Unlovely by Carol Walsh Greer – Mini Review

UnlovelyCarol Walsh Greer is certainly an author that knows her characters and especially the main protagonist of her novel, Unlovely. Claudia Milford isn’t just a character, though. She is a your cousin or your sister-in-law’s friend or your brother or…anyone you might know. Like many people with mental health challenges, Claudia’s problems are virtually unknown to her.

For me, the measure of a good book is that I cannot put it down until I’m finished. This book is definitely one of those “can’t put it down” books. The plot is compelling and the characters, especially the character of Claudia, is brilliantly defined and illustrated.

I did find the ending abrupt (I personally like more resolution), and the edition I read had typos and some editing issues (although the author has informed me the typos have been addressed). Editing issues aside, this was an outstanding read and I thoroughly enjoyed this story by a first-time novelist. I look forward to reading more by her. Highly recommend!

To download it, click here. If you’d prefer a print edition, it will be available soon!

Huge Summer Giveaway!

iStock_000016505362XSmallI’m cleaning out my storage area/bookcase and decided to give away ten books I’ve reviewed in the past four years. Some are Catholic fiction; a few non-fiction. Around $125 worth of books here. If you would like to be entered to win, leave a comment below (before Saturday, August 3rd at midnight).

Here are the books I’m giving away. Click on the link to read more about them at Amazon.

The Admiral’s Daughter
I Believe: The Creed and You
Seamus O’Flynn
Faith Beyond the Trials
Gripped by Fear
A Garden of Visible Prayer
Sex and the Sacred City

Remember…you must leave a comment before Saturday, August 3rd at midnight to be entered!

Image from iStock.

Sunday Snippets – July 28

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets, where we share posts from the previous week. I haven’t been participating in Sunday Snippets for the past few weeks because I’ve been away and working on several deadlines. I’ll be away for the next few weekends preparing and attending the Catholic Writers Conference Live so I will only be able to post sporadically. Until then, here are my previous week’s posts:

7 Quick Takes Friday – NFP Edition

Teaching NFP Has Enriched Our Marriage

Theology of the Body in a Nutshell

NFP Awareness Week – NFP Cartoons

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 82 (NFP Edition)

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

To wrap up the celebration of NFP Awareness Week, my 7QT will be NFP-related:

1. NFP Awareness Week!
Tell at least one person about NFP! Better yet, give them an NFP book (see below) or refer them to an NFP class. nfp-poster-2013-470x363px

2. 45th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae
Excellent article by George Weigel on the 45th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

3. Humanae Vitae
To read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, in its entirety, click here. Some critics feel that Pope Paul VI did not go far enough in condemning contraception, but if you read the full encyclical, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he condemns birth control unequivocally.

4. Devout Catholic Couples Have Better Sex
Who knew? Interesting article on why devout Catholic couples have better sex.

5. NFP and Responsible Parenthood
The following article was originally published in Family Foundations magazine and reposted on my blog: Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood.

The first photo shows the two babies I was told NOT to have. The second shows what they look like today.

image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

6. Great NFP/TOB Books To Read
Fiction: Emily’s Hope, Passport, Angela’s Song, Stealing Jenny, In Name Only (to name a few).

Non-Fiction: Theology of the Body for Beginners, Love and Responsibility, Growing Up in God’s Image.

7. Fertile Time Cartoon

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

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

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Teaching NFP Has Enriched Our Marriage

Online Teaching Sm.The following is an article that was originally published in Family Foundations and updated for my blog:

We have been teaching Natural Family Planning (or NFP) for nearly 29 years. We have volunteered much of our time preparing and teaching classes over the past 28 years, as well as lecturing to marriage preparation courses and youth groups. However, I’d like to share what we have gotten out of it.

Admittedly, when we first decided many years ago to become NFP teachers after only two years of marriage, we thought about what we would give, not what we would receive. We had no idea of the abundant fruit it would bear.

First, we have made so many wonderful friends through teaching NFP. Most of our close friends are couples we have taught over the years.

One particular couple was considering sterilization when they met us 20 years ago. Having four children born one right after the other, they were being pressured by friends and relatives into having a permanent procedure done. We taught them NFP and they used it for many years. Nine years ago, they welcomed another child into their family.

Second, we have been able to evangelize in a way that has allowed friends and relatives to take a second look at NFP. Our many contracepting friends and relatives have seen what NFP has done for our marriage. They see a couple with a loving, sacramental relationship, with God as the third partner. And while they may not ever use NFP, they cannot argue with the success of our marriage.

As well, we have convinced some of these friends and relatives that contraception is not only physically unhealthy, but also spiritually unhealthy. One day we were at a friend’s anniversary party and a woman asked how we knew the couple celebrating their anniversary. “We taught them NFP.”

“What’s NFP?” asked the woman. This started a 45-minute conversation on the benefits and morality of NFP. At the end of the conversation, the woman told us to sign her up for our next class.

Third, teaching NFP is a good example to our children because they are seeing us give our time freely to other couples. They see us doing something to try to “change the world.” When our oldest son was a teenager, he came with us to a pro-life conference. We were speaking on the “Joys of NFP.” Later, he asked us, “What can I do to change the world? What can I do to help make the world a better place?’

“What brought this on? Why do you ask?”

“Because you and Dad teach NFP, do chastity talks, go on pro-life marches, help out with marriage preparation. I mean, you do so much. I’d like to do something like that.”

I was shocked that he had even noticed.

The rewards we have received through friendships, evangelization and example to our children are priceless.

Teaching NFP is one of the most time-consuming things we have ever set out to do. And although there are frustrating times, it is definitely one of the most satisfying decisions we have ever made.

We now teach NFP online (photo above). If you’re interested in learning NFP or in teaching it, email us at info(at)fullquiverpublishing.com

Photo and text copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Theology of the Body in a Nutshell

To continue the celebration of NFP Awareness Week, I’m reposting an article I wrote last year, entitled “Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.” theology-of-the-body

If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.

Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely. If we ask for conditions, that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.

Total: The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my fertility.” Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).

Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other. But if we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.

Fruitful: Marital relations must be fruitful, open to children, each and every time. That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace. It just means we need to be open.

Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When an action, device, medication or operation is purposefully used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”

Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and, if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

Want to live the highest expression of your marital love? Use NFP and be open to life.

For more information about the Theology of the Body:

For more information on NFP:

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 81

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

1. Good Samaritan – Sr. Patricia Joseph OP
Last weekend, the Gospel reading was about the Good Samaritan. Our parish priest reminded us that from time to time, all of us have had to depend on “Good Samaritans.” There have been many incidents where my relatives and friends have stepped forward to help me whenever I have needed it and, for all those times, I am grateful. But this reminder brought forth two special memories. First, when I was seven years old and in second grade, my mother was critically ill and in the hospital. I came down with the flu while in class and my aunt was called (since my father was at work). I was told that it would take my Aunt Floss a while to get there. So my teacher, Sr. Patricia Joseph, OP, tenderly carried me to the convent where she cared for me and offered me soothing words as I waited for Aunt Floss to pick me up. Although I was very young at the time, I will never forget her kindness to me. (Of course, Aunt Floss also helped take care of me. For those of you familiar with my first novel, Emily’s Hope, she was the basis for the “Aunt Sally” character.) Here is a copy of one of the letters I wrote to my mom while she was in the hospital.

copyright Ellen Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

2. Good Samaritan – A Kind Nurse
The second memory I have of a “Good Samaritan” was when I was in the hospital after having the second surgery in less than two weeks for complications from an ectopic pregnancy. Since I am a pretty small person, and since I had already had anesthesia less than two weeks previous, my small body reacted violently. My husband and children were traveling and away from home and so I was alone in the hospital room. I had just had surgery and when I woke up from the anesthesia, I began vomiting every two to four minutes. I speak about this incident at length in my book, Emily’s Hope, (Chapter 26). I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be nearly 15 hours before I would experience any relief. It was the kind of suffering that I hoped I would never have again. In the midst of this, as I was pleading for an anti-vomiting medicine (which they tried, to no avail), a nurse came and sat at my bedside and prayed. She prayed and comforted me as long as she could, and while she couldn’t take away my pain, her presence gave me renewed peace, despite my suffering. Later, after I had recovered and discovered who the nurse was, I thanked her for her prayers and her selflessness in comforting me.

3. Journey to the Father Conference
In a few hours, I will be heading down to St. Raphaels, Ontario, to the Journey to the Father Conference. I attend every year as a vendor, selling my books, although I am always spiritually uplifted as well.

4. Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp
Full Quiver’s upcoming release (November 1) is entitled Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp. The book cover is still being tweaked, but here is cover photo:First Createspace Front

5. Everlasting Green
Check out my friend, Ed’s, new book of short stories, Everlasting Green. It’s only .99 on Kindle!

6. Reading/Review Shelf
God Will Provide (Patricia Treece)

7. Here’s to 20 Years Cartoon

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

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

© 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 80

7_quick_takes_sm1 Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Jen’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

We’re in the midst of preparing a book (Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp) for publication and trying to finish three other creative deadlines. But…earlier this week, my husband, my two youngest sons and I took a short trip to Toronto. It turned out to be slightly more stressful than being at home trying to meet several deadlines.

1. Canada’s Wonderland
The week started out great with us staying overnight at our friends’ house, then heading to Toronto. We had a wonderful time at Canada’s Wonderland.IMG_0677

2. The Only Ride I Go On
My husband captured a cool shot of me and my youngest on Silver Streak, which is the only ride I go on at the park. Despite my love for flying, I do not like roller coasters with 80 degree inclines and 320 feet drops (although my husband and sons love them!)

copyright James Hrkach

copyright James Hrkach

3. Torrential Rains
Our day at Canada’s Wonderland was cut short by torrential downpours and about 120 millimeters of rain in less than two hours (evidently, this broke a century’s old record for Toronto). After an hour, we decided to leave the park, much to the chagrin of the kids. Everyone else in the park decided to leave at the same time because it took us about an hour just to get out of the parking lot. Then another hour to travel to the hotel less than two kilometers away in stop and go traffic. One of the reasons it took us so long to get to the hotel was because it was rush hour and there were power outages, which meant that all the lights were out and we had to consider them four-way stops.

copyright Ellen Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

4. No Sad Songs for the Swimmers
Not surprisingly, when we arrived at the hotel, we found there was no power there either. On the way to our room through the dark hallways, we discovered the swimming pool and water slide. The kids, who were already disappointed we had to leave the park early, perked up, only to find the water slide wasn’t working. Here they are in the pool staring at the water slide beside them.

Copyright Ellen Hrkach

Copyright Ellen Hrkach

5. Black Creek Pioneer Village (#1)
The electricity finally came on in the middle of the night. The following day, we decided to visit a local historical attraction. As the author of historical books and a lover of history, I was excited to visit Black Creek Pioneer Village just two blocks from the hotel. The beautiful pathway (below) was one of the first scenes we encountered.

copyright James Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

6. Black Creek Pioneer Village (#2)

copyright Ellen Hrkach

The Mill – copyright James Hrkach

7. Black Creek Pioneer Village (#3) “Physician’s Office”
Since one of the male protagonists in my current work in progress (A Subtle Grace) is a physician, I was especially interested in seeing this 19th century doctor’s office.

copyright James Hrkach

copyright James Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach