Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Absence of War - A Short Story - A Short Story

The Absence of War
A Short Story
Amy Welborn 

I have read this story through twice. Actually, I read it once, and using text to speech listened to it on my walk home from work today. I have been a fan of Amy Welborn’s works since I first encountered them through Catholic bloggers, back in 2007 her blog Open Book, was one of the top 25 most visited Catholic Blogs. I fell in love with her writing style. And over the years have read a few of her books. But this is the first of her fiction I have encountered, and not only did I thoroughly enjoy it. I might have enjoyed it as much as her non-fiction.

The description of this book is minimalist:

“Mothers and daughters, faith lost, found and questioned. All before breakfast.”

It is an incredibly powerful story. It is at times amusing, but more often than not it causes deep reflection. The story focuses around 3 women, three generations, and stories about a fourth. It is a story about faith, lack of faith. It is about both looking back and reflecting forward. Dorothy is at home with her mother and her daughter. And there is talk of ger grandmother. Four generations of women in the family. The story is a mix of events that are taking place at the time of the story and remembrances and recounting.

What touched me most, and to be honest will have a lasting impact is the sense of other. Or to be more specific the recognition of other, not our impression, and memories, but a true encounter. It is not said, but what it reminds me of is the passage ‘Lord open my eyes to see.’. And that is what the story has done, helped me to see differently. 

An excellent story. More than worth the price and time to read. And I can only hope that Mrs. Welborn decides to share more of her fiction with us, If it is as good as this it will be a treat indeed!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Amy Welborn:
Reconciled to God Daily Lenten Devotions
Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope
A Catholic Woman's Book of Days
de-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code
Loyola Kids Book of Saints
Loyola Kids Book of Heroes: Stories of Catholic Heroes and Saints throughout History
Prove It! God
Prove It! Church
Prove It! Jesus
Prove It! The Catholic Teen Bible
Here. Now. a Catholic Guide to the Good Life
The Words We Pray
Praying the Rosary: With the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries
Decoding Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legend, and Lies
Come Meet Jesus: An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI
Be Saints! An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI
Mary and the Christian Life: Scriptural Reflections on the First Disciple
Adventures in Assisi: On the Path with St. Francis: On the Path with St. Francis
Prepare Him Room: Advent Family Devotions
Daybreaks: Daily Reflections for Lent and Easter 
Parables: Stories of the Kingdom
The Absence of War

Prove It Series:
Prove It! God
Prove It! Church
Prove It! Jesus
Prove It! Prayer
Prove It! You
Prove It! The Catholic Teen Bible

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Opus Dei Christians In The Midst Of The World - Peter E. Bristow

Opus Dei: Christians In The Midst Of The World
Peter E. Bristow
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860821288
ISBN 1860821286
CTS Booklet Mo 03

Over the last 15 years I have read many books about Opus Dei and the founder Saint Josemaria Escriva. What started as academic research has lead to a over half a life time of study, growing devotion and person practice. I am always intrigued to read more about The Work, and the founder. This booklet is a wonderful little read. It gives a great overview of the beginning of the work, and specifically the work in the United Kingdom. 

The description of the book is:

"This booklet answers the questions: what is Opus Dei, how did it begin and how does it work, what is its apostolate, its message and spirituality? Dating from the inter-war years, Opus Dei (or 'Work of God') has flourished both before and since the Second Vatican Council, contributing greatly to the rediscovery of the apostolate of the laity. Finding God in the ordinary things, in daily work and family life, the constant need for daily formation and conversion, lie at its heart. It's spirituality, organization and how to join are all set out."

