Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Book Review

As the Christmas season begins, Molly, Dominic, and Molly’s pet stuffed wolf Francis are looking forward to all the fun that only the holidays can bring. One of the things that Molly is looking forward to is performing in the Christmas pageant. At first, Molly thinks that she’s going to be cast as Mary.

When Molly’s teacher, Mrs. Rose, announces the cast, Molly is devastated to learn that she got cast as a sheep and that one of Molly’s classmates got cast as Mary instead. When rehearsals start, Molly pitches a fit about her casting.

If this was a grown-up theater production, Molly would’ve been kicked out of performing altogether for her attitude. However, Mrs. Rose tells our little “diva” about Mary’s life as well as her reasons for casting Molly’s classmate in the leading role. Once Molly understands, she goes into a nice Hamilton pose, filled with determination to do her best in her role.

In theater, there is a saying: There are no small roles, only small people. Mrs. Egolf has told me that this story was partially inspired by her oldest child, who is currently doing theater. Mrs. Egolf also did stage managing in the past, although she never acted.

I really liked this story because of how relatable the whole situation was. I think everyone who has ever participated in a play always wished they were the lead. But most plays can’t be carried by just one person. As someone who has been in a few plays, I understood what Molly was feeling. I was never in the leading role of any play or musical, but I always enjoyed the time I had on the stage.

In the theater, the virtue of obedience takes precedent. Even if one isn’t a Christian, there are still rules everyone has to follow: Listen to the stage manager and the director, be nice to your fellow actors and the tech crew, and leave your attitude at the door or at least channel your feelings into your acting.

I recommend this book as one families should read around the Advent/Christmas time. I’m very certain that many Catholic schools are going to have their own Nativity play or a Christmas pageant of some sort. This story will remind kids to be humble and understanding.

Happy holidays!

Eve The Awakening-A Book Review

I discovered Jenna Moreci while browsing for writing tips on YouTube. She’s snarky, funny, and intelligent when it comes to knowing what makes a good story. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I ordered a copy of her debut novel Eve The Awakening. My copy is autographed!

So what is this novel about?

In the distant future, humanity has discovered a type of mutant that they call “chimeras” or “chimes” (pronounced kime, rhymes with lime). Evelyn Kingston was a girl whose chimera powers manifested after her parents died in a traffic accident. Over a decade later, the world is now dealing with Interlopers who are hunting chimeras and causing destruction for reasons unknown. Wanting to get away from it all, Evelyn goes to college at Billington University. Of course, not everything there is what it seems to be.

I love this novel. It’s not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad.

First of all, I love the world they live in. It feels like something out of the Marvel comics, with chimeras being Moreci’s version of the X-Men. Even as Eve adjusts to life in college, there is always a tension lurking under the surface and by the time I got to the last few chapters, my nails were bitten down to the quick. Chimeras, based on what Eve has shown, are powerful, but not invincible and the Interlopers are equally intimidating, but thankfully not overly powered. Even though I know Jenna hates setting up places, I could easily imagine Billington and all the other places Eve went to, as well as all the fight scenes.

Most of the characters are compelling as well, especially Eve and Jason. I understood Eve as this skeptical loner who emerges into this new role of being a leader against the Interlopers. Jason is equally endearing because he’s sweet and considerate and the best guy to have fighting by your side. The romance that develops between them is genuine and thankfully undeterred by love triangles and stupid misunderstandings.

The supporting characters are definitely unique, with their own distinctive voices and plenty of diversity. My favorite side character is Sancho, btw. Filipino firecracker.

The entire story had me hooked from beginning to end. There are seriously no “filler” scenes. In fact, in spite of the fact that the book is over 500 pages long, I was left wanting more. The story is driven by both character and plot and the underlying tension, as well as the wonderful relationship that Eve and Jason have are basically the fuel that drives it.

Now I said before that this novel isn’t perfect. There’s no explanation for why exactly chimeras are considered the scum of the earth and the reason why Billington is set up doesn’t make a lot of sense, either, especially considering the people they hire to be their teachers. If the founders were pro-chimera, why hire people who are anti-chimera and accept students with anti-chimera views?

Eve initially checks off a lot of boxes on the Mary Sue Litmus test: meaningful name, gets special treatment,  is described while she looks at herself in the mirror (even though this novel is written in third person), and doesn’t get along with other girls. Aside from Eve, most of the female characters are two-dimensional. They all start out hating Eve or being fake. Madison especially didn’t make sense to me. What exactly were her motivations in this story? I knew her purpose to the plot, but her motivations were all over the place.

Regardless of the flaws, I still recommend Eve The Awakening to fans of sci-fi and comic books, especially if they are fans of X-Men, Buffy, or Agents of SHIELD because there are a lot of elements of all three things here. I especially like how Jenna wrote out the third act of the novel. She was able to play around with a very familiar movie trope and still have you going “That sneaky *bleep*!”

If you are a writer, check out Jenna Moreci’s channel on YouTube. If you’re interested in the book, click the link here to get it on Amazon.

Shadowmancer: A #ThrowbackThursday Book Review

I first read Shadowmancer back when I was in middle school. On the surface, it seems like this novel that takes place in a sleepy little English countryside fishing village would be the last place for an 18th century apocalypse to occur. In fact, Shadowmancer is similar to the gospel of John or the book of Revelations in its rich complexity and imagery. There are layers upon layers of metaphor and subtext as shown in this passage:.

The sky grew darker and darker and the full moon was blotted out by thick black cloud as streaks of lightning flashed from sky to sea, exploding in the water. A lightning sword hit the ship. The mainsail cracked, then crashed to the deck, sending startled crewmen bolting from their hammocks.

As they rushed on deck, another sail crashed down, splitting the deck in half and sending shafts of splintered wood into the air. The ship lifted and dropped with each wave; a crewman was thrown through the air and into the cold sea, never to be seen again.

“A direct hit,” shouted Demurral, laughing and rubbing his hands together in glee at the sight. “One more strike and the Keruvim will be mine.”

He raised the statue into the air and chanted more magic. “Wind, hail, lightning, thunder and wave.” The sea rose at his command, each surge growing higher and higher. Breakers like black fists smashed against the ship, almost engulfing the vessel.

Two local villagers, Thomas Barrick and Kate Coglan join up with a mysterious African man named Raphah to stop the main villain, Vicar Obadiah Demurral, from destroying the world. Demurral rules over the local villages with an iron fist, but the power he lords over the villages isn’t enough for him. He dabbles in dark magic that gives him the power to raise the dead, creating creatures called the Glashan, and steals the Keruvim (the MacGuffin of the story) with the hopes of using it and its other half in a ritual that will bring on the apocalypse.

Thomas starts out as your typical village street urchin. With his father dead and his mother in the hospital, he calls the vicar out on his hypocrisy and greed, lamenting his own poor status. He gets pulled into the action when Raphah rescues him from drowning. Although he is uncertain, Thomas is resolved to help Raphah on the mission to get the Keruvim back from Demurral. A young village girl, Kate Coglan gets thrown into the adventure when she tries to kill a Glashan, a zombie that Demurral raises from the dead, using the power of the gold Keruvim.

Raphah, the mysterious African from Cush, arrives in this small English countryside village to get the Keruvim back to his people. He’s the oldest of the trio and helps exposit important information regarding the dark magic and otherworldly creatures shown in this story. Prejudices towards Africans are prominent and he even gets branded as a slave, but his determination to do God’s will makes him a compelling character.

What makes Shadowmancer compelling to read is the attention to detail and the overall atmosphere. Whenever I open this book, I find some new detail I missed, another piece of the puzzle that adds depth and it entices me to read the book again in search for more. Most of all, I love why this book was written. In an interview with Christianity Today, GP Taylor said:

“I was out there talking to a church group about the threads, the dark and sinister threads through children’s literature. At the end of one of these nights, this woman came up to me and said, I think you should write a children’s book, but have the main theme of a God who’s triumphant. On the way home this stuck with me.”

Shadowmancer is a complicated, challenging read that fantasy fans will definitely find intriguing because of its dark atmosphere, threatening villain, and the timeless storyline of three unlikely heroes who, despite overwhelming odds, help to defeat the dark forces that were bent on destroying their world. I recommend this book for fans of dark fantasy and young adults who love a good Gothic atmosphere.

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love: A Book Review

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I bought The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love last year while working on my own novel for NaNoWriMo. As someone who loves conventions, cosplay, and geek/nerd life in general, I knew that I would love this book as soon as I read the summary.

The “geek” in question from the title of the book is sixteen year old Graham William Posner, “lanky, pale, glasses, with a penchant for fantasy worlds.” He has a crush on his best friend, Roxy and hopes that going to New York Comic Con with her would provide him with the opportunity for him to confess his feelings, especially when one of the guests at NYCC is Robert Zinc, a reclusive comic book writer who is stepping out of the shadows for the first time in forever. Of course, things don’t go the way Graham hopes, especially when Roxy hits it off with a guy she meets at the con.

As Graham tries to get the best NYCC experience possible and impress Roxy in the process, the reader is treated to a very genuine perspective of what it’s like to be at a con: the costumes, the merch, the panels, and  all the unique events that fans get to go to. All the while,  Graham continually fails at impressing Roxy and eventually learns that his feelings are unrequited.

What makes this book work is that you really root for Graham and he never acts like he’s entitled to Roxy’s love. He gets jealous of the new guy, but he eventually learns that it’s okay to not get the girl. The book may not end with the conventional happily ever after, but I still love it because by the time the story ends, you see how much Graham has matured and his desires change towards things bigger than just getting the girl.

I recommend this book to all my nerdy friends and to people who can learn a thing or two about being in love. We’ve all experienced unrequited love and this book shows how people can deal with it in a healthy way without friendships taking collateral damage. It’s refreshing to find a story that focuses more on selfless love and friendship rather than the tired love triangles and “pretty people problems” you see in every other YA novel.

We need more books like this!

Uninvited's Pros and Cons: A Book Review

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I was definitely intrigued when I heard about Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. As someone who’s experienced rejection more times than I can count, I felt drawn to this book like a bee to honey. After reading through the book, I have to say that as a whole, there are a great many blessings that can be gained from reading it.

Pros

I related to most of the stories shared here. There’s an overall sense of reassurance throughout the book that would definitely comfort the reader like chocolate after a breakup. The fist chapter invites the reader to be honest with themselves, which is always a great first step when dealing with rejection. I loved the chapters that ended with prayers. The prayers are sincere petition prayers that anyone can relate to and pray when they are dealing with the burdens of rejection and heartbreak.

Lysa also delves into what makes rejection hurt so much: So many people have trust issues, emotional insecurity, and rejection shakes us out of the safety net that we make for ourselves. The overall theme of this book is to root our trust in God and find that emotional security with him. I really need to introduce her to Saint Faustina because Faustina is one of the best examples of trusting in Jesus in spite of everything else.

The best thing about this book is that it teaches the reader that we can all learn from rejection. Each experience we have from rejection can teach us something for the future for whenever we deal with rejection again or point us towards something that leads us to acceptance. The book embraces the virtue of humility really well. Not only does this book help give the reader assurance when it comes to dealing with rejection, but it also provides an opportunity for the reader to improve on themselves with sections on self-assessment.

Cons

One major con was something I found in the 2nd chapter. There’s a section that quotes a few verses and brings attention to the promises within those verses, tying them around a common theme:

When we abide, delight, and dwell in Him, he then places within us desires that line up with His best desire for us.

Yes, that I can agree with. When we spend time with God, our hearts are made more like His. However, I did not agree with the sentence that followed afterwards:

Therefore, He can give us whatever we ask, because we will only want what’s consistent with His best.

Um. No. That’s not how it works. God can’t just give us whatever we ask because we think it will be consistent with His best. His best is not always what we want. With every Our Father, we pray “Thy will be done.”

I also didn’t relate to the story about the lady in the gym that Lysa was convinced hated her. Granted, I’m usually someone who always thinks the best of most people. I loved the testimonies shared in the book, but I seriously wanted this book to go deeper than just the everyday rejections we deal with.

It’s so sad that Protestants often forego to look into the lives of the saints because I can list five saints right off the bat who suffered through rejection and still found their true purpose in Christ:

  • Saint Gemma Galgani: rejected from the Passionists because of her spinal health issues, yet received stigmata and fought many battles against Satan.
  • Saint Joseph of Cupertino: seen as stupid and dumb because he was in constant awe at anything relating to Jesus and the church. Later was given the gift of flight and is the patron saint of test-takers.
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: Chose a religious order that wasn’t trendy and his family didn’t support him going into religious life. He’s now regarded as a Doctor of the Church and his writings are worth their weight in gold.
  • Saint Faustina: Social outcast, even amongst her fellow sisters, and yet her devotion to Divine Mercy is now one of the most popular and wonderful devotions in the Catholic Church.
  • St. Jane Frances de Chantal: Had to deal with a marriage that she didn’t exactly want and made the most of it. Later went on to be the foundress of the Visitation Sisters

Of course, we can’t forget saints who also tended to the outcasts of society such as Saint Francis, St. Damian of Molokai and St. Marianne Cope, St. Mother Teresa, etc. I understand that the target audience for this book is the everywoman who feels like she’s never doing enough or never feels like she is enough, but I would’ve loved to have seen some things about actual social outcasts: people who deal with all sorts of identity issues.

Overall, I recommend this book to women who are seeking emotional reassurance in their lives. Again, this book doesn’t go deep, but it provides a sense of comfort to those who are seeking it.

Little Sins Mean A Lot: A Book Review

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Little Sins Mean A Lot is a book about the bad habits we have, our venial sins, which can add up to a lot of damage if we’re not careful. I read through this book in one day, finding bits of myself in most of the chapters. Each chapter starts off with a story or several stories that relate to the topic of the chapter. There are quotes from the saints, the Catechism, and Bible verses to show what Catholicism has to say about these little sins. The third part of the chapter looks into how we can break those bad habits. The book isn’t too long, but each chapter packs up a whole lot in a relatively short amount of pages.

I like that the book gives a lot of starting points in terms of identifying and breaking the bad habits. My favorite chapters are the ones that center on procrastination, small indulgences, and “clinging to our narratives beyond their usefulness.” I’ll go into detail on these so that you can get a sneak preview of why I like this book so much.

Procrastination: Like a lot of other writers, I struggle with procrastination. I am way too easily distracted by the latest hashtag or whatever notifications go off on my phone and I tend to dedicate more time to my “short time wasters” than I should. In true Dante-esque fashion, Elizabeth Scalia counters this bad habit with an example from Mary: The Annunciation. Since I consecrated myself on the feast of the Annunciation, I found myself wanting to imitate Mary’s example. There are several root causes to why we procrastinate and Elizabeth tackles every single one of them.

Small Indulgences: Ask those who know me best and they will tell you that I always love to treat myself whenever I get the opportunity. Usually, it comes in the form of food. It’s okay when it happens once in a while, but too much indulging will lead to cravings for more of whatever you indulge in. In other words, small indulgences can be an addiction if we’re not careful. I particularly like how she suggests asking the saints and our guardian angels for help. One example I can give (and trust me, I never get tired of telling this story) is when I wanted to indulge myself at a convention by having the actor I was gonna meet take a picture with him pretending to bite me, vampire style. However, my guardian angel suggested otherwise, leading to a more heroic picture that’s still one of my favorites to this day!

Clinging To Our Narratives Beyond Their Usefulness: An alternative title I have for this chapter is “Selling Ourselves Short.” As a writer, this chapter felt particularly personal for me because I practically worship the idea of “the narrative.” I always see my life as a huge, neverending story. Except I also know that way too many people cling onto their “victim narratives” in order to justify why they act a certain way. One friend told me that she thought that I hid behind my writing. I don’t think that I use my writing as a shield, but I’ve been defining myself by this narrative that I created for a very long time. The chapter calls for detachment, to let God write our story instead. The only other thing I would add is a suggestion about what true humility looks like. As CS Lewis said: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” As in thinking of yourself less often than you normally do.

 

I think the biggest lesson that can be learned from this book is that it completely and totally destroys the lie that “as long as you’re not doing harm to anyone, you’re a good person.” These little habits can harm ourselves and others in a big way if they are taken too far. We all have times when we procrastinate, indulge a little too much, and sell ourselves short. We can swing from being too full of ourselves to outright hating ourselves. The trick to all this is finding balance. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially to 12-step programs.

Women of Christ Wednesday: Purposes Lost and Found

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Today’s Women of Christ Wednesday will be a bit different. I am going to share with you two books. These two books are about women who thought they lost everything when their lives were radically changed by unforeseen circumstances and yet, through the grace of God, they were able to find a new sense of purpose and gained an authentic, wonderful love along the way.

The first book is Fractured, Not Broken, a memoir by Kelly Schaefer and M. Weidenbenner. Kelly Schaefer became a quadriplegic after an accident involving a drunk driver.

I should tell you right now, one major flaw I have is I often read the last page first. If the ending makes me wonder how the people involved got to that certain point and how they changed, chances are I’m gonna go back to page one and read non-stop until I find out. Kelly Schaefer wasn’t the typical “inspirational disadvantaged” person. The struggles she faced and the losses she endured are shown on each and every page. She longed for the days when she could do backflips and cartwheels and especially hated when her boyfriend pre-accident ended up breaking up with her. And yet, slowly Kelly started turning her life around. She finished college and became a teacher and spoke out about the dangers of drunk driving. Then, all of a sudden, another wonderful man comes into the picture.

This memoir is unique because the story of Kelly’s husband, Shawn, is also included. I was literally screaming at the book, rooting for Shawn to find Kelly. I honestly couldn’t put this book down because I wanted to know how Shawn and Kelly would find each other. Knowing that they eventually did and that their relationship would lead to a beautiful marriage gives me hope that someday, I will find my own wonderful husband.

 

The second book I want to share with you is The Girl’s Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs. This book is a Bible study and commentary on the Book of Ruth. While Higgs is Protestant, I have a deep respect for her because her Bad Girls of the Bible series was one of the things that helped me stay grounded in my love for God back in my California days. (Keep in mind, by the way, I was a very pretentious teenager at the time.)

The Girl’s Still Got It is a bit of a departure from Higgs’s usual Bible studies in that there is no “modern version” of the story that Higgs creates to parallel Biblical Ruth with a modern version of her. Instead, each chapter has short testimonies from women who commented on their relationships with their mothers-in-law and their husbands.

The Book of Ruth is one I’m familiar with, but Higgs’s commentary brings new life to the story. Ruth stands out as someone who was a foreigner, who came to Israel to take care of her mother-in-law. Given Pope Francis’s frequent jokes about mothers-in-law and Naomi’s bitter heart at the loss of her husband and sons, it wasn’t exactly an easy task. In spite of that, Ruth devotes herself to taking care of Naomi, even if it means leaving behind the home she knew all her life.

The best part of the story, though, is when Ruth’s kind actions are noticed by her kinsman-redeemer Boaz. Their romance isn’t exactly as much a page-turner, but it’s still heartwarming because Boaz is drawn to Ruth’s selfless love and Ruth sees Boaz as a kind provider. Like any good love story, there are still a couple obstacles for the two of them to overcome before they can finally say “I do,” but the happy ending is very much earned.

 

I have to wonder if Kelly Schaefer ever read the Book of Ruth and saw the parallels between her story and that of Ruth’s. So many women out there, myself included, often wonder if there are any good men out there. These two stories are proof that nothing is impossible with God. If you are like me and you are seeking a godly man, I have a prayer for you.

 

Heavenly Father,

Before the world was created, you knew me. You know all that was and all that will be. You know the man who is best suited to share my heart with You. Lord, I pray that you will prepare my heart for him. I ask that you prepare his heart for me, as well. Whenever I am lonely, remind me to pray for him. Whenever I feel jealous of others’ happiness in relationships, remind me to have hope and to be grateful for what I have right now. Whenever I feel that aching in my chest, that deep sad longing, carry me through it. Let Your love be enough for me, and yet let me be open to receive his love as well.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

 

Not Just Good, but Beautiful: A Book Review

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In light of Pope Francis’s recent visit to the US, I am gonna look into Not Just Good, but Beautiful, a compilation of interfaith talks from Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium. This book gives perspectives on marriage from Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu perspectives.

Since the Humanum Colloquium was organized by Pope Francis, there are more Catholic perspectives, but the beauty of this book was that while the theme of of the colloquium was to show the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman, each Catholic had a unique way of showing how marriage is beautiful. Pope Francis begins the colloquium with the word “complementarity” which a word that gets echoed in the subsequent essays. To Pope Francis, “complimentarity is the root of marriage and family.” In this day and age where love and marriage seemed to lack concrete definitions aside from feelings, Pope Francis says “Family is an anthropological fact-a socially and culturally related fact.” Pope Francis’s love for the family was easily seen in his visit to the US and I pray that people will look further into it and realize the truth, beauty, and goodness that the family has to offer.

Gerhard Cardinal Muller looks at marriage from a theological perspective and sees that the differences between man and woman as “an essential element to understanding the human being and our journey toward God.” Sister M. Prudence Allen looks at “complementarity” from a philosophical perspective. Jean Laffitte’s perspective looks into marriage as a sacrament and how marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with His Church. Ignacio Ibarzabal looks at marriage from a millenial perspective.

BC_NotJustGoodbutBeautiful_1The perspectives from other faiths were equally beautiful. I love how Jonathan Sacks looks at marriage from a historical and anthropological perspective, tying science and history into his Jewish faith. Penecostal director Jacqueline C. Rivers also looks at marriage using a lot of history and the perspectives from African-American culture as well as the Pentecostal beliefs. Kala Acharya, a Hindu, looks at marriage combining history, philosophy and the beliefs of Hinduism. Johann Christoph Arnold, an Anabaptist, looks into his personal life and shows how marriage can have its ups and downs when playing out in the real world. Henry B. Eyring, a Mormon, does something similar with his essay. Wael Farouq (Muslim) and Nissho Takeuchi (Buddhist) look at the languages of their faiths for insight on how their faiths see love and marriage. Reverent Nicholas Thomas Wright looks at marriage from a strictly Biblical perspective while Rick Warren gives a good practical “how to” perspective. Tsui-Ying Sheng’s essay is one of my favorites because it looks at yin and yang beyond the coolness of the symbol and actually applies the philosophy of the symbol to her life. Russell D. Moore, a Baptist, also ties in the theologies from the Baptist denomination into how things are today.

Complementarity is the overall theme in this book. Many people look at marriage and family and think that it’s just about feelings. But from observing my married friends, I realized that you don’t have to have everything in common with your spouse. The best relationships I know (fictional and in reality) involve two people who aren’t exactly alike but still work together perfectly because they balance each other’s needs. Men and women are always going to be different, no matter how many times people on tumblr and the media say otherwise. But it’s not a bad thing.

I highly recommend this book for people who want to understand marriage on a deeper level.

Visit the Patheos Book Club on Not Just Good, But Beautiful here.

The Gospel of Happiness: A Book Review

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Interesting fact: I first met Christopher Kaczor, author of The Gospel of Happiness when he was giving a lecture at Cafe Catholica. His lecture focused on “The 7 Big Myths About the Catholic Church.” One of the myths he mentioned was that the Catholic Church doesn’t care about earthly happiness and he mentioned this book in his lecture.

The Gospel of Happiness looks into how the practice of positive psychology can be incorporated into a Catholic lifestyle. In spite of the preconceptions people have about psychology  and religion and the seeming incompatibility of the two, there are aspects of positive psychology that complement the teachings of the Catholic Church and these aspects are what the book chooses to focus on. The book is divided into seven chapters that look into how happiness, the theological virtues, prayer, gratitude, forgiveness, the practice of virtue, and willpower contribute to a person’s overall happiness and well-being.

One major issue people have with Christianity is “prosperity gospel.” And yes, I had a prosperity gospel phase. In recent events, however, my idea of happiness in Christianity is that it’s not so much of “prosperity gospel” as it is “providential gospel.” The difference is that prosperity gospel has unrealistic expectations of what God will give people and puts what people want ahead of what God wants, when taken to the extreme. Providential gospel is taking a cue from Mother Teresa: The Lord will provide for what you need, not necessarily what you want. The Gospel of Happiness takes a more realistic approach and cites research studies that show that unrealistic expectations contribute to overall unhappiness. It also looks into how to be happy even when enduring suffering.

One issue with prosperity gospel is that it tends to ignore suffering or just play it off as just part of having a negative mindset. The Gospel of Happiness, on the other hand, has a whole chapter about the benefits of forgiveness and the chapter on gratitude talks about how God can bring something good out of something bad. The book also goes against the secular mindset that people have to focus on making themselves happy as the number one priority. While a healthy self-love is definitely important, putting one’s ambitions and desires over the needs of others ends up leading to bad things in the long run. In the chapters that focus on virtue, Kaczor shows the benefits of kindness and doing good things for other people.

There were a lot of new things I learned from this book that I didn’t get from my phase of reading self-help books and listening to prosperity gospel. I know I use the word “depth” a lot when I talk about movies or books, but yeah, this book is full of depth. It goes deeper than just making goals or having faith. It actually lays out plans of action.

I highly recommend this book to people who want a different take on the self-help genre. Protestants can easily enjoy this book as much as any Catholic. I would even take a chance and show it to people who see themselves as spiritual but not religious. Because religion, despite what people think, isn’t a rigorous set of man-made rules. It’s a relationship. Religion is a relationship that a person has with God as well as the community of the world at large. Religion keeps a person grounded and humble. Or at least that’s what religion is supposed to be. And I think that’s what The Gospel of Happiness is really about.

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet : A Spoiler-Free Book Review

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A long time ago…well, actually, three or so years ago back in my crazy college days, I was getting over a broken heart. Nothing new there, really. As with anyone in a moping state of mind, I needed something to distract me. So I was browsing Youtube when one video blog I followed linked to this video:

For those who don’t know, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern vlog adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice created by Hank Green and Bernie Su. I fell in love with the series as soon as I saw the t-shirt with Austen’s most famous opening line. It became my obsession, my catharsis over my sucky dating life, and was there for me when I had my post-college crisis. If you want to watch the whole series, check out the playlist here.

Something you’ll notice, if you watch the playlist all the way through, is that there is more than one YouTube channel involved in this story. One channel involves Lydia Bennet, the youngest Bennet sister.

Coming to love Lydia Bennet and being emotionally invested in her story arc was the last thing I expected when I got into the series. Lydia Bennet’s character growth is treated very differently in the series than the book, which is a major improvement considering the original had Lydia marrying a man twice her age who didn’t love her and living in the north of England, which in British terms is the equivalent of moving to Alaska or Canada. The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet follows up on Lydia’s life after the havoc that George Wickham wreaked on her and her family. Since the book itself doesn’t come out until September 29th, I am going to keep this review spoiler-free.

I will have to say, though, that this post will have spoilers for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and all the videos in relation to them (Lydia Bennet’s channel, the Pemberley Digital videos, and Maria Lu’s videos), so like I said, if you haven’t seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries yet, watch the playlist first.

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet looks into Lydia Bennet’s life after her sister decides to finish her video blog. Lydia is undergoing counseling in between finishing community college and has no idea where life will take her next. For the longest time, Lydia saw herself as the wild, carefree party girl but that lifestyle led her to making a huge mistake that almost cost everything. So this story centers on Lydia figuring out who she is outside of the lifestyle she used to have.

Changing one’s life doesn’t overnight, however. Even as Lydia makes progress in improving herself, she  comes close to backsliding into her party girl persona when she hits some obstacles that keep her from pursuing her dream of studying psychology. Even though Lydia has her family, she takes this journey of self-discovery on her own. And all the while, the people she’s closest too start adjusting to their new lives as well. The story is realistic in showing Lydia’s desire to change and her fears that she will never be seen as something other than a semi-famous YouTube sensation or the wild party girl. And even though the incident involving George Wickham’s attempt of distributing a sex tape to the internet is over, everyone in Lydia’s life is still walking on eggshells around her.

The good news is that life takes Lydia in a whole new direction. Her relationships with her cousin, Mary, her sisters, and her parents start to improve once she makes an effort to turn her life around and not let the setbacks she faced get to her. When one door closes in Lydia’s life, another one opens and she takes the courage to walk that new path, even though it’s not as safe or as certain as the life she thought she would have. But at the same time, the new life of Lydia Bennet is a promising one.

So for anyone in the LBD fandom who wanted more of our favorite double-jointed redhead, pre-order this book on Amazon and see where Lydia Bennet goes next. You might find it more surprising than you think. Major kudos to Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley for keeping the spirit of Lydia Bennet alive. The only thing that would top this is if there was just one more video from Lydia Bennet to promote the book and give the YouTube viewers some much-needed closure. But what are the chances of that happening?