Books Guest Posts Reviews

REVIEW: The Island of Two Trees

REVIEW The Island of Two Trees


The Island of Two Trees


TAN Books



What would happen if you found yourself inside your father’s imagination?

This is the question Connor, Maggie, and Lucy are forced to answer in this adventure story within a story.

After creating a model island in their garage filled with castles, caves, mountains, forests, and villages, their father begins to weave a tale around the intricate craft, introducing a host of brave, mysterious, and wicked characters who serve two different magical trees for which their island is named.

But when their father begins to suffer from mysterious headaches, the children are summoned within the story—within his imagination—by the beautiful and virtuous queen. She informs them that they must confront and conquer a dark power that threatens to rip their father’s imagination apart, and in doing so, gain entry into our world. 

The children set out to save their father, journeying across the very island where his story is set. Back home, as his imagination becomes cloudy and distorted, he struggles to see visions of his children and resorts to searching for signs and clues on the tiny model.  

The Island of Two Trees is a soaring flight of the imagination and a tale that harnesses the power of love between a father and his children.





Pulled from the product description page:

Brian Kennelly is the author of Two Statues (Saint Benedict Press, 2012) and To the Heights: A Novel based on the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (TAN Books, 2014). He is also the co-writer of the Marian documentary and companion book Queen of Heaven. He lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife and their adventure-loving children.  


The Island of Two Trees is a story born through the authors creative play with his children, and based off of an actual model island he created with his children. The story follows the three oldest children as they are literally sucked into the model island on a quest to save their fathers imagination and the island itself. The author goes to great lengths to ensure the reader understands the connections between the somewhat mystical characters of the story, The Giver of All Things, the Counselor, among others, but to the extent that the story line is at times lost. There is a connection between Jesus and the history of the island, but they way it was presented to the reader seemed forced and as a result, unbelievable. You will also find mention St. Michael within the story. This book does have a little of everything, so all children will enjoy it; from the battle scene at the end of the book to the beautiful fairy like tree they visit at the beginning. The Island of Two Trees has a story line that all children will enjoy, although it was hard to get lost in the story due to the lengthy explanations. This book is definitely a safe read for all kids and parents don’t have to worry about any type of adult content whatsoever. It also stays in line with our Catholic faith. The age range for the book is 8 and up, but due to the somewhat complex connections between characters, I would recommend this book for ages 10 and up. 

Kristin Branyon is a wife and mother to four rambunctious kiddos. She loves all things Catholic, especially the history and traditions of her beautiful faith. Before she was a wife and mother, she was an elementary teacher with degrees in math, reading, and early education. She currently is a stay at home mother, homeschool teacher, occasional budget buster and a delivery service to baseball games and doctors appointments.


Catholic Sistas was not paid to do this review – the publisher offered free materials in exchange for an honest review of this product. All reviews are current as of the publish date. If you notice that a review contains information that is no longer accurate, please email us at and we will be happy to amend this review.

Curriculum Homeschool Ink Slingers Michelle Reviews


As the summer was winding down and our homeschooling year was about to start, I had been thinking a lot about what subjects the kids will take and how I will teach them. We typically sit down on our first day of school (the first Tuesday after Labor Day) and as a family discuss what everyone wants to learn about. Of course there are some things that are non-negotiable… we always have math, reading, science, and history on our list. However, we talk about what else the kids may want to learn.

As eclectic homeschoolers we don’t “school” in a typical fashion. We incorporate many ways of learning into our school year. We embrace school books but we also love to allow the kids the freedom to learn hands on through everyday life experiences as well as through discovery. This may mean they are knee-deep in videos about the ocean, reading books about the ocean, playing with seashells and starfish, or going on a field trip to the aquarium or the ocean when we are lucky enough.

Still, there are times that we love to use text books as well. Typically I have never invested much into a set curriculum. This is for many reasons but one of those reasons has always been the cost. As a large family who lives on a very set (and small) budget, some of the curriculum out there is just out of our means. We tend to accept hand-me-downs on a regular basis and fill our shelves with those textbooks. So when I was asked if I would like to review TAN’s The Story of Civilization (brand new even!) I jumped at the chance. Not only do I love TAN’s books (and I have found them to be pretty reasonably priced), but I also knew that my husband, being my help with history, would love it as well.

Imagine my surprise when my package arrived… not only did I have the textbook for the curriculum but it also included a 7 cd dramatized audio book set, an activity book, a test book, the teacher’s manual, and an amazing timeline we can put up on the wall! Seriously, this curriculum has everything I need to effectively teach about how our civilization began and was transformed through the years. With children who learn in a variety of ways, this set truly could reach each and every one of them in a unique way.


While the first volume, The Ancient World, was reviewed by our site already, I was blessed to review both the second and third volumes- The Medieval World (Vol. II) and The Making of the Modern World (Vol. III). The textbooks are an easy read… not that they are easy in content (they have great content!) but that they are engaging and easy to follow. This isn’t always the case for a history book. If you are like me you may remember those drab, boring history books from our childhood. These are nothing like those! Thankfully so! While they engage the reader as they teach history, they also teach our Catholic faith. Highlighting Saints and their contribution to history as well as showing how the Church has been a force to build society, these texts are an amazing lesson in both secular and Church history. The texts themselves are listed as a 5-8th grade read but they can easily be read aloud and used with younger or older ages as well.

The Teacher’s Manual is awesome as it not only gives questions for review but also includes additional information as well as activities, crafts, and snack ideas. Building on this is the Activity Book. Within the Activity Book you will find print outs of maps, prayers, coloring pages, puzzles, and drawing pages. These activities all go perfectly with the chapters within the texts. While TAN states that the Activities Book is geared more towards 1st-4th grades, I can tell you that my older kids loved helping the younger ones with some of the activities. TAN has found a way to incorporate all grade levels into their curriculum to engage and inspire our students.

The Test Book is geared towards 5-8th graders and includes multiple choice, true-false, and matching questions. There are tests for every chapter and the perforated edges in the book mean you can tear out the pages to photocopy each test so you can not only have enough tests for your children now but you can also save the book for later use if you have younger children you hope to use the book for later.

The package we received came with a video lecture series code that allows you to stream all the video lectures for the series. This gives you permanent access to the lectures! For kids who learn visually or engage better through videos this is a perfect addition to the series.

Finally, the dramatized audio books are great! They are easy to take along with you in the car, pop into a cd player with headphones so a child can listen to them on their own, or so you can listen to them together. The chapters on the audio books follow along with the text but are short and engaging lessons that don’t take much time and that just about any child can listen to without getting too antsy.

I’ll be honest and tell you that while I love history and can read up on just about anything history related, my kids have never been too wild about studying history. When they saw this curriculum arrive they were excited that I got a package but then groaned when I showed them what was inside. However, since using the curriculum (we started before our school year did!) they have since changed their attitudes towards history. They love the hands on activities and listening to the audio. They like reading aloud together from the texts and the older kids don’t mind taking the tests. We have not tried out the videos but I have no doubt that they will be amazing and engage my kids in a completely different manner as well. As TAN says, “Children should not just read about history, they should live it.” This curriculum has allowed my kids to do just that.


$14.95-$39.95 for individual items

$154.70 for the complete set


Intended for: families, anyone using schoolhouse model
Good for grades: elementary and middle school
Parent/teacher involvement level: moderate to high, depending on needs of student
Prep time: medium when used on your own
Teacher’s manual: available for purchase and used with the activity book
Educational philosophy: schoolhouse model
Catholic: yes

You can purchase all of these amazing parts of the curriculum as stand-alone products or you can purchase them as a complete set. While the school year has already begun, we want to bless one of our readers with a complete set of The Story of Civilization: The Medieval World as well as The Story of Civilization: The Making of the Modern World. This includes the textbook, the Teacher’s Manual, the Activity Manual, the Test Book, the 7 cd Dramatized Audio Book, and access to the online streaming Video Lecture Series.

If you would like the chance to win this amazing curriculum- BOTH volumes II and III of the Story of Civilization, please leave us a comment about why you would like the opportunity to win. We will randomly pick a winner on Friday September 28th.



Catholic Sistas was not paid to do this review – the publisher offered free materials in exchange for an honest review of this product. All reviews are current as of the publish date. If you notice that a review contains information that is no longer accurate, please email us at and we will be happy to amend this review.


To enter,

1) share this contest on any social media outlet, email to friends or family, or your local homeschool groups and tell us where in the comments


2) answer the following question in the comments below:

“Why do you want to win the complete set of The Story of Civilization, Volume II – The Medieval World AND
The Story of Civilization, Volume III- The Making of the Modern World?”


ONE lucky winner will win an ENTIRE set of The Story of Civilization – Volume II – The Medieval World as well as the ENTIRE set of The Story of Civilization- Volume III- The Making of the Modern World, which includes the textbook, test book, activity book, teacher’s manual, audio drama {CDs}, and the streaming video lecture series, and the timeline map, making this a value of $308! Good luck!


Congratulations Sarah Stechschulte!




Books Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Mass Reviews

REVIEW: I Went to Mass: What did I see?

I Went to Mass: What did I see?


I Went To Mass: What did I see? by Katie Warner and illustrated by Meg Whalen


TAN Books



Favorite images from the Mass fill the pages of this beautiful book, helping children learn, label, and love what they see in their own church.  With the book’s upbeat cadence, whimsical rhyme, and adorable illustrations, children will delight right along with the little boy at all there is to see at Mass.

I Went to Mass is sure to become a classic for Catholic children everywhere!




  • hardcover
  • 7.75″x9.75″
  • 28 pages
  • printed by TAN Books
  • illustrations throughout


I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a Catholic children’s book fan. And when I come across a favorite, I really have to tell you all about it so you can make it a part of your Mass bag. If you’re familiar with Brown Brown Bear, What Do You See? you will notice a familiar rhythm as you read through this book. My kids love reading this before Mass starts and I love that it is now a welcome tool in helping prepare them for Mass. 


Catholic Sistas was not paid to do this review – the publisher sent free products in exchange for an honest review of this product. All reviews are current as of the publish date. If you notice that a review contains information that is no longer accurate, please email and we will be happy to amend this review.

Colleen Giveaways Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year

GIVEAWAY: The Holy Week Spiritual Care Package for the Woman Who is So Stressed Out She Didn’t Realize Lent is Almost Over

GIVEAWAY The Holy Week Spiritual Care Package for the Woman Who is So Stressed Our She Didnt Realize Lent is Almost Over

our giveaway is over and our winner has been announced

congratulations to Christina Sánchez!

So we’re only a couple weeks into Lent right now, but Holy Week will be here before you know it!

Ever thought to yourself, wow I had such great intentions with Lent and now – life. You had your Lenten disciplines all lined up, what you planned to give up AND what you were going to add! But somewhere along the way, something happened. You felt defeated by being unable to stick with your disciplines. 

That’s ok. Whatever you did end up doing, God knows your heart.

That’s where this special giveaway comes into play! We want you to end this beautiful penitential season in a remarkable and meaningful way. So, we’ve compiled a set of spiritual tools we think KNOW will help you enter into Holy Week in a new and purposeful way.

And if you’re the winner of our amazing giveaway, you’ll find yourself in possession of some pretty awesome prizes to help you enter more deeply into the mysteries of the Triduum and prepare spiritually for the rejoicing of Easter!

We have some wonderful, generous sponsors for our Holy Week giveaway this year, with prizes valued at over $160! (Directions for entering via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.)

There will be ONE grand prize winner who will win EVERYTHING pictured! 


GIVEAWAY: The Holy Week Spiritual Care Package for the Woman Who is So Stressed Out She Didn't Realize Lent is Almost Over


The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ


TAN Books

VALUE: $19.95

Hi! Martina here! ::waving hello:: This book has been a longstanding favorite of mine. I first read it during Holy Week and when we brainstormed items to add to this care package giveaway, of course, this book was top of the list. I recommend it to friends and priests alike! Faithful to the Bible story of the Passion and death of Jesus, it fills in many details and is edifying and inspiring beyond belief; plus, it is surprising and heart-rending. It will melt a heart of stone.

This book is the best on the Passion we have seen and was used as a reference in the making of the Passion of the Christ. It is also wonderful on the Blessed Mother’s role in our redemption. Includes a short biography of Sr. Emmerich. This is a great, great book for the whole family!


PRINT: “Real Presence – John 6 54-55”


Monica Welch of Dovetail Ink

VALUE: $20

 “…My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

John 6 is a key chapter to understanding the fundamental Catholic belief in – and dependence on – the real/true presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!


GIVEAWAY: St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross set of 12 notecards


Monica Welch of Dovetail Ink

VALUE: $14

Beloved Carmelite, Catholic, Spanish poet and mystic, Saint John of the Cross created his “crucifixion from above” drawing around the year 1550 AD. His unique perspective was Dali’s inspiration for his famous depiction of the crucifixion, “Christ of Saint John of the Cross,” 1951.

GIVEAWAY: Rosary place holder

Crown of Thorns Rosary Marker


Becky Cook of BC Inspirations


This “Patron Saint” rosary marker measures 2″ in length. The rosary marker is accented with an onyx stone bead. Let your rosary marker hold your place when you don’t have time to pray the rosary all at once.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Pendant

featuring artwork by Monica Welch of Dovetail Ink

by Becky Cook of BC Inspirations

VALUE: $25

This stunning and unique pendant necklace features the focal point of the painting “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose” by Monica Welch of Dovetail Ink. 

Pendant height: 1 5/8 Inches

Pendant width: 1 1/8 Inches

Materials: Tibetan style pendant setting, brass chain, resin, cardstock

GIVEAWAY: Triduum Veils


Triduum of Veils


Veils by Lily

VALUE: $114

This three veil set includes one white veil for Holy Thursday,

one black veil for the mourning of Good Friday,

and one black with gold veil for Easter.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Can’t see the widget in your browser? Here is a direct link to the giveaway! 


* Winners will be drawn randomly using Rafflecopter. CS will email the winners. Once they confirm they will be publicly announced on the blog. 
* Winner is responsible for contacting the sponsor of the prize they won in order to work out details of delivery.
* Eligibility: Prizes are available to residents of the U.S.A. only unless otherwise stated.
* Catholic Sistas reserves the right to alter the giveaway terms or items at any time.
* This giveaway is not associated with Facebook.
* The companies who have donated these items are solely responsible for delivering prizes. We trust and have a solid relationship with each sponsor of this giveaway; however, sometimes things happen outside our control. We are simply hosting the giveaway and putting the winners in contact with the sponsors; it is up to them to follow through, and CS cannot be held liable for a prize not delivered.
* Giveaway ends promptly at 11:59 EST on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. This means you HAVE to enter by 11:59 PM EST Tuesday night – make sense? 🙂 

Thank you so much for reading; this blog wouldn’t exist without YOU! Good luck!

Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lynette Prayer Reviews

REVIEW: 100 Holy Hours for Women



The Eucharist is the greatest gift of the love of Jesus Christ.” St. Peter Julian Eymard


This year, the Catholic Diocese I reside in will celebrate its 50th anniversary, having been established in 1968 by Pope Paul VI.  Our bishop, recognizing that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324, Lumen Gentium 11) declared a Jubilee Year of the Eucharist from the First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017, through the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, November 25, 2018.  The old adage, “You are what you eat,” could not be more evident.  As we partake of the Body of Christ, we are transformed into a Eucharistic people.  “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist, in turn, confirms our way of thinking.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1327, St. Irenaeus)

As Catholics, we believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374).  Once a flourishing practice began many centuries ago, Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament have steadily declined in our churches within the last 50 years, when the emphasis on the Eucharist was placed more within the context of the Mass.  But, the importance of placing ourselves in the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist has always been extolled by the Church.  Consider the words of Pope John Paul II, in his message for World Mission Sunday 2004, who said, “there is need of apostles who are “experts” in the celebration, adoration, and contemplation of the Eucharist.”  Pope Benedict, in Sacramentum Caritas, stated, “When we contemplate the sacred host, his glorious transfigured and risen Body, we contemplate what we shall contemplate in eternity…”  And St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta encouraged the faithful to “Spend as much time as possible in front of the Blessed Sacrament and He will fill you with His strength and His power.”

I remember the first time I went to Adoration.  Feeling somewhat self-conscious and not really knowing what “to do”, I entered the silent chapel as quietly as I could and knelt down.  I do not remember that day what I thought or prayed about during my short time there, but I do remember how calming and peaceful it was.  A mother surrounded by constant noise, the silence was almost deafening.  Over the next few weeks, I was drawn more and more to that little haven, and little by little, I began to grasp how being in His Presence could be an integral part of my spiritual journey.  I realized, too, that how one spends one’s time in Adoration is as different and individualistic as we each are.  

I was once asked by someone who was thinking of “trying” Adoration, “What do you do in there?” – a hint of mystique and intrigue in her voice.  I thought of St. John Vianney and how he had once posed the same question to a man who often spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  His response, “I look at Him and He looks at me,” shows us just how simple adoration of our God can be.  My time in Adoration over the years has varied, frequently reflecting the circumstances of my life at the time.  Lately, I have been inspired to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and to spend some time reading the writings of the early Church Fathers for a class I am currently taking.  

Just recently, Catholic Sistas expanded its team of reviewers, including reviewing a few new titles for TAN Books.  As I scanned the titles, one instantly jumped out at me, 100 Holy Hours for Women.  Written by Mother Mary Raphael Lubowidzka as a spiritual guide for her fellow Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the book synopsis stated it contained a “plethora of profound spiritual insight into the mystery of the Eucharist.”  Perfect.  Just what I needed to delve more deeply into my prayer time at Adoration during our Diocesan Year of the Eucharist.

A package arrived one day and being somewhat distracted at the time, I did not notice the sender as I opened it.  As soon as I saw its contents, however, I was more than delighted.  In my hands, I held a perfectly sized prayer book in the loveliest shade of blue, with gold gilt-edged rounded pages, and a gold ribbon bookmark.  Its cover had the look and feel of real leather and its spine was decorated in a beautiful, feminine pattern with a vintage look.  I resisted the impulse to open its pages, knowing I would want to savor its contents in an environment where I would not be interrupted.

I walked into the chapel a day or two later, the book conveniently tucked into my purse. (I wanted to protect its cover from the disarray in my purse, so I had slipped it into a quart-sized bag, which fit it perfectly.)  The book contains 100 meditations and normally I would have skipped ahead to the first meditation, but I felt compelled this time to read its introductory sections.  The Foreword by John Moorehouse, Acquisitions Editor at TAN Books, related how the book happened to come into the possession of their publishing company.  A series of events that can only be described as providential, it made me appreciate even more the opportunity I was being given to explore its contents.  Next, was a Publisher’s Note, which stated, “We at TAN Books consider it an honor and a privilege to publish this new edition of what may very well be a minor spiritual classic.”  Wow.  And if that didn’t already grab my full attention, the Note also explained their reasoning for including the original preface, as it was “so rich in theological insight and wise counsel as to merit inclusion… We trust readers will agree.”  Now counted among its readers, I can agree wholeheartedly.  

The meditations themselves are written as such that they can be used in a myriad of ways.  Each meditation opens with a Scripture verse, which can be used alone as a springboard for reflection.  The meditation is then divided into two parts.  The first part is a further exploration of the Scripture verse, along with other related verses and their connection to the Eucharist.  The second part is on a more personal level, calling the reader to deepen her own spiritual journey, again with more Scripture verses and a prayer that truly unites the heart and soul to Him who is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist we adore.

I consider myself very blessed to have had the opportunity to review 100 Holy Hours for Women.  Although I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, had I come across this book, I would have purchased a copy.  Whether you are a “newbie” to spending time in Adoration or a regular visitor, every woman would benefit from the easy-to-read, but deeply spiritual, meditations contained with its pages.  Mother Mary Raphael’s extensive knowledge of Scripture, her insightfulness into the joys and challenges of the spiritual life, and her obvious love and devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, all combine in one volume to provide women with a real gem that is sure to be treasured for years to come.


Catholic Sistas was not paid to do this review – the publisher offered free materials in exchange for an honest review of this product. All reviews are current as of the publish date. If you notice that a review contains information that is no longer accurate, please email and we will be happy to amend this review.