I feel like I’ve been drowning in life lately, but that hasn’t kept me from reading.  (C’mon, now, you didn’t really think it would, did you?)  Here’s a recap of some of my recent reads:

side-yard-superheroThe Side-Yard Superhero, by Rick D. Niece

My interest in this book started as geographical.  My dad grew up in the small Ohio town where this book is set.  He might have even known the author.  Grandma had mentioned it and even offered to let me borrow her copy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It has a neat cover, but, though I judge books by their covers all the time, I should know better, right?  And…I hesitate to write this…but sometimes I’m highly annoyed by books that aren’t well-written.  (That’s a highly subjective claim, I know.)

It’s a tale of a time that I don’t remember, but that small town does.  Grandma said that quite a few people in town disagree with how Niece painted things, and that amuses me.  I grew up in a different small town in a different time, but so much of this story resonated with me.  Maybe it’s because, in many ways, there are strands of my family in the book.  It’s not just that one of my great-grandfathers was mentioned; it was a sense of knowing the place as it is now and seeing a glimpse of how it was then.  It’s through a boy’s eyes, dimmed by many years gone by, but it made me ponder my own memories of growing up in northwest Ohio.  It made me laugh and tear up, and it also made me admire the courage Niece had to grapple in order to tell the tale.

It’s a book of heroes: Niece, during his daily paper route, befriends Bernie Jones, a boy who watches the world go by sitting in his yard, permanently seated in a wheelchair.  Through the years, Niece changes but never wavers in his friendship of Bernie.  And then he goes off to college.  (No, it doesn’t really happen that fast in the book.)

Wow.  I remember that.  Going to college changed my perspective and, for a while, made me forget about my hometown.  Maybe that’s what spoke to me from this book, when you get past my geographical ties.

Whatever the reason, I enjoyed this book.  You might too.

bleederBleeder, by John Desjarlais

This is the sort of book that’s hard for me to review, because of the potential for spoilers.  So if I don’t say enough to suit you, let that be supporting evidence that you should read it for yourself.  🙂

I received a copy of this book for review, and I’ll admit that the title and the cover caught my eye when I opened the package.  Sometimes, when I start reading review copies of books, I find myself wondering if the “payment” of a free book is worth the price of giving up some control of my reading list (my reading time’s more limited than ever).  With this book, from about page two, that thought never had a chance to surface.  Though I’ve been tucking in early as the days have shortened, this book found me staying up with my late night football fan, joining his through-closed-eyes game watching with my own eyes wide open, turning the pages as fast as I could.

It’s a mystery that involves a priest, a crippled Presbyterian-turned-doubter, and a murder.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like it will go with your fuzzy blanket and evening time, but it sure went with mine!  I rank this right up there with Death of a Pope (which I read earlier this year) — it’s fiction that meets my need for entertainment and my desire for something more than smut.  The writing’s good (better than good, even) and the plot is flawless.  And, to top it off, it clocks in under 300 pages.

Check it out for yourself: it might be just what you need to warm yourself up during these chilly autumn evenings (unless, of course, you live down south; in that case, maybe it will go well with your sweet tea).

glories of maryThe Glories of Mary, by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

This is one of those spiritual classics that I was determined to push my way through.  I found, early on, that this was a book best approached during my Adoration time and in my quiet morning reading time (if and when the latter actually exists).  It wasn’t a book that I could read while Bob watches TV; I found myself finding excuses to put it down if given the distraction of commercials (or anything, really).

Don’t let that fool you into thinking this isn’t a good book, though.  It’s a classic for a reason.  I’m sure some of this has to do with the translation, but even beyond that, the images are great.  Here’s an example, from the commentary on the Hail, Holy Queen, under the heading “Mary is the Peacemaker between Sinners and God”:

Another figure of the Blessed Virgin was the rainbow seen by Saint John, which encircled the throne of God: And there was a rainbow round about the throne (Apocolypse 4:3).

Cardinal Vitalism explains the image this way: “The rainbow round the throne is Mary, who softens the judgment and sentence of God against sinners.”  He means that she always stands before God’s tribunal and mitigates the penalties which sinners have to pay.

Saint Bernadine of Siena says that God was speaking of this rainbow when he promised Noah that he would place it in the clouds as a sign of peace, so that when he looked at it he might be reminded of the covenant of eternal peace he had with man.

I will set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and the earth…I will look upon it and recall the perpetual covenant (Genesis 9:13).

According to the saint, Mary is this bow of eternal peace; for when God sees it he remembers the peace he promised to the earth; and then, by Mary’s prayers, he forgives the crimes of sinners and confirms his peace with them.

I love the idea of a rainbow symbolizing Mary.  It probably helps that I live with a four-year-old fan of rainbows, one who draws them, paints them, and talks about them every chance she gets.  After reading this, though, I look at rainbows with a whole new appreciation.  Every time I see one — in the sky or on a piece of paper — I think of Mary.

I had this experience throughout the book.  That’s why Glories of Mary has a permanent home in my office, with the Catechism, two different Bibles, and a few other Mary books.  I don’t promise it will be an easy read, but I highly recommend it.