If you’ve already read an advanced reading copy and have liked it, please click “like” below the title. You can pre-order the book by pressing the “pre-order: add to cart” button.
Offerings by Christine Sunderland is a wonderfully entertaining novel which includes an interesting and engaging story as well as rich historical and descriptive passages.
Madeleine and Jack have been together for many years and have endured many trials. The novel begins with a flashback of Jack’s father dying, an event from which Jack has never truly recovered. The first chapter takes place at Madeleine’s son’s wedding where Jack collapses. Madeleine finds out that he has cancer and has months to live. The doctor convinces Madeleine not to share with Jack how serious his condition is. Her husband’s life could be extended, the doctor tells Madeleine, if he undergoes a risky procedure. However, the physician who has perfected this risky procedure has gone “on vacation” and is not available to do the surgery.
Madeleine and Jack travel to Europe to search for the elusive Dr. Rachelle DuPres. Rachelle is not “on vacation,” but is trying to discern the meaning of life and questioning her vocation to be a doctor after one of her patients dies. The story goes back and forth between Madeleine and Jack’s story and Rachelle’s compelling spiritual journey.
Sunderland’s beautiful writing, descriptions and history were so real that I felt like I was accompanying Madeleine, Jack and Rachelle on their respective travels through Europe. Although I was familiar with some of the history she included, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical background of the different European cathedrals, the Crusades and the Miraculous Medal.
I highly recommend this beautifully written book to anyone who enjoys a great story with well-developed characters and the occasional history lesson.
I can certainly understand why this novel won the Bronze Medal in Religious Fiction at the 2010 IPPY Awards (the same year my novel, In Name Only, won the Gold Medal.)
Offerings is available through Amazon.
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
I was introduced to Nancy Carabio Belanger last year through the Catholic Writers Guild and Catholic Fiction.net. I was asked to review her first book, “Olivia and the Little Way,” (my review here), then later her second novel, “Olivia’s Gift” (review here). These beautiful books are ideal for pre-teens and teens, although adults would also enjoy them. Enjoy this excerpt below from Olivia’s Gift, Chapter 20.
Olivia’s heart started to beat wildly. This wasn’t right. They weren’t supposed to be doing this. She thought back to Danny’s book. The Loggerhead turtle eggs were supposed to stay covered until they were ready to hatch, right? They shouldn’t be disturbing them in this way.
“Okay, you found the eggs!” she pleaded, desperate. “Now cover them back up and let’s go!”
The boys said nothing as Brandon picked up one of the eggs and held it in his hand. “Looks like a ping-pong ball,” he said with a grin. “It’s squishy. Wanna hold one?”
Olivia stared at him in the moonlight. “No way. Put it back.”
Brandon stood up. “Come on; it won’t bite. Here.” He gently placed it in Olivia’s palm. She stared down at it in shock, her eyes wide. She breathed heavily. This felt totally wrong, yet, after reading Danny’s book, she was curious. Was there really a baby turtle in there? She lifted her hand and peered at the tiny egg for a closer look. It was leathery and soft.
Okay. I looked at it. Time to put it back. She started to lower her hand and give it back to Brandon, but something stopped her.
Olivia’s heart skipped a beat as she watched the tiny egg tremble back and forth in her hand. It rolled around a couple of times, then stopped.
The baby turtle was inside and it was moving!
Oh Lord, she cried inwardly. What have I just done?
Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…her mind raced. She suddenly thought of Mrs. Duggan and her baby moving and kicking inside her belly.
Doing somersaults. Alive.
“I don’t want this! Put it back. It moved! Put it back and cover them back up!” she demanded frantically. She gave it back to Brandon, trusting that he would do the right thing once he knew the truth: that there was a live baby turtle inside.
Next to her, Hayley gasped. “She told you it moved! Brandon, they’re alive! Put them back NOW!” cried Hayley.
Brandon held up the egg with a sinister look on his face. This was not about to happen. This was not…Olivia’s face grew white with horror.
Nancy’s iCatholic profile: http://icatholic.catholictv.com/profile/NancyCarabioBelanger
Nancy’s My Catholic Blog interview:
Thank you, Nancy, for allowing me to post an excerpt from your wonderful book!
My latest review at Amazing Catechists is for a fabulous new book designed to assist families in growing in virtue:
Are you looking for a book which will help your family increase in virtue? Catholic Family Bootcamp is an ideal resource for assisting your family not only in reinforcing the spiritual virtues, but also in strengthening emotional bonds with your closest family members.
“I have only one goal in providing you with this devotional book: to help your families increase in virtue,” says author Mary Lou Rosien at the beginning of this terrific new book, Catholic Family Bootcamp, a 30-day devotional workout for families. The boot camp, in this case, is a training camp in the virtues: hope, love, justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence, faith.
The author shares with readers that her son is in the military and that when he went to boot camp, he came back physically and mentally stronger and prepared to fight the enemy.
So too are American families “fighting an enemy. It is a strong, fierce enemy that attacks us through the media, in our schools on the playgrounds, and even sometimes in areas of worship. It seeks to destroy families.”
This wonderful book is filled with Scripture, Catechism and saint’s quotes, true stories, activities and refreshingly honest admissions from the author that even as adults, parents have areas which need improvement.
The best thing about this book is that all the work has been done for you…it’s easy to follow and very user-friendly.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book are: “Observation is the biggest part of learning,” “When you love someone you become an expert in them,” “When someone acts unlovable, that is when they need love the most.”
I absolutely loved Catholic Family Bootcamp and I highly recommend this wonderful, easy-to-follow resource to everyone who wishes to increase in virtue and grow in holiness.
You can purchase it at the book’s website. Right now until June 1st, if you leave a comment and include your email address, you’ll be automatically entered to win a free copy of Catholic Family Bootcamp.
To pre-order the book on Amazon:
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Coping with infertility is challenging, especially in this day and age when new reproductive procedures are making it easier to give birth to a biological child. However, it is important that a couple ensures that whatever assistance they receive be in accord with Catholic Church teaching.
For the past 26 years, in our capacity as NFP teachers, my husband and I have counseled many infertile couples. They often come to us after actively seeking a pregnancy for many months. In some of the cases, teaching them NFP and helping them to determine the most fertile time (as well as giving them ways to increase their fertility) eventually results in a much-desired pregnancy. However, there were some who, despite those tips, did not become pregnant.
Here are some pointers which may help couples to cope with infertility and to increase the likelihood of pregnancy:
Pray. While this might seem like an unimportant part of the process, it is probably the most essential. Pray for God’s will. Ask others to pray for you. In our own case, when my third son was a year old, I became pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy and nearly hemorrhaged to death. Afterwards, we were told to avoid pregnancy for at least one year (although our doctors strongly advised against ever getting pregnant again). When the year was over, with much thought and prayer, we decided to actively seek another pregnancy. More than a year went by, 17 cycles. No pregnancy. We were praying for God’s will. I really wanted another child, but I was open and began to sell all my baby furniture and clothes. I stopped charting and all of a sudden, I realized that I hadn’t gotten my period when I thought. Because I hadn’t been keeping accurate charts, I bought a pregnancy test and was shocked to discover that it was positive! Never underestimate the power of prayer.
Take accurate basal body temperatures and mucus readings to determine whether the wife is actually ovulating.
Pay attention to nutrition. For more information on this, I highly recommend Marilyn Shannon’s excellent book, Fertility Cycles and Nutrition.
See a fertility specialist NaPro Technology has helped many women become pregnant. For more information on Natural Procreative Technology http://www.naprotechnology.com/
Do not consent to immoral practices for semen analysis. Use moral procedures to enhance the marital act; not replace it. For semen analysis, a couple can use the Sims-Huhner method of semen collection (which involves the couple engaging in normal marital sex and using a condom with a hole to preserve the procreative aspect of the marital act, but still collecting the semen for analysis).
Fertility drugs are acceptable, as long as the couple does not consent to selective abortion if multiples are conceived.
Artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization are not morally acceptable (see CCC 2376-2377) because they omit the unitive aspect from the marital act.
Consider adoption: At 2379, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.”
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Excellent article by Trevin Wax over at LifeSiteNews: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/five-signs-the-pro-life-cause-is-winning?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=958e5d1560-LifeSiteNews_com_Canada_Headlines05_20_2011&utm_medium=email
The pro-life cause is winning. In state legislatures, in the media, and in grassroots efforts to reduce the number of abortions, pro-life activists have put abortion rights advocates on defense. The pro-life movement certainly has hurdles to overcome before the United States can become a place where all human life is legally protected. Yet the eventual outcome is certain. Here are five reasons I believe we have reached a tipping point in favor of the pro-life cause.
Click the link above to read the rest of this article.
My new book, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship, will be released on June 15th. The book’s website has been updated with a new book trailer as well as some advanced reviews. Many thanks to my son, Ben, and my husband, James, for helping with the book trailer.
Also, if you are on Facebook, please feel free to “like” the Come My Beloved Facebook page:
Today, for Fiction Friday, I’m running an excerpt of my Gold-medal winning novel, In Name Only. I will be giving away two Kindle (or PDF) copies of my novel. Just leave a comment below before Monday, May 23, 2011.
