Required Reading: April 2014

You know what? My decision last March not to set any reading lists was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my reading this year. It was actually so nice not to worry about what I will read, or if I will finish anything that I set myself to read. I picked up whatever book I wanted and read at my own pace. That was definitely refreshing.

So here’s what I read last month:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (5/5) – Definitely one of my favorite reads so far. So many gems in this one. :)
  • The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding (3/5) – Fun contemporary YA, with theater and musicals and a writer mom.
  • Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins (4/5) – Heee so much fun and swoon! You can never go wrong with a Kristan Higgins.
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver (3/5) – Finally finished this! I wasn’t as in love with this as I was with What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, but I really liked the longer version of Bath, entitled “A Small Good Thing”, here.
  • Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (3/5) – Still magical and still lovely. I want to go and be lost in Lost Lake, too.
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley (5/5) – This is a retreat book, so I started this on February and ended on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Definitely life-changing. To Jesus, through Mary.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (reread) – A reread because I was asked to moderate a book discussion about this. I liked it better the second time around. :)

See, I read a lot last month! (And of course, I wrote zero reviews for them. Haha)

But now it’s April, and it’s sorta back to the reading list reality. Sort of. I have a reading list, which I bet I wouldn’t be able to follow as strictly because I always get distracted by other shiny books nowadays and I am just a slow reader now, so there. :)

Required Reading 2014 - April

Holy Week falls on April, and I’ve always tried to have a Holy Week theme for my books whenever it rolls around because it sets the right mood. I realized that I didn’t have fiction that’s good for Holy Week this time around (I had the last two Narnia books in 2012 and Iscariot in 2013). But now that I seem to be taking a liking to some non-fiction books, and we keep on talking about some of these titles at SFC meetings, so I figured it’s time to actually read things that the Pope wrote. (And Pope Francis is cool.)

rrapril2014

  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – our book club’s book of the month. :)
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis – because like I said, Pope Francis is cool. And it’s about time I read some encyclicals. And The Joy of the Gospel has joy in it, and it’s my word for 2014. :)
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti – This has been on my TBR for years, and it’s kind of suprising because I love Frank Peretti. I should have started reading this ages ago. :)

I also plan to read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, but I didn’t put it here because I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it this month. :P

12 Best Books of 2012

So the 2012 reading year was interesting because I think this is the most I’ve explored different genres. I blame my book club for this, especially with our monthly discussions and their book recommendations. As a result, I didn’t reach the 150-ish book goal. However, I did enjoy exploring these other books that I wouldn’t normally read, so it’s still a pretty good year reading year.

I’ll talk about my reading stats more on another post. First, let’s get the best list out. 12 Best Books for 2012. Let’s get at it, shall we?

  1. Angelfall by Susan EeGruesome, creepy and scary but absolutely fun. I read this book because of all the good reviews I read from my Goodreads friends, and I devoured it in several days. I loved Penryn the kick-ass heroine and the equally bad-ass angels who caused the apocalypse. When is the sequel coming out again? Please make it soon?
    Angelfall by Susan Ee Continue Reading →

Sinner

Sinner by Lino RulliSinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic by Lino Rulli
Publisher: St. Anthony Messenger Press
Number of pages: 232
My copy: ebook, gift from Monique

In this fast and funny collection of stories from his own life, Lino Rulli (aka The Catholic Guy) shares the joys and the struggles of trying to follow God in everyday circumstances. Honest, outrageous, funny and, above all, real. Lino demonstrates that, even though we are all sinners, God’s mercy and grace keeps us going. In the pages of SINNER you’ll read about: Lino’s adventures in the confessional; A host of characters who make Lino’s Catholic faith more challenging; Why Lino is still single; Lino’s take on suffering.

* * *

I had no idea who Lino Rulli was until I heard him on Lifeteen‘s Holy Week podcast, which was actually his show with Mark Hart the Bible Geek as guest. I listen to a few Catholic podcasts, but I have never heard of him until then, so I admit that I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started listening to the episode that Good Friday. But a few minutes in, I was already charmed by this funny Catholic guy, which led me to downloading other episodes of The Catholic Guy Show from iTunes. He plugged his book, Sinner, several times in the other episodes, but I wasn’t really sure if I want to buy it because I’m picky with books like that. A few more laugh out loud episodes, however (he and his co-host Fr. Rob kept me awake during my night shift work days!), I knew I wanted his book. Then came my friend Monique, bearing good news and new books, and she sent me the ebook version of Sinner as a gift.

That is divine providence, IMHO.

But I digress. I wasn’t planning to read this too soon, but when I loaded the book on my Kindle, I found myself starting the book. And reading. Two days later, I am done.

What just happened there, oy?

Sinner by Lino Rulli is exactly what the subtitle says it is: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic. This book had me from the introduction, particularly this line:

I want to be more faithful, but I’m scared. Scared that I’ll try and fail. And in some ways, even more scared that I’ll succeed.

Lino Rulli is not a reformed Catholic. He’s not one who had a bad past and found the light and then turned and had a holy life afterwards. Sinner is not that kind of book where the author talks about the dark days and then the conversion and the days in the light. Sinner is about a guy who was born and raised Catholic, and still had doubts and mishaps while knowing God. It’s basically the story of every human who’s a part of the Catholic church and is trying (but often failing) to live the way God called them to be.

I can’t remember laughing so much while I was reading a book, and a non-fiction Catholic book at that. Lino is as witty and funny on paper as he is on radio/podcast, and I can imagine him really saying these stories on his show. These are confessions that I think some traditional and strictly religious Catholics would shake their heads at, but would touch the hearts of the everyday struggling Catholic and make them smile and be comforted that they aren’t alone in their struggles and their journey. Lino’s stories range from his dad being an organ grinder to meeting the Pope, to confession (several times), to his mother and his single life woes. I’d like to believe that there’s something for every Catholic in this book, but I will let you be the judge of that (which is my not-so-subtle way of saying, Guys, you should really read this book!).

The only thing I wanted after I finished reading this was that there was more, because I really and truly enjoyed this one. Oh, and possibly a story about Fr. Rob. :P This book reminds me of Flashbang by Mark Steele, but possibly a bit better, because hey, it’s Catholic! And it’s not often I read books about the faith I grew up in. There’s nothing like feeling a sense of community while reading about confession (and how hard it is to do) or confirmation or (Blessed) Pope John Paul II in one book. If you’re ever the one who tried reading Catholic books but got bored or felt that you can’t relate, then I suggest you try this book. It’s funny, refreshing, borderline irreverent but definitely easy to relate to, because when it all comes down to it, we are all sinners, period.

Sinner by Lino Rulli may just be one of the most honest books I’ve read this year, and I think based on this honesty alone, it deserves all the stars I can give. And a spot on my favorites shelf. :)

I wanted to be as honest as possible about my faith, my doubts, and my sins. To let people see my pride, my jealousy, my wrath, my lust. But also see someone who’s still trying to fight the good fight of faith. (p.141)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Notlukewarm
Scrutinies

The Reread Factor (2): May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

I realized that I never wrote a review about this book I’m featuring for The Reread Factor, but since it’s a reread and it’s on my favorites shelf, I figure it fits the requirement for this feature. Besides, I need one for this again, since I don’t really have a lot of time doing some rereads lately.

And besides, this book fits Lent and Holy Week well.

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz KellyMay Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly
Publisher: Loyola Press
Number of pages: 288
My copy:
paperback, ordered from Amazon

In May Crowning, Mass, and Merton, Liz Kelly, a thirty-something writer and jazz singer, eagerly shares her ardent love for the Catholic faith. While the beliefs of the church are important to Kelly, her passion is really ignited by the holy people and places, the beloved rituals, and the rich spiritual traditions of this living faith. She celebrates them here, with wit, affection, and candor.

Kelly has realized that “the litany of reasons to love being Catholic is extraordinary.” These include every­thing from the crucifix, kneelers, and Ash Wednesday to Flannery O’Connor, the Swiss Guard, and Tenebrae. Though she writes that, “Mine is not an extraordinary faith, so much as a faith growing a little messy, a little rough and subversive around the edges,” it is a rich, inspiring faith, celebrated by a fresh, young Catholic voice.

* * *

An interesting fact about this book: I got this because of a tweet from one of the Twitter accounts I follow that tweets first lines of books from Amazon. I got this purely because it was a Catholic book and it seemed interesting. I was also trying to learn more about my Catholic faith, and so I thought this book would be a good place to start. I read this first during Holy Week of 2008, and that time I wasn’t exactly at the best place of my faith. I remember loving this book because it made me appreciate being Catholic, although that didn’t necessarily mean that I really got what it means to be one.

