7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 100

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Jen’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. A Subtle Grace Update
My editor has finished working on the manuscript of A Subtle Grace and I will be implementing her suggested edits in the coming weeks. The next step will be to have my team of beta readers share their feedback. My capable proofreaders will then carefully read through the manuscript for typos. The Kindle edition will (fingers crossed) be published in January or February. Print edition will be available in the spring.A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013

2. Advent Wreath Link-Up
If you missed my post about the Advent Wreath Link-Up, it’s not too late to add your own Advent wreath photo.Advent Wreath

3. Christmas Tree Farm
We’re heading to the Cedar Hill Christmas Tree Farm over the weekend to cut down our Christmas Tree.trees

4. Christmas Miracles
Another favorite book of mine that I read around this time is a book called Christmas Miracles. It’s a lovely book with heartwarming and inspiring stories. Highly recommend!

5. Crazy Love by Eileen Leamy (mini-review)
Crazy Love is a beautiful story of love and faith, joy and loss. Based on true events, Harry and Eileen were blessed to find love late in life. Harry was eventually diagnosed with cancer and their love story becomes a fervent plea to God. Uplifting, heartfelt and inspiring, I highly recommend it!! Buy it here on Amazon.Crazy Love alt green grey front

6. Reading Shelf
A.K.A Genius by Marilee Haynes (published by Pauline Books and Media)

7. Christmas Card Humor
(Last year’s original Hrkach Family Christmas card)

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2012

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2012

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – December 8

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers over at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets where we share posts from the previous week and answer a question.

This week’s question: What is your favorite title for Mary, and why? My favorite title for Mary, the Mother of God, is the Immaculate Conception, not only because December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, but because this is the way Mary introduced herself to St. Bernadette at Lourdes. Mary was immaculately conceived in her mother’s womb, without sin, and we can look to her as a holy example.

Here is my one and only post this week:

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 99 (a video preview of the upcoming Christmas musical my husband will be in, Yo Vikings, a mini review and an Advent cartoon, among other things.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 99

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers over at Jen’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. Feast of St. Nicholas
Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!! Read more about St. Nicholas and traditions here.

2. Immaculate Conception (December 8th)
Sunday is the beautiful Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Since it is a Sunday, however, the Mass on Monday, December 9th will celebrate that beautiful feast day.

3. Yo Vikings – Kanata Theatre
If you’re in the Ottawa Valley and would like to see a wonderful children’s musical during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, consider coming to see “Yo Vikings.” My husband, James, plays a viking and this song is entitled “The Prayer.” It was recorded earlier this week at one of their rehearsals. (James carved and made the instrument he uses in this number.) The website for tickets is also listed at the end of the clip.

4. Snow and Blue Lights

photo copyright James Hrkach

photo copyright James Hrkach

5. Mareritt by Krisi Keley (Mini Review)
Mareritt is the first book in a new “Friar Tobe” series by talented author Krisi Keley. Private investigator Tobias (“Friar Tobe”) Berger is a former novitiate of a religious order who is hired to investigate the unexplained coma of a high school girl and the frightening incidents and continuing close calls experienced by her three friends. Interspersed throughout the contemporary story is an old-fashioned fairy tale involving another “sleeping beauty.” Tobias is now a lay person living out his Catholic faith; he must set aside his growing attraction to one of the girls to focus on finding out why the incidents are continuing to happen and if they are connected. The characters are flesh and blood multi-dimensional and it’s easy to get to know them. Not surprisingly, my favorite character is the main protagonist, Tobias. He is likeable, though imperfect and entertaining at times I didn’t expect. Krisi Keley is one of the best contemporary (and, I believe, undiscovered) novelists today. Her rich language, complex story lines and well-defined characters make the reading of any of her books a compelling, enjoyable and entertaining read. This one is no exception. At only .99, the Kindle edition of this book is a “steal,” and I highly recommend it!!

6. Reading Shelf
Ceremony of Innocence – Dorothy Cummings McLean

7. Advent Cartoon

Image copyright Full Quiver Publishing Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Full Quiver Publishing Please do not use without permission

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Finding Grace by Laura Pearl

Finding GraceAuthor Laura Pearl and I have a lot in common. As she says on her blog, “I wanted to write a book that shows that the Catholic Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex are not only good for one’s immortal soul, but also just make sense and make life simpler and happier.” That sounds a lot like me when asked why I wrote my first novel. As well, we both know the joys of raising five sons. It was my pleasure to meet Laura (and her husband, Tim) recently at the Catholic Writers Conference Live in New Jersey.

