Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Worst Ever School Trip - Barry Hutchison - Beaky Malone Book 2

Worst Ever School Trip
Beaky Malone Book 2
ISBN 9781847157751
eIBSN 9781847158437

Last year before reading this I encountered the works of J.D. Kirk I also discovered that Kirk publishes children’s books as Barry Hutchison, and other adult fiction as Barry J. Hutchison. I have read 21 stories published under the Kirk Name and am now branching out to the ones under the Hutchinson names, this is the 15th under that name. He has written over 200 books across the three pen names, and many unattributed. If I had known that or I might not have picked up this first one. But I am very thankful I did. Friends call me a ‘completionist’ in that when I find an author I like, I try to read everything they have published. I have enjoyed all I have read from his pen and this one was no different.

The description of this story is:

“"I'm in love with the dinner lady..." Gah! Someone shut me up! Beaky's survival skills are about to be tested to the limit. After a mix-up in the school office, Beaky's class are on a trip to Learning Land - a rubbish theme park - and Beaky is partnered with Wayne pretend-to-be-nice-but-actually-I'm-a-violent-psychopath Lawson. With Beaky unable to tell a lie and Wayne intent on beating him up, things aren't looking good. And that's before they find themselves on the run from the theme park's mascot, a creepy clown who'll seemingly stop at nothing to track them down...”

Another description is:

“A hilarious new series from best-selling author, Barry Hutchison, perfect for fans of Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid and Barry Loser.

“I like to smell my own farts…” Gah! Someone shut me up!

It’s been 92 hours since Beaky last told a lie. So far he’s survived two full days of school with only three light beatings, two telling-offs and one wedgie ... but the annual school trip is going to take Beaky’s survival skills to a whole other level – especially as a mix up in the school office means that Beaky and his class are on a trip to Learning Land, a rubbish theme park aimed at eight-year-olds. And home to cheery-but-creepy Clumso the Clued-up Clown whose job is to dish out fascinating facts to one and all.

But there is worse to come when Beaky’s partnered with Wayne, a.k.a the school bully, who has a morbid fear of clowns. With Beaky unable to tell a lie and Wayne intent on beating him up, things aren’t looking good. And that’s before they find themselves on the run from a manic clown who’ll seemingly stop at nothing to track them down…”

This story is an early chapter book. Or middle grade read. It is in a series that currently has four titles:

The World's Greatest Liar
Worst Ever School Trip
Super Creepy Camp 2017
Weirdest Show on Earth

It appears that some of the four are also available in French and German. It is an interesting story. I felt that the first story in this series started a little slow. That was not the case this time. This one is nearly non-stop action. Most of this story takes place at a theme park called “Learning Land” and it is about as much fun as trying to combine education and an amusement park as you would imagine. With features like Grammar Granny, Sumo Sums Slam, Rollercoaster of Sums, Maze of Maths, Circle of Squares and more. Somples of the humour in this story is:

“Luckily I sit next to Theo in most of my classes. Theo knows all about my lack of lying ability and is great at helping me cover it up – even though I’ve accidentally announced pretty much every secret he’s ever told me, including the one about him being born with six nipples, four of which had to be surgically removed when he was two.
Especially that one, in fact.

Anyway, like I was saying, it was Wednesday morning. Theo and I made it to the next lesson and I forced my mouth to stay shut as we took our seats.”


“Some of the rest of the class sniggered at that but I was being serious. Destructo was a Great Dane with an even greater appetite. He ate more food in a day than the rest of the family got through in a week, but he was always scavenging for anything else he could gobble up. That included my homework, my pencils and, on one memorable occasion, my school bag.

“And what about your permission slip for the school trip?” Mrs Dodds asked, arching one of her grey eyebrows. “I suppose the dog ate that, too?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “My sister stuffed it into my mouth when I posted a picture of her toes on Instagram.”

The teacher just stared at me in silence.

“She’s got really hairy toes,” I explained. “Like a troll.””

