A Curse That Bites Deep

You all will recall my reviews of The Fever and The Mossback Cafe Cookbook by Thomas Fenske. SO good! Well, I finally finished his latest, A Curse That Bites Deep, and now I can’t wait for book 3!!!

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Much like when I read The Fever, I thought the beginning of the book was nice and steady – I was happy to read a chapter or two in a sitting and come back when I had more time. This, unfortunately, coincided with the birth of my now nine-month-old baby, and I took a looooooong break from reading it. So, in the mood for fiction, I picked it up again a week or so ago. Again, like The Fever, but better(!), the story picks up partway through. I binge-read the rest of the book over two nights, staying up way too late to finish. The kids get up at 6… I get up with the baby lots of times in the night…sleep is crucial. And I sacrificed sleep to read this book! I DON’T do that anymore.

I loved in The Fever how the characters and story were so real. That same authenticity carries through in A Curse That Bites Deep. The story is rounded out and made believable by the nuances of the characters, and the author presents so much life wisdom through them. In one scene, for instance, Sam reflects on his life as he washes dishes at The Mossback, noting that “his life was a tradeoff” in which he balanced pursuing the mine and his relationship with Smidgeon (15). Isn’t life full of tradeoffs for all of us? Life requires constant assessment and reassessment of priorities and how well our actions align with those priorities. Sometimes we do well, and sometimes we don’t. Sam experiences this same reality throughout the book.

Another “real” moment that I love, probably because I’m Catholic, is Fenske’s portrayal of Smidgeon’s relationship with the Catholic faith she was brought up in. Through Smidgeon and her respect for the Church and its sacraments, Fenske very powerfully conveys the loving reality the Church teaches. Due to life choices at odds with Church teaching, Smidgeon is unable to participate in the sacraments, particularly the reception of Holy Communion. She tells Sam, “I can’t fully participate but…well, you know, it doesn’t mean I can’t be a part of the church family” (45). This is so beautiful and powerful – it speaks a truth that is often misunderstood by those inside and outside the Church, and it felt nice to read it so simply put in an otherwise-nonreligious book.

So these are the kind of things I enjoyed in the “slower” part of the book.

And THEN. Oh my. The action starts! I don’t want to give away too much of the story, so I won’t get into details. I will say this, though – I was surprised a LOT, which was fun. I mean, I knew there had to be bad stuff going on — it’s about a curse, after all — but there was so much I didn’t see coming and I really enjoyed that. I’d have these moments of shock and just have to keep reading. Accidental deaths, murders, arson, ghosts! All revolving around a gold mine in west Texas, of course. I figured out the identity of the villain well in advance of when it was definitively revealed, but even that didn’t keep me from being surprised by the action.

All-in-all, it was a fun read – surprising and compelling and yet also reflective of so many realities.

Five stars!

Either-Or

Angela over at Books and Opinions posted an “Either-Or Book List” list yesterday and invited people to post their own answers in the comments. I thought it was such a fun idea that I’m copying over here (even though I can’t answer some of the questions, and I’m majorly resisting the urge to include commentary on every question). I’d love it if you chimed in, also!

1) Paper or Digital?

Paper

2) Romance or Sci-Fi?

Romance

3) History or Current Events?

History

4) Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?

Sherlock Holmes  —  Although I’m not sure I’ve read any true Sherlock Holmes books (I have vague recollections of maybe abridged versions as a kid?), I’m familiar with the character (isn’t everyone?).  I had to Google Hercule Poirot…apparently my memories of those Agatha Christie books I read in 4th grade just because my teacher was reading them are not so great.

5) Twilight or Hunger Games?

Twilight   —   Ok, I’m no longer resisting the urge — bring on my commentary! I’ve never read either but the whole premise of Hunger Games disturbs me.

6) Jane Eyre or Anna Karenina?

Anna Karenina  —  Again, never read either. This is getting disturbing – and I call myself a book blogger? Anyway – Anna Karenina is on my dresser just waiting to be read…

7) Harry Potter or Narnia?

Narnia

8) History or Biography?

Biography

9) Stand Alone story or Series?

Stand Alone

10) Dante or Tolstoy?

Sigh. Haven’t read either. So sad. I do own both, though.

11) Sauron or Jadis the White Witch?

The White Witch — Though both could stand to be revisited!

12) The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew?

Nancy Drew   —   There’s a whole crate of them in my bedroom right now that I read as a kid…Is it ridiculous or just cute in an innocent way that I truly thought the “colored housekeeper” was rainbow-colored? PS – I did also read The Hardy Boys. I pretty much read anything I could get my hands on.

 


 

If Angela posts again next week, I’ll link up again! Thanks, Angela!

 

Happy Birthday to me! (And a C.S. Lewis book)

So yesterday was my birthday – and it was an absolutely awesome day. I LOVE my birthday every year, but yesterday was definitely one of the best birthdays I’ve had. My husband and kids just pulled out all the stops. Honestly, it was less about the specifics of what they did and more about the amount of effort and love they put into everything: they baked me a cake (from scratch! and it was delicious!), made me homemade cards, Adam made me paella (yum!), and they *tried* to let me sleep in (A didn’t cooperate, but she’s a baby)… and my five-year-old (“H”) got me a gift:

Reflections on the Psalms by [Lewis, C. S.]

It was absolutely the most perfect, wonderful gift, and I sobbed when I opened it. The whole thing was her idea, and Adam made it happen. One night at dinner we were talking about my birthday and she jumped up and whispered in his ear that she wanted to get me a book for my birthday (all I knew was she wanted to get me a gift). So, he took her to Barnes and Noble. As he tells it, they wandered the entire store looking, when H happened upon the Christianity section. Now, she and I have read some of the Chronicles of Narnia together, and she knows I’ve read other C.S. Lewis books. So as soon as she saw C.S. Lewis, she knew that’s what she wanted to get me. She actually wanted to get me all the C.S. Lewis books, but Adam helped her pick just one. She even paid for it from her piggy bank, wrapped it herself, and kept it a secret until I opened it. So perfect.

One of my favorite things (obviously, right?) is reading, and it’s so special for me to share that love with my daughters. In July we started having H stay up later and she and I started reading chapter books together every night before bed. It has become part of my day that I really look forward to. In fact, the couple of times we’ve tried to punish her by saying, “no story at bedtime,” it has been more of a punishment for me. I really treasure that time, and I’ve told her that.

What moved me the most about this gift is that my daughter, not yet six years old, knows me. She didn’t just want to get me any gift – she chose the perfect gift. She was able to see me as my own person, outside of my role as mom, and she gave selflessly just to bring me joy. She smiled as she walked out of my bedroom yesterday and said, “So now you can read it to yourself at night.”

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read some Reflections on the Psalms.