Tag Archives: Kindle

Book review; Lay Siege to Heaven Louis de Wohl

lay-siege-to-heaven2248lgI think Lay Siege to Heaven is the best of de Wohl’s books. He has always done his homework on the historical context for any of his books and there’s a great deal of history here, but in this book he seems to have a strong understanding of Catherine Benincasa and her mother which gives a strong, three dimensional figure to both women. The books isn’t really about Mona Lapa Benincasa but she is there and you can’t help getting to know her.

Louis de Wohl does not give us a sloppy plaster saint, but rather a woman of fire and energy driven by her love of God and His demands on her.  He treats her relationship with God well and seems to have a good grip on the miraculous happenings from her intersession. I particularly love the way she seems to tell the hospital doctor off for being lazy lying dead in bed. Up he gets – plague free and alive again – and sets about his work with the same gusto she had with her care of the plague victims crowding the hospital and town of Sienna.

De Wohl does not shy away from the terrible mess the Church was in, with weak, comfort loving Popes keeping the Bride in her Babylonian Captivity in Avignon. The greed, simony and vice of the whole Avignon set up is made clear by de Wohl who has his information from history, the writings of St. Catherine’s friend Fra Raymond Capua and from Catherine’s amazing and at times rather shocking letters.

For the last ten years of her life (she died at the age of 33) Catherine ate nothing but the Eucharist. She is not the only saint who has been a living proof of the life of the Bread of Life. There’s a touching scene in the book in which the Pope, to test Catherine’s obedience, asks her if she would eat something should he command her.

She says she would obey him and eat whatever he commanded, but she could not obey him if he asked her to keep it down. She had eaten less and less over the years as food immediately came back until she stopped eating altogether.

There is a great deal of historical and biographical information on St. Catherine of Siena as well as the historical record of the years of her life. De Whol has been faithful to this giving the book it’s authenticity.

He touches briefly on her relationship with St. Bridget of Sweden and her daughter St. Katrin of Vadstena (aka St Catherine of Sweden). There’s a moment when she had asked Katrin to negotiate with the awful Queen Joanna of Naples and Katrin still smarting from what had happened to her older brother Karl, refused.

The Church has produced a few very great saints and St. Catherine of Siena is one of the greatest.

A chapel built on a rock in the grounds of the St. Malo retreat centre is named for her and was visited by Bl. Pope John Paul II. Recently a massive flood and mudslide destroyed a lot in the area although the floods came right up to the rock the chapel remained untouched. Catherine weathered the storms that hit the Church in her era, and those storms were great as the Popes were so weak. But she prevailed and at last the pope returned to Rome where he belonged and the beginning of the renewal could take place. There are many times over the 2000 years since Christ established His Church on Peter -Kephas- the rock and the apostles that the storms and flood waters looked to destroy her; but His promise stands firm.

Book Review: Shadows and Images by Meriol Trevor.

shadows-images-novel-meriol-trevor-paperback-cover-artI get the sense that Meriol Trevor is making a come back and I am glad she is. Many, if not all, of her books were out of print but thanks to some good American publishers they are making it back into both print and ebook format.

Shadows and Images is a gentle novel based around the fictional characters of Clem and Augustine and their families; while the over riding character is the very real John Henry Cardinal Newman of the Birmingham Oratory (now Blessed). Trevor’s knowledge of the life and times of Newman is deep and broad so although the book is “historical fiction” it’s very factual historical fiction.

Trevor touches on the industrialism of the Midlands, particularly around Birmingham and the Black Country; Bilston even gets a mention! There is the underlying issue of bad practice and unjust wages for the workers. But she spends a little more time on the surge of anti-Catholic feeling since Emancipation, including some of the violence.

She doesn’t mention this, but here’s a bit of my history to add. I was baptised in one of the first Catholic Churches to be built and opened after Emancipation was finally granted in 1829. SS Mary and John’s in Wolverhampton was opened in 1850, but just beforehand as the Church was completed a baptist minister from somewhere else (nowhere near Wolverhampton – can’t remember where) gathered a load of people to cause a riot against the church. Their attempt failed, partly because local protestants wouldn’t support him (good for them).

The church was opened on 1st May 1855 by Newman’s friend Cardinal Wiseman (who was pretty saintly himself). Wiseman is in Trevors book and his work during the dreadful cholera outbreak is noted.

Clem follows her friend Newman through his conversion, his difficulties over the Idea of a University, his uncomfortable relationships with Ward and Manning and the bizarre trial and attack on him by Charles Kingsley.

I found Kinglsey’s slander sad, especially in light of the good he had done to raise the issue of child labour.  Surely a good Christian should not have stooped to telling great big porkies about a fellow Christian, or anyone. But Newman took it in style and quietly forgave.

Trevor brings her story to an end as the elderly Clem continues her friendship with the even older Newman and those who worked with him such as the great Cardinal Ullathorne. She sees the end of an era that brought some little light to England before the great darkness of the First World War descended.

The children have read and loved Meriol Trevors Letzenstein Chronicles; The Crystal SnowstormFollowing the Phoenix, Angel and Dragon and The Rose Crown

Book Basket; kids kindle and hardcopy reading.

books basketRonan got a Kindle for his birthday and he loves it. I love the fact that both he and Avila will spend quiet time reading, (Avila has my old Kindle) often with Profiterole and Cecily on their laps (Prof and Ces are the guinea pigs).

I had bought some books for the kids Kindles and a friend gave Ronan some money towards more books.

He has read the first two books in Meriol Trevors Letzenstein Chronicles. With the money from J N P I’ve  bought the third and fourth books in the series as he has requested.

He’s reading The Mitchells at the moment and says it’s good. I think I got it as a freebie some time ago.

Avila has been reading Alvin’s Secret Code and would like some more of those books. She’s reading aloud (to me) Children of the New Forest which is certainly stretching her vocabulary.

She’s also read Five Children and It

We don’t have a book basket this week but Ronan was reading St Francis of Assisi which is a book I bought for Alex for his Confirmation as he took that name.

Also they’ve been reading Marguerite Makes a Book

I do love the fact that both Ronan and Avila love to read. I hope I can encourage them to read good stuff and so grow with their reading. I don’t buy into the idea that all books are good and all screens are bad. That simply isn’t true. Neither do I believe that all old books are good and modern ones are bad. If that were the case Charlotte Mason would not have needed to warn parents against exposing their children to “twaddle”. It is sad that perhaps we can say the newer versions of twaddle are more poisonous than the old versions, but I think as parents we have to be cautious in all the stuff we expose our children to.

There’s plenty of really good books out there, especially once the children have hit a stage where they can read fluently.

Heleyna is reading some of the Oxford Owl books as part of her reading.

She loves it when Avila reads Winnie the Pooh and from me she always chooses Sheepford and Oxley (bk 1)  As Classical Academic Press are  promising bilingual versions I will hang on before buying more.

The other books she’s had out a few times is Our Lady of Guadalupe pop up book. She and her friends seem to love it.

Ronan has been reading the beautifully illustrated Gregor Mendel; the Friar Who Grew Peas

I like the way the children are able to mix happily between ebooks and hardcopy.

Meanwhile I am a Kindle only reader these days. I’ve just finished re-reading Marcus Grodi’s first novel How Firm and Foundation and I’m on to his next one Pillar and Bulwark I have the first one in hard copy but I’ve rebought it for Kindle and don’t mind as I know a lot of Marcus’ work is supporting those who in coming Home to the Catholic Church have lost everything; job home and sometimes a big chunk of their family and friends.

And for lighter reading I’m reading the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz

I am also slowly pre-reading The Mystery of the Periodic Table with a view to planning some lessons around it.

Also reading A Father’s Tale by Michael O’Brien

Iona is reading some Raffles books (in hardcopy) but the link is for the free ebooks

The Deacon brought me Holy Communion yesterday, and we gor talking about the joy of books

Lent Reading; trying to be inspired.

It’s Lent and so I thought I would put out a list of books for good Lentern reading.

I’m still working through the Dairies of St. Faustina which I converted to a mobi file for my Kindle using CALIBRE, which is a free and easy to use e-book converter and manager.

I found a text file of the Catechism and I’ve made that into a pdf using PRIMO PDF. I’ve been using Primo for a long time to make the free lesson packs Kalei has been putting up on That Resource Site. Do go and take a look at what she’s got on offer for Lentern resources.

If you want to read a book on your ereader then having Primo and Calibre is a great help. I’ve transferred books to Word then to pdf and Calibre with convert them to mobi.

So I am hoping to read a lot of the Catechism throughout Lent.

I am also reading the Life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi . I love this woman, but the book is a true penance to read. I can’t stand purple passage and this book is awash with sentimentality, flouncy, purple and elaborate extrapolations. It’s so bad, it can be difficult to find the story of Anna Maria in there – but it is there.

If you are wondering why I would deliberately read a book as astonishingly badly written as this, well, I really find her inspiring and there are hardly any books in English out there about her. I have the one by TAN publishers (can’t remember the author just now) on order – but that’s a hard copy so I will only be able to read it when eyesight allows.

I love Anna Maria because she was so ordinary in her extraordinariness. She was married, had seven children and lived a tough life. She cared for her parents when they grew old and poor. Her mother, who was a little difficult apparently, lived with them and then her daughter Sophia moved back home with her six children when her husband died.

Obviously the “big” part of Anna Maria’s story was her gift of prophecy and the “sun” she saw in which God revealed to her the things He needed her to tell others.

Anyway, apart from the penance of reading a badly written book, I’m hoping her life will inspire me to better behaviour over being ill. She had many of the same symptoms as your average FMS/ME cum dysautonomia patient, including severe migraines, black outs, pain, absolute exhaustion and the rest. She handled all this as you’d expect a holy saint to handle it – that is, not like me! So I am hoping for inspiration. (stop laughing!)

When my poor husband says he can tell how much pain I’m in, even when I, in saint-mode do not mention it – because I’m irratible and snappy that’s an epic fail!

So, hopefully Bl. Anna Maria will help me out, without me requiring yet another holy 2×4 across the soul. (So I’m a slow learner).

I am still slowly working through Les Miserables which I love. Even so, dear old Vic likes to pontificate rather pompously and go off on long pontifical-tandems to the point where you almost feel like yelling “Get back to the story!” But when he’s in the story; it’s brilliant.

As a straight forward book I’m reading a The Emperor of North America the second book in the Young Chesterton Chronicales by John McNichol. I actually bought it along with The Tripods Attack for Ronan but as you can have it on more than one Kindle at a time I’m getting to read it too.

So I have something to read for all brain states from flurble to relatively sensible.

Book Basket

P1010995This weeks book basket has the following books:

Frog and Toad books. There’s a great story about frog and toad going sledging in the snow. Just right for all the snow we have here at the moment.

Diary of a Wombat This is a simple and funny little tale for the younger ones. Heleyna loves it and Avila often reads it to her.

Charlie Needs a Cloak. Another good winter story for Heleyna. It’s by the children’s favourite author Tomie DePaola.

Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery Just a lovely story with beautiful illustrations about a monk who has a bakery to help make the monastery make ends meet. Rona loves this story as he wants to be a baker.

Paintings First Discovery/Art

The 5000 Year old Puzzle

feature-prime._V386282737_I have given Avila my old Kindle, and have a Paperwhite for me now which is brilliant in all sorts of light from dark to bright sunlight. It’s a touch screen which I was unsure about at first because of my peripheral neuropathy. I wasn’t sure the screen would recognise my fingers but it’s been fine most of the time.

Keeping secrets in our house is nigh on impossible – (which I suppose is ok really because I don’t approve of secrets; they always end with biting someone) – but anyway, dear old Ronan has found out that he is getting a Kindle for his birthday.

At the moment he and Avila are sharing my old one.

She is reading E.Nesbit’s(opens list)  The Phoenix and the Carpet which I read to them as a read aloud some time ago. She also has Tom’s Midnight Garden for quick reading. She read it to me ages ago now.

Ronan is reading L. Frank Baum (opens list)  The Tin Woodman of Oz

What the adults are reading:

I am reading Les Miserables  which I read years ago and can’t remember well. Iona has seen the film and thinks we should go too.

I am also reading The Silmarillion which, like Les Mis I haven’t read for many years. Nice to go back to these things.

Al is reading Dorothy Sayers Strong Poison on the train as he goes to and from work.

Iona is reading Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General. She’s a big Daphne Du Maurier fan.

Book Basket

P1010955I think the book basket this week might only be slightly changed next week. I am not pushing too hard on “personal reading” time but they do seem to just pick a book from the basket and sit with it for a quiet time.

The Usborne See Inside Your Body has been a long time favourite.  As they got Mr. Guts for Christmas it’s been revived as an interest.

Sir Cumference and Knights of the Round Table. A fun way to learn a few maths facts. Avila has taken to these books. I think they are a nice complement to the Life of Fred books they love so much.

The King’s Equal is short and easy to read. Nice relaxing book with some depth of story.

The Glorious Flight of Louis Bleriot across the English channel.

Uncle Chestnut Lovely whimsical stories based around our beloved G.K Chesterton. The book is a very slim paperback for the price. I must admit being taken about by how small the book was for such a price- but it is very well written. (perhaps it’s cheaper in the USA)

At night they are reading something different. The Roman Mysteries that they love so much have a set of mini stories and Ronan has just finished The Trumpeter of Krakow which he really enjoyed.

For read alouds Avila has just finised Kateri Tekakwitha and will read  Mates of the Kurlalong which her aunt has lent to her.

Ronan is reading Swallows and Amazons

I am finding that many books are available as ebooks from Bethlehem, Sophia and Ignatius press and are cheaper in dollars than in sterling. They are certainly cheaper in ebook than hard copy.

So, don’t tell him, but I’ve bought Ronan a kindle for his birthday (24th Feb). Between now and then I will get him a couple of books and I’ve already started loading it with free books. Amazon let you put together a wishlist so I’m building one for him as I go along.

I did spend quite some time looking at other ereaders before I caved to the Kindle again. But the advantage is that we can have the same book on up to five kindles which is brilliant for group reading times. I’ve decided to upgrade to a paperwhite and give Avila my kindle. She’s been asking for one almost more than Ronan.

Reading for the Year of Faith: Kindle and hard copy.

Bible: Why not treat yourself to a good translation such as the RSV-CE, (Ignatius or Navarre.) or a Knox if you can get hold of one. Commit to doing just a little Bible study each day. Ignatius Press publish a whole lot of good Bibles commentaries and stuff

I’ve got the Dairies of St. Faustina and although I’ve read them before I’m going through them again. Her understanding of the signs of the times, of suffering and of service are wonderful: like little lights along the road.

I’m also reading St. John of the Cross The Dark Night of the Soul. For me at least, this takes long slow reading. It’s so packed that reading it in bleurgh times doesn’t cut it.

The End of the Present World And the Mysteries of the Future Life by Fr. Charles Arminjin now in English. This was a book that St. Therese the Little Flower recommended.

The Father’s Know Best by Jimmy Akin. Understanding what the early Fathers of the Church wrote and taught is a great insight into the development of doctrine, and how She handled persecution.

At a time when America is facing a wholesale onslaught  over religious freedom, which is an intrinsic human right,  I think it would be worth reading the stories of St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) companions. (She’s one of our family saints so obviously I love her a lot.) If you have the brain power (which sadly I don’t) you could try reading her philosophical work, or get hold of some wonderful Alice von Hildebrand books and lectures. EWTN audio archives still hold the series she did about the life and work of her husband Deitrich. His escape from the Nazi’s and his writings are all amazing.

For children the Vision Books are great and for religious freedom and persecution the stories of St. Edmund Campion and St. Thomas More. Also the story of St Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal given in the time when France was persecuting Catholics viciously.

How’s that for starters? Don’t spend the next year reading twaddle. Life’s too short for that. Fill up your heart, soul and mind with something worthwhile- even in fiction.