Fast forward to three years later, I got to attend my first World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. Now if there was any way for a young Catholic to celebrate and appreciate their faith, the World Youth Day is that event. Seeing people — Catholics — all over the world coming together in one place to celebrate and learn about their faith (and meet the Pope) is an event that every Catholic should experience, regardless of age. Suffice to say that it was that event that pretty much defined a lot of my searching in the past years since I first read this book. When Lent came around this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this book again.

I thought of writing a review for this book with 50 things about the book, but I realized that 50 is a bit of a big number. So instead, let me just write five:

  1. I like that it is Catholic. Maybe I just kind of suck with looking for books written by Catholics, but I remember being very thrilled when I discovered this because I felt that it was written for me. I know it’s not, but it just felt like that. :P
  2. I like that it’s very personal. Liz Kelly wrote the entries in the book with enough personal anecdotes to make it feel like she’s just sharing the stories over coffee, or she’s a speaker for a community event. She gives enough reference to the Bible, related books, history and to the Catechism of the Catholic Church so readers know that she isn’t just pulling things from thin air, but not so much that it overshadows her personality.
  3. I like that it covers the ones we Catholics are asked the most about: the rosary, Mary, the Communion of Saints, Confession, the Eucharist. In a way, it’s almost like an Apologetics session because readers would understand why we do what we do but with less of the feeling that it is one.
  4. I liked discovering new things about Catholicism that I never knew before. May favorite is the Rosary of the Holy Wounds, which I didn’t even know existed before. I only knew of the rosary, but this one is new to me and seems like a good devotion to start. Another example is the chapter on the Hour of Divine Mercy, which has been a staple in the household since I was a kid because of the 3 o’clock prayer shown on TV everyday. I never really understood much of it until it was explained in the simplest form in Liz Kelly’s book.
  5. There were some entries that didn’t feel like I could really and truly relate, perhaps because of our differences in culture. Liz Kelly talks about her reasons to love being Catholic as an American. I’m not one, obviously, so there were some things that she wrote that I couldn’t really relate to and some that I was looking for but didn’t find because they were aspects of Catholicsm that is unique to the Filipinos. However, though, I think the book isn’t really meant to be a guide on what constitutes being a Catholic anyway, but a book that helps us appreciate what we have in this beautiful Universal Church. :)

I think new and old Catholics alike would enjoy May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, and maybe even some non-Catholics who are simply curious about it. It’s far from preachy, and like I said, it’s very personal so it’s up to you if you’d research more on the subjects Liz Kelly wrote about or if you would just leave it be. Suffice to say that I really liked it still even after the second read. As proof: I ended up marking even more pages now than when I first read it:

To end this review, I thought I’d share my own ten reasons why I love being Catholic (just ten because I don’t think I can get to 50 yet — maybe when I get a little bit older :D). Some may have already appeared in the book, while others are my additions. In no particular order, and no more explanations because it would take a bit of time to write — I’ll post about them soon (promise!) in my personal blog if you are interested. :)

  1. Universal Church.
  2. The Mass.
  3. Mary.
  4. The Rosary.
  5. Pope (Blessed) John Paul II.
  6. The Eucharist.
  7. Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.
  8. Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass/Advent novena mass)
  9. Confession.
  10. The saints.

I am glad I reread this book and I’m glad I reread it at this time. Still a favorite for sure. :)

Rating:

Minis: Felons, Summer and Magic

So I still have a backlog of books that I need to review and want to write about before the year ends. Some of the books I read were kind of short, so I thought why not make mini reviews instead? So here’s my first series of Minis, which I hope to continue in the next year. :)

Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Sin (The Ironic Catholic News) by The Ironic Catholic

Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Sin (The Ironic Catholic News Volume 1) by The Ironic Catholic
My copy: Kindle edition, from author

In the style of The Onion, Stephen Colbert, and occasionally Jonathan Swift, the writer of “The Ironic Catholic” website offers mild satirical takes on the world of Catholic news, focusing on the rich vein of human foibles in living the life of faith. The fake news stories (Attendees of Flannery O’Connor Conference Meet Dire End, Tired Mother Announces ‘Come and See’ Weekend, Re-gifting Chia Pets Not Considered Lenten Sacrifice, etc.) both entertain and teach what it means to be a faithful Catholic in a confused world with a light touch.