And the Sections in the book are:

What is Opus Dei?
A Brief History
The message of Opus Dei
Finding God in ordinary things
Sanctifying work and renewing the world
Family life
Apostolate and evangelization
Vocation and Spirit
A lay spirit
Forming the laity
Children of God
Daily conversion and interior struggle
Prayer and interior life
The little cross of each day
Devotion to Our Lady
Love for the Church and the Pope
Living a vocation to Opus Dei
Opus Dei in the Church
What is a personal prelature?
Opus Dei as a personal prelature
Incorporation into the prelature
The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
The co-operators of Opus Dei
How Opus Dei is organized
Financial matters
Apostolic Inititatives
Social projects
Some Final Thoughts
Opus Dei and the Second Vatican Council
The re-evangelization of society

If you are looking for a clear concise overview of Opus Dei, I cannot think of another book that accomplishes that so succinctly. The writing is crisp, and tight. There is a lot of information packed into this small volume. I loved reading about the growth and spread of the work, and the specifics of the work in the UK. I would love to see a booklet along the same lines providing an overview of the work in Canada. 

This booklet is small and concise. It can be read as a brief history. It can also be given to someone unfamiliar with the work as an excellent overview. I could see keeping copies of this in my breast pock and always having it on hand in order to be able to give it out. The more the pity as it is currently out of print. 

Another excellent read from the Catholic Truth Society. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Peter E. Bristow:
Christian Ethics and the Human Person: Truth and Relativism in Contemporary Moral Theology
Opus Dei: Christians In The Midst Of The World
The Moral Dignity of Man: 2nd Edition 1997

Books by St. Josemaria Escriva:
Christ Is Passing By
Conversations with Saint Josemaria
The Forge
Friends of God

Holy Rosary
In Love with the Church
The Way
The Way of the Cross
The Way, Furrow, Forge (3 in 1 Edition)

Books about St. Josemaria Escriva:
A Man Who Knew How to Forgive: Lessons from the Life of St. Josemaria Escriva - Francesc Faus

Josemaria Escriva - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Biographies
Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century - Mariano Fazio

Books about Alvaro del Portillo:
Alvaro Del Portillo The Power of Humility - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo - John F. Coverdale
40 Years with a Saint: Blessed Alvaro del Portillo on St. Josemara Escriva - Cesare Cavalleri


Books by Alvaro del Portillo:
Like Salt and Like Light: Anthology of texts compiled by Jose Antonio Loarte
Faithful And Laity In The Church; The Bases Of Their Legal Status
Journey with Jesus

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Isles: Is It All a Lie - Sara Francis - Terra Testimonies Book 1

The Isles: Is It All a Lie?
The Terra Testimonies Book 1
Sara Francis
ISBN 9780998993300

This is the first full length novel by Sara Francis and boy does it deliver. With hints at the Six Million Dollar Man, Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, and the science of Batman Beyond, it is a science fiction tale to entertain and enthrall. This book is a science fiction tale on a grand scale. It has cyborgs, humans genetically spliced with animals, tech geeks, and weapons galore.

The Isles is a small colony of humans living on 6 islands, protected from discovery by invaders. The invaders have taken over most of the world, or at least that is what the children have been told. Each of the islands has a different speciality. The Islands are run by island Keepers, and the children for the most part do not remember their past. They are being raised and trained to help take back earth.

Island I Bionics
Island II Saviors (Healers)
Island III Research and Development
Island IV Assets
Island V Seers
Island VI Genetic testing

The story is told as a series of alternating first person accounts, journal entries, either written or recorded. They are told by Alison, Sami, and Aaron. Aaron is one of the head geeks from Island III, Sami is a test subject from island VI she was spliced with a house cat genome, and Alison is from island I and has robotic prosthetics down the whole right side of her body. She was the first successful test subject for biomechatronic implantation.

Because the story is told in journal style each of the three go back and tell what they remember, or what they were told about the time before. Now they are members of the island, and this year during the inter island meetings they become part of a team that wins a competition and end up being selected for a mission to the mainland. But they soon realize a team member knows more than he is letting on, and that all may not be as they have been led to believe.

This is not hard science fiction along the lines of Arthur C. Clark. It is more along the lines of Robert A. Heinlein, Alfred Bester, and Frank Herbert. It is a great story and looks to be a very promising series. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The style alternating voices was intriguing. The characters are very well written. The plot jumps around a bit because of the format used, and the style but works well. There are some subtle religious undertones to the story. It will be interesting to see what that part of the plot goes in book 2. When you finish this book, you will be desperate to read book two.

The story is written with a Young Adult audience in mind but can be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good sci-fi story. So give the book a try and see who a group of young adults, teens and children who have been trained are preparing to take on the invaders and liberate earth!

Books by Sara Francis:
Stardust: A Collection of Poems

The Terra Testimonies Series:
The Isles: Is It All a Lie?
The mainland: It Has Begun!

The Adventure of Wobot Series:
Wobot and the 3 Technicians
Wobot, the Gear, and Motion

Monday, 12 November 2018

Family Grace A Story of Conversion Through Friendship - Father Michael E. Giesler

Family Grace: 
A Story of Conversion Through Friendship
Father Michael E. Giesler
Scepter Publishers

ISBN 9781594172236

After reading the amazing Junia Trilogy I have tracked down all of the books I can by father Michael Giesler. And this book did not disappoint. In fact, it was an incredible read. While reading it I kept forgetting it was a fictional account. But the events, and people in the story could exist and do. They are our neighbours, our friends, and our co-workers. The story is set within contemporary north American families. One for whom their faith has become relatively irrelevant. And another an immigrant family who have a bright dynamic faith and family life. When the two mix the spirit moves.

Part of the description of this book is:

“In Family Grace Fr. Giesler tells a similar story, but within the context of a contemporary American family that discovers the Catholic Faith in gradual and unexpected ways. He vividly narrates their temptations, failures, and victories in a setting very similar to what the early Christians faced: a society often hostile to the truth and goodness of the Gospel. 

As he did in his previous novels, Giesler uses the message of St. Josemaria Escriva as his inspiration---with his call to become saints and apostles in the middle of the world, a calling very similar to that of the early followers of Christ. 

“It was the family that converted the Roman world. Pagans saw that Christian homes were happy, and they wanted a piece of that happiness. This novel shows us the truth: the family is, still today, the key to evangelization and the key to happiness.” -- Mike Aquilina, author of The Fathers of the Church.”

The story follows Frank and nan from their first date, through courtship, marriage, children, and drifting apart and away from the church. But their daughter Kim has a close friend Rosa for whom faith is integral to her life. And Kim comes to depend upon Rosa as a rock in her turbulent life. When tragedy strikes the two families grow together and faith is renewed.

As mentioned I forgot that this was fiction a few times while reading it, and got chocked up. It is a powerfully written story. And I pray it will spark new hope and new faith in the families of all who read it. Another excellent offering by Father Giesler.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Rev. Michael Giesler:
You See Me, You Hear Me
Guidebook for Confessors
Family Grace: A Story of Conversion Through Friendship
Called by Name: Twelve Guideline Meditations for Diocesan Priests


Spanish Editions:
Dios te ve y te oye


Christian Historical Fiction Trilogy:
Grain Of Wheat


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018 Remembrance Day 2018

Remembrance Day 2018

Thank you to all the men and women who have served. May we always remember and honour your service and your sacrifice! To the families who have lost members either in the field of battle or who came home changed, thank you. 

Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading 1 Kings 17:10-6
Responsorial Psalm 146:6-10 Response 1
Second Reading Hebrews 9:24-28
Gospel Mark 12:38-44

The first reading of this week has the miracle of the meal and oil. Elijah comes to the poor widow. He asks of he something to eat. And her jar does not empty and the prophet, the widow and her son have provision through the drought. This example of God’s blessings and provision is called out by Jesus as an example in Luke 4:25,26.

The second reading this week again speaks to us about Jesus as the final High priest. But it also speaks to his return a second time to those who are awaiting him. And yet almost every generation since that time has believed it was the last. From the apostles on there has been a believe that the second coming was imminent. And I believe that is a good thing. As Christians, as Catholic if we believe Christ is coming back soon, it should inspire us even more to live lives worthy. To live sharing our possession. To live to serve others. 

And as today is Remembrance Day, it calls to mind those who served in the military and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And this ties to our final reading. Jesus judges the widow’s mite as worth more than all the other gifts. Those we remember today gave their lives. 

Related Posts:

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Prayer of the Day A Prayer for Priests and Bishops

Prayer for Priests and Bishops:

O Jesus, 
I pray for your faithful and reverent priests; 
for your unfaithful and tepid priests; 
for your priests labouring 
at home or abroad in distant mission fields; 
for your tempted priests; 
for your lonely and desolate priests; 
for your dying priests; 
for the souls of your priests in purgatory. 

But above all, 
I recommend to you the priests dearest to me: 
the priest who baptized me; 
the priests who absolved me from my sins; 
the priests who absolved me from my sins; 
the priests of whose Masses I assisted and who gave me 
your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; 
the priests who taught and instructed me; 
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way 
(especially ....) 

O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart, 
and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. 

Composed by Saint Thesese of the Child Jesus. 

Note: I do not know where this prayer came from. I copied it to my evernote prayer book and forgot to attribute the source. With all that has been going on of late I have been extra faithful in praying for priests. For priests I know, and for priests in general. I can count on one hand the number of priests I have encountered in life that I have had a bad experience with in some way or fashion. and I could count many many priests that I have encountered that were great pastors, prayer warriors, and exceptional men. And I have read some incredible books by priests, and about priests.

Last month I posted a different 'Prayer for Priests'.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Why Deacons The Teachings of Pope John Paul II - Michael Evans

Why Deacons
The Teachings of Pope John Paul II
Michael Evans
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9780851839431
ISBN 0851839436
CTS Booklet Do630


This is another of the CTS books that I have stumbled across that is out of print, but I really wish was still available. I know a few dozen men who are considering the diaconate, or who are deacons that I would want to get this book into their hands. I have read this through twice now and know I will read it again. The description on the back of the booklet is:

“The Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. This 'permanent diaconate' is, unlike the priesthood, open to married men; it has importantly enriched the life and mission of Christ's Church.”

The chapters in this booklet are:

The teaching of Pope John Paul II
Selected official and liturgical texts

The introduction is really an overview of the diaconate, and its restoration within the Roman Catholic Tradition. It is also about half of the length of the book. So it is not a traditional introduction, but is truly an introduction to the topic of Deacons. The Sections in the Introduction are:

An Exalted Office
A Sacrament of Jesus Christ
A Service Person in a Servant Church
What Kind of Service?
The Bishops Man
A Distinctive Ministry
Priests and Deacons
Unity and Diversity
A Three-Fold Ministry
The Ministry of Love and Justice
Raising the Dust
Treasure the Poor

The Primacy of Love
A Bridge Person
The Worlds of Work and Family
A Ministry of the Cross
An Important Enrichment of the Church’s Mission

From that broad overview it moves on to excerpts from three of Pope Saint John Paul II’s addresses. The specific Addresses drawn from are:

Address to the Deacons of the United States and their Wives – September 19th, 1987
General Audience ‘Deacons serve the Kingdom of God’ - October 5th, 1993
General Audience ‘The Deacon has many pastoral functions.’ – October 13th, 2993
General Audience ‘Deacons are called to a life of holiness.’ – October 20th, 1993

And finally, the chapter ‘Selected official and liturgical texts’. This chapter contains

Article 29 from Lumen Gentium
Pope Paul VI Apostolic Letter, 1972
Homily for the Ordination of a Deacon
Examination of the Candidate
Prayer of Consecration (Second Part)
Presentation of the Book of the Gospels

Over the past two years I have read several books about the Diaconate. This one is the shortest. I have been praying about the diaconate even longer. This year I started the formal application process, and this book convinced me even more so of the value of pursuing this.

This little volume is a treasure trove of information on the diaconate. It draws from sources spanning 20 years. And I found it very moving and stirring. The book inspired me to be praying for the deacons I know, their families, and for the men discerning the vocation.

If you can lay you hands on this, it is an excellent read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For all reviews and articles about the Diaconate click here.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

In Conversation With God Volume 4 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 19-23 - Francis Fernandez

In Conversation With God
Volume 4 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 19-23 
Francis Fernandez
Scepter Press

eISBN 9780906138915

I love this series. And I especially love these eBook editions. In fact I enjoy the eBook version so much, I just gave away my physical copies. I have been reading this series since I was a student at Queen's University back in the late 80's and early 90's. I started reading them as they were coming out. They are an incredible series and I highly recommend them. Mike Aquilina states: "Now we can travel with more books stored in our telephones than the ancient Egyptians kept in their vast library at Alexandria.".  And I love having my eBooks available any time and where. And with this series I can travel with all of them with me at all times. There are also features in the eBooks that I consider an advantage over physical. I love highlighting when I read the eBook, I also like being able to select from a number of different colors. I use a different color each year I read. I also love that you can click on the link for a reference for a quote and jump to it, and then immediately jump back and keep reading. And with the eBook you can change the font, color, size to make it easier to read, and as someone with Dyslexia this is my favorite feature of eBooks. Another great feature is using accessibility features on some mobile devices and some dedicated eReaders and use text to speech, and listen to the text.

This specific book, Volume 4 Part 2 Ordinary Time Weeks 19-23, has a meditation for each day Monday-Saturday, and three different meditations for Sundays, 1 each for year A, B, and C. Each reading is roughly 6 pages long, and each days reading is separated into three sections, roughly equal in length most days. Reading through it this year I highlighted 54 passages over the 6 weeks. I will share a few of those as samples of the writing in this book:

“There are many good Marian devotions. There is no need to practise every single one of them. But anyone who doesn’t live some of them, who doesn’t express his love for Mary in some way, does not possess the fullness of the faith. Those who think that devotions to our Lady are a thing of the past seem to have lost sight of the deep Christian meaning they contain. They seem to have forgotten the source from which they spring – faith in God the Father’s saving will, love for God the Son, who really became man and was born of a woman, and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us with his grace.”

“If you look for Mary, you will necessarily find Jesus; and you will learn, in greater and greater depth, what there is in the Heart of God. Let us consider how our own lives reflect this ancient Christian practice of special devotion to our Lady on Saturdays.”

“In the Most Blessed Virgin we find the perfect model of one who listens with attentive ear to what God is asking, in order to put it into practice from a standpoint of complete availability. Indeed, at the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with ‘full submission of intellect and will’ (Dei Verbum, 5), manifesting ‘the obedience of faith’ to him who spoke to her through his messenger. We go to her, in finishing our prayer, asking her to teach us how to listen attentively to everything that comes from God, and to put it into practice.”

“Fullness of grace and fullness of freedom went together in our Lady, since one is more free in so far as one is more holy. As a result, she gave a most faithful response to these gifts of God, and through that response she obtained abundant merits. Let us, who are her children and who have such great need of her help, go to her now.”

“Jesus never stops loving us, helping us, protecting us, talking to us, not even in our moments of sheer ingratitude, or after we have committed the greatest disloyalty. Perhaps it was during such sad circumstances that our Lord has been most attentive to us, as today’s parable suggests. Among the hundred sheep in the flock, only the one that was lost had the honour of resting on the good shepherd’s shoulders. I will be with you always,[76] in each situation, at every moment, our Lord tells us. And especially when we begin that final journey towards him.”

Across the 7 Volumes in this series; or 14 eBook volumes because each book is split in two there are over 450 meditations. There is a meditation for each day of the church calendar, Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Eastertide and of course the 34 weeks of Ordinary time. There are also 2 volumes dedicated to special feats, specific feats, novenas, Saints, and holy days that fall on specific calendar days. I have used the eBook editions for the last few years now and they are excellent.

These books are incredible for your spiritual life. Every time I read them, every day I am challenged, challenged to become a better version of myself, challenged to live more joy, more hope, more dedication. These books will change your life, and as you read them again and again you will only grow to appreciate them more.  

Of all the devotionals and spiritual books, I have read over the last nearly 30 years I can recommend this series as one of the best. You can read it again and again and always get something more out of it. I was recently asked to come up with my all-time Top Ten Catholic Books this series came in at number 4 but to be honest 2-5 are almost all interchangeable. So this is one of my all-time top Christian reads!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

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:
Through The Winds and Waves
The Day that Changed My Life

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Author Profile and Interview with Cynthia Toney

Author Profile and Interview with Cynthia Toney

Cynthia T. Toney is the author of the Bird Face Wendy series and also a historical fiction novel set in the 1920’s in the south. She has contributed to one anthology. She tirelessly supports other Christian authors and is dedicated to supporting Catholic Teen books and authors. Cynthia took some time from her busy schedule to answer 20 questions for the readers here at Book reviews and More. So, here in her own words is Cynthia:

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I wanted to learn to write while still in school, long before I thought I might become a writer. I could handle short compositions but nothing longer than a page. It didn’t help my confidence that a professor made fun of my assignment in class! I had tried to inject humor into my writing, but I guess he was looking for something high-brow. I later knew I needed to become a writer when I kept trying to rewrite others’ advertising copy while working in advertising and marketing design. I tried to write greeting cards, but no one was interested in my work, LOL.

2. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Perhaps an advertising and marketing designer until I retired. But if I had my whole adult life to do over, I would’ve studied to become a veterinarian.

3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My husband simply would not give up on me. He gave me emotional support while I sought my first publisher and waited for the first book, now out of print, to be published. He encouraged me and praised my books each time a new one was published. I think my mother would have been a big supporter, but she passed away before seeing the first book.

4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

When I read Betsy Byars’ Bingo Brown series, I loved the humor so much. I wanted to write stories for the age group she did and told myself I could create a story at least as good as one of those.

5. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

When I start thinking about writing a new story, I open up to random ideas at first. Sometimes I jot them down, but I don’t have the whole story formulated. Then I try to come up with an opening line or two that might grab the reader by giving the main character’s emotional state. At first, I think only about how I want the story to start and to end. Then I try to decide what needs to happen in the middle to make that exciting. So, I build and fill in from those three points. 

6. Is your writing process different for contemporary fiction compared to your historical fiction offering.

Not much, but I found an outline of sorts proved necessary for my historical, The Other Side of Freedom, whereas not so much for the contemporary novels. If the story requires an outline for me to keep track of everything, I write short chapter summaries. That way, I can print them, cut them apart, make notes, and rearrange them to study. 

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I have never been able to accomplish mental tasks while listening to music or television in the background. Maybe a train on nearby railroad tracks. I find the rumbling soothing, and the horns don’t bother me.

8. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?

Other than the first one, which took ten years because of personal and career interruptions, my historical novel took the longest. That was probably due to the research required to make the setting and events believable. 

9. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

Thank you for that. My characters are usually completely imagined or a combination of many people I’ve known, sometimes only for a brief period of time. If a characteristic or trait either impresses or annoys me, I often think how I might use it for a character. But a writer must be careful when combining traits because, if traits appear together in a character, they must combine in a way that still allows the character to be believable. So, in real life, would or could someone who is or does a certain something also be able to be or do a certain something else?

10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated: "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

They often feel as real to me as my Facebook friends I’ve never met online! In the same way, I imagine them talking and moving about in their daily lives. I do think of what they might do next in the same novel or in a different setting with different people around them. I imagine that’s also how other authors develop their sequels. 

11. If you happened to get glimpses of Wendy from the Bird Face series could you see yourself returning to that character at a different point in her life?

I could. I’m planning to give her some space for right now, like a mother would give a teenage child who, after many trials, has proven herself to be trustworthy. 

12. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

As a child, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In high school, The Scarlet Letter, which I believe was required in ninth grade.  The period when I began reading a lot of novels and true-crime was my twenties. I remember reading Helter Skelter and The Thorn Birds, as well as many of the best-sellers of the time. Before that, I suppose I stayed busy with high school and college assignments. I’m sure I read other books in my youth, but I can’t remember them now.

13. You spend a lot of time promoting other authors and supporting them and their works. How and why did you develop this habit?

Once I became an author, I met so many good authors, many of them Catholic and Christian who were overlooked. Their books were better than the best sellers from big publishing houses! The difference in their success was that those with well-known publishers had big-budget marketing supporting them. I also noticed that Catholic authors of YA novels suitable for Catholic teens had not organized into a cross-promotion support group. That’s how the Books for Catholic Teens Facebook group came into being. At first, A.J. Cattapan and I didn’t know if we’d find enough of us to create a working group. Boy, were we surprised! From there, the group known as Catholic Teen Books formed, with the website CatholicTeenBooks.com

14. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

I thought Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, and A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz were very clever. I just haven’t had time to read any more books in the series for those. 

15. If you could only recommend 10 Catholic books, what would they be?

These are some I’ve recently read and enjoyed, and I bet you haven’t seen a list quite like this. Nothing classic here. Non-fiction is listed first.

Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World by Jean M. Heimann
Marie Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars by Elena Maria Vidal
Italian Louisiana: History, Heritage, and Tradition by Alan G. Gautreaux
Crusader King by Susan Peek,
Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body by Erin McCole Cupp and others,
A Shepherd’s Song by Janice Lane Palko, 
Falling As She Sings by C.J. Sursum,
The Boys Upstairs by Jane Lebak,

Instead of completing this list with two more books, I recommend readers visit the Catholic Teen Books website and select one of its many wonderful novels for tweens and teens. I’ve read most and can’t choose only two from among them. 

16. All your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

My publisher was not having much success with that, so I subscribed to Blasty from Google. They remove those bootleg sites from Google searches for my books so as to minimize people finding them there. 

17. Your eBooks are only available through Kindle, are you concerned that you might be limiting your readership by not being on the Kobo, or iBooks platforms? 

My publisher tried Kobo for one or more of my books, but we didn’t sell any there. We also discussed iBooks, and there was a reason we decided not to pursue that, but now I don’t remember. I think it had something to do with Amazon. Amazon keeps changing its policies, so I might bring up the subject of iBooks again. 

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

First, I think good parents should teach their children how to think. Today’s institutions of higher education, and some secondary schools, seem to teach students what to think, not how to think for themselves. Higher education should teach students to research primary sources of information such as Church and government documents and not rely solely on watered-down or politically correct rewritten history. 

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I perhaps wouldn’t need 10. My bible and books on survival and those I’ve read about foraging for edible plants would be most needed.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Be not afraid.

Thank you, Cynthia, for responding to our 20 questions. And I look forward to the book you will publish next. And if you have not read her books give them a chance they are all excellent reads!

Books by Cynthia T. Toney:
The Other Side of Freedom

Bird Face Series:
8 Notes to a Nobody
10 Steps to Girlfriend Status
6 Dates to Disaster
3 Things to Forget

Contributed to:
Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books

Author Profile and Interview with Cynthia Toney. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Shoes for Two Soldier Sons - David Vining - A Collection of Short Stories

Shoes for Two Soldier Sons
A Collection of Short Stories
David Vining

ISBN 9781980891758

This is the fifth collection of short stories by David Vining that I have read over the last 6 weeks. An author I appreciate recommended Vining’s novel, The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812. But not knowing Vining’s works I decided to pick up one of the collections of short stories. It was a wonderful collection, and before I had finished the novel I had all 5 of the collections of short stories loaded on my Kindle and ready to go.

The 5 books of short stories are:
Shoes for Two Soldier Sons
Old Magic in a New World
A Light in the Darkness
A Boy and His Satellite

I left this one for last because it is described as:

“The American Civil War tore the nation apart. Brothers against brothers. Fathers against sons. 

Here are five fictional tales of how men and women navigated the many different facets of the conflict that rent America in two. 

A woman spy makes her way back through enemy lines to the Union. 
A young boy watches a battle from the perch in a tree and gets more than he wanted. 
A wounded soldier travels to a dead friend's home to deliver his final message. 

All and more in this special collection.”

Not being American, and not being a Civil War buff this collection had the least appear for me. The other collections focus on different themes such as: magic, Science Fiction, Mutiny, Light and Darkness, and this collection contains 5 stories about the American Civil War. All of Vining’s writings are good reads, this and one other collection garnered a solid 5/5 stars for the review and the other 3 wavered and ended up at 4/5. The stories in this volume are:

A Drink between Friends 
Making the 6:14 to Washington City 
Up a Tree 
On and Off the Carolina Coast 
Shoes for Two Soldier Sons

The stories that had the most impact upon me were the first and the last. But each of the 5 offered in this collection are masterfully written. The war between the north and the south has always been an area of study academically. The subject of much fiction, novels, TV mini-series, and movies. And even in this politically correct charged time, it is a subject that draws much attention. This is one of the best of David’s collections of short stories.

In a previous review I stated: “Writing short stories, or at least good ones is an art form unto itself. In a novel you have a lot more time and space to work things out. Great short stories need to be tightly written. David Vining has that skill. His stories are complete but often leave a reader wanting more of the story, or more stories with the characters. His stories remind me of the works of J.F. Powers.” This was a very powerful collection of stories. And though I do want more each story is complete and a great read.

This is a great collection of short stories, dive in and give these stories about the Civil War a read they will be unlike anything else on the subject you have encountered. 

Books by David Vining:
A Quest Through Winter Sleep
The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812

Collections of Short Stories:
Shoes for Two Soldier Sons
Old Magic in a New World
A Light in the Darkness
A Boy and His Satellite

Monday, 5 November 2018

Grain of Wheat - Father Michael E. Giesler - A Novel Depicting the Lives of the Early Christians in Rome

Grain of Wheat: 
A Novel Depicting the Lives of the Early Christians in Rome 
Father Michael E. Giesler
Scepter Publishers

ISBN 9781594170782
eISBN 9781594171154

This is the third book, and currently final book, in a series ‘Depicting the Lives of the Early Christians in Rome’. All three books are incredible reads. But the books are not clearly marked as a trilogy. It was not until I was reading book 2, Marcus, that I realized it is a trilogy. I was just under the impression that it was just one of several books by the author. I stated in my review of book 1, Junia The Fictional Life and Death of an Early Christian, "It is hard to find the books by Father Giesler, for they are published under many different variations on his names. For example, this book on the cover has the name Michael E. Giesler, book 2 Marcus has the name Michael Edward Giesler, and book 3 Grain Of Wheat does not even have a name on the cover.  From what I have found his books are published under the following names: Michael E. Giesler, Rev. Michael Giesler, Father Michael Giesler, Michael Edward Giesler and just Michael Giesler. Based on how wonderful this book was I have already picked up his three historical fiction novels and look forward to reading them. One other strange thing about this series before I get to the review, Books 1 and 3 have eBook, kindle and print editions, where book 2 only has a print edition. But back to this specific book." And I stand by that his books are published under many variations on his name, and as a trilogy it is not clearly indicated. But once you start reading them you are drawn into life as a Christian at a vary dangerous time to be a Christian. The trilogy is comprised of:

Junia (2002)
Marcus (2004)
Grain Of Wheat (2008)

This book and the whole series are excellent reads. A lot of research went into them. They are historically accurate, they present the life, danger, and death of Christians. If the names were changes and the stories slightly the could be biography instead of fiction. But as a Christian reading them one cannot but help but become immersed in the ancient world and drawn into the early life of the church in Rome. Numerous historical figures make appearances in the books, and several events from history. 

This book picks up right where book two Marcus, left off. It spans a few years. Over that time Marcus becomes less cautious and braver in sharing the gospel message. He feels led by the Holy Spirit to be more open with his beliefs and his teachings about Christ and the Logos. 

These books are very hard to put down. I read the trilogy over a few weeks. But deliberately read other books in between. But even now days after finishing the series I find myself thinking about it and have picked up another fiction and non-fiction books by the author to read. Father Giesler writes in such an engaging and compelling way. At times the books are uncomfortable to read, because of the persecution of Christians, and a few martyrdom’s. But they are important to read. Not only to know our past, but based on current culture what might be in our future. The only real draw back of this book is that as of now the series is finished. There are so many of the great characters in book and series that it would be wonderful to read about.

Another great read by father Michael Giesler. A conclusion to an intense, and powerful trilogy. Excellent read! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Rev. Michael Giesler:
You See Me, You Hear Me
Guidebook for Confessors
Family Grace: A Story of Conversion Through Friendship
Called by Name: Twelve Guideline Meditations for Diocesan Priests


Spanish Editions:
Dios te ve y te oye


Christian Historical Fiction Trilogy:
Grain Of Wheat