Laura’s novel, Finding Grace, is a coming-of-age story of a girl named Grace Kelly and her journey as a teenager of the 70′s in small town America. This novel deals with some mature themes (Roe v. Wade, abortion, pre-marital sex) but it does so with sensitivity and without explicit details so teens regardless of faith background will enjoy it.

For those of us who grew up in the 70′s, I related to much of what Grace went through and the author captures the atmosphere of that decade well. In fact, I knew a Grace Kelly during my high school years. (I also knew a Rudy Valentino and an Elizabeth Taylor and marveled at how parents could do such a thing to their kids…)

The characters and story line were believable and well-defined. If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be “Epic.” Epic (a word teens use to describe something cool) but it is also epic in size. As other reviewers have mentioned, this is not a short read. Special thanks to the author, who gifted me with a Kindle edition. I was able to read this book in a larger font (I struggled with the print book’s tiny font) and I must say, it was a much more enjoyable experience!

Finding Grace is available on Kindle and in paperback.

Check out Laura’s blog too!

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – September 21

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place as we share posts from the previous week.

This week’s question: “Tell us what you like best about your parish.” One of the things I like best about our parish is that it’s small and intimate.

7 Quick Takes Friday (An inspiring commercial, a new cartoon and a few other tidbits)

Treason by Dena Hunt – Book Review (comment for a chance to win a free copy!!)

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 89

7_quick_takes_sm1It’s that time to join with other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. And the Winner Is…
The winner of last week’s book giveaway (Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious by Pat Gohn) is Angelina. Please send your mailing address and I’ll get this book in the mail to you.

2. Treason by Dena Hunt (Book Review)
If you didn’t win last week’s book, it’s not too late to win another book. Check out my review for Treason. And if you leave a comment before September 27th, you’ll be entered to win a copy of this wonderful novel.

3. Oh What a Beautiful Morning

4. Love This Time of Year
My husband and I enjoyed a long kayak ride the other day; there were no other boats in the lake, only seagulls, ducks and other small animals.

copyright 2013 Ellen Hrkach please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 Ellen Hrkach please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 Ellen Hrkach please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 Ellen Hrkach please do not use without permission

5. Inspiring Commercial

6. Reading Shelf
Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage by Cheryl Dickow
The One Thing is Three: How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything by Fr. Mike Gaitley

7. Touche Cartoon
Our most recent cartoon from Family Foundations magazine.

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Text and photos copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Treason by Dena Hunt (Book Review)

Published by Sophia Institute Press (2013)

It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.” (Blessed Pope John Paull II, Salvifici Doloris)

This quote by Blessed John Paul II could well be the theme of Dena Hunt’s exquisite novel, Treason, which takes place in 16th Century England when Catholicism was outlawed. Suffering for the faith in our current North American culture is something most modern Catholics have never considered. Religious apathy is evidenced by half-filled churches and the large numbers of Catholics who openly dissent from Church teachings on abortion, contraception, same sex unions and premarital sex.

Since Adam and Eve, sin has been present, but what I have observed is that religious apathy, poorly-formed consciences and subjective truth have made the above sinful behaviors acceptable and the norm. It’s becoming more and more difficult for Catholics to practice their faith in our current society.

So what does all this have to do with Dena Hunt’s exciting new novel, Treason? Well, a lot. Catholics in Elizabethan England were not permitted to practice their faith. Monasteries had their roofs torn off, convents and churches were looted, their artworks and artifacts were removed and stolen.

Catholics were expected to change their religion and attend Church of England services (or face huge fines). But many Catholics retained their faith and were forced underground to recite rosaries, go to confession and attend Mass when a priest was available.

Priests always bore the brunt of the crown’s cruel martyrdom because they were seen as traitors: if they were captured, they were tortured, hung and before death, taken down, drawn and quartered. In fact, Treason is dedicated to Blessed Father Nicholas Postgate, “a Catholic priest who faithfully served his ‘parish’ in the wilds of the Yorkshire moors, always traveling by foot, until he was arrested, hanged, drawn, and quartered at York, at the age of eighty.”

As well, lay people also suffered martyrdom during this time. Those suspected of harboring priests were hung without a trial.

Hunt’s story centers around a young priest, Father Stephen Long, who arrives in England to secretly minister to the large numbers of underground Catholics. He wonders “how many more Catholics will have to die to make Queen Elizabeth feel secure.” Every time he hears confession or celebrates Holy Mass, he knows he is committing high treason against the Crown, the penalty of which is torture and a painful death.

The other main character is Caroline. From the time she was a young girl, Caroline has known that she has been called by God to a contemplative religious vocation. Her mother has died and Caroline is forced by her father into a “safe” marriage to a Protestant. Her husband is not unkind, but he is frustrated by his “wife’s” lack of desire. He realizes that her love for him is no different than the love she feels towards all humanity. For Caroline, she must keep her faith secret from her husband. Her vocation is stifled and her suffering is internal. In many ways, Hunt portrays, this is a more difficult suffering to endure. Caroline cannot outwardly practice her faith, but more importantly, she cannot live the vocation to which God is calling her.

This is not a morbid book filled only with death. Nor is it a happy-go-lucky story. It is a difficult story to read because suffering and martyrdom were a way of life for Catholics during a time when religious liberty was ripped away from them. In that regard, the author does an excellent job of illustrating grace in action. Surprisingly, this novel also includes a few underlying theology of the body themes, which I did not expect from a novel that takes place in the 1500′s.

Treason is an artistic masterpiece of Catholic literature and is Catholic fiction at its finest. It has a cast of well-developed, believable characters and beautiful writing, rich in imagery. I savored each sentence and each scene like a piece of fine chocolate. In fact, once I reached the end, I was disappointed. This book is literary candy and I wanted more.

However, this novel is so much more than artistic mastery. Treason is a moving and inspiring reminder that our Catholic faith is a great gift and the freedom to express our faith is also a gift and should never be taken for granted.

This is the kind of book that should become a classic of Catholic literature. Only 4.99 on Kindle, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.

Five stars out of five.

I’m giving away one free print copy of Treason (with thanks to Sophia Press). To be entered to win, please leave a comment and let me know why you’d like to win this wonderful novel (before Friday, September 27th).

Or…buy the Kindle edition here; and buy the print version here.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – September 14

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place as we share our previous week’s posts.

This week’s question: Name and link to two Catholic blogs you really enjoy. I enjoy “The Joy of Nine” Melanie Jean Juneau’s blog (Melanie sometimes participates in Sunday Snippets) and “Will Eat For Tomato Pie”, Erin McCole Cupp’s blog.

Here are my posts:

Blessed Beautiful and Bodacious Book Review (comment for a chance to win a free autographed book!)

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 88

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 88

7_quick_takes_sm1Join Catholic bloggers over at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

1. Don’t You Forget About Me Teasers
Check out author Erin McCole Cupp’s short teasers from Don’t You Forget About Me, which will be published by Full Quiver Publishing on November 1st.First Createspace Front

2. Book Review of Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious!
If you haven’t already checked out my book review of Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious by Pat Gohn, please do. Leave a comment at the review (before Friday, September 20) to be entered for a chance to win a free autographed copy of this wonderful book!blessed-beautiful-and-bodacious-for-web

3. Fr. Don Calloway
I’ve listened to Fr. Don speak several times and I’m really inspired by his enthusiasm and his love for the Church and Our Lady. He was signing books at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show recently and I had an opportunity to chat with him (the previous day, my youngest boys were able to hear him speak in Glassboro, NJ!)Fr. Don C.

4. A Subtle Grace Update
I’ve been struggling with a few plot issues in my upcoming novel, A Subtle Grace, after my developmental editor suggested I change a few of them. I’m now just finishing those edits. But given the fact that the novel currently sits at 130,000 words, I still need to shorten it and I’m just not sure which side stories or scenes need to be edited. I’m still hoping for a January release.

5. Stealing Jenny – Goodreads
Stealing Jenny just hit 500 ratings on Goodreads! If you’re on Goodreads, please feel free to add me as a friend.

6. Reading Shelf
Under the Mantle by Fr. Don Calloway
Hana-Lani – Christine Sunderland

7. Officially Married Cartoon

copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious Review

blessed-beautiful-and-bodacious-for-webIn a world that promotes feminism and the “my body, my choice” mantra, Pat Gohn offers us true feminism in her new book, Blessed Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood. There’s much to relate to in this beautifully written book on the dignity of women. Pat Gohn uses personal experiences, quotes from saints and encyclicals as well as her own wisdom to help women see their unique beauty and dignity.

The book is separated into three different sections: “The Blessed Dignity of Women,” “The Beautiful Gifts of Women” and “The Bodacious Mission of Women” and includes extensive “Suggested Reading and Resources.” One of my favorite chapters is “Entrusting Your Maternity to Eternity” which is full of quotes from Blessed John Paul II. The author writes about the importance of both physical and spiritual motherhood. The entire book is an inspiring read.

And who can resist a book with a title like this? Highly recommend!

Want to win a free autographed copy of this wonderful book? Leave a comment below (before Friday, September 20th) and tell me why you’d like to win “Blessed Beautiful and Bodacious!”

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach