabeth's family as her father's health fails. Nothing seems to go as planned, yet This Disconcerting Happiness gives them both the strength to carry on while grieving with one another.

NOTES on Second Reading:
I found myself in tears several times as I re-read this book. It was so compelling, yet so little filled with happiness, or, at least, happiness seemed so far out of reach as to even dim one's hopes of an HEA. I appreciate that the book ended with a pale HEA which is far more realistic than most JAFF. Still, I find this book even better the second time reading it. If I could give it a 4 1/2, I would.

Lucifer's Harvest Lucifer's Harvest by Melvin R. Starr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This ninth chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon, was very short compared to the previous mysteries in this amazing medieval mystery series.

Hugh has been married to his beautiful Kate for several years now, and with daughters Bessie and Sybil, they live in Galen House near Bampton Castle (a day's ride from Oxford) where Hugh is bailiff to the widowed Lord Gilbert Talbot as well as surgeon to the village of Bampton.

A message arrives one day in 1370: Lord Gilbert must provide soldiers to join Prince Edward in France. Hugh assumes that he will remain behind to administrate the affairs of Bampton Castle as he frequently does when Lord Gilbert lives in his other castle, but Lord Gilbert decides that Hugh's surgical skills may be needed on the battlefield, and he is compelled to go. Kate and the girls will move to the castle to run it in Lord Gilbert's absence, with the reeve taking on the bailiff's duties.

The long trek to Burgundy, then Limoges, is difficult, especially when Sir Simon Trillowe, who resents Hugh for winning Kate from him and also burned Galen House (and had to pay for its rebuilding), joins the soldiers from the area surrounding Oxford. Hugh must watch his back for sure. I'll leave the rest for you to discover, but Hugh also meets Prince Edward (later called The Black Prince) on a few occasions.

As always, this mystery is so well-researched and shows the unromantic realism of medieval life, especially for the peasants (this time, the peasants in the French countryside). Even the cadence and structure of the characters' speech possesses a subtle medievalism that is simply superb--not overdone nor underdone.

The glossary at the beginning of each book allows the reader to learn much about medieval life, from the ingredients to medieval dishes to the name for underwear worn in this time period.

Hugh himself is a compelling character: a humble man with some faults of temper and selfishness (like all of us), he is not a confident solver of mysteries so much as he is a careful one, a quality he has learned through experience. Hugh has earned the respect of Lord Gilbert, again through a proven track record of solving mysteries in and around Bampton, but now, in the French countryside ravaged by wars, Hugh is set to solve a mystery in order to save both his reputation and his life.

A brilliant mystery series, especially for those who thrive on details of medieval life; I just wish that there were more books available in the series. I only have one more to read, and then I'll be fully caught up and will have to wait for the publication of the next Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon.

Crime and Poetry Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful first book in a delightful mystery series!! I just love the main character, Violet Waverly (a literature professor just completing her Ph.D. on the Transcendentalists, one of my favorite areas of American lit), who comes home to a small town near Niagara Falls which she had left twelve years before under a shadow of suspicion. Why does she return?

Her grandmother, affectionately dubbed "Grandma Daisy" by those who love her, told Violet that she was dying and needed her to come home. Violet drops everything and returns to her hometown to help her ailing grandmother, she is shocked to find a very healthy Grandma Daisy waiting on customers in Charming Books, her popular bookshop.

But a death in town puts Grandma Daisy under suspicion, a situation in which Violet is quite familiar. But the handsome new police chief, who happens to belong to the writers' group who meets at Charming Books each week, seems to be far more open-minded than the former chief who had railroaded Violet when she was still a high school student. Despite the new chief, Violet decides to investigate this murder on her own because of her overall distrust of the police of this small tourist-driven village.

Yet there is another mystery that Grandma Daisy reveals to Violet: a mystery that revolves around the bookshop itself. Can magic really exist in our modern world?

I found this series to be amazing. I loved the quirky characters immediately. It's so easy for "quirky" to become a cliche, but these characters truly are quirky in the best way possible. I adore Violet and her background in literature as it resembles my own, and Grandma Daisy is so wonderful! And the different villagers are warm and welcoming, except for the parents of Violet's former boyfriend, now the town's mayor, who have always seen Violet as not good enough for their son.

I'm just disappointed that there are only two books of this series so far, with a third one set to be published in February.

Prose and Cons Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book in the Magical Bookshop series is just as wonderful as the first. Violet is adjusting to her grandmother's revelation about the magical qualities of Charming Books and has decided to take a leave of absence from her doctoral work in Chicago. She accepts an adjunct position at the local community college while also helping Grandma Daisy at the bookshop which also contains a small apartment that Grandma Daisy refurbished as an incentive for Violet to remain in Upstate New York.

Violet is also torn between two men. Nathan, the mayor, wants to pick up their relationship right where they left off twelve years ago, despite the fact that his parents persuaded him to "throw her under the bus" during the investigation into the death of her best friend during their senior year of high school. And then there's David, the police chief who also writes children's books as part of the Red Inkers, the writers' group who meets weekly at Charming Books. But when a member of the Inkers is murdered, another member of the group is under suspicion, and again Violet feels that she must solve the mystery before her friend gets railroaded by the police as she was twelve years earlier.

