Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: Adventures in Assisi

Adventures in Assisi is another lovely picture book by Amy Welborn.  It's the story of a brother and sister who tour Assisi with their great uncle, a Franciscan brother.  As they tour the city, they learn about St. Francis of Assisi.

The story book is filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations that will surely captivate young children as they listen to the story.  After reading the book to my children we went and looked at pictures online that a seminarian from our parish who is studying in Rome had taken when he visited Assisi.  So the book not only tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi, but it also connects the story to actual places.  My kids liked that after reading through the book that we were able to then see actual pictures of Assisi.

The story is a bit lengthy, so it seems to be better suited to younger elementary students.  My three year old who typically sits through longer story books became antsy as we read through this book; so given how she responded, I'd say a good target audience for this book would be 1st-3rd graders.  The length of the book might be too much for pre-schoolers-Kindergarten aged children to sit through in one reading.  While the book is a bit long for my younger daughter, she certainly enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful illustrations.

This book would be ideal for reading to children leading up to St. Francis of Assisi's feast day, or as part of a feast day celebration.  It's a good pick if you are looking for a book that will let you teach children about St. Francis and Assisi.

I was provided with a review copy of Adventures in Assisi by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: Saint of the Day

Reading about the saints is something that I enjoy immensely.  I draw a lot of inspiration from reading about how they pursued the path of holiness and obtained heaven, so a book filled with short accounts of the saints is always nice to have laying around where you can pick it up and spend a few minutes here and there reading about them.  The updated and expanded Saint of the Day book offers a wealth of information on the saints and various feast days that are celebrated throughout the year.

The book is arranged by month with a saint or feast day for nearly every day of the year.  Some days have multiple entries and there are a few days that have no entries.  The saints are featured on the dates their feast days are celebrated liturgically.  After a brief biography of the featured saint, you'll find a related comment and quote.  The comments and quotes are often good jumping off points for reflection.

The book is useful not only as a daily devotional, but also as a reference on the saints and various feast days.  The table of contents lists the saints by date.  If you are looking for a specific saint, the index will be the most expedient way to find the saint if you aren't already aware of the date for his or her feast day.

We have several different saint of the day types of books on our bookshelf and I think I like this one the best.  The other's are intended for kids, but I find a lot of the stories in those books seem like they were written with adults in mind.  This book seems a bit more accessible than some of the other ones.
I was provided with a copy of Saint of the Day by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can take a peek inside this book or purchase a copy at Amazon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Joyful Witness

I wasn't sure what exactly to expect when I picked up Rany Hain's Joyful Witness How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic.  Once I started reading this book I had the hardest time putting it down.  When my little ones took naps, I reached for this book.  It was such an enjoyable book that I zipped through it in just a few days time.

The book is less of a how to for being an extraordinary Catholic and more a collection of stories about people just like you or me who do things that make them extraordinary Catholics.  The key is, they joyfully embrace their faith and seek to answer the call to holiness and from there they radiate it and ignite others.

The stories of those who are featured in this book are nothing short of inspiring.  I know sometimes you can look at someone and say "Wow, so and so is so holy!  I wish I could be like that but she's just in a totally different class.  I can't do that."  The thing is, you can.  You just have to start.  Everyone of these extraordinary Catholics featured in this book are all just like you or me.   Each story begins with a quote either from scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Their stories illustrate a real life example of that scripture or catechism reference in action.  At the end of each story there are steps you can take to emulate the example of the person featured along with a series of questions for reflection.  So if you're thinking that you're just an ordinary Catholic and you can't do what they have done, think again.  Holiness is for everyone.  You just have to want it and be willing to pursue it!

I highly recommend this book if you're looking for inspiration to become an extraordinary Catholic.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

I was provided with a review copy of Joyful Witness by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  You can lear more about this title or purchase a copy of this book here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: Prayers for Young Catholics

Prayers for Young Catholics is a pocket sized hardcover prayer book compiled by the Daughters of St. Paul that is good for school aged children.  The prayer book contains a dedication page which makes it ideal for gift giving.  It would be a great gift idea for a child who has just received the sacrament of first reconciliation or first Holy Communion.