After Beaky was forced to tell the truth, the whole, truth, and nothing but the truth things went from bad to worse. But there is hope in that his sister has found online records of the Madame Shirley’s Marvellous Emporium of Peculiarities, the bad news is they are all over the world. Always look the same, and appear empty and abandoned at some point. Not they just need to find her. Then comes the now infamous school trip. The day at Learning Land has the promise of being Beaky’s worst day ever. And that is saying a lot. Paired with the Head Masters, the principal’s son, and the school’s worst bully he is in for it. But things are not always as they appear. And they day provides several surprises, twists, and more. 

This book marks the 36th offering from Hutchison I have read in the last year, under the three names he publishes under. They have all been entertaining reads. Some have been excellent. This story was an entertaining read, but with the ending it will leave you desperate for the next instalment. It is a good book and series especially for younger readers and even reluctant readers. I can see school children loving these books and laughing out loud time and time again. It is a good read from the pen of Barry Hutchison, aka Barry J. Hutchinson aka J.D. Kirk   

Books by J.D. Kirk:

DCI Logan Series:

Robert Hoon Thrillers:

DI Heather Filson Series:

Contributed to:
Everyday Kindness: A Collection of Uplifting Tales to Brighten Your Day

Books as Barry J. Hutchison:
Dan Deadman Space Detective Series:
Dead in the Water

Space Team Series:
The Search for Splurt 
Song of the Space Siren 
The Guns of Nana Joan 
Return of the Dead Guy 
Planet of the Japes 
The Time Titan of Tomorrow 
The King of Space Must Die 
Sting of the Mustard Mines 
Sentienced to Death
The Hunt for Reduk Topa
A Lot of Weird Space Shizz: Collected Short Stories

Sidekicks Initiative Series:
The Sidekicks Initiative

The Bug Books Series:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Complete Season One

Other Books:

Children’s books as Barry Hutchison:
Invisible Fiends Series:
The Crowmaster 
Doc Mortis 
The Beast 
The Darkest Corners 

The Missing Remote of the Apocalypse
The Book of Doom 

Benjamin Blank Series:
The Swivel-Eyed Ogre-Thing 
The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing 

Beaky Malone Series:
Super Creepy Camp
Weirdest Show on Earth

Generator Rex Series:
Mirror Mirror

Living Ted Series:
Revenge of the Living Ted
Invasion of the Living Ted

Spectre Collectors Series:
Too Ghoul for School
A New York Nightmare!

Other works:

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Redemptoris Custos - Guardian of Redeemer Anniversary Edition - Pope John Paul II

Redemptoris Custos 
Guardian of Redeemer Anniversary Edition
Pope John Paul II
Joseph Atkinson (Commentary)
ISBN 9780819831309

This book was another volume I read as part of Father Mark Goring’s Saint Mark’s School of Reading, during the month Father Mark assigned sections to be read and Redemptoris Custos and provided three videos providing the commentary on this volume. It is always interesting to go back and read church documents from former popes. Especially when like this one it has such a clear concise message, and yet a message that would be brought into question by many outside and even in the church today. 

The description of this volume states:

“Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation Guardian of the Redeemer. This anniversary edition provides the complete text of the apostolic exhortation, accompanied by a commentary by Joseph Atkinson, which makes Pope John Paul II's language more accessible. Reading the exhortation becomes a way to fully recognize and appreciate Saint Joseph's role in salvation history. In this special Anniversary Edition, we can delve more deeply into our understanding of the foster-father of Jesus.”

The official title of this document is: 

“Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos Of The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On The Person And Mission Of Saint Joseph In The Life Of Christ And Of The Church”

Over the last few years I have read several volumes in Saint Joseph, including Fr Goring’s St. Joseph the Protector: A nine-day preparation for entrustment to St. Joseph. In part I am drawn to Saint Joseph as a father myself, and he is also the Patron Saint of Canada. I am always willing to give a book on Saint Joseph a try. So let us now return to the volume at hand. I highlighted numerous passages while reading this book. And Went back and marked a few more after Fr Mark’s videos. Some of those passages are:

“On the occasion of the centenary of Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Epistle Quamquam Pluries, and in line with the veneration given to Saint Joseph over the centuries, I wish to offer for your consideration, dear brothers and sisters, some reflections concerning him "to whose custody God entrusted his most precious treasures". I gladly fulfil this pastoral duty so that all may grow in devotion to the Patron of the Universal Church and in love for the Saviour whom he served in such an exemplary manner.”

“While remaining a virgin, she who by law is his "spouse" has become a mother through the power of the Holy Spirit. And when the Son in Mary's womb comes into the world, he must receive the name Jesus. This was a name known among
the Israelites and sometimes given to their sons. In this case, however, it is the Son who, in accordance with the divine promise, will bring to perfect fulfilment the meaning of the name Jesus - Yehosua' - which means "God saves".”

“While it is true that Joseph did not respond to the Angel's "announcement" in the same way as Mary, he "did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took
his wife". What he did is the clearest "obedience of
faith" (cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26; 2 Cor 10:5-6).”

“Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery.
Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God's self-revelation in Christ, and he does so from the very beginning.”

“Looking at the Gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the of faith the Mother God, and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary's "pilgrimage of faith". It is a path along which--especially at the time of Calvary and Pentecost-Mary will precede in a perfect way.”

“Precisely because of this unity, Pope John XXIII, who had a great devotion to Saint Joseph, directed that Joseph's name be inserted in the Roman Canon of the Mass-which is the perpetual memorial of redemption-after the name of Mary and before the Apostles, Popes and Martyrs.”

“And while it is important for the Church to profess the virginal conception of Jesus, it is no less important to uphold Mary's marriage to Joseph, because juridically Joseph's fatherhood depends on it. Thus one understands why the
generations are listed according to the genealogy of Joseph: "Why", Saint Augustine asks, "should they not be according to Joseph? Was he not Mary's husband?...”

“Saint Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. It is precisely in this way that, as the Church's Liturgy teaches, he "cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation" and is truly a "minister of salvation".”

“Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the "overseer of the Lord's birth", the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God's "ordained" entry into the world, in accordance with divine dispositions and human laws.”

“Joseph, of whom Mary had just used the words "your father", heard this answer. That, after all, is what all the people said and thought: Jesus was "the son (as was supposed) of Joseph" (Lk 3:23).”

“In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Church venerates the memory of Mary the ever Virgin Mother of God and the memory of Saint Joseph, because "he fed him whom the faithful must eat as the bread of eternal life"”

“But the silence of Joseph has its own special eloquence, for thanks to that silence we can understand the truth of the Gospel's judgement that he was "a just man" (Mt 1: 19).”

“This bond of charity was the core the Holy Family's life, first in the poverty of Bethlehem, then in their exile in Egypt, and later in the house of Nazareth. The Church deeply venerates this Family, and proposes it as the model of all families. Inserted directly in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Family of Nazareth has its own special mystery.”

“At a difficult time in the Church's history, Pope Pius IX, wishing to place her under the powerful patronage of the holy patriarch Joseph, declared him "Patron of the Catholic Church". For Pius IX this was no idle gesture, since by virtue of the sublime dignity which God has granted to his most faithful servant Joseph, "the Church, after the Blessed Virgin, his spouse, has always held him in great honour and showered him with praise, having recourse to him amid tribulations".”

“Already at the beginning of human redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in Saint Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God's commands.”

“May Saint Joseph obtain for the Church and for the world, as well as for each of us, the blessing of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

I hope those quotes give you a feel for this document. This is available online on the Vatican website. There are a number of different print and eBook editions of the volume. This was an excellent read, and I was blessed to have read the book and listened to Father Mark’s teachings on it. A great volume I can easily recommend.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

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, 5 June 2023

Good to the Last Drop - Declan Finn - Love at First Bite Book 4

Good to the Last Drop
Love at First Bite Book 4
ISBN 9781951768799

Wow, what a conclusion to this series! The Love at First Bite Series by Finn is another excellent offering. I have read 26 volumes from Finn over the last year, not one has disappointed. And with each I read I have greater appreciation for Finn’s skill and craft with both short fiction, long fiction and even extended series that contain both. This is the final novel in a series in the last category. The stories in this series are comprised of:

The novels in this series are:

       Formerly Murphy's Law of Vampires

The Short Stories are:

02 Bad Date (During the main story arc)
03 Mad Dog Moon (An Epilogue Story)

The description of this volume states:

“The epic conclusion to the Dragon Award nominated series!
The final war begins.

Merle Kraft, Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt have battled against the mythical Council, a supernatural conspiracy that monsters fear. This war has brought them up against vampires, minions, and demons from Hell.. Along the way, they have accumulated allies among the police, the military, the mafia, college students, lowly street gangs, and even other vampires. Marco and Amanda have overcome their biggest terror - their passion for each other.

But now, they face the final threat, one that is the culmination of every threat before them. This creature from Hell has powers beyond anything they’ve ever seen before and has allies of his including SpecOps minions, an army of vampires, and packs of werewolves.

And that was before Marco got bitten.”

I am thankful to see this series back in print. Three Ravens released all four novels in under a week. And they immediately jumped to the top of my reading list. I have read the three published short stories in this series and am truly thankful that the novels are back in print. I have already recommended individual books and the whole series to numerous friends and family. 

The fourth and final novel in this series takes place back in New York. takes this series to yet another level. I loved the first three and this one still exceeded expectations! They know they are up against the last of the Council. They have gathered many allies and are preparing to spring a trp. But what if the trap is what the enemy is expecting and prepared for. Can Marco and Amanda survive long enough to explore their professed love? Or will evil and darkness win. Read this epic conclusing to the Love at First Bite Series, to find out!

Before beginning this series it had been a few years since I have really read a story or series that has centred on vampires. I seem to go through a phase about every 10 years where something catches my fancy and draws me in. These stories have completely captivated my attention. I can easily state that these stories are now my all time favorite vampire stories, with the Rollins and Cantrell offerings coming in second.

Declan has crafted another incredibly series in a shared world. I am hooked, I know the series is completed but cannot help but hope we get more stories in this series or in the expanded world that it comprises. I said it before and I say it again I am very glad these novels are back in print. After devouring the four, I can say that I will likely circle back and reread them again at some point in the future. Finn is now my favourite contemporary Christian fiction author. I can easily recommend this book, this series, and honestly anything from Finn’s masterful pen!      

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Declan Finn:
Love At First Bite Series:
Short Stories:
     (Murphy's Law of Vampires)

The Last Survivors Series:

Convention Killings Series:

Pius Series:
A Pius Legacy
A Pius Stand
Pius History
Pius Tales (Anthology)
Pius Trilogy Short Stories:

St. Tommy Series:

Top Secret Service Series:
Too Secret Service: Omnibus Edition

Dances with Werewolves Series:
Dances with Werewolves: Omnibus Edition

White Ops Series:

Other books:

Anthologies contributed to:
Astounding Frontiers 1
Storming Area 51 - Bayonet Books Anthology Book 2
Pluto: Planetary Anhtology Series Book 1
Luna: Planetary Anhtology Series Book 2
Supernatural Streets
Starflight: Tales From The Starport Lounge
Mercury: Planetary Anthology Series Book 4
Venus: Planetary Anthology Series Book 5
Mars: Planetary Anthology Series Book 7
Places Beyond the Wild: A Z-Day Anthology
Shoot the Devil: Ten Tales of Humans Defeating the Demonic
Fire for Effect - Bayonet Books Anthology Book 7
Fantastic Schools, Volume 6

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Looking Ahead A Catholic Handbook for School Students - The Association of Catholic Women and the Catholic Truth Society

Looking Ahead
A Catholic Handbook for School Students 
The Association of Catholic Women 
ISBN 9781784697471
CTS Booklet CH75

Over the last several years I have read 352 different volumes from the Catholic Truth Society, many of them more than once. I have nearly 200 others I want to read. And each year they come out with new ones that often end up on my wish list. I picked this one up shortly after it released. I picked it up for my daughter in grade 7 that is about to be confirmed. She absolutely loved it, and much to my surprise so does her older brother. I have had to order a second copy for him. I read it one afternoon over a couple of mugs of tea. It is an excellent volume. It is stunning with full page colour on every page. Each chapter has a clear colour on the edges of the pages. It is well laid out. With the information presented in a variety of formats, text boxes, asides, and main text. I was really impressed with the quality and craftsmanship. 

The description of this book is:

“Looking Ahead answers big questions about life, God, and the world. Full of useful information, quirky facts, assorted prayers, stories of saints and heroes, and beautiful illustrations, this is a book to help you make sense of your amazing calling to follow Jesus Christ.

Figuring out what it means to be a disciple of Christ as a young person today is tricky. If you think about it, you probably have a lot of questions: How am I supposed to know what’s true? Or know what to do? Who has the answers? Is it science? Is it the Bible? How does it all fit together? And what does it mean for my life? Looking Ahead answers big questions about life, God, and the world.

Full of useful information, quirky facts, assorted prayers, stories of saints and heroes, and beautiful illustrations, this is a book to help you make sense of your amazing calling to follow Jesus Christ.”

The chapters and section in this volume are:

Faith and History
     Who is Jesus Christ?
     How do we know Jesus Christ existed?
     What is the Bible?
     Can we trust the Gospels?
     When did Christianity arrive in Britain?   
     Britain’s patron Saints
     The Lord’s Prayer in Gaelic
     The Lord’s Prayer in Irish
     The Lord’s Prayer in Welsh
     The Lord’s Prayer in English
     The Reformation in Britain
     Good News across the world
Our World and Science
     Genesis: the beginning … his love
     But …
     Why is this?
     Our World
     What is the Big Bang Theory
     The Church and evolution
     Noted Catholic Scientists
          Hildegard of Bingen (c.1098-c.1179)
          Roger Bacon (c.1214-c.1294)
          Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
          Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
          Albert Curtz (1600-1671)
          Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680)
          Jean Picard (1620-1682)
          Nicholas steno (1638-1686)
          Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706)
          Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)
          Louis Braille (1809-1852)
          Luis Pasteur (1822-1895)
          Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915)
          Georges Lamaitre (1894-1966)
          Jerome Lejeune (1926-1994)
Young Saints
     Pope Benedict XVI speaks to the young people of Britain
     Carlo Acutis
     Charles Lwanga and companions
     Dominic Savio
     Maria Goretti
     Bernadette Soubirous
Living the Christian Life
     About Prayer
     We start our prayers with the Sign of the Cross
     Our Father
     Hail Mary
     Glory Be
     Apostles Creed
     Prayer to the Holy Spirit 
     Prayer in the Morning
     Morning Offering
     Prayer at Night
     Prayer to my Guardial Angel
     Prayer to St Michael
     Grace before meals
     Grace after meals
     The Memorare
     The Hail Holy Queen
     Sub tuum
     Fatima Prayer
     Popular Devotions
          The Rosary
          The Stations of the Cross
          The Divine Mercy Chapley
     Catholic Doctrine
     The Ten Commandments
     The Seven Sacraments
     The Five Precepts of the Chuch
     The Sacrament of Penance
     Going to Confession
     An Examination of Conscience
     The Mass
     Making a Spiritual Communion
     Adoration of the blessed Sacrament
Quick Queries
     Why are there different Christian Denominations?
     Can’t al;l Christians just unite?
     Why must we go to Mass on Sundays?
     Why do Holy Days matter?
     How does the Church Calendar work?
     Are priests always holy?
     Why are all priests men?
     Are men and women different?
     What does the Church teach about LGBT people?
     Why is there suffering in the world?
     Have Catholics always behaved well?
     Are the internet and modern technology good?
     Are saints always people from long ago?
Over to YOU
     What could help you be a better Catholic?
          First things first
     What and listen: TV, video, radio, film and theatre
          Films for young people
          Radio Stations/Podcasts for young people
          The Wintershall plays
          Get involved!
          Get together with friends
          Your local church … and further afield
          Find out about going on a pilgrimage
Go deeper! (List or resources and links)
     Trust in God
     Do not be Afraid

As you can see in 111 pages it packs in a lot of information. The pages are a nonstandard size. And it stands out on the side table or bookcase. It is a great book for children from first communion to confirmation, and even beyond. I just really wish there was an eBook edition. That way they could keep it on them at all times. And my son and I could both use adaptive technology. I have a dual form of dyslexia and prefer eBooks to change the font, font and page colour, and my son has eye tracking issues and often has 1 line at a time highlighted. But other than the lack of a digital edition, this is an incredible resource. This would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library, church, home or school library as well.

An excellent resource the whole family loves. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Saturday, 3 June 2023

Praying the Stations with Saint John XXIII - Bill Huebsch

Praying the Stations with Saint John XXIII
Bill Huebsch
ISBN 9781627850049 

This is the second of the Stations of the Cross I have read from Twenty-Third Publications, I really loved Praying the Stations Mary’s Way of the Cross, by Richard G. Furey CSsR and picked up several others in this series. I enjoyed this one but did not agree with all of Huebsch’s extrapolations of Saint John XXIII’s thought, I have read much by and about the good pope John and find some of the reflections circumspect. I would rather that Bill had drawn from John’s own writings instead of his interpretations of them for the reflections. I have already picked 6 other volumes in the series including 1 other by Bill Huebsch. This was an ok stations but not one I am likely to return to.

This volume starts with a 2 page introduction and ends with a 1 page “A Final Moment with Saint John XXIII”. Each station is a two facing pages spread. With my dual form of dyslexia I struggled with the font and layout. Particularly the italics used for headings. If there was an eBook edition I could change the font, font and page colour to make it easier to read and more accessable.

Sample Station for this edition:

The Third Station
Announcement of the Station

Leader The Third Station: Jesus falls the first time

Leader We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
All Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Leader Jesus, you stood before the Sanhedrin, a council of your own people, and faced their terrible judgment. They saw you, but rejected your word of love and your lifestyle of repentance and faith. They did not believe in your healing and teaching power. And they did not see in your face the very face of God. As you walked those first steps on the road to Calvary, this first fall did not change your loving heart or reduce your commitment to your mission. May we ourselves, here and now, show the same resolve when we stumble. May we see the face of God in the faces of all around us, even those we find it most difficult to love.

Response (Psalm 36:1–4)
All The God-rebel tunes in to sedition—
all ears, eager to sin.
He has no regard for God,
he stands insolent before him.
He has smooth-talked himself into believing
That his evil will never be noticed.
Words gutter from his mouth, dishwater dirty.
Can’t remember when he did anything decent.
Every time he goes to bed,
he fathers another evil plot.
When he’s loose on the streets, nobody’s safe.
He plays with fire
and doesn’t care who gets burned.

Leader It was one of Pope John’s dreams that Vatican II would open the windows and the doors of the Church again. For many centuries, the Church’s doors had been closed and the leaders of the Church had been in the business of judging others, of deciding who was worthy to receive God’s love and who was not. Like Jesus had been, many people were judged harshly during those years. Pope John trusted that, with the help of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Church would not stumble and fall but be made stronger—as Christ was on his way to Calvary. Today the Church sees itself as a loving sign of the reign of God on earth. God, we know, loves all without distinction. As such, the Church now embraces all who come to join in the banquet.

A momentary, sacred pause…

Leader Help us when we stumble and fall, Jesus, Lord of life and love. When the inevitable happens and we commit that old sin again, or when we see a chance to love and reject it, or when we treat others harshly on purpose, stand beside us with your loving forgiveness, and help us get up and get back on the road to you. Amen.”

The grade school I attended was Pope John XXIII and is now Saint John XXII, I have had a devotion to this saint from a fairly young age. I can state I was disappointed with this volume. But I am impressed with the series and will give others in the series a try. This was an ok stations of the cross. It was not great but also not terrible. I have a few stations I return to again and again. I am always willing to give another version of this devotion a try. I wish the other in the series were available digitally. With my dual form of dyslexia I greatly prefer eBooks so I can change the font, font and page colour to make reading easier. I will read and review the others from the series I have tracked down and try to find the reaming few of the other volumes in the ‘Praying The Stations Series’ from Twenty-Third Publications. I try and pray a stations each Friday throughout the year, and every day during Lent. But as mentioned I will not likely return to this one.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

For all other reviews of Stations of the Cross click here.

Books in the Praying The Stations Series:
Praying the Stations with Seniors
The Mystery of the Cross
Praying the Stations of Mercy with Pope Francis
Praying the Stations with Pope Francis
Praying the Stations with Saint John xxiii
Praying the Stations with Catechists
Praying the Stations with Children
Praying the Stations for Healing
Praying the Stations with John Paul II
Praying the Stations for the Suffering, Ill, and Disabled
Meditando El Via Crucis El Viacrucis de Maria
Praying the Stations with Teenagers
Praying the Stations Today’s Disciples

Friday, 2 June 2023

Swords and Maidens Eleven Tales of Chivalry and Valor - edited by N.R. LaPoint

Swords and Maidens: Eleven Tales of Chivalry and Valor
N.R. LaPoint (Editor)
ISBN 9798387724152
eISBN 1230006254940

I picked up this volume mainly because of a contribution by Declan Finn. I have been reading about a book a week of his for almost a year now. And was now branching out to anthologies he had contributed to. I had previously read stories by Michael Gallagher and L. Jagi Lamplighter. I also have already picked up a novel by John C. Wright that because of reading his story in this collection jumped way up on my reading list. I love reading anthologies mainly to be introduced to new authors. The Authors who contributed to this volume are:

The stories in the book are:

Wings of Ether - T.J. Marquis
The Shrouded Tower - Michael Gallagher
The Winged Horse - Hawkings Austin
Three Swords - Blake Carpenter
Harem Fantasy in Another World - John C. Wright
Azrael - N.R. LaPoint
Crazy Like an Elf - Declan Finn
The Gift - Anne Clare
The Supercomputers of Rai - Alexander Hellene
Vivre Le Patriarchy! - L. Jagi Lamplighter
Judgement Sun - J.D. Cowan

The description of the volume is:

“From magic battlefields where horses fear to tread, to flying fortresses, fantastical otherworlds, a planet infested with eldritch abominations, and lands ruled by fear, heroes will fight for what is worth fighting for. Knights in gleaming armor, soldiers, Middle Earth’s most deadly Elvish assassin, hunters, and kings. All will risk their lives to defend the defenseless, to destroy monsters, to preserve the lives and honor of fair maidens.

See a soldier fight to rescue a besieged princess from marauding, magitech barbarians, an immortal knight fight for a farmstead, a husband and wife fight for the honor of a fallen comrade against a deadly dragon, a hunter seek to recover a maiden’s stolen soul, an elf defend a woman from assassins, a deposed king fight for his kingdom, and more!”

Normally when I read an anthology there is one or two standout stories. And sometimes a dud or two. This time all the stories were great. I was very impressed with the storytelling in the whole collection. I especially appreciated Finn’s piece, I was unaware it was previously published in the Planetary Anthology Series, Luna, I have picked those up but have not get to them yet. But reading his story was like jumping back and reading the Convention Killings stories, or like visiting with an old friend. The twist towards the end of Harem Fantasy in Another World by John W. Wright literally knotted up my stomach. Ahh gram. A stand out story was Three Swords by Blake Carpenter. But as mention all the stories left me wanting to read more in the world or by the author. 

I had pre-ordered this book, with the ASIN B0BVGCC2MK, a month later I noted the book was unpurchased and I picked it up again ASIN B0BZZ4FDYY. I bought the book Twice and have two different downloads. The formatting on the second was much better, especially for using adaptive technology; Text To Speech, to listen to the book, but overall still a little frustrating. However the stories in the volume were worth even double the price. 

This is an excellent collection of short stories. I really appreciated all of the pieces. I can easily recommend this anthology for anyone who loves short form fiction, fantasy, or just great writing. Pick it up I am certain there will be an author or half dozen you want to investigate further.

Note: For all reviews of Anthologies click here.
For All reviews of books by or contributed to by Declan Finn click here.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Two Peas in a Pod - Sarah Mlynowski - Whatever After Book 11

Two Peas in a Pod
Whatever After Book 11
Sarah Mlynowski
eISBN 9781338162905
ASIN B0756HT811

This is the thirteenth title I have read a book in this series. I have been reading these stories with my girls for over 7 years now. I read a few of these stories with my oldest starting in 2016. Now my youngest is reading them to me. Last year for Christmas her older brother even bought her the next 3 titles she needed because he enjoys listening to the stories. My youngest now insists we review everything that we read together, so this review from 2023 is part of that effort. And my youngest has been writing her own reviews of the books she has finished for the last year and is planning on starting her own book blog. Between reading with my oldest and youngest this is the nineteenth time I have read a book in this series. The stories have great staying power. Even as an adult I enjoy these books, not only the first time but rereading them again and again.

Mlynowski as does a wonderful job with the story in this book, and all we have read in the series so far. The whole family loves these stories from 8-years old to 80 years old. For they have been read to grandma in the car on road trips by both the girls. This is another great read in a fantastic series. The stories are always fun and extremely entertaining, but they also have some valuable lessons and insight. 

My youngest daughter and I both give this story a solid 5/5 stars, she says this is a not as dark as the last few, but also much more interesting. She was surprised by the turn in the story during the invasion. This story had a number of twists and turns that we had not guessed and took us by surprise. She was totally taken by what happened at the end. She also always wonders what the change in the  jewellery box will be at the end of the story.

The description of this story is:

“This hilarious novel in the New York Times –bestselling series fractures the beloved fairy-tale of The Princess and the Pea . . .

I’ve landed—along with my brother, Jonah, and our dog, Prince—on the other side of the portal . . . and in the fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea! When I can’t fall asleep on top of a hundred mattresses, the kingdom decides I must be the princess they’re looking for. Talk about royal treatment—I’m suddenly being waited on hand and foot. Plus, I get unlimited ball gowns, sparkly jewellery, and ice cream. But can we find a REAL princess to run the kingdom? Now we have to:

There’s no time to snooze—may the best princess win!!”

We both enjoyed Abby’s and Jonah’s growth in this story, and the growth and changes in some of the princess candidates during the challenges and when trying to save the kingdom. They both are also continuing to be better at troubleshooting issues and problems during their adventures. I was surprised by some of the twists in this one. It is aother good read in a great series.

We always enjoy Mlynowski’s twists and takes on old tales. This is a great take on another familiar tale. The writing in these stories is excellent. My daughters and I love reading them together. The retelling of this story surprised both of us and I am certain it will surprise you. It is a great book in an excellent series.  

Books by Sarah Mlynowski:
Magic in Manhattan Series:

Bras & Broomsticks
Frogs & French Kisses
Spells & Sleeping Bags
Parties & Potions

Whatever After Special Editions:
Abby in Wonderland
Abby in Oz

Upside-Down Magic Series:
Upside-Down Magic #1
Sticks and Stones #2
Showing Off #3

Other Books by Sarah:
Monkey Business
As Seen on TV
Me Vs. Me
Gimme a Call
Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)
Don't Even Think About It
Think Twice
Know It All
A Nice Fling is Hard to Find
A Little Bit Broken
Party Girls
The Two-Month Itch

Books Coauthored:
See Jane Write (with Farrin Jacobs)
How to Be Bad (with E. Lockhart and Lauren Myracle)

Books Contributed To:
Girls' Night In
Girls Night Out
American Girls About Town
Vacations from Hell