A delightful setting, a compelling mystery, and quirky village characters make this second book in the Magical Bookshop Mysteries a wonderful read. I only wish that we didn't have to wait until February for the next book in the series!!

Phi Alpha Pi Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very intriguing modern variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice set in Lizbeth's final year of college in the Phi Alpha Pi sorority where she is the chapter president.

This book almost seemed more like a mystery than a straight Austen variation, for much is uncovered, especially about their housemother, Mrs. C.. whose son, Colin Collins, seeks to be tutored by Lizbeth. Of course, Wil Darcy, his friend Charlie, and Charlie's sister, Caroline, all transfer in from Tulane University in New Orleans. Lizbeth keeps her wealthy background a secret as she works with her mentor, Dr. Bennet, and with the other officers in the sorority including Jane, Charlotte, Marie, and Lydia.

It's an intriguing tale--a little awkward in places (but then, that's Darcy no matter in which era we find him)--and cleverly done. I'd give it a 3 1/2, but I'll boost it to a 4 for this review. Darcy seems a bit one-dimensional until near the end of the book, but that could be his famous "mask" protecting him from the undesirable elements at this university in Georgia, an interesting choice for Darcy and Lizbeth as both hail from the northeast.

I really enjoyed it and found it quite compelling and deeply interesting. A fun twist on Austen's classic, and very readable.

* * * * *

I have a huge backlog of books I've read but have not listed or reviewed yet; that's a job I hope to tackle this week! Our library's Summer Reading Program turned out to be quite rewarding, not only in all of the books I read this summer but also in the prizes given at the drawing at the end of the program. One of my (many) tickets was drawn first, so I was able to choose a Kindle Fire 7 tablet for our daughter to use in her business (I already have a Kindle Fire 8), so that was a lovely perk.  

Happy reading! 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Summer Book Reviews

Goodness, this summer just flew by! I taught a Shakespeare class and a Fan Fiction class online at Brave Writer, plus readied our youngest to attend college out-of-state (Yikes!!). The day after I returned from getting him settled, we had our eldest son's friend from Kentucky arrive to stay for a week (with trips to the San Diego Zoo and Disneyland) while spending most of our time at my parents' beach house before our son flew back to stay with the friend for another week. I'm back to teaching Playing with Poetry: Discovery at Brave Writer this fall, but somehow had no time to post my book reviews. So here are a few:

The Trouble to Check Her: A Pride and Prejudice Variation The Trouble to Check Her: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Maria Grace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book on Maria Grace's blog and on the Austen Variations site, and I loved it!! It's the second book in the Queen of Rosings Park series...although, in this volume, there is neither hide nor hair of the "Queen of Rosings Park," Lady Catherine. Mr. Darcy has given Lydia the opportunity to attend a "finishing school" of sorts--Mrs. Drummond's School for Girls, an institution for young ladies like Lydia who have lost their reputations to men who refused to marry them. Darcy has agreed to pay Lydia's tuition, but if she is expelled, she is completely on her own and will likely have to work as a servant.

Lydia enters the school in typical Lydia-style, immediately finding and befriending the rebels of the school and disdaining the young ladies who are trying to make amends for serious mistakes in their lives. Lydia is upset that she cannot room with Amelia and Joan, the aforementioned rebels, but instead must share a room with Juliana, a girl who is hugely pregnant and too sweet and naive for Lydia's tastes. Lydia detests the lessons, especially the new music teacher, Mr. Amberson, who chides her for her lack of practice on the pianoforte. And to be expected to clean her own a maid-of-all-work?? No thank you!!

Will Lydia end up out on the streets so many miles from home, or will she begin to find her worth as she learns to work, study, and even play the pianoforte?

A wonderful story--with some romance from a very unusual direction!! I very much enjoyed reading it as a weekly serial and also now in e-book form!!

To Save and Protect: A Pride and Prejudice Variation To Save and Protect: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Paisley James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To Save and Protect is the first of three books in a three-part series of outstanding variations of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. After receiving the letter from Mr. Darcy on the morning after her rejection of his unfortunate proposal, Elizabeth wanders the grounds of Rosings, thinking over all that Darcy's letter has revealed about her sister, about Wickham, and mostly, about Elizabeth herself.

When news comes to Darcy at Rosings that there is a dangerous fugitive on the loose in the neighborhood, he searches for Elizabeth and at last finds her. They aren't terribly polite to each other, but Darcy is compelled by his "inner gentleman" to ensure her safety.

Together, Darcy and Elizabeth uncover a heinous plot involving murder, attempted murder, near-death, a near-attack, and blackmail...while Darcy's only wish is To Save and Protect the woman he she begins to return his feelings.

This novel is full of surprises; the plot is wonderfully twisty-turny, and the development of Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy is quite believable as his actions, more than his awkward words, demonstrate the quality of gentleman she rejected so rudely. The plot unfolds beautifully and with perfect timing, and the whole thing sucked me in completely.

