Book Review: Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson


Lately, I’ve been trying to get more than a surface understanding of my faith. This has led me to read more about it. Mostly I’ve been reading saint biographies but I thought a more general book like Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson would also be helpful.

This book gives an overview of the Catholic Faith from its beginnings to why it’s practiced the way it is today. It discusses the churches history, what the actions and objects in the mass mean, what separates it from Protestantism as well as Catholic culture in the United States.

Parts of this book were fascinating and enlightening while others seemed rather dry. This book after a while really gave me the impression that it wasn’t meant to be read all at once but rather that if the reader was interested in a certain chapter they went straight to that chapter. It really came off in a lot of ways like a reference book a place to look up information rather than a book that is meant to be read and taken as a whole. That being said I will definitely keep this book on my shelf because it will be very helpful if I’m looking for information on a particular subject.

As I stated previously there was a lot of hit or miss chapters in this book. Which probably could be account for by the “hit” chapters were on subjects I am currently interested in while the “miss” chapters were ones I haven’t found an interest in yet. I particularly liked the chapters on the Marian Appearances and the Miraculous Medal.

I was, however, extremely disappointed in the chapter on music in the church. As he states: But as a matter of fact, the church sees music as her ‘treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.” He is quoting from The Second Vatican Council. But for something so important (yes, I’m totally biased as a musician lol) this chapter really lacks cohesion he jumps from subject to subject without giving the reader a clear understanding of the topic. At times it becomes clear he lacks an understanding of the practical aspect of music or performance. Perhaps he tried to cover an immense subject in a very small chapter of 7 pages.

Who would I recommend this book to? Someone who already has an understanding of the Church. Someone who has little knowledge of the church would find parts of this book confusing as the author assumes the reader is familiar with the mass and other aspects of the church. But for someone who wants to build on their knowledge of Catholicism, this book would definitely be worth a read.

This is a good book for me to have around as it could be very useful if I wanted to learn more about a subject covered in the book. I’m glad I read it since I learned a lot of useful information that will bring meaning into things I rarely gave much thought to before.


Series Review: Amory Ames Mysteries by Ashley Weaver


Here I am, back again with another mystery series review. When I began this blog, I honestly believed, I would be reviewing fantasy since it’s what I had been reading the most of at that point. But, I guess, tastes change. The Amory Ames Mystery Series by Ashley Weaver caught my attention a while ago, but I was rather reluctant to start it. However, this series actually surpassed my expectations and I fell in love with so much about it.

What the Series is About:

This series follows our title character, Amory as she becomes embroiled in a series of murders. Each of these murders each happen within Amory’s acquaintances who happen to be part of England’s upper class. Like another series I’ve reviewed, (Sebastian St. Cyr Series by C.S. Harris, self-serving link here), her position in society gives her an edge over the police in solving these crimes. Her social status allows her to ask questions and observe people, the police could not. Her erstwhile husband often unwittingly gets involved in these investigations as well.

Each novel in the series is a self-contained mystery. A reader could pick up any of these books and be satisfied and not feel like they are missing any information. So far there is a total of 5 books and I sincerely hope for more.

What I Thought:

Like I mentioned earlier I sincerely enjoyed this series. I was often waiting anxiously for the next book to come in the mail (yes, I am a physical books kind of gal.) I loved so many things about this series including the setting, the mysteries, and the characters. This series is set in the early 1930’s but the troubled times does not seem to affect the upper class the characters are investigating all that much. These novels take place within the high society of 1930’s England with all the glitz and glamour you’d expect. The author included many delightful descriptions of the fashion and parties. These descriptions immersed you in the setting, world and time period.

The setting definitely made this a fun read and the mysteries were also compelling. Although, I think the mysteries could be a little overcomplicated and dramatic at times, especially in the fourth book. But overall, they were definitely entertaining and engrossing. But as engrossing as I think the mysteries are, the true strength of the series belongs to characters: Amory and Milo. They are characters who are definitely not what they seem to be at first. But to say anything more would probably be a spoiler. But needless to say, their relationship is what made these books stand out and kept me wanting more.

I loved this series and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good light read. Mystery lovers and romance lovers alike will love this series.

First Book in Series: Murder at the Brightwell 

Book Review: Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper- Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell


What it’s About:

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper- Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell was a book I had looked forward to reading since I had picked it up. I put off reading it till October since I believed it would be the perfect book for October/Halloween. In this book, Patricia Cornwell believes she has discovered the identity of Jack the Ripper and can prove it. Throughout the book, she relays the story of Jack the Ripper incorporating the evidence she found that supports her theory that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper.

My Thoughts:

I was really quite excited to read this book. I’ve always found myself interested in true crime (an interest I indulge with true crime podcasts) but Jack the Ripper has always been of particular interest. So I decided to pick this book up because not only would it tell Jack the Ripper’s story but the author believed that she had found out who he was. However, this book was a complete and utter disappointment.

Portrait of a Killer primary problem is in its biased approach. Instead of telling how the evidence pointed the author towards a definitive answer, it seems she chose Walter Sickert as her suspect and pick and chose the evidence to fit her theory ignoring evidence that pointed towards other suspects or may have questioned her theory. Her evidence was all circumstantial and seemed a bit weak including the DNA testing that was done. The author constantly refers back to Sickert’s artwork as evidence that he had details only the police would have known and that he hated women but she neglects to mention the impact the Jack the Ripper murders had on society which as it consumed the media Sickert would have been influenced by.

Another serious issue I had with this book was the digressions and rather pointless anecdotes the author incorporated. The biggest example is when she would correct the detective and coroners that investigated for not using techniques that had not been discovered yet. She also went on lengthy explanations on how the crimes would have been investigated in Virginia today (or in 2002 when the book was published) This was completely unnecessary unless her purpose was to demonstrate her knowledge on the subject. However, I think would have been interesting to see how the Jack the Ripper crimes influenced how these crimes would be investigated in the future. Did the investigations lead to better investigation techniques?

This book was sadly a disappointment to me. The only people I would recommend it to are people who interested in the evidence that supports the theory that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper otherwise I would look elsewhere for a book on Jack the Ripper.

Series Review: Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries by Dorothy Sayers


I tend to think of October as the month for mysteries, even though mystery month is actually during May. But October just seems like the perfect time to curl up with a sweater and a mystery to me. The series I would recommend picking up if you’re like me and are looking for a good cozy mystery series is the Peter Wimsey Mysteries.

All About the Series:

There are 12 novels (starting with Whose Body?) in the Peter Wimsey Mysteries, which is not enough in my opinion. (you can see where this review is going already). This series follows our protagonist, Peter Wimsey, a man of uncounted hidden talents, and a person people always seem to underestimate. Which is a fact he often uses to his advantage. Along the way, we encounter a recurring cast of characters all of who are wonderful, including Bunter, his manservant, Chief Inspector Parker and a definite favorite of mine: Peter’s mother the Dowager Duchess. In each novel we learn more about Peter and these characters. We also meet Harriet Vane who becomes incredibly important to our protagonist. *Wink Wink*

Each novel contains a mystery for Peter (or Peter and Harriet) to solve with the help of the recurring characters. Each of these mysteries is contained within the novel. In other words, the mystery is always solved at the end of the novel.

What I Thought:

I loved these mysteries. Dorothy Sayers was an incredibly smart and talented writer. Her mysteries require some brain power and the occasional lookup of information to understand a reference, but I think this adds to the novels rather than detracts. I found this website very helpful with its annotations of many of her novels and short stories. I’ll link it here:

One of the things I loved about these novels was the setting, and Dorothy Sayers does a truly remarkable job with an atmospheric setting. She truly has a gift for bringing to life these settings, and it’s especially memorable in The Nine Tailors. As these books were set in Dorothy Sayers present day (late 1920’s to early 1930’s) her novels are rich in the details of this time period in England, and I found this time period incredibly absorbing. The author asks relevant questions of her day which are still incredibly relevant today, for example in Gaudy Night she questions where a woman’s life belongs: to scholarship or to the home. Also memorable is the insight into the industry of advertising and inside look into the workplace during the early 30’s in Murder Must Advertise.

The mysteries in each novel were always entertaining and interesting. I would make a terrible detective as I never was able to solve the mystery very quickly. I also liked that the mysteries were wrapped up at the end of each novel with no cliffhangers. Occasionally, the mystery seemed a little overcomplicated especially in Five Red Herrings (should have seen that coming by the title lol) but I never lost interest as the characters always kept me intrigued.

The characters seem to be what actually keeps me reading a series and Dorothy Sayer’s characters were very easy to get invested in. Besides Peter my favorite character has to be the Dowager Duchess. Each character has a distinct personality and voice and their unique perspective usually gives Peter the insight into the mystery. Harriet Vane is important because she is the only character, besides Peter, who narrates substantial parts of the novels she’s in, therefore, allowing the reader to see Peter from a unique perspective.


A brief note: In many ways the novels with Harriet Vane function as a stand-alone series you could read out of order from the other books in the series. Starting with Strong Poison they are only dependent on the reader having read the previous books with Harriet Vane.

I would recommend these novels to anyone looking for a good comfy mystery. If you are interested in the romance I would read the Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane novels but all of these books are wonderful reads.

Quick Links:

First Book: Whose Body?

My Favorites: Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night

Collection of Short Stories (a very good place to start): Lord Peter


Book Review: Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez


What it’s About:

Wolves are one of the most interesting and gorgeous animals that exist. Their story is a sad one, but also more recently its become one of hope as well as, one of redemption. Barry Lopez in Of Wolves and Men relays the story of this remarkable creature: its history and how it has captured our imagination more than almost any other animal.

Of Wolves and Men is split into two sections. One is the natural history portion and the other tells of humans interaction with wolves. The first portion describes the evolution of the wolf, its adaptations and its biology. It also describes the characteristic behavior of the wolf and of the wolf pack. The author describes why exactly the wolf does what it does. However, this book was published in 1978 so many sections have the possibility of being outdated.

The second portion describes the way that the wolf has been perceived by human society. The author has obviously done extensive research into how the wolf was and is perceived by various cultures from western culture to Native American and Inuit culture. The author also explores how this perception has colored the human’s interactions with the wolf. For example, many Native American tribes revered the wolf and therefore kills were done sparingly and with much respect. In comparison, the ranchers of the American west killed wolves excessively and senselessly with little thought to the consequences the means of killing might cause to the environment or even to the animals they claimed to be protecting.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed learning about wolves and in many ways this book provided a good introduction to the behavior of the wolf. This has definitely lead to an increased interest in picking up other books about wolves. The author did a good job in covering his subject and the reader can fell his passion for these animals. The author is good at explaining his thoughts and his writing is very accessible.

I was absolutely riveted by the natural history sections of this book. It was fascinating when the author was talking about wolves and wolf packs. Those sections were my favorites of the whole book. While the chapter on the hunting of wolves was hard to read, because of the senseless and gruesome way the wolves were killed; it was an important chapter to read. However, the folklore and the way humans of different culture perceive the wolf sections was where I started to lose interest. Obviously, human perception can influence our behavior towards an animal, and as our perception and assumptions about an animal change so can our behavior. I did find the initial explanations and descriptions of wolves and their place in different culture religions and folklore initially interesting, it got more than a little tedious as the chapters went on. I think that the author just spent too long on the subject, especially when he spent pages on werewolves, which was mostly human on human violence and had nothing really to do with wolves.

I also would have liked to see more about the ongoing changing perception western culture has toward wolves: why did our perceptions change and how that is affecting the wolves. Elaborating on that, I would have liked to have read more about the reintroduction of wolves in various ecosystems. I doubt much was known then about the longterm benefits the wolf would have on the ecosystem, but it still would have been interesting reading about how it came about and any short-term effects the wolves had negative or positive. I think this was a big point that the author missed. That human perception can change and recognize our mistakes which gives us hope for the future. It deserved more than the few sentences the author gave it, especially when he spent so much time on werewolves.

This book was a good introduction to wolves I would recommend it to anyone who is primarily interested in a historical accounting of human’s perceptions of wolves.

A Western Roundup


Recently I read Wild Horse Country and found myself intrigued by the idea of the Wild West, which led to an interest in western novels. I will definitely be adding more westerns to my TBR, because I found these to be entertaining reads. I was quite in awe of the setting: the wide-open prairies, immense mountains and of course the wild mustangs that have found their home there.

Wild Horse Country: The History, the Myth, and Future of the Mustang, America’s Horse by David Philipps

As I said previous my obsession with the west started with this book. This is a nonfiction book about the wild mustang. A living remnant and symbol of the Wild West, and a living symbol of the freedom we celebrate in the United States. This book explores the origins and history of the Mustang, and what the Mustang means to the people of the United States. The author looks into the reasons for the mustang populating those areas, as well as why, at one time, the wild mustang was almost extinct and why its growing reemergence. It takes a critical look at the problems facing the mustang now, especially its overpopulation, according to the government, the resulting expensive roundups and upkeep of these animals.

I truly was fascinated with this book. As a person who lives on the east coast wild mustangs tend to be far from my mind. This book really called my attention to what seems to be a serious problem the government is facing, with the overpopulation of mustangs on land that is unable to sustain the rising numbers of these animals. This book was well written and well organized. It kept my attention from beginning to end. Every chapter was fascinating from the history and evolution of the horse to the history of how the Mustang came to the west and the adaptations it made to be able to survive in such a harsh climate. The author does a good job of providing a balanced accounting of all the people who have a stake in this issue; the ranchers, the horse advocates, as well as the BLM. This book really ignited my interest in the west with the setting the author describes and introduces a love for these wonderful animals in his readers. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in animals or the environment.

Hondo by Louis L’Amour

This is the story of a loner who learns the meaning of what it is to find a family and what he would do to protect them

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys a little romance now and again and is a fun read. The characters aren’t remarkably well developed and it is a little bit instalovely, but it’s a wonderful story as well as a memorable one because it’s such a heartwarming one. The author does a wonderful job creating the setting in this book. He paints a beautiful setting, but also a remarkably lonely one. This vast and lonely setting adds to the importance of family and community a central theme in this novel. I would recommend this novel, and I am also interested in reading more from this author.

The Virginian by Owen Wister

Accounted as one of the first ever western novels, the Virginian tells the story and exploits of a loyal, hardworking and quintessential western man, whose defining features seem to be his gentle manners and his code of honor. This story has a little bit of everything: it’s an adventure story, a romance, and a tale of friendships as well as hilarious. Mostly this book tells about the good people who were brave and tough enough to make something of themselves in the old Wild West.

This book is a little tough for me to review because it’s a book that will grow on me over time, as I allow for time to process and think about the deeper meanings it presents. I did enjoy this, even though it took me a little while to read. Occasionally, I was bogged down with the writing and colloquialisms, but overall, this book had me rooting for the nameless hero, laughing out loud and in one case had me outraged. In summary, this book made me feel the gamut of emotions. I liked that each chapter seemed to be a self-contained story, which made it a good book to pick up and then put down. I am certainly glad that I read this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure story.

This was my first foray into the western genre, but it will not be my last. I am interested in picking up more western novels. I have fallen in love with the western setting, it seems so incredibly vast and achingly lonely but also incredibly beautiful and full opportunity.

Do you like westerns? What would you recommend?

Blackthorn and Grim Series Review


This series has to be, hands down, one of my favorite series of all time. I love everything about it. Especially the message that compassion can conquer anything.

What it’s All About:

The Blackthorn and Grim Series by Juliet Marillier starts out with the main characters: Blackthorn and Grim, imprisoned by a local lord. Blackthorn is offered freedom by a mysterious individual but if she accepts she has to go back to what she was before, a healer. Something she is unsure she can do. She then makes her way to a remote and isolated dwelling. While she doesn’t expect (or want) any help, she gets it in the form of Grim. When they reach the village they quickly find that not everything is as it seems.

Each novel in this trilogy has the pair solving some sort of mystery and while they solve it gradually more of their backgrounds and personalities are revealed.

My Thoughts:

Each novel in the series is set up with 3 viewpoints with an occasional 4th perspective thrown in here and there. Two of the viewpoints always belong to Blackthorn and Grim, our heroes. The third perspective typically belongs to a character who is caught up in the mystery that Blackthorn and Grim have to solve. I really enjoyed this setup. The author is clearly able to distinguish each voice not by the name of the chapter but by the individual voice created for each character. The writing style for Blackthorn is completely distinct from Grim’s and their voices are distinct from the other characters chapters we read. Each voice fits each character perfectly and it provides a wonderful reading experience. Overall, the prose in these novels is spectacular, so lyrical and fits the story to a T.

The themes in this series are truly what makes this series so special. Especially, the theme of redemption. When we meet these characters they believe they are irredeemable, but throughout the series, they are gradually proven wrong. They each see each other in a positive light and, through the other, they begin to see themselves the same way. This relationship between the characters is another wonderful part of this series. The author does a fantastic job of creating characters that aren’t perfect but that are beautiful characters you root for. The characters make this series quite an emotional one, especially when we learn about their pasts. (When I read about Grim’s past I still cry)

I love this series and the magical setting Juliet Marillier creates in all of her novels. The setting where the characters live is a described beautifully and magically as well as the places the characters visit. The author is truly gifted at creating a beautiful and layered setting.

But as I said earlier my favorite aspect of this novel was the voices that the author gives each character how it captures the essence of the character when we hear their thoughts and how it made me more emotionally invested in their story. This series really is something special and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a wonderful story.

Books in the Series:

  1. Dreamer’s Pool 
  2. Tower of Thorns
  3. Den of Wolves