PSA: Read Dickens’ Christmas Carol

Some people I know have a favorite film or TV version of A Christmas Carol.

These people are otherwise smart, friendly, tasteful folk, but boy are they wrong about that.

There is no good version.

I despised A Christmas Carol forever and ever amen because I grew up watching everybody and their brother’s rendition of the show.  I hated them all.  I assumed it was because the story itself was trite and overwrought. No.  It was because someone should have had the sense to strictly forbid the inevitable evisceration of an excellent book.

There are books out there that have been written as books because the written word allows you to do things that cannot be done in a play or on film.  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of those books.

Do you love yourself?  You should. Jesus loves you, so you should too.  And therefore, since you are visiting this blog and thus we know you are a literate person of a certain age, you owe yourself the gift of reading the book.

It’s a short book.  Unlike other books by Charles Dickens, you can enjoy this book.  Yes, even you.  Even though we all know you hated both pages of Great Expectations that you pretended to read while your English teacher was looking.  Ordinary people who have the sense to mostly avoid Dickens should, nonetheless, read A Christmas Carol.

It’s an excellent story, and it’s out of copyright so you can even read it for free (though I prefer paper myself).

Here it is at Project Gutenberg.

Here it is for Kindle.

Here’s a review of a nice library book I found, Walking Dickens’ London,  that you might enjoy to go with.   I see looking over the review that I recommend this book as a convenient way to get perspective on Rerum Novarum If you double-love yourself, of course you’re reading that, too.  But A Christmas Carol is a tad more accessible to most of the kids.

File:A Christmas Carol frontpiece.jpg

No one keeps Christmas better than Scrooge.  A Christmas Carol bookplate courtesy of Wikimedia [public domain].

Small Success Thursday

Small Success Thursday

Before I fall off the internet again, a list:

1. That homeschool co-op thing is going pretty well. Over at, I wrote about why I think we’re doing as well as we are, and what you should be doing now so that you can be as cool as us, this time next year.

2.  I read a good book.  That made me think about hats.  Hint: PG Wodehouse + Free Book = Happy Jennifer.  Also, as always, I ended up with bacon.

3. Without giving the game away, since I’m not actually a mantilla-blogger, the hat thing comes back to this.  (Yes, that link is not to my success, it’s to a good post by Dan Burke.  You should read it.)

4. I have a post in the queue for tomorrow.  It has seven parts.  See how organized I am?

5. I dropped the boy off in Bethune today for Boy’s Weekend.  On the way home, I had a BLT in Camden.  I am thinking that if someone wanted me to undertake a special project in which I drive US 1 testing all the BLT’s . . . that would be okay with me.  I would totally get Marian on that one.  Fiat, all that.

6.  Last night Christina Knauss (say: Kuh-Now-ss) from the Catholic Miscellany and I talked on the phone about bullying, special needs students, and classroom management.  I did not sound completely lost and confused, because we talked for a couple minutes 45 minutes *before* the interview, and she gave me a head’s up on the topic.  And then I got to think about it while I cleaned my house and she made dinner.  And then we talked.  All intereviews should be conducted this way.

7.  It was very helpful preparation for my author panel coming up on Saturday.  I don’t really know what people are going to ask me, but maybe something about those topics.

8.  You’re wondering what I suggest.  See page 91, highlighted in boldface:

There should be no tolerance of mockery, teasing, bullying, or rudeness from any quarter.

I’m looking at you, grown-ups.

9.  Why yes, I will be saying that on Saturday.  Grown-ups, prepare to squirm.

Updated: 10: Writing posts without typos is not one of my successes this week.

7 Takes: Shakespeare Makes Me Sick, Rant-o-Rama, and Other Beautiful Things

1. So. Shakespeare. 

I started the week all productive.  New quarter.  Got the checklists printed out, vowed, “This time I will stay on track!” all that.  Also, I had to pick Mr. Boy’s next literature choice.  I went through the Kolbe Jr. High Lit Course Plans, and Merchant of Venice kept popping out at me.  I was leary after the Great Poetry Fiasco of 2013, but I heeded the little voice.