The prayer book is divided into nine sections:

  • Basic Prayers
  • Prayers to Mary
  • Prayers to Saints
  • Prayers from the Bible
  • Prayers for Various Needs
  • The Rosary
  • The Stations of the Cross
  • Our Catholic Faith
  • The Seasons of the Church
Overall, this prayer book provides a wonderful overview of the faith and contains the means to help foster life long devotions.  I think the layout for the book is quite nice and the book looks like it will withstand many years of use.

The artwork in the prayer book is varied.  It's really a mix of traditional and modern images as well as photographs.  My personal preference with prayer books is to have a more old fashioned traditional feel, so while not all of the artwork in this prayer book appeals to me, it might be more appealing to those who are maybe put off by things that have a more traditional look.  So really, I suppose it all just boils down to personal preferences.

Overall, this is a nice prayer book that is easy to use thanks to a great table of contents.  I have several prayer books that I love that I wish had a table of contents like this.  This prayer book is a good pick if you're looking for a prayer book that isn't also a missal.

I was provided with a review copy of Prayers for Young Catholics by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  You can purchase a copy of this book or take a peek inside of it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Fearless

It's odd, but for the longest time I felt like there weren't all that many American saints.  I knew about St. Katharine Drexel, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann but outside of those, I was largely unaware that there were many more.  Early last year I had read a book on American martyrs and saints which served to whet my appetite for learning more about them.  I can't tell you what I was reading when a copy of Alice Camille and Paul Boudreau's Fearless: Stories of the American Saints showed up at my house many months ago.  All I know was shortly after it arrived, the book was in my hands every time I found a spare moment until I hit the Bibliography.

The book details the lives of about a dozen American saints.  Unlike the book I had read early last year, these stories gave more background on the saints simply because there were fewer saints being discussed.  So I rather enjoyed getting to know some of these saints better.

I found this book to not only be a great source of information on various American saints, but also a great source of supplemental material for my daughter's 8th grade history book.  Many of the saints who are detailed in this book are also mentioned in her history text book, so the book is good supplemental reading for her, or for me to be able to help her take a more in-depth look at the saint or the time period from which he or she hailed.

Overall the book was an enjoyable read.  I found it hard to put the book down.  You know you have a good book on your hands when you don't want to stop reading it until you get to the end.

I was provided with a review copy of Fearless by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can purchase a copy or take a peek inside this book at Amazon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: Queen of Apostles Prayer Book

I don't think it's any big secret that I really like prayer books.  Most books I read get read once, maybe twice and then they sit on a shelf or get passed around to my friends.  Sometimes I feel like I'm a private library, only I don't exactly keep track of who has borrowed what and there are never any fines for returning books late.  But prayer books are different.  The ones I like I find myself turning to frequently.  They're the books that will be around for the long haul.  Generally speaking, I find that I gravitate to prayer books that are pre-Vatican II because they tend to contain prayers where the language is more beautiful, and in using those prayer books, I feel like I am able to draw closer to God.

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Queen of Apostles Prayer Book from Pauline Books & Media.  Queen of Apostles is a new up-to-date edition of a prayer book that has been around for more than fifty years.  This prayer book is really beautifully done.  It has a leatherette cover and the sewn page binding, so there are no worries about the pages falling out from years of use like you can find with glued bindings.  The pages are nice and thick, too.

As I paged through this prayer book I was amazed at how much this resembled my favorite older prayer books.  From the prayers included in this book to the language used in the prayers, this book has a very traditional feel to it.  It's not modernized to the point of stripping it of all it's beauty like some others.  It reminds me of a cross between the Mother Love and Blessed Be God prayer books, with more of a leaning towards the former.

The book is divided into the following sections:

  • Daily Prayers
  • Prayers to the Holy Trinity
  • Eucharistic Devotions
  • Prayers to Our Lady
  • Prayers to the Angels
  • Prayers to the Saints
  • Prayers of the Saints
  • Prayers from Scripture
  •  Seasonal Prayers
  • Latin Prayers and Hymns
  • Helps for Spiritual Growth
  • Catholic Beliefs and Practices
I was particularly impressed with the sections of this book that included prayers to the Blessed Mother and the prayers to and by the saints.  In the section on the Blessed mother I like the scriptural explanation of the mysteries of the Rosary.  I think this is done better than in other prayer books I have.  The section on prayers to the saints is filled with prayers for all different situations and needs. The prayers by the Saints is a beautiful variety of prayers written by the saints. I found several prayers in that section that I know are destined to become favorite prayers.

There is a section with Latin prayers and hymns, but the English translation is not given alongside the Latin prayers as you often find in other prayer books.  I'm used to seeing the English translation next to the Latin so it struck me as a bit odd, but I suppose when the compiled the book they thought it better to not repeat prayers that were already elsewhere in the book in English.

I like the examination of conscience that is found in this book.  It is very much like the one in the Mother Love prayer book which presents questions by commandment, only in Queen of the Apostles, the examination is more modern, which I like.

The prayer book comes with a dedication page which makes it suitable for gift giving.  As I read through this book I kept thinking that it would make a great gift for someone who has just gone through RCIA since it offers not only a lot of great prayers, but also a section on Catholic beliefs and practices.  As a convert, I know I would have found a book like this immensely helpful right after I was received into the Church.  This would also be great as a Confirmation gift.

I was provided with a review copy of Queen of Apostles Prayer Book by the publisher, Pauline Books in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Books & Media to learn more about this book or to purchase a copy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Small Successes February 12th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up...

1.  I've been blogging more.  Months ago I realized that my blog was rather neglected even though I had things I wanted to write about.  But, I came up with a litany of excuses and distractions rather than actually sit down and blog.  FaceBook seems to be the blog's #1 enemy.  I log on to FaceBook and POOF! just like that I've lost a nice chunk of time.  I am seriously considering giving it up for Lent or limiting myself to using it for only 15 minutes a day, or possibly only using it to post links to new blog posts.  I haven't decided.  I'm still trying to figure out what I need to do.

2.  You can't tell it now, but I've actually written a lot of book reviews this past week.  I decided that rather than stick with my feast or famine blogging style, that the scheduler for posts could be my friend.  So for the next several weeks, there will be a book review every Monday and Wednesday.  I am hoping I can keep up with that.  I mentioned to Bryan the other day that I've noticed that I find time to read books, but then never get around to writing the review.  Again,  another indicator that I've spent too much of my precious little free time on FaceBook.

3.  I am slowly but surely working to detach myself from more material items.  I need to remove a lot of visual noise (clutter) from my home.  I came across this article [on FaceBook, of course...I really need to give it up for Lent, don't I?] recently and shared it with my husband.  It's kind of where I am with regards to the excessive amounts of things we have.   I wouldn't say I'm depressed about the copious amounts of stuff, but it does leave me feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  It's a problem and I think the messes we frequently have in the house are directly related to the copious amount of things we have.

4. Anthony has branched out to eating more solid foods.  He had been eating little bits of bread and those baby puffs for the past couple of weeks, but now he will also pick up and eat peas, hash browns, pancake, and pasta.  He really seems to enjoy eating table foods.  He acts like a crazed wild animal who hasn't seen food in days whenever we put some table food on his tray.  He goes nuts trying to get it all in his mouth.  He's such a funny baby.

5. Katie has learned several new words this week.  At long last, she now says up and down.  She came out with a few more words like baptize,  but I can't recall the rest of them at the moment.  She also learned how to fasten a snap.  And the best part about that was no one even taught her how to do it.  She learned it all by herself.
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