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Secrets, Visible and Invisible - Book Review

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What a treat it was to read Secrets – Visible & Invisible, a selection of seven short stories, written by seven different Catholic teen authors. Each story centers on a secret, and each story’s protagonist(s) depicted virtue, worthy of emulating. So, here is the run down: Secrets of Faith The Underappreciated Virtues of Rusty Old Bicycles, is a dystopian tale from Corinna Turner. In this story we meet Margo and Bane, two pre-teens out for a joy ride. They live in a futuristic time where religion and faith are taboo, yet Margo and Bane are practicing Catholics. Masses are said underground. After attending a secret Mass, they get into trouble while trying to get home on time. Will the authorities let them go, or will they convict them of joining the “Resistance?” Margo and Bane’s faith is only one of several secrets revealed in this page-turning, fast paced story, that serves as a prequel to I am Margaret. Secrets of Generosity In Recreation, by award winning novelist, Cynthia T. Ton…

Living Virtuously, by Erin Harrison - Book Review and Give Away!

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In Living Virtuously, Erin Harrison teaches us how to embrace and embody virtue in our homes. Harrison is a homesteading and homeschooling mom. She shares with us her own trials and triumphs in addressing vice and embodying virtue; using real-life recollections. Harrison’s perspective on life, and her tone of writing, calls us back to a time when manners and etiquette were valued. She’s quick to point out that the technological advances of the 20th century do not always give us a better quality of life. In Harrison’s opinion, sometimes it is better to do things the old-fashioned way – like talking to each other face to face! If you are a working mom, or a woman who doesn’t quite embrace the whole “submissive” thing (Eph 5:24), then you may not initially relate to Harrison’s suggestions on how to best incorporate virtue into your family life. But, I strongly suggest that you continue reading this gem of a book and allow yourself to search deeper, to find the numerous golden nuggets wa…

Emily's Hope, by Ellen Gable - Book Review

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In Emily’s Hope, by Ellen Gable, Gable gives us a glimpse into the two mindsets of the abortion/pro-life movements. In this fictional tale, Gable introduces us to Katherine Clayman, circa early 20th century, when women did not have the right to an abortion, let alone the right to vote. We learn of the illegality of ending a pregnancy and the lengths women would go to do just that.  Kathryn is a proponent of ending unwanted pregnancies and she doesn’t believe in God. Her philosophy was, “we live our lives, then we die and that’s the end of us.” (p.304). Contrast that thought with that of Emily Greer, Katherine’s Great-Granddaughter, who believes in the sanctity of life. Emily, born in 1959, sees life as a precious gift from God. She believes in a God who is the giver of life; seeing children as the fruit of self-giving love between a husband and wife. Katherine and Emily’s viewpoints on life offer a stark contrast, worthy of the read. Throughout the novel, Gable takes us back and fort…

Wisdom from the Christian Mystics - Book Review

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In reading Wisdom from the Christian Mystics, by David Torkington, I learned a great deal about how I might go about having a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Torkington begins this book by informing the reader of the Church history of mysticism and how its reception by the faithful has changed over time, due to the course of human events.  As a result, today, we do not know Jesus as we well as we could, because we do not communicate with Him in the same manner as the early Christians. Find God in Prayer To know God, we must come to experience Him in prayer; a prayer that begins with vocal prayer, moves to meditation and culminates in contemplation. It is impossible to love someone that we do not know. Torkington tells us that prayer is the answer, if we want to get to know Jesus better. Therefore, we must first come to know Jesus, via... Read more...

Masticate and Swallow - Book Review

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In this endearing memoir, Masticate and Swallow, by Fabio Alberto Hurtado, we learn of a young Cuban boy from the 1970’s, who emigrates to the United States. Hurtado sets the stage with a series of short stories from his childhood in Cuba, highlighting his relationship with family and the state. Masticate and Swallow – A Heartwarming Story He speaks of hardships living in a Communist country; yet he does it with humor. One of my favorite stories centers around a family game of Parchesi, where the family has only one die to play the game (The other was lost long ago). The game was competitive, and both Fabio and his cousin Sara did not like to lose. Fabio was one roll away from winning the game. Rather than lose to Fabio, Sara swallowed the die! Now, in Cuba, one cannot simply go down to the local store and purchase a new set of dice. So, what was anyone to do, but to wait for the die to appear again. As Fabio put it, “I do remember playing Parchesi again a week or so later with a shin…

A Life Such as Heaven Intended - Book Review

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Let me take you back in time, to the early 1860’s, when the American Civil War was raging. There, we meet Brigid McGinnis, in Amanda Lauer’s A Life Such as Heaven Intended.  Brigid is 17, and coming of age, as a typical southern belle. However, rather than marrying, Brigid sees herself giving her life to God as a nun. That is, until one day, when Brigid finds a very handsome stranger, lying injured in her backyard. Charitable young thing that she is, Brigid tends to the injured soldier, who seems to have lost his memory because of a head injury. Together, she and the injured soldier try to make sense of what might have happened to him. As he recovers under Brigid’s care, love blossoms between the two. From the onset, Lauer takes us on a romantic journey of chaste love, valuing the virtue of chastity. In this second book in a series, we see the virtues of charity, compassion, honesty and love on full display. There are fascinating sub-plots addressing the horror of slavery, and the ba…

Rebecca & Heart, by Deanna Klingel - Book Review

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Rebecca & Heart is an enchanting story, by Deanna Klingel, the author of Spokes. In Rebecca & Heart, we meet a young orphan girl named Rebecca, who we quickly learn is autistic. Not only is she an orphan, but no one at the orphanage likes her, let alone respects her. Because of her autism, they consider her “odd.” Well, that is, unless we forget to mention the Fly on the Wall, who is the narrator of this story.

Literally, the “Fly on the Wall” is a character in the story that tells the tale from beginning to end. He considers himself to be Rebecca’s best friend, even though Rebecca does not know that he exists! Klingel’s use of a fly to tell the story is pure genius! Anyone familiar with autism knows that many autistic children are non-verbal. Having an autistic protagonist of the story, makes the concept of dialogue quite challenging. Klingel easily gets around that obstacle by having the Fly on the Wall tell us what is happening throughout the story; thus creating more authe…

Kingdom of Happiness, by Fr. Jeffrey Kirby S.T.D - Book Review

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I was graced to receive Kingdom of Happiness, by Fr. Jeffrey Kirby S.T.D., as a Christmas present from my church, in appreciation for my volunteer efforts. I thought, “what a nice idea.” I’m a big fan of Fr. Kirby, having read his last book, Doors of Mercy. So, receiving Kingdom of Happiness seemed like a nice gesture to me. It turned out to be more than a nice gesture. It was a God-incidence! You see, I’ve been looking for a good book to share with you, one with lots of virtue built into it. As always, Fr. Kirby never lets me down!

Embracing the Beatitudes brings the Kingdom of Happiness to Our Doorsteps
In Kingdom of Happiness, Fr. Jeffrey Kirby not only tells us about the eight Beatitudes, but he masterfully connects the dots of each beatitude, to:
An aligned phrase from the Our Father,A specific Gift of the Holy Spirit that we received at Confirmation,The corresponding virtue, ANDThe antithesis of that virtue, or as Fr. Kirby calls it, the anti-beatitude (the capital sin that is i…

Molly McBride and the Party Invitation – Book Review

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Molly McBride is back! I was so excited to see Molly McBride and the Party Invitation, by Jean Schoonover-Egolf hit the shelves. This is Egolf’s third installment, in the Molly McBride series. I’m a big fan of Molly McBride, as I love her spunky attitude. I’ve enjoyed reading all three books, courtesy of Egolf. You can read my review of the first two books here.

Molly McBride and the Party Invitation Now, let’s talk about Molly McBride and the Party Invitation. In this installment, Molly’s birthday is about to occur, and of course, we must have a party! Yet, Momma says that ALL of Molly’s classmates MUST be invited to the party. That includes that mean boy, named Sam. If Sam comes to the party, he’ll ruin it! What is Molly to do? How can she have a great party, AND make sure that Sam doesn’t come?

What ensues is a tale of... Read more...

The Battle Against Yourself, by Greg J. Vogt - Book Review

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The Battle Against Yourself is a gripping real-life story from Greg J. Vogt. In Vogt’s debut novel, a memoir, he takes us from despair to hope, from sadness to happiness. He tells us of his battle with depression and attempts at suicide. It started in high school; with what many might overlook as typical teen angst. Yet, if we were to peel away at the layers of the onion, so to speak, we would see that Greg’s depression, at its root, stemmed from an internal feeling of lack of control, coupled with external factors/occurrences that sent him “off the deep-end.” Greg Vogt artfully articulates his internal loneliness, his low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, brought on by those eternal factors that exasperated his situation.

