Book Club Picks: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

So every month  a different member in my book club chooses a book for us to read and discuss the next month.

So the member who’s turn it was, was thinking of possibly doing a mystery. When our group met, she decided on this:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

Hmm…

Julia Stillwater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

This could get ugly.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

What have I gotten myself into?

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Seriously

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Hmm…

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Hmm…

So let’s start with what I didn’t care for or thought wasn’t as finished.

1)First of all Jillian is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable.

Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California.

2) What happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

3) There are a lot of little details missing.

Hmm…

In my class, The History of the Novel, we read an article about how hard it is for a nonfiction author to switch to fiction as there are a lot of little things they aren’t used to writing about-how they look, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, etc. Moore falls into the same issue as she doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Julianna “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut?

I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

4) The mystery isn’t really mysterious

I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal

So what was good?

1) The characters

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more of my book clubs reads, go to Book Club Picks: At Home in Mitford

For more mysteries, go to Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)

So after this book it is my turn to pick the next book. I was going to bring a few choices to the meeting and pulled out a western, as you know I love stuff like that:

I also took out My Fair Godmother as that book cracks me up.

I was trying to think of a third option, when I decided on one book that’s been sticking in my mind:

Yes, my book club is going to read The Darcy Monologues. This will be very interesting as:

  1. One member has read the book and seen the 1940, 1995, and 2005 versions.
  2. One member has only seen the 1995 and 2005 versions, never read the book.
  3. And the other member has not seen any film or read the book.

Will they love it? Will they hate it? I don’t know, but I am sure of one thing:

And we all know what I thought of it:

Read what I think of Part I: The Regency and Part II: Other Eras

Book Club Picks: At Home in Mitford

So as you know I started a book club this year:

Every month we read a book and I do a little post on the book we read and discussed.

There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want. I went first, the next month was someone choose Sandcastle Kings, and this month another member choose:

At Home in Mitford (The Mitford Years #1) by Jan Karon

This book is set in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. The books center around the Vicar, Father Tim. Father Tim is turning sixty and feels like he should give up on being a minister. He feels as if his life is stagnant, his preaching dry, and that the community would be better off with a new rector. He promises one more year, but if things don’t change, then he will retire.

Hmm…

But soon things start changing in his life. A giant black dog shows up at his home and won’t leave. Barnabas, what he names the dog, is strangely only calmed down if one speaks a bible verse at him.

Then a beautiful woman moves in next door. She is scatterbrained, always in need of assistance, and stirs up feelings in the reverend’s dormant heart.

A painting found in an attic is donated to the church which may be a genuine Vermeer.

His best friends are going to have a baby, even though they are in their fifties; his secretary has started a romance with the mailman, he gets a holds-nothing-back housekeeper, and finds himself suddenly fostering a preteen boy.

Someone breaks into the church repeatedly, stealing nothing but food.

Hmm…

Then Father Tim gets word of a jewelry ring operating in the area with them smuggling them through customs in old antiques. Some of the jewels Father Tim finds hidden in an urn in the church. Could someone in the community be involved?

Miss Sadie is the last remaining member of the oldest and richest family in Mitford. She tells Father Tim the story of the love that got away and reveals a secret that has been hidden for over forty years.

So I really loved this book. I thought the characters were fun and realistic. The town felt like it could be your small town, and the characters, the people you know or interact with.

It was so cute how everyone cared about their town and each other-getting in everyone’s business to help out. It made me want to live there.

The back of the book hints at it being more of a mystery, but while there are elements that are puzzling I wouldn’t classify it as a mystery. Well, whatever it is it was a fun book and easy to love.

For more book club picks, go to Book Club Picks: Sandcastle Kings

Book Club Picks: Sandcastle Kings

So in my book club, we read a book for a month, then discuss it. There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want. I went first, so this next month was someone else’s turn. They choose:

Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World by Rich Wilkerson Jr.

This book is part memoir about Pastor Wilkerson’s life, while mostly instructing how we can stop being sandcastle kings but connect better with God.

