Posts Tagged ‘religious’

A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s by Katherine Valentine

April 20, 2011

Author: Katherine Valentine
Title: A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s
Genre: Inspirational Fiction, Gentle Reads
Publication Date: 2002
Number of Pages: 278
Geographical Setting: Dorsetville, Connecticut; New England
Time Period: Contemporary
Series: Dorsetville Series

Plot Summary: Katherine Valentine has been critiqued by some for imitating Jan Karon’s popular Mitford series, however, A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s will warm the hearts of many who love a wholesome and gentle read with a Catholic spin. The novel tells the story of the residents of the town of Dorsetville, Connecticut in the New England area from the perspective of Father James Flaherty who is in a dire predicament. The Archdiocese wants to shut down the town’s beloved church because of declining membership and its inability to sustain itself. Yet, the story envelopes into the characters’ lives well so that we, as the reader, don’t want the church to close either. The residents and the priest try to come up with ideas to save the church and through an accidental miracle, faith is restored and lives are changed. This is the first in the Dorsetville series by Valentine who also tells us her story of renewed life in the acknowledgements that certainly provide some additional wealth to the story.

Subject Headings: Catholic Church, Clergy, Small town life, Eccentrics, Faith, Compassion, Miracles; Dorsetville, Connecticut New England (U.S.); St. Cecilia’s Church, Church, Mill town, Small town; 2000s, 21st century; Fiction, Christian, Inspirational; Eccentric; Priest

Appeal: Christian, Catholicism, inspirational, saintly, gentle, heartwarming, soft, kind, compassionate, religious, overcoming obstacles, uplifting, touching, faithful, miraculous, light humor, small-town life, close-knit community relationships, sugar sweet, tender

3 terms that best describe this book: inspirational, heartwarming, touching

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Catechism of the Catholic Church is a book used in many classrooms and teachings to help those interested in becoming Catholic or just want to learn more about the religion. It is put out by the US Catholic Church and includes an index so you can look up certain topics. Readers on have responded that this is an easily readable and understandable book.

Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 Cents at a Time by Jane Knuth tells the true story of Jane who takes up volunteer work at a St. Vincent DePaul thrift store in Kalamazoo, MI. Through her experiences, she talks about the fulfilling and touching stories that filled her days by helping shoppers of the store.

The Year of Living Like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do by Ed Dobson tells us the story of how Dobson took one year to literally interpret the Bible and its teachings. Through his journey, he discovers compassion, humility and faith in a likeable and enjoyable format of diary entries and prose.
3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Jan Karon’s Mitford Series is another heartwarming series of novels who readers will enjoy for a soft and gentle series of characters and stories. The first in the series is At Home in Mitford which tells the story of the main character, Father Tim, at home in the small North Carolina town of Mitford, and what is described as ordinary people with ordinary lives. Christian and inspirational fiction lovers will find this series comforting.

In another series called Song of Erin, for readers who are looking for additional inspirational fiction surrounding Catholicism, yet would enjoy a more historical tale, B. J. Hoff writes about the saga of an Irish-American family and their escape from poverty and tragedy in Ireland to a new life in 1800’s New York City. Cloth of Heaven is the first in the series.

The book, In the Land of Second Chances by George Shaffner is described by BookList as a cross between Touched by an Angel and The Five People You Meet in Heaven and is the first in a series of books surrounding one of the main characters, Wilma Porter. The novel is about the residents of small town Ebb, Nebraska and with the help of a stranger, discover hope, faith and strength in overcoming obstacles.

-Jennifer Peterson


Dance Hall of the Dead

June 7, 2010

Author: Tony Hillerman

Title: Dance Hall of the Dead

Genre: Mystery fiction

Publication Date: 1973

Number of Pages: 166

Geographical Setting: Navajo and Zuni Indian reservations in New Mexico

Time Period: present day (1973)

Series (If applicable): second book in the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries

Plot Summary:

Navajo Tribal policeman Lt. Joe Leaphorn finds himself trying to solve a case involving two missing boys, one a Zuni Indian and one a Navajo.  The Zuni boy may be dead and the Navajo boy may be the murderer.  But  Leaphorn thinks there is more to it than that simple conclusion and he must investigate all the avenues of this puzzling case; avenues that lead to an archeological dig as well as the strange customs of the Zuni.

Native American cultures and myths add another layer of intrigue to this atmospheric mystery set on the reservations in New Mexico.  Lt. Leaphorn must also deal with the politics and conflicts between the various areas of law enforcement involved (Navajo police, Zuni police, FBI), all while trying to track down the whereabouts of the missing Navajo boy, who just may be the key that unlocks the entire case.

Subject Headings:

Navajo Tribal Police;  Navajo detectives;  Murder investigation;  Murder suspects;  Navajo Indians;  Criminal investigation;  Leaphorn, Joe;  Zuni Indians;  New Mexico;  Police — Southwestern States;  Indian reservation police;  Mystery stories


spiritual, secretive, religious, enigmatic, perplexing, compelling, thoughtful, contemplative, reasoning, mannered, willful, rational, detailed, shrewd

3 terms that best describe this book:

Mystical; Deliberate; Rich with detail and description

Similar Authors and Works:


1)      Death Walker (Ella Clah mysteries series, volume 2) by Aimee & David Thurlo

Ella Clah, a Special Investigator with the Navajo Tribal Police, must track down the killer of the Navajo tribe’s cultural and spiritual teachers.

Similarities:  Navajo Tribal Police, murder investigation, spiritual and cultural emphasis.

2)      Shadow Pl[a]y (Laura Winslow mysteries series, volume 6) by  David Cole

Private detective Laura Winslow investigates a possible murder-suicide of a Navajo.  The mystery also draws in her lover, a police officer, and secrets are exposed as they further delve into the case.

Similarities:  Navajo characters, murder investigation, tribal customs and myths.

3)      Spirit Sickness (Emmett Quanah Parker mysteries series, volume 2) by Kirk Mitchell

Supernatural beings are tied to the killing of a Navajo cop and his wife as the murder is investigated by Bureau of Indian Affairs officer Emmet Parker and an FBI agent.

Similarities:  Navajo police, murder investigation, supernatural and spiritual angle.


Diné: A History of the Navajos by  Peter Iverson; featuring photographs by Monty Roessel

A general narrative history of the Navajos from their origins to the present.

Similarities:  Navajo culture and history

The Unquiet Grave: the FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country by Steve Hendricks

Details the conflict between the FBI and Native Americans concerning a murder of a Native American activist in 1976.

Similarities:  Native Americans, law enforcement, conflict of cultures

The Zuni Enigma by Nancy Yaw Davis

Examines the culture of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico

Similarities:  Zuni culture and history

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

The Illuminator

March 19, 2009

Author: Brenda Rickman Vantrease

Title: The Illuminator

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Page Numbers: 402

Geographic Setting: England

Time Period: Medieval; Late Fourteenth Century

Series: Book one of two (sequel is The Mercy Seller)

Plot Summary:

In order to gain the protection of the church and keep her sons’ inheritance, Lady Katherine of Blackingham Manor agrees to house the master illuminator Finn and his daughter. Unknown to Katherine that Finn not only works for the church, but also for the heretic cleric John Wycliffe of Oxford illuminating an English translation of the Bible. But Finn also has another secret that could put both himself and his beloved daughter in jeopardy in this tale of love, betrayal and tragedy.

Subject Headings: Catholic Church – History – 14th century; Illumination of books and manuscripts; inheritance and succession; feudalism; religion; politics; fourteenth century; historical fiction; Great Britain – History – 14th century; biographical novels; Wycliffe, John d 1384

Appeal: Character-centered, strong sympathetic main characters, historical figures, historical details, detailed settings, page turner, multiple plot lines, dramatic, religious, political, engrossing, family-centered, rural, details of manor life, details of church life, details of peasant life, strong secondary characters, open ending

Red Flags: sexuality, violence, murder, depictions of near rape,

Similar Authors:



My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuck (Translated by Erdag Goknar): Set in 16th century Istanbul, this novel features a group of artists who are hired by the sultan to illuminate a book in the European style at a time when figurative art is considered Islamic heresy.

Katherine by Anya Seton: A love story set in the backdrop of 14th century Britain features the historical figures of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. It has the same feel of murder, loneliness, cruelty and redemption.

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: Written in and set in late 14th century Britain; this tale depicts the way of life during that time. Also the fictional character of Finn was said to have met Chaucer at court.

Non Fiction:


Wide as the Waters: the Story of the English Bible and the Revolution it Inspired by Benson Bobrick: Tells the story of the English bible and how King James hired a team of experts to translate the Bible into English. Also examines the political, social, cultural and spiritual ramifications of the King James Bible.

The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination: History and Techniques by Christopher de Hamel: A guide on the history and techniques of illuminating manuscripts. Features full color pictures of manuscripts from all over Europe throughout the middle Ages.

Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era by Norman Cantor: “There may not be a more fascinating a historical period than the late fourteenth century in Europe. The Hundred Years’ War ravaged the continent, yet gallantry, chivalry, and literary brilliance flourished in the courts of England and elsewhere. It was a world in transition, soon to be replaced by the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration — and John of Gaunt was its central figure.”

By: Michelle B.