This book is marvelously written, perfectly paced, and extremely compelling. I've read it at least four times--it's incredible, as are the next two books in the series.

Brava, Paisley James!!

Twenty-One Days Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series for ages and ages--I think I started reading them when only about eight books were in the series; there are now 27.

And enter Charlotte and Thomas' son, Daniel, a young (25-year-old) lawyer getting his start in 1910, thanks to a recommendation from his father, now Sir Thomas Pitt, who remains head of Special Branch. It's strange for me to read about Daniel since I feel as if I've watched him grow up--in a way, I have, as far as characters go.

Daniel is involved in his first real cases--both of which involve possible death penalty outcomes. The novel starts in the middle of the first case which then leads into the second case of a man accused of murdering his wife and burning her face so that she was unrecognizable. The man is decidedly unlikeable, but Daniel knows that he must do his best to prove this man innocent. Instead, a guilty verdict is handed down, and Daniel has twenty-one days before the man's hanging to find mitigating proof of his innocence.

In his quest for proof, Daniel comes across a damning manuscript written by the condemned man regarding Victor Narraway, his father's former boss at Special Branch, and Narraway's wife, Lady Vespasia, an elderly but powerful woman in London society and politics who was also related to the Pitts by marriage and assisted Thomas on many of his cases. With both Narraway and Vespasia dead, the fault for much of the implied wrong would fall on Sir Thomas Pitt, Daniel's own father. What is Daniel to do? And is there a leak at Special Branch?

I found this book as captivating as the entire Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series--in some ways, almost more so. Daniel is young and knows that he will inevitably make mistakes, but he has his mother's crusading spirit and his father's logical mind to fall back on, as well as the elderly head of the law firm who is an old friend of Daniel's father and sees the beginnings of a brilliant lawyer in young Daniel. Other new characters step in and out of the story, brilliant characters who attract our attention (and our hearts) and are instantly believable.

Anne Perry has always drawn amazing characters--memorable and lovable characters with weaknesses amid their strengths--who surprise us and involve us in their very thoughts. Perry is a masterful writer of the mystery genre, and this book may be among her very best yet. I rarely give "5" scores to books that are not classics, but this book definitely deserves this designation--the first of what I hope will be a long series of mysteries involving Daniel Pitt.

Mischief Mischief by Amanda Quick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have seen Amanda Quick's novels often on our library's shelves, and when I had nothing to read, I snatched this one.

I enjoyed the Regency setting and the idea of Matthias' archaeological trips which resulted in the discovery of the lost island of Zamar and all the details of this "lost culture." I enjoyed Matthias as a character: his seeming coldness (nicknamed "Cold-blooded Colchester") is quickly warmed by Imogen. I appreciated the various mysteries they solved together, including the death of Imogen's friend and the murder of Lord Vanneck whom Imogen believes was the murderer of her friend, his wife.

However, I didn't care for Imogen's stupidity. She's an obviously intelligent woman, given her research into ancient Zamarian culture and her ability to read Zamarian script (only she and Matthias are true scholars of Zamar although as a woman, she could not join the archaeological explorations), but she is at the same time unbelievably naive about people and society to the point of absolute stupidity. I found her obtuseness quite annoying. And the intimate scenes between Imogen and Matthias were just...weird. I don't care for such scenes anyway, enough so that I doubt I'll pick up another book by this author.

I enjoyed the various mysteries as they unfolded, and I really enjoyed Matthias' character opening himself up to Imogen despite (or perhaps because of) her reputation as "Immodest Imogen, but her consistent belief that she was always right despite being dead wrong most of the time was annoying. She saw what she wanted to see and believed only what she wanted to believe despite the truth of the matter being right smack-dab under her nose. I also didn't care for Matthias' half-sister Patricia who appears partway through the story and flip-flops in her dislike for both Matthias and Imogen so often that I couldn't keep up with her.

So it was the various mysteries that drove this novel forward for me and kept me reading despite my annoyance at most of the female characters.

Netherfield: Rogue Dragon: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Netherfield: Rogue Dragon: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Maria Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to proofread this and the second Jane Austen's Dragons book by Maria Grace, and I have to say that I ADORE this series. Out of the 600+ Austen variation novels I've read over the past five years or so, this series is my absolute #1 favorite of all time!!!!!!


No exceptions.

It's a brilliant world Maria Grace has dreamed up and researched meticulously. Each type of dragon in this series of three books thus far (and a fourth coming out soon--a prequel to this trilogy) has been based on dragon lore of Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and northern Europe. And the Blue Order--the association of dragons in Britain and the dragon-hearers--those who see, hear, and care for the hundreds, perhaps thousands of dragons in England--is simply brilliant.

In this third book of the trilogy based on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth have been declared engaged by the Blue Order Council in order for both of them to care for young Pemberley, the baby firedrake who hatched in mysterious circumstances in Book One. But a rogue dragon--one not subject to the Pendragon Treaty to which all dragon and human members of the Blue Order agree--may be living at Netherfield Park, just outside of Laird Longbourn's territory. Elizabeth is charged by the Blue Order to discover this rogue dragon and to bring it into the Blue Order while Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam travel throughout Britain, quieting dragonkind who are upset at the idea of a possible rogue dragon and searching for clues about its provenance. Lydia, who apparently just started to hear dragons (which can occur later in life) is missing from Netherfield which she was caring for while Jane and Bingley (both dragon-deaf) are honeymooning.

In addition, Elizabeth has been banished from Longbourn's territory for refusing to marry Mr. Collins and for leaving Longbourn to care for baby Pemberley at Rosings Park where she was pining for "her" (Elizabeth). Mary, the other Bennet daughter who can hear dragons, is installed as Junior Keeper under Mr. Bennet, Historian of the Blue Order. Mary and her father are charged with the education of Mr. Collins, now affianced to Mary, as the Longbourn Estate (and its dragon) are entailed to him.

So with the very future of the Blue Order and the Pendragon Accords in jeopardy, Elizabeth and Darcy and the dragons assisting them, seek to keep peace between humanity and dragonkind within England...while trying to pursue their own future as co-Keepers of young Pemberley who will become a very powerful dragon in the Blue Order due to her rank within dragonkind.

And I'll leave my description here now that the background is clear (I hope). Just read the whole series; it's absolutely brilliant!!!!!!!!!!

* * * * *

Thanks for reading my reviews...which are a teensy more eclectic than the norm with two books NOT Austen variations although two are by Maria Grace. 

I'll be posting and also writing more reviews coming up. I had quite the list for the Summer Reading Program at our county library branch and managed to win our daughter a Kindle Fire 7 for her business. Last time I won something from the Summer Reading Program, I won a toaster oven which we just installed a month or two ago when the previous one decided to catch fire for some reason... Thus, I can tell my husband that reading really DOES PAY!! :D 


Sunday, September 2, 2018

2018-2019 Essay Grading Service

Here's the latest information for my e-mail grading service which I've been doing now for twelve years! 

Susanne Barrett: E-Mail Essay Grading Service
2018-2019 School Year

So this is how my grading system works: Just send me the essay as a Word attachment, and please include the assignment directions either in the text of the e-mail or also as an attachment. Also, please let me know if you would like comments only or comments with a letter grade. Please alert me also to anything else I may need to know (such as learning challenges, reluctant writing, etc.) so that I can respond to the essay in the most helpful way possible.

I will respond via e-mail within 24 hours to let you know that I received the essay and on which day you can expect to have it returned to you, usually within 3-5 school days. If you need an essay graded sooner, let me know, and I'll see if I can slip it into my schedule.

Also, with each assignment, please include the writer’s age, grade level, and whether you want a letter grade since I grade for many families and may not recall your family’s preferences. 

I then download the essay, mark corrections, make comments, and offer suggestions in the right margin. At the end of the essay, I write an overall summary of what was done well in the essay and what needs further attention. My over-arching goal is to encourage growth in the art and craft of writing, including format/structure, organization, fluency, vocabulary, and mechanics.   
Then when I return the graded essay, which I send in Word and also as a PDF (because some Apple computers/tablets don’t show the review comments in the right margin of Word documents), I will let you know the fee (which is the number of words in the essay [excluding name, date, and any notes for me] times $.03 [3 cents per word]) with a $10 minimum fee per essay. If you wish to have your writer revise the essay and submit it to be re-graded, I charge half as much (1½ cents per word with a $5 minimum) for grading revised essays.

Then I ask you to remit via PayPal at PayPal.Me/SusanneBarrett when I return the essay. I will grade the essay first and then receive payment after returning the essay to you. Please remit payment within 24 hours of my returning the graded essay to you.

Regarding research essays, I am well-versed in the latest Modern Language Association (MLA) format style according to the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition (2016) which is the format most commonly used for research in the humanities. Because I am not at all familiar with other research formats such as APA, CMS/Turabian, etc., I only grade research essays formatted according to the MLA style, either the 7th or the 8th edition.

Please let me know if you have any questions; I’m always happy to explain and/or discuss my essay grading services.

So send along an essay whenever you're ready, and we'll go from there! I look forward to working with you and your young writer(s)! 

Writing with you,

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The 12th Week after Trinity and Quote of the Week

Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona

This week has been a hard one as we prepare Benjamin to go to college in another state. It's especially challenging after recently receiving a diagnosis of autism for him in addition to his learning differences. So we hope and pray for a successful college experience for him. It's going to be a real challenge. But God has opened so many doors for him to attend Grand Canyon University that we have to trust Him with Benjamin.

So this is a time for massive prayer for Benjamin and for us, too, as we're five hours away from our youngest.

Here are our Propers for this the Twelfth Week after Trinity--about halfway through Ordinary Time, the growing season of our Christian Year:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and are always ready to give us more than we desire or deserve; Pour down your abundant mercy upon us, forgiving us those things which weigh on our consciences and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the sacrifice and mediation of Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord; Who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Isaiah 65.24; 1 Kings 3.11-12; John 16.33)
2 Corinthians 3.4-9; Mark 7.31-37; Psalm 70; Psalm 34.1-5; Proverbs 22.1-2; 8-9; 22-23.
And our Quotation of the Week comes from Dynamic Catholic's daily posts:
"Every moment is an opportunity for holiness. Learning to grasp these opportunities one moment at a time is central to the Christian life." 
~Matthew Kelly
So please join us in prayer for Benjamin as he adjusts to living on a campus of 21,000 students after twelve years of home education. BIG changes!!
Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Eleventh Week after Trinity and Quote of the Week

The Transfiguration by Raphael

Once again, we celebrate a week filled with the blessings of the Lord as well as the challenges of this life that He enables us to overcome through His grace and love. 

Here are the Propers for this week: the Eleventh Week after Trinity (yes, we're nearly halfway through Ordinary Time!) from the Book of Common Prayer 2011 as well as a new Quotation of the Week:

ETERNAL God, you make known the greatness of your power by showing mercy and pity; Grant us such abundant grace, that, running in the path of your commandments, we may obtain your promises and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always. Amen. (References: Wisdom 12.16; John 17.1-2; Matthew 6.20)
1 Corinthians 15.1-11; Luke 18.9-14; Psalm 111; Psalm 51.15-17; Joel 2.23-32
For once, I haven't already read the Scripture for this week. At our Friday Morning Prayer and Holy Communion with Healing Prayers, Father Acker usually reads one week ahead, giving a short meditation or "think piece" on the Epistle or the Gospel readings for the coming Sunday as preparation for his Sunday sermon.
But this week, we celebrated The Feast of the Transfiguration of August 6, so we prayed the Collect and read the Epistle and the Gospel passages for the feast instead: 1 John 3.1-3 and Mark 9.2-7.  The Transfiguration, which is described in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), tells of Jesus taking three of the apostles with him to see Jesus glorified as the Christ, the Son of God. It's an amazing scene described in these passages: Jesus glorified on earth as He prepares to save the world through his death and resurrection. Wow.  
I love Raphael's painting of the Transfiguration which includes not only the Transfiguration on the mountain but also the chaos occurring at the base of the mountain as the remaining apostles attempt to rebuke a demon from a young boy and are unable to. As Mark 9 continues from the Gospel reading for the Feast of Transfiguration, we see Jesus seem to lose His cool--a rare happening, indeed--when He hears from the boy's father that His disciples "were not able" to cast out the demon:
"And he answered them, 'O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.'" 
After watching the boy convulse, Jesus questions the father and tells him, "'All things are possible for one who believes'" (Mark 9.23). And the father responds with words that have been prayed in desperation by humankind for the last two thousand years: "'I believe; help my unbelief!'" Then Christ rebukes the unclean spirit and cast it out of the boy, telling it to never return to the child.
Immediately after leaving the area, Jesus then teaches his disciples of all that He must suffer: of Jesus' coming death and his resurrection on the third day...although they did not understand Him and were too afraid to ask Him for clarification. 
So Jesus goes from being Transfigured into God's glory, to having to clean up a mess His disciples could not fix, and then to telling them of how He would suffer, die, and rise again--when He will again be Transfigured from glory into glory. 
The Quotation of the Week comes from the daily Minute Meditation from
"In the deepest mystery of his being, God is an intimate relationship, a fellowship, a community of love." 
~Darrell Johnson
Isn't that a wonderful thought! God is "a community of love." Where love is, there God is, too, whether we recognize His presence with us or not. It is in His love that God speaks in and through and to us. Thanks be to God!! 
Wishing you all a blessed week!
Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, August 5, 2018

12th Blogiversary, Collect, and Quotation for This Week

Monday marks my 12th Blogiversary: I started this blog on August 6, 2006 and while it's waxed and waned over the years (more waning lately--mostly posting book reviews!), it's still going.

So in honor of this blogiversary, I'd like to revive two weekly postings from the murky past: the weekly Propers from the Book of Common Prayer 2011 and a weekly Quotation of the Week.

More than seven years ago, Father Acker of Blessed Trinity Anglican Church wrote and printed a new Book of Common Prayer, the mainstay of Anglican worship since the Church of England left the Roman Catholic Church during the reign of King Henry VIII. This new version, the Book of Common Prayer 2011, is largely based on Thomas Cranmer's original Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of 1549, only with updated language and the Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible of 2001.

When this BCP was first released for preview for the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), it was largely ignored as the ACNA had started working on their own BCP. I started posting the weekly Collect on Saturday nights to our Facebook group and also posted the Collect here in the sidebar of this blog. I also frequently posted the Collect and Readings as a blog post, and I think I'd like to pick up this habit once again.

LET your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your people; And, so that we may obtain our requests, assist us in asking only for those things that are pleasing to you; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Nehemiah 1.11; 1 Chronicles 1.11-12; 1 John 5.14)
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 12.1-11
The Gospel: Luke 19.41-47a
plus Psalm 55.1-8, 23; Psalm 137.1-6; Exodus 20.1-17

And along with the weekly Propers (the Collect plus the Readings), I like to share a quotation for the week. Some are Christian in nature, some literary, some humorous. I have collected quotations officially for seventeen years starting in August 2001, just before we moved from San Diego proper to a small mountain village 50 miles to the east (and 3500 feet in elevation). 

