Close to the Soul #1 in New Releases on #Kindle

Close to the Soul by Mary Jo Thayer (to be released on May 1st by FQP!) is #1 in New Releases on Kindle!

Synopsis: Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault.

Reviews:

Close to the Soul is a beautifully written novel that weaves the story of redemption through every character on every page.  Edith Schafer once wrote that our lives are a tapestry, we are looking at the backside which is often messy and confusing, but God sees the beautiful work of art, each thread precisely woven together.  I have spent my life grappling with the questions this novel boldly addresses. Pam Stenzel, M.A. Enlighten Communications

With equal measures of heartbreak and joy, Close to the Soul is a gripping novel that strikes every emotional chord.  Fans of Francine Rivers will flock to this one!  Lori Nelson Spielman, best-selling author

When I started reading Close to the Soul, I wasn’t sure how Mary Jo would approach this difficult topic, especially from a young woman’s point of view. What I found was a beautiful and inspiring story written in such a refreshing way that celebrates life, faith, love, redemption, strength of spirit, and family amid a devastating challenge. I felt honored to read Close to the Soul’ and pray that many readers will share this story.   Jim Sano, author of the Fr. Tom Series

What an uplifting and hopeful story! I have to admit that it brought tears to my eyes more than once while I was reading it.  I loved the solid and unwavering faith displayed by the Fandel family. The story definitely brings out the truth of God’s wonderful and mysterious ways and his constant care of us even when we are going through rough times that we cannot understand. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.   Linda Etchison, author, Sr. Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

Mary Jo Thayer has written an uplifting tale, dealing sensitively at each step with the challenges and trials faced by women raising their children alone. Mary Jo’s deep faith is obvious, shining through her main character, Carolyn Fandel. Carolyn’s resignation to the situation she finds herself in, along with the decisions she makes in the wake of her trauma, would certainly provide encouragement to any Catholic woman in any state of life, and indeed to anyone who picks up the book to read it.  Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

Wow! What a powerful and moving story set in the 1950’s. The story is of great value for readers today. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literature. Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

To preorder the book on Kindle, click here.

A Channel of Your Peace #bookblast #sale

A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn is currently on sale on Kindle for .99 (until Tuesday, April 20) and is this month’s Catholic Writers Guild Bookblast!

Synopsis:

Would a God who truly loves you allow things to get this bad?

Lapsed Catholic Erin Rafferty has the life she always wanted. Or at least she did, till the moment her fiancé of five years announces he’s leaving her for another woman. Heartbroken and humiliated, a further devastating development leaves her wondering if she can ever live a normal life again.

Mark Ashcroft is a devout Catholic looking for an equally devout Catholic wife. A chance encounter with Erin leaves Mark completely captivated, yet deeply unsettled, knowing Erin is not in a place to accept him, nor is she the model Christian woman he’d hoped to start a life with.

A tentative friendship begins, and Erin finds herself questioning her long-held rejection of her faith, while Mark finds himself healing from memories of his own wounded past.

But as love grows, further tragedy in Erin’s life threatens her burgeoning faith and her hope for a future with Mark.

What follows is a difficult journey of love, surrender, trust, and faith in the ultimate knowledge that Christ is always in the midst of our sufferings.

Excellent debut novel. I was very impressed with the writing. The story is masterfully written and was very hard to put down.”

Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Download A Channel of Your Peace for only .99 on Kindle!

An Open Book – April #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

The Way of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori

My review: Probably the most popular book for following the Stations of the Cross. I bought it on Kindle so I could have it with me whenever I attended the Stations of the Cross or said them privately. It’s excellent!

Shirley Jones: A Memoir

Amazon Synopsis: From golden-voiced ingénue to bus-driving mother of a pop band, Shirley Jones sets aside her wholesome, squeaky clean image in a memoir as shockingly candid, deliciously juicy, and delightfully frank as the star herself.

“You are going to meet the real flesh-and-blood Shirley Jones, not just the movie star or Mrs. Partridge,” says the beloved film, television, and stage actress and singer of her long-awaited memoir, an account as shockingly direct, deliciously juicy, and delightfully frank as the performer herself.

Sharing the “candid” (Los Angeles Times) and “revealing” (Associated Press) details of her life in Hollywood’s inner circle and beyond, Shirley Jones blows past the wholesome, squeaky-clean image that first brought fame, and gives us a woman who only gets hotter with time.

My review: As a huge fan of The Partridge Family, this was one of those books that I had wanted to read back in 2013 when it was first published. Then I read the reviews and decided to wait until it was on sale. Well, I finally downloaded it. In some respects, I was interested in reading her inside story. And in other respects, there are things I can’t “unread,” like the time she was coaxed into having an abortion several months after she married Jack Cassidy in 1957. The way she tells it, she was dead set against it. After all, they were married. But to her husband and her agent pressuring her, her career was more important. She talks about the abortion like this: “…as I watched him (the doctor) while he worked, finally removing a mass of blood but no fetus as it was too early for one to have formed inside me.” That sounds very much like she was downplaying it. Even so, I give her credit for her resolution that no matter what happened in the future, she would never have another abortion.

There are other things that I can’t unread that I won’t share, but it saddens me that she felt she had to write a “tell-all” book that sometimes focused on the licentious and at times, it was over the top. The writing is okay, but she jumps from time period to time period too much, and she could’ve used an extra developmental editor. 3/5.

Treasures: Visible and Invisible by Catholic Teen Authors

Amazon Synopsis: Treasures: Visible and Invisible is a collection of short stories by eight CatholicTeenBooks.com authors.

  • A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
  • Between an unearthed treasure and a visit from Heaven, a young monk is in for the surprise of his life!
  • A young girl seeks a mysterious treasure that holds the key to granting a nun’s dying wish.
  • Honora is desperate—then a peculiar clover and a mysterious young man change everything.
  • William’s weekend job is a little gift from heaven, but now his family needs a real miracle.
  • When threatened by mobsters, Grace receives help from a surprising source.
  • Alone and afraid, a young girl finds friendship in a stranger. But could this boy be trouble?
  • Kyle was determined to save the precious relic–but now his whole family is in danger.

My review: This is an enjoyable clean Christian fiction anthology with an Irish theme. Highly recommend!

Stolen Blessing by Jim Sano

Amazon Synopsis: Erick and Addie Comghan have a good life in Boston. When the baby they have longed for is born, the unimaginable happens—Elizabeth goes missing the day after her baptism at St. Francis Parish. Father Tom and Angelo are pulled in to help solve the mystery of her disappearance in a race against time and the complicated dynamics of the relationships involved. Stolen Blessing is the third book in the Father Tom Series and is a story that offers suspense, intrigue, and a journey of love, redemption, and forgiveness.

Newest book from FQP!

A Scarlet Cord by Deborah Raney

Amazon Synopsis: In the four years since her husband’s death, Melanie LaSalle’s life has been consumed with managing the family design firm and caring for her five-year-old daughter, Jerica. The possibility of a new relationship is the last thing on her mind. But when Melanie meets Joel Ellington, a new staff member at her church, she is instantly attracted to his warm spirit.
As their friendship deepens, however, Melanie is troubled by something she can’t quite understand or explain. Joel past seems to be off-limits, even to Melanie. Because of her growing feelings for him, Melanie pushes her doubts away. But when Joel disappears, along with the contents of a church bank account, she can no longer ignore her suspicions.
Now, torn between her feelings for Joel and the evidence mounting against him, Melanie faces a heart-wrenching decision: to forget the man who gave her reason to love again or to trust Joel enough to give him her heart.
Exploring themes of the importance of truth, loyalty, and trust, A Scarlet Cord illustrates that who we truly are depends little on outward appearances and solely on our relationship with God, and on the fact that through faith in Him, we can find places of comfort, healing, and selfless love.
This novel was originally published in 2003 under the same title, and was a Golden Quill Award finalist.

My review: I downloaded this for free many months ago and finally got around to reading it. It’s a great story with well-developed characters and a few twists and turns. A page-turner! Recommend: 4/5.

Interview With RL Martin

Today, I interview RL Martin, author of Refreshing Jutta, published recently by Full Quiver Publishing.

EG: Where did you get the idea for Refreshing Jutta?

RLM: I was listening to Al Cresta one day on Catholic Radio talking about the possibility of medicine reaching a point where people will not have to die. I wondered what would prevent the really wealthy from keeping the treatments to themselves. What life would be like living under these transhuman people who are 150 years old or so. How far would they go to live indefinitely? Would they kill others to keep themselves alive? This kind of thing is happening in China right now. Organ harvesting is a big business. So, I created a world where the common people like you and I are given a near perfect environment. We don’t have to work much or suffer. We can spend all our time playing and doing pleasurable activities. Nothing sexual is taboo. The only catch is that when we start to wonder if there’s more to life, we get in trouble. Our transhuman leaders don’t need us asking pesky religious or philosophical questions. Those questions just make us unmanageable. Better we spend our time playing games and otherwise being distracted from anything at all that matters. Kind of like the world we’re in today. We have these smartphones that are with us now 24 hours a day. So, I imagined the evolution of the smartphones as being PASbots that monitor our moods and make sure we’re not thinking anything too deep or questioning why we’re here. I think our technology has pretty much done that. It’s distracted us from our true purpose, which is to be in relationship with our Creator.

EG: Have you always been interested in science fiction?

RLM: I’ve never been a huge science fiction buff. I’m not into science fiction just for the sake of science fiction. I prefer stories that are kind of thought experiments about what might happen if humans do eventually get certain technologies. In other words, the best science fiction, in my mind, provides cautionary tales about what might happen if we keep going down whatever path we’re on. That’s what Bradbury was doing with “There will come soft rains,” you know, thinking about what will happen as a result of our nuclear weapons obsession in the 50s. Or Huxley’s Brave New World and of course Orwell’s 1984. Very prescient, I might add, looking at what’s going on these days with censorship and our media. It’s Newspeak and Big Brother, for sure. I wouldn’t consider myself a real science fiction buff. I never really got into Asimov or the like. But I do like it if it’s a good cautionary tale. I believe the original Star Wars was really good. George Lucas used the “Hero’s Journey” that Joseph Campbell came up with. And I tried to follow that pattern with Refreshing Jutta as well.  

EG: What do you hope the reader will take away from Refreshing Jutta?

RLM: The literary criticism class I took in college would say that we shouldn’t be concerned with what the author intended but with what meaning we make of the text. I do believe that the reader works with the text to create their own meaning. And great writers, like Faulkner if I remember correctly (or was it Hemmingway?), refused to say what they meant by their writings. They were interested in hearing what others made of their work. Well, I won’t pretend to be a Faulkner or a Hemmingway, so I’ll just tell you what I want readers to get out of the book. What I meant to say with Jutta is that I believe the world is a sort of saint factory. It’s not meant to be comfortable and we were not meant to live here forever in this current body. We’re meant to be on this Earth to learn to love God. It reminds me of the poem “The little black boy” by William Blake.

And we are put on earth a little space / That we may learn to bear the beams of love, / For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear / The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice. / Saying: come out from the grove my love & care, / And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

Any attempt to change the true purpose of creation, which is to make saints who will commune with God eternally, always ends up being destructive, no matter how good our intentions are.

EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

RLM: Flannery O’Connor. I don’t know why. I always loved her stuff. She was weird and quirky. I read her Violent Bear it Away in college and thought she was cooky, but in a good way. At that time, I had no idea what Catholicism was all about. It wasn’t until I became a Catholic almost 20 years later and was teaching Literature at the community college that her work had a full impact on me. When I taught her short stories, like “Revelation” I just couldn’t help but get excited and even laugh at the ending. The students thought I was weird. They were probably right.

Others: TS Elliot, JRR Tolkien (see why I use my initials?) Ursula K Le Guin, John Steinbeck, Dostoevsky…I guess the writers I like most are the ones who give me something to think about. Le Guin’s story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” inspired the opening scene of Jutta.   

EG: Are you working on any other writing projects?  If so, what are they?

RLM: I started a new book before Covid hit, but I never could get back to it. It was going to be a love story between a white woman and a Chinese man in 1883 Tacoma, leading up to the expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma. But when Covid hit, it just didn’t seem like such an important topic, and I’ve been more concerned with blogging about current events. Oh, and I teach full-time now at a middle school, so there’s not a lot of time to write creatively. I did finish a book after Jutta about a kid who gets thrown overboard in the Pacific ocean and ends up surviving on all the trash out there. I think it turned out pretty good but probably needs edits.

To purchase Refreshing Jutta, click here. It is available as an ebook and paperback.

Interview with Allison Wajert Venini, author of Authenticity

Allison Wajert Venini is the author of Authenticity, which was published by FQP last Fall.

EG: Where did you get the idea for Authenticity?

AWV: I had an idea of a well-known and working actor asking an ingenue why she was compelled to be involved in the craft of acting.  Sometimes, stories come to me, although there is a point of entry before I find it in whole.  There had been much attention brought to certain celebrities, particularly young actors who were prominent in the eighties.  Several turned to substances and subsequently became addicts.  I am speculating, but I think some of them were exploited.  They were surrounded by people who used them. 

EG: Your book focuses on a close friendship between a famous actor and a background actress.  Do you have any experience in the acting field?

AWV: I have experience in acting in several mediums.  I have a degree in theatre acting, as well.  The body of work, if you could even phrase it as such, has been broad, but on a small scale.  I do not think you would recognize me from anything.  I would hate getting typecast, but if I was typecast as anything, it was the victim.  I consider myself as being a quiet person, but I know how to scream. 

EG: Have you always been interested in literature?  What drew you to writing a story with Theology of the Body themes?

AWV: I am a bibliophile.  Growing up, I read novels instead of interacting with my peers at recess.  The books were more inviting and inclusive than my classmates, I found. I wanted to write a story of faith, primarily.  Theology of the Body has far-reaching applications; one experiences life through the body.  Our decisions, often realized physically upon ourselves or upon others, impact our souls.  Chastity is a virtue prevalent in the story.  The protagonist’s virtue is challenged, tested, and even attacked. I believe in platonic love, and did not find it depicted between opposite sexes in literature very often. 

EG: What do you hope the reader will take away from Authenticity?

AWV: What a lovely question!  I am grateful when someone invests the time to read Authenticity.  Hopefully, he or she will have learned a little bit about the arts, and that the people behind the art are not automatically pedantic and aloof. 

EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

AWV: Growing up, I read quite a bit of Torey Hayden, who is a non-fiction writer.  She taught children who were deemed unfit for a regular classroom setting, often because of disability or psychological disorders.  She was remarkable, and so were the children who had to, with guidance, make better lives for themselves.  With children, their circumstances are out of their control, so you hope that they are in a place where they can thrive. My tastes are broad, but I have read a lot of apocalypse fiction, so Michael O’Brien’s Children of the Last Days, especially Father Elijah, captivated me.  I read Steven King’s The Stand.  I did read Left Behind at the peak of its popularity, but I was disappointed that Catholics were among those “left.”  I found it to be unnecessarily divisive.  The last book I read that I truly loved is The Buried Giant by Sir Kazuo Ishiguro.  It is a love story between an elderly married couple.  There are many books devoted to young love, but not nearly as many touching upon sustained love.  Sir Ishiguro writes in a range of genres, so he has the ability to reach many. 

EG: Are you working on any other writing projects?  If so, what are they?

AWV: It all depends upon having time to write!  If I do not complete it, then I hope someone puts out a novel regarding souls in Purgatory.  They are too often ignored, and that is reflected in the novels being published.

Click here to read an excerpt, reviews and a synopsis of Authenticity.

Authenticity is available via Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

An Open Book – March #openbook

Today I’m participating in An Open Book with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom.com. Here’s what I’ve been reading or working on this past month:

Amazon Synopsis: In 2018, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released an 11-page testimony that rocked the world. In it, he called out the corruption of the Church, especially with regards to its handling of the sexual abuse crisis—addressing most specifically the case of disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick—and stunningly called for the resignation of Pope Francis. And then he was gone . . . at least physically. In these pages, longtime Vatican journalist Robert Moynihan, publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine, brings to bear his vast experience in the corridors of power in Rome as well as his longstanding friendship with Vigano to produce a book that both provides an incisive look at the content of the Testimony itself, but also, through interviews conducted in-person with Vigano at undisclosed locations, a personal look at the man whose conscience compelled him to speak out about the “filth” in which the Church he loves and to which he has given his life, has been mired for years.
Part thriller, as when Moynihan details his efforts to reach Vigano and makes his way to their meeting, and part personal memoir as both men reflect on their lives, families, and the state of the Church in the world, Finding Vigano has something for everyone. Readers familiar with the Vigano saga will appreciate the insights into the man provided through the interviews, while those unfamiliar with the drama of the Testimony will, after reading, have a better understanding of the key issues and players involved.

My review: This is a compelling book and, as the description says, it’s part-thriller because of Vigano’s unknown location. It’s also a disturbing book with allegations from someone who knows what’s going on inside the Vatican. Moynihan also takes Vigano’s testimony and gives reflections on it. This book is difficult to read, but I highly recommend it. My only criticism is the more-than-a-few typos (I’m guessing that is because the book was published quickly). It could’ve used more fresh eyes. 4/5.

Synopsis: A guide to entering into the mystery and celebration of Lent and Easter

Catherine Doherty leads us into the riches of God’s boundless mercy as she teaches us the spirit, the liturgy, and the customs of the Lent and Easter season, including:

  • Practical guidance on preparing for the internal spiritual pilgrimage that is Lent.
  • Meditations on the meanings of the many holy days preceding and following Easter.
  • Traditions and customs which will help your family live the holiness of the Easter season.

After-dinner talks by Catherine Doherty, spiritual readings around the dining room table — on the spirit, liturgy and customs of Lent, Holy Week, the Easter Triduum and Paschaltide.

Catherine speaks on such topics as how to Prepare for Lent; Why Fasting; The Motive is Love; Sin, Repentance, Conversion. Also on Palm (Passion) Sunday; Holy Week; Holy Thursday: Priesthood and Eucharist; Good Friday; Holy Saturday: Christ’s Descent into Hades; and Christ is Risen! Then Paschaltime and Christ’s Ascension, Pentecost. A rich tapestry of scriptural reflections and Customs and Traditions to bring it all to life!

  • Excellent for personal and group study.
  • A wonderful resource for preachers and teachers!

My review: This is another excellent book by Catherine Doherty and one of my favorite books to read during Lent. Highly recommend!

Amazon Synopsis: St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) immersed herself in a vision of Christ s Passion that became a predominant theme in her famed Diary. In Praying with Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering, award winning and best-selling author Susan Tassone presents the Diary’s words of Christ and St. Faustina on his sorrowful Passion. The book will engage you in Jesus horrific sufferings, giving you grace, light and strength to bear your own sufferings.

The book opens with daily Lenten meditations featuring the words of Jesus and St. Faustina on the Passion. Each day also includes both special reflections for times of suffering and a prayer. In the following chapters, St. Faustina will lead you through heartfelt prayers on the Way of the Cross, Christ’s wