Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

12 Feb 2018

A Storytellers Guide to a Grace Filled Life – Book Review


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 of virtue and grace found in all aspects of life; from the family, to the workplace, to the streets of your town. With each story, he offers... Read more...

29 Jan 2018

Evangelical Catholic, by Troy L. Guy - Book Review


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...

24 Jan 2018

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


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. Saint Francis de Sales concludes his book with an entire part devoted to the renewal of the soul and the confirmation of the devotion. Read more...

10 Jan 2018

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


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:

  1. Provide Scriptural reference for embracing the virtue
  2. Evaluate the strength of the virtue within your marriage
  3. Identify areas in need of improvement, with the development of action plans for practicing the virtue

Within each chapter, Cook offers... Read more...

27 Dec 2017

Do You Now Believe? by Pamela Hedrick - Book Review


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...

4 Dec 2017

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


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... 

29 Nov 2017

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


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 wants our safety and healing, we can face anything (p.23).
 
That awareness of God’s interest in each of us, should give us comfort; knowledge that we are loved by God, and strength to carry on. This book... Read more... 

20 Nov 2017

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


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 past four years, with the hope of possibly finding her beloved.

The story then takes some twists and turns, with... Read more...

2 Oct 2017

Spokes, by Deanna Klingel – Book Review


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...

4 Sep 2017

Molly McBride Series by Jeanie Egolf – Book Reviews


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. Read more...

9 Aug 2017

Dying for Compassion, by Barbara Golder – Book Review


Dying for Compassion, by Barbara Golder is sure to be a hit! As with Golder’s first book, Dying for Revenge, familiar characters return for more mysteries to solve. Once again, we meet our Lady Doc, Jane Wallace, the lead character. She is a strong, feminine role model carrying the titles of forensic pathologist, medical examiner, AND lawyer – quite an accomplished woman!  In Dying for Compassion, Jane is faced with several deaths occurring in her town; unexplained poisonings and a possible case of euthanasia. As the intentions behind these deaths stump Jane, she is thrown off-kilter in her personal life.

The storyline from Dying for Revenge carries through to Dying for Compassion. In Dying for Revenge, Jane processed grief from the loss of her husband, John. She meets author, Eoin Connor, who helps her through her grief and the two develop a romantic relationship. Fast forward to Dying for Compassion, and Eoin Connor becomes a central character.

Everything is going swimmingly between Jane and Eoin, until one night... Read more...

4 Aug 2017

Book Review: Hail Mary, the Perfect Prayer

Peter Ingemi, in his blogging persona as Da Tech Guy, is a Massachusetts-based writer and political reporter whose blog is a staple for conservatives in the region. The writers Ingemi welcomes on his blog (a group that includes me) all get fair warning before coming on board that the boss is unapologetically Catholic.
In his new book, Ingemi puts aside political reporting and takes up a labor of love: Hail Mary: the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer [Imholt Press, 2017, 80 pages, $6.99 paperback, $2.99 Amazon Kindle e-book]. Ingemi is donating a portion of every sale to his local Catholic radio station in north central Massachusetts.
The book’s title is intriguing and perplexing at the same time...

26 Jul 2017

Saint Magnus: The Last Viking, by Susan Peek - Book Review


I must admit that I had never heard of Saint Magnus, until I read Saint Magnus: The Last Viking, by Susan Peek. With this action-packed novel, set around 1,000 A.D., we find a dual hierarchy established on the deathbed of the monarch Thorfinn. Rather than leaving his throne to his eldest son, he creates a dual hierarchy, where both of his sons, Erland and Paal, are to rule over the Orkney homeland together. Tensions rise as the brother’s descendants seethe in animosity for each other. Hakon, the son of Paal is a troublemaker; whereas Aerling, the son of Erland, is hot-tempered. Hakon and Aerling are competitive, and do not wish to rule jointly, as their fathers successfully did. However, before that can happen, circumstances come to pass that make Hakon vow revenge.

From this point, early within the book, the story becomes mesmerizing. What will Hakon do to get revenge? How will Aerling respond? And what role will Magnus play, given that Magnus becomes the protagonist of this novel?

Read more...

19 Jul 2017

Chasing Liberty, by Theresa Linden – Finding Authentic Freedom


Chasing Liberty, by Theresa Linden, is the first in a dystopian trilogy of books centered around a young woman. Liberty resides in futuristic Aldonia; a city where authentic freedom, familial love and objective truth have been squashed by government forces aimed at controlling the population. Without the freedom to grow up in a family with a mother and father, Liberty tries to make her own way in a society that allows little choice.

As Liberty approaches adulthood, she is told by the government what her vocation will be: that of breeder. Apparently, she has exquisite genes and intelligence; so great, that the government decided that she would spend her fertile years giving birth to as many children as possible, via in vitro fertilization. She would never know if the children she carried were her own. In addition, she would be the nanny for groups of them for the first five years of their lives. Once the children reach the age of five, they relocate to another facility (like orphans) for further training.

Something within Liberty tells her that this is just plain wrong. Read more...