* * *

I’ve had this book for a while now (thanks to The Ironic Catholic for the review copy!), and I meant to read it while plane hopping in Europe but other books won me over. I was at the salon two weeks ago, just finished with a women’s fiction novel and I couldn’t really jump into another one just yet, so I decided to choose a slim ebook to cleanse the reading palate before going back to the other book I had in progress.

It turned out to be a very good choice, too. I love The Ironic Catholic’s style — poking fun at the little quirks of the Catholic faith but never disrespectful and still allowing people to learn a little more about the faith than a regular, Sunday mass-going Catholic knows. The news format of the book makes it easy to digest, and sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s fiction because some of them felt like odd stories you read every now online. My favorite story? The World Old Day celebration, which is the senior citizens’ version of World Youth Day. It not only made me laugh, but it brought fond memories of my own experience in WYD.

I just really wish this book was a little bit longer, but then the volume number in the title probably means there will be a volume two…right?

Rating:

One Crazy Summer by Ines Bautista YaoOne Crazy Summer by Ines Bautista Yao
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

 

A Recipe for Disaster?

Ingredients:
1 college junior, fired from summer internship
1 secret crush, the cute and flirty type
1 crush’s best bud, with a secret of his own

1. In large bowl, mix together college junior and secret crush.
2. Gradually add in crush’s best bud.
3. Stir until best bud’s secret is revealed.
4. Let mixture rest in a sleepy provincial town.
5. Bake under the blazing summer sun until golden brown (be careful, batter might burn).

Tania’s summer is more than she can handle! Her cooking career comes to a screeching halt before it can even take off. Then, best friends Rob and Mateo enter the picture. Can she figure out her feelings for them, AND get the internship credits she needs to make it to senior year?

* * *

One Crazy Summer‘s story is the stuff that teen TV shows are made of, and kind of like what happens in Sarah Dessen novels with the infinite possibilities that a summer could bring. The story was cute and there was enough romance, but I never felt a connection with any of the characters. I wanted more background story with Tania and Mateo and Rob, but instead I was just presented with the facts of who likes who and I just had to accept it. I also felt that I never really got to know Tania, and all I have were hints of her personality.

It’s not that it’s a bad novel. I just felt that it lacked something. The setting was very good and I liked the description of the lazy summer town that the characters spent a lot of time in, but I wished there was just more. I wonder how the book would have fared with me if it was a little bit longer, so there was more time to flesh out the characters and dig up their back stories and relationships with one another. It’s still an okay read, and I think the book is worth keeping One Crazy Summer for the recipes that it contains (especially the one with Nutella — mmm. All these food books make it hard to go on a diet, especially with knowing some diet pill numia side effects). :)

Rating:

Magic Gifts by Ilona AndrewsMagic Gifts by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5.4
Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 97
My copy: Kindle Edition, free from author

A dinner date after a hard day at work sounds heavenly. Of course, when that date is between the Beast Lord and Kate Daniels, things don’t go as planned. Before you know it, undead are running amok, heads are being chopped off, lawyers are deployed and used with extereme prejudice, and drunk vikings are calling people out.

Read at your own risk.

* * *

Oh Ilona Andrews, did you know how the two of you just made my Christmas so awesome? Thank you so much for this free Kate Daniels novella. :) Magic Gifts is set shortly after Magic Slays, and it starts with a dinner date between the Beast Lord Curran and Kate. Of course, the chance of normalcy is slim as some moments after their date has started, heads started to roll — literally. Soon, Kate and Curran and everyone else is fighting to save a boy’s life, running after vikings and dwarfs while ensuring that the rest of Atlanta will not fall apart with a breakdown of sorts.

General spoiler warning for those who haven’t read any Kate Daniels books yet1. Two words to describe this book: SO. GOOD. I love it, I love it. Even if it is shorter than the other Kate Daniels novels, this book is just as good. Kate and Curran are still as awesome (and romantic) as ever, and how mature their relationship seems. I love it when they spar verbally, and how Kate cares about him and how he cares for her. I also love how we see all the other characters here too besides the two of them: Doolittle, Derek, Jim, Andrea, Ascanio, even Grendel the attack poodle! And I have to say now that my favorite vampires are in Kate Daniels’ world. Or, my favorite necromancers, rather. Gasthek is such a character!

This is a must-read for all fans of the series, and the ebook is still available for download from the author’s website — and I think you only have a week to get it! If you missed it, though, this novella will be available as a bonus in Gunmetal Magic, Andrea’s story, which will be released in August 2012. :)

Rating:

  1. And why haven’t you read any, for the love of all things awesome? []