Friday 29 January 2021

Prison Journal Volume 1 - George Cardinal Pell - The Cardinal Makes His Appeal

Prison Journal
Volume 1 The Cardinal Makes His Appeal
ISBN 9781621644484
eISBN 9781642291421

This book is an incredible read. Not since reading the works of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan and Alfred Delp have I been so moved. Even while I was reading this amazing book, I was wondering about volume II. This book is encouraging, in that Cardinal Pell was aware of his innocence, and yet endured much. Through it all his faith was strong. His compassion immense. And his Concern and care for others amazing.

This volume spans the time in solitary confinement from February through July 2013. The beginning of the introduction by George Weigel states:

“This prison journal should never have been written.

That it was written is a testament to the capacity of God’s grace to inspire insight, magnanimity, and goodness amidst wickedness, evil, and injustice. That it was written so beautifully bears witness to the Christian character that divine grace formed in its author, George Cardinal Pell.

How and why the author found himself in prison for over thirteen months for crimes he did not commit, and indeed could not have committed, is another story, far less edifying. A brief telling of this tawdry tale will, however, set the necessary context for what you are about to read, even as it underscores just how remarkable this journal is.”

I had followed this story from afar. And was praying for both Cardinal Pell and the accuser. What I did not realize at the time was the depth of misinformation, And personal trials that Pell endured with faith, hope, and humility. This volume contains from his incarceration through to just before his first failed appeal. 

It was fascinating to read this journal. It brought to life in a new way the reality of life in prison. But also the life of a deep enduring faith. Pell states:

“Naturally, I am aware of the obligation to forgive those who wronged me with false allegations, be they fantasy or fiction. And I have done so and continue to do so. This was not difficult for the complainant, but takes more of an effort for anyone I suspect of shaping his recollections, or worse. I therefore prayed my rosary for one such suspect. It is not good to spend too much time considering these issues, but the decision to forgive is a bit like the gift of faith, which needs regular nourishment.”

The journal includes reference to many letters he received and sent. And I cannot but wonder if some day a collection or selection of them will be published. The journal like many follows the chronology, his prison routine, finding out how to work in the prison systems. Administrative mix-ups, and procedures for things as simple as a visit. But throughout the book are prayers. Prayers in Pell’s own writings. Prayers that were sent to him. I copied a few to my prayer notebooks and created reminded to pray them each day.

This book is very well written. I believe it has the power to become a spiritual classic like Merton’s Seven Story Mountain. Pell’s cross was not an easy one, and yet he bore it honorably. This is a book that any Catholic, any Christian could benefit from reading. It is a book that moved me greatly and I am certain it will have deep impact on any reader’s heart and mind.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by George Cardinal Pell:
God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics, and Society
Test Everything
Be Not Afraid: Collected Writing
Contemplating Christ with Luke
Rerum Novarum: One Hundred Years Later

Prison Journals:

Thursday 28 January 2021

The Holy Ghost, Our Greatest Friend He Who Loves Us Best - Father Paul O'Sullivan

The Holy Ghost, Our Greatest Friend: 
He Who Loves Us Best
Father Paul O'Sullivan
ISBN 9780895554482
eISBN 9781505102383

I picked this book up because it was promoted by TAN books in an email blast. They were promoting a bundle of books by Father Paul O'Sullivan. I know I have seen the covers before. And based on when the books were first published maybe even back to the Catholic Book Stores of my youth. I looked at the 6 title sin the bundle and picked this one as my starting point. It did not disappoint, and before I even finished it, I had picked up a couple of the other titles. For those not familiar as I was not:

“Fr. Paul Henry O'Sullivan, O.P., S.T.L., P.G., E.D.M., was born in Tralee, Ireland in 1871 and died in Lisbon, Portugal in 1958.”

The description of this volume is:

“A beautiful little book "all about the Holy Ghost," including prayers to Him. Shows He really and truly dwells in every soul that is in the state of grace. He aids all Christians without exception, if only we will ask His help. Enlightening and encouraging!”