Caroline descended the back staircase to the kitchen. Although she hadn’t taken note of the room before, she found it to be spacious with two cast iron cooking stoves which lined the far wall and a large wooden table with a grinding apparatus attached to it in the center of the room. Servant bells lined the wall above the door. Patsie was chopping a yellow squash at the center table and Selly was washing dishes at a long table which lined the outside wall. The smell of baking bread caused Caroline’s mouth to water and, for a moment, she forgot why she had come down to the kitchen.
“Well now, top o’ the mornin’, Miss Caroline,” said Patsie. Selly turned around and nodded her greeting.
“What is it, Miss?”
“I intend to speak with a woman at the church to find you a place where you can stay for the duration of your confinement.”
“You’ve been so kind. Thank you.”
“You should not be going through this alone.”
Just outside the kitchen, a loud voice bellowed. “Get the damn horse or I’ll be telling Mr. Martin to fire your black ass.”
One of the bells above the door began to ring.
“I must go. I do not wish for him to see me,” Selly was wiping her hands on her apron and walking toward the stairs to the main floor.
“Mr. David,” she whispered, and pointed toward the back door.
“Yes, well, I want to see him. I should like to tell him what’s on my mind.”
“But, Miss,” Patsie called out. “Sure an’ ye can’t be talkin’ ta a man by yer lonesome, tain’t proper. I’m just after tellin’ ye that.”
“I’m not alone. You’ll be in the kitchen. Besides, it’s improper for a man to not take responsibility for his child.”
Patsie shook her head as Caroline rushed out the doorway. David O’Donovan was speaking to the black servant. She had no idea what they were discussing, but Mr. O’Donovan had a distinct frown on his face. She approached him, her chin raised. The moment that he noticed her, his expression softened and he became charming, almost inviting.
“Miss Martin, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” As he spoke, she could smell alcohol on his breath. She stepped back, kept silent and glared at him.
“Pray tell, have I done something to displease you?” he asked, his mouth curved in slight amusement.
“Displease may be an understatement, sir.” She regarded him with the angriest scowl she could muster.
“Well, you certainly have gotten my attention, young lady. And may I just say that you are looking lovely today, despite the frown on your beautiful flawless face. If every girl looked as you do in black, she would want only to wear that color.”
She walked closer to David and whispered, “Why do you refuse to help the girl who carries your child within her?”
His face darkened. “Oh, so that’s what’s troubling you. Well, you know, Miss Martin, with girls of her sort, one has to. . .”
Caroline cut him off with a slap to his face. Surprised, he rubbed his cheek, his frown quickly turning to a smile. “Oh, dear. Would you like to slap the other side,” he asked, then turned his other cheek toward her.
Caroline remained silent, her eyes narrowed with contempt.
He leaned close to her face, his voice quiet but firm. “Did Selly tell you I was the only one? Well, my dear Miss Martin, I’m certain I was not.”
“And you know this how?”
“Miss Caroline?” Patsie’s high-pitched voice stopped Caroline from continuing.
She quickly leaned her head through the kitchen doorway.
“Patsie, what is it?”
“I’m havin’ ta tell ye, Miss,” she whispered, “a colleen shoun’t be a talkin’ ‘bout such things.”
“I don’t care.” Turning back toward David, she walked close to him, the top of her head an inch or so away from his chin. “Mr. O’Donovan, Selly told me there was no other.”
“And you believe a common lower class servant?”
Caroline cringed. Common, lower class?
“Of course. Why would she lie?”
“Well, no one forced her.”
“Today if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your heart.”
David raised his eyebrows. “I never took you for a Bible thumper, Miss Martin.”
“I’m a Christian, Mr. O’Donovan.”
“Your naivete is endearing and I don’t want to destroy your obvious innocence, but the servants freely do this.”
“Your behavior makes me ill.”
“Ah, you are even more beautiful when you’re angry. Do you realize your freckles darken? It’s very becoming.”
Caroline again glared at him.
“Aren’t you going to slap me again? I was hoping you would.”
“You are. . .”
“What? I’m what?” He stepped back and eyed her up and down. “Well, Miss Martin, I’ll tell you what I am. I am. . .shocked!” he said, a huge smirk on his face.
“Whatever do you mean you are shocked?”
“Most certainly I am, Miss Martin.” He leaned in close to her and whispered. “You’re. . .not wearing a corset, are you?” His eyebrows were raised and now he was smiling broadly.
All of a sudden, Caroline’s face became flushed, her eyes widened. Now she was embarrassed that she had left her corset off. David O’Donovan, of all people, had noticed.
“Miss Caroline?” she heard Patsie call her again.
Caroline sighed and hurried into the kitchen.
To view a book trailer, see interviews and read reviews, click on the link below:
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Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable and Full Quiver Publishing
My latest review for Catholic Fiction.net is for a novel by Tom Milton called A Shower of Roses. It is the story of Eva, a Polish Catholic nurse who falls in love with Marek, an activist who works for the CIA. The story goes back and forth between 1981 and previous years in flashbacks.
Let me start by saying that I have enjoyed Tom Milton’s previous books. He has a solid easy-to-read writing style with good stories. What drew me to this one was the title. The book begins with a quote from St. Thérèse, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth; I will let fall a shower of roses.” I also was intrigued by the main character, Eva’s, desire to follow St. Thérèse’s Little Way and I wondered how the author would implement this in the novel.
However, Eva is about as naive as they come. It’s her desire to be a saint. Yet she marries Marek, a self-proclaimed atheist, who does not hide that he’s an atheist, although he keeps plenty of other things secret. Eva promises Marek that she will love him unconditionally. Time and again, he purposefully tests this unconditional love. Without giving away the ending, I found that, on the one hand, it was perverse, and on the other, predictable.
Eva is a kind soul who tries to follow St. Thérèse’s Little Way. However, this plot line was not developed enough, especially in light of the fact that the title of the book is “Shower of Roses.” Milton’s books tend to be heavy on dialogue, which I generally don’t mind. However, some of the dialogue seemed forced, especially Marek’s words, which, for the most part, came off as robotic and unemotional.
Warning: there are adult themes and there is one scene that is R rated. As well, this book contains swearing so I would not recommend it for young teens.
Milton’s overall writing style is good, but some of the characters in this novel could have been better developed.
All that being said, if you have read Milton’s other novels and have enjoyed them, you may like this one. For me personally, though, it wasn’t as compelling or believable as his other novels.
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
I’m happy to be posting the final excerpt from Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship. This story is entitled, “A Friendly Wager,” and is the courtship story of Mark and Yvette Bourque.
Mark: I was attracted to Yvette’s curly dark hair as it was long and big and attractive. The more I got to know her, the more I realized that she was a smart, fun and happy person, the kind of person that I wanted to be with all the time. She has a beautiful smile and is a beautiful woman. We started off as friends. I had a friend who really liked her and I didn’t want to intrude on his infatuation, but at the same time, once I knew she wasn’t interested in him, I wanted to continue our relationship.
Yvette: Mark told me that his friend was interested in me, but I wasn’t interested in his friend at all. One night Mark and the two guys he lived with were having a dinner party, so he invited me and several other people to come over. While we were talking, I got the idea that I’d like to invite him to my nursing graduation.
Mark: When she invited me to her graduation, I thought, This is great! I got to meet her dad and her family. It was just like everything fell into place.
Yvette: Mark was more of a gentleman than I had been used to dating, so we had a very good time.
Right after my nursing graduation, I went away to Bermuda for seven days. I didn’t see him for a week, but many times while I was in Bermuda, I was thinking that I would like to be back home, to be with Mark.
When we got back, I teased and challenged him by saying, “There’s no way you’re going to make it to church tomorrow because it’s really late and I doubt you’re going to be able to get up.”
He said, “Oh, yes I will. I’ll be at church tomorrow.” So we had this little bet, this friendly wager, going.
I said, “How will I know you made it to church?”
He said, “Well, do you want to come?”
I said, “Are you inviting me?”
He said, “Yeah, but you probably won’t make it either. You’re never going to get up that early. I go to church at nine.”
I said, “Okay. We’ll see. I’ll be there.”
I am a bit stubborn. If I make a bet with somebody, I don’t like to lose. So I set my alarm clock. I got up and I met him at the door of his house. He was just walking out to his car. Of course, he was shocked that I was there, and I was surprised that he was awake too. So I followed him to church.
I hadn’t been to church in years so I didn’t know when to stand, sit or kneel. I didn’t know any of the responses, except the Our Father. Several of the pews were taken up by his family members (he’s from a large family of 11 kids). After church, we went back to his parents’ house because every Sunday involves brunch at his mom and dad’s. So I met his family. I was attracted to the fact that he was very committed to his faith and to his church. I had never met a guy that went to church, let alone, of his own free will, without being forced to go by his parents.
Mark: The invitation to church was one of our first dates. At the time, I was praying for a spouse, for a lifelong partner. I had dated other women, but it just didn’t seem like there were any sparks there or anything that jumped out at me like – this is the one – until I met Yvette. When that happened, I knew my prayers had been answered.
Mark and Yvette Bourque live in Petawawa, Ontario. Their courtship story can be found in its entirety in Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship, which will be released on June 15th.
Photo and Text Copyright 2011 Full Quiver Publishing