Sandcastle Kings, is the term Pastor Wilkerson uses to describe how we are when we try to control our lives instead of allowing God to have the control. We try and build and do all we can, but is like building out of sand; it is only temporary and too easily destroyed by everything. It make me think of the Doughnut Man song about the wise man and the foolish man.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

In his book Pastor Wilkerson analyzes four different interactions with Jesus Christ in the New Testament:

  1. The Faith of the Centurion, Luke 7: 1-10
  2. Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son, Luke 7: 11-17
  3. Jesus and John the Baptist, Luke 7: 18-35
  4. Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman, Luke 7: 36-50

I thought the book was excellent and two stories really stood out to me:

The first was his interpretation of The Faith of the Centurion. 

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this,because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

First we see that the Centurion respected the culture of others and instead of going straight to Jesus, he instead spoke to the Jewish leaders to have them request on his behalf. Then the Centurion sends a servant to tell him that he is unworthy to have him, unworthy to make such a request; this powerful man humbling himself before Christ, asking only for Jesus to say the word and knowing that his servant will be healed.

This spoke to me as how often to we have a cavalier attitude around Jesus and God. Often we don’t humble ourselves or treat Christ with respect, demanding, whining, sometimes only doing things if we will get something out of it. Here he, the Centurion, recognizes the power of God and also that the mercy He gives is not because of anything we do, but because God wants to. We need to remember that too, that God’s love is nothing because of what we do but because of His Love.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

In another part, Pastor Wilkerson, shares a story about how people treat things that don’t belong to them. For instance, when one stays in a motel they throw their wet towel on the ground, they don’t make their bed, they make messes, etc. People don’t treat things they don’t own or borrow very well. I’ve talked about that before-

With this it made me think of how we treat ourselves. God created us and we belong to him, but sometimes we forget our worth and treat ourselves horribly.

I thought it was a good, quick read, and of you are interested in developing a better relationship with God, or looking to read at Luke chapter seven in a new way, than this book is for you.

For more on my book club, go to Book Club Picks: The Secret Of Chimneys

For more on Jesus, go to He Has Risen

For more C.S. Lewis quotes, go to Perfectea, A Perfect Cup of Tea or Tea for Two

So Sandcastle Kings is not the only King I am going to talk about. We are going to discuss the King of Kings as today is Palm Sunday.

Just kidding, the Palm Sunday:

We are starting off with the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem from the Florence Baptistery by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

‘Hosanna!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

10 ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” Mark 11:1-11

This piece was only created because of a contest. In 1401, Arte di Calimala (Cloth Importers Guild) proposed a contest to create gates for the Florence Baptistry. Originally the doors were going to depict scenes from the old testament, the challenge to show the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). There were seven finalists which included Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia. Out of them Ghiberti won the commission, although later art historians found Brunelleschi’s work to be more impressive with his use of perspective.

They later changed the doors to being from the New Testament and it took Ghiberti twenty-one years to complete the twenty panels of the life of Christ and eight on the saints. He was forty-two when he finished.

Ghiberti, like Duccio, tended to cram his space with figures trying to showcase every one involved. In the center is Christ seated on the donkey mentioned in the text, surrounded by his disciples and the Jewish people praising him. We can see one laying his coat down for Christ to walk over.

In the middle background you can see the temple and to the far right, the fig tree that occurs in the next section of the bible, (Mark 11:12-26)

While this scene is crammed with figures , not as realistic as we would see in later artwork, it still is a beautiful piece that evokes movement (although squeezed) and full of amazing details. Look at the beards and hair on the figures heads, the leaves on the fig trees, the faces, etc. Ghiberti doesn’t have a whole lot of space to work with, as each panel is limited by size, but he creates some amazing pieces.

I also like how the donkey looks out at you, reminding and almost challenging you with the question “what would you do for the son of God?”. Well, what would you?

For more depictions of Jesus’ entry, go to Entry into Jerusalem

For more depictions of Christ, go to The Death of Christ

Book Club Picks: The Secret Of Chimneys

So remember when I said I started a book club?

Well the first book we choose to read was The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie.

I love this book, but sadly very few have ever heard of it, let alone read it.

So when I brought out three suggestions for us to choose from-The Westing Game, The Looking Glass Wars, and The Secret of Chimneys I was ecstatic they choose Chimneys as it would finally give me people to talk about it with!

As I already reviewed it in December, as part of my 30 day challenge, I will only give a quick review here.

Anthony Cade is working in Africa when he happens among his old friend Jimmy McGrath. Jimmy has been hired to deliver a manuscript in London, and has some letters he wants to return to a woman who was blackmailed, but can’t do either as he has a mining deal set up. Anthony goes in his place and discovers that everyone from Parliament, to rebels, nationalists called the Red Hand, and more are after that script. It appears he really got himself stuck in the middle of a serious mire.

What have I gotten myself into?

He prepares to return the letters to a Mrs. Virginia Revel, to stop her blackmailing, but they get stolen and he sets out to try and help her.

Just another thing to get involved with.

Meanwhile, politician George Lomax is worried that some old secrets, especially those of a missing jewel, will come to light with the publication of the memoirs. He enlists the Lord Caterham to use the stately home of Chimneys as a place to secure an oil deal, and weasel the memoirs out of McGrath. He also engages the assistance of his beautiful, charming, cousin-Mrs. Virginia Revel, a widow.

As Virginia prepares from the weekend, she is blackmailed by a waiter who has letters with her signature, but ones she did not write. Weird.

She agrees to meet with the blackmailer again, only to find him dead in her house.

Not sure what to do, she asks a veteran she spotted on the sidewalk selling tracts to help her. He checks out the scene; deduces that someone is trying to keep her from Chimneys for some nefarious reason, recognizes the blackmailer as the thief of the letter, and helps remove the body. Who is this man? Why, Anthony Cade.

Virginia heads on to Chimneys to help smooth things over with McGrath and Prince Michael, the one brokering the oil deal.

That night, Anthony follows a note he found in the dead waiter’s pocket and heads to Chimneys. Exactly at the time specified he hears a shot. Who has been murdered? Who in the house is the murderer? Will they find the missing jewels? And who is this Anthony Cade?

So I don’t want to give the whole book away as you should really read it yourself. Instead I am going to go over our discussion, but there will be some spoilers.

**Spoiler Warning**

So the book contains 5 different plots

  1. The Memoirs of Count Stylpitch
    1. Everyone is afraid of what they might say and reveal to the world. All are after it to publish, surppress, discover, etc.
  2. The Blackmail of Virginia Revel
    1. Anthony is given letters written to a lover by a “Virginia Revel”. He hopes to return them, but they are stolen by a waiter who tries to use them to blackmail her.
    2. But in the end, it turns out that they are not really written by Virginia Revel at all, but someone is using her name.
  3. Vying for the Throne
    1. After the King and Queen of Herzoslovakia were assassinated, this left an empty hole on the throne. Prince Michael is a cousin to the deceased King and wants to become next to rule, but there is his cousin Nicholas who has a stronger tie and is in America who is also after the throne.
    2. But is his cousin really alive, or is this an impostor? And what about the revolutionaries who want no king?
  4. Missing Jewels
    1. Before Lord Caterham’s brother died, he had all the responsibilities of the land and parliament. He used to bring all kinds of officials to his home, Chimneys, and the King and Queen of Herzoslovakia stayed there, the Queen hiding the crown jewels that she stole somewhere on the property. They have been looking for them for years, but now hopefully Count Stiplych’s memiors will give them great clues to find the hiding place.
  5. Murder of Prince Michael
    1. Michael is shot in the night, but whodunit? With a household full of people there are plenty of suspects.

Something Agatha Christie always likes to stress in her books is how we never know people we meet, only what they tell us about them. When you meet someone for the first time and they tell you their history, you take it as is, never questioning them, but in reality they could be anyone. This is stressed in this book as well as their are numerous multiple identities. While all present themselves as something, a few characters hide who they really are:

  • Two characters are actually a prince
  • One is  a thief
  • One is a Pinkerton agent
  • One is an actress

Virginia is an amazing woman. She is living in the 1920s, but she does what she wants, refuses marriage for single life, assists in hunting down the murderer, is intelligent, capable, collected etc. She’s nobody’s fool.

“Why?’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I said why? You don’t boom the real English gentlewoman with every stray Canadian who sets foot upon our shores. What is the deep idea, George? To put it  vulgarly, what do you get out of it?’

‘I cannot see that that concerns you, Virginia.’

‘I couldn’t possibly go out for an evening and fascinate, unless I knew all the whys and wherefores.”

Virginia is a strong character who us not afraid to be feminine as well. I just love her.

And then Anthony Cade. Anthony is amazing. You just can’t help liking the man.

For more on The Secret of Chimneys, go to There Wouldn’t Be Any Difficulty in Finding a King: The Secret of Chimneys

For more Agatha Christie, go to With a Little Luck of the Irish: 17 More Irish Heroes

For more on my book club, go to I Started a Book Club

For more mysteries, go to Someone is Killing By Copying Old Murders!: Real Murders

I Started a Book Club

bookclub

So you all know how I enjoy reading:

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For years I’ve been trying to start a book club. I thought about doing one where we read a book, than watch the film version:

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But did that happen?

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Then I wanted to do a Jane Austen book club, where we read the books and the adaptations.

ReadJaneAusten

But did I do that?

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Then I thought about doing a book club where we read the book and then do something like in the book; in essence “living” the book or acting it out. Like in Daring Chloe

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But did I do that?

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So finally I started one, but this one is simple. We read one book a month, each member having a month where they choose the book (any type), and then we meet and discuss it with good food.

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I don’t know how it will turn out, but if we make it to next year I’m planning on choosing Northanger Abbey or Persuasion to honor their 100th anniversaries.

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Right now the book we are reading is The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie. I’ll post after our meeting to see how it turns out!

Booksfullofthings

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Is This Really Just the Same?: Daring Chloe

Have you ever read something, watched a movie, or seen a TV show and it gives you an extreme case of deja vu?

Hasn't this been done before?

Hasn’t this been done before?

Maybe it isn’t exactly the same storyline, but there is just enough similarity that it just keeps pushing on the front of your mind.

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And that’s what Daring Chloe is.

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Daring Chloe (Getaway Girls #1) by Laura Jensen Walker

So while this book isn’t exactly like it, the plot does bring to mind Emma.

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So first let’s talk about the book, and then the similarities.

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Chloe is about to marry her dream guy, Chris, when he breaks off the engagement right before the wedding as he realizes marriage isn’t “for him” as he has other things he wants to do first with his life.

How rude

Her friend Adam was the one who relayed the message, the one who told her all along that Chris wasn’t right for her.

You should listen to me

You should have listened to me

Meanwhile, a very saddened Chloe doesn’t know what to do until one of her friend’s makes a suggestion. You see Chloe loves book and belongs to a book club that meets once a month to choose and discuss books. But now, instead of just reading the book, they will go on adventures too, in a way, “live” the book.

Booksfullofthings

I know, awesome right!

Taking fandom to the EXTREME!

Taking fandom to the EXTREME!

But while Chloe is trying to move over her heartbreak, it seems as if Adam is entering every facet of her life and always trying to give advice and help her, but instead reminding her more and more about Chris.

Mr. Knightly

But Chloe has her faith in God, good friends, and a whole library to help her through the pain.

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So now, why did this book remind me so much of Emma? Well all because of two characters, Chloe and Adam.

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Nothing else of the story is really anything like Emma, except for these two’s relationship. They are good friends, although Adam is harboring a secret crush on her, (obvious to everyone except Chloe).

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Also like in Emma, Adam tries to help Chloe by supporting her, but also being the one to advise or call her out on things. And Chloe, just like Emma, has a tendency to believe she is right, even when she is clearly wrong.

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And just like Emma and Mr. Knightley; they eventually come together in the end. Realizing that they are perfect matches for each other.

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I thought the book was okay until the end as that was predictable and a bit corny. However, the book club of reading and acting them out was inspiring. I might just do that in the future.

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For more on Emma, go to Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version

For more books based on Emma, go to Mr. Knightley’s Diary

For more books based on Jane Austen, go to The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen

For more Emma adaptions, go to 200 Years of Glorious Emma