The chapters in the book are:

Letter from His Excellency Monsignor Pietro Ciriaci, Papal Nuncio 
1. The Importance of Devotion to The Holy Ghost 
2. The Holy Ghost and What He Does for Us 
3. The Holy Ghost Comes into Our Souls in Baptism 
4. The Exceeding Beauty of Our Souls, Made Worthy to Receive The Holy Ghost 
5. The Holy Ghost Is Personally in Our Souls 
6. How Are We to Honor the Holy Ghost in Our Souls? 
7. With the Holy Ghost We Can Do All Things 
8. The Wonderful Graces We Receive From the Holy Ghost 
9. What We Lose By Not Loving the Holy Ghost 
10. The Three Sacraments of the Holy Ghost 
11. Sins Against the Holy Ghost 
Appendix: Prayers to the Holy Ghost 

The forward encourages us to read, to learn and to experience the Holy spirit in a new way. Father Paul draws from many and varied sources in this little work. In the first chapter alone, he quotes from: Cardinal Manning, Cardinal John Henry Newman, and Cardinal Gibbons. And in the second Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Origen, St. Cyril, Saint basil, Saint Angela, Cornelius a Lapide, Blessed Henry Suso, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Jesus, St. Philip Neri, the holy Curé d’Ars and a few others. And the book concludes with 10 prayers to the Holy Spirit. There are a also a few prayers and poems throughout the book as well. 

When I was in university, I was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, there was a series of booklets by the founder Bill Bright, and by reading them many times you could almost memorize them and the message so that you could share it. This volume reminds me a lot of those books, but specifically geared for Catholics. And a quick look at some of his other titles look the same. 

This is a volume that can easily be read in an afternoon. But one you could read repeatedly during your lifetime and benefit from with every reading. I know that I have plans to pursue his other works that are available in English and will likely return to this one and read it again, maybe even several times. The book is clearly written, easily accessible. And a wonderful volume for any Catholic to pick up and read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Father Paul Henry O'Sullivan, O.P:
How to Avoid Purgatory
My Lord and My God, Or, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
Our Lady of Fatima
Read Me or Rue It
St. Patrick and the Irish
The Divine Office: How to Say it Devoutly, How to Make it a Pleasure
The Glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Story of a Great Man: Doctor Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
The Ten Commandments: For Real - For Now
What Ireland Owes to Portugal

Wednesday 27 January 2021

The Eucharist with the Saints - J.B. Midgley - Meditations and Prayers

The Eucharist with the Saints:
Meditations and Prayers
J.B. Midgley
Fr Thomas Weinandy OMF, Cap (Introduction)
Catholic Truth Society
CTS Booklet D668

A few years back I discovered the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society, at first I was trying to track down and read everything written by Alice Curtayne (a task I have yet to complete). But from the first book I read by Midgley I was hooked on his works.  I have a friend who calls me a ‘completionist’ in that when I find an author that I really like I try to read everything they have written. This is now the case with Midgley, I believe he has published 28 books, and 26 of them are with the Catholic Truth Society. Most of those books are either in the ‘Great Saints Series’ or like this one the ‘Companions Series’. I have managed to track down all by one of Midgley’s works. And have now read over 175 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. This is one of 4 volumes written by Midgley titled “… with the Saints.”. And the third that I have read. The description on the back of the book is:

“The Eucharist has sustained countless saints and martyrs from apostolic times until the present day. This collection of prayers and meditations will help every Catholic to enter more fully into the Eucharistic mystery. Not only a companion to private reflection and prayer (ideally in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament) the booklet also includes a brief history of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a summary of Pope John Paul’s recent Letter on the Eucharist. This collection has been compiled for the CTS by J.B. Midgley.”

