YSN Reads: Our best books for summer reading

  • July 11, 2018

Summer is here which means the busyness of the school year is gone. It’s the perfect time to unplug from the real world and curl up with a good book. That’s why The Catholic Register and Youth Speak News have put together a list of faith-based youth titles that we think young book lovers will love. Stay tuned to our growing list of summer reads: 

Judahs WifeJudah’s Wife by Angela Hunt (Bethany House, 384 pages, $19.99)

By Monica Sifert

Angela Hunt succeeds in bringing history to life with her novel, Judah’s Wife

Taking place during the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC), this speculative work retells the story of Leah and Judah Maccabee in a time of fear and unrest under constant Seleucid threat. 

Because of her abusive father, Leah is emotionally scarred. Judah, a strong warrior, though gentle and caring, counters Leah’s constant uncertainty and wounded character. Judah’s family is encouraging and accepting as they bring Leah into the family. Leah slowly comes to understand what it means to trust and be truly loved by her new family, her husband and God. 

In the midst of this thickening plot, the city of Jerusalem is under attack from surrounding peoples. Judah and his four brothers must fight to keep their land free. 

Leah must learn to trust God and His calling for Judah. Feeling alone, Leah faces the battles of abuse, her marriage and a difficult childbirth while her husband faces the challenges of  leadership in a time where war puts the safety and freedom of his people and land at risk.

There is major character development with strong personalities among quiet ones, easy for any reader to relate to. This book is perfect for anyone interested in the Old Testament and looking for a quick summer read.

Called to CreateCalled To Create by Jordan Raynor (Baker Books, 234 pages, $15.99)

By Janelle Lafantaisie

In Called to Create, Jordan Raynor speaks to the minds and souls of the faithful creatives everywhere. Through his own entrepreneurial ventures and thriving off the concept of creating something from nothing, he finds his aim in writing this book.

Raynor speaks to the importance of creatives and entrepreneurs as people who can serve God in the same magnitude as pastors and missionaries. But they must not lose sight of service to the Lord. 

Called to Create outlines critical ideas and mindsets that creative Christians should undertake when pursuing their entrepreneurial ventures. 

The book explores calling, creating, challenges and charge — all of which outline key ideas and steps that creatives should follow to lead a life of service to God while having the liberty to create. Raynor gives examples of real-life entrepreneurs who have used the principles outlined. He refers to examples such as Steve Jobs, C.S. Lewis, Johann Sebastian Bach, Harry Snyder (founder of In-N-Out Burger in the U.S.) and many more bright minds who have one common ground: faith. 

As someone who is discerning her vocation of a creative life and entrepreneurial ventures, this book really gives a fresh perspective of how blessed I am that I’m called to create by the ultimate Creator.


Oath of HonorOath of Honor by Lynette Eason (Revell Books, 336 pages, $19.99)

By Marie Gamboa

A criminal organization that is responsible for the murder of her partner is now threatening the lives of Officer Isabelle (Izzy) St. John’s family and friends. Izzy is not going to rest until they are brought to justice. 

Lynette Eason’s Oath of Honor follows Izzy and her partner’s brother, Det. Ryan Marshall, as they launch headfirst into a personal, suspenseful and fast-paced murder investigation.

Izzy is determined to crack the case, but her discoveries lead to something much more complicated than she imagined, including conflict with the upcoming mayoral election, a target on her back and traumatic memories resurfacing. 

It doesn’t help that her brother, another cop, has been extremely cryptic lately and is conducting his own undercover digging that could endanger people she loves.

With the help of her law-enforcement siblings, Izzy and Ryan dive into an adventure filled with action, plot twists, mystery and a bit of romance.

This book may not particularly emphasize the theme of Christianity, but it’s refreshing to have church and prayer casually slipped into the story. Despite the adversity the characters face, it’s reinforced that their underlying hope remains in God.

Unfortunately, the plot can sometimes be undermined by an abundance of forgettable characters. You’ll also want to be familiar with law enforcement lingo.

The Porn MythThe Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography by Matt Fradd (Ignatius Press, 280 Pages, $17.95)

By Vincent Pham

Many people today struggle with the sin and addiction of pornography, which can be easily accessed online. 

Unfortunately, addicts are being assured and convinced by a societal myth that there is nothing wrong with consuming pornography.

The Porn Myth dispels 24 myths of pornography and exposes the truth of this huge industry. Catholic apologist Matt Fradd goes beyond talking about pornography through a Catholic lens, bringing the reader solid scientific research and statistics regarding porn addiction. 

The book also offers some tips and resources in conquering pornographic addiction.    

Growing up, I have been told to never go on pornographic websites as it is a sin. I have explained to some peers who regard them as simple entertainment that pornography diminishes the sanctity of the human body. 

However, reading The Porn Myth gave me a better understanding of why people are addicted to pornography. It also equipped me with better language to talk about this issue to my peers. 

The Porn Myth is an eyeopener for those struggling with pornographic addiction and an informative read for those curious about the harm of pornographic content. 

Parents, pastors and youth ministers can really benefit from this book because it will help them talk with youth about hard-to-talk-about topics.

Orphanage 41Orphanage 41 by Victor Malarek (FriesenPress, 257 pages, $24.88)

By Jacklyn Gilmor

Canadian-Ukrainian university student Mykola Yashan thinks life is pretty great. He has a wealthy family, a beautiful girlfriend and he’s well on his way to an engineering degree. Then without warning, everything changes. 

After discovering some hidden documents, he discovers a secret that leads him to question his past and travel to Ukraine for answers. 

While searching for the pieces of his life, Mykola stumbles across Orphanage 41, a squalid place teeming with scrawny, forgotten orphans. He stumbles across yet another secret that affects thousands of people. It’s no longer just about him.

Amid scandal and danger, Mykola struggles to dismantle a corrupt scheme that involves countless innocent lives. He discovers the vicious world of human trafficking and he must face some horrible truths. With all the pain and greed surrounding him, Mykola wonders, where is God in all this?

Having been an investigative journalist for many years, Victor Malarek knows how to craft a riveting story. His dramatic take on the life of this young man is shocking and moving at once. While the novel is fictional, it’s clearly drawn from real events and issues Malarek cares about. 

The book has flaws — rambling descriptions that are irritating at times — but he writes powerfully about real-world problems like the global sex trade and abandoned orphans. 

Some scenes are rather graphic and hard to stomach, but those scenes might just open a reader’s eyes to see what God calls us to do for our afflicted brothers and sisters.

The 49th Mystic

The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker (Revell, 432 pages, $14.95)

By Anna Chelmecki

“Was being blind to who you are better or worse than physical blindness?” This question is one of many that Ted Dekker’s novel, The 49th Mystic, attempts to tackle. 

Set in a small town in Utah that is isolated from the rest of the world, the novel follows Rachelle, a girl who has been blind since birth. Upon undergoing a medical procedure to restore her sight, she begins to dream about another world 2,000 years into the future. Except, she soon realizes that she is not dreaming but experiencing two realities; living in one world when asleep in the other. 

In an instant Rachelle is thrust into a fantastical adventure requiring her to enter into a mission of self-discovery in order to save the world from a perpetual darkness. 

Although it was slow to start, the novel quickly picks up the pace. What really surprised me is how the author interweaves Scripture, science and philosophy. The author tackles the power of belief and perception, even relating it to quantum physics, where our consciousness has the ability to affect the world around us. 

Without giving too much away, Rachelle encounters physical forms of goodness and evil, and struggles with her identity as well as the perception of reality.

Some of the terms used when referencing theological themes are unconventional and can be slightly off-putting, but the novel allows the reader to delve into ideas of faith and the heart, and love of the Father for His children. 

Kakuma Girls

Kakuma Girls: Sharing Stories of Hardship and Hope from Kakuma Refugee Camp by Clare Morneau and contributors (Barlow Books, 184 pages, $19.95)

By Kate Jamieson

Kakuma Girls by Clare Morneau is the inspiring true story of the beautiful connection between girls across the world.

Morneau is a 17-year-old from Canada (and daughter of Finance Minister Bill Moreau) who started a pen pal program between students at her all-girls high school in Toronto and the girls of a school her dad’s company supported in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. 

Kakuma takes in refugees from many countries, including South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Readers learn about the girls through their letters, personal testimonies and interviews which are all supplemented by commentary from Morneau and other contributors. 

The girls from Kakuma, although each with their own struggles, share a common story of love, faith and hope. They have grown up knowing violence and hardship, yet when they talk about their connection to faith  — whether that be with Christianity or another religion — they are so strong. 

God is a clear component of their lives. He is manifested through their love for each other and their families, and their dreams for independence, stability and a better life. 

Any misconceptions about refugees will be changed after hearing these stories. These girls remind people of what is important and true in life.

Cold Water

Coldwater by Samuel Parker (Revell Books, 336 pages, $18.49)

By Kevin Geenen

Coldwater is mysterious, but it is not a mystery novel. 

Scattered with some pretty dark themes, it seeks to emphasize to us what we should already know: we are all tainted by sin. 

The main character, Michael, certainly knows that. 

Having made a terrible mistake as a young boy, he grew up in prison and now lives with the consequences of his actions every day. 

While he experiences guilt, that isn’t his only problem. Something much more terrible lives inside of him. 

While the book does not obsessively emphasize the concept of forgiveness and mercy, the subtle allusions are certainly there. 

Certainly, this book reminds us of our humanity. It reminds us of who we are: broken people. But just because we are broken does not mean that we are without hope. And Michael isn’t without hope either.

For those who are more mature in their faith, this book is a good reminder that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. 

For those who are just beginning their faith journey, it is a book that allows one to connect to Michael through the fact that we are all sinners and make mistakes just as he does. 

Although sin and darkness seem rather extreme in the book, they really connect to the fact that the same evil is present within each human being.

The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (Bethany House, 368 pages, $18.49)

By Christina Donati

After the death of her husband and the continuous intrusions from an unnerving stalker, Kaine Prescott decides to purchase an old house in a town from where her grandfather’s roots begin. 

Although the main storyline isn’t necessarily relatable (because how many of us deal with a crazy, murderous stalker and threats in our everyday life), the story provides the perfect amount of suspense, mystery and romance to keep any reader hooked. 

Wright’s novel balances all genres nicely and includes hints of common struggles with keeping faith and continuing to hope while going through a difficult time. 

When Kaine moves to her hometown, she discovers a past about her great-great grandmother, Ivy, which she never expected. With both murder and evil lurking in the past and present, Kaine and Ivy’s stories collide in an interesting way. With Kaine’s discoveries, she has to decide if it is worth figuring out the old mystery that Ivy left behind, if she can move on from her husband’s death, and if she is OK with starting a new life in an unknown place. 

Wright does a fantastic job developing personalities and providing the perfect twist to a suspenseful plot. 

The House on Foster Hill is a great book to teach readers that despite the struggles one may face — death, guilt and questioning oneself and faith — there is a light that can be found and a way to persevere with a little bit of hope. 

Portraits of Faith

Portraits of Faith compiled by Sister Mechtilde O’Mara, CSJ and Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt (Novalis, 93 pages, $14.95)

By Mirjana Villeneuve

This collection is perfect for the young Catholic struggling with the tug of secular society. 

Portraits of Faith is a collection of 15 essays written by young Catholics from across Canada. The editors, Sr. Mechtilde O’Mara from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto and Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt, introduce the compilation by explaining that they chose each essay with the diversity of our Catholic faith in mind. 

Passions from academia to spoken word, a multitude of cultural backgrounds and each of the three main vocations find a voice through the lives of the essayists. There is a home in the Church for everyone who seeks it and this collaborative work takes on the task of extending the invitation to young people through the testimonies of their peers.

Each story is different but, perhaps unconsciously, the message of Jeremiah 29:11 is apparent throughout: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” 

Each essayist reflects on God’s presence throughout the difficulties they faced as they struggled with claiming the faith as their own. Vulnerable and easily readable, the stories of these young people of faith are ripe with encouragement and deserve a place on any Catholic bookshelf. 

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