Book Review: A Soldier Surrenders

A Soldier Surrenders by Susan Peek is an incredible story about
Saint Camillus de Lellis, a great sinner of the 1500s who became a great saint. He is entirely human, very flawed, and thus easy to empathize with. His story is sure to inspire anyone who struggles with temptation and sin–and who among us doesn’t?!

With his pious mother dead, young Camillus follows in his soldier father’s footsteps, making many bad choices and even, for a time, siding with the Turks against the Christians. A tall, formidable man, Camillus is brought low by bad habits such as drinking, gambling, and brawling–becoming, in fact, a slave to his vices.

Due to the profound impact of his father’s death, Camillus attempts to change his life, but his hot temper and intense pride repeatedly thwart his efforts. Additionally, he is plagued by a mysterious ulcer that refuses to heal.

Besot by temptations and failures, Camillus is rejected and dismissed in shame from places where he attempts to build a life. A lesser man would give in to despair, but Camillus soldiers on and is shaped by the soul-shaking trials he endures.

At long last, after struggling to find his way alone in the world, Camillus realizes he’s not alone. He discovers that it takes humility to have true courage–the courage to surrender to God’s will.

As always, Peek knows how to keep readers hooked! She treats us to lively writing, entertaining situations, and crisp dialogue. A Soldier Surrenders is filled with action and drama and is perfect for ages fifteen and up. Peek’s novels are among the most worthy and inspiring I’ve ever read. I fervently recommend all her books and eagerly anticipate her new ones!

A Soldier Surrenders is available in paperback.

Book Review: Crusader King

Crusader King: A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades by Susan Peek is an extremely powerful and breathtaking historical novel.
I read the entire book within twenty-four hours because it was that good! I literally couldn’t put it down and read the first half in one sitting.

In this tremendously moving story, young Baldwin IV shoulders more responsibility at age 13 than most do in a lifetime when he becomes King of Jerusalem in the year 1174. Besides facing enemies in the form of vicious Turks and calculating usurpers to his throne, Baldwin faces the incurable and horrifying affliction of leprosy.

But together with his loyal friend Theo, Baldwin learns that true bravery isn’t about not being afraid, but doing the right thing even when you are, and trusting in God. Both young men discover incredible courage, fortitude, faith, devotion, and sacrifice as they grow with zeal in the face of frightening adversity and battles.

And what battles! The heart-pounding suspense and intensity sweep readers right onto the battlefield. Impressive as it is, the fighting is never glorified for its own sake, but seen in the proper perspective of fighting for what is good and holy. Battle scenes are tempered with entertaining and enlightening scenes of characters and kingdom life. Readers are given a fascinating glimpse into the ways of the Knights Templar, as well as treated to a stunning plot twist!

I’m in awe of the author’s ability to infuse the characters with such life and vigor. She works the various viewpoints to perfection—keeping the story rolling and captivating. Teens and adults alike will enjoy this book and will cheer and weep for both Baldwin and Theo as they soldier on through remarkable odds.

Crusader King is a most worthy read in the truest sense, sure to grip your mind, heart, and soul—and send you searching for more of Ms. Peek’s books!

Crusader King is available in paperback and as Kindle ebook.

Book Review: Erin’s Ring

Erin’s Ring by Laura H. Pearl is an unforgettably heartfelt and soul-stirring story of faith
and love. It hooked me in the first chapter when 13-year-old Molly, new to the town of Dover, discovers an old Claddagh ring in the dirt around St. Mary’s Church. How did the ring get there? Whose ring is it?

Together with her new friend Theresa, who is struggling with a deep sorrow, Molly searches for answers by delving into the history of the town and the Irish immigrants, particularly the mill girls who worked long, hard hours for money to send home to their loved ones.

19-year-old Ann’s story begins in 1827, with her boarding a ship bound for America, with hopes of joining the mill girls. Resourceful and determined, she works hard, sends money and letters home, and clings to her Catholic faith. Meanwhile, a budding romance fills her with hopes and dreams for the future. The multilayered story is rich with Catholic traditions and Irish heritage.

Erin’s Ring is a splendid tale, with meaningful yet entertaining content, easily enjoyed by adults and teens alike. The pull to keep reading was irresistible; I was continually trying to squeeze reading time into my busy day. The plot always entices and is driven by the characters, their lives, loves, and sufferings. The young women of the past and present struggle with hardships as their lives are shaped by faith in God.

I’m thoroughly impressed with Pearl’s ability to create this beautiful tapestry of love, hope, and courage. She has such a talent for writing wholesome yet real stories. I’m also very in awe of the fact that she wrote Erin’s Ring in a matter of months. That can only be done with extreme dedication and a true passion for the story. Like Pearl’s debut novel (Finding Grace), Erin’s Ring is another keeper for my bookshelf to pass on to my daughters!

Erin’s Ring is available in paperback.

Book Review: The Search for the Madonna

It’s always a pleasure to read a novel by the talented Donna Alice Patton.
Woven into her stories are enticing themes of mystery, suspense, faith, hope, and trust. The Search for the Madonna incorporates all these elements in an adventure story for girls. It reminds me of an American Girl novel, but longer, with more substance, and geared especially for Traditional Catholics!

The characters come to life in a genuine historical atmosphere. In the midst of the Great Depression, eleven-year-old twins–timid Maggie and spunky Em–spend the summer on their Aunt Sophie’s beautiful farm. Maggie hopes this idyllic place can finally be a permanent home. Unfortunately, the bank is ready to snatch the farm if the overdue taxes aren’t paid soon.

To save the farm, Maggie determines to find the family’s long-lost Brandenburg treasure and the priceless jewel-studded Madonna statue. But mysterious “ghost” trespassers, eerie lights, and confusing clues frighten and befuddle Maggie’s efforts.

With a developing devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Maggie learns to overcome fear and to trust in the Madonna not only in times of crisis, but always.

Entertaining, educational, memorable, and moral, The Search for the Madonna makes a delightful read for girls seven and up.

And stay tuned, because the author has a sequel in the works!

The Search for the Madonna is available in paperback and as a Kindle ebook.

Book Review: The Gift of Summer Snow

The Gift of Summer Snow by Donna Alice Patton is a beautiful, wholesome quality mystery novel for young girls about age seven to thirteen.

Eleven-year-old Becky loves to garden and she is determined to win a top prize at the county fair with her Summer Snow rose. The problem? Someone is snatching her best blooms! With time running out, Becky determines to hunt down the culprit and solve the mystery. Along the way, she learns lessons in faith, friendship, and kindness. She also increases her devotion to a favorite saint, St. Theresa.

The writing, plot, and characters are lively and entertaining enough to hold the attention of the most reluctant readers, and suspense will keep readers turning pages to reach the satisfying conclusion.

The Gift of Summer Snow is a refreshing, sweet, and interesting story that you can feel good about giving your daughter to read. The role models and the depiction of a solid family unit are inspiring. This book would make a great gift or addition to a homeschool collection. In addition, the black and white illustrations are quite charming.

I would have loved the opportunity to read this book as a child. My little girls will read this someday for sure. It’s a keeper!

The Gift of Summer Snow is available in paperback from the author’s website.

Book Review: Saint Magnus The Last Viking

Wow! Let me begin by putting to rest any notion that this,
being a historical novel, is bogged down with details and facts. The balance and delivery of fact and fiction is flawless. Saint Magnus The Last Viking brings Saint Magnus to life while delivering action-packed excitement and suspense galore!

From the beginning, I couldn’t put this book down. A ruler’s deathbed decree sets in motion a dire future for the heirs to the throne of the Orkney Islands. When Saint Magnus, a prince, clashes with his ruthless cousin Hakon, Hakon is banished. Brooding and bitter, Hakon plots revenge.

Magnus faces hardships that would drive a lesser man to despair. But the battles of good and evil ultimately chisel Magnus into a saint.

Full of twists and turns, Saint Magnus The Last Viking is sure to be read with bated breath. Teen boys will devour the action, adventure, and bravery. I’m sure many, many young women will enjoy this thrilling story as well. Adults, you too!

Note that there is violence and some blood, but a story like this could not be done justice without it. Violence is not used simply for shock value; it brings home the reality of what Magnus suffered and how his sainthood was truly merited.

At it’s core, Saint Magnus The Last Viking is a most intense story of moral courage and forgiveness against all odds.

Those who’ve never heard of this saint before will never forget him after reading this book. It’s an absolute must-read!

Saint Magnus The Last Viking is available in paperback.

Book Review: A Subtle Grace

There is plenty to love about this beautiful novel, including the graceful flow of the story,
the genuine characters, the description, the rich historical detail, the joyous moments, and the frightening ones.

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable is an inspirational historical romance, and more. It takes you on a genuine journey into the past, into the lives of the endearing O’Donovan Family. While the main story focuses on the oldest daughter, Kathleen, I enjoyed the intertwining, equally interesting, stories of the close-knit Catholic family and how they coped with life’s challenges: losses, tragedy, vocations, and temptations.

At 19 years old and living a privileged life in 1896 Philadelphia, Kathleen longs to be married and to begin a family before she reaches “old maid” status. She becomes fascinated by the attentions of a certain young man, but when her sparkling expectations for the future are savagely crushed, she has to learn to hope and love again. With time and trials, she matures into a selfless, instead of a somewhat self-absorbed, young woman. Even though she cannot fathom God’s plan for her life, she must trust in Him. Meanwhile, a lurking threat follows her like a dark shadow, marring her happiness.

A Subtle Grace is the sequel to the lovely book In Name Only, yet A Subtle Grace can be enjoyed independently. Of course, readers of the first book won’t want to miss this one! We get to see where life has taken Caroline and David and their family, and how the journey of life continues. The story kept me so interested that I hardly realized this was, in fact, a lengthy book.

A Subtle Grace is a novel to stir your heart, your emotions, and your soul. I highly recommend it!

A Subtle Grace is available as a Kindle ebook and will soon be available in paperback as well.

“Saint Magnus, The Last Viking” by Susan Peek

Check out this newly-released traditional Catholic novel by Susan Peek, popular author and home-schooling mother of eleven. For ages fifteen and up, this novel would be perfect for home-schooled teens!

Saint Magnus, The Last Viking by Susan Peek

Come back in time 900 years, to the fierce and desolate Northern lands, where Norsemen ruled with ax and sword. A dying king, a shocking death-wish, his heirs divided with an oath of blood . . .

At last, the long-awaited third book by the highly acclaimed Catholic novelist Susan Peek. In this new fast-paced novel, the premier in her series God’s Forgotten Friends, Mrs. Peek transports us back, as only she can, to a place and age all but lost in the mists of time.

The conflict unfolds between Magnus Erlendson, a heroic young prince aflame with the love of God, and his outlawed cousin Hakon, who blames Magnus for his banishment from their kingdom. What follows is a tale of betrayal and revenge, bravery and forgiveness, as Magnus seeks to restore his father’s vanquished kingdom to its rightful hands. Entertaining and inspiring from start-to-finish, a must-read for all those who thrill to learn the life of a saint we never knew existed!

“The author has an incredible insight and perception to what goes on within a young man’s mind. Written for boys in boys’ language: hard, fast and to the point. Magnus is vividly portrayed as a real boy with real blood in his veins. The book puts forth how courage, will and intelligence, joined together under the strong influence of grace and prayer, make a boy into a man and a man into a saint. Mrs. Peek certainly knows how to grab one’s attention and hold it captive! We’re looking forward to her next work.”
— A Benedictine Monk, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery

“Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue” by Donna Alice Patton

From the clever title and stunning cover, to the well-written story, Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue by Donna Alice Patton is a mystery suspense novel that delivers what it promises.

The novel has an engaging beginning with plenty of tension. A mere week before Christmas, Laura Barkley receives a desperate call from her husband, Peter, right before he dies tragically in the museum where he works. When the priceless blue Anastasia Diamond is revealed missing, suspicion falls on Peter—and thus Laura—adding to her burden as her life crumbles around her.

Eleven months later, Laura is doing her best to eke out a stable existence for herself and her little twin daughters, when the threats and fear begin anew. Whom should she trust and where should she go? And will she ever be able to decipher Peter’s final clue and find the Anastasia Diamond before it’s too late?

The mystery kept me reading, and the touches of romance added to the enjoyment of the layered story. Characters are rounded and real, and I truly felt for Laura and her girls and all the hardship they’ve endured. This is a novel that grabs at your emotions and a book that any lover of suspense could enjoy.

Many potential readers will also be happy to know that this is a clean read. The Catholic faith elements are minimal, but a very nice touch. Laura progresses from a lapsed Catholic who thinks she must rely on herself for everything, to realizing that, both humanly and spiritually, she can’t (and shouldn’t) always go it alone.

Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue is set in the late 1970s, a time period that I don’t often come across in a novel, so I found it quite interesting as well as unique. The time period and setting always felt authentic to me, and I particularly enjoyed experiencing the Blizzard of ’78 in the climax.

Thank you, Ms. Patton, for a great story!

Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue is available as a Kindle ebook.

“Finding Grace” by Laura H. Pearl

Laura H. Pearl’s first novel, Finding Grace, was a pure delight to read. The story is absorbing on so many levels.

The main character, Grace, is thirteen at the beginning of the book, but her story spans the years of 1972-1980 as she becomes a young woman in a world fraught with challenges. She strives to live as a good Catholic so that she may one day become a saint; but goodness doesn’t come easily, and as she struggles to live her faith, she encounters life in all its many facets of good and evil, joy and disappointments. Add to this the pain of falling deeply in love with a young man who sees her only as a friend, and I had to keep turning pages, staying up late, to find out how everything turns out.

The characters are fully developed, easy to relate to, and real. Grace’s relationships with her parents, her many brothers, and her friends, are genuine. Readers will become invested in Grace’s fate, and yearn for her to win her true love in the end. While this book is a wonderful coming-of-age story for teens, it is also great for adults looking for a romantic story that is deep and meaningful. Not a shallow romance, Finding Grace has all the hallmarks readers could want: romance, conflict, humor, life, love, laughter, and tears.

Parents can feel confident in buying this for their teens. Finding Grace is a moral read, without being bland or boring. The importance of family and faith is highlighted. Yes, there are lessons to be learned, but readers will be highly entertained along the way.

I laughed out loud. I shared in the heartaches as Grace learned who she is, and who she can be, with the grace of God. I really do miss the characters and I’m sad to be done with the novel, even though it has a beautiful ending! This is a book that I will definitely recommend to my own daughter someday.

Finding Grace is available in paperback and as a Kindle ebook.