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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Joy of the Gospel - Pope Francis- Evangelii Gaudium

The Joy of the Gospel
Evangelii Gaudium
Pope Francis
ISBN 9780553419535
ASIN B00KUQGR3I


I really loved this book while reading it. But as I prepared to write a review I kept asking myself number of questions:
Who am I to judge a book by Pope Francis?
Who do I review a papal letter?
As well as many other questions. But I came to the conclusion that by engaging the writings of Pope Francis I was deeply challenged by this work, and other writings of Pope Francis. For a while now I have been struggling with and praying to live more joy. I do not want to be the grumpy old man sitting on the porch yelling at kids, like Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino. And realizing I do not exude joy and happiness I thought this Apostolic Exhortation would be a good place to begin. And to be honest it has been in my to read pile since before it came out. 

This edition of this book has a forward by Bishop Robert Baron, whose works I am very familiar with and respect. And an afterward by James Martin SJ who I am much less familiar with. But the key player is Pope Francis himself. Now to share a personal story, my wife is not Catholic, she comes to church with the kids and I, but she is not Catholic. Around the time this book came out the was a photo that went viral of the pope hugging a disfigured man. The man has neurofibromatosis, a condition that my son has been diagnosed with. My wife had an appreciation for Pope Francis, but after that photo went viral he held a close spot in her heart. My wife shared the photo saying that this is what our son has, and she can only hope if his goes active that he is as respected and cared about. 

Now to be honest I started this book a few times, and never finished it. Then recently I picked it up and read it through. I do not believe that anyone can read this book and not be touched. Readers will be challenged to grow in joy by encounters with Jesus, and through that joy to witness to the world. This is a call to love and be loved. To be transformed by the power of Jesus and through that transformation to be a tool to the world. If we are Jesus hands, feet and mouth in the world, then this book shows us the importance of living a good witness, but also calls us out of our comfort zone.

I read this book after starting a new job. Each day I pray to live more joy, and to do good work for God. In my new role I can also walk to noon hour mass at the University I went to. Both a co-worker and my boss have found out I do so and have shown interest in coming to mass. And I attribute their attraction to weekday mass to the changes this book are helping to happen in me.

If you want to keep going through life living day in and day out as you are then do not read this book. But if you are open to being challenged, moves, stirred and likely even made uncomfortable then this book is for you. It is an excellent read and I really wish I had read it sooner.

(Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Shrinking Ralph Perfect - Chris D'Lacey

Shrinking Ralph Perfect 
Chris d’Lacey
Orchard Books
ISBN 9781843626602
eISBN 9781408314432
ASIN B004KZOXCC
ASIN B00GW4PAFS



This book was a really fun read, even though it was a bit predictable. I have read 24 Chris d’Lacey books in just over a year. And this is one of the standalone novels for young readers. The story is entertaining and engaging. My son is just a little young to read it but we have it on the schedule to read together next year. 

From their first meeting Ralph Perfect knows that there is something up with Jack Bilt, when he buys a house on Ralph’s street strange things just keep happening. First a mansion up north has disappeared; a local bully, and also a workman that came to see Jack have gone missing also. But no one else seems to notice the odd things. Jack has fooled Ralph’s mother. Soon Ralph is acting much braver than he actually is. The mini men have epic battles with dust mites, flies and a mad professor.

Jack Built has a plan to get rich, he has a miniaturized house, and a mini crew to work on the house and make it the perfect freak show attraction. But he never expected the local kit to be able to rally the troops and attempt an escape and rescue.

One of the best parts of the book is Ralph’s indignation at three months in a government facility after the ordeal, being tested, poked and prodded. This is how he describes the experience: “Imagine this: being taken to a secret laboratory, deep underground below a moor in Northumberland. You’re locked in a room where cameras watch your every move. Even when you’re sleeping. Even when…yes, that too. You have plenty to eat and are well looked after, but every day, for three months, scientists hook you up to strange machines that make your head buzz while they record any interesting changes in you, scratching out results on rolling charts, in looping graphs, in diverse colours. They put needles in your arms and draw your blood. They take snippets of your hair. They bottle your wee. They monitor your dreams, especially your nightmares.” 

This book is a very interesting read. Not the normal d’Lacey fare, no dragons, no bears and no crows. But still a very enjoyable read.
  


Books by Chris d'Lacey:
Dragons of Wayward Crescent
Gruffen (2009)
Gauge (2008)
Glade (2009)
Grabber (2010)

The Erth Dragons
The Wearle (2015)
2. Dark Wyng (2016)
3. ... 

