Friday, February 27, 2015

The Olympians Boxed Set (First Second Books)

The Olympians Boxed Set is collection of the first six graphic novels in the Olympians series. They are in paperback format in the boxed set. If you want to buy hardcovers, you'll have to buy individual titles. The individual titles in this set are Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite. I would have probably published Hera second, but that is a personal preference. Each book is written and illustrated by George O'Connor. The books are written and illustrated beautifully. You see this not only on the pages themselves, but on the spine work. If you line up the spines of the first six books you see half of Medusa, so you know that the next six books will finish this picture. It's a little thing, but I love it when books don't change their format and provide you a visually appealing look on your shelf. Also, in this boxed set is a poster that The poster is beautifully drawn, but I honestly like the back of the poster better, as it shows a family tree, which is helpful for keeping gods and goddesses straight!

Even though, most people are familiar with mythological tales, I will provide you with a bit of information on Book 1: Zeus. It would have been easy to skip straight to Zeus as an adult god, but we would have missed a lot of mythology in doing so. Instead, the story starts with the creation, including Gaea and her husband Ouranos. We also see the creation of the Cyclops, Hecatonchires, and the twelve Titans. We then see the birth of Zeus' siblings, who are eaten by Kronos, followed by Zeus' birth. As you are all aware, Zeus is hidden and ultimately saves his siblings from the belly of their father. We then see an all out war between gods and Titans. The story-line flows very nicely, both in words and pictures. It really helps the stories come alive for younger readers, and is sure to appeal to boys who love comics!

At the end of every book is a bibliography, recommended reading (a feature I always love), and discussion question. All these useful features make the books perfect for teachers or homeschooling parents! If you grew up on D'Aulaires Greek mythology book, like I did and your kids are looking for a different illustration style of these classic tales then I recommend The Olympians Boxed Set. It is also a nice bridge between D'Aulaires and Bulfinch or Edith Hamilton. So whether your kids are Greek mythology veterans or novices, they are sure to enjoy this book. Be sure to look for #7 Ares and #8 Apollo!

This boxed set was provided to me for free by First Second Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Journey to Easter (Crossroad Publishing)

Journey to Easter is a series of Lenten reflections given by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) during 1983 to the papal household of Pope John Paul II. The book begins with the First Week of Lent by walking us through the daily Mass readings from Cycle A or the Cycle of Matthew. We begin Sunday in the desert with Jesus where he spent forty days and forty nights, only to immediately be tempted by Satan. Ratzinger shows how other figures in salvation history went to the desert, like Moses and Elijah. Monday calls us to repentance, and the second meditation for that compares Christian Rome to Jerusalem. Tuesday enlightens the mystery of Mary. I could work my way through the rest of the week, but there is more in this book to discuss.

Part II walks us through The Mystery of Jesus, which includes the following three key passages of the Nicene Creed - "He came down from Heaven," "He became man," and "True God and True Man." The Paschal Mystery is also studied, including Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Lastly, there are meditation on Christ and His Church and the Priesthood. My favorite section in this book was easily the one on the Paschal Mystery. I always knew the importance of the Triduum, but this book further reinforced it. The way Ratzinger connected the Cross and Resurrection with the Eucharist is a passage I will reference and read again just to let it sink in further and meditate on it more deeply.

If you are a fan of reading Pope Benedict, like myself, then this is definitely a book you will want in your collection. It not only takes you on a journey to Easter, but a journey through Easter, as it covers Pentecost as well. It is also written in a clear, easily understood format and each sub-section is short enough that you won't feel overwhelmed with having to read a lot of pages to get to the main message. Five stars.

This book was provided to me for free by Crossroad Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Signs of Life (Image Books)

The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church have a long history that stretches all the way back to the time of Christ and His Apostles. In that history, we have developed traditions, customs, devotions, and practices. Dr. Scott Hahn penned a book entitled Signs of Life in which he looks at forty of these traditions and their Scriptural roots. These forty "signs of life" are divided into nine categories: 1. Life Begins, 2. Life Times, 3. A Day in the Life, 4. Life Lessons, 5. Stages of Life, 6. Spice of Life, 7. Abundant Life 8. Love of My Life, and 9. Life Goes On. In "Life Begins," you will find some of the basics of the Faith, like the Sign of the Cross and Baptism. "Stages of Life" contains signs such as Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. You get the idea.

Each sign/chapter is four to six pages long and is chock full of Scripture, history, and teachings of the saints as it relates to the particular sign. Each chapter then closes with a section called "Ponder in Your Heart." In this closing section, we are provided with a long quote from a Church Father (such as St. Jerome), saint (such as St. Teresa of Avila), or theologian (such Romano Guardini) that further crystallizes the meaning and beauty of the particular "sign of life." Part 3 - A Day in the Life was very insightful for me, because the day to day aspects of life is where I get distracted or often feel like a failure, like I could be doing more and should be doing more. In this section, Dr. Hahn discusses discusses posture (like at Mass or in daily prayer), explained and recommended the practice of making a Morning Offering, and discussed other prayers like the Angelus and Grace Before Meals. These all seem like very simple things to do, which they are, Making ourselves do these to develop a spiritual discipline is the hard part.

Whether you are a lifelong Catholic or a new Catholic, you can benefit from reading this book. In fact, given the amount of topics in the book (40), you could make this a Lenten reading either this year or next if you already have a book this Lent. In fact, if you know someone or are sponsoring someone going through the RCIA process, this would be the perfect gift for them either after they are Catholic or for them to read through Lent all the way up to their journey at the Easter Vigil and initiation into the Church. I highly recommend this book!

This book was provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!