Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Book Review: Because of You by Hannah Currie (2024)

It's been a long time since I read a YA novel that wasn't a omance, but Because of You is like a breath of fresh air.

From the publisher: Sixteen-year-old Chloe Gabriels has dreamed of going on an overseas mission trip for as long as she can remember, so when the opportunity arises for her to go to Thailand with Teen Missions International she jumps at the chance. Working at an orphanage, learning new skills, experiencing a different culture, making lifelong friends—what better way could there be to spend her summer vacation?

Of course, the trip will have its challenges—living in close quarters with seventeen other teens out of their comfort zones has a way of doing that—but it will be worth it. She’ll finally be serving God in a practical way.

But while the orphans and their stories break her heart, it’s someone unexpected who has the biggest impact on Chloe’s summer and leaves her wondering if maybe there are just as many people who need her love back home as there are overseas.

Chloe is such a believable protagonist, with flaws that many teen girls have and can relate to. It was really rewarding to be inside her head as she took in aspects of a new culture and also came to new understandings of the other teens on the trip alongside her. I loved learning all the missionary lingo, including the many acronyms, and it was so interesting to take an armchair trip to Thailand. I also really loved getting to know all the supporting characters through Chloe's eyes, especially the young orphans.

A summer read with substance, this is the perfect book to give to teens going on mission trips, or to those who one day plan to go. It's also a great opportunity for any Christian teen to understand missionary work and to think about how he or she might better serve others.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

About the Author, Hannah Currie

Hannah Currie has loved royals—both real and fictional—for as long as she can remember and has always been fascinated by their lives. They started making their way into her writing somewhere around first grade and never stopped.
Hannah Currie has loved royals—both real and fictional—for as long as she can remember and has always been fascinated by their lives. They started making their way into her writing somewhere around first grade and never stopped.

While she never dreamed of being a princess for real (way too many expectations and people watching), she certainly wouldn’t say no to the gorgeous gowns, endless wardrobes, chefs, and cleaners that come with the job. A crown or two wouldn’t go astray either. Or Belle’s library. Where she’d just sit and stare at the books with a giddy smile on her face for hours.

Hannah lives with her husband and three kids in Australia, where they proudly claim Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family as their own. She is very honored to be one of the launching authors for the new WhiteCrown Publishing line with her Crown of Promise series full of faith, romance, and—of course—royals.

Follow Hannah online

Book Review: To Crown with Liberty by Karen Ullo (2024)

If you're looking for authentically Catholic historical fiction, To Crown with Liberty is the book you need to have on your bookshelf. This well-researched, beautifully written tale by Karen Ullo follows Alix de Morainville Carpentier, a former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, across two timelines. 

From the publisher: New Orleans, 1795. In the wake of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, Alix de Morainville Carpentier—a former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, now married to her gardener—seeks peace and security in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. But her journey into the man-eating swamp called Attakapas reopens the wounds of her old life in France. Alix is forced to reckon with the choices that saved her life at the cost of her honor—and perhaps her soul.

In revolutionary France, the Old World is dying; the quest for liberty, fraternity, and equality has become a nightmare where the price of dissent is blood. In the wilderness of Spanish Louisiana, a new civilization is beginning to emerge—but in this budding New World, the slave trade perpetuates the systems of oppression that sparked the revolution. Caught between old and new, scarred by trauma and grief, will Alix ever find a home where she can truly be free?

To Crown with Liberty is a historical novel based on riveting legends from George Washington Cable’s Strange True Stories of Louisiana (1888).

Not only does this book deal with historical realities, it confronts spiritual ones as well, raising questions of the impact of violence and darkness on the soul as well as the body. There are also lots of wonderful period details, and beautiful descriptions of Alix's emotions and innermost thoughts. I loved getting to know her and unraveling the details of her painful and mysterious past. 

Another wonderful thing about this book is the substantial back matter that helps separate fact from legend in the source material that inspired the book and identifies all the historical figures that appear in the book for easy reference. 

I truly can't recommend this novel highly enough. I'm very picky about historical fiction, but could not put this one down. Alix is a character who will stick with me for a long time. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

About the Author, Karen Ullo 

I’m a classically trained soprano, I have a MFA in Screenwriting, and I’m a suburban housewife mother of two. I’m a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I still swelter and sit in carpool lines. I write novels and screenplays, and I’m the editorial director of Chrism Press. Before that, I was the managing editor of Dappled Things Magazine. I’m an LSU Tiger and a USC Trojan. I’m a Cajun who married a Sicilian, so I cook pretty well, and write recipes for Catholicmom.com. I love college baseball. I went to boarding school. I can wiggle my nose like a rabbit. And if I ever tried to stop writing, the voices in my head would keep me awake at night. I’m also very glad you’re here.

Follow Karen online

Order To Crown with Liberty

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Read-at-Home Mom Report: April 2024 Wrap-Up

April Favorites

Only a few books really stood out as excellent this month, and they are an interesting mix. 

Characters of the Passion
by Fulton J. Sheen
This was my book club's pick for April. The idea was to read it during Holy Week. I did start it on Tuesday of that week (in the Confession line, which we were in for an hour), but ended up finishing it during Easter Week. As always, it was great. Bishop Sheen always makes me consider familiar things in new ways.

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
I have really been enjoying this author, but I was a little wary of this book because it involved nuns, and I know the author is a lapsed Catholic. I need not have worried. I know from Patchett's nonfiction that she has some friends who are nuns, and that is probably why the characters in this book felt real and why the narrative surrounding them was respectful. There was also not a hint of discussion about abortion in the story, which I found shocking given the subject matter.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 
This was my fifth time reading this book, and it's still the best. As usual, I immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again, but I resisted. 

Made Glorious by Lindsay Eagar 
I had an ARC of this theater-based YA psychological thriller from Candlewick. I picked it up to read a few pages and ended up reading half the book, the finished it on audio. I wouldn't let a kid read it because there is some adult content, but the writing is excellent, and I loved all the interesting structural and point of view choices the author made. 

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street by Herman Melville 
I had never read this, and my husband told me I must read it immediately. He was not wrong. Such a great story.

A Single Spark (The Spark Brothers Book 1) by Liwen Y. Ho 
A Sudden Spark (The Spark Brothers, Book 2) by Liwen Y. Ho 
The Sweetest Spark (The Spark Brothers Book 3) by Liwen Y. Ho 

I am enjoying this clean romance series about a family of brothers. The audiobooks on Hoopla are short and sweet and perfect afternoon walk companions. 

Read-Aloud and Homeschool Books

  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (5 stars)
  • Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld (4 stars)

Audiobooks in the Car
  • Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren

Sequels and Series Books

  • Murder at Penwood Manor (The Harwood Mysteries Book 5) by Antony Barone Kolenc (3 stars)
  • Only the Good Die Young (Country Club Murders Book 1.5) by Julie Mulhern (3 stars)
  • Beany Malone (Beany Malone Book 2) by Lenore Mattingly Weber (4 stars)
  • Three Men in a Boat (Three Men Book 1) by Jerome K. Jerome (2 stars)
  • Skyward  (Skyward Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson (4 stars)
  • The Grey King (The Dark is Rising Book 4) by Susan Cooper (3 stars)
  • Loyally, Luke (Skymar Book 3) by Pepper Basham (ARC) (4 stars)

Stand-Alone Books

  • Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren't Growing Up by Abigail Shrier (5 stars)
  • When Love Strikes: Reading and Writing Romance by Laurelin Page (3 stars)
  • Amelia's Shadow by Marie Benedict (2 stars)
  • Fancy Free by Betty Cavanana (3 stars)
  • The Swayze Year: You're Not Old, You're Just Getting Started! by Colleen A.F. Venable (3 stars)
  • And Yet: Poems by Kate Baer (5 stars)
  • I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer (2 stars)
  • Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville (4 stars)
  • Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert Heinlein (4 stars) 
  • Whale Day: And Other Poems by Billy Collins (4 stars)
  • Hell, I Love Everybody: The Essential James Tate: Poems by James Tate (4 stars)
  • The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (3 stars)


  • Redemption (Redemption Book 1) by Karen Kingsbury 
    I liked the writing, but I had too many books going and had to let one go. 
  • Beach Cute by Beth Reekles
    There were too many references to TikTok. There's nothing wrong with the book, I'm just not the intended audience. 
  • Trust by Hernan Diaz 
    I could only get this on audio, and that doesn't seem to be the best format. I may try again at a later time.

Family Reading Lists

M. (girl, 10 years, 5 months)

  • Niko: Sculptor's Apprentice by Isabelle Lawrence

C. (girl, 8 years, 7 months)

  • Marie Antoinette, Daughter of an Empress by Marguerite Vance 
  • Amy Moves In by Marilyn Sachs 
  • Robert Fulton and the Steamboat by Ralph Nading Hill 
  • Laura's Luck by Marilyn Sachs 
  • The Slave who Freed Haiti by Katharine Scherman 

E. (girl, 6 years, 6 months)

  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren 

R. (boy, 4 years, 1 month) 

  • Reading practice: 
    • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
    • Snow by Roy McKee and P.D. Eastman 
    • Cat and Dog by Else Holmelund Minarik 
    • Come and Have Fun by Edith Thacher Hurd 
    • Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss 
    • Mine's the Best by Crosby Bonsall 
  • Read alouds: 
    • Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant 
    • Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
    • Little Miss and Mr. Men series by Roger Hargreaves 

A. (girl, 4 years, 1 month)

  • Read alouds: 
    • Scuffy the Tugboat by Gertrude Crampton, illustrated by Tibor Gergely 
    • Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant 

My husband 

  • Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld
  • All Sail Set: A Romance of the Flying Cloud by Armstrong Sperry
  • Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
  • The Shinty Boys by Margaret Macpherson
  • The Eagles Have Flown by Joanne Williamson 
  • Hostage to Alexander by Mary Evans Andrews