I'm halfway through my second journal in which I jot down quotations from e-mail devotions, bound devotions, articles and books I'm reading, plus lines from poems and/or hymns (and sometimes the entire poem and/or hymn), song lyrics, quotes from TV shows and/or movies, etc. Basically, I jot down anything that I want to "collect" or "keep" or remember--often with a dip pen and bottled ink, just to "keep it real." I have included a Quotation of the Week in the sidebar of this blog since the beginning, and now I want to start posting them in the blog itself again. So here is a quotation from a blog post by a well-known Christian blogger and author that impressed the Truth into my heart:

"And every day, with every word, we get to decide: Do we mar the world, or mark the world?" 

~Ann Voskamp on her blog A Holy Experience

So here they are: the Propers for this week and a Quotation for the week. I may write more about the Propers and the Quotation for each week when I post, so I hope that you'll enjoy my meditative meanderings on these topics, in addition to some book reviews soon to be posted here as well! 

Soli Deo Gloria, 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review for Homeschooling Families: The Writer's Jungle: A Survivor's Guide to Writing With Kids

As I wind up my 21st and final year of home education, I have to write a recommendation of the one textbook that influenced our family the most. I don't know where our homeschool--or my life--would be without this book and its incredible author and her outstanding business, Brave Writer.

The kudos we owe Julie Bogart are beyond expression. She not only changed the way I viewed writing--and I have taught writing at a couple of universities as well as to students from 4th-12th grades through our homeschool group, Heritage Christian School of San Diego--but the way I see education, family life, literature, and even self-care (the last of which most homeschooling mothers fail abysmally).

If you purchase one writing book for your entire K-12 homeschool, buy this one. Read it from cover to cover. Then go back and do it with your kids, one chapter at a time. And if you find this book too daunting, Brave Writer offers an online course just for mothers of young writers: The Writers' Jungle Online.

The Writer's Jungle: A Survivor's Guide to Writing With KidsThe Writer's Jungle: A Survivor's Guide to Writing With Kids by Julie Bogart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read the very first edition of this book, right after Julie first published it back in 2001 as her language arts business, Brave Writer, was just getting off the ground.

I have to confess to being extremely biased as I've worked for Brave Writer since 2002 and have known Julie since the mid-'90s. She's a dear friend as well as an amazing teacher and a great boss, too

Putting all that aside as much as possible, this book revolutionized the way I looked at writing. I started my academic career by teaching Freshman Comp and other writing classes at a local private liberal arts college, so when I quit to home educate our four kids, I started to teach them how to write in a very rigid, academic manner...until I read The Writer's Jungle. This approach totally turned my writing world upside-down and topsy-turvy--in the best ways possible.

It was exactly what my kids needed. And more than that, it was exactly what *I* needed.

You see, The Writer's Jungle is not a writing manual. It's not really even a writing guide...or a writing curriculum...or a reference book...or a handbook...or a set of writing exercises.

It's a guide to teach us parents how to guide our kids into expressing themselves via the written word. It's a way to build the parent-child relationship almost more than it is a guide about how to write. It--and all Brave Writer products and classes--seek to address the heart and mind of children, showing them how to express their thoughts on paper in a practical way that helps young writers--and especially reluctant writers--to learn how to transfer the ideas in their heads into words on the page/screen.

Julie is often asked the question, "So how do I teach my kids to write using The Writer's Jungle? There's an online class that families can take--parent and child(ren) together--at called "The Writer's Jungle Online." Or, as Julie says to parents, "Read the first chapter. Do it. Then read the next chapter, and do it. And so on until you reach the end of the book."

I recommend reading the whole book first so that we understand the whole concept, then going back to the first chapter and proceeding as Julie says.

That's what I did for our own four kids...and then I applied the philosophy and some of the exercises from The Writer's Jungle to the co-op classes in writing that I was teaching at our private school program's Class Days, whether I was teaching junior high or high school students.

And celebrate every milestone: copywork, freewriting, dictation--all of it! Copywork became a mainstay of our homeschooling: every morning I joined the kids at the big table, and we all pulled out our journals and copied something meaningful to us in our best handwriting. As well as practicing neatness in our penmanship, the kids learned spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar...and the power of the written word. That words were worth keeping. That writing can be powerful.

I can't recommend this writing book highly enough. It changed my entire outlook on teaching writing, even to college students. Even if your kids are not educated at home, this book teaches so much more than just how to write. It was exactly what our family needed.

Writing with you,

Sunday, July 1, 2018

And Death Knells...

After wedding bells nearly two weeks ago, we held the memorial service for Keith's dad, Ken Barrett, Saturday afternoon at Faith Bible Fellowship in Santee, a church that Keith's dad was instrumental in starting. Pastor Gene Beezer, who has been Mom and Dad Barrett's longtime pastor, officiated the service, and he's also the pastor whom Dad Barrett helped to install at Faith Bible Fellowship.

