Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Crazy About Cats and Horses: Wild and Tame

My son has a very specific taste when it comes to books. He wants to read about all animals all the time. For that reason his favorite publisher has become Flying Eye Books. For those unfamiliar with this publisher, they produce deluxe hardcover books that are equal parts beautiful and educational. Today, I would like to tell you about two of those books - Crazy About Cats and Horses: Wild and Tame.

Crazy About Cats is a book written and illustrated by Owen Davey. You might recognize his name from Mad About Monkeys or Smart About Sharks. This hardcover book is approximately 40 pages long and begins by explaining what cats are. There are between 37 and 41 different species of cats, which belong to a group of mammals known as felids. They can live in a variety of habitats, are carnivores, and are generally shy of people. Felid-like animals have been around for about 50 million years and are divided into eight groups based on their history of evolution. Other chapters illustrate their basic anatomy, their territory, what they eat, how they hunt, and even cats in mythology. The sections my son and I found most interesting were when they highlighted specific cats and also the awards section which told who had the loudest roar or longest jump. I was surprised to learn that tigers are actually the largest cat and not the lion. This is a gorgeous book, and Owen Davey is a masterful illustrator. He makes the animals come alive and growl right off the page. Highly recommended for the cat-lover in your life!

Horses: Wild and Tame begins by telling us what a horse is and how it evolved from a small dog-like animal to the animal we know and love today. Its hoof evolved over 60 million years from a four-toed hoof to the one part there is now. Horses each have a different character and are described as cold, hot, and warmblooded. We then progress through the history of horses from prehistoric to war horses to royal steeds and lastly work horses. The most interesting sections focuses on famous horses and legendary horses - famous horses like Bucephalus who belonged to Alexander the Great and legendary horses like Pegasus or Black Beauty. This was an interesting book that gives a detailed history not just on horses, but the way humans have domesticated them and coexisted with them through the centuries. You never really think about all the functions and uses that horses served man, but this book makes you stop and appreciate how much better our lives are because of these majestic creatures.

These books were provided to me for free by Flying Eye Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Radiance of Her Face (Angelico Press)

Dom Xavier Perrin is the current Abbot of Quarr Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey on the Isle of Wight. He has a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and recently wrote a book about her entitled The Radiance of Her Face: A Triptych in Honor of Mary Immaculate. The first chapter asks us to focus on a triptych consisting of three panels of images of Mary. The first panel contains an image of Mary and an angel in the scene of the Annunciation. This is a picture of the angel seeing a resemblance of the face of God in the face of Mary. It is also a picture of humility in the face of Mary. The second panel is a picture at the Vatican with the pope and Mary. This pope is proclaiming the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. The center panel is Mary Immaculate in Heaven with God. She is the Mother of God and the Mother of all Humanity.

The second chapter focuses on Mary's origin story. Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of Mary's birth, so pagans looked to discredit her birth, lineage, and virginity. To combat this, people wrote apocryphal texts to explain her life before Jesus. It is here that we learn about her parents Saints Anne and Joachim, that Mary's birth was miraculous in nature, and we also learn about the Feast Days that celebrate her conception and presentation. Other chapters in this book compare and contrast the Virgin Mary with Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, show us small portraits dedicated to Mary of the Immaculate Conception, and explain to us the mystery and beauty of Mary's Immaculate Heart with Jesus' Sacred Heart.

The Radiance of Her Face is a small book that is not even 100 pages long. Within it, however, are words of beauty and wisdom that look to not only explain the mystery of Mary's Immaculate Conception, but help us reflect and meditate on it as well. This would be a perfect read during the month of December, but I recommend picking up a copy and reading it immediately, because it is in Mary's face that we see the face of God.

This book was provided to me for free by Angelico Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Léonie Martin: A Difficult Life (Ignatius Press)

With the exception of Jesus' mother Mary and St. John the Baptist, it is hard to say that any one saint is greater than any other saint. However, if you look at the Martin family, it's hard not to consider them sainthood celebrities. The two parents, Zélie and Louis, were canonized by Pope Francis. All five of their daughters that survived past early childhood went on to become nuns. Thérèse became a Saint and Doctor of the Church. Of the five daughters, Léonie has been unfairly described as a "lame duck," and the least impressive of the sisters. However, her cause for beatification was permitted in 2015 and she is currently granted the title "Servant of God." Ignatius Press recently published a book about her life called Léonie Martin: A Difficult Life. Let me tell you a little about it.

The book is divided into five chapters with the first four chapters arranged by different places important to her life. The first chapter begins with her place of birth Alencon. We see her parents worry over her, her learning difficulties, and the general unattractive nature of the girl. (Yes, this is covered extensively in the first chapter.) We also see how difficult her childhood was with the death of several siblings and death of her mother as well. The second chapter focuses on the family's time in Lisieux. This was a hard time for Léonie, because the two youngest daughters chose the two oldest daughters to be like mothers to them, and Léonie was left alone. However, Léonie was not the jealous type and bore this loneliness well. We also learn of the two setbacks Léonie had trying to enter the religious life and not finding an order she could stay in. The third chapter involves another failed attempt at the religious life for Léonie, her younger sister Celine being accepted into an order, and the death of Louis and Thérèse. The final chapters finally involve some joy for Léonie as her fourth attempt at religious life was successful. We also see what it was like for her to be the sister of a saint, and Léonie's ultimate health deterioration and death.

Reading through this book was hard at times, because it was hard to see someone suffer and go through so much hardship in their life. Léonie proved that despite there being trials and difficulties, if you live a life dedicated to God, you will be rewarded in this life or the next. Let her life of perseverance serve as an example for all of us, and pray for her sainthood.

This book was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.