28 Jun 2017

Love Letters from God, by Glenys Nellist - Book Review


Love Letters from God, Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart, by Glenys Nellist is endearing, wonderful, chocked filled with virtue, and beautifully illustrated. Nellist shares with us fourteen stories from the Bible, centered on heroic females, highlighting their good traits. She takes us from the Old Testament, through to the New Testament; giving us a different story about each protagonist, salient Bible quotes, and most importantly, personalized letters from God, addressed to your child (with lift the flap notes).

Love Letters from God Make for Sweet Dreams!


Each of the fourteen tales make for excellent bedtime stories to read to your child; sending them into slumber with heroic females to dream about. Nellist starts with... Read more...

26 Jun 2017

My Brother's Keeper, by Bill Kassel - Book Review


In My Brother’s Keeper, by Bill Kassel, we read a great piece of Catholic fiction. Now, right off the bat, let me explain the definition of the genre, “Catholic Fiction,” using Kassel’s own words to describe his effort:

This book is a work of speculative fiction, based on incidents in the New Testament, reimagined and elaborated on extensively. I have not attempted to create a ‘fifth Gospel.’ Rather, I’ve tried to fill in some gaps between facts given in Scripture with inventive suppositions about how things might have been (p. 574).
 
This imaginative effort, coupled with an excellent understanding of Jewish-Roman relations during first-century life in Nazareth and Jerusalem, results in a masterpiece worthy of your time.

James: My Brother’s Keeper


My Brother’s Keeper, centers on the character of James, the youngest child of Saint Joseph and his deceased wife, Escha; who died shortly after giving birth to James. Kassel spends a good portion of the book setting the stage, by telling us about life in Nazareth, with Saint Joseph, his family and especially James’ upbringing. James does very well in studying the Torah. He is ultimately sent... Read more...

19 Jun 2017

True Radiance, by Lisa Mladinich - Book Review


True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life, by Lisa Mladinich, was an enjoyable read! I approached 60 this year. So, I thought this book might offer me some insight in how I might grow old gracefully. As I opened the book and began to read, I quickly learned that Mladinich had other designs. She wants us to know that regardless of our age,

The second half of life is a time of building on the past, growing in virtue, and deepening our connection with God, the source and summit of all beauty. Our beauty is not fading; it’s getting more powerful. It’s having more impact. It’s becoming what it was meant to be from the beginning (p. 135).
 
How reassuring is that! What a powerful statement! Mladinich tells us throughout the book that our beauty comes from... Read more... 

31 May 2017

Gifts of the Visitation, by Denise Bossert - Book Review


Gifts of the Visitation – Nine Spiritual Encounters with Mary and Elizabeth, by Denise Bossert, is filled with virtue! I thoroughly enjoyed how Bossert took Luke’s accounting of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and highlighted all the virtue contained within it (Luke 1: 39-80). Bossert devotes nine chapters to discuss nine virtues; so beautifully brought to life in her book. She brings a whole new, refreshing outlook to this passage. From Mary’s spontaneous yes, to her courage needed to fulfill God’s word, to the thanksgiving Mary expresses to God for entrusting her with such an important honor, we traverse with Mary to visit Elizabeth.

As a mother herself, Denise Bossert, correlates stories from her own life with Luke’s Gospel passage. She peppers her life’s stories; intertwined with the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. The reality of Denise Bossert’s life makes the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth that much more enchanting and meaningful.

Read more...


25 May 2017

God is Not Fair - Insights and A-ha's (Book Review Reflection)


"WOW" Moments 

The Month of May has been trying but also one of the most spiritually fruitful of my life.  After putting off a routine mammogram for nearly 5 years, I finally went.  The test revealed an enlarged lymph node - I am happy to report it was finally determined to be due to inflammation [You can listen to the MIRACULOUS story evolving that on this special episode of A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras - it is NOT everyday one receives a favor from a Almost-Saint].
As the Lord, slowly walked me through this valley, Fr. Horan's words were equal parts comforting and inspiring. This was a time of acute awareness to pray always with urgency but without anxiety.  Here are some other "WOW" moments gleamed during that time from the pages of God is Not Fair:
  • We are not better than anyone else.  Regardless of what blessings God has allowed in your life, what talents you posses, or how you use them.  Additionally, those gifts that God bestows only bless you to the degree to which you use them; and more importantly recognize from Whom they have come.  Praise and Thanksgiving are powerful prayers.
For More WOW  insights from God is Not Fair ... visit ReconciledToYou.com 
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017

22 May 2017

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis - Book Review


I was long overdue, but recently, I finally sat down and read the classic, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Once I opened the book, and read the first chapter, I questioned what took me so long to get to this masterpiece, centered on man’s reaction to moral concepts and what it truly means to be Christian. C.S. Lewis begins with a discussion on Natural Law:

Whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently (p. 8)?
 
Hmm…that’s something to chew on! Lewis’ logic and common sense abound in Mere Christianity. Written during the Second World War, this book was aimed at helping people make sense out of tragedy. Lewis attempts to assist his fellowman in mentally processing the atrocity of evil acts, so prevalent at the time. He asserts that we, as Christians, are called to love our neighbors, of whom some of them might actually be our enemies. Yet, in war-torn England, in the 1940’s, how could it be possible to “love our enemies”?

Read more...

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