It was a small service, about 80% family, and Kevin, Karla, and then Keith all stood up to speak before Pastor Beezer spoke, and then we concluded with singing "How Great Thou Art." Dad Barrett left a legacy of four kids, 15 grandkids, and at least eight great-grandkids as well as a legacy of supporting missionaries, some for more than thirty years...including one of his granddaughters returning in September from three years of missionary work in Ireland.

Dad's generosity, his quiet love for family and church family, and his love for our Lord all marked a life well-lived.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Wedding Bells...

Photo by Heather Winters

Jonathan Todd Barrett married Emily Yvette Bauman (now Barrett) 

on Sunday, June 17, 2018

at Five o' Clock in the Evening

El Cajon, California

Officiated by Jeff Clabaugh

Associate Pastor, Pine Valley Community Church

Reception Followed the Wedding

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Book Reviews: The Highland Hall Trilogy

I'm rarely one to read modern Christian fiction, so although I wasn't too impressed with the first book, I kept reading and liked each book a bit more....

The Governess of Highland Hall The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't realize that this novel was a work of Christian fiction when I ordered it from our local library. I found the story itself compelling, so compelling that I stayed up far too late reading it at night when I should have been sleeping.

Miss Julia Foster, a missionary in India along with her parents, returns to England with her parents because of her father's poor health. Needing funds to help support the family, Julia applies for the post of governess at Highland Hall and is hired by Sir William to educate his two children, a nine-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, along readying Sir William's two (rebellious) nieces for their eventual come-outs in London society.

Julia quickly befriends Sir William's crippled sister, Sarah, and becomes a confidant to both siblings. Sir William confesses to Julia that he faces great financial hardship as the death duties from inheriting Highland Hall from his cousin (the father of his two nieces) makes it probable that Sir William will have to sell Highland Hall. The only person on whom Julia does not make a good impression is the housekeeper, Mrs. Emmitt. The children soon grow to love Julia, and even the nieces end up warming to her in the long run.

But while the setting (1911--very Downton Abbey-ish), the characters, and the conflicts were un-put-downable (yes, a made-up word), the way in which the Christian faith was portrayed along with the machinations of the housekeeper felt trite and clich├ęd. The prayers of the characters seemed hackneyed and unrealistic. Same with the plottings of Mrs. Emmit, the housekeeper. In both of these instances, I felt that these amazing three-dimensional characters quickly became two-dimensional, almost like cardboard cut-outs rather than human beings.

This is the very reason I read so little Christian fiction. I'm sure that there are some excellent works by Christian authors being published, but the ones I've read seem so shallow to me. Perhaps it's because it's so difficult to comprehend, much less express, how our faith deeply impacts every aspect of our lives that it's extremely challenging to express such depth and breadth in a work of fiction.

Even given these exceptions, I enjoyed the novel very much, but I'll have to think about whether to invest time in reading additional books in the series.

The Daughter of Highland Hall The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading The Governess of Highland Hall, I was definitely interested in reading the next book in the series...until I found out that it focused on one of my least-favorite characters from the first book: spoiled, manipulative Kate Ramsey.

But Kate undergoes some serious changes between the books as her cousin William Ramsey, now master of Highland Hall after the deaths of her parents, becomes engaged to Julia, Kate's former governess and a former missionary to India who happens to have some higher connections in London society after all.

As the second book begins, Kate has already softened greatly, now possessing obvious respect for her cousin and his fiancee, while resenting her Aunt Louisa, her sponsor for the London Season, who, despite her title, is a social-climber of the most obvious sort. Kate begins the book wanting to end the season with an engagement to a young man of wealth and status, and almost immediately finds a gentleman who possesses these qualities in Edward Wellington who is taken by Kate's honesty and lack of social pretention.

However, Julia's brother Jonathan comes to live with them in London as he completes his medical studies and plans to return to India as a medical missionary, just as their father, Dr. Foster, had been. Dr. Foster's health does not allow him to return to the mission field, and with Julia's engagement and upcoming marriage keeping her in England, his hopes to restart the mission lie on Jon's shoulders. But Jon begins to become interested in Daystar, a medical mission right in London's East End, helping the poor families there, and often the homeless children who live in abandoned buildings.

I'll leave off here, but from the first chapter the plot becomes fairly obvious; it's just a matter of how our young heroine will surmount all of the challenges set before her, mostly in the form of Aunt Louisa's rudeness as she steers Kate through the intricacies of London society. But the Ramseys face social ostracism after William's brother, David, gets involved with a married woman, plus William's upcoming marriage to Julia, the girls' former governess, is another black mark against the family.

A great story, filled with Christian virtues and challenges, in a way that is fairly natural. I don't tend to enjoy overtly Christian fiction because the mixture of faith and fiction tends to create stilted, hackneyed plots and prose. But this series is far better than most although a few times it does become a bit preachy and formulaic.

Overall, a great read on an afternoon when one doesn't feel well....

I think I'll order the third book in the series after all!

