Suggest a Book

Have you read a good book that could be considered a traditional Catholic novel?
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11 thoughts on “Suggest a Book

  1. “Tyborne” is the story of two siblings, Walter and Isabel de Lisle, who are caught up in the anti-Catholic world of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Raised by good Catholic parents, Walter and Isabel become the wards of the Protestant Earl of Beauville upon their mother’s death. Each is faced with the choice between the compromising life of an apostate, or the sacrificial life of a recusant. Their souls hang in the balance. How will Walter and Isabel decide? This is a thrilling tale with all the suspense of a modern novel, heroic courage in the face of unimaginable suffering and torture, and true love which will leave the reader in awe at its triumph.

    The 1994 edition is published by The Neumann Press.

  2. A wonderful new novel for young Catholic readers and their parents is: The Gift of Summer Snow; A Tale from the Garden of Mysteries by Donna Alice Patton (available on Amazon and from Philothea Press at http://www.philotheapress.com) This mystery novel is about a young girl who grows roses for competition; just weeks before she is to enter them, her prize winning roses begin disappearing! She must rely on her family, her faith and her devotion to her favorite Saint (Saint Theresa the Little Flower) to help her solve the mystery in time…

    Wonderfully illustrated and captivating to read. You can read experts on the publishers website…

  3. The Perpetual Mystery is the story of a family man, Scott Summit, who meets a mysterious woman named Karla in Europe. The discovery of a thousand year old manuscript describing a perpetual motion machine and the revelation of Karla’s secret leads them on a mysterious journey of adventure and discovery. Strange clues lead them to Rome where danger awaits them. The twists and turns of this book end with Scott and Karla running for their lives with only the knowledge of the clues and their faith to save them from the violence of their adversary. This is a solidly Catholic adventure that is good for adults as well as teenagers (age 14 and up).

    http://www.amazon.com/Perpetual-Mystery-Paperback-Charles-Gill/dp/B002AD0BJK/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307449724&sr=1-6

  4. Infinite Space, Infinite God II is a fun anthology of Catholic science fiction. It’s not preachy. And there is not even a whiff, a hint, a suggestion, of pro-Catholic propaganda. In fact, the entire premise of this book is that systems fail, fall apart, and don’t solve everything, leaving it up to individuals. Sometimes, an individual combined with faith, and sometimes not.

    Sometimes, the individual isn’t even human.

    Welcome to the world of Catholic science fiction.

    This is not, mercifully, one of those books where you have to be Catholic to understand everything. In fact, aside from a few in-jokes, this is not a book that requires you know Catholic theology—one of the authors is a Presbyterian Minister. Far as I can tell, if you don’t mind having Catholics as the good guys, this book is quite enjoyable. This doesn’t even require a belief in God…. but it doesn’t hurt, either

    The sense of humor in some is almost sly. You don’t need to be Catholic to understand the actual jokes, though there are some bits where there are Catholic in-jokes.

    Karina Fabian’s tale of interstellar rescue nuns includes their base convent as being the Convent of Joseph du Cupertino—the patron saint of pilots.

    Most relevant jokes are spelled out: one ship is called the Mark 16, even though there were only seven models—only to discover that it’s actually Mark 16:18…

    Let’s just say that I’ve never seen “Snakes on a Star ship.”

    There was also a question from an alien to a nun that started
    “What do the wings on the hat signify? Something to do with aviation?”
    “This is a full habit.”
    “I didn’t ask how often you wore it.”

    It’s cute.

    However, one of the more interesting parts of this collection is that it’s a science fiction story that uses—gasp—science. We get to keep inertia, Kepler’s laws, and no, you are not going to rewrite history as a time traveler. Thank you.

    (If you are not an active science fiction fan, let’s just say that finding science in science fiction can, occasionally, be hit-or-miss. There are Baen novels, some of which use so many scientific elements that they have physicists co-writing books, and then there’s Star Wars and Star Trek media … don’t even ask).

    Now, to be fair, this comes with the usual mixed bag in any anthology. There are one or two stories that I read and didn’t think came up to the standard set by the editors’ own tales. I don’t know if they were feeling charitable, or if they just really liked “The moral of the story.” The biggest, and I mean the biggest, problem with this anthology is actually … in the introductions. Some of the story intros push a little too hard in trying to explain the moral of the story, and some even give away the ending. But then, if that’s the biggest problem with this book, it’s not that big at all, when compared to the fun of the rest of it.

