Thursday, 14 November 2019

Trouble at the Arcade - Franklin W. Dixon - The Hardy Boys Secret Files Book 1

Trouble at the Arcade
The Hardy Boys Secret Files Book 1
Franklin W. Dixon
Scott Burroughs (Illustrator)
Aladdin an imprint of
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
ISBN 9781416991649
eISBN 9781416999225

I first read this book to my son a few years ago. He loved it and we picked up several in the series. Now my son has just read this book to me, to get his reading time in for school. He made it through with help mostly on names. He really enjoyed the book and wants to read all 19 that are currently available in the series. It is very different than the Blue hard Cover Hardy Boys Mystery Stories I had when I was his age. But it was still a fun read.

The chapters in this volume are:
1 Alien Attack!
2 Fun World
3 A Major Score
4 Who’s the Thief?
5 A Big Threat
6 A Real Mystery
7 Who, What, When . . .
8 A New Suspect
9 Lost and Found
10 Secret File #1: Solved!

And from the books we have all the books in the series have 10 chapters. It is an interesting read. For my son they are new and exciting. The brothers are 8 and 9 years old in this book. The books have been scaled way back in complexity compared to the original series. But for younger readers, it will allow them to read the whole thing themselves. At the beginning of this stories the brothers are very competitive with each other. Teasing each other about the upcoming video game competition, and even making a bed about who will get to move into the renovated spare room. Their dad states:

“Anyway, don’t forget that you’re brothers,” he said. “You’re supposed to be a team. You’ll always have a better chance if you work together instead of against each other.”

And this comes back to them when there is a big problem at the video game competition. While they are at Fun World all the entrance money from the competition goes missing. The brothers decide to work together and try and use what they have heard from their father’s stories about his detective work, and solve the mystery.

Most of the story takes place at Fun World, and amusement center with multiple rooms and features. After the money goes missing the competition is on hold. And there is a lot happening. And the brothers find out that when they work together things do go better. For older readers they should be able to put the clues together and solve the mystery. Younger readers might miss the clues but will still love the story.

The story is fun. And we have already read this one twice and have plans to read many of the others in the series. Any book or series that my kids want to read again and keep reading is a win in my books.

The Hardy Boys Secret Files:
Trouble at the Arcade
The Missing Mitt
Mystery Map
Hopping Mad
A Monster of a Mystery
The Bicycle Thief
The Disappearing Dog
Sports Sabotage
The Great Coaster Caper
A Rockin' Mystery
Robot Rumble
Lights, Camera . . . Zombies!
Balloon Blow-Up
Fossil Frenzy
Ship of Secrets
Camping Chaos
The Great Escape
Medieval Upheaval
The Race Is On

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Maximilian Kolbe Martyr of Charity - Fr James E. McCurry, OFM Conv.

Maximilian Kolbe: Martyr of Charity
Fr James E. McCurry, OFM Conv.
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860828713
eISBN 9781784693008
CTS Booklet B753

I doubt very many people in the church and maybe even in western culture who are not at least familiar with the story of Father Maximillian Kolbe. His sacrifice is taught in both religion classes and in history classes. But what this wonderful little booklet does is an amazing job of giving us a quick overview and introduction to the man, his ministry and his martyrdom. The booklet can easily be read in an afternoon over a large cup of tea. The chapters in the volume are:

The Militia of Mary Immaculate
Return to Poland
Magazine Publisher
The City of the Immaculate
Mission to Japan
Poland Again

We are told in the introduction that the definition of a martyr was expanded so that Kolbe could be canonized as one.

“Never before had the Church elaborated a saint’s dying for the faith to include the freewill laying down of one’s life in love for another. Pope John Paul chose to expand the definition of martyrdom - divine love in action.”

We are also told that during the canonization mass on October 10th 1982 that:

“Franciszek Gajowniczek held a prominent place. The eighty-one year-old survivor of Auschwitz had come from his native Poland in testimony to the fact that it was he whom Fr Kolbe’s self-sacrifice had spared. His old white head now ruddy under sunny skies, Mr Gajowniczek, beneficiary of charity, sat beside Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a living icon of charity. Both devotees of the new saint-martyr would receive Holy Communion from the Pope.”

The introduction ends with these words:

“No one four decades earlier - least of all Fr Kolbe’s Nazi captors - could have envisioned this moment. In an astonishing reversal of fortune, the vilified inmate of an obscure prison camp was now being glorified among the ranks of the saints, forevermore to be honoured by billions of Catholics on altars throughout the world.”

And that is really the end of this story. From there we journey back with the author and examine the childhood, and life of this saint. This is the second book about this saint I have read. The other was geared for a younger audience. But this volume can be read with or to school age children and they will be fascinated by the story. The story follows Kolbe as he grows, discovers his calling. Begins a media mission. And even travels to Japan. But ultimately it goes back to Poland and his writings and stand against the Nazi regime. His arrest, his time at the concentration camp. And his love and service to other inmates, including volunteering to take Franciszek place in the death chamber.

It is a powerful and moving story. It is a story we need to remember. And to be challenged by. I have read nearly 100 booklets from the Catholic Truth Society over the last two years. There are some incredible reads. But the biographies of the saints are among my favorites. An excellent read for all ages.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Other books about Maximilian Kolbe:
Saint Maximilian Kolbe Mary's Knight - Patricia Edward Jablonski and Karen Ritz - Encounter the Saints Series Book 10
The Saints Pray for Us
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Blessed Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv: Priest Hero Of A Death Camp - Mary Craig

Maximilian Kolbe: Martyr of Charity - Fr James E. McCurry, OFM Conv

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Ivy and Bean - Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall - Ivy and Bean Book 1

Ivy and Bean
Ivy & Bean Book 1
Annie Barrows
Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

Chronicle Books
ISBN 978-0811849098
eISBN 9780811876513

I have read this book twice, four years apart almost to the week. First with my oldest daughter and then with my youngest daughter. My son who is between the girls has shown no interest to the books, but he did listen as his sister read it to me. I read this to the oldest, and the youngest has read it to me. I have also read 2 other titles in the series with my oldest. I have mixed feelings about these books. I like that my children like them. My oldest was a reluctant reader and we alternated pages. And my youngest is just really getting into reading her own books. I love that the kids like and enjoy these books and want to read them. My youngest got the first 4 as hand me downs and is already planning on buying the rest. But the story itself is a little questionable.

In this story the mothers of both Ivy and Bean (Bernice) have been telling them they should become friends. They live across a cul-de-sac from each other. But both girls have hesitations and have not bothered acting on the advice. Until the day Bean is about to get in big trouble, and Ivy encourages her to run from her older sister who is getting their mother. And helps bean to hide and formulate a plan. Ivy believes she is a witch and from the set up of her room she has fairly liberal parents. She has a spell book she got from an aunt that is over 100 years old. The two plot to put a spell on Bean’s sister to force her to dance non-stop. To do so they need worms, lots and lots of worms.

There is something witchy about their friendship. And Ivy, who outwardly appears ‘normal’ but inwardly reminds me of Wednesday Addams. And Bean seems a little awkward and weird on the outside but seems to just be a kid with a knack for getting in trouble. We are told that “The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they wouldn't be friends.” But circumstances brought them together and a bond was formed. A bond that now spans 11 books.

The books are a great leveled reader. Both my girls read it the first month of grade 4. At grade 4 if reading at grade level this book should be an easy read. If they are a little behind grade level, they will need some help. But both girls love the book and the story. But I had to want my youngest that it is a story and not an instructional manual, she cannot do to her sister what bean did to hers! And I have a feeling based on my youngest that I will be reading the whole series soon.

Note: My youngest read the paperback to me, and I followed along on my phone. The pictures are much larger and integrated into the text in the print edition.

Books in the Ivy and Bean Series:
Ivy and Bean
Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that Had to Go
Ivy and Bean and the Fossil Record
Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter
Ivy and Bean Bound to Be Bad
Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance
Ivy and Bean What’s the Bid idea?
Ivy and Bean No News is Good News
Ivy and Bean Make the Rules
Ivy and Bean Take the Case
Ivy and Bean One Big Happy Family

Monday, 11 November 2019

In Conversation With God Volume 5 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-28 - Francis Fernandez

In Conversation With God
Volume 5 Part 1 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-28
Francis Fernandez
Scepter Press
eISBN 9780906138922

There are three editions of these book available in English. The original vinyl bound. The Kindle Editions that split each volume (based on Kindle max file size at the time they were released.) And New Single volume eBook editions. I have owned a few copies of the vinyl, but now love these Kindle editions. 

I have been reading this series for almost 30 years now. Since they first started being available in English. At first, I bought them in individual vinyl covered editions. And later replaced them with the boxset. And then once the eBooks were available, I grabbed them up, and after 2 years of using the eBooks I gave my physical copy to a local school teacher to use in his high school class. I love these books and have read them around 15 times over years. I love the newer eBook editions.

I have said it before but there are a few features I love about the eBook versions that I want to highlight. First as a reader you can highlight and make notes easily in the digital editions. You can also pick colors and change your highlighting from year to year. But the best feature of the Kindle version is you can export your highlights and notes and start fresh. I also like having all the volumes on me at all times. I can use them to look something up, using the Subject index or index of quotations to look something up in any volume. I also love that in eBooks you can change the page color, the font, and even font size to make reading better suited to your personally. 

As with each volume in this series each reading in this book is about 6 pages long. Each Day is broken into three sections. There are numerous references. But I want to give you a sample of the highlights I made in this volume this year. This year when I read it I highlighted 20 passages. 

“Humility is the prerequisite to belief, to coming close to Christ. This virtue is the narrow road that leads to faith and to growth in the supernatural life. Humility allows us to understand Jesus.”

“We should make sure to go to Confession frequently. In this way, we will avoid any separation from the Lord, even in little things. Let us ask the help of Our Lady, Refuge of sinners, that we may constantly improve the quality of our confessions. We should think also of the splendid work of mercy involved in bringing a friend, relative or colleague to this Sacrament and to a renewal of supernatural life.”

“The gift of speech comes from the hands of God. It should be used to sing his praises and to speak well of others. It should never be used to do harm. Acquire the habit of speaking about everyone and about everything they do in a friendly manner, especially when you are speaking of those who labour in God’s service. Whenever that is not possible, keep quiet. Sharp or irritated comment may border on gossip or slander.”

“Our speech should be at the service of the good – to console those who suffer; to teach those who are ignorant; to correct in a courteous manner those who are in the wrong; to strengthen those who are weak. Holy Scripture reminds us that the tongue of the wise is health.”

“To be recollected is to join what is separated, to re-establish a lost order. If we want to be recollected souls, we have to guard our senses from hazardous dissipation. Otherwise, we shall find it impossible to be contemplatives in the middle of the world, no matter how tranquil our immediate surroundings may be.”

“The life of each man and woman exists in the present moment. These are the only moments which we can truly sanctify. The past and the future only exist in our imagination. The memory of our past can inspire us to acts of contrition or thanksgiving, yet even these prayers take place in the reality of the present.”

“Our challenge is for us to want the Will of God in everything, to accept it with joy, to love it no matter how difficult or incomprehensible it appears.”

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. 

These books are incredible food 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.  

I had planned on reviewing each of the eBook editions as I read them but have fallen behind. This is my third time reading this volume as an eBook. This series has been invaluable in my spiritual life. Sometimes I read it for years in a row. And every time I benefit from it. I grow, I deepen. I strive to mature. 

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: 2019 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

Friday, 8 November 2019

Jack and Joe - Diane Capri - Hunt For Reacher Book 3

Jack and Joe
Hunt For Reacher Book 3
Diane Capri
August Books
eISBN 9781940768571

This is the sixth of Diane Capri’s Jack books that I have read, in as many weeks. And it is the one I have been looking forward to most, since beginning the series I was thinking ahead to this volume and how Capri would handle Joe and Reacher and Joe’s friendship. This one also currently marks the half way mark in the series, there are 11 published and 1 scheduled, and this one is number 6. These stories are something you can sink your teeth into, especially if you are a fan of the Jack Reacher books crime mystery thriller stories. I was hooked after reading the first story in this series and know I will be reading them all. 

In this volume agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gasper of the FBI are directed to focus their attention on Fort Bird. They both just want to close the Reacher file so they can get back to their normal assignments. But filling in background on Jack Reacher is proving much harder than either of them expected when they were awoken at 4am 18 days ago. And by the end of this this volume they have been on the hunt 20 days, been all over the USA, to Mexico, and even over seas. At Fort Bird they encounter numerous people who seem to have a beef with Reacher. And we find out about some family relations previously unknown during Reacher’s stay there. But as usual the two end up in the middle of a mess. Maybe some of it was left behind Reacher, and maybe some of it is just chance. But we find out a bit more about Reacher and a lot more about Joe. 

A shootout at a bar. A high-speed death. And a suicide. And all of it pointing to a mess Reacher caused and left unfinished. A lot of action in this volume. It keeps you turning the page. I can freely admit I stayed up much later than I should have to finish the story, I just couldn’t put it down.

At this point I am just about halfway through the ones currently available. I am trying to pace myself at about a book a week. I have already picked up the eBooks for all that are currently available. I plan on reviewing one a week until I have reviewed them all. In the six months before beginning to read this series I read 29 Jack Reacher Novels and short stories by Lee Child. And somehow, I stumbled upon these books while preparing one of my reviews, I recall my dad having mentioned them but had never investigated them. I decided to give one a try and was immediately hooked. I am very thankful that I did try that first story. I typically read a couple hundred books a year, and the last few years have been over 300 a year. And at the pace I am going I will finish off this series under a year from my first Reacher read. These stories are great reads for Reacher fans. But they are written well enough that they could be read on their own. They are excellent reads for any fans of crime literature, mysteries, or thrillers. A warning though, they really ought to be read in order, something I must admit that is something that I often do not do, but in this case am sticking to the order. Lee Child himself has even plugged these books in the Reacher Report. And they deserve the applause. 

Another great read in the hunt for Reacher series, maybe one of the best.

Books by Diane Capri:
Hunt for Reacher Series:

1.0 Don’t Know Jack
1.1 Jack in a Box
1.2 Jack and Kill
2.0 Get Back Jack
2.5 Jack in the Green
3.0 Jack and Joe
4.0 Deep Cover Jack
5.0 Jack the Reaper
6.0 Black Jack
7.0 Ten Two Jack
8.0 Jack of Spades
9.0 Prepper Jack

Justice Series:
1.0 Due Justice
2.0 Twisted Justice
3.0 Secret Justice
4.0 Wasted Justice
5.0 Raw Justice
5.5 Mistaken Justice
6.0 Cold Justice
6.1 False Justice
6.2 Fair Justice
6.3 True Justice
7.0 Hunt for Justice
8.0 Night Justice

Jess Kimball Series:
0.5 Fatal Enemy
1.0 Fatal Distraction
2.0 Fatal Demand
3.0 Fatal Error
4.0 Fatal Fall
4.5 Fatal Edge
5.0 Fatal Game
6.0 Fatal Bond
6.5 Fatal Past
7.0 Fatal Dawn

Heir Hunter Series:
1.0 Blood Trials
2.0 Trace Evidence

Jordan Fox Mysteries:
False Truth Part One
False Truth Part Two
False Truth Part Three
False Truth Part Four
False Truth Part Five
False Truth Part Six
False Truth Part Seven
False Truth Part Eight
False Truth Part Nine
False Truth Part Ten
False Truth Part Eleven

The Park Hotel Mysteries Series:
1.0 Reservation with Death
2.0 Early Check Out
3.0 Room with a Clue
4.0 Late Arrival

Other Books:
Angel of Music

Thursday, 7 November 2019

How to Make Great Decisions - Father Mike Schmitz

How to Make Great Decisions
Fr. Mike Schmitz
Wellspring Publishing
ISBN 9781635820669
eISBN 9781635820805

I have been a fan of Father Mike’s videos through Ascension Presents for a few years now. And I enjoyed his contributions to Beautiful Hope and Beautiful Mercy. And have been waiting for a book by him. And it was worth the wait. I had this book on my wish list from the movement it appeared. And I picked up the eBook the day it released. I read the book slowly over three days. Each of those three days I attended mass and at some point, later in the day read two of the chapters. The sections in this book are:

The Cure For Expressive Individualism
Three Levels Of Vocation
Decisions And Discernment
Three Questions
The Door
Questions And Answers

And it was so worth the wait. I highlighted 37 passages in this volume the first time I read it through. There is so much valuable advice in this book. It is one of those books I will read over and over again. I will likely reread this book each year for at least the next few years. And it is a book I would love to see put in the hands of every Catholic High School graduate. This is a book I would have benefit greatly from reading in my teens, 20’s, and even 30’s. And as I approach 50 I still consider the lessons valuable and life changing. The first passage I highlighted was:

“Now, that word my is a really interesting word. It implies some sense of ownership. But in a deeper Christian sense, even my life is not really mine.”

Right from the beginning of this second paragraph of the book I knew it was not only going to meet expectations but exceed them. I will share some of the passages I highlighted to give you a feel for some of the knowledge and wisdom in this volume.

“True discernment is more than just thinking about something. Discernment involves action. It also involves a decision. And the very first decision is whether it’s about my life and my vocation or whether it’s about God’s will for my life and my vocation.”

“Vocation means that we are called out of ourselves. We’re living our life, and at some point, God steps in and says, “Okay, I’m calling you out of yourself. Calling you out of your life. I’m calling you to participate in my life. I’m calling you to look up from yourself and look at others.””

“The point is, no matter what God calls us to, there will be sacrifices. I always say that the vocation of marriage and family is where bad people go to die. Marriage is the vocation where bad people go to die to themselves out of love for their spouse and their kids.”

“That’s what your vocation is, and that’s also what holiness is. St. Maximilian Kolbe explained holiness this way to the novices in his community. On a chalkboard he would write this equation:

w (your will) + W (God’s will) = S (Sanctity)

Sanctity is when my will conforms to God’s will. That’s sanctity; that’s holiness. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Holiness is not a matter of not sleeping because you’re praying all night. It’s not a matter of fasting all day. It’s never a matter of serving this way or that way or the other way. It’s all about your will conforming to God’s will. That’s holiness. That’s sanctity. That’s what it is to be a saint. That’s what your vocation is about. There’s nothing less and nothing more than that.”

The Three Levels of Holiness:

“When it comes to vocation, there are three levels. The first is the universal call to holiness—your will conformed to God’s will. Every human being on the planet is called to be a saint.”

“The second level of vocation is what we typically think of when we think of vocation: the call to the priesthood, to married life, to consecrated single life, to religious life.”

“The third level of vocation is: What is God calling me to today? What task has he given me today? What is the season he’s placed me in today? How is he calling me to say yes on a moment-by-moment, day-to-day basis? This sense of vocation changes a lot over the course of our lives.”

“The point is when we are discerning our vocation, what we’re really discerning is the primary relationship God is calling us to focus on. This kind of vocation might change once or twice in our lifetime.”

“That’s why this is a secondary vocation. Your primary vocation is to be a saint. Knowing that, where is God leading you right now? What will lead you closer to that? That’s what we discern. That’s why we get to make decisions.”

The two truths and three questions sections are amazing. And ones I will come back to frequently. Father Schmitz states:

“If you make it a habit to ask these three questions, I can absolutely guarantee you will never, ever, ever miss your vocation. You’ll never ever miss God’s call for your life. The channels will be open and connected to him. You’ll say yes on a regular basis. And by giving him at least twenty minutes every day, you’ll be giving him time to say, “Hey knucklehead, wake up—here’s what you need to do.” You will never, ever miss out on discerning God’s will for your life.”

This is an incredible read. And no matter what stage of life you are in you will benefit from reading it. And while you are at it pick up a few extra copies to be able to give away to friends and family.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books By Father Mike Schmitz:
Made for Love: Same-Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church
How to Make Great Decisions
Quick Catholic Lessons with Fr. Mike

Contributed to:
Beautiful Hope
Beautiful Mercy
Pray, Decide, and Don't Worry: Five Steps to Discerning God's Will
Don't Be Afraid to Say Yes to God! Pope Francis Speaks to Young People

Audio Talks by Father Mike Schmitz:
Living Life by Design, Not by Default
Love - Sacrifice - Trust He Showed Us the Way
From Love, By Love, For Love
True Worship
The Four Last Things
Jesus Is …
Changed Forever - The Sacrament of Baptism
We Must Go Out - The Sacrament of Confirmation


Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Slacker - Gordon Korman - Slacker Book 1

Slacker Book 1
Gordon Korman
eISBN 9780545823173

This was the fourth Gordon Korman novel we have read in as many weeks. After reading Restart, my son and I each picked two other books by him and picked up the eBooks. My son can read on his iPod and I can read on my phone during my commute to work. And we can share about our experiences with the story and have conversations around the books. Sometimes when we really get into one, we will also read it together in the evening. So you might be asking why 4 books by Korman, we each had preferences for which ones we wanted to read. I gave in a bit and we each got 4 and have a book to read each week for the next month together. But I could not wait and have jumped ahead. I have become addicted to Korman’s writing. And already have another half dozen I want to read. And my son feels the same way. We each currently have 5 to read, but every time we finish one, we are adding at least 1 if not more to our ‘to be read piles’.

Cam Boxes has a plan, he has a desired lifestyle, and he likes avoiding anything that even closely resembles work. His plan is to become a championship gamer. His main pastimes are avoiding homework, hanging with his friends and playing video games. Unfortunately, he has a recent online nemesis who is taunting him and stalking him through game after game. When he is so focused on a game and getting that enemy, he almost let’s his house burn down. He is seriously grounded. To try and take some of the heat off from his parents, Cameron and his friends create a fake club on the school website. And Cameron becomes the president of PAC, the Positive Action Group. They even have a motto: “Because helping others is an education in itself.” But someone notices the club and wants to join. Soon the guidance counselor in their academic advisor, and next thing you know their membership is continuously growing. The fake group is now consuming so much of Cam’s time that he is not getting any gaming practice in for the big tournament. 

The group keeps growing and doing more and more good deeds. But soon they are receiving some unwanted attention from the high school students. And Their jobs start getting sabotaged. And Cam just might be starting to care about something other than his lifestyle. But to find out what happens with Cam, the PAC, and even a beaver named Elvis you will need to read the book.

And I swear, one of the driving factors for this book was just to be able to include the line ‘Elvis has left the building’. But to find out how or why you will need to read the book. If I am not careful my Gordon Korman wish list will consume the remainder of my reading budget this year. Another excellent read from the always entertaining pen of Gordon Korman. A great read and fun for readers of all ages. 

Reviews of other books by Gordon Korman:
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
The Emperor's Code - 39 Clues Book 8
One False Note - 39 Clues Book 2

The Unteachables
The Unteachables

Ungifted Series:

Slacker Series:
Level 13

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The Church and the Roman Empire - Mike Aquilina - Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 2

The Church and the Roman Empire (301–490): 
Constantine, Councils, and the Fall of Rome 
Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 2
Mike Aquilina
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 9781594717895
eISBN 9781594717901

This is the first book published in a new series, Reclaiming Catholic History, though it is the second book in the series. The series is being edited by Mike Aquilina and this first published volume is by him as well. About this series we are told:

“The history of the Catholic Church is often clouded by myth, misinformation, and missing pieces. Today there is a renewed interest in recovering the true history of the Church, correcting the record in the wake of centuries of half-truths and noble lies. Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History series, edited by Mike Aquilina and written by leading authors and historians, bring Church history to life, debunking the myths one era at a time.”

And if the others are nearly as good we are in for 7 excellent volumes. I could hardly put this book down. I spent the better part of 25 years in university, bouncing around schools, and disciplines. I did religious studies courses at both Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and at The University of Waterloo. I graduated with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought. I know this series is being written for a general readership, but I would have loved to have had this book as part of required or recommended reading for a first-year course. The book ends with these words form Mike:

“Since this book is aimed at a nonacademic audience, I’ve tried to keep my citations very simple. The original translations can easily be found at the sites mentioned above. I hope many readers will be inspired to pursue the texts and read the original translations in context.”

But I really believe it would be an excellent course book. But it is written in such a way that any Catholic, any Christian or anyone interested in the history could pick it up and read it with ease. It is not just easy to read it is very engaging. I know much of the history but Aquilina brought it to life in a new way. I was surprised a few times, and laughed more than once. 

The sections in the book are:

The Underground
The Revolution
The Empire Christianized
Pope Constantius
The Counterrevolution
The Christian Empire and Beyond
A Tale of Two Bishops
An Age of Titans
Decline and Fall
A Lamp in the Twilight
The End

But each chapter also has two extra sections, Up Close and Personal and You Be The Judge. These sections can appear anywhere in the chapter. The first tends to focus on people, and the second on myths or opinions. 

The book was educational, entertaining, and very enjoyable. It is one of those books I would love to put in the hands of friends and family. And with Mike as the editor of the series I am sure the subsequent volumes will be just as good. It was a wonderful read, and I am already waiting in eager anticipation for the next volume in the series!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History Series:
The Early Church - James L. Papandrea
The Church and the Roman Empire - Mike Aquilina
The Church and the Dark Ages
The Church and the Middle Ages
The Church and the Reformation
The Church and the Age of Enlightenment
The Church Facing the Modern Age

Books by Mike Aquilina:
A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God
A Year With The Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living
Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts
Companion Guide to Pope Benedict's 'The Fathers' 
Faith of Our Fathers: Why the Early Christians Still Matter and Always Will
Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist
Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons 
Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life
Ministers & Martyrs: The Ultimate Catholic Guide to the Apostolic Age
Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: With St. Thomas Aquinas
Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You
Sharing Christ's Priesthood: A Bible Study for Catholics
Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
Sweet Gridlock: Selected Love Poems 
Terms and Conditions: Assorted Poems
The Apostles and Their Times
The Church and the Roman Empire
The Fathers of the Church Bible
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers
The Mass of the Early Christians
The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, & the Hope for Tomorrow
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
The Way of the Fathers: Praying With the Early Christians
The Witness of Early Christian Women: Mothers of the Church
Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers
Why Me? When Bad Things Happen
Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World

Books co-written by Mike Aquilina:
A Pocket Catechism for Kids - Fr. Kris Stubna
Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth - Dion DiMucci
Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Fr. Frederick Gruber
Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians - Scott Hahn
Praying the Psalms the Early Christians - Christopher Bailey
Saint Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer - Mark W. Sullivan
Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again - James Papandrea
Something More Pastoral: The Mission of Bishop, Archbishop, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Ann Rodgers
Take Five: Meditations John Henry Newman - Fr. Juan Velez
Take Five: Meditations Pope Benedict XVI - Fr. Kris Stubna
Take Five: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius - Fr. Kris Stubna
Talking to Youth About Sexuality: A Parents' Guide - Fr. Kris Stubna
The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today - John Michael Talbot
The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust the Apostle Thomas - Christopher Bailey
The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence - Christopher Bailey
The Great Life: Essays on Doctrine and Holiness in Honor of Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap. - Kenneth Ogorek
The Holy Land: A Guide for Pilgrims - Fr. Dave Halaiko
The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions - Regis J. Flaherty
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The World's First Christmas: Jubilee 2000 - Regis J. Flaherty
Weapons of the Spirit: Selected Writings of Father John Hugo - David Scott
What Catholics Believe: A Pocket Catechism - Fr. Kris Stubna