The Last Dragon Chronicles with David Rain
The Fire Within (2001)
Icefire (2003)
3 Fire Star (2005)
4 The Fire Eternal (2007)
5 Dark Fire (2009)
6 Fire World (2011)
7 The Fire Ascending (2012)
Rain and Fire: A Guide to the Last Dragon Chronicles (2010)

The Unicorne Files
A Dark Inheritance (2014)
Alexander's Army (2015)
3 A Crown of Dragons (2016)

Fly, Cherokee Fly Series
Fly, Cherokee Fly
Pawnee Warrior

Other Books
Henry Spaloosh! 
Horace
Shrinking Ralph Perfect
The Snail Patrol
The Table Football League
Riverside United
Lofty
From E to You
Scupper Hargreaves, Football Genie
The Salt Pirates of Skegness
Falling for Mandy
The Prompter

Picture Books:
A Hole at the Pole
Juggling with Jeremy
A Break in the Chain
Read With Bubble and Float
Dexter's Journey
Frankin's Bear

Contributed to:
On Me ‘ead, Santa
Nice One, Santa
The Usborne Book of Christmas Stories
Heroes and Villains
In the Frame
Midnight Feast

Author Profile and Interview with Chris d'Lacey.








Monday, 28 November 2016

The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage - Allen R. Hunt - Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level

The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage:
Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level
Allen R. Hunt
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781942611134
eISBN 9781942611257
ASIN B00ZE9WPQ4





This was the second book by Dr. Allen Hunt that I have read this year and it was an incredible read! This book was written from Dr. Hunts extensive experience as a counsellor, He draws from decades of experience working with couples, speaking at events and observing marriages both successful and those that were not. I believe that no matter how good a marriage you have it can always be better. This book will be a great resource for you no matter what state your marriage is in. Hunt takes examples from real life couples, and presents his 21 Secrets in an easy to read and digest way. The advice is easily applied and will help couples strive to achieve God’s plan for their marriage.

The Sections in this book are:
The Reason
The Inspiration
Mysterious Secrets
01. The Secret of Purpose
02. The Secret of Sacrament
03. The Secret of Synergy
Revolutionary Secrets
04. The Secret of Bedrock
05. The Secret of Little Things
Daily Secrets
06. The Secret of the Love Bank
07. The Secret of Romance
08. The Secret of the Best Friend
09. The Secret of Ages and Stages
10. The Secret of the Bed
Crucial Secrets 11. The Secret of Priorities
12. The Secret of Separation
13. The Secret of Insiders
14. The Secret of Attention and Affection
15. The Secret of Women
16. The Secret of Men
Grace Secrets
17. The Secret of Sacrifice
18. The Secret of Children
19. The Secret of Life
20. The Secret of Forgiveness
21. The Secret of 8

Each chapter is written in the same way. Each section begin with a quote, from a saint, church documents, and even Shakespeare. Then we have a main teaching section, which is followed by Real-Life Help. But the book begins with Hunt’s reason for writing the book, and he states it took him 25 years of marriage to realize this: “What’s the secret? Your decision to marry will almost certainly be the most significant and influential decision of your life.” Expanding upon this declaration he says: “Why is your marriage decision so important? First, because your marriage will bind you in a relationship so close and so intimate that it will profoundly shape your whole future. Second, because your marriage will also deeply impact and affect the lives of the people around you for the rest of your life. In fact, this one crucial decision—the selection of your husband or wife—will not only influence every aspect of your life; it will also affect your entire family (your parents, your siblings, your children, all of them) in ways you cannot anticipate, well after you are dead and gone.” Our marriages have impact every day, on the lives of our friends, on our families, the examples we set for our children. The question is what sort of influence we are having. Through reading this book and applying some of the exercises we can help each other grow, and through that growth to have a better impact on those who witness our marriage.

In speaking about the Sacrament of marriage hunt says: “That mystery is the secret of sacrament. Two lives really are becoming one. Husband and wife are joining together, not only physically but also emotionally, spiritually, and in every way. Husband and wife will live together, create a life together as a couple, and they will have the potential to partner with God to create new life through children. Husband and wife will rejoice together, suffer together, and age together. Their lives and experiences will become as one, a mystical union. A sacrament. Remember again the words of Saint John of the Cross: God’s purpose is to make your soul great. The sacraments are intended to do just that. In other words, the Holy Spirit desires to use your marriage to share invisible grace and inward holiness with your soul. That’s what a sacrament does.” How many of us see our marriage as a tool to help us get to heaven. As a source of true life. As a tool to help us become the best version of yourself. That is the biggest lesson I learned from this book.

But I must warn you, if you are not reading this together with your spouse and try to implement some of the exercises you might freak your spouse out. One of the Real-Life Help’s in the book is: “Lie on the bed together as a couple. Do not touch each other. Say nothing. Just look each other in the eyes. Do this for three full minutes, eye-to-eye, next to each other, on the bed. You are re-establishing a deeper bond. Build this simple practice into your life as a couple several times a year. And the mystery of the secret of the bed will begin to find its way into you.” Now I normally get up well before my wife and have often left the house before she is awake. After reading this exercise, the next time we were in bed and both awake I tried it. After About 30 seconds my wife became uncomfortable, wanting to know what was going on. After I explained she said I should have told her first.

This is another great book by Allen Hunt, and from Beacon Publishing. It will help you strive to become the best version of yourself. But you do so by doing so through growing and developing your marriage. In some ways this book reminds me of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? By Gary L. Thomas, both Thomas and Hunt have a similar focus and direction in their teachings. But I loved the practical helps in each chapter of this book. It is an excellent read and I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take their marriage to the next level.

Books By Allen Hunt:
Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor
Life's Greatest Lesson
Everybody Needs To Forgive Somebody
Nine Words
The Inspired Body: Paul, the Corinthians, and Divine Inspiration
Fruit-Full Living: A Guide for Life in God's Spirit
The One Thing to Know Before You Die
21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage

Contributed to:
Beautiful Mercy

(Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Christian Self-Mastery - Basil W. Maturin

Christian Self-Mastery:
How to Govern Your Thoughts, Discipline Your Will, and Achieve Balance in Your Spiritual Life
Basil W. Maturin
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781928832218
ASIN B009THY8SA




It should be noted at the onset that this book is reprint of Self-Knowledge and Self-Discipline published in 1909. And this edition is both revised and abridged. Having compared both and read both now I can state that I do not notice anything lost through this process. The biggest advantage of this edition is the formatting, especially of the eBook version, and also slight modernization of the text where needed. There are a number of versions of this book available as either physical books or eBooks, but they are all available under the original title.

The chapter titles in this edition are:
1. Develop self-knowledge
2. Discipline yourself
3. Abide by the laws of the spirit
4. Train your will
5. Control your thoughts
6. Strive for balance
7. Govern your body
8. Sacrifice the good for what is better
9. Persevere
Biographical Note: Basil W. Maturin

The Chapters in the original edition are:
Self-Knowledge
The Principle of Self-Discipline
The Seat of Conflict
The Discipline if the Will
The Discipline of the Mind
The Discipline of the Affections
The Discipline of the Body
Mortification and the Supernatural Life
The Law A Preparation for the Revelation of Love

I was first attracted to this book based on the title. Growth in discipline has been a goal of mine for a number of years, and to be honest not just spiritually but also physically and mentally. And this book touches on all three areas of life; mind, body and spirit. This book was written in a very different time than our own. And because of that many people will chafe at how rigorous the teaching is. Being honest Catholics and all Christians could use a little more looking back at where we came from and using the examples to find a renewed focus and discipline for today. And in reading this book I have discovered how much work I still need to do. Especially in the area of patience. Basil states “We are often scarcely conscious of this until we wake up to find that we have lost control of ourselves — that one after another of our senses and faculties (our “members,” as St. Paul calls them) refuses to obey us and is living its own separate life; more than that, that they often make factions and combine to dethrone conscience and place some base passion, it may be, to rule its place. There is a well-organized revolution taking place, so quiet that conscience is scarcely alarmed until it finds its power is well-nigh gone.”.

This book was a great read. And I can highly recommend it. But only read it if you are willing to be challenged and willing to strive to make changes and to grow. If that describes you this book can be a tool for your spiritual growth.

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)


Books by Basil W. Maturin:
Christian Self-Mastery
Some Principles and Practices of the Spiritual Life
Practical Studies On The Parables Of Our Lord
Laws of the Spiritual Life
Sermons and Sermon Notes
Self-Knowledge and Self-Discipline


Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Sign of the Cross - Francis de Sales

The Sign of the Cross:
The Fifteen Most Powerful Words in the English Language
Francis de Sales
Christopher Blum (Translator)
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781933184975
ASIN B00E67LO76




This is one of a few books by Saint Fraincis de Sales from Sophia Institute that I picked up a few years ago. It is my loss that I waiting to get around to reading them. For this book was an incredible little read.  In chapter one Francis de Sales defines the sign of the cross as: "The Sign of the Cross is a Christian ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord by tracing the shape of the Cross with a simple motion." And later he states: "When making the Sign of the Cross, therefore, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion, and the remission of sins, by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing." But he also draws from earlier Christian writers: "St. Jerome, writing to his spiritual daughter, said: "With every work, with all of your comings and goings, may your hand make the Sign of the Cross." St. Ephraim said: "Whether you sleep or wake, travel or work, eat or drink, sail on the sea or cross a river, cover yourself with this breastplate, clothe and encircle your limbs with the saving sign, and evils will not meet you."" And so Saint Francis draws from his own research and gives us numerous examples of the importance of this devotion from numerous other saints.

This book packs a lot of information in such a small volume. The chapters in this book are:
Foreword
What Is the Sign of the Cross?
A Public Profession of Faith
The Use of the Sign of the Cross in the Church of the Fathers
The Legitimate Use of Ceremonies of Benediction
The Sign of the Cross in Blessings
The Sign of the Cross in Consecrations and Sacramental Blessings
Why the Sign of the Cross Is Made on the Forehead
The Testimony of the Prophet Ezekiel
A Reproof to the Antichrist
A Defense against Demons
The Power of the Sign of the Cross
St. Francis de Sales

This is maybe one of the simplest Catholic devotions, and yet after reading this book also maybe one of the most important. One of the quotes in this book that hit me most was, "The Sign of the Cross, then, is nothing other than a brief and lively exterior prayer by which God is invoked, and, as a result, it is proper for all of our doings and plans." This book was an amazing read but when combined with another title from Sophia Institute it even more so. Just before reading this book I read Holy Water and its Significance for Catholics by Henry Theiler. After reading that book I got a number of bottles for keeping Holy Water in the house, especially for my children. Especially my son who was having problems going to sleep. Now we often make the sign of the cross with Holy Water. I do it over my children before they go to bed, they bless me before we pray at bed time. I now often see my son going and making the sign of the cross with Holy water, often throughout the day. When he is becoming frustrated, angry or upset then he will go and grab the Holy Water and make the sign of the cross as he blesses himself. I cannot think of a better way to deal with struggles in day to day life. And thank Sophia Institute for these amazing books that has brought this all together for me and my children.

An amazing book that I cannot recommend enough!

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)


Books by Saint Francis de Sales:
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Sign of the Cross
The Art of Loving God
Roses Among Thorns
Finding God's Will for You


Sermons of St. Francis de Sales:
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Prayer
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas


Friday, 25 November 2016

Franklin's Bear- Chris d'Lacey and Thomas Taylor

Franklin's Bear
Chris d'Lacey
Thomas Taylor (Illustrator)
Red Bananas
Go Bananas
Crabtree Publishing Company
ISBN 9780778726968



I need to first state that being from North America we have had little exposure to the Go Bananas Books. If it wasn't for the fact that my son and I are trying to track down all of Chris d'Lacey's books to read and review we might never have come across them. I believe there are Blue, Yellow and Red Banana books. Blue Bananas are simple stories for early readers, Red Bananas are bridging books for building confidence, and Yellow Bananas are early chapter books for nearly fluent readers.  From what I have seen the Bananas books have spanned many publishers over time including Egmont, Mammoth, Crabtree, and Scholastic UK. These are wonderful books and it is thinks to being a fan of d'Lacey that our family has discovered them. 



My son now freaks out when there is a book sized package arrives in the mail. When this one arrived he freaked out because we had not read any Red Banana books yet!  And though we have read and loved a few of the yellow and blue banana books both my youngest two loved this story. They loved that Franklin does everything with his bear, they love that the bear is alive and reminded them of Paddington. They loved the illustrations by Thomas Taylor. And they loved the story. My son in particular especially loved the safety tips at the end and the experiments.

This is another great little book by Chris d'Lacey. It is an awesome little story. With excellent illustrations. And though we are getting towards the end of d'Lacey books to track down we will be expanding and bringing more Banana books into the house to read and then donate to the school library! (We have bought 2 copies of Dexter's Journey so we could keep one at home after we donated the first to the school library. That is how awesome these books are.)

Books by Chris d'Lacey:
Dragons of Wayward Crescent
Gruffen (2009)
Gauge (2008)
Glade (2009)
Grabber (2010)

The Erth Dragons
The Wearle (2015)
2. Dark Wyng (2016)
3. ... 

The Last Dragon Chronicles with David Rain
The Fire Within (2001)
Icefire (2003)
3 Fire Star (2005)
4 The Fire Eternal (2007)
5 Dark Fire (2009)
6 Fire World (2011)
7 The Fire Ascending (2012)
Rain and Fire: A Guide to the Last Dragon Chronicles (2010)

The Unicorne Files
A Dark Inheritance (2014)
Alexander's Army (2015)
3 A Crown of Dragons (2016)

Fly, Cherokee Fly Series
Fly, Cherokee Fly
Pawnee Warrior

Other Books
Henry Spaloosh! 
Horace
Shrinking Ralph Perfect
The Snail Patrol
The Table Football League
Riverside United
Lofty
From E to You
Scupper Hargreaves, Football Genie
The Salt Pirates of Skegness
Falling for Mandy
The Prompter

Picture Books:
A Hole at the Pole
Juggling with Jeremy
A Break in the Chain
Read With Bubble and Float
Dexter's Journey
Frankin's Bear

Contributed to:
On Me ‘ead, Santa
Nice One, Santa
The Usborne Book of Christmas Stories
Heroes and Villains
In the Frame
Midnight Feast

Author Profile and Interview with Chris d'Lacey.





Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Tenth Region of the Night - Taylor R. Marshall - Sword and Serpent Book II

The Tenth Region of the Night
Sword and Serpent Book II
Taylor R. Marshall
Saint John Press

ISBN 9780988442573
ASIN B01N44HOUE


I thought that book one in this series the Sword and Serpent was an epic story. This book takes the tale to a whole new level. This book brings to life so many saints, holy men and women of the past in a gripping story that it is simply amazing. At the writing of this review I have read 232 books so far this year and have read almost 1800 books over the last ten years, and to be honest this is the best fiction story I can recall reading. In my review of book I - I stated: “I believe that this would have been a book that both Tolkien and Lewis would have loved. I can picture the Inklings sitting with a pint discussing the story and speculating where it would go next.” And I believe they would have loved this sequel and be eagerly awaiting book III. 

Dr. Taylor Marshall writes in and around the lives of saints, drawing us back to a time when Christianity was a feared and persecuted religion. He has drawn extensively from historical sources and written this tale around truth, and around legends. He has woven together the stories of many well know saints and also a number of lesser known saints. The story focuses around Jurian (Saint George), and in this volume his trying to save his friend Minas (St. Christopher), but we also encounter Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Helena, and a young man who will eventually become Saint Augustine. This book continues directly from the first volume. Jurian is on a quest to rescue his friend, and has found favor with the Diocletian. He is trying to gain favor in the court so he can get freedom for Minas. But an old shadow from his past has reappeared and soon he is locked in a battle of the wills and wits with Casca. But both have found favor with the emperor and Jurian must be both cautious and brave.   

The mix of myth, fantasy, and history blend incredibly well in this book. While reading it you feel transported back to the ancient Roman Empire and the story has staying power. I find myself reflecting on it often. The images will become imbedded in your heart and mind. The saints whose lives are portrayed will become inspiration for your heart. And the reverence with which the story is written will nourish your spirit. Few books that I read do an equally good job of feeding mind, body and spirit. This book however does. Tolkien when speaking about myth stated: “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.” But Taylor Marshall has but his myths upon the truth from Christian traditions. Tolkien also said: ““After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.” And as such Marshall reveals the truth through his mythic retelling of the story of Saint George. 

As stated this book is the best of the last 1800 books I have read! It is wonderful. It will be appreciated by those who are into historical fiction. Buy those who are Christian or Catholic and want a real glimpse of what like would have been like prior to Christianity becoming an approved religion. It is an epic story and that really is the best kind!

Books by Taylor R. Marshall:
Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Thomism
Saint Augustine in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Augustinianism
God's Birthday: Why Christ Was Born on December 25 and Why it Matters


Sword and Serpent Series:
Sword and the Serpent
The Tenth Region of the Night

The Origins of Catholic Christianity Series:
The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
The Catholic Perspective on Paul: Paul and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholic Christianity


(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)


 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Joseph of Nazareth - Federico Suárez

Joseph of Nazareth
Federico Suárez
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594170201
ASIN B007JWFMOQ




Over the past 10 years of so I have read numerous books from Scepter Publishers. With each book that I read I find that my faith is challenged, that my attitudes and actions are challenged. And even though many of the books from Scepter are in translation I find that I appreciate them greatly. This was the fifth book by Federico Saurez that I have read. I find that the writing really speaks to me. As a husband and a father I cannot but help to look to Saint Joseph as an example. And Federico presents a very realistic portrait of the man, the husband, the father, in such a way that as men we will be challenged to raise our game. And for women a picture of true manhood.

In the forward Suarez states "It is not easy to write reliably on Saint Joseph, the last of the patriarchs, the craftsman of Nazareth, and the spouse of our Lady. Every historian knows that, without sources, history is impossible. One cannot attain it through simple conjecture. Once a few facts are available, it is possible to go a little further and trace a sketch, enriched with the help of an appropriate setting. But this can never become even a brief biography.
However, to write, not on Saint Joseph, but on themes concerning the saint or with regard to him, is different. For one is not attempting a biography but a reflection. Or, if you like, a meditation. It is not a reconstruction of a life but a series of considerations derived from a few facts, which are not explicit but are inferred." And he also states "The devotion Saint Josemaría Escrivá had for the holy patriarch led him to sketch this terse and penetrating portrait: "He is an ordinary man, a family man, a worker who earned his living by manual labour."[1] But isn't this something that can be said of very many people? And isn't this to say that holiness - for Joseph is a great saint - is accessible in the most ordinary and everyday occupations? And, if this is the case, cannot contemplation of the Gospel, insofar as it refers in one way or other to this person (who, humanly speaking, is so much at our own level), reveal to us the secret of sanctity in work and in the fulfillment of one's duties?" and that is what we get with this book. We receive a portrait of Joseph, an ordinary man who was given an extraordinary mission.

The chapters in this book:
1. The figure of Joseph
2. A quiet man
3. The spouse of Mary
4. Being a just man
5. "While he reflected. . ."
6. He took his wife to his home
7. They met Mary, Joseph, and the Child
8. "You shall call his name Jesus"
9. Simeon blessed them
10. "Rise and flee to Egypt. . ."
11. "Remain there. . ."
12. He feared going there
13. They returned to Jerusalem
14. And seeing him, they marvelled
15. "Your father and I . . ."
16. They did not understand his reply
17. He was subject to them
18. The son of the craftsman
19. A faithful and prudent steward

This book is a moving read. The examples presented, the meditations or reflections on Joseph's life are deeply moving. And will help the reader grow in faith and piety. For the example of Joseph cannot help but motivate. This book can be read two ways and I have now read it both, you can pick it up and read it from beginning to end. The second time through I took it chapter by chapter, spread out the reading, and using it for deeper reflection. You will benefit from both readings but this second method turns the book into a literary reflection.

This book was an excellent read. And most of Saurez's books are available in English and I can highly recommend them. But I cannot help but wish that the last few would become available in English in the future. Another great book from Scepter, thank you!

Books by Federico Saurez:
(Available in English)
Mary of Nazareth
Joseph of Nazareth
The Sacrifice of the Altar
About Being a Priest
The Narrow Gate
The Afterlife
Our Lady the Virgin
When the Son of Man Comes


(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)




Monday, 21 November 2016

About Average - Andrew Clements

About Average
Andrew Clements
Mark Elliott (Illustrator)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A Division of Simon and Schuster

ISBN 9781416997245
ISBN 9781416997252
ASIN B0061QAYRG



I have read 14 books by Andrew Clements in the last 8 months. With each book I have a greater appreciation for him as an author, and for his understanding of children and their development. Most of his books are wonderful realistic reads, and this book lives up to all my expectations. Andrew Clements is one of my all-time favorite authors for children's books or middle grade reads. And this book will speak to everyone who thinks they are not the star, the athlete, in the in group. But it deals with both a girl's self-image and how she decides to handle being bullied. 

Jordan Johnson has a very realistic outlook on life. She has come to the conclusion that she is average. She sees herself as middle of the road in all things. Not overweight and not underweight, neither tall nor short, and not blond nor brunette. She does not excel at school, but she is also not towards the bottom of the class. She sees herself as ordinary, and she compares herself with others, other people at school, images from magazines and television. Other people are remarkable, incredible, beautiful, talented, and some even gifted. But she worked hard, maybe harder than most and that discipline could possible take her further than natural gifting. But she has also been bullied for a number of years and she has decided to conquer the bulling with kindness. But making that decision and sticking with it are two very different things.

But sometimes in a moment a person's life can change. And that is exactly what happens to Jordan. For as the Tornado warning sirens are blaring Jordan see's the big picture and steps up to take charge. So everyone will know that she is special and why.

Andrew Clements does an amazing job of capturing the experience of children; their emotions, their experiences, their hopes and their fears. In this book he captures the internal dialogue, dreams, hopes and aspirations that can cross children's minds. And maybe even adults who read the books also. 

This is another excellent read by Andrew Clements and I highly recommend it.  

Books by Andrew Clements:
Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
Frindle 
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Workshop
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
Troublemaker
About Average
The Map Trap

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!
Brave Norman
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends
Delores and the Big Fire

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Year of Faith Treasury: The Roman Pontiff - Francis Fernandez

Year of Faith Treasury: The Roman Pontiff
Francis Fernandez
Scepter Publishing
ASIN B00AHGL574



This is the third book from this series of 6 that I have read this year. Each of the 6 volumes state that they are part of a larger forthcoming anthology. The 6 volumes are:

Prayer 
Holy Communion  
The Roman Pontiff   
The Sacrament of Confession 
The Virtue of Faith 
The Virtue of Fortitude 

But the numbering of the quotations the order would be:

Holy Communion  965
The Sacrament of Confession 1115
The Virtue of Faith 2225
The Virtue of Fortitude 2602
Prayer 3736
The Roman Pontiff   4630

But even then there are such gaps in the numbering of the quotations that between these 6 volumes we likely have less than a quarter of the final anthology. That being said these 6 little volumes and especially this on the pope are incredible reads. In fact this volume only has 18 points for reflection, 16 with 2 having sub points. But still it is an incredibly powerful tool for meditation and reflection.  For what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in content.

In the preface it is stated: "This collection of quotations aims to be useful to someone looking for points to ponder in prayer, for those preparing a homily or a talk, or an article for publication. The Introduction offers a short reflection on the theme which can serve as a basis for a homily or a talk. Then follow some references to Sacred Scripture, followed by quotations from the Magisterium, the Fathers of the Church, and the saints. This publication is taken from an Anthology [in preparation] and paragraph numbers are the ones used there." And the chapters in this booklet are:

Preface
Introduction
Quotations from Sacred Scripture
From the Magisterium, the Church Fathers and the saints
You are Peter
He has supreme power over the whole Church. Infallibility
In him we see Christ. Love for the Pope

The third point in the introduction declares: "The Pope takes the place of Christ on earth. We are to love him, to listen to him, because in his voice is the truth. And we will make his voice echo in the furthest corners of the earth, without distorting them; so, many who are disoriented may see the light, and many who are afflicted recover their hope. Living the Communion of Saints, we will pray every day for his person, as one of the most pleasant duties of our ordered charity." And this booklet is an excellent tool to help us grow in that devotion and knowledge. 

A few sample quotes from this booklet are:

The Pope takes the place of Christ on earth. We are to love him, to listen to him, because in his voice is the truth. And we will make his voice echo in the furthest corners of the earth, without distorting them; so, many who are disoriented may see the light, and many who are afflicted recover their hope. Living the Communion of Saints, we will pray every day for his person, as one of the most pleasant duties of our ordered charity.

"I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven," he represented the universal Church, which in this world is shaken by various temptations, that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests, and falls not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from which Peter received his name. (St Augustine, Tractate on St John's Gospel, 124)

We give you this exhortation in regard to everything, honourable brother; obediently heed these matters which the most blessed Pope of the city of Rome has written, because Blessed Peter who lives and presides in his own see proffers the truth of faith to those who seek it. For we, in the interests of peace and of faith, cannot deal with topics which relate to the faith except in communion with the bishop of Rome. (St Peter Chrysologus, Letter to Eutyches, 2)

As you can see from these few samples this booklet is packed with great information.  And is useful for personal meditation and reflection. It can be used for preparing talks or recollections. And will help to enrich your faith and understanding of the church's teachings. I highly recommend this booklet in particular and the series as a whole. I also eagerly await the release of the whole series.

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)


Books edited by Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
Year of Faith Treasury: The Sacrament of Confession 
Year of Faith Treasury: The Virtue of Faith
Year of Faith Treasury: The Virtue of Fortitude 

In Conversation with God:

In Conversation with God eBooks:
Volume 1 Part 1 Advent 
Volume 1 Part 2 Christmas and Epiphany
Volume 2 Part 1 Lent and Holy Week
Volume 2 Part 2 Eastertide
Volume 3 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 1-6
Volume 3 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 7-12
Volume 4 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 13-18
Volume 4 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 19-23
Volume 5 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-28
Volume 5 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 29-34
Volume 6 Part 1 Special Feasts January-March
Volume 6 Part 2 Special Feasts April-June
Volume 7 Part 1 Special Feats July -September
Volume 7 Part 2 Special Feats October -December

Books by Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
Overcoming Lukewarmness
Through The Winds and Waves
The Day that Changed My Life





Saturday, 19 November 2016

Attack of the Kraken - Kevin Sherry - The Yeti Files #3

Attack of the Kraken
The Yeti Files #3
Kevin Sherry
Samantha Smith
Scholastic

ISBN 9780545857819
ASIN B015QMBXZM



My children love these books, especially the younger two. But by far my son is the biggest fan. And any book that my children want to read over and over again is a winner in my opinion. These books are not traditional readers, but they are not graphic novels either.  They do not fit normal categorization. 

When I asked my son to pick one word to describe this book his answer was 'AMAZING!" and you can not give much higher praise than that. My son's favourite part of the books was that the Kraken was misunderstood, that the Kraken was really just trying to protect its babies. In fact my son loves these books so much he bought book 2 and 3 himself so he could have copies even after we had read the eBooks. 

This book as the third adventure in the Yeti files, and this time Blitz and the gang head to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. The Cryptozoologist need to find a solution to the escalating conflict between the mermen mermaids and the Kraken, before the whole region is destroyed. This story has a lot of adventure and obstacles for Blitz and the team to overcome, giant crabs, man eating sharks, magic crystals. But the team is always up to going the extra mile to protect their friends and other cryptids.  

It is interesting to watch the battle between nature and growing and expanding technology in this book. The message is there even if children do not pick up on it right away. 

My son and I have read this book and the whole series through three times now. And has been a while since we read this the first time, but still end every time we pull one out to read my son asks when there will be more books. So here is to another great book in a really fun series. Well done Kevin! And hopefully there will be more Yeti Files soon.


The Yeti Files:
Meet the Big Feet
Monsters on the Run
Attack of the Kraken







Friday, 18 November 2016

Finding True Happiness - Fulton J. Sheen

Finding True Happiness
Fulton J. Sheen
Trent Beattie (Editor)
Beacon Publishing a ministry of
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781937509378
eISBN 9781929266814
ASIN B01N3Y58KW 



This book is a very important collection in this day and age. And thought it was not written as a specific book by Fulton Sheen, for it is a compilation taken four separate books by Sheen. It is drawn from Walk With God, Way to Happiness, Way to Inner Peace, and You. Now I have known the name Fulton Sheen for many years, but for some reason or another, other than excerpts in anthologies it was only this year that I started reading his books.  It really is a deep regret that I did not try reading his books earlier, for at the moment I have about 5 of them in my to be read pile. In the introduction Trent Beattie, writes about the power that Sheen's writings had on his life and the reasons he made this compilation. Beattie states: "The first was to let go of the idea that happiness is to be found in things outside oneself. Happiness does not depend on accumulating more things, but on the mindset we have concerning the things we already do possess. Happiness does not consist in having more, but in appreciating more. As Sheen wrote, "It is not so much what happens in your life that matters; it is rather how you react to it."" And the rest of the book expands upon those ideas. 

I had a discussion about this book with a friend. He wanted me to summarize the book. I started that true happiness is found if being content with what you have, but working towards become the best version of yourself. Not comparing ourselves to others, not comparing our possessions, bank accounts … but comparing ourselves to who we were yesterday and the day before and the day before that. The book helps us really look at where we put our hope and our joy the book helps us learn to focus on personal growth. The focus in not on the external but on the internal. 

The chapters in this book are:
Introduction
1. Finding Perfect Happiness
2. Philosophy of Pleasure
3. Silence
4. Repose
5. Self-Inflation
6. Egotism: The Enemy of Inner Peace
7. Desire
8. Sadness
9. Moods
10. Mental Cases are Increasing
11. Loneliness
12. Truth: Forgotten Ideal
13. Patience
14. Contentment
15. Joy
16. The Will: The Secret of Sanctity

There are a few factors that make this an amazing book. First it is so accessible. It is not a massive theological treatise, it is written in language that is easy to comprehend and it is written in a very engaging and personable manner.  Also at the end of each chapter is an offer, most are a book that will go deeper into the theme of that chapter. One of the offers is for 6 copies of this book for just $18 plus shipping and handling, so you can pass it on to others. Of the books recommended I have read half and had 2 of the others already in my to be read list. And of course this book has motivated me to read even more Sheen and sooner rather than later.

This book is an amazing read. And with the length I know I will be going back and reading it again. The message is so important, and to be honest in this day and age needed even more than ever before. How many people in this day and age look for fulfillment, and happiness, in things, possessions, in other people? When in reality as Sheen shows us throughout this book, I happiness needs to come from our relationship with God, our personal growth and how we respond to things and situations, not in the things and situations themselves.


I know a dozen people without even giving it a thought that could greatly benefit from reading this book based on their current life situation. It is an excellent read that I highly recommend.

Books by Fulton J. Sheen:
God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy
The Seven Last Words
Philosophy of Science
The Eternal Galilean
Calvary and the Mass
The Cross and the Beatitudes
Communism and the Conscience of the West
Peace of Soul
Three to Get Married
The World's First Love
Life Is Worth Living Series 1-5
Way to Happiness
Way to Inner Peace 
Life of Christ
Missions and the World Crisis
The Power of Love
Footprints in a Darkened Forest
Lenten and Easter Inspirations
You
Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen
God's World and Our Place In It

Books About Fulton J. Sheen:
The Archbishop and I
...

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)