Wednesday, July 30, 2014

St. George and the Dragon

Every month I get a few emails from authors asking me to review their newly published book. Most of the books are self-published, and it's a pretty even mix of fiction and non-fiction. I have a busy review schedule, so unfortunately I have to turn 99% of them away. Every now and then, a slot appears in my schedule that I can take the time to squeeze one in. Today, I am reviewing Michael Lotti's first novel Saint George and the Dragon.

The icon of St. George slaying the dragon is one of the most recognizable images in iconography. However, apart from legends, very little is known about this saint. Mr. Lotti recognizes this and weaves a story based on the facts and guesses people know about St. George. Therefore, this is a story about St. George, and not the story about St. George. The setting is 300 A.D. in the Roman Empire, and the main character is a soldier named Marcellus, who will eventually become St. George. The audience for this book would be tween to teenage years, though younger adults might find it enjoyable as well.

Throughout the early part of the book, Mr. Lotti paints us a wonderful picture of Marcellus. He is the son of Titus, a former officer in the army of the Roman Empire. Marcellus is also a brilliant soldier, because he has been trained to be a soldier from his youth. He loves and values the Empire above all else, and wants the best for it. He is also engaged to a woman named Regina with a wedding to take place very shortly. In order to get married, he has to take time off from the army and return to his father's estate. It is on this leave that his world is turned upside down. He learns his father is a Christian sympathizer. Titus isn't a Christian, but he allows his slaves to be, and his most loyal slave, Pasikrates, is a big Christian. This was bold for this day and age, because Christians were heavily persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian. Another startling discovery he learns is about a religion that worships a dragon. To make matters worse, Regina is a devout follower, and wants Marcellus to be as well. I won't give away further plot details. You'll have to buy the book and read it to find out.

There are several recurring themes in this book. One major theme is good vs. evil, or God vs. the dragon. The Christians, the local bishop, and the thought of God always seem to put Marcellus at ease. However, the dragon and dragon-worshippers make Marcellus sick to his stomach and feel completely powerless, but not in a good way. The first encounter/conversation Marcellus had with the dragon made me uncomfortable for Marcellus and my stomach tighten up a bit. That's good writing! The other major theme in this book is slavery. Slavery is a common practice in 300 A.D., but Marcellus has a hard time understanding/agreeing with the concept that just because a man is a slave on earth, doesn't make him any less of a person. It is for this reason that he also has a hard time understanding that being a slave for God is one of the best things you can be.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book in all honesty. You never know how an author's first novel is going to turn out. To say the very least, I was pleasantly surprised! It is a great story and a wonderful fleshing out of a legend we know so little about. Additionally, it presents a solid teaching of both Bible and tradition. I also love the fact that it has appeal to both Catholics and Orthodox alike. I hope that this is not the last novel he writes, and I would gladly read another of his books if it's the same quality as this one.

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Thirsting for Prayer (Scepter Publishers)

If you look at the religious section of any bookstore, you will find hundreds of books on prayer. Some are very short, and some rival Moby Dick in terms of length. With all these books on prayer, why would we need anymore? Fr. Jacques Philippe asks this very question at the beginning of his latest book Thirsting for Prayer. His answer was that he "recently felt impelled to write this present book, in the hope that it could help certain people to persevere along the path of personal prayer or to start out on it." I'm not sure about you, but I certainly am the intended audience for this book. The book is divided into five parts:
  • What is at Stake in Prayer?
  • Conditions for Prayer to be Fruitful
  • The Presence of God
  • Practical Advice for Personal Prayer
  • Prayer of Intercession
Though all of the parts were interesting in their own regard, the one that I enjoyed the most was "Practical Advice for Personal Prayer." It starts out by explaining that "we cannot unite ourselves to God in times of prayer if we are not seeking to be united to him in all our other activities." Fr. Philippe next instructs to pray at a particular time of the day to establish a rhythm. Other helpful advice is given including properly starting and ending of prayer, the body of prayer, meditating on Scripture, the Rosary, and the Jesus Prayer. This was a very useful section, but I just wish more information had been given on both the Jesus Prayer and the Rosary as these can both be useful "tools" in our prayer life, when prayed correctly.