Rather Than Battle Against Yourself, Take Control
I found Vogt’s story extremely compelling, authentic and well written. He doesn’t sugar-coat the harshness of reality; nor does he gloss over trivialities. His story is down-to-earth, and uplifting at the sa…

A Storytellers Guide to a Grace Filled Life – Book Review

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I must start this post by telling you that I have been a friend and fan of Tony Agnesi for approximately four years now. Several years ago, as a fledgling Catholic blogger, I reached out to him, seeking advice. You see, Tony has an awesome blog over at tonyagnesi.com, where he blogs about virtue as well. Where I write more from a theological/academic point of view on virtue, Tony writes from experience. I once asked him, “How do you come up with such great stories? You are quite creative!” His reply, “Those things really happened to me!” God uses Tony, daily, to reach out to the less fortunate; to witness to the faith; and to use his gift for storytelling to reach the hearts of many. In A Storytellers Guide to a Grace Filled Life, we see Tony Agnesi at work in God’s Garden of life.

A Storytellers Guide to a Grace Filled Life
… captures the best of Tony Agnesi’s stories aimed at showing you how to find God’s Grace in your own life. As a master storyteller, Agnesi shares with us stories…

Evangelical Catholic, by Troy L. Guy - Book Review

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Have you ever wondered why Catholics do the things they do, and why they call themselves “Christians?” Then Evangelical Catholic, by Troy Guy, is the book for you! Guy takes us through the evangelical arguments, one by one, and shows us the truth of the Catholic faith. He then addresses the faith, pre-Protestantism (from year 1 AD to 1500 AD). Guy then ventures into the hot topics: sola scriptura, papal infallibility, Mary, and the Eucharist.
Evangelical Catholic is for Everyone! As a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) Coordinator for my parish, I propose that this book should be given to every individual seeking to understand the Catholic faith. Guy does a masterful job at laying out the facts; facts that convinced him to convert to the Catholic faith. Guy’s use of language makes this book easy to understand. His source referencing is outstanding. He draws on the early Church fathers to convey the facts, so that you need not take his word for it.
Read more...

Philothea, or An Introduction to a Devout Life, by Saint Francis de Sales

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Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, a 16th century Bishop of Geneva, who is also designated as a Doctor of the Church. What better way to celebrate this man, then to discuss one of his masterpieces. I found Philothea, or An Introduction to a Devout Life to be a gem!
We start with the title. “Philothea” translates to the study of God. How better to study God than by trying to emulate Him via living a devout life. How does one go about living a devout life? By embracing virtue and incorporating said virtue into the fabric of one’s life.

Saint Francis de Sales, A Master of Virtue
In Philothea or An Introduction to a Devout Life, Saint Francis de Sales does a masterful job of setting the stage by counseling us in understanding a desire for a devout life. He then instructs us on our approach to God in prayer and through the sacraments. Then, de Sales devotes an entire part of the book to the practice of virtue. He places special emphasis on dealing with temptation. Sai…

My Hand in Yours, Our Hands in His Marriage Workbook - Review

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My Hand in Yours, Our Hands in His, by Kimberly Cook, is a wonderful marriage workbook for exploring virtue with your spouse. Cook designed this seven-part series to show how to employ virtue in your marriage, and in the process, live a happier life. She starts with the Cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. Then she moves on to the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Cook gives you, and your spouse, ample opportunity to address one virtue at a time, before proceeding onward to mastering the next virtue. She sets the stage by providing you with an opening prayer to recite, at the beginning of each session.

What This Marriage Workbook Offers
Within each chapter, she offers a definition of the virtue under study, and how it might best be applied within your marriage. Then Cook gives you a series of exercises to partake in that:

Provide Scriptural reference for embracing the virtueEvaluate the strength of the virtue within your marriageIdentify areas …

Do You Now Believe? by Pamela Hedrick - Book Review

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Pamela E. Hedrick takes me back into the classroom, with her debut book, Do You Now Believe? In this short, yet jam-packed gem, Hedrick schools us on the balance required between faith and reason.

Faith enables reason. But an uncritical faith – a credulity or an unthinking belief that clings to certitude at the expense of understanding – can undermine faith itself and at least slow down the response to the grace of ongoing conversion (p. 77). What I garnered from reading this book is that many of us have preconceived notions about God and faith, that inhibit us from fully understanding what God wants us to know about Him. It is when we can search beyond our limitations that we position ourselves to understanding God better. It is through this growth of understanding that we experience a transcendence; a conversion. We move from the intellectual to the experiential. We grow in love for God. Read more...

A Shepherd's Song, A Christmas Romance- Book Review

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A Shepherd’s Song, by Janice Lane Palko, is a wonderful Christmas romance, set in snowy Pittsburgh, PA, on the campus of Three Rivers University. The lead character, Tom Shepherd, a declared atheist, finds more than romance, with Gloria Davidson, in this Christmas tale. Gloria, a devout Catholic, shines the light of true Christmas spirit directly into Tom Shepherd’s heart. What awaits him, is all that he ever desired: to love and to be loved. In the end, isn’t that what we all look for in this life: to love and be loved?

What we learn at the start of the book is that Tom and his college roommate are... Read more... 

Time to Get Ready, An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul – Book Review

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As we bravely embark on completing all the “tasks” needed to make Christmas merry, we sometimes fail to forget the real reason for the Christmas season. You purchase gifts for everyone on your list. Let me share with you a gift that you will want to purchase for yourself, today! Time to Get Ready, An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul, by Mark A. Villano is a treasure that you will cherish for years to come! Amid the holiday hustle and bustle, Villano gives us a daily retreat that takes only two to three minutes to read each day’s offering. It will spark the imagination and provide food for spiritual thought. Each day’s offering is filled with golden nuggets, helping us to make Advent more spiritual; less commercial.

By interspersing Scripture with his own reflections on the biblical passages, Villano offers insight and encouragement. One of my favorite “golden nuggets” was:

When we come to see how far God will go to save us, when we come to know how God sees us, how much God …

Julia's Gifts; Great War, Great Love - Book 1 - Book Review

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In Julia ‘s Gifts, Ellen Gable whisks us away to war-torn France, circa 1917-1918. The setting: World War I. The main character: Miss Julia Murphy. In this tightly woven love story, we see Julia Murphy exhibit many virtuous qualities; generosity of spirit, compassion, and most importantly, self-giving love. This tale sends us on a romantic adventure in search of Julia Murphy’s beloved; only Julia has no idea who her beloved might be!

At the age of 17, she began setting aside Christmas presents for her future beloved, with the hopes of one day gifting these presents to him. At the age of 21, the war in Europe was waging, and the American Red Cross was looking for volunteers. Julia and her friend, Ann, thought it a great idea to volunteer and go overseas to give aid and comfort to injured soldiers. As Julia prepared to embark for the journey to Europe, she brought very few personal possessions with her. She did, however, bring the box of four precious gifts she had amassed over the pas…

Spokes, by Deanna Klingel – Book Review

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Spokes, by Deanna Klingel, a fast paced, easy to read novel, sends Kelsey Merritt and Brendon Cohen on an adventure to solve a mystery. Kelsey, a home-schooled teen, is a triathlon athlete. While cycling one afternoon with her mom, in preparation for an upcoming triathlon event, tragedy strikes. This tragedy sends Kelsey on a mission; to determine who is responsible for a hit and run accident. In her pursuit, she teams up with fellow triathlon athlete and home-school student, Brendon Cohen.

Together, these two teens, take us on a wild ride through the hills of North Carolina. We come across some unsavory characters. But, we also come across some rather funny, and down-to-earth Franciscan Friars. These Friars add a comical, yet heartwarming dimension to this wonderful story.

As I raced through this book (a real page turner), I kept asking myself... Read more...

Molly McBride Series by Jeanie Egolf – Book Reviews

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Molly McBride and the Purple Habit, by Jean Schoonover-Egolf is the first in a series of charming books about a five-year-old girl, named Molly McBride. Molly loves imitating the Children of Mary Sisters, by wearing their purple habit, specially crafted, for her, by her mom. She loves it so much, that she wants to wear it to her big sister’s First Communion! Why can’t she, when the Children of Mary Sisters will be there, and they will be wearing their purple habits. Oh, can you imagine the havoc that would ensue in dealing with that on such a busy morning? You’ll need to read the story to see whether Molly gets her way.

Molly McBride – the Character
The character of Molly is strong in her faith in Jesus. At five years-old, Molly is well aware of who Jesus is, and what type of relationship she wants to have with Him throughout her life. I love this character, who comes across the page, filled with conviction! Molly McBride is a great role model for any child learning to grow in faith.