Saturday 30 September 2023

Top Ten Fiction and Non-Fiction Books Third Quarter 2023

Top Ten Fiction and Non-Fiction Books Third Quarter 2023

It has been a very good year for reading, in fact I think it is my best to date, and not likely ever to be matched. I have read 371 books read to date, and 102 of them this quarter. A lot of great reads, and a few new authors that I had not explored yet.  I have read just over a book and a quarter a day. I read 109 books this quarter, in comparison with the last 7 years:

     2022 – 87
     2022 – 79
     2021 – 79
     2020 – 61
     2019 – 89
     2018 – 91
     2017 – 64
     2016 – 94

But back to this quarter by the numbers:

Books Read: 102
First Time Reads: 76
Fiction: 47
Non-Fiction: 55
5/5 Stars: 70

So right about on par with most of the years. I can state again that looking back 2016 is a bit of an outlier as late that year I switched jobs and have since had much better work – life balance. In the spring of 2016, I worked through Brandon Vogt’s course Read More Books Now (now available on ClaitasU). The year before that I removed all games from my phone and tablet and my reading had doubled. 

Here is my top ten fiction and non-fiction books of the fourth quarter of 2020.

Top Ten Non-Fiction Books:

1. Vision Books for Young Readers from Ignatius Press
An American Little Flower - GinaMarie Tennant 
Maria von Trapp and Her Musical Family - Cheri Blomquist and John Herreid
3. CTS Biographies from the Catholic Truth Society
Martyrs of Uganda - Joanna Bogle
8. Books by Alice Curtayne
10. Books by Mary Fabyan Windeatt from TAN Books

Top Ten Fiction Books:

4. Dreams of the Storyteller - Richard Paolinilli
6.  Glaston Chronicles Books by Donal Anthony Foley
9. The Harwood Mysteries - Antony Barone Kolenc - The Lucy Short Stories
10. Royal & Ancient - Amanda Lauer

Bonus Books:

My reading has been up over each of the last few years. And I thought last year would be a high watermark. But this year is proving me wrong. Which I attribute in part to Brandon Vogt’s course Read More Books Now, removing all games but 1 brain game from my devices. And I was commuting to work on a bus and read on the bus every day. Working from home reading took a little more discipline. And with a planned return to hybrid work things will change again soon.  

Note: I do not include books that have been read in previous years and were reread this year in my top ten lists, they are sometimes in the bonus section. But if you want more options check out my favourite books year by year list. Or this year not to flood the list with one specific author.   

Relates Posts: 
Top 10 Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2010
Top 10 Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2010
Top 10 Reading Goals for 2010
Top 10 Fiction Books 3rd Quarter 2010

Top 10 Fiction Books 4th Quarter 2010
Top Ten Reading Goals For 2010 - Recap

Top 10 Fiction Books 2010
Top 10 Picture Books of 2010
Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2010

Top 10 Graphic Novels for 2010
Top Ten Reading Goals For 2011

Top Ten Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2011
Top Ten Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2011
Top Ten Reading Goals for 2011 Update
Top Ten Fiction Books 3rd Quarter 2011 
Top Ten Fictions Books 4th Quarter 2011
Top Ten Fiction Books 2011
Top Ten Reading Goals 2011 - Recap
Top Ten Reading Goals 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2012

Top Ten Fiction Books 3rd Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books  4th Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books 2012
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2012
Top Ten Reading Goals 2012 - Recap
Top Ten Reading Goals 2013
Top 10 Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2013
Top 10 Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2013
Top 10 Books Second Half 2013
Top Ten Fiction Books 2013
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2013 
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2014
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2014
Top Ten Books Third Quarter 2014
Top Ten Books Fourth Quarter 2014
Top Ten Fiction Books 2014
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2014
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2015
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2015
Top Ten Books Third Quarter 2015
Top Ten Books Fourth Quarter 2015
Top Ten Fiction Books 2015
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2015
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2016
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2016
Top Ten Books Third Quarter 2016
Top Ten Books Fourth Quarter 2016
Top Ten Non- Fiction Books 2016
Top Ten Fiction Books 2016
Top Ten Catholic Books
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2017
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2017
Top Ten Books Third Quarter 2017
Top Ten Books Fourth Quarter 2017
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2017
Top Ten Fiction Books 2017
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2018
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2018
Top Ten Books Third Quarter 2018
Top Ten Books Fourth Quarter 2018
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2018
Top Ten Fiction Books 2018
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2019
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2019
Top Ten Books Third Quarter 2019
Top Ten Books Fourth Quarter 2019
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2019
Top Ten Fiction Books 2019
Top Ten Books First Quarter 2020
Top Ten Books Second Quarter 2020
438 - 2022
365 - 2021
317 - 2020 
392 - 2019
359 - 2018
380 - 2017 
272 - 2016 
177 - 2015 
130 - 2014 
88 -  2013
176 - 2012 
163 - 2011
302 - 2010
142 - 2009
98 - 2008
83 - 2007
191 - 2006
151 - 2005
60 - 2004
52 - 2003
97 - 2002
50 - 2001
41 - 2000
71 - 1999
73 - 1998
131 - 1997
101 - 1996

Friday 29 September 2023

The Excalibur Mystery - Donal Anthony Foley - The Glaston Chronicles Book 3

The Excalibur Mystery
ISBN 9781733258159

I am very thankful this long teased third volume in this series has finally been released. The books are now with a new publisher, and the first two volumes have been rebranded and reprinted. I reread books one and two before reading this one. 

I have read a several of Donal Anthony Foley’s nonfiction works and have loved them all. Both books he has written and books he has edited. This was the third of his fictional works I have read, and it is an excellent story. It is an awesome story, in a classic style and genre. 

The description of this book states:

“Matt Bergen and his cousins, Luke and Annie, learn more about the Abbey at Glastonbury, King Arthur and his legendary sword. Soon they find themselves in a battle with evil accomplices fascinated by the sword, who want it for the occult power it will give them.”

It is another story packed with action, danger, risk, and figuring out your faith. This one add’s in another cousin. And brings back a previous villain. I would say this book is written with the teen or young adult audience in mind. And yet also state that because of how compelling the writing is readers of any age will fall in love with the characters, and be captivated by the story. This is one of those books that friends and family will get tired of hearing about. It is a story I will be talking about for months and recommending for years to come. 

This story ties together a lot of elements that are important to our family. My son and I are big fans of Richard III, for both of us the fascination started with Colm Feore’s playing the role at the Stratford Festival in Canada. For myself in 1988 and for my son in 2023. So, when the cousins go back in time to just prior to the battle of Bosworth. But there is also mention of Saint David of Wales and St Patrick of Ireland, both of which are favourites in our family. There is also speculation about what the world would look like of Richard had won. 

““In fact, the Catholic Reformation wasn’t simply a reaction against the rise of Protestantism, even though the Protestant Reformation had the effect of greatly stimulating the Catholic reform. Rather it was really another example of the type of work of spiritual reform undertaken by men such as St Bernard in the twelfth, and St Francis and St Dominic in the thirteenth centuries. 

But all that didn’t happen, and the Reformation was a real turning point, and not just for this country, but for the whole world. This was because England was destined to have such a huge influence on how America developed. If England had remained Catholic then North America would have been entirely Catholic. And that would have meant a completely Catholic ‘New World’. And that’s probably what God intended, given that Our Lady appeared in Mexico at Guadalupe in 1531, as the Reformation was unfolding.””

This thought has got me wondering about an Alternate History where this has happened. And finally, the links to Arthur and legends around him and Joseph or Arimathea are masterfully executed. So much history was brought into this story. 

If you have read and enjoyed books like Narnia, The Chime Travelers, and the lesser know Mr. Baker’s Book Series will love this book. But geared for older readers than the last two. If you appreciate historical fiction with a twist. This is one for you. If you just love a very well written story, give this one a try. It was masterfully executed. This is another amazing story in an excellent series. 

My only regret is that there are not currently eBook editions available of the series, I have a dual form of dyslexia and greatly prefer eBooks so I can change the font, and colour of font and page. My Son has eye tracking issues and prefers eBooks as well. Foley has written a great story and series in the time and space travel genre.  In it we follow 4 youth being transported back to England during the end of Richard the III’s reign from the Tor in Glaston. It is a great adventure story about friendship, family and faith. But be warned it will leave you desperate for the next volume. I can easily recommend this book and this series. A great read!

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

Books by Donal Anthony Foley:
Christian Living: The Spirituality of the Foyers of Charity
Understanding Medjugorje: Heavenly Visions or Religious Illusion?
Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World
Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud?


Nonfiction titles from Foley:

Thursday 28 September 2023

My Den – Home Office 2023

My Den – Home Office 2023

Last year I wrote a piece called My Den – Home Office 2022, since that time there have been some updates. My youngest daughter has chosen Joan of Arc and I have added another Joan icon for that. I added a St. David of Wales, because my oldest two children attend a school named after him. Last year I stated that I did not have a den or personal space for the last 11.5 years. The house we were in was smaller, 3 bedrooms and 4 of us when we moved in and 5th in under a year. For a long time I had a desk in the basement, beside my wife’s crafting desk and supplies. For the last 2 years with Covin-19 and working from home full time, I had a small desk in the living room. It placed me on the central floor of the house and when all three children were doing remote learning I could hear anything brewing on the floor above or below. Then the house we have been renting for over 11 years was put on the market. We moved to a very beautiful hose. The children each have their own rooms now. And my wife and I share a space. It is my den/home office, and her scrapbooking space. For the first 6 months I did not put anything up in the den. I had stuff that had been around my desk at home, and always had stuff up in my cubicle at work. But I wanted to plan this out. This is what it now looks like almost 18 months later.

After that initial 6 months I put up a few icons I already had. And started planning what I would like my office to look and feel like. It has taken me another 5 months but this is where my set up now. Work, Play, Pray! 

Across the top above the desk:

Pope Benedict Praying the Rosary
Our Lady Immaculate Heart 
Saint Josemaria Escriva
Divine Mercy (a copy of the one in our church.)
Mary (Have had this one for years from my grandmother)
Our Lady of La Salette 
The Father Icon (from St Mark's School of Reading)

The three coming down from these are my children's confirmation saints.

Inside these my:

Beside these:

Saint Gemma Galgani
4 Archangels
Our Lady of Perpetual 
Saint Brendan
Saint Patrick

On the outside of the corner:

Our Lady of the Snows
Saint Kyriaki
Saint George and the Dragon
Saint Nicholas
Saint David of Wales

On the bookcase behind me:

Immaculate Heart of Mary
Saint Joseph

Pope Benedict XVI
Damien of Molokai
Our Lady of La Salette 

Beside bookcase:

Crucifix with soil from Jerusalem
Saint Damien of Molokai
Saint Brigid of Ireland
Saint John Paul II

On the desk:
Memento Mori Skull
Homeless Jesus - Timothy Schmalz
When I Was a Stranger - Timothy Schmalz
Statue of Mary
Pocket Cross

The new icons and artwork come from a variety of sources, for some I have linked to the sites above. Some more detailed pictures below. 

Timothy Schmalz has some incredible sculptures, and they are all over the world.

These are icons from Theophilia on Deviant Art. I love that they are younger versions of the saints than often we encounter. I picked up Saint Patrick for me, Joan of Arc for my 26 year old daughter I just found out about last year. And the other three for my children here at home. 

These are 3 of 6 Greek Orthodox Catholic Icons I purchased. They are smaller than I expected. But on a nice thick piece of stained wood. The Smaller icons come from Holy Art.

Finally the two painting on either side of the entrance were both painted by my youngest. She is 11 now Jack Skellington was painted a few years ago. The Fall Scene this last fall at school.

The Divine Mercy at out church was painted by a local artist for a previous pastor. I love her rendition of it.

The main sources for my religious art are:

As a side note about the confirmation saints for my children I pray for them each time the icon catches my attention. When they are older and moving out for work or school I plan on taking them down and giving them to them. I hope you enjoyed the tour of my space. And maybe it will inspire you to add an icon, sculpture or two to your own work space. 

Related Posts:

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Joan of Arc The Maid of Orléans - Andrew Votipka - Mr. Baker’s Book Series Book 3

Joan of Arc
The Maid of Orléans
Mr. Baker’s Book Series Book 3
Andrew Votipka
ISBN 9798843057121

Joan of Arc The Maid of Orléans - Andrew Votipka - Mr. Baker’s Book Series Book 3

This is the long awaited third volume in the Mr. Barker’s Book series. I actually missed the release of it. And only found it when I recommended the first two to a friend, and thought to go look and see if there was a third yet. This is by far the most ambitious of the volumes.  

It is another great read in the Mr. Baker’s Book Series, but again not the book I was expecting. I was expecting a volume on Aloysius Gonzaga, as it had been teased at the end of book 1. I do hope we still get that one at some point. But even with it being on an unexpected saint, this was a wonderful volume. My youngest daughter picked Joan for her confirmation saint 2 years ago. She has done book reports, and speeches on Joan, and together we have read a number of volumes about Joan. We were both very excited to get into this. It jumped to the top of her ‘to be read’ pile as soon as it arrived. We could hardly put it down. We loved the first book in this series on Abba Moses, in part because he is a much less known saint. And book 2, Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker is an excellent read. And this is another great volume. 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 which are both for younger readers. And of the The Glaston Chronicles by Donal Anthony Foley, which is for slightly older readers. Fans of those three series will love this series. This is geared more for an older reader, late middle grade, tweens or teens. But I loved it even in my 50’.

The description of this volume is:

“A pandemic has shut down Laura's Sunday school class. But her teacher, Mr. Baker, has a plan. Join Laura as she travel back in time to help Joan of Arc save France! The third installment of Mr. Baker's Book series is packed with action, history, and a lesson about what it means to fight for what you believe in.”

In this one instead of the trio travelling through time, it is just Laura, and he travels to many times and places. But all in relation to Joan of Arc. 

The chapters in the story are:

   1. The Virus 
   2. A Small Village 
   3. The Vision 
   4. A Message for the King 
   5. An Escort 
   6. Ready to Go 
   7. On Trial 
   8. Sardines 
   9. Challenge to Authority 
   10. Orléans 
   11. The Secrets of the Book 
   12. Breaking the Siege 
   13. Behind Enemy Lines 
   14. The Coronation 
   15. Tax Breaks 
   16. Wake Up!

The author in the preface to this volume states:

“Unlike Abba Moses or Saint Nicholas, the tale of Joan of Arc is complex. It’s complexity comes from the fact that her life is so well documented. As Mark Twain said in his excellent book about Joan, “The details of the life of Joan of Arc form a biography which is unique among the world’s biographies in one respect: It is the only story of a human life which comes to us under oath, the only one which comes to us from the witness-stand. The official records of the Great Trial of 1431, and of the Process of Rehabilitation of a quarter of a century later, are still preserved in the National Archives of France, and they furnish with remarkable fullness the facts of her life. The history of no other life of that remote time is known with either the certainty or the comprehensiveness that attaches to hers.”
I have done my best to free the narrative from the burdens of dates and names, always trying to remember who the audience is. But I have probably failed more often than I’ve succeeded. To assist the reader, I would recommend remembering these few things:

Joan called Charles VII the dauphin, which means the heir to the throne. So any time you see that word, remember that it’s referring to Charles VII. And it’s pronounced like “dolphin” with no “l”.

Besides the English, there was another group trying to control France called the Burgundians. They make an appearance in this story. Just remember, at the time they were allies of the English and enemies of the French.”

Now having a Religious Studies Degree with a focus on Roman Catholic Thoughts I am well versed with the story of Joan. Like many I have had a fascination with her for years. And have read books about her life off and on throughout mine. My daughter who chose Joan for her confirmation saint is always interested in reading more about Joan. This was a fascinating read. To imagine going back and jumping through time to key points in Joan’s story.  

This book really does bring to life the life and times of Saint Joan of Arc and by hopping around it time; we encounter her at many different points in her life. Laura is transported back in time, and soon finds she plays small roles in Joan’s mission. What they are and how they play out … well you have to read the book to find out. Laura also encounters someone she knows and we learn more about the book that has now allowed children to travel in time three times and encounter different saints.  

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 Laura as she gets transported back and experience this saint and the 100 Years War in a fascinating first hand way.  

This book was an excellent read in a great series. We greatly enjoyed it. I will pick up any future offering in this series. This book brought to life Saint Joan of Arc to us in a wonderful new way. I highly recommend this volume and the series.

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

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

Joan of Arc The Maid of Orléans - Andrew Votipka - Mr. Baker’s Book Series Book 3

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Phantoms' Lodge - Richard Paolinelli - Dreams Of The Storyteller Book 9

Phantoms' Lodge
Dreams Of The Storyteller Book 9

I have now read three stories in this series. And though each story is very different, so far they have all been excellent. My introduction to Richard’s works was a piece in the anthology Cracked. I have picked up several anthologies he has contributed to, that I have not got around to reading yet. I have also read 1 novel, Galen’s Way, and picked up several of his other novels after reading it. After the few stories by Paolinelli I have read I am now trying to read one a week until I have read his whole back catalogue. So several of his stories and novels are towards the top of my ‘to be read pile’. Richard is not only an author but the driving force behind Tuscany Bay Books, I have read many volumes from the Bay by a number of authors and all have been well worth the read. This was one of several new short stories that dropped in the collection Dreams Of The Storyteller. There are now 19 volumes in that collection, the first 2 date from 2014, 1 from 2022, and the rest have dropped in July/August 2023. After reading the first story I went back and grabbed the whole collection. Much like I did with Declan Finn last year with reading a story a week until I have read all he has published.   

At the time of reading this I have read 335 books so far this year. And this is another excellent story from the Paolinelli's pen. I said in a previous review that I have been aware of Richard and his works for a few years now. It is my loss that I did not dig into his works earlier. Don’t make my mistake, pick some up and give them a read! The description of this story is:

“Eric Christopher is an heir finder looking for a man who disappeared a quarter of a century ago.

What he finds when he steps inside the Phantoms' Lodge near the mysterious Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco will change everything he thought he knew about life, love and death.

This story was originally published in Planetary Anthology Series: Saturn by Tuscany Bay Books.”

I have had that anthology for a while, but have not read it yet, I look forward to rereading this story again when I get around to it. Last year I read an anthology called Hotel California edited by Don Bruns, this story would have been a perfect story for the collection. It is very different from anything else I have read by Richard to date. It also has a bit of a feel of Tales from the Brackenwood Ghost Club by Andrew M. Seddon. 

This story took me by surprise. A little bit supernatural, in part a ghost story. It is about friendship, betrayal, forgiveness and life after death. It is a story that will stay with readers. I find myself still thinking about it days after reading it. 

This is a great short story. It draws you in quickly, it keeps your attention. The main character is excellently written. The plot will surprise you. I look forward to the other stories in this series and many of Richard’s other series.

If you have not read anything by Paolinelli don’t make my mistake. Pick some up and give them a read now. There is a lot to choose from and I am sure you will be entertained. This was an excellent read. It is a story that leaves you desperate for more. I can easily recommend this story, and everything I have read from Richard’s pen.   

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan!
For reviews of all books from Tuscany Bay click here.

Books by Richard Paolinelli:
When the Gods Fell
The Calling
The Last Lonely Trail
A Zombie Christmas Carol

Infinity Series:
Escaping Infinity
Exploring Infinity

Starguest 4th Age Series:

Timeless Series:
The Timeless
Secret of the Sphinx

Jack Del Rio Series:
Del Rio Omnibus Edition

Divine Trolls Comedies:
The Fall Of The House Of 770 Vile Aromas 
The Corvo

SeaDragon 1 May 1986
SeaDragon 2 June 1996

Non Fiction:
Perfection’s Arbiter
From The Fields
The Space Shuttle: 1981–2011 

Contributed to:
To Be Men 
Places Beyond The Wild
Space Force Building The Legacy
Secret Stairs 
A Tribute To H.G. Wells (2019 Edition)
Beyond Watson 
Holmes Away From Home, Vol. 2 
Sherlock Holmes Adventures In The Realms Of H.G. Wells 
Sherlock Holmes Aventures In The Realms Of Edgar Allan Poe
The Art Of Sherlock Holmes 
The Mx Book Of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, Part Xxii

Planetary Anthology Series:
Best Of Planetary Anthology Series
Galen's Way Richard Paolinelli

Galen's Blade Richard Paolinelli

At Homeworld's End - Richard Paolinelli - Dreams Of The Storyteller Book 7

Richard Paolinelli - Dreams Of The Storyteller Book 7