And I got a brilliant idea: Since two big kids are always hanging around wanting to talk to use from 9-10, formerly known as “Kids Are In BED AND PARENTS HAVE ADULT TIME”, yes I am shouting by the end of that sentence, I figured out a way to either get the children to go to bed, or live out the homeschool fantasy of everyone sitting around reading Shakespeare together in the evening.  Win either way, right?

So Tuesday night I hand out copies (mismatched, but we rolled with it) of the play, we divied up the parts for Act 1, Scene 1, and it went pretty well.  Some of us were having so much fun, we went ahead and started scene 2.

At which point, Splash.

Yes.  My child vomited over Shakespeare.

Said child reported after, “My stomach felt weird, but I wasn’t sure . . .”. So hard to tell the difference between a stomach virus and Literature Dread.

[Everyone’s better now, thanks for asking.]

When we restart, I’m issuing a bucket with each manuscript.

2. I updated my e-mail software.  I hate it.  That is my excuse for why I can’t find your e-mail anymore.  I will grow and change and find your message and reply to it.  Soon.  But not before late afternoon today.

2.5. Visit our hostess for useful information about this:

photo 3 7 Quick Takes about haunted houses, affordable weekend wines, and #TWEETSONAPLANE
I borrowed this photo without asking. Because I never, ever, want to lose the link to this post. If Jen F. makes me take it down, I will. But you know why she’s a superstar blogger? Because: Affordable Wine. Doesn’t get much more Catholic than that.


3. Let’s talk about your vocabulary, hmmn?

Good Catholic friends, please tell me you know that you’re not supposed to take the Lord’s name in vain?  So I will charitably assume that if you gasp “Oh my God!” when talking about someone else’s clothing choice, or the water bill this month, or what happened in Congress, that you are in fact moved to prayer.  I think you should cut it out, because everyone *thinks* you’re just taking the Lord’s name in vain, and maybe you even are.  But I’m not going to presume.

What with being Catholics, we tend to cling tightly to our right to use “strong language”.  All those things St. Paul has to say about our word choice are trumped by our Lord’s choice insults, yes?  So we say.  I’ll not take up that fight today.

But if you’re going to resort to coarse, over-used cliches of insults for lack of a broader vocabulary — perhaps your imagination is foiled in the face of tribulation — would you please kindly restrict yourself to accurate metaphors?

For example, some people accuse the Church of thinking sex is dirty or shameful or I don’t know what.  It’s nonsense of course — quite the opposite: If we are very particular about chastity, it’s because sex is so powerfully good, holy even, and should not be profaned in any way.  We only have seven sacraments, and one of them has to do with sex.  Yep.

So, please oh please oh please, speak as if you’ve been catechized.  Do not sling around crude terms for the marital act as your insult of choice — let alone as your darkest and strongest insult.  Do you really think that intercourse is some foul, nasty, evil thing? When you search for some vivid way to describe a sordid injustice, is the first thing that comes to mind your experience with the marital act?

I certainly hope not.  Clean it up.

4.  Come see me talk.  St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Columbia, SC, Saturday Nov. 9th, daytime.  I’m just doing a panel in the afternoon, on the “Classroom Management” topic. In the morning I’ll be listening.  I kinda wish I could listen in the afternoon, too, the other panelists look pretty interesting – I can’t find an internet link, but the overall topic is stuff like bullying, working with special needs students — useful.  Contact the Diocese of Charleston Catechesis Folks to get more info or to RSVP.  There’s a nominal cost that covers lunch -n- stuff.  Gorgeous site, too, do visit the church and cemetery if you come.

5. Speaking of sex . . . I’m hosting a blog tour and giveaway for Simcha’s new book on NFP.  Where should I do it?  Here? Amazing Catechists? Patheos?  I need to pick a spot.

6. Speaking not of sex . . . My friend Karina Fabian has a new book out I haven’t read it, but I keep meaning to blurb it.  If you like clean adult sci-fi, Catholic-themed usually, fun and a quick read, take a look. I’ve never not enjoyed reading one of her books, though I don’t do the zombie thing — I had to crop her cover for my presentation on finding a publisher this past summer at CWG, because, gross.  Firmly planted in my Hardy Boys Not Thomas Hardy preferred category.


7. Aren’t these beautiful?  I can’t decide whether they’re in budget or not.  I do need a holy water font for the house.  I’m nervous about the glass.  But wow. Pretty.

The Chinese Chest by Theresa Jenner Garrido

My review of Theresa Jenner Garrido’s The Chinese Chest is posted at the blorg.  Summary: Highly recommended.  (I don’t review stuff that isn’t, why would I waste my time that way? I have other, more interesting ways to waste time, thank you.)

The usual warning applies, this is genre fiction, as you’ve come to expect.  Much more Hardy Boys than Thomas Hardy.  Also, since I’m really liking this as an example of clean YA, let me just clarify: It is dark, creepy clean YA.  Anne of Green Gables not so much. Sure, Nancy Drew knows what to do with a roll of duct tape, but she never had to leave someone a bleeding lump of near-death in order to get the duct tape on.  Legitimate self-defense is a last resort for a reason.

Monday Thoughts: The Good Life

1. Study Shows Catechesis Helps, But Not Quite Enough

Here’s a nice article from the National Catholic Register about the differences of opinion on Church doctrine and social issues among Catholic who attend Mass, and those who don’t. That’s not how they describe the article, but it is one thing the study demonstrates. The good news:  Catholics who say they go to Mass every Sunday are also much more likely to say they agree with the Church on counter-cultural issues.  The bad news: Depending on the hot-button topic, between 1/3 and 1/2 of Catholics attending Mass weekly dissent from Church teaching.

(In contrast, this isn’t, say, the good-natured non-Catholic spouse who comes to Mass as a kindness to the Catholic spouse.  These adults who both claim to be Catholic, AND claim to attend Mass every Sunday.)

So.  In the pews next to you on Sunday, think of the three people you shake hands with during the Sign of Peace.  If yours is a typical parish described by this study, you can assume you’ve shaken hands with at least one person who does not in fact believe and accept the Catholic faith.

Thinking of traveling to the far corners of the earth to evangelize?  Your parish pews are mission territory.


In choosing best friends, if you can find one whose besetting sins are utterly different from your own . . . golden.  Just golden.


A Sunday well-spent is truly a foretaste of Heaven.  More coming later. Partly in response to this post.


I read and thoroughly enjoyed The King’s Gambit by John McNichol.  My Amazon review is up, and when I get around to it, I’ll post something longer here at the blog. As always on my Catholic-genre youth fiction reviews, let us remember to ask ourselves: Do my tastes run to Thomas Hardy, or Hardy Boys?  I’m firmly in the latter camp.  I like my adult beverages some combination of bitter, dry, and rarefied; I like my fiction just the opposite.


I can’t remember what else.  Have a great week.  Happy Conclave-Watching!

Books for the Plane Ride

Flying with me on the plane with me today:

Sarah Reinhard gamely sent me a review e-copy of her forthcoming book, and if you blog you can have one too.  The snippets I’ve read seem to up the usual Sarah R. excellent standard, though I’ll admit I went straight to the special-feature paragraphs written by Jane Lebak (tear-jerking do-not-miss-lives-will-be-saved), Dorian Speed (encouragement-for-the-discouraged-disillusioned-and-cut-wide-open), and myself (you be the judge).

Heaven’s Fury, Heaven’s Grace is not my usual genre, but I asked Mrs. Peshek if I could borrow a copy to read on the plane.  She was fresh out.  But as I was on my way out the door after a lovely afternoon of mom-talk, UPS arrived with the new stash!  So I’ve got a loaner, and can’t wait to see what it’s like.

[UPS also brought Mrs. P. a big box of school books from Rainbow Resource — which happens to be the best deal going for getting a teacher’s manual for the Oxford Latin Course.  And boring  things like Saxon Math and other stuff normal homeschoolers use.]

I picked up Land of the Morning at the homeschool used-book fair the other week — great piece of history.  It is the memoir of an American missionary-kid to the Philippines who was captured by the Japanese and spent her teen years in the internment camp for expats near Manila.  It is written as a historical document, not as a heart-thumping fact-based-novel.  There’s a good overview of life as a missionary before the war that sets the stage for the details of prison life, and then freedom after.

The McAnlis family was Protestant, but the treatment of Catholicism (limited to times when it came up — just a few anecdotes here and there) is 100% respectful.  The nun stories from the internment years make it fun and inspiring reading for the Catholic reader.

My copy is headed out on loan to my dad and stepmother (who hails from the Philippines), with the hope that it will come back to me in the fall for a tour around the inferno-area, then reside in my library for future homeschool use.

Not Going Anywhere:

I finished reading The Bible Tells Me So, and yes, it really is as good as Lisa Mladnich says it is.  Review coming soon, but probably not until I return from vacation, since my review notes are written on the inside cover of the book.

Lest you think I overstate the case when I say you should save time and just buy one now before Christian comes to his senses and raises the price . . . my husband is reading this book.  Do you understand what that means?  The man is not like me.  He doesn’t just “read books” for a hobby. Basically he reads the Bible and not much else, except Fine Woodworking and a few photoblogs and archery catalogs.

But we’re ramping up for another family-sized read through the Bible over this year and the next, and Mr. Bible Guy (the one I married) is working through the other Mr. Bible Guy’s book as a warm-up for that.  Great book.

3.5 Time Outs: Vatican Spies

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy putting the mmmmn in Church Militant since  . . . well, awhile.

It's electric. Except when it's not.


You wanna know what’s better than bacon? Eric Sammons e-mailing to ask, “May I send you a review copy of my new book?”

I know!  I couldn’t believe it either!  I figured the SuperHusband must have driven to Florida in desperation, in order to beg a perfect stranger to please give his wife something, anything, that would help her grow in holiness.  He would have observed that I already had a large collection of freebie plastic rosaries, so please did Mr. Sammons know of anything else that might help?

Another possible explanation is that since I liked the first book, maybe I’d like the next one, too.


I worry sometimes that if I get too many review books, it will cause me to neglect my local Catholic bookstore.  Fear not!  The kids are taking care of us.  For example – item #2 that’s better than bacon: This Sunday the “Roamin’ Catholic” bookmobile was parked at our parish.  Yay!  My favorite time of year!  And the 4th grader spots this DVD and asks, “Please can we get this Mom?”

It’s a pretty simple formula:  Child requests DVD about real-life Nazi-thwarting Secret Agent Nun?  Mom says, “Um.  Yes.”  We haven’t watched it yet, though.  I’ve been too busy yelling at the kids to clean the house growing in holiness.


My biggest disappointment in reading Jack Chick tracts was the discovery that, through some bureaucratic snafu, I’d been cheated.  If I really became a citizen of Vatican City the day I was baptized, where’s my passport???  Ah, but now my son has rectified my problem, and issued me my secret-agent ID:

Don’t worry, I’m still gonna carry my regular ID as well.


 . . . delightful to read on a Sunday afternoon.  See the review just below this post, or click here.

EDITED to add: And yeah, of course it’s link day.  If you have one you want to share, we’re all eyes.

Live and Let Fly by Karina Fabian

UPDATED: Live and Let Fly has been released.  Get your copy here.

I know Karina Fabian through the Catholic Writers Guild, and a few years ago at one of the online conferences, I was the lucky winner of a copy Magic, Mensa & Mayhem, one of her earlier works in the Dragoneye, PI series.

I read it in one long evening of a reading-frenzy, which on the one hand isn’t shocking because if a book has a decent plot I get sucked in; on the other hand, it tells you the book has a decent plot, because Hitchiker’s Guide and Young GKC notwithstanding, I don’t usually read much of anything in the sci-fi/fantasy category.  I subscribed to Karina’s new Rocket Science for the Rest of Us blog hoping maybe some of that science-geek power would rub off, but so far, no luck.  I just keep ending up back at Dr. Boli.  I’m the wrong kind of geeky.

Live and Let Fly is the latest in the DragonEye series (after a detour through zombie land — see Julie D.’s review here), narrated by a dragon, Vern, and his partner, Sister Grace.  They are two magicals operating a detective agency on our side of a dimensional gap that has opened up between the mundane world (ours) and the faerie world.


This is Catholic-genre fiction, so Sister Grace is just one of many faerie-nun-superheros doing their part as agents for the Faerie Catholic Church — a rite in union with the Catholic Church as we know it, but with it’s own pope, and it’s own disciplines suitable for the various faerie beings.   [Example: A mundane priest hearing Vern’s confession needs to know: Is it a sin for a dragon to eat another sentient being?]

Why I enjoyed this book:

1.  At the end of the day, it’s a detective thriller.  I like thrillers.

2. I love, love, love the humor.  I had to skip some of my favorite excerpts because they contain spoilers, but here’s a couple quotes from earlier-on:

We’d had so many Save The Universe Cases, we’d given them their own code — STUC.  Now if we could just arrange to get paid more for them.  I was still working that angle.  We had a rates scale, but asking for more money and getting it were two different things — and of course, we weren’t going to not save the world while we negotiated.  Grace was pretty firm on that point.


The forty-something human, large enough to keep me fed for days, bearing a walrus mustache, hefted himself out of his chair.  “Sister.  Dragon.  Welcome to the Bureau of Interdimensional Law Enforcement.”

BILE? There’s a name that must have been made in committee.  Grace landed a subtle kick on my ankle, however, so I held off on the snide comments . . .

3.  The pixies and brownies just crack me up.  And Hel’s kitchen.  Who knew?


1. The writing is fast-paced and the story moves right along, never bogs down.  The main characters are well-developed across the the course of the book.   I did have some difficulty, though, with following the early crime-scene and around-town dialogue, and likewise again back at the station at the end of the story — lots of minor characters filling out the set.  Some of the characters I recognized from MMM, but since that one is set primarily in Florida, I wasn’t familiar with all the locals from previous stories set in Los Lagos, Colorado, where Vern keeps his lair.  It’s worth tooling around the DragonEye, PI blog if you need to get up to speed.

2. I kinda stink at mythology.  You who know your gods and goddesses will get a lot more out of the many references — sometimes in passing, other times with assorted demi-gods coming on as significant characters.   I could follow along, though — the books provides all the essential background on the major players.

Who would like this book?   If you’d rather be reading Thomas Hardy, please, just go.  Go.  Do not even look.  See the dragon and nun on the cover?  This is not for you.

But if you want playful adult* Catholic fiction that entertains?  Then you’re set.

To learn more:

1. Take a look at the 10,000 stops on the book tour this month.

2. The book is slated for e-book release from Muse-It-Up Publishing April 20th.

*FYI for all that this is very explicitly Catholic-genre, joyfully kitschy with no apologies, if you’re looking for sugar-coated g-rated fluff, skip to another book.  I’d rate this Teen/Adult for language, innuendo, and mature themes.  More gracefully and faithfully handled than anything ever said in a junior-high locker room, but no matter how sorry and degenerate our culture, these topics really are not meant for little readers.  So parents read first before you hand it over to your pre-teen, you’ll need to judge what your child is ready to read.

3.5 Time Outs: On Tour

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who pulled the ol’ you-vacationed-where?? trick on me.  Works every time. I’m easy to surprise.

Click and be amazed.


We unplugged for Triduum, and wow:  Peaceful.  But look, the power of scheduling made it look like I was on the internet: In Defense of Pretty Good Schools, at Technically it’s a homeschooling column (because that’s how I tricked Lisa H. into letting me write for her — I said, “Gosh, do you need any homeschooling columnists?”), but actually it’s for everyone.


Remember that whole girl problem I was having before?  That Christian LeBlanc answered so easily, like he always does? I stole his answer, of course.  He’ll probably cringe when he sees what I went and did with it.  My post on the word “Women” goes up at Sarah R.’s blog on Thursday morning.  She says she likes it.  But if you want something really smart, with Doctors of the Church and all that, you’d better just read Jeff Miller’s post about “Among”.  Or for a reflection about intimacy and Old English, you’d want Julie Davis on “Thou”.