    If the editors are reading, a simple word of warning for the next volume: stop trying so hard. The story will sell itself. And if you don’t think it does, move the introduction of each story to the end of each tale. That’s it. “Problem” solved.

    And, in this entire collection, I can only suggest skipping two stories. That’s it, two. Well, one and a half, really.

    The opening tale, The Ghosts of Kourion, is so full of exposition, and takes place so much inside of the protagonist’s head, that I can’t honestly recommend it. I got bored, and moved on. And, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of anthologies, considering how variable the quality can be. I was very tempted to give up on the entire book, if Ghosts of Kourion was going to be an example. It might be me, but I couldn’t really get into it…

    And then I read the Karina Fabian tale, Antivenin … referred to above as “Snakes on a Star Ship.” Rescue nuns and poisonous snakes. In zero-gravity. It was fun. It was a nice, solid adventure. Though I did expect there to be a line that read “I am sick and tired of these …. snakes on this …. star ship.”

    It made up for “Ghosts of Kourion,” in spades.

    As for the rest of the stories, well …

    An Exercise in Logic: A nun brought in to argue for saving a few thousand people, in a logic game of chicken. The alien race’s argument? “Yes, we could save this planet … how do you know that the aftereffects won’t endanger more people?” And I can’t quibble about a nun who has to fight the urge to slip into the vocabulary of a sailor. It was entertaining and amusing. And the ending was cute.

    However, the funniest part of this story may be in the brief bio on author Barton Paul Levenson, who is, in fact, Presbyterian, not Catholic.

    However, the best line of the story: “You can’t pray to your god in here! This is the Ecumenical Temple! Stop it at once!”

    And there will be no fighting in the war room ….

    Cathedral (Author: Tamara Wilhite) A short summary of this one could be “Blade Runner goes to church.” A biologically engineered soldier has a limited lifespan, and only has a few months left to try to extend her lifespan … or to make her life mean something.

    This was a very well-designed story, with a nice punchline. The setup was nice, and the takedown was well executed. It was touching. I generally despise “touching,” but this one worked for me quite well.

    Otherworld (author, Karina Fabian, one of the editors): Remember when I mentioned that there was one and a half stories I would not recommend? This is the half.

    The premise here is that there’s a Jesuit doing missionary work in virtual reality (VR) … like a net chat room, complete with trolls (not literal … okay, some of them are literal). Imagine that a VR World of Warcraft, or perhaps Second Life, can be so addicting, it can cause the user to fall in and never come out.

    I like this premise. Honest. I like the idea of VR missionaries. And how can you not enjoy a story that has a line like “I’ve just left a discussion on Catholic Social Justice with a white rabbit, a raven and a hamster. I feel very close to St. Francis at the moment”?

    However, the main problem isn’t the author, or the story, but the narrator. Our protagonist, a Jesuit priest, is a very, very serious fellow. I understood the character’s problems because I’m Catholic, and while I even agreed with what our first-person narrator preached, the way it was delivered was in a rote fashion, without thought or explanation to the audience. Why do I blame the narrator, and not the author? Because Karina Fabian is also the author of Antivenin, noted above, which was a fairly excellent story.

    And, yes, I’m a mildly schizophrenic author who sees no problem blaming a character as a completely separate entity from the person who writes him.

    The Battle of the Narthex (Alex Lobdell): I loved this one, it was hilarious. It had intergalactic politics, alien princes going to mass, an old bodyguard who wants to get away from cutthroat palace politics, military tactics, an assassination squad, and motion sensor flush toilets as a threat to invisibility camouflage units. And we get to see a “Come holy spirit” banner on fire.

    Imagine the Catholic church from the point of view an alien, and you get the idea. There is no theology in this one at all, and the protagonist of this one is an old alien soldier who’s an atheist … but there is a nice little touch at the end…

    Let’s just say that Father Brown would be proud.

    Tenniel (Colleen Drippé): In the future, when humanity meets alien worlds, there will be alien converts. In this story, an alien Catholic Bishop comes face to face with one of the local alien “pagans,” who is intent on wiping out the “alien faith,” and any who worship it. The barbarians here really are at the gates, and they are pissed.

    I suggest you skip the introduction on this story altogether, since it gives away the ending, and pushes far too hard on the moral of the story. The story speaks for itself.

    I’m thinking … Constantine.

    And not Keanu Reeves.

    Tin Servants (J Sherer). In 2147, a Catholic priest has gone undercover as an android soldier being shipped into Africa, and what happens when, for once, the human has to act like an android, instead of vice versa.

    It’s a nice inversion of cliches. In the grand tradition of science fiction, it deals with a lot of modern problems with a fictional guise. Though in this case, the guise is a thin gauze. Not that I’m complaining. Half the science fiction I read lately seems to have a light crust of science over a Grand Canyon of politics—Tin Servants is downright subtle in comparison. There isn’t much in the way of theology here, and that’s a good thing. It’s nice and low key and elegant, with a solid punchline you won’t see coming.

    Basilica (John Rundle). I loved this story. Up until this point in the collection, I thought that Antivenin alone would justify the cost of this book. This was just as good. Possibly better

    This story is very much like a Doctor Who episode. To prevent a super-weapon from falling into the hands of ancient heretics, a priest has to hijack a star ship and fend off a boarding party of killing machines.

    Basically, run.

    Cloned to Kill (Derwin Mak): A military clone named Lorraine … hiding in St. Joan of Arc church … and she hears voices. Enough said. This one was fairly awesome, and very well constructed.

    Frankie Phones Home (Karina Fabian). This was a cute story, told mostly in the form of dialogue – imagine if the kid from E.T. went along with his friendly neighborhood alien back to his home planet … and then came back.

    Dyads (Ken Pick and Alan Loewen) – Premise: Catholicism doesn’t mesh with non-human species, but we can all get along. However, when a missionary from a backwater sect decides to covert the local “heathens” his way, interstellar diplomacy can get messy.

    The nice part about this one is that the culture shock isn’t human to alien, but two religions (one human, one alien) looking at a third and saying “Wow, are you weird or what?”

    Dyads takes time to really get going, but it’s ultimately worth it. There are some details that are a touch overwritten, and there were some sections where I would have liked dialogue, not exposition. But if you ever wanted to see what would happen with interstellar cultural misunderstandings and missionaries, you have an interesting story here. Ultimately, it’s quite touching. As I said above, this is coming from someone who typically holds standard “cute and cuddly” in the highest disdain.

    Oh, and fair warning – - there are furries. Tall, bipedel, fox-like furries. They’re aliens, but still, you have been warned…..

    At the end of the day, if you like science fiction, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s worth the price of admission, and I’d even pay money for it, even though I already have a digital copy.

  5. When I was thirteen, I started reading through the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes. I made it about halfway through. I had been stopped dead by “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott”—the one and only time Holmes was the narrator. I wasn’t the only one who had a problem with that story. Another author of the day, G.K. Chesterton, said that the Gloria Scott showed why Watson was relevant: because Holmes was an awful storyteller.

    Since then, I have been critical of anything about Sherlock Holmes written after the death of Arthur Conan Doyle. Some stories went wildly off track. Others were riddled with so many anachronisms it was painful. Of the vast quantity of Holmes-related material published, my family of readers owns only a fraction.

    When Robert Downey Jr. starred in Sherlock Holmes, I crossed my fingers and hoped it didn’t suck … instead, I got a checklist of what they did right.

    When Doctor Who scribe and show runner Steven Moffat created a show called Sherlock, I also crossed my fingers. It was surprisingly awesome.

    Then I heard about Murder in the Vatican. The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes on the newsletter for the Catholic Writers Organization. It had an interesting premise: author Ann Margaret Lewis takes Watson’s offhand references of Holmes working on cases for the Pope, or involving religious figures, and turns them into entire stories.

    I experienced the same feeling of dread. How off would the narration be? Would someone try converting Holmes? How lost would a detective from Victorian, Anglican England be in Catholic Rome? How many different ways were there to screw this up?

    I stopped worrying when I read the first sentence. And, oh my God, this book is awesome! I loved this book….

    Lewis caught the voice of Dr. John Watson as though she had taken it, trapped in a bottle, and used it to refill her pen as she wrote. I liked the voice. I liked Watson, the doctor, trying to diagnose an ailing Leo XIII (85 at the time). I like the brief sketch of the political situation between the Vatican and Italy. I even enjoy Watson’s discomfort at the Pope slipping into “The Royal We” when he speaks of himself as The Pope. Even the artwork was as though it had been lifted from issues of The Strand magazine.

    Someone had fun here, and it shows.

    Thankfully, there is no overt attempt to convert Holmes, evangelize or proselytize him. There is only enough theology in the entire novel that explains to the casual reader exactly what the heck the Pope is doing. The closest the book comes to exposing Holmes to theology is a page-long sequence that ends with Leo saying, “Perhaps you should spend some of your inactive time pondering that conundrum [of Jesus] instead of indulging in whatever narcotic it is with which you choose to entertain yourself.” That is the best zinger I’ve ever seen a character use on Holmes regarding his drug use. Even the most secular person I know can appreciate a page of theology for one of the better one-liners I’ve ever seen.

    Also, the little things were entertaining for a nerd like me. For example, the casual mention of John Cardinal Newman, referred to as “a recent convert.” The political situation at the time is given just enough of a sketch to explain what’s going on, but nothing obtrusive; history nerds like me can be satisfied, but you don’t have to have a degree in it to comprehend what’s going on.

    There are truly parts where the novel seems to merge all the best qualities of Sherlock Holmes with those of G.K. Chesterton’s Fr. Brown short stories …

    At this point, I must make a small confession. I write these reviews as I read the book. There is plenty of backtracking, to fill the blanks, and rewrite it as the book goes. I wrote the above line when I finished the first tale. I then read “The Vatican Cameos,” and discover a Deacon, named Brown …

    I swear I didn’t see that coming.

    The first story in this collection is “The Death of Cardinal Tosca.”

    Imagine Sherlock Holmes on vacation … if you see that vacation turning out like an episode of Murder, She Wrote, with a body hitting the floor at some point, you pretty much have the setup. It has a poison pen letter, with real poison, some Masons, references to two different cases in the space of two paragraphs, and a Papal commando raid with a real pontiff. This story is so delightfully odd and over-the-top, but still preserves as much reality as any other Holmes tale. I enjoyed every moment of it. And I can’t argue with any story where the pope gets most of the amusing one-liners.

    Heck, even the murderer gets in a good line. When confronted, our first killer sneers. “Let me guess. You’re going to explain, to the amazement of your friends, how I did the deed?” Holmes replies, “I’ve already told them that. It would be old news. They already know you blundered badly.”

    I think the story concludes on a nice, solid note. As Holmes tells Watson, “[Leo XIII] is genuinely pious. He is also imperious, but in a most endearing way.”

    Watson merely replies, “Yes, well. I’m used to that.”

    The second tale, “The Vatican Cameos,” is a bit of a flashback episode to when Holmes first met the Pope. Leo XIII has sent a collection of cameos to Queen Victoria. The cameos are secured tightly in the box they’re delivered in, but upon their arrival in London, the box is empty. The Queen has a simple solution: send Sherlock Holmes. Watson is busy with a medical emergency, so he wasn’t around.

    When Watson asks Sherlock about the incident, Holmes says, quite clearly “Watson, I am incapable of spinning a tale in the way you do. The narrative would read like a scientific treatise.”

    Madam Lewis certainly read “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.”

    So, there is only one person left who can narrate this tale … the Pope himself. This was the story that truly showed that the author did her research, assembling little details of Leo XIII’s interests and hobbies and putting them together into a rich, vibrant character. He is shown here as witty, humorous, and bright.

    The byplay between Leo XIII and Holmes in this story was marvelously entertaining. The Pope is shown to be about as smart as Watson … maybe a little smarter. When Holmes first meets the Pontiff, and rattles off conclusions in his usual rapid-fire manner, the Pope takes a minute, and deduces how Holmes came to most of them. Not all, but most. This is a wonderful inversion of what is so typical of early Sherlock Holmes films—in the Basil Rathbone movies, whenever Holmes walked onto the screen, the IQ of everyone in the room dropped about ten points. Making Leo this smart only serves to make Holmes as impressive as he should be—yes, everyone else may be smart, but Holmes is smarter.

    Also, having Leo XIII using Thomas Aquinas to talk with Holmes of reason and science … it works for me.

    And the scene with Holmes, the Pope, and the gunman was fun, too.

    “The Second Coptic Patriarch”: The third and final tale is from yet another throwaway line of Arthur Conan Doyle’s.

    In this case, a former criminal comes to Holmes to solicit his services; the priest who converted him away from his life of crime is in jail for murder. A bookstore owner has been murdered with a book (“The Rule of Oliver Cromwell–weighty subject, no doubt,” Holmes quips), and the priest will only say that the victim was dead when he arrived. It’s almost Sherlock Holmes meets Alfred Hitchcock … I didn’t know someone could do I Confess like this. It’s a fun little read, and possibly the most traditional of the Holmes stories — it’s a good tale. From the perspective of the overall book, it’s a perfect cap to the character arc.

    Now, after reading Murder in the Vatican, I think I’m going to go back and finish the Sherlock Holmes series — and keep Murder in the Vatican handy, so I can read them all in chronological order.

    Ann Lewis said that the book was “meant to be fun and lift your heart for a short time. I had a blast writing it, and I hope you have a blast reading it.”

    Mission accomplished.

    At the time I read this book, I had been reading another recent work of Sherlock Holmes-related fiction called The Sherlockian. It was written by a Graham Moore, and it was about a Sherlock Holmes nerd who was sucked into a murder mystery.

    Between the two of them, read Murder in the Vatican.

  6. Walk Me to Midnight is a mystery/suspense novel published by Oak Tara Christian press. A doctor of death suspected of murdering a wealthy donor to his foundation. He is tracked by a psychologist and a writer, who need to stop him before he gets to them. A strong pro-life message about end-of-life issues.

  7. Message:

    Dandelion Man – the four loves

    Looking for a tender, funny romance novel with a Catholic perspective? “Dandelion Man – the four loves” is one of those novels.

    C. S. Lewis used the four Greek words to categorize love. Each type of love exists separate yet often together with the others in a complex interconnected framework. DANDELION MAN takes the reader on a grand tour of love set in and around the city of Detroit during the late 60’s and early 70’s, a time of the Age of Aquarius and free love. But don’t expect all that, this is the Eros side of love not the Venus.

    Wally arrives at the funeral of the father of his first love where he meets dee once again after forty years greeting her with a kiss on the forehead. Dee introduces her dear friend Wally to her twenty something daughter, Corinne. They get to chatting and the daughter recognizes him from bits and pieces of stories her mom shared with her growing up. “Oh, my god, you’re dandelion man” she exclaims. Anxious to learn what her mother was like as a teenager, the two make plans to meet for dinner where the protagonist reminisces about his first love and provides the daughter insights into a unique facet of her mom.

    DANDELION MAN is a 46,000 word fictional romp that delights in the four loves and the difficult decisions that crop up in relationships. Similar to the C. S. Lewis novels, this story has strong undertones of Catholic values.

    The author, W. M. J. Kreucher is new to the business of writing fiction. In a previous life, He has ghost written for Senators and Congressman mostly on environmental issues and has written pieces of legislation and regulation. Now he is trying his hand at fiction. I know what you’re thinking, writing for politicians is fiction. At least now he is calling it what it is.

    Publisher: CreateSpace
    Number of pages: 180
    ISBN: 13: 978-1478101888
    Price: $9.99

    Available through Aquinas and More, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other sites in both paperback and e-book form.

  8. Message: “A Soldier Surrenders” by Susan Peek is an excellent read for teenagers and young adults. It is a novel of the conversion of Saint Camillus de Lellis, who in his youth was a very rough and worldly soldier, yet who ultimately “surrendered” to the grace of God, changed his life, and became a great saint. Boys especially love this book, which was written by a homeschooling mother of eleven, who saw the need for more inspiring Catholic novels for teen agers. It is currently published by Ignatius Press. Very fast-paced, action, battles, excitement, truly a saint everyone must know about!

  9. Message: “Crusader King” by Susan Peek, TAN Books. Another fast-paced, very inspiring novel by homeschooling mother of eleven, Susan Peek. This is the true story of King Baldwin the Fourth of Jerusalem, who reigned during the Crusades. He ascended the throne at only 13 years old, and then discovered he had leprosy! He is a TRUE hero for our youth and it is a book you just can’t put down. Beautiful example of courage and love of God. Especially written for teens and young adults. Lots of battles, action, humor. A must read!

  10. Thank you for both book suggestions, Pauline. These sound like
    wonderful novels! I will add them soon!

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