A Refuge at Highland Hall A Refuge at Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third novel in the Edwardian Brides series finds England in the midst of the Great War. Kate is married to Jonathan, and they have adopted eight orphaned children to live in their London home as Jonathan continues to work in a hospital in a poor area of the city. Kate's younger sister, Penny, lives with them, helping Kate care for the children and for herself as the birth of their first biological child nears.

Penny is also introduced to Alex, a pilot-in-training with the Royal Navy, who is recuperating from a minor injury before he will return to his squadron in France. They agree to write to one another when Alex is cleared to return to the Front.

But a bombing by the Germans forces Jon to send Kate and the children and the London staff to Highland Hall where Lady Julia, once governess to Kate and Penny, and her husband Sir William, cousin to Kate and Penny, live. As Kate and Penny grew up at Highland, it's a homecoming of sorts, but with eight children added to William's two children from his first marriage, there are a lot of children about!

Faith is required as Britain fights on through the Great War, and the scenes switch between the kind-of peaceful days at Highland (although there definitely are some issues going on with Kate's pregnancy, the Germans who were living in Britain when the war broke out and are put to work on English farms under guard to be sure that they are not German spies, and with a cranky elderly aunt who can't stand children moving in with them) and Alex's experiences as a pilot in the war.

The story continues to unfold as Penny and Alex draw closer through letters, but then a seemingly insurmountable obstacle rears its head, possibly preventing their future happiness.

Highland Hall is indeed a refuge in many ways during the dark days of the Great War, and all who live under its roof must depend on God for their survival...and their future.

* * * * *

So what have you been reading this spring, especially as school lets out and perhaps you have a bit more time to read???

Reading with you,

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity Sunday and Quotations...

Updated from the Archives...

The Sunday following Pentecost/Whitsunday is the celebration of the Holy Trinity. Trinity Sunday is a celebration of just one day, and the liturgical color is white, symbolizing the purity and sinlessness of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now that the Holy Spirit has arrived on the scene to complete the Trinity, Ordinary Time shall begin starting next week, stretching over twenty-some weeks until the arrival of Advent in late November to early December. Nearly half of the Church Year consists of Ordinary Time for which the liturgical color is green, symbolizing the continual growth of our faith as we follow Christ and endeavor to become more like Jesus. During Ordinary Time, the weeks are counted as being "after Trinity": the First Sunday after Trinity, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, etc.

But today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The website Church Year explains:
Trinity Sunday, officially "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity," is one of the few feasts of the Christian Year that celebrates a reality and doctrine rather than an event or person. On Trinity Sunday we remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, and lasts only one day, which is symbolic of the unity of the Trinity. The Eastern Churches have no tradition of Trinity Sunday, arguing that they celebrate the Trinity every Sunday. Westerners do as well, although they set aside a special feast day for the purpose.
The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
For the Epistle today, the Book of Common Prayer requires the reading of the fourth chapter of Revelation; you may read it here in the English Standard Version: Revelation 4:1-11, ESV.

The Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday is written in the third chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the first verse through the fifteenth. You may read it here, again in the ESV: John 3:1-15.

Today is also the Feast of Title for two churches in the San Diego area, both of which have removed themselves from the San Diego Episcopal Diocese and have put themselves under the authority of Biblical leadership: Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach (along the coast in the city of San Diego) and Blessed Trinity Church, formerly in Alpine and now meeting in El Cajon. I have been attending weekday healing services led by Father Keith Acker when he was Rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church and also after he and his church left the Diocese and reformed as Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. The church relocated a few years ago to the more central SCAIR building on Main Street in downtown El Cajon as Blessed Trinity Church which is now part of the Reformed Episcopal Church. So blessings to both churches on their Feast of Title!

So today we give special thanks to our Lord, one God realized in three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although we praise God for the Trinity each and every day of the year, this day we celebrate it more than usual, remembering His gracious goodness, His lovingkindness, and His ever-faithful mercy in, as Dr. Stephen Sammons, our former pastor at Lake Murray Community Church often stated, loving us as we are, yet loving us too much to allow us to remain that way. In the traditional words of the Gloria Patri, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen." 

Here's the Collect for Trinity Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who gave grace to your people to proclaim the true Faith, acknowledging the glory of the eternal Trinity and, by the power of your Divine Majesty, worshiping One God; Keep us standing firm in this Faith and always defend us from danger; Who lives and rules, one God, now and forever. Amen

Also, I wanted to share a few quotations on The Trinity...which are not easy to find, by the way. But I really like these words from an Anglican who started the Holiness movement:

"Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God."       
                                         ~John Wesley

And another quotation, this time from a Catholic mystic of the 14th century:

"You, oh eternal Trinity, are a deep Sea, into which the deeper I enter, the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek."
                                ~Saint Catherine of Siena 

And from another mystic, this time of the 20th century:

"He is at once infinite solitude (one nature) and perfect society (three persons)." 
                                      ~Thomas Merton 

And finally, from a saint recently gone Home to glory:

"God the Father is fully God. God the Son is fully God. God the Holy Spirit is fully God. The Bible presents this as fact. It does not explain it."                                   
                                        ~Billy Graham

Wishing you all a blessed Trinity Sunday as Ordinary Time begins once more...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin