All posts by Beth Ruggiero

40 Books for the Forty Days of Lent

Lent is not my favorite season. There. I said it out loud. It’s a rough one for me, but I’m making a serious effort NOT to pass my ‘bad attitude’ towards this holy time down to my children.

I’ve looked for ways to teach my young kids about their relationship with God and helping others and making sacrifices during the Lenten season. Each year I work to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. (Let’s be real, there’s been a lot that hasn’t worked!) Last year we did the Jesus Tree from Nancy over at Catholic Sprouts. My kids LOVED it! (You can buy it here.) So we are planning to do it again this year. And I have a few new ideas up my sleeve. (Backyard stations of the cross? We shall see!)

But as you all know, I love books. There’s no better way to teach kids than by curling up with them to read a book. Most holidays and seasons are FULL of book lists, but Lent is one that doesn’t have quite so many options.

This is why I’ve put this list together! Consider it my Lenten offering to you. I’ve tried to give as many options as possible. One for each day of Lent if necessary! This list is full of prayer books, reflection books, beautiful picture books, religious stories retold, Catholic fiction stories, stories of sacrifice, and stories of giving to others.

So, this Lent, find some books that might work for you and your family and have blessed, beautiful, and holy Lent!

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Books of Prayer/Reflection for Children

Continue reading 40 Books for the Forty Days of Lent

A Review of ‘Prayer Everywhere: The Spiritual Life Made Simple

“The Lord cannot be at work in me if I am only allowing him the time I spend doing pious or prayerful things.  I must open the whole of my life to Christ and intentionally make him a vital part of everything I do.”–Father Gary Caster

Reading Level

Grades 11+

Review and Comments

I’ll be honest, after having kids I have found prayer difficult.  I find little time to myself and am constantly interrupted.  I even have trouble making it through a rosary without falling asleep!  Then, as an attempt to make up for my distraction/frustration/exhaustion, I try to find a new devotion/method/motivation to kick myself back in gear.  Slowly I see myself becoming a Martha and less of a Mary and the downward spiral continues.

Enter Father Gary Caster’s book, Prayer Everywhere (which was obviously sent to me by the Holy Spirit).  Through his simple suggestions and wonderfully entertaining anecdotes, I was reminded about the simplicity of prayer which I’d forgotten.  Devotions aside, prayer is ultimately about our relationship with Jesus and it need not be complicated. Continue reading A Review of ‘Prayer Everywhere: The Spiritual Life Made Simple

A Complicated War: A Review of ‘A Long Walk to Water’

“I didn’t understand this complicated war, how it mortally devoured the land and left it so full of skeletons.”– Benson Deng, They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky 

Reading Levels

Interest Level: 6-9

Reading Level: 3-8

Review and Comments

When I was teaching high school, I taught the book They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky.  This was my first real introduction to the Lost Boys and the war in Sudan.  I’d heard mention of it on the news and in conversation, but had no real personal connection.  You see, I live half-way around the world, and at the time it had  no real significance to my day-to-day life.  But this is the beauty of what books can do.  When I read They Poured Fire… I was given a personal, first-hand account of the absolute horrors of the war that occurred and the devastation of the people (mostly young boys) who were left behind.  The book gave me insight, connection, and a desire to help, to know more, and to be more aware…more prayerful…for the people suffering every day in other parts of the world.  Books can make that happen, they connect history and news to our hearts and help us see the pain and suffering of others. Continue reading A Complicated War: A Review of ‘A Long Walk to Water’

Peace for a Mother’s Mind: A Review of ‘Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom’

“If Jesus didn’t expect perfection from His people and if he accepted them for who they were, warts and all, perhaps I should dial down my own expectations for my family. Jesus chose to hang out with the likes of Peter and Judas on the evening before He saved the world from sin. He invited them to be part of his salvific plan, so why do I worry so much about my own family’s idiosyncrasies? Jesus handpicked a handful of very imperfect people who messed up a lot, just like I do and just like my family does.”–Colleen Duggan

Review and Comments

What a blessing this book was!  I have to tell you, it was perfect timing for this mom filled with all kinds of emotions in this season of my life.  I seem to constantly stress over a constantly messy house and piles of laundry.  I worry about my first child who is entering kindergarten next year and thus begins to spend more time away from my protective grasp. I continually look at the divisiveness of the world and wonder where my children will end up as adults.  Luckily, Colleen Duggan has offered me so much consolation in her book and reminded me of what is really important when raising children: that I do my best to bring them to God, and allow Him to do the rest. Continue reading Peace for a Mother’s Mind: A Review of ‘Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom’

Oh, life….

Have you ever just sat there overwhelmed with everything going on?!  Well, that’s been me the last few months.

New surprises.

Lots of illness.

Catching up on things I’ve procrastinated on.

Just…life.

Needless to say there haven’t been many reviews and there’s been little action on our Facebook page.  BUT things are falling back in place (for the time being) and so I hope to be able to get things going on the blog once again.

New reviews.

New books.

Happy kids and parents reading books.

Hopefully you’ll stick with us as we pick it back up again!  Thanks for supporting us!

Pray and Hope: A Review of ‘Padre Pio: Saint Pius of Pietrelcina’

“Pray and hope.  God is merciful and He will hear your prayer.”–Padre Pio

Reading Level:

To be read with children at 5 years old.  To be read independently at 8 years and up.

Review and Comments:

As All Saint’s Day approaches, we are reminded of the great opportunity to learn about all of the holy men and women who have modeled their lives after Christ and show us the amazing possibilities in store when we do the same.  The really amazing part is that there are all different kinds of saints.  Saints who lived quietly, saints who were martyred, and saints who fought in wars are all with Jesus.  They simply listened to His call.

My hope is that my young children will find friends in the saints as I did growing up.  This is why I am so glad to have found the CTS Children’s Book series on saints for kids. Continue reading Pray and Hope: A Review of ‘Padre Pio: Saint Pius of Pietrelcina’

Building a True Domestic Church: A Review of ‘Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Children’

“Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to grow in faith.”–Pope Francis

Review and Comments

This is the second book I have read by Greg and Lisa Popcak and I am once again in love!  After spending so much time reading parenting advice from every online article and opinion piece someone writes on their blog, I have found something I can get behind and learn from.

The Popcaks begin with a lot of statistics and research that indicate the difference between parenting and “Catholic” parenting to help lay the foundation for why we should listen to their advice.   They explain the difference between punishment and discipline and the effect that can have on children (and there is a difference!).  It provides numerous examples of children who were raised through “punishment” and how, as adults, they became great rule-followers, but not empathetic caring people.  These people often followed the rules to their own detriment and the detriment of others.  After reading this intro, though it was very long, I was convinced that they had done their research and were going to give some great advice.  Continue reading Building a True Domestic Church: A Review of ‘Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Children’

Redemption Through Suffering: A Review of ‘Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy’

“Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal the world should see God.”–St. Gianna Molla

Reading Level:

Grade 11+

Review and Comments:

I’ve always been fascinated by the lives of the saints.  Their ability to see God through suffering, their bravery in evangelization, their relationship to Jesus and His mother, and their willingness to face death and persecution for Him are awe=inspiring.  As a cradle Catholic, I have read many of their stories and wished to be closer to them and learn more about them.  They have been the celebrities I have looked up to, and though my favorite saint has changed with my season of life, I have found that often I feel as though their stories are unrealistic in this day and age.  I can’t see myself being like them and I feel that their virtue is unattainable.

It is for this reason I enjoy reading about more modern people who may not be saints (yet) but nevertheless they have lived holy and virtuous lives.  A few years ago I read about Immaculee Ilibagiza and her suffering through the Rwandan genocide.  Her joy and faith  amidst terrible suffering have been a beautiful witness of God’s forgiveness and love for those involved.  She became someone I aspired to be for a long time, but her suffering was extreme, and often times I could not fully relate.  (You can read more about her here.)  

My newest role model is Chiara Corbella Petrillo. I saw Chiara’s story make the rounds in the Catholic blogosphere a year or so ago.  I read a bit about her and thought it was a sad story, but moved on as people do when they read something online.  Then her book popped up as a recommendation for me.  I couldn’t put it down. Continue reading Redemption Through Suffering: A Review of ‘Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy’

An Interview with Catholic Author, Leslea Wahl

I’m so excited to get to share my interview with Leslea Wahl with you all today!  I am a little star struck, I have to admit, whenever I get talk to someone I really admire.  Ms. Wahl is one of those people!  Not only is she a great young adult author, but she tells her story and shares her faith with such entertainment!  Her books are great adventures and mysteries and I, for one, am so glad she has decided to start writing.

We are so blessed to have her books entering the Catholic fiction genre.  Check out my interview…I think you will love her as much as I do!

Can you tell us a bit about you and your family?

I live in beautiful Colorado with my husband and three children. Although “children” doesn’t really describe our kids anymore. Our oldest just graduated college, our middle child is currently in college and our “baby” will be a senior in high school. As a family, we love to travel and try new adventures like zip-lining, jet skiing and scuba diving.

What made you decide to start writing and why did you chose to write for a young adult audience?

I’ve always been creative but never thought about writing a novel, especially for teens. But when  my older children were preteens and began searching for YA books to read, I was having a really hard time finding books that they wanted to read that also reflected our values. I wondered why no one was writing these kinds of books. Then one day I woke up and the story of my first novel, The Perfect Blindside, just came to me. The characters and scenes kept flooding my mind until I finally started to write them down. I definitely felt God called me to write that book. Since then my passion has been to write Young Adult fiction and to encourage teens in their faith. Continue reading An Interview with Catholic Author, Leslea Wahl

A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

“The most beautiful and stirring adventure that can happen to you is the personal meeting with Jesus, who is the only one who gives meaning to our lives.”–St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 7-12

Review and Comments

Sixteen-year old-Josie has left her family to spend the summer with her Aunt Lily after some embarrassment and bullying at her high school.  Since, in her mind, her mother has caused the bullying, Josie is happy to get away.

Josie loves the small island where her aunt lives and she is able to quickly make friends with people while there including an incredibly handsome and exotic guy  named Niko. Unfortunately, someone from her high school is also there, Ryan McNaulty.  She is afraid he is there to continue the bullying begun by his friends at school, and is shocked to find that he wants to be her friend. Continue reading A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’