7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 78 (Super Quick Takes)

7_quick_takes_sm17 Quick Takes Friday is being hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary. Join other Catholic bloggers as we share 7 Quick Posts within one post.

1. Bird’s Nest
Recently, my husband noticed a nest being built over the light on his studio building (right). He had carefully moved it from on top of the light to a metal frame he made close by (at left, so the eggs wouldn’t fry when the light was turned on). Thankfully, the mother bird returned and carried on as if nothing had happened. The baby birds were in the next when I took this photo, but they kept their heads down so I couldn’t get them in the photo.

Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

2. End of School!
It’s the official end of the school year. My high schooler has been done for a week or so and my youngest son graduated from Grade 8 this past Tuesday. His teacher said that Paul’s first year in the classroom setting was “beyond successful.” And he finished with a solid B plus average. Well done, Paul!

3. Movie Time
My second oldest son and my husband had the unique opportunity of being extras in a movie that was being filmed nearby. They were only on set for one day. Aside from being tired from standing around and a bit sunburned, they had a great experience. I’ll give more details when they become available.

4. Catholic Writers Conference Live
If you are a Catholic writer and are planning to come to the Catholic Writers Conference Live in Somerset, NJ, please register soon at this link. For more information about the conference, read this press release.

5. Pakenham 5-Span Bridge
We’re fortunate to live near the only 5-span bridge in North America.

Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

6. Reading Shelf:
The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows – Mother Dolores Hart

7. Classic Cartoon (Hotel)

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach (please do not use without permission)

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach (please do not use without permission)

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Stealing Jenny Free Today Through Thursday on Kindle

Stealing JennyMy third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be FREE today and tomorrow on Kindle.

After three heartbreaking miscarriages, Tom and Jenny Callahan are happily anticipating the birth of their sixth child. A neighbor, however, is secretly hatching a sinister plot which will find Jenny and her unborn baby fighting for their lives.

“Stealing Jenny is a gripping novel filled with engaging characters, a compelling mystery and a message which underscores the precious dignity of life. I literally couldn’t put it down and give Stealing Jenny my highest recommendation.
” Lisa M. Hendey, author of “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms”

“Ellen Gable is a masterful storyteller.Stealing Jenny is a smoothly written, chilling tale of gripping suspense. There are terrifying moments and heart-wrenching moments. Catholic faith and hope are tested. Above all, the sacredness and privilege of precious new life is made indisputably evident I never wanted it to end!” Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints and Past Suspicion

To download your Kindle copy for FREE, click here.

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 77

7_quick_takes_sm1TGIF! It’s time for 7 Quick Takes Friday. Join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary.

1. Crucifix at St. Maria Goretti
During our recent travels, we visited many churches, not only those for my sacramental pilgrimage, but also while on the road. This is the huge crucifix that hangs over the sanctuary of the church where we were married (St. Maria Goretti Church, now Holy Child Parish). This photo doesn`t really capture how large it is…

copyright 2013 James Hrkach

copyright 2013 James Hrkach

2. Review of Stealing Jenny
Thanks so much to Erin McCole Cupp for this wonderful (and humorous) review of Stealing Jenny.

3. Review of In Name Only
Speaking of reviews, special thanks to Vincent for this well-thought-out review on Goodreads. It gives me great satisfaction when a reader actually understands the message. Here’s an excerpt:
There is a surprising amount of content on “the marital act,” especially considering that this is a work of Catholic fiction. Gable is neither crude nor lewd in this area, as she handles the topic very gently albeit in-depth. She also does a fantastic job covering the gamut of Catholic social teaching on sex, as well as the mentality that Catholics should have. This entire area is where Gable’s catholicity really shines.

There are three lasting elements of the novel that have serious staying power: its discussion on the marital act, its illustration of the fragility of life, and lastly, the romance of the story itself. Ms. Gable accomplishes what every Catholic fiction writer should seek to accomplish: a story with Catholicism seamlessly woven into it that is good enough to compete with all fiction, not just in the small Catholic fiction book market.” Read his entire review here. He does include a spoiler alert, in case you haven’t read the book.

4. Fun with a Bun
I try to eat gluten free, so this bun would have gone to waste had it not been for the creative teamwork of my husband and youngest son, just after we finished eating recently at a local restaurant. As we were leaving, the staff seemed to enjoy the little gift we left behind at the table.

Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

5. Cool Odometer Reading
Recently our van hit a cool milestone — that’s kilometers, folks, not miles.

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

6. Reading Shelf
Unlovely – Carol Walsh Greer
Stout Hearts and Whizzing Biscuits – Daniel McInerny

7. Classic Cartoon

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach

Image copyright 2008 James and Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Cartoons copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Rapunzel Let Down – Review

rldcover380pxLike her other novels, Regina Doman’s new book is based on a fairy tale, this time Rapunzel. As usual, Doman puts a modern spin to the story. To her credit, though, she is able to give us a totally different story filled with twists and turns while at the same time keeping it close enough to the original tale. In the summary of the book, the author asks “Can sex destroy love?”

Hermes and his family are spending the summer in their New England summer house. Hermes is 18 and has been raised in a faithful Catholic family and his father is a prominent politician. Hermes is “sick and tired of sharing his life with his father’s political career and his overbearing older brothers.” He and his brothers eventually discover a house nearby with a tower; one of his brothers dares him to climb the tower. The dare ends up with Hermes falling, but not before discovering there is a girl in the tower.

Hermes eventually climbs the tower successfully. He meets and becomes infatuated with 15-year-old Raphaela, a girl with unusually long hair, smart but innocent. She is kept in the tower supposedly for protection by her adoptive mother, a radical feminist doctor who is part of “Womyn,” a group that believes men are the reason for whatever is wrong in the world.

However, Hermes can’t seem to stay away from Raphaela, despite the fact that visiting her is dangerous for a variety of reasons. This attraction leads him to make selfish choices and the couple eventually become sexually active (these scenes are brilliantly done, without graphic description). The answer to the author’s question “Can sex destroy love,” is illustrated as we journey with the characters throughout the rest of the story.

Surprisingly enough, Hermes’ secret visits to Raphaela continue for weeks; that is, until Raphaela begins exhibiting nausea, fatigue, breast tenderness. Her mother, the radical feminist doctor, recognizes the symptoms, asks her when her last period was, then gives her a pregnancy test which turns out to be positive. Knowing that an unknown male has made her daughter pregnant, she sets a trap. Hermes is eventually arrested and Raphaela taken away. Raphaela, the previously sheltered naive girl, is surprised to be pregnant but happy until her mother and feminist friends convince her that she should have an abortion. Eventually, she comes to realize that her mother is going to force her to abort. So she escapes to keep her unborn baby safe. She disguises herself and spends times in various places in order to stay hidden from her mother and her radical feminist friends.

Raphaela is eventually kidnapped by her mother and taken to an undisclosed location. Hermes realizes something is wrong. Of course, her feminist mother treats her badly in order to get her to give her babies up for adoption. The climax of the novel was compelling and I was clicking ahead quickly on my Kindle to read.

The strength of this particular book is Doman’s ability to illustrate the consequences of immoral sexual behavior. Even though this was the darkest of her Fairy Tale novels, this has become my favorite. I had a hard time putting this book down. It is written beautifully, the characters are well-developed and believable, the story fast-paced.

Note to parents: this novel deals with mature themes and there are scenes of sexuality and violence (although not graphic).

Highly recommended for 17 and up. Her book is available via Chesteron Press or through Amazon in print or on Kindle.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 76 – Mini-Review Edition

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

Since I’m a blogger, an author and a regular columnist on a couple of websites, I receive review requests on a daily basis. I usually say yes with the proviso that the review may not be posted for several long months. But last week I was sick and was able to catch up on a bunch of reviews.

So…today’s 7QT will be a “Mini-Review” Edition.

1. My Confirmation Book – Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
This beautiful little book is an ideal keepsake/gift for any Confirmand. Most chapters focus on one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Beginning with a scriptural quote, each chapter includes information on that particular gift and excellent examples, reflection questions, then a prayer. It’s small but it definitely packs a punch with valuable information and inspiration. I highly recommend it for all those studying to be confirmed, parents and catechists. Buy it here.

2. Mission Libertad – Lizette Lantigua
This novel is packed with a compelling story, great characters, the Catholic faith and nostalgic tidbits. It’s the story of 14-year-old Luis and his family who escape from 1970’s Communist Cuba to join relatives in the USA. Because of her age, his grandmother cannot escape with them, but she gives her grandson a secret religious mission which he must try to carry out under difficult circumstances.Because of the book’s realism, it was difficult reading about what life was (and continues to be) like in Communist countries where religious liberty and other freedoms do not exist. However, I personally found it hard to put down, well-written and believable with a cast of great characters. Well done! Highly recommend, not just for kids, but for anyone who wants to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in North America.

3. The Rose Ring – Anne Faye
Looking for a quick, delightful read this summer? Anne Faye’s “The Rose Ring” is just that. Julia Manning currently leads an uncomplicated life trying to forget that she was left at the altar by Zach Richards ten years ago. She volunteers at a nursing home, helps her sister, works in a bookstore, has a simple apartment. At the nursing home, she befriends an elderly woman, Elizabeth Phelps, who suffers from dementia and who tells her that the ring Julia wears is actually the engagement ring from her fiancé who fought in World War II. The reader travels from past to present as we read about Elizabeth and Joseph in the past and Julia and the two men in her life in the present. Eventually, Julia becomes determined to discover the true story behind the ring and her desire to help the elderly woman heal. This is a delightful read that illustrates the power of love and forgiveness. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

4. Dear God, I Don’t Get It – Patti Armstrong
This is a delightful story of a young man, Aaron Ajax, who thinks that God doesn’t answer his prayers. His father loses his job, the family moves and he has to leave his best friend, he’s then the new kid and has many issues at his new school. I enjoyed how the author (the mother of many children) teaches the importance of being honest and asking for forgiveness. Most importantly, I think the author did a tremendous job of illustrating how God can and should be trusted with our lives. This is a great book not only for middle-schoolers, but for parents as well.

5. Big-Hearted by Patti Maguire Armstrong and Theresa Thomas
This beautiful book is a testament to the joys and challenges of large families. It’s honest, though, so it’s important to remember that no family will ever be perfect. The difference between the families in this book and the average secular family is an openness to life and a trust in God’s will. This is a book that will make you laugh, cry and be inspired. Highly recommend!

6. A Special Mother is Born – Leticia Velasquez
A Special Mother is Born is a celebration of extraordinary motherhood and the gift of life. The positive moments as well as the negative are included in these inspiring and moving stories of special needs’ children told by their parents. Whether you’ve ever given birth, adopted or known someone with a special needs child, this book will help you appreciate more fully the irreplaceable gift of human life. An extensive appendix with helpful information is included. Highly recommend!

7. Fleeting Glimpses of The Silly, Sentimental and Sublime – Michael Seagriff
This delightful collection of short essays, memories and reflections was a joy to read and I found the author’s honest reflections to be inspiring. There were a few copy-editing issues, but overall well done! A bargain at less than a dollar for download. Highly recommend!

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller Review

A Pius ManI enjoyed this fast-paced thriller that begins with a bang (an explosion and two murders) and ends with a bang (lots of killing right inside the Vatican walls) with lots of action in between. At first, I wasn’t sure who was a good guy and who was a bad guy.

Essentially, summarizing in a few sentences: the new pope wants to make Pope Pius XII (so- called “Hitler’s Pope”) a saint; there are secret archives containing documentation on Pope Pius XII. Anyone who gets too close to the Pius XII archives winds up dead. Eventually, all the good guys must work together to determine whether Pius XII was Hitler’s Pope or whether he was, in reality, a pious man (hence the title).

I liked the humor and found myself on more than one occasion chuckling. However, I especially appreciated the author’s efforts to bring forth true information regarding Pius XII. I believe this is the strength of this novel.

A few interesting tidbits: in this book, at least one priest is trained in martial arts and some characters use the rosary as a weapon – literally, to hurt someone – and there is a new pontiff (Pius XIII) from Sudan.

However, while there is promise in the author’s inherent writing style, there’s a definite need for line by line copy-editing (there were typos and grammatical errors) as well as developmental editing.

Most of this novel is either dialogue or fighting, although not overly graphic. So if you like a lot of action (in the form of fighting), then you’ll probably enjoy this book. There were too many protagonists, in my opinion, and I wasn’t really able to “bond” with one or two main characters because of that. It was also difficult keeping track of characters because there were so many.

The bottom line, though, is that I enjoyed the story and I appreciated the author’s efforts.

I downloaded the Kindle edition of this book while it was available for free. 3 (out of 5) stars.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach