December What’s on My Bookshelf

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There are just two books on My Bookshelf for December and I am reading a third. I have an opportunity coming up shortly for some cozy reading time and I hope to have more to report next month. One of my two books for this month is very local in locale and the other is a new Christmas story. My current read is my first Joanne Tracey book, The Little Cafe by the Lake. Whatever you may be celebrating this month, I wish you peace, health and love.

The Call of the Raven, by Richard P. Hanlon, Jr.

My husband says that I am a “city girl” because my small home town in Massachusetts, is much larger than his small home town in Pennsylvania. His meaning is not lost on me though. He was raised in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania; hunting and fishing are his primary sports. He thinks nothing of walking through tall grass or other forms of under-growth, but I like to be able to see my feet at all times. I have a macro appreciation of nature, but not so much micro. On those occasions when I do go walking with him in the mountains, I prefer our trail to be at least car width and I keep my eyes out for holes out of which creatures might scurry or slither.

My friend and colleague Rich, writes of sauntering in the wild, with a depth of knowledge and love of all creation that eludes me, but I appreciate it in him. The Call of the Raven is a series of journal entries that takes the reader along with him in a very specific area of North Central Pennsylvania to what he calls wild spaces. He is a scientist, with the heart of Francis of Assisi. Rich serves as a guide in real time with people and is only to happy to introduce them to residents of the wild spaces, which he refers to as neighbors.

I mentioned that the book covers a very specific geographical area. The subtitle of the book is “Reflections of time spent in the Pine Creek Gorge in North-Central Pennsylvania between Ansonia, Leonard Harrison State Park, and Colton Point State Park.” You might wonder why I would write about this book in an international forum. Wouldn’t you know that I have an answer. Perhaps, if you, like me are more of a ‘city’ person than a country person, or a wildlife person, that reading Rich’s words, hearing his passion married to knowledge, you might be inclined to take a closer look at your own “wild spaces.” Rich does not use any contemporary, polarizing buzzwords, but his writing might motivate you to take a look at your individual responsibility to care for all creation and to simply notice the blessings in ferns and fronds and other living things.

For myself, I might be more easily persuaded to join him in an easy hike, and look forward to his next book. You can purchase his book at and his website is I hope you will take a look.

St.As: The Second Book by Lisa Samson and Len Sweet, published by The Salish Sea Press

I just finished reading this book and loved it. It is, as best I can describe an “After Christmas” story, that focuses on the life of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Bethlehem and the visit of the Magi. Many of us are so used to seeing Nativity sets with the Magi or Wise Men at the stable with the shepherds, but that is the way the song “We Three Kings” tells the story, but Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 2:1-18) tells it differently. For one thing, Matthew does not say how many Magi, nor does he say that they are Kings.

The book includes a donkey (Is, Izzy, Starlight) and a camel (Zebby) who talk with each other, although they do not talk to the humans. Even with animals who talk, I think this is more of a family story or an adult story than a children’s story. In addition to co-writing the story, Lisa Samson did the illustrations.

There are some things that refer back to the first book, but I don’t think they would be a barrier for someone who started with St. As. There are biblical and historical allusions and lots of food for thought.

I read this book on my Kindle, partly because I was being “cheap” and partly because I wanted to start reading right away. But I am tempted to order the paper version of the book. You can start here, but as I said the story begins with Jesus as a toddler. The first book, St. Is tells the story of the months leading up to the birth of Jesus, if you want a book that is “Christmas,” you might start there instead. But reading St. As first may help to shake up your expectations of the story you know and hear it with fresh ears.

Not holding back the tide,


Copyright 2020-2024 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

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