But Sarah’s going to be nice to me at least until Friday, because her Catholic Family Fun book tour visits right here at this blog, when I’ll be reviewing her book in seven quick takes, for the other evil overlord who we won’t mention just now.  What you need to know today: It’s good enough I actually bought a copy with my own money to give as a gift to somebody.  Admittedly I buy a lot of books.  But when I acquire a second copy, that’s your hint.


Look, more things for smart people:  Barbara Nicolosi let us post the transcript of her workshop on “Towards a Literature that is Catholic” at CWG.  I think maybe she doesn’t read the Hardy Boys much, because she says things like:

My theory is that the secular world is not anti-Catholic as much as it is anti-bad art.

Me, on the other hand, I’m all about bad art*.  Then again, I’m not real secular.


In more book tour excitement, this coming Monday I’m reviewing Karina Fabian’s Live and Let Fly, and let me tell you, it is absolutely . . .



Well, that’s all for today.  It’s Link Day once again, which is not an obligation, just an opportunity.  Because no one likes having their perfectly good link stuck in my inbox with a little star next to it, when it could be down in the combox for everyone to enjoy.  One link per comment so you don’t get accidentally caught in the spam dungeon, where even detective dragons dare not prowl.

And hey, Happy Easter!

*This is not a strictly factual statement.  I’m good with hokey genre fiction as long as the story is fun and entertaining, though I reserve the right to joke about it over a cup of coffee with the boy afterwards.  But even I have my limits.

3.5 Time Outs: Mardi Gras

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who makes Tuesday everything it should be and then some.

Indulge yourself! Click the photo to see a veritable feast of internet treasures. Or a picture of foreign donuts.


Catholic Blog Day.  What I had planned to do today (actually, yesterday, but let’s not quibble) was empty out my inbox of the 10,000 fabulous links kind people have sent my way lately.  You will have to wait.  Only the very most last-minute one makes it today:  The first Catholic Blog Day is tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.  The topic is penance.  Remember that you can use your scheduling super powers to post ahead of time, if you are planning to fast from blogging for some portion of the next 40ish days.

Hey, listen, how about we just make Tuesday a post-your-link-in-Jen’s-combox day?  Would that be so bad?  No.  You would love it.  One link per comment so you don’t fall through the automated trap door into the Spam Dungeon, where I never ever look anymore, because, ick, lots of spiders.


The Festival of Cleaning  is not my favorite thing.  Let’s just say that Lent is going to hit very, very hard around the castle.  Should I do like I did a different year and also give up yelling at the kids?  I think yes.  I mean, every time I go to confession I resolve to give it up, so I guess Lent would be that time, right?

[Re-cap for the un-initiated: This year our family is going to Clean Up After Ourselves for Lent.  Reminder for the familiar-with-fitzes: Try not to laugh so loud.  You’re shaking the internet.]


This book looks really cool.  Now I want to read it.

Also: Registration deadline for the [free!] Online Catholic Writers Conference is Feb. 29th.  That’s both for registering as a participant and/or as a presenter.  If you are newly-registering, it takes a couple days for the final approval to go through, so don’t panic at the wait.  You should sign up now, because you probably will not hate the whole entire thing, but the only way to be sure is to register and then go look when the time comes and see.  FYI it is for everyone of all skill and experience levels.

Oh and hey, in fixing 50% of the typos in take #3.5, I was reminded that Tollefsen fans should note the new article up at Public Discourse, “Mandates and Bad Law“.


It is not this shiny anymore.

The spiders reminds me of a true story, which if I’ve told you before you are going to hush and not spoil it for the people who want to read the second half next week:

When we first built the green castle, that summer Ev would not play in her little kitchen in the basement.  She kept telling us, “I’m afraid of the bad spiders,” and she wouldn’t go into it.  Eventually we got around to investigating. And then we were glad she’d held her ground on refusing to associate with the bad spiders, because it turned out they were . . .