Monday, 17 June 2019

The Sinner's Guide - Louis of Granada

The Sinner's Guide
Louis of Granada
A  Dominican Friar (Translator)
TAN Books
ISBN 9780895552549
eISBN 9781618906359


This English version of this book was first translated in 1882 by Fr. Charles Hyancinth McKenna, O.P.. The Tan Books edition was released in 2014, and included some updates it was re-typeset, with some revisions in the citations and updating of vocabulary. There are several variations on this book as the source material is in the public domain. But The cover of the TAN edition really caught my attention and from the previews available to look inside, inspired me to choose this edition. I will be honest this was not an easy read. I think in part the material covered. In part the translation. But it was well worth reading. I would be interested if a new translation were undertaken as a new work would make a difference in the accessibility of the volume, but that is a question for publishers and translators.

The book was written by Venerable Louis of Granada, O.P. 1504 –1588 who was know as the Writer of the Spanish Empire. The book begins with a brief given by Pope Gregory XIII on the 21st of July 1582. Pope Gregory wrote:

“Your sermons and writings, filled with sublime doctrine and practical piety, are unceasingly drawing souls to God. This is particularly gratifying to us, for all who have profited by your teaching (and their number is very great) may be considered as so many souls gained to Christ. You have thus benefited your fellow creatures more than if you had given sight to the blind and raised the dead to life. For the knowledge of the Eternal Light and the enjoyment of the heavenly life, according as they are given to man on earth to know and enjoy, are far above the knowledge and enjoyment of the transitory goods of this world.

The charity with which you have devoted yourself to your great and important labor has gained for you many crowns.

Continue, then, to devote all your energies to the prosecution of your undertakings. Finish what you have begun, for we understand that you have some works yet incomplete. Give them to the world for the health of the sick, for the strength of the weak, for the delight of God’s servants, and for the glory of the Church both militant and triumphant.”

The book contains 48 densely written chapters. Some with only one or two sections, others with up to a dozen. This book was popular and endorsed by several noted saints, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Vincent de Paul, etc. St. Teresa of Avila and many others. It has been stated about this book:

“This is the most persuasive book we know to encourage people to abandon sin and embrace repentance and virtue. The logic is relentless and effective. For mastery of subject, command of Scripture and total impact on the reader.”

And I can state categorically that the book had an immediate impact upon me. In fact, I typically write reviews of books within days of finishing them, but with this volume I have been thinking on the book so much it has taken me nearly 2 months to process the book enough to write down these few thoughts. Even knowing they will not do the book justice.

I have read that many believe this book is invaluable. That all priests, religious, and seminarians should read it. Others go even further and state that all Christians should read this volume. I can agree with them that this book will have a definite impact on any who read it. And I strongly encourage you to give it a read.

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

Books by Louis of Granada:
The Sinner's Guide
Pathways to Holiness
Summa of the Christian Life: Selected Texts from the Writings of Venerable Louis of Granada, O.P.
A Memoriall of a Christian Life

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva - Guillaume Derville

Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva
Guillaume Derville
James Socias (Translator)
Midwest Theological Forum
ISBN 9781890177744
eISBN 9781939231895

Sometimes I really struggle with getting around to reading physical books. This was not the first volume I bough and it sat on my bed side table until the eBook edition came out. I started the physical book a few times but kept missing days and then once the eBook came out, I devoured it on the planned schedule. It actually took me 16 days to read it. One for the biography of Saint Josemaria Escriva and the introduction. Then the 15 days of the meditations. There is an excellent bibliography at the end of the book with a list of the works by saint Josemaria Escriva and a list of books about him and Opus Dei. 

The meditations in this volume draw from all 9 of the works of Josemaria Escriva that are widely published. It also draws from books about Saint Josemaria and from the General Archives of the prelature. It also draws from four sources, Letters, Instructions, Meditations, and Personal Notes from Saint Escriva, which I have yet to encounter in English. Once I got going with this book, I found it hard to stick to the 15 days. I often wanted to keep going. But I keep to the 15 days schedule, and already have plans to reread the book again soon.  I highlighted several sections on my first read through this work. Some of the sections that impacted me most are:

“Mary’s Son will be a sign of contradiction, and her soul will be pierced by a sword (cf. Lk 2: 35). She stores up everything in her heart. Mary wants Jesus to be born in us, in our everyday work, in the performance of our civic, family, and social duties. Offer your day to the Lord, as a kind of flower alongside her, the most refined and most beautiful Mystical Rose, who rests in the heart of the mystery of the Three Persons.”

“Many people cling to whatever feeds their sense of importance. They think they are indispensable. They jealously hoard what they know, like chefs hoarding prize recipes. What can we do to help others grow? St. Josemaria said we must humbly form people who can replace us, giving them the benefit of our experience. In short, we must teach.”

“Here, too, joy and sorrow. “The way to our personal sanctification should daily lead us to the Cross. This way is not a sorrowful one, because Christ himself comes to our aid, and in his company there is no room for sadness. I like to repeat with my soul filled with joy, there is not a single day without a cross” (CP, 176). St. Josemaria wrote these words in his daily calendar on January 1, 1975, the year of his death, so that they would stand as a permanent challenge.”

“But he also wants to make it clear that he stands by the social customs of his time, and therefore you and I must make an effort to be detached from the goods and comforts of the world, but without doing anything that looks odd or peculiar.”

“Above all, sanctifying work means doing it just as well as possible, down to the very last detail, doing everything with all the professional expertise one can bring to bear on the task.”

I pray those few samples will spark your interest in this wonderful book. This is one of those life changing books! It is a book I will read often and recommend to friends and buy copies to give away. It is an excellent book that will nourish your spiritual life. But also challenge you to be more. A great read that I highly recommend. 

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

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
Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva - Guillaume Derville

Books by Father Guillaume Derville available in English:
Praying 15 Days with St. Josemaria Escriva
Eucharistic Concelebration: From Symbol to Reality

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Gone Tomorrow - Lee Child - Jack Reacher Book 13

Gone Tomorrow
Jack Reacher Book 13
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
Penguin Random House Canada
ISBN 9780345541581
eISBN 9780440338550

I am slightly addicted to the Jack Reacher Books! I have read 9 other novels, Jack Reacher's Rules, the short story collection and 5 other published short stories for a total of 16 works in 12 weeks. And every time I finish one, it is a coin toss for what one I will pick up next. By the time I finish I might end up circling back and rereading them either in the published order, or the chronological order, because this time It has been fairly random. 

This story begins with Reacher riding the subway in New York City, the 6 train to be exact. And he is looking at someone and remembering his training and going over a list. The story begins with these words:

“SUICIDE BOMBERS ARE EASY TO SPOT. THEY GIVE OUT ALL kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition they’re all first-timers. Israeli counterintelligence wrote the defensive playbook. They told us what to look for. They used pragmatic observation and psychological insight and came up with a list of behavioural indicators. I learned the list from an Israeli army captain twenty years ago. He swore by it.”

And Reacher is going over that list twenty years later on a train and counting off the points. Reacher is sitting in subway car 7622. He is only looking for 11 because the person he is looking at is a woman. As he goes over the points again, Reacher must decide if he is going to intervene. And if he does will it save lives or cost them? Will it cost him his?

And thus begins our tale. Some of the Reacher stories are just something coming across his path and his dealing with it. Others are his becoming entangled with something and not being able to let it go. And some it just needs to right a wrong. This story has elements of all three. This story is a little more complex than some of the others, a former special forces man in office. A ‘Russian’ woman and he mother. Russian thugs. Afghani muscle. A dead woman. Four dead and demolished local muscle. And Reacher going back and forth trying to piece together the why. And once he figures it out he is determined to make someone pay! His sense of justice and right demands it.

This story is an intense thriller. It was another Reacher novel that was hard to put down. There were so many subplots winding around each other, that it was fun trying to figure things out before Reacher revealed them. A great read in an excellent series. If you have read other Reacher novels I am sure you will love this one, and if not it is as good a place as any to start. One of the best Reacher novels and a solid 5/5 stars! 

Books by Lee Child:
Jack Reacher Books Publishing Order:

Killing Floor
Die Trying
The Visitor /Running Blind
Echo Burning
Without Fail
The Enemy
One Shot
The Hard Way
Bad Luck and Trouble
Nothing to Lose
Gone Tomorrow
61 Hours
Worth Dying For
The Affair
A Wanted Man
Never go Back
Make Me
Night School
The Midnight Line
Past Tense
Blue Moon

Jack Reacher's Rules

Reacher Short Stories and Novella’s:
No Middle Name – Complete Collected Short Stories
Stories in No Middle Name Collection:
Too Much Time
Second Son
Deep Down
Guy Walks into A Bar
James Penney’s New Identity
High Heat
Everyone Talks
Not A Drill
Small Wars
Maybe They Have A Tradition

No Room At The Motel
The Picture of the Lonely Diner

Other Short Stories:
The Fourth Man
The Christmas Scorpion
Faking a Murderer with Kathy Reichs
Cleaning the Gold with Karin Slaughter
Good and Valuable Consideration with Joseph Finder

Friday, 14 June 2019

A Brief History of English Catholicism - Father Nicholas Schofield - CTS Concise Histories

A Brief History of English Catholicism
CTS Concise Histories
Nicholas Schofield
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784690052
eISBN 9781784693367
CTS Booklet H513

Father Nicholas Schofield is currently a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Westminister. He has also been a Diocesan Archivist. He is a scholar, and his passion for his subjects comes through in his writings. Over the last 16 months I have read over 80 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have found them an invaluable source of knowledge, history, church teachings, and inspiration. There are so many wonderful books and many excellent series! 

I must admit before reading books form CTS I had little knowledge about Catholicism in England. My family background is a mix of Irish and Scottish, and neither side liked the English. There for growing up I learned a lot about saints from Ireland, and even Europe but next to nothing about England. This book along with many I have read in the CTS Saints of the Isles series have been eye opening. It has been inspiring and also challenging to learn about Catholicism in England, and about the many saints and martyrs. 

The chapters in this small volume are:

Conversion: how England first received the Gospel
Consolidation: the medieval centuries
Crisis: the splintering of Christendom
The “Second Spring” and its aftermath
Some Key Players in the History of English Catholicism
Further Reading

The introduction to this book begins with these words:

“The history of Catholicism in England is largely hidden. Visit any Catholic church and you will find that (with a few exceptions) they were only built in the last two hundred years. Look at a list of diocesan bishops and it will go back no further than 1850. Get to know a local parish and most parishioners will trace their Catholicism either to a conversion (perhaps a few generations back) or a Catholic country overseas, whether it be Ireland, Poland, Nigeria or elsewhere. This gives the misleading impression that English Catholicism is only a recent phenomenon.

Look a little harder, however, and it is possible to uncover England’s Catholic past, stretching back to at least the second century. On the back of any British coin, for example, you will see the letters ‘F.D.’ after the name of the monarch. This stands for ‘Defender of the Faith’, a title originally given by Pope Leo X in 1521 to the young Henry VIII when he wrote a treatise attacking Martin Luther. All over England the names of places, streets, even pubs provide evidence of long-forgotten Catholic connections - perhaps the existence of a nearby monastery or the cult of a saint.

This booklet attempts to present an overview of this hidden history. By its very nature, it will lack detail and overlook many important figures and events. Although Scotland, Wales and Ireland will come into the story, they will not be treated at any length since their ecclesiastical histories are significantly distinct and deserve a pamphlet of their own.”

And it does an incredible job of doing just that. The book is broken into four main sections, or epochs of history of English Catholicism. They are:

England’s Conversion
Middle Ages – English Catholic Consolidation
Protestant Reformation
New Spring – modern times.

The book is an accessible read. It is by no means an academic treaty. And yet it does convey a lot of important information. I have read much about Pope Benedict XVI’s visits and talks in England and Wales. This book has a similar feel. It tells a history but uses that history to motivate us to living out our faith well. The book would be an excellent resource for a school paper. But even better for a Catholic wishing to grow in knowledge of the faith and faithfulness of those who have gone before us. It is an excellent read and I look forward to more in the series. 

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.

Books by Nicholas Schofield:
The English Cardinals
Saints of the Roman Calendar
A Brief History of English Catholicism
The English Vicars Apostolic (1688-1850)
Roman Miscellany
History of the Papacy
William Lockhart...

Books in the CTS Concise Histories Series:
A Brief History of English Catholicism - Nicholas Schofield
Heresy through the Ages - Jerome Bertram
The Crusades What Really Happened - Jonathan Riley-Smith 
The Reformation in England – Raymond Edwards
The Inquisition – Fernando Cervantes
The Early Church From Christ to Constantine – Fr. Anthony Meredith SJ

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Does Your Mother Know? - Maureen Jennings - Christine Morris Book 1

Does Your Mother Know?
Christine Morris Book 1
Maureen Jennings
A Castle Street Mystery
ISBN 9781550026399
eISBN 9781554885237

I have read five books by Maureen Jennings in as many weeks. I have been jumping series and am now alternating books in three of her four series. This is book one in the Christine Morris series. And wow, what a tale. This was another book by Jennings that I could hardly put down. It is a masterfully written story. 

Christine Morris is a newly trained police profiler. A new role to her after years on the force in Toronto. This story begins with her in Edinburgh at a conference on new police methods and practices. While there she receives a call from the Northern Constabulary, Stornoway, Outer Hebrides, and that her mother was involved with a motor vehicle death and is now missing. Chris has not had contact with her mother in a few years, and they relationship has been rocky as long as she can remember. Yet once again it appears that her mother’s sins are about to be visited on the daughter. After a near sleepless night she packs up to head to Stornoway to se what she can figure out. 

The novel is filled with incredible scenery. The countryside, the people, the secrets. It is a tale that was incredibly hard to put down. There is one dead from the auto accident, another that the Dr says is suspicious, and yet Christie finds clues that all is not as it appears. You have family conflict. Family secrets. And Generations learning to come to terms with events both current and some much older. 

I have yet to encounter anything by Jennings that I have not enjoyed! And this book was a real page turner. I only wish I had begun reading her books years ago when I first started watching the Murdoch TV series, then I would not be so far behind on the book. But at my current pace of about a book a week, I should have them all done this year. Every time I finish one I purchase 2 or three more, to have them read to go. An excellent read and I look forward to the next in the series and hope they will be more soon.

Books by Maureen Jennings:
Detective Murdoch Series:

0.5 Shipwreck
1.0 Except the Dying
2.0 Under the Dragon's Tail
3.0 Poor Tom Is Cold
4.0 Let Loose the Dogs
5.0 Night's Child
6.0 Vices of My Blood
7.0 A Journeyman to Grief
8.0 Let Darkness Bury the Dead

Detective Inspector Tom Tyler Series:
1.0 Season of Darkness
2.0 Beware This Boy
3.0 No Known Grave
4.0 Dead Ground in Between

Christine Morris Series:
1.0 Does Your Mother Know?
2.0 The K Handshape

Paradise Café Series:

1.0 Heat Wave

Other books:
The Map of Your Mind: Journeys into Creative Expression
Investigating Murdoch Mysteries: The Official Companion to the Series – with Michelle Ricci and Mir Bahmanyar

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Author Profile and Interview with Kathryn Griffin Swegart

Author Profile and Interview with Kathryn Griffin Swegart 

I recently encountered the books of Kathryn Griffin Swegart, one of her books was highlighted in a group I belong to and it caught my attention. Within 15 days I had read 3 of her four published works. Kathryn is a professed Secular Franciscan. She holds a Master’s degree from Boston College. She is devoted to her family. And she has written three amazing books for young readers. She took some time to answer some questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More, so here in her own words, Kathryn Swegart.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

In sixth grade, I wrote a story called The Mystery of the Floating Hand –inspired by a summer blitz of reading mystery stories. I was fortunate to live within walking distance of a public library and enjoyed spending hot summer days curled up with a good book. I am a firm believer that writers are readers. Reading develops the inner editor of a writer. By reading, we come to learn how good storytellers breathe life into characters and plot.

Two years ago, I retired from working in public schools. Now I can devote more time to writing. I get up early in the morning and immersed myself in writing projects. In a sense, I block out the rest of the world and dive deeply into the stories. Characters become real to me. 

I also am a regular contributor to the website Catholicmom.com. In addition, I write a blog called Stories to inspire and amuse. All of this keeps me writing everyday.

I have been greatly helped by The Catholic Writer’s Guild. Through their resources and practical help, I have grown immensely as a writer. 

2. Who were some of the biggest supporters of your writing?

In the early stages of a writing project, my husband is a “friendly reader” who offers constructive criticism. My sister is a retired teacher and also helps as a friendly reader. Her input on Perilous Days was of immense help. She felt the story was too fast-paced. She recommended that I write more about Willy. Suddenly, the story was inhabited by characters that came alive and had dimension. We cared about Willy’s escape from the Nazi regime. By the way, I dedicate the book to Colin-my grandson. He is a child who has Down Syndrome. If it had not been for his presence in our family, this story would not have been written. 

3. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

Catholic writer Ethel Pochocki definitely influenced the writing of Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids. Her book Once Upon a Time Saints was a collection of short stories that added a touch of fiction to make the characters come alive. The book also was also a perfect read-aloud. That format really worked for Heavenly Hosts, making it a best-seller on Amazon. Reviews of the book often said how parents enjoyed reading Heavenly Hosts aloud as a family. Comments like that really warm my heart.

I was inspired to write Perilous Days by a real character that appears in the book. Karl Goldmann wrote his autobiography The Shadow of his Wings. He was a seminarian drafted into Hitler’s army. He tells of many harrowing experience and miraculous escapes. I wanted to bring this incredible story to young readers. I decided to have a young soldier named Felix, shadow him throughout the war. Felix also has a loyal and funny dog that stays by his side through many near-death experiences. 

4. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing with the time you use to write?

I try to have a balance in my life. For me, writing is a part-time job. I spend the rest of my time volunteering at the hospital as a Eucharistic minister and attend weekly peaceful prayer vigils at an abortion clinic. My husband and I also attend weekly adoration and Mass at a local chapel. We enjoy spending time with our grown children and their families. We also have a small farm that keeps us busy weeding and painting porches. As you can see, it is a fulfilling life. Truly, I have my dream job. I always wanted to spend more time writing. If I did not write…hmm…I guess I would read even more books than I already have on my shelf. Perhaps I would play tennis. I would probably bake more cookies. I definitely would not be knitting or sewing. I am known as a famous non-sewer by family members!

5. Your books are fictional retelling of historical events, what settled you on this structure or format for your works?

Historical fiction is the ideal format for me. After all, truth is stranger than fiction. I first became attracted to the genre in 1981 when I heard the incredible story of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex by a whale. Twenty sailors were left stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is considered one of the greatest survival stories of all time and inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. My first book, The Wreck of the Essex is based on that true event in Nantucket whaling history. If someone questioned the credibility of a story-line, all I have to say is-it really happened!

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

I guess the first step is that I am fascinated by a story.  It then composts in my subconscious for some time. I let it simmer. I also pray about a project. Writing a book takes months and even years to complete. It would be a huge waste of time to take the wrong path. If the story has possibilities, I just begin writing. It is important not to worry if the writing is good, bad or indifferent. Just keep writing. The key to good writing is rewriting. Characters, plot and setting start to take shape. After the rough draft, I have my husband take a look at it. He makes suggestions and I revise. I also let the second draft sit for a few weeks and then come back to it with a fresh eye. The next step is more rewriting, adding description and details. It is kind of like baking a cake. You have the plain cake, add frosting, and details to make it fancy. Writing is a process. A finished product does not come out in that first draft. Writing takes patience and perseverance. 

Once I have a polished product, I send it to an editor whom I trust and she finds typos and structure problems. I now send it to a second editor who looks for those devilish typos that lurk in the manuscript. Once it is super-polished, the editor formats it. I upload it to kdp select publishing and it appears on the Amazon product page. I also work with a fine artist named John Folley who creates eye-catching images for the cover.

7. What current projects are you working on or are in the back burner in some stage of development?

I am working on the third book in the Brave Hearts series. Brave Hearts is historical fiction for ages 10-14. I choose Catholic heroes and write about them in a fast-paced style, filled with compelling characters that readers will care about. It is not enough to have only action. I am currently working on Lucia of Fatima, telling the story of Fatima from Lucia’s viewpoint. 

8. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominately listening to the same music?

I do not use a playlist while writing. It has to be completely silent while I work.

9. You have written one book about a Franciscan, one about a Jesuit, do you plan on writing books about members of other orders? If so, who are you thinking about writing on? Perhaps a Dominican or a member of Opus Dei?

Lucia Santos of Fatima was a Carmelite. I don’t consciously choose religious orders as subjects. I am a professed member of the Secular Franciscan order, so perhaps I lean toward Franciscans. Two Franciscans appear is Heavenly Hosts. Karl Goldmann is a Franciscan seminarian in Perilous Days.

10. What is the strangest idea you have had for a story?

I once wrote a story about a basset hound that landed on the moon. Fortunately, that story has been lost in space.

11. Of the three Catholic books published to date, which is your favorite and why?

I really do enjoy Perilous Days. Recently, it was made into an audiobook. I would take walks listening to this story come to life in the voice of a talented narrator. There is a touch of humor, thanks to the dog Rolf who thought life was always an exciting game, despite bombs bursting overhead. I also like the surprise ending.

12. Do you have any plans for publishing your books in translations? I could see all of them doing well in the Spanish market?

Heavenly Hosts has a Spanish version. I actually haven’t figured out how to find that audience. Any ideas are welcome.

13. All of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of eBooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

I don’t know too much about torrent sites or bootlegging. Maybe I should learn more about that.

14. Some authors monitor torrent sites and contact them to remove their content. Do you do so or have someone do it for you?

Once again, I should learn more about this. Any suggestions are welcome.

15. What were your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

As a child, I loved being immersed in a book. My father recommended Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. I still remember secretly reading it in fifth grade during arithmetic class. Suddenly, I realized that my teacher was standing over me with her hands on her hips. She was not pleased. I read all the books written by Terhune and also Lassie Come Home. You can see why I included a heroic dog in Perilous Days. 

16. What were some of your favorite authors in your teens years who helped shape you?

As a teen, I remember being totally enthralled by Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. 

17. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

This winter, I read the thousand word epic Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. I also enjoy Michael D. O’Brien, especially Father Elijah. I really enjoy the Pulitzer- Prize winning author David McCullough, especially The Wright Brothers and Harry Truman. He has refined the art of making real people come to life by using details of appearances, personality, and setting.

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

I do agree with the need for critical thinking skills. There is so little civil discourse and sharing of ideas in a reasonable fashion. That results in polarization. Can’t we all just be courteous to each other, even if we disagree? Of course, all this is fueled by social media and the main stream media.

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

My top ten books: 
     1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B White
     2. Anne of Green Gables
     3. The Bible (of course)
     4. The Imitation of Christ (I keep that on my  bed stand.)
     5. The Story of a Soul 
     6. The Hobbit
     7. The Father Brown series
     8. The Oxford Book of American Verse
     9. The Seven Storey Mountain
     10. Beautifully illustrated picture books by 
          Barbara Cooney and Beatrix Potter

20. What advice would you give to young authors and artists?

I would advise young authors and artists to absorb themselves in creative works that are beautiful and lift the heart to all that is good, true, and holy. Read inspiring books. Listen to classical music. Visit art museums and study works of the great painters. Feed your soul. Limit time on the computer-it kills time and imagination.

Thank you again Kathryn for thaking time to answer our 20 Questions. I look forward to reading more books as they become available. And I encourage my readers to give your books a try I am sure they will be as inspired and my children and I were.

Books by Kathryn Griffin Swegart:
Brave Hearts Series:
Perilous Days

Other Books:
Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids
The Wreck of the Essex: The Story of Thomas Nickerson

Author profile and interview with Kathryn Griffin Swegart.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Saint Joseph Help for Life's Emergencies - Kathryn J. Hermes - Stories and Prayers

Saint Joseph: Help for Life's Emergencies
Stories and Prayers
Kathryn J. Hermes
Pauline Books & Media
ISBN  9780819871237
eISBN 9781306806558


After I became a father, and as I had more children, I found that my devotion to Saint Joseph is continually growing. And this volume though not written specifically for fathers who seek the aide of Saint Joseph, it is an excellent volume for fathers or all who wish to have a deeper devotion to this saint.

The sections in this volume are:
Who Is Saint Joseph?
Life of Saint Joseph
Devotion to Saint Joseph
Popular Celebrations in Honor of Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph’s Table
Fava Beans
Patron Saint
Why We Can Trust Saint Joseph
Why Joseph?
Go to Joseph!
Joseph Understands Broken Hearts
Joseph Is a Father
Joseph Got Up and Went
Joseph Has Connections
Joseph Lived Through Catastrophes
Joseph Had an Untimely Death
The Powerful Intercession of Saint Joseph
Where Do We Learn About Saint Joseph’s Power?
Prayers to Saint Joseph
For Families and Homes
Prayer for One’s Family
Prayer to Obtain a Special Favor
Prayer When a Spouse Has Had an Affair

Prayer to Ask Saint Joseph to Be One’s Father
Prayer of a Father
Prayer of a Divorced Father
Prayer of a Father for His Children
Prayer to Sell a House or Property
Prayer to Find a New Home
Short Petition to Find a New Home
Ritual for Those Moving to a New Home: Blessing of Memories
For Financial Needs and for Those Seeking Employment
In Times of Financial Stress
For a Family Person Seeking Employment
For a Single Person Seeking Employment
A Worker’s Prayer
Prayer in Time of Need
Prayer in Time of Difficulty
For Those Suffering from Catastrophes
Prayer in Dark Times
Memorare to Saint Joseph
Prayer When Threatened by Natural Disasters
For Spiritual Needs and for the Church
Prayer to Grow in Devotion to Mary
Saint Joseph, Patron of the Church
Prayer for Spiritual Growth
Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving
Te Ioseph
Litany of Saint Joseph
Novena to Saint Joseph
Rosary in Honor of Saint Joseph
A Triduo to Saint Joseph
For a Happy Death
Prayer for a Happy Death
Prayer for the Dying
Afterword: Becoming Like Joseph
Additional Resources

The introduction begins with these words:

“The book in your hands is about Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ. If you are leafing through the pages of this book, you probably have a very special intention you are holding in your heart. Perhaps you want to sell a house. Maybe you are accompanying someone who is approaching his or her final hours on earth. You could be looking for a job or starting a business. You may have financial difficulties or be looking for protection for your family. Or perhaps you never knew your father, or your father abandoned or hurt you, and now you are looking for a second father. If so, Saint Joseph is your patron saint. As head of the Holy Family, Saint Joseph experienced many of these things in his own life, as we shall see. He is a powerful intercessor before God for our needs.”

And further we are told:

“In our archives there is a precious book in Italian about Saint Joseph — its binding taped and its pages torn. A woman had purchased the book from a Daughter of Saint Paul in 1933. Forty years later, in 1973, she returned the book to the sisters, stating that her devotion to Saint Joseph was strong and that the saint had provided for her many times when she was greatly in need. Although the book was worn and the pages ripped, she thought someone else might still be able to use it to grow in devotion to Saint Joseph!”

This could become such a book. A book that is used over and over again. Weather prayers are said to Saint Joseph daily, upon occasion, or in time of specific need. There are many wonderful stories and prayers in this volume. Some of the stories in this volume were familiar to me, such as the story from the 1800s of the miraculous staircase of Our Lady of Light Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Or about the oratory in Montreal. Others were new to me like the tradition of Saint Joseph’s Table or the story of the Fava Beans were new to me.

The book is split into three nearly equal parts. The first is information and history. The Second is personal stories of Saint Joseph’s intercession and the final third is a collection of prayers. The book is more than worth the price for any one of those three sections. But when you combine them it becomes a book of incredible worth and value to Catholics.

This is an excellent book, and one I am very thankful I came across.

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

Books by Kathryn J. Hermes:
Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach
Beginning Contemplative Prayer: Out of Chaos Into Quiet
Prayers for Surviving Depression
Holding on to Hope
St. Joseph: Help for Life's Emergencies
Making Peace with Yourself: 15 Steps to Spiritual Healing
The Journey Within: Prayer As A Path To God
Cherished by the Lord
Minute Meditations for Lent
Jesus: Help in Every Need
Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life's Disappointments

Other reviews and articles about Saint Joseph:
Consecration to St. Joseph - Fr. Donald Calloway
Favorite Prayers to St. Joseph Compiled from Traditional Sources- TAN Books
Prayer to Saint Joseph Prayer of the Day
Joseph of Nazareth - Federico Suarez
Devotion to St. Joseph - F. Declaux
Go to St. Joseph: Do Whatever He Tells You - Brian Kiczek
Saint Joseph: Help for Life's Emergencies - Kathryn J. Hermes
Feast of Saint Joseph 2018 Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary Principal Patron of Canada
Companion to Saint Joseph - J.B. Midgley - CTS Companions Series
Saints of the Roman Canon - Julien Chilcott-Monk - CTS Living the Liturgy Series
Seven Saints for Seven Virtues - Jean M. Heimann

Monday, 10 June 2019

A Month with Mary - Don Dolindo Ruotolo - Daily Meditations for a Profound Reform of Heart in the School of Mary

A Month with Mary:
Daily Meditations for a Profound Reform of Heart in the School of Mary
Don Dolindo Ruotolo
Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins (Translator)
Academy of the Immaculate
ISBN 9781601140326
ISBN 9781601140320
eISBN 9781601145321

I believe this is one of only two books available by Don Dolindo Ruotolo that is available in English. I am not even sure how I stumbled across it. I picked up the eBook edition right before May 2019. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it during the month of May and will likely read it again next year during the Month of Mary. Both the eBook and the booklet are very reasonably priced. And I enjoyed the books so much it was hard to stop and follow the 31-day reading plan. It took a great deal of control to follow the 31-day plan. This volume was written in 1912. It has been stated that the meditations are in the style of The Imitation of Christ. The description of the book states:

“This little book, A Month with Mary, was originally written by a holy Italian priest, Don Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1970 ), as spiritual thoughts to his spiritual daughter; it is comprised of thirty-one meditations for the month of May.
Don Dolindo wrote A Month with Mary on pocket-sized pages joined into small fascicles of eight to twelve pages. He sent them to Laura de Rosis every two to three days and later transcribed them in his autobiography: The Story of My Life in the Plan of the Great Mercy of God.

This work is from 1912, one of those years which passed in the life of Don Dolindo with the cadence of a “Way of the Cross.” But he, serene as ever, loved Christ and Our Lady the more, and reflected this love in these few pages to which he wished to give the significant title: A Profound Reform of Heart in the School of Mary. These meditations are written in the style of the Imitation of Christ.”

The chapters in the booklet are:
For Just One Soul
First Day: My Heart, a Flower which Mary must Cultivate
Second Day: My Heart and the Heart of Mary
Third Day: My Temperament
Fourth Day: Imagination
Fifth Day: Hiddenness
Sixth Day: Trust
Seventh Day: God
Eighth Day: Jesus
Ninth Day: My Soul
Tenth Day: The Grace of God
Eleventh Day: Mary’s Grace
Twelfth Day: The Channels of Grace
Thirteenth Day: Holy Baptism
Fourteenth Day: The Spirit of the World
Fifteenth Day: The Spirit of Jesus Christ
Sixteenth Day: Renouncing the Demon
Seventeenth Day: The Passions and the Flesh
Eighteenth Day: My Miseries
Nineteenth Day: Soldier of Jesus Christ
Twentieth Day: Spiritual Combat
Twenty-first Day: Human Respect
Twenty-second Day: The Misery of Human Judgment
Twenty-third Day: The Aspirations of the Heart
Twenty-fourth Day: A Canticle of Love
Twenty-fifth Day: The Eucharist
Twenty-sixth Day: The Transformation of the Soul
Twenty-seventh Day: The Medicine of the Soul
Twenty-eighth Day: The Goodness of God in Forgiveness
Twenty-ninth Day: Death
Thirtieth Day: The Presence of God
Thirty-first Day: The Offering of One’s Heart to Mary
About the Translator
About the Academy of the Immaculate

In the introduction we are told:

“This little book, A Month with Mary, also originated from an act of charity of Father Dolindo. Laura de Rosis, a person from Rossano Calabro, asked him for spiritual thoughts for every day of the month of May. The good Father Dolindo wrote thirty-one meditations for her, one for every day of the month. It was thus: everything for every soul, and his charity didn’t make it seem exaggerated for him to write a “A Month with Mary” for just one soul!”

And the introduction ends with:

“May these pages now reach every soul who reads them as an entirely personal word, a comfort from Heaven and a portent of holiness.”

I can attest to that. The book was a comfort, It was challenging, it was encouraging and it is motivating. A few of the passages I highlighted this first time through the book are:

“In the springtime plants are reborn to a new life; they are adorned with flowers full of perfume and attractive. My soul also needs to reflower in order to be full of virtue and peace!”

“Trust, trust, and, as a fragile little child, throw yourself into the arms of your heavenly Father, who is your life, your riches, your peace! You must be hidden in God; you must please him alone; you must rest on him alone!”

“Trust in him: your faults he looks on with pity and forgives, if you repent of them with trust in his mercy. Your miseries he eliminates, if you offer yourself entirely to him. In your battles he comforts and sustains you, if you lean on him.”

“The grace of God is not frugal or stingy because it is the expansion of love.”

Each day’s mediation follows the same format. It begins with the reflection. Then an aspiration, and a challenge of a ‘little work’. A sample day is:

Nineteenth Day
Soldier of Jesus Christ THE SOUL:

I was signed with holy Chrism, O Jesus, I girded myself with a mystical sword and solemnly said: I will do combat for your glory!

It was a solemn day for me: the Bishop, vested with the holy stole, invoked the Holy Spirit upon me; he extended his hands over my head to proclaim the dominion of God over me, he anointed me with oil to consecrate me to him and to fortify me and then he made me repeat the profession of faith in order to initiate me into the spiritual combat. I arose happy and found next to me a dear person who was committed to help me in this battle ...

You smiled on me, O Jesus, because I felt my soul full of peace and you awaited from me an authentic and strong testimony before the lying and faithless world.

The sword which you gave me was beautiful. You signed me with the sign of the cross to tell me that you must be my strength, that you must be my confidence, that you must be my glory.

That cross, signed on my forehead with oil, disappeared, but it was to remain in my works, in my life, in my soul; I myself was to be like a triumphant cross, a glorious trophy of your redemption!

Thus you set me apart for yourself, I was much more yours and I confirmed at your feet the solemn promise of my Baptism, while you confirmed me in your mercy!

O how great are your sacraments, O Jesus!

How many battles I’ve had since I’ve been confirmed; I should have fought and in the meantime I’ve been defeated because I’ve rendered your so many mercies and helps vain! O Jesus, I am covered with disgrace, and here I am wounded at your feet! Please forgive me! Let the grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation be revived in me; make me strong; make me faithful to your love.

Love is the most beautiful characteristic of your soldier and for this the eternal love of God descended on me ... O Jesus, detach me from all; inflame me with your love so that, loving you, I will defend you and will not be unfaithful to you.

ASPIRATION: God the Holy Spirit, inflame me with love.

LITTLE WORK: Perform some act of zeal to repair for all of the cowardice which you’ve been guilty of in the divine service.”

It is a wonderful little read. It was written and intended to be read during the month of May. But can be read over any 31-day period. I give it a very solid 5/5 stars and highly recommend it.

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

Books by Don Dolindo Ruotolo:
A Month with Mary
Come Holy Spirit

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Good and Valuable Consideration - Joseph Finder and Lee Child - A Nick Heller and Jack Reacher Story

Good and Valuable Consideration
A Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller Story
Jack Reacher Book 19.1
Lee Child
Joseph Finder
Simon & Schuster 
eISBN 9781476788791

The story also appears in:

David Baldacci (Editor)
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781476762067
eISBN 9781476762081

Over the last few months I have read all the stand along Jack Reacher stories, and 13 of the novels. I believe this is the last stand-alone Reacher story for me to review. I have really enjoyed the other mash up stories I have read and have gone on to read other novels by the authors who cowrote them with Lee Child. That will be the case this time again. I will definitely read other Nick Heller stories! And this short tale is a great introduction to Heller. In the introduction to the story we are told:

“When Joseph Finder decided to try a series character, he took many cues from Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Joe named his hero Nick Heller and made him not a private eye, but a private spy. Nick works for politicians and governments and corporations, sometimes digging up secrets they’d rather keep buried. Like Jack Reacher, though, Nick’s sense of justice drives him. He’s a mix of blue collar and white collar, the son of a notorious Wall Street criminal, raised in immense wealth that evaporated when his father went to prison. He spent his formative years in a split-level ranch house in a working-class suburb of Boston.
By nature, Nick’s a chameleon. He can blend in among the corporate elite as easily as he does among the jarheads.

And, of course, he roots for the Boston Red Sox.

Jack Reacher, on the other hand, is a Yankees fan. His background is vastly different from Nick’s, but equally scattered. Reacher is an army brat, raised on military bases around the world: a man without a country, but still an American. He’s a loner who avoids attachments, yet he’s absolutely loyal. He suffers no fools.

Nick Heller and Jack Reacher. Chalk and cheese, as the Brits say. Couldn’t be more different, yet so much the same.

Which can also be said for the two writers.”

Reacher walks into a bar. Literally, that is how the story begins. Reacher is in Boston and wants to watch the Yankees take on the Red Sox. The bar he settles on has two men at the bar. One twitch and nervous, the other solid and stoic. With a little prodding Reacher and Nick, discover the guys is a good guy in a bind. And their particular skill sets though different in style could get him out of the jam. But to find out how you will need to read the story. 

It is a fun read. It is a great short story. And the story is sure to entertain fans of either Reacher or Heller. Or even those who just enjoy a great short story. 

Nick Heller Stories by Joseph Finder:
1.0 Vanished
2.0 Buried Secrets
2.5 Plan B
2.6 Good and Valuable Consideration
3.0 Guilty Minds
3.0 House on Fire

Books by Lee Child:
Jack Reacher Books Publishing Order:

Killing Floor
Die Trying
The Visitor /Running Blind
Echo Burning
Without Fail
The Enemy
One Shot
The Hard Way
Bad Luck and Trouble
Nothing to Lose
Gone Tomorrow
61 Hours
Worth Dying For
The Affair
A Wanted Man
Never go Back
Make Me
Night School
The Midnight Line
Past Tense
Blue Moon

Jack Reacher's Rules

Reacher Short Stories and Novella’s:
No Middle Name – Complete Collected Short Stories
Stories in No Middle Name Collection:
Too Much Time
Second Son
Deep Down
Guy Walks into A Bar
James Penney’s New Identity
High Heat
Everyone Talks
Not A Drill
Small Wars
Maybe They Have A Tradition

No Room At The Motel
The Picture of the Lonely Diner

Other Short Stories:
The Fourth Man
The Christmas Scorpion
Faking a Murderer with Kathy Reichs
Cleaning the Gold with Karin Slaughter
Good and Valuable Consideration with Joseph Finder

Friday, 7 June 2019

Abba's Heart - Neal Lozano and Matthew Lozano - Finding Our Way Back to the Father's Delight

Abba's Heart:
Finding Our Way Back to the Father's Delight
Neal Lozano
Matthew Lozano
John Eldredge (Foreword)
John Horn (Foreword)
Chosen Books
ISBN 9780800796846
eISBN 9781441228963

I picked up this book for a few reasons. First, I had been hearing about Neal Lozano and specifically his book Unbound for a while now. Second, My manager at work was given a copy of this book by an aunt who is a nun, who had highly recommended it. My manager knows I read and review a lot of Catholic books and he wanted to know if I had read this one. After I shared I had not but had heard good things about the author. Then I looked up the book, and it looked really intriguing. The book has a few endorsements by authors I respect. Many years ago, I had read several books, and lead several group studies based on the works of John Eldredge. In fact, there was a period between 2003 and 2006 that if I was to mention a book it was like one by Eldredge. So, seeing that he had written one of the two forwards intrigued me even more. Rather than waiting for my manager to finish the book and then read it I picked up the eBook and started reading it that night. So my third reason was the introduction by Eldredge, which was able to be read in an online preview ‘look inside’ of the book. Eldredge in his forward states:

“I tell you the truth—I began to experience the Holy Spirit using it in my own heart as I read the manuscript on a recent flight. Right there, on an airplane, in the midst of a very hectic week, I suddenly found myself drawn into a sort of sanctuary of truth. The Spirit was so present in these pages, ever so gently drawing me back to my Father’s heart in the moment. Like a drowning man coming up for air, I found myself coming to realize God’s love for me, and just what it means to be His son. Neal is right—coming home to the Father’s heart is our deepest and most desperate need.”

And reading the book in some ways feels like Reading Eldredge’s own works, but with a slightly more Catholic perspective. Father John Horn in the second forward states:

“If I will surrender each day to receiving my spiritual inheritance in and with Jesus, all will be well. He reveals the Father’s desire to strengthen and console me. This is especially true in any suffering that I am being permitted to endure. The artful prayers that are supplied with each chapter are keys that open the heart to receive more of the gift of all gifts, Abba’s affectionate embrace. As I prayed through these prayers I was very mindful that Mary was the first to respond in intimacy to the Father as she received Jesus into her womb. Her yes echoes down through history in our yes to the Father.

I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ bless you now with an increase of faith, and that you will permit yourself to receive new revelation about the Father’s affectionate care.”

And it does do a wonderful job of that. In fact one of the great strengths of this book is the prayers at the end of each chapter. The sections in this book are:

Foreword by John Eldredge
Foreword by Fr. John Horn
Section 1: The Way Home
Section 2: The Father’s Heart
Section 3: Coming Home
Section 4: Life in the Father’s House
Appendix: Unbound: Five Keys to Greater Freedom in Christ

Each chapter begins with a biblical verse, then contains the teaching section. And finishes with a prayer. A sample prayer from Chapter 13, ‘Empowered to Server’, is:

“Father, I am Your child, and You have given me Your Son and Your Holy Spirit. I no longer need to live under shame, believing that something is wrong with me, that I am weak or fatherless. I am Your son/daughter, and I represent You wherever I go. Show me how to stand in Your authority over sin, to live in truth and to love with Your love. I want to carry Your presence into every situation. I want to serve others with Your compassion, in the name of Jesus.”

For any Christian this book would be a wonderful read. For Christian men, especially, it is an important read. And for Catholics to have a book written with a sensitivity to our tradition along these lines is a rare find and this is an excellent volume. But I will warn you, once you finish this volume you might want to immediately plunge into Unbound.

This is a great read no matter where you are in your spiritual journey!

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

Books by Neal Lozano:
Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance from Evil Spirits
Unbound: Freedom in Christ Companion Guide
Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance
The Older Brother Returns
Abba's Heart Study Guide


Books with Matthew Lozano:
Unbound Ministry Guidebook
Abba's Heart: Finding Our Way Back to the Father's Delight


Books with Ben Hatke:
Will You Bless Me?
Can God See Me in the Dark?
What Can I Give God?