The sections in the book are:

The Church and the Eucharist
Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
Biblical Figures
Early Church and Fathers
Saints through the Centuries
Modern Saints
Index of Saints

The index is four pages it breaks it down by source of who or which biblical book. Each of the ‘Call to’ sections contain sub sections of some of the following:

Biblical Figures
The Early Church and Fathers
Saints Through the Ages
Modern Saints
Modern Writers

The book contains quotes from 64 sources. Most of the quotes are from saints and many of the saints I had encountered before. There were a few new saints, and some excellent quotes. A few are drawn from the bible both the old and New Testaments. A few of the saints that were unfamiliar to me, I now have on my list to find out more about. And a few were quotes or sayings I was familiar with already.
A few of the quotes that really had an impact upon me my first read through were:

“Be convinced that there is no better time in all your life than the time of Holy Communion and that which follows, during which you have the happiness of talking mouth to mouth, and heart to heart with Jesus” 
     -St. John Baptist De La Salle

“God has given us bread for our bodies, he has given us HIS Body for our souls. You are very pleased to have the bread He gives. Why do you refuse HIS Body? Sunday is God’s property, His own day, the Lord’s Day. He has made all the days of the week. He might have kept them all, but He has given you six and has reserved for Himself only the seventh. By what right do you touch what does not belong to you?”
     -St John Vianney

“Nowhere on earth are you more welcome. Nowhere on earth are you more loved than by Jesus living and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth.”
     -St Mother Theresa of Calcutta

Some of the excerpts in this volume are only a few lines and a few are a couple of pages. Some sources only have 1 quote and others many. But the whole book is filled with a love for the lord in the Eucharist and learning to love and experience that ourselves.

I read this book early in 2021. During most of 2020 the mass and receiving the Eucharist was not available where I lived because of the pandemic. This book was read at my son’s bedside in the hospital after spinal surgery. Each day for the last few weeks I have walked back and forth between Ronald McDonald House and the hospital. During that walk I pass the Canadian Martyrs Church, in the Diocese of Hamilton. I have passed the church upwards of 8 times a day. Each time no matter how early or late I paused and prayed. This book helped me realize how deeply I miss communion. And how even just drawing near to a tabernacle and pausing to pray is nourishing to the soul.  

But even if was not read when I did I would consider it an excellent volume and one that any Catholic would benefit from reading. It is easy to read. Can be read from cover to cover or randomly flipped open and read at any point and read a few points. This is a book I will be keeping close by for the foreseeable future. I just wish there was an electronic edition available. It is another excellent read from CTS, and great book from the pen of the late J.B. Midgley. I encourage you to give it a read and anything else from Midgley you can lay your hands on.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by J.B. Midgley:

Advent & Christmastide with the Saints
Antonio Rosmini
Benedict - Patron of Europe
Bernard of Clairvaux – CTS Great Saints
Charles Borromeo  - CTS Great Saints
Companion to St. Joseph
Companion to the Feasts of Mary
Companion to Saint Peter
Companion to Saint Paul
Companion to the Angels
Companion to the Feasts of Our Lord
Companion to the Passion of Our Lord
Dominic - CTS Great Saints
George: Patron of England - CTS Great Saints
Dewi Sant: St David Patron of Wales
Francis de Sales – CTS Great Saints
John Baptist de La Salle – CTS Great Saints
John Vianney – CTS Great Saints
Lent with the Saints
Nurturing the Young
Robert Bellarmine
Saint John the Baptist 
Stations of the Cross and Resurrection with the Saints
The Eucharist with the Saints
The Four Evangelists
Thomas Becket – CTS Saints of the Isles
Vincent de Paul – CTS Great Saints
Witchcraft, Sorcery and Magic

Contributed to:
First Fridays and First Saturdays The Devotions Explained 

Tuesday 26 January 2021

All Systems Red - Martha Wells - Murderbot Diaries Book 1.0

All Systems Red
Murderbot Diaries Book 1.0
ISBN 9780765397539
eISBN 9780765397522

I had never heard of Martha Wells before author Arthur Slade mentioned her on social media. And specifically, he mentioned this book, which he had just finished. I have read a few books over the years that Art has plugged and have never been disappointed. And that was the case this time as well. I bought this while sitting in PICU after my son had spinal surgery. And read it a couple of days later. When I picked it up, I did not realize that it was part of a series. Let alone this long. A series, but it gives me several more books to look forward to this year. It is in many ways a classic science fiction tale. It reminds me of stories I read a lot of in my youth but only pick up from time to time now. 

In this story the future is not so bright. It is a corporate dominate universe. Planetary exploration and missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. And each off world team is accompanied by Security Androids on a 10 to 1 ratio at minimum. And depending on the backing the team has their equipment and gear can be ‘state of the art’ or refurbished and nearly rubbish. The team we meet his one bot, and is on the lower end of resources. 

Very quickly things go wrong, and the teams realized that their bot has a significant level of autonomy. And that this mission is in a great deal of danger. The bot herself refers to her own self as the Murderbot. And yet her team needs to trust her and work with her. 

There is some great action. Some excellent character development, and a very sound story line in this volume. As soon as I finished it I picked up the remaining volumes that are available and added them to my ‘to be read’ pile. You cannot help but appreciate the characters especially the title character and Dr. Mensah. The story is told from Murderbot’s perspective. I do not typically highlight in novels, even when reading them electronically but I stopped and did so a few times in this one. The first is the beginning of the book:

“I COULD HAVE BECOME a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.”

And the second:

“The sense of urgency just wasn’t there. Also, you may have noticed, I don’t care.”

That one alone made me think of James Bolivar diGriz, Slippery Jim aka The Stainless Steel Rat. And as you can tell from the first, it is a thinking book. Not just fluff to entertain.

The story in some ways reminds me of the Stainless Steel Rat Series by Harry Harrison. And in other ways it reminds me of Starship Troopers by Heinlein.  The action and mystery reminds me of the rat. And the deep reflective internal dialogue of Rico. It was a great read as a distraction when I needed it, but also a deep enough story that I am still thinking about its days later. It you are looking for a new series to give a go this is a great one to give a try.

Books by Martha Wells:
The Murderbot Diaries:
0.5 Compulsory
2.0 Artificial Condition 
3.0 Rogue Protocol 
4.0 Exit Strategy
4.5 Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory
5.0 Network Effect
6.0 Fugitive Telemetry

Monday 25 January 2021

Effective Parenting - James B. Stenson - Catholic Truth Society

Effective Parenting
ISBN 9781860828669
eISBN 9781784694708
CTS Booklet PA19

I have read 15 volumes by James B. Stenson going back to 2006 but seem to have only reviewed one of them. They were recommended back in 2006 when I had just become a Father. This is the first of his works that I have picked up from the Catholic Truth Society, all the rest have been from Scepter. I grabbed this volume primarily for even after 14 years of parenting I know that I can keep improving. Second, I grabbed it because I remember well how good other books from Stenson were. And Third I have been on a real Binge read of books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. In fact I have read over 175 of the books and booklets from the CTS in the last few years and show no sign of slowing down. This volume was published originally by Scepter, reprinted by the Catholic Truth Society in 2013 and the eBook edition released in 2017. But back to this volume. This book comes in at a slim 50 pages but is it ever worth the read. The description of the booklet is:

“Packed with all the advice, guidance and common sense you need on your journey as a parent. A guide that sets out the importance of the role of mothers and fathers, underpinned by Christian principles.”

And the longer description of the eBook is:

“A practical eBook, packed with all the advice, guidance and common sense you need on your journey as a parent. While bringing up children is a great responsibility, many problems can be overcome through simple solutions. This text sets out the importance of the role parents have and shows how that role must be expressed through nurturing and encouraging one’s children along a path to responsible caring adulthood. 

Giving pointers on such subjects as: the interaction between parents, the setting of rules, the building of a family unit, how to communicate with both small and adolescent children, what the ultimate goal of effective parenting should be, and much more, it will be a great help for even the most experienced mothers and fathers and novices alike.”

That is exactly what you get, a fantastic little guide, and with the size of the book it is one you could return to again and again. Refresh by rereading it from time to time. And that is what I plan on doing, usually I remove the download as soon as I finish an eBook, but I left this on my device so I will see the cover again and give it a reread.

The chapters in this book are:

A Job Description for Parents?
The Vision of Parent Leaders
Rules That Make a Family Work
Discipline in the Family
Parents and their Adolescent Children
Family Health-Check
Effective Parenting in a Nutshell

This book begins with these words:

““I wish I had known all this 25 years ago!” That’s what I’ve sometimes been told after my conferences on successful parent leadership. The words, said in humour but sometimes with wistful regret, came from older parents whose children had already grown and left home.

I have written on parent leadership, the fruit of my 30 years’ experience with families, so that you, a young parent, won’t have to express this same regret in the future. I’ve written this booklet so that you can form a clearer idea of how other parents have lived as great leaders in family life and have succeeded with their sacred mission: to raise their children right. I want to help you form a ‘job description’, so to speak, on how to succeed as a leader to your children.

When I say ‘succeed or fail’, I don’t mean parents’ methods of discipline, or how they keep their children under control, or how they handle the daily challenges in family life. These are short-term achievements, but only part of the whole picture.

Parents really win success with their children only in the long term. Parents succeed with their children when they grow up to become competent, responsible, considerate and generous men and women who are committed to live by principles of integrity - adults who bring honour to their parents all their lives through their conduct, conscience and character. Raising children to become adults like this is what parenthood is all about.”

He goes on to state:

“What I set out for you in this booklet is intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. That is, I don’t claim to have all the answers about family life, and I don’t know anyone who does. What I’m doing here is describing the kind of thinking and action - the compass of parenthood - that great parents have lived by and taught me in the course of my professional career. If you find something here of help to you, then this booklet has done its job.” 

If you are a parent or expecting I strongly recommend that you pick this book up and read it. Even after reading many books by Stenson years ago I greatly benefited from reading this one. This is a book I wish I can come across earlier. And to be honest I should go back and read or reread many of his other works. But this is an excellent starting place. And I hope the quotes above have raised your interest enough that you give this book a try, I am certain you will not be disappointed!

An excellent resource for all parents from the Catholic Truth Society!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by James B. Stenson:
Father, The Family Protector
Compass: A Handbook on Parent Leadership
Lifeline: The Religious Upbringing of Your Children
To Be a Man: Life Lessons for Young Men
Preparing for Adolescence: A Planning Guide for Parents
Upbringing: A Discussion Handbook for Parents of Young Children
Preparing for Peer Pressure: A Guide for Parents of Young Children
Anchor: God's Promises of Hope to Parents

Spanish Editions:
Filhos: quando educá-los?
Un papa a todo dar
Pais bem-sucedidos

Friday 22 January 2021

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard - CTS 20th Century Martyrs

Gianna Molla 
CTS 20th Century Martyrs
Jean Olwen Maynard
Catholic Truth Society
CTS Booklet B660

This was the eighth volume in the CTS 20th Century Martyrs series that I have read. It is also the seventh by Jean Olwen Maynard. Over the last few years, I have read over 175 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society, and still have almost that many on my wish list. I believe there are nine volumes in this series. And about half of them have eBook editions. This is one that does not, so I tracked down a physical copy. I believe there are few Catholic who have not heart at least the name Gianna Molla. I knew the name and the details I was not aware of the whole story. This is that story.  This volume though small gives us her story. On the back cover in large bold letters is:


But in her case it was different. Hers was not the martyrdom at the hands of another, it was the self sacrifice to save her unborn child. The description of this volume is:

“Gianna Molla died putting her child’s life before her own.  What could inspire in someone such selfless courage and love?  The cancerous growth in her womb had been detected early in the pregnancy, but Gianna opted for an operation which, if successful at all, would put herself, rather than her unborn child at risk.  Her child lived, but Gianna died a week after the birth, filled with joy at this new life.  Her testimony to a ‘love beyond death’ - the powerful love of Christ - still resonates loud and clear today.  gianna was declared a saint on 16 May 2004.”

This volume was first published in 2000 and updated sometime after as it makes reference to her canonization in 2004. 

The chapters in the volume are:

Early Family Life
Spiritual Life
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away
Growing in faith
The political backdrop
Gianna’s early life
The move to Genoa
A deeper relationship with God
The deaths of Alberto and Maria
Planting Vocations

A youthful role-model
Doctor Gianna
The fight for life
Anyone who loses his life shall find it
Searching for a vocation
A new home - a new life
Starting a family
Gianna’s third pregnancy
The family reunited
Praying for another child

Gianna’s Illness
Gianna’s Decision
A daughter of heaven

The cause for beatification

The book begins with these words:

“Gianna Molla was not yet 40 when she died, but she had packed far more into her life than most people. Combining a demanding professional career, as a doctor in general practice, with being a wife and mother, she was able to maintain quality relationships with her husband and family, her colleagues and patients and friends, and still have time for sport and music. She already had three gorgeous children, but hoped for a fourth. Two months into a new pregnancy, she was diagnosed with cancer of the womb and advised to have a hysterectomy to remove her womb.”

It was advice she would not heed. She was aware of the risks. But every decision she made was for the life of her child. She loved life, she loved her husband, family, and friends, but she was certain that the child should live. And so, it did. 

But this story does not begin with that troubled pregnancy. It began with her own family life and formation. It began with the faith that her husband and her shared. And it was fed by her devotion and love of Mary. In this volume almost a third of the book is dedicated to her own upbringing. Then about half the book to her life as an adult. And finally the illness and death. The book ends with these words:

“Gianna Beretta Molla was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II, on 24 April 1994. Pietro and their children were present at the ceremony. She was canonized, declared a saint on 16 May 2004.”

This is a deeply moving story. And one of a very recent saint. She lived a full life and has left a lasting influence. Her life does ring out loud and clear to us today. About living to serve, and about the sanctity of life. The daughter she died to save has recently written a volume called Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla and there is a collection of letters: The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla edited by Elio Guerriero, that are both now on my wish list to go deeper in the life of this Saint.

This book is for the most part is an easy read. It is a truly wonderful witness. An amazing story well worth the read.  An excellent volume in an important series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the 20th Century Martyrs Series:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma: Victims of the Nazis – Matthew Monk
Saint Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
The Atlas Martyrs – Jean Olwen Maynard

Jerzy Popieluszko Victim of Communism - Grazyna Sikorski
Isidore Bankanja - Jean Maynard

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard
Oscar Romero: Martyr for Faith - Ashley Beck
Pedro Poveda - Bernadette Lally

Published work by Jean Olwen Maynard:
Privately published by religious orders/parishes:
Greyfriars Convent, Elgin (2006)
A History of St Mary and St Michael’s Parish, Commercial Road, East London (2007)
Sisters of Mercy Bristol (2008)
150 Years of Mercy: A History of the Sisters of Mercy Commercial Road East London (2009)
The Saint of Hoxton (2011)
Saint Monica’s Church Hoxton Square (2018) 
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Guardian Angels, Mile End (2018)
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Our Lady and St Catherine of Sienna, Bow (2020) 
Immaculate Heart of Mary and St Dominic, Homerton 1873-2023 – 150 Years: A History of the Parish (2023)

CTS Booklets:
Isidore Bakanja 
Joseph Vaz

Between Christendom and Islam, The Martyr Mystic Christian de Chergé and the Atlas Cistercians in Algeria, in: Catholic in Religious Dialogue: Monasticism, Theology and Spirituality, ed Anthony O’Mahoney and Peter Bowe OSB, Gracewing, 2006
Campaign for the Catholic Workhouse Children, in: British Catholic History, Vol 31: Issue 4 Oct 2015

Thursday 21 January 2021

Run Rabbit Run - Alex Smith - DCI Kett Book 5.0

Run Rabbit Run
DCI Kett Crime Thrillers Book 5.0
Zertex Crime
ISBN 9781913877040
It took me a while to start this book, almost a month, but once I did I could not put it down. I picked the book up a few days after it released but already had several books on the go. And some I had committed to review dates. So this one dropped out of view on my Kindle. It cam to mind and I read it in 3 sittings in under 18 hours over New years Eve. If you have been fallowing the saga of DCI Kett this book really is a must read. If you happen to be a fan of rough and tough action you will almost certainly enjoy this novel. This is the sixth of the DCI Kett stories that I have read, the fifth novel, and Kett made a brief appearance in The Harder They Fall, the first of the Softley Series of books. The previos volume, Whip Crack, makes reference to Six Days, Six Hours, Six Minutes, which is by far the darkest and grittiest of Smith’s novels. Now all of his mysteries link together in some fashion. This book is different than the others in the series, but still has that same intense action mystery feel. And I have a feeling based on the content, even though not directly a closer link to Six. 

I have stated before that each of the Kett novels have been great crime mystery novels, and interesting reads. But they are dark books with terrible crimes. And in this one Kett is being blamed for forcing several people to commit murders. And the longer it goes on the more guilty he looks. Officially Kett has just been relieved of duty. But the next day his old boss calls him and and the race is on from there. The inquiry into his actions that led to his wife’s rescue, did not go his way, but he feels a sort of freedom from it. That is until the first body turns up, and then another, and another … when they find the hitlist many he convicted, and worked with are on a hit list, but conspicuously absent are his name and his wife’s. 

The rabbit in the title has many meanings in the story. As does Kett’s own name. and both these facts play key roles in the story. The story is practically a race from the first body to a hilarious scene in the hospital at the end. I can honestly state I laughed out loud, which after all the tension, drama, and adversity in the series was a surprise. 

I do admit that I love the Kett novels. His character. His strength. His drive. He is a man who puts it all on the line for others. And does it because of his love for his wife and children. But in this story, he needs to risk everything, his wife, his family, his reputation. All to get to the bottom of this mystery. And it is going to cost him far more than he ever bargained for. I must admit that author Jon Mayhew was much kinder in his character named Alex Smith, that Smith was to Mayhew.

I will be blunt and state it again this book and this series is not for all readers. It is very dark, gritty, and very intense. They are great thrillers. Over ten years ago, I read and loved the Lockdown series published primarily for a young adult audience by Alexander Gordon Smith. When I found out he had this new crime mystery series in the works I had visions of his skill turned to series like Wired in the Blood, or the Commander. There is always something extra appealing about a British crime drama or procedural, I was hooked from the concept. I have read each book as it became available and preordered the next as soon as it was available. I have a few friends who have given these books a try and they were just as hooked, part way through book one my boss ordered the whole series. Another great read in the sage of Kett.

Mystery Books as Alex Smith:

Softley Softley Series:
2.0 Hard Luck House

DCI Kett Series:
2.0 Bad Dog
3.0 Three Little Pigs

Books By Alexander Gordon Smith:
Escape from Furnace:

Death Sentence
Execution Epilogue - Short Story
The Night Children - Short Story

Fury Series:
The Fury
The Storm

The Inventors:
The Inventors
The Inventors And The City of Stolen Souls

1001 Questions and Answers
Inspired Creative Writing: 52 Brilliant Ideas from the Master Wordsmiths
The Solar System
Family Quiz
Writing Bestselling Children's Books: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Inspiring Young Readers

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker - Andrew Votipka - Mr. Baker’s Book Series Book 2

Saint Nicholas: 
The Wonderworker
Mr. Baker’s Book Series Book 2
Andrew Votipka
ISBN 9798574685655

This was a wonderful follow up book in the Mr. Baker’s Book Series, but nor the book I was expecting. I was expecting a volume on Aloysius Gonzaga. And hope we still get that one soon. But even with it being on an unexpected saint, this was a wonderful volume. I could hardly put it down. I loved the first book in this series on Abba Moses, in part because he is a much less known saint. But this one is an excellent read. For readers of all ages. I stated before that in some ways this story reminded me of the Chime Travelers series by Lisa M. Hendey but geared for an older audience. And in some other ways it reminded me of the Douglings Adventures by Carissa Douglas. Fans of both of those series will love this book. Though this is geared more for an older reader, late middle grade, tweens or teens. 

The description of this volume is:

“Book two in the Mr. Baker's Book series is out! Class is back in session. Well, not really. In fact, Mr. Baker's class is off for a Christmas break, but that won't stop everyone's favorite time travelling eleven-year-old from breaking into the church, finding Mr. Baker's book, and going off on an adventure all by himself! What could go wrong? A trip to an ancient Mediterranean maritime town with a beautiful beach doesn't sound so bad, if you're fine with tyrannical Roman emperors, graveyards, and sinking boats. Join Theo as he meets a few characters from the Bible, avoids manual labor, assists in shaping world history, and befriends one of the most famous of all the saints. A man so well loved, his name alone brings smiles to the faces of children and adults the world over. Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.”

In this one instead of the trio travelling through time, it is just Theo, and he travels to many times and places. But All in relation to Nicholas of Myra. 

The chapters in the story are:

1. A Ship at Sea
2. Finding the Book
3. Patara
4. An Unexpected Meeting
5. The Young Boy
6. A Surprising Guest
7. Pursuit
8. Mystery Solved
9. A Gathering
10. The Young Bishop
11. A Miracle on the Waters
12. Land
13. Innocents Abroad
14. Eustathios
15. In the Nick of Time
16. The Closet
17. A Christmas to Remember
A Historical Note
Saint Nicholas Traditions

The author in the preface to book one stated that:

“I’ve imagined this book as a family read aloud. The reader may feel free to add, edit, delete, and supplement. You can make the Egyptians sound like British villains or Irish leprechauns (those are my personal go-tos). You can talk about the differences between a cenobitic and an eremitic monk if you happen to know the difference. You can buy a prayer rope and teach your kids how to use it. Be creative!”

And yet this volume has no preface to set it up. Maybe that is because he expects all readers to have familiarity with Saint Nicholas, and depending on where they live and their heritage a variety of traditions around him and his feast day or Christmas directly. In the Historical Note at the end of the volume Andrew states:

“There once was a bishop of Myra named Nicholas. He lived between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth centuries, and he attended the Council of Nicaea. That is the entire historically reliable biography of jolly old Saint Nick. Ho, ho, ho. 

To make the historical record even more complicated, in the sixth century there was another man who would also become a Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas of Sion. He took the name Nicholas in honor of the bishop of Myra (which tells us something about our Saint Nicholas’s popularity in the early church), and this Nicholas of Sion even made a trip to visit the tomb of his namesake. For many centuries, their legends were intertwined, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that serious scholarship was able to untangle the threads.”

Now having a Religious Studies Degree with a focus on Roman Catholic Thoughts I am well versed with the two Nicholas’s even if you omit the slap to the face. And yet it was fascinating to read this volume. 

This book really does bring to life the life and times of Saint Nicholas and by hopping around it time, we encounter the man at many different points in his life. 

This is a great story to read or to be read aloud. It helps bring part of the long history of Christianity to life and bring awareness to a younger generation. Pick it up and give it a try and join the three youngster as he get transported back and experience this early saint in a fascinating and fun way first hand.

This book was a wonderful read in what is shaping up to be an excellent series. I greatly enjoyed it, and am rereading in with my son while he is in the hospital and plan to read it again with my youngest daughter once back home. I will pick up any future offering in this series. This book brought to life this Saint Nicholas in a wonderful new way. I highly recommend this volume.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Andrew Votipka:
Mr. Baker’s Book Series
Aloysius Gonzaga