Overall, this was a very good book on prayer. If you have never read Fr. Philippe's books before, this is a good one to start with. Why? It is brief, but powerful.. There are not a lot of chapters, and to make reading even easier, the chapters are sub-divided into smaller manageable bites of information. I wouldn't say that this is the only book that you ever need to read on prayer, but I would definitely say it deserves to be on your shelf of books on prayer and would definitely recommend it. Be sure to check out other books by Fr. Philippe (also available from Scepter Publishers), like Interior Freedom or The Way of Trust and Love.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sacred Liturgy (Ignatius Press)

Sacra Liturgia 2013 was an international conference to study, promote and renew appreciation for the liturgical formation and celebration took place in Rome at the Pontifical University, Santa Croce. The proceedings of that conference are recorded in the book Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church. The speakers included monks, abbots, priests, bishops, and cardinals. There were approximately twenty topics discussed including the Defence of Human Life, the New Evangelization, and Sacred Liturgy as the Foundation of Religious Life, to name a few.

The book begins by saying, "The Sacred Liturgy is not a hobby for specialists. It is central to all our endeavors as disciples of Jesus Christ. This profound reality cannot be overemphasized. We must recognize the primacy of grace in our Christian life and work, and we must respect the reality that in this life the optimal encounter with Christ is in the Sacred Liturgy." This is a very true statement, but looking at the book, the amount of topics, and the depth with which they dive, it is easy for the laity to be intimidated. I won't dive into all the topics, but briefly touch on a few that spoke to me.

Chapter 3 on ars celebrandi or the art of celebrating was an interesting read. In addition to talking about celebrating the Mass, Bishop Elliott also gave suggestions for both forms of the Roman Rites and some problems in the Mass. He also discusses what we can learn from the Eastern Churches, including some ways their Divine Liturgy is better than the Mass, i.e., the flow of continuity that makes their Liturgy feel like one action and not a series of separate and unlike actions. Chapter 4 talked about the early Christian altar and it's impact on today. I'm not really sure why, but I just found this chapter fascinating. Msgr. Heid talks about the idea and reform of Norma Patrum or the standard of the Church Fathers. I love the Church Fathers, but Msgr. Heid explains how it is problematic to rely on them solely as altars were different from region to region.

This book is no easy read. Though the opening words says that the Sacred Liturgy is for everyone, this book is more aimed at the scholar than the average layperson. There were times I wondered if I could hold my breath long enough to get to their level of depth. What I really appreciated was that they included the homilies that were given over this weekend. I believe they were equally as important to this conference as were the actual lectures given. Though some of this material went over my head, I walked away from this book feeling more educated on the topic of the Liturgy. If you have an interest in the Liturgy, then this is a book you'll want to read.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Wind in the Willows (Papercutz)

Most of us know the story The Wind in the Willows and the four main characters of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. They are four friends whose differences in personality help enhance their friendship. There are several themes that you can notice in this book including trying to find your place in the world, man vs. society, social classes, technology, adventure, and friendship. Each of the four main characters has an adventure. Toad actually has adventures and misadventures.

What makes the Classics Illustrated Edition different and special? For starters, it is a graphic novel/comic book. Each page is eloquently drawn animation that puts picture to story. The level of detail is extraordinary too. The comic flows much like the story with alternating action and lull. That's sometimes hard to pull off in comic format, but Michel Plessix did it well. I could have read through this entire book in an hour but the pictures kept drawing me in. I wanted to study them and appreciate them for their beauty.

What are the drawbacks of this book? As this is an adaptation, this will not be an exact replication of the book. It's like a movie in a way. Some dialogue gets shortened. Chapters get omitted, i.e., Chapter 9 -Wayfarer's All is skipped over. However, I really appreciated that they encourage you to read the actual book at the end. While this is a great way for younger readers to get introduced to the book, it is no substitute for the original. As this was my first introduction to this series, I am very pleased with what I saw and read. I hope others in the series will be as impressive as this one.

This book was provided to me for free by Papercutz. If you found the review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Swear to God and Lord, Have Mercy (Image Books)

Swear to God was one of the first books I read as a Catholic. I audiobooked it in fact from Audible. At the time, I didn't grasp the book fully, but I did appreciate it. I have since decided to re-read it, a decade later and see how much more it speaks to me today.

The book begins with Dr. Hahn recounting his first encounter with sacraments in Protestant seminary. In a nutshell, they bored him. He was more interested in the Bible and preaching. Frankly, I could relate with him. To a Protestant, sacraments aren't that interesting or essential to salvation. Having now experienced multiple sacraments within the Church, I have come to realize years after my conversion just how interesting, essential, and crucial to our salvation they really are.

Dr. Hahn then takes the time to explain what a sacrament is, how many there are, what exactly each one is, and where they can be found in Scripture. Next, he devotes several chapters to covenants and covenant theology. In these chapters, he explains what covenants and oaths are, important covenants in the Bible, how covenants were crucial to Creation, how oaths were important to society.

This book is easily understood, because it is written in true Scott Hahn fashion. It is a nice mixture of Scripture, patristics, and personal experience. This is an excellent introduction to the sacraments and the power and importance they have in the lives of Catholics. I highly recommend it for both old and new Catholics. It makes the perfect gift for those in the RCIA program or just those who are showing a little bit of interest in the Catholic faith.

Lord, Have Mercy is Scott Hahn's book on Confession. This too was a book I read as an early Catholic. As a former Protestant, Confession was one of the areas I had the most difficulty with. I don't think it was because of the common Protestant view of, "Why go to a priest, when I can just go straight to God?" No. This was a basic human fear of being judged by another human and how they will look at me after I am done confessing my sins. I don't know why, and I know it doesn't make any sense, but I still have that fear. Why are we afraid of what other people think of us, and not what God thinks of us?

In this book, Scott Hahn details the origins and history of the Sacrament. He explains the covenantal connections related to Confession, and he also explains the best example we have of Confession in the Bible - the Prodigal Son. Re-reading this book years later, I have a new appreciation for chapters 10 through 12. In this chapters, he gives advice on how to make Confession more meaningful and goes so far as to compare it to combat/warfare. Combat and warfare used to be more widely preached, but we have steered away from that now unfortunately. We have to remember though, that Satan is after our souls and everyday we are involved in a cosmic war where we must choose God and good over Satan and evil. The appendices also proved helpful as they walk you through how Confession takes place; prayers you can say before, during, and after; and an examination of Conscience.

This was a very helpful book on Confession and one that I am sure I will visit again, until I finally get over my fear of Confession. However, I think the cure for that will be to go more frequently. If you are struggling with Confession, I recommend this book for you. If you have Protestant friends or family who want to know what the point of Confession is, then recommend this book to them, or read it yourself and you can answer their questions. Anyone could benefit from reading this book though.

These books were provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for honest reviews. If you found them helpful, please click here and/or here and click Yes!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Recollections of Jerusalem (Holy Trinity Publications)

Recollections of Jerusalem is the autobiography/memoir of Anya Berezina Derrick. Anya Derrick was born in Yugoslavia in the 1930s. She was named after her grandmothers, both named Anna, and her birthday was close to the feast day of St. Anna. Her mother was a nurse and her dad was stationed at a military base near Belgrade. Unfortunately, he took ill with tuberculosis. Anya and her mother were on a pilgrimage in Palestine when World War II broke out, and Anya's mother was hoping to bring back a garment for Anya's father to wear which had been blessed on Christ's burial place. Unfortunately, they were never able to see him again. They were unable to return to Yugoslavia, and were forced to seek asylum in Palestine in 1939. Her father died in 1944, and her mother died without ever finding out what happened to him or where he was buried.

The book isn't all heartache and tragedy, though there is a bit of it in this book. This book also is the coming of age of a young girl. We see and get to read her interactions with great spiritual fathers and mothers, like Fr. Lazarus Moore, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Mother Mary and Archbishop Antony. We also get introduced to her husband Wayne and her children. She tells a cute story about giving birth to twins, her 13 month old son hearing the birth sounds, and climbing out of his crib to come see what all the noise was. I can't imagine having that many children that young, but she was blessed. Other stories in this book include her visit to the Holy Land with her oldest son, and her family's eventual return to the Holy Land during President Carter's tenure in office.

I'm not really sure how to review this book in all honesty. It's like reviewing someone's life, and how do you do that? In this book I learned a bit about Serbia, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Holy Land in the time of World War II and afterwards. It was an interesting read, and one you should check out if you are interested in any of the subjects I just mentioned.

This book was provided to me for free by Holy Trinity Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Book of the Ancient World (Angelico Press)

If you're a homeschooling mom (or dad) or one considering homeschooling, then you know there are a TON of curriculum options out there. Some are better than others, but it really boils down to what style of homeschooling you are going to employ. If you are taking the classical approach, like my wife and I intend to do, then you definitely know the name Dorothy Mills. Dorothy Mills wrote a six book series on ancient history. Two different publishers have taken the time to re-print these, Memoria Press and Angelico Press. Even though Memoria Press has student and teacher guides, you can purchase with them, they only have four of the six volumes. Personally, I prefer the Angelico Press editions after all and will be reviewing one volume every other month on my blog. Today, I am starting with The Book of the Ancient World.

The Book of the Ancient World begins with an Introduction that speaks of cave men and prehistoric times. It speaks of making stone tools and how some people don't believe history really started until man was able to keep written records. I'm honestly unsure how I felt about this introduction, but thankfully it was short and something you could skip over and not miss anything in the book. The contents of the rest of the book includes the Egyptians; the Assyrians and Babylonians; the Hebrews; the Hittites; the Persians; and the Phoenicians. Egypt by far gets the most attention as it spans over 50 pages. The rest of the ancient people, with the exception of Israel, only garnered about 20-25 pages.

It was hard to pick a favorite part in this book. The level of detail given to the Egyptians was fascinating. Ms. Mills didn't just discuss popular pharaohs and their pyramids, but she also covered their gods, their books and writings, what typical life consisted of in Egypt, and even how children lived in Egypt. She also did a truly great job addressing Israel. In this section, she included the Patriarchs, the three kings (Saul, David, and Solomon), and the Divided Kingdom. I am truly fascinated to see what level of detail she went into in her book, The People of Ancient Israel. I wish more information would have been included on places like Persia and Phoenicia, but I appreciate that there was additional reading suggestions at the end. The one that I wish there had been more of/any of was maps! Maps would have definitely elevated this book, and perhaps they were there in the original edition, but not in this reprint.

After reading through this book, I feel much more knowledgeable about the ancient world. Yes, some information may be a tad dated as we have made new finds regarding these ancient worlds, but that doesn't take away from the quality of this work or the information that Dorothy Mills compiled. And while the book won't make you a certified expert, it will provide you a great starting point on the subject. So if you are an adult looking for an introduction to the ancient world or a teacher/parent looking for a supplemental text to your history book, you will find this book to be extremely helpful. I imagine you could use it as the skeleton for your homeschool history, but you will definitely want to find some more resources to add meat to the bones.

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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Basil Moreau: Essential Writings (Ave Maria Press)

From great religious orders come great saints. Generally, the founder of these orders are the ones who are canonized first, but that is not always the case. With regards to the Congregation of Holy Cross, Brother AndrĂ© Bessette was canonized in 2010. However, the founder, Fr. Basil Moreau, was beatified in 2007 and still awaits another approved miracle for canonization. I admit to having heard of the Congregation of Holy Cross before, but am ashamed to admit to never having heard of Saint AndrĂ© Bessette or Blessed Basil Moreau. That is why I was pleased to receive a copy of Basil Moreau: Essential Writings in the mail from Ave Maria Press.

Basil Moreau: Essential Writings begins with a brief biography of Blessed Basil Moreau. I say brief, but it is still 50 pages long. In these pages, we see more about his development as teacher, scholar, and priest than we do of his personal life at an early age. We also learn about the development of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Lastly, we learn about the spiritual themes that pervade his writings. These main themes are the imitation of Christ, particularly the crucified Christ; Divine Providence; Union: Holy Trinity and Holy Family; and the Virtue of Zeal. If you are interested in learning more about Blessed Basil Moreau, I recommend a more thorough biography, Basil Moreau: Founder of Holy Cross.

The five chapters in this book contain Blessed Basil Moreau's sermons, a selection of Spiritual Exercises, Christian meditations, some writings on Christian education, and circular letters. The circular letters were his communication with members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Each of the writings in these five chapters served a purpose in this book, but they did feel like you would glean more from them if you were a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The homilies and excerpts from the spiritual exercises were the most fascinating to me. However, I found it a shame that his entire spiritual exercises were not made available in this book. My favorite sermon was the one on St. Joseph. I feel that St. Joseph is the most overlooked member of the Holy Family, so it is always interesting to me to read about him. Granted, I didn't agree with everything Blessed Basil had to say, but it definitely presented a different perspective.

Overall, this was an interesting and LONG book. If you a member of the Holy Cross family, then this is a must-have book for you. If you are not a member, you will still find some merit in the book, but I'd recommend getting the book when it is on sale. I hope to find time to re-visit the book more fully in the future, but until that time it will probably just sit on my shelf. 4 stars.

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Faith (Servant Books)

I first discovered Fr. John Hardon last year when I had the opportunity to read and review his Catholic Dictionary. It was then that I realized that he had a gift for condensing the Catholic faith into manageable bites and making it easier to learn. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but his books are still being published and republished, and his cause for beatification is currently in progress. Today, I am reviewing his book, The Faith, available from Servant Books.

When the Catechism of the Catholic Church was first published, a lot of people were confused as to what to do with this tome. It was well-organized by topic, but wasn't as reader friendly as the old Baltimore Catechism. To make matters worse, Catholics just started treating it as a reference guide. If you have a question that needs answered, simply turn to the index; find the topic; read that section; and put it back on the shelf until the next time you had a question. That is not how the Catechism is supposed to be read, so Fr. Hardon created this book, The Faith, so people would be able to understand the Catechism more fully.

The Faith can best be described as a compendium to the Catechism, though it should not be confused with the USCCB book, Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church. In The Faith, Fr. Hardon seeks to break open the Catechism and expose the heart and meat of it. The book is organized in the same order as the Catechism, but it is presented in a Q & A format. Each answer then contains the paragraph numbers from the Catechism which can be referenced for further clarity. Overall, there are 1306 questions and answers. These aren't basic questions with simple answers, but they are technical and deep, while still maintaining an ease of understanding. For example:

517. What is the history of Baptism in the Church?
From the day of Pentecost to the present, Baptism has been the door of the Church. It is through Baptism that a person is purified, justified, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (1226-1228)

With the recent Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, many people took up the challenge to read through the Catechism in a year. If you are like me and missed the opportunity, now is a good time to try again. It doesn't have to be in a year, but if you read a little bit each day of the Catechism and the corresponding Q&As in Fr. Hardon's book The Faith, then you will find a deeper knowledge of God and your Faith and hopefully a deeper love too. May we all strive for that deeper understanding and deeper love. May we also prayer for the beatification and canonization of Fr. Hardon. From the few books of his I have read, he was a great priest and a great teacher, and I can't recommend his books enough.

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saint John Paul II (Pauline Books and Media)

Saint John Paul II! It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? With his canonization on April 27, 2014, books about Pope John Paul II have begun to be written again. The same holds true for Pope John XXIII, just not as many. Today, I will be reviewing two books from Pauline Books and Media by and about Pope John Paul II, one for adults and one for kids. So let's get started!

Be Not Afraid is another volume in the Classic Wisdom Collection. The foreword contains a very brief biography and introduction to Pope John Paul II before he was pope, as well as some of his essential writings while pope. The chapters of the book, like other books from the Classic Wisdom Collection, contains excerpts from the writings and talks of the specific figure, in this case Pope John Paul II. Some of the topics contained in this book have to do with Divine Mercy, message for Young People, the Eucharist, and the Gospel of Life. There is something for everyone in this book though, as there are twenty-four chapters.

I particularly enjoyed reading the section on the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. In his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which was given in 2002, Pope John Paul II gave the Catholic world five extra mysteries of the Rosary. He said, "Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus." He then elaborated on the significance of each of the five new mysteries. Re-reading these words brought me back to the very beginning of my Catholic life. I was just embarking on the RCIA program at the parish right up the street from where I lived. In a way, reading these words again felt like finding an old letter or email from a friend you haven't heard from in years. You read the words, and they now speak to you with a deeper and more beautiful meaning.

If you are looking for an easy and approachable method to reading Pope John Paul II, I highly recommend Be Not Afraid. Since Pope John Paul II was a philosopher, sometimes his words weren't easy to understand, but that is not true of this book. Hopefully, it will encourage you to pick up his other writings and read or re-read them. Another book in this Classic Wisdom Collection series I'm looking forward to reading is Secret to Happiness, which contains wisdom from Pope John XXIII. I haven't had the chance to read his words before, so that seems very exciting to me.

The Story Saint John Paul II: A Boy Who Became Pope is one of the several children's books that details the childhood or a certain aspect/incident in the childhood of Karol Wojtyla. Other such titles include Lolek: The Boy who Became Pope John Paul II and Karol: The Boy who Became Pope. With the VERY similar titles, it is going to be easy to get them mixed up. The one I am reviewing is written and illustrated by Fabiola Garza. I always appreciate the dual-role children's book authors taken on when they choose to illustrate their work as well. After all, who knows the picture in their head better than them?

The book starts off innocently enough. It tells of Karol's birth and how everyone called him Lolek. It shows he and his friend Jerzy playing sports and doing what young boys do. However, like Karol's life, it quickly turns into sadness when his mother dies. Before she dies, she challenges him to one day be able to answer who he loves the most. Several years pass, and his brother died as well, but before he did he had the same question for Karol. "Who do you love the most?" Karol continued to grow and went to school, until they were shut down due to World War II. His father would die in 1941.

This book isn't all about death and tragedy, though. We see moments of happiness and "normalcy" in Karol's life as well. The second half of the book focuses on Karol's journey through the priesthood to eventually becoming Pope John Paul II. This journey happened because Karol was finally able to answer who he loved the most - Jesus! I really enjoyed this book as it didn't try to paint a rosy picture of John Paul II's life. There were absolute tragedies and moments of extreme joy, and that's how life really is. The illustrations were also top-notch and looked very professional. In fact, they looked like Pixar or Disney animation, so if your kids are used to that animation style, they will love illustrations in this book. Even though my children weren't alive for John Paul II, they will know about him and his legacy, and this book will help ensure that. I highly recommend it.

These books were provided to me for free by Pauline Books and Media in exchange for an honest review. If you found the reviews helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Roses Among Thorns (Sophia Institute Press)

Roses Among Thorns is the second book from St. Francis de Sales that has been recently released by Sophia Institute Press. The first was The Sign of the Cross. In this 100ish page book, the reader will find a series of 60 reflections drawn from the personal letters of St. Francis de Sales. Each reflection is 1-3 pages long, making this a quick read that you could tackle in a couple of hours. However, just because one can read a book in a few hours doesn't mean one should.

The premise of this book, as the title suggests, is that we Christians are supposed to be the roses among the thorns (the world). That phrase is repeated several times in his letter, along with other nature metaphors. It was hard to pick a favorite reflection of the 60 in this book, but the one that spoke to me at this point in my life was the sixteenth, "Facing Temptations." In this two page meditation St. Francis de Sales says, "Your temptations have returned, and although you have not said a word of consent to them, still they oppress you. You do not consent to them, and that is good, but you fear them too much. They would not be able to harm you if you did not fear them." He then uses an analogy of bees landing on his face, and instead of shooing them away, he left them alone (at the beekeeper's advice) and was not stung. For most sinners, especially ones who had habitual sins, St. Francis de Sales, encourages people to not be afraid of the temptation that will always be there, but to stand strong with God's help and resist the sin!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I have enough thick and deep books that look great on the shelf, but sometimes go over my head. It was nice to read a small book that still packed a punch. I know I will reference this again many times in the future, so it will have a special place on the bookshelf next to my bed. If you decide to buy this book, which I highly recommend, then take the time to read it slowly and let the wisdom permeate your mind. I wouldn't read more than one reflection a day. It will take you two months this way, but you'll feel richer doing so.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

God King (Bethlehem Books)

When it comes to teaching kids about history, there are many methods you can use and many sources you can draw from. For example, you could spend a whole year on Egypt and still barely scratch the surface. Unfortunately, most works on Egypt only look at the "celebrities" or hot spots, like King Tut, Cleopatra, Nefertiti, the Great Pyramids, and the Sphinx. If you want to learn more about other periods or figures, you're going to have to do a little more research to find some books. One of those books is entitled God King, and I will be reviewing it today.

God King is written by Joanne Williamson and is the second book I have read from Bethlehem Books. The first one I read was Hittite Warrior by the same author. Like Hittite WarriorGod King is part of their Living History Library series. This book, however takes place in the year 701 B.C. during the twenty-fifth dynasty in Egypt, also known as the Kushite dynasty. For perspective on this time in history, Sennacherib was king of Assyria and Hezekiah was king of Judah during this time.

The story begins with peril and excitement. A young boy, Taharka, is on a crocodile hunt with his uncle Embutah and some slaves. Suddenly, a crocodile attacks and severely injures one of the slaves. Using his quick thinking and medical skills he has studied, Taharka is able to save the man. Normally, this kind of heroism would be applauded. However, Taharka is no ordinary boy. He is the son of the pharaoh, who is considered a god in Egypt. Touching a slave was a tabu and made young Taharka unclean. Even though he was one of many children of the pharaoh, and not even a particularly important child, he still knew he would be punished...little did he know what his punishment would be.

Taharka's "punishment" came swiftly. The pharaoh was dying, but before he died an ancient ritual must be performed to choose his successor. Everyone, Taharka included, thought it would be the older boy, Shabataka. Shabataka was groomed nearly his whole life to become the next pharaoh. In a cruel twist of fate, Taharka was "chosen," and his "punishment" was that he must become the new pharaoh. To him this felt like being forced to live in a cage, a prison sentence if you will. With his uncle Embutah and brother Shabataka as his guides, years pass and Taharka begins to get used to being pharaoh. He still doesn't like all the duties that come with it, nor does he feel completely safe with the ever-looming threat of Assyria to worry about.

I won't give too many more details away, but the action picks up midway through the book, when Assyria threatens to attack Judah and Taharka must decide whether or not Egypt is to assist them or not. This was a well-researched and well-written book. If you look on Wikipedia, you will see that the names are accurate to this time, and the same holds true for the Bible, as you can find reference to Taharka and Assyria in both 2 Kings 19 and Isaiah 37. In the past few months, I have grown to love the writing of Joanne Williamson. I wish I had discovered her as a child, but will make sure my children discover her. I also hope Bethlehem Books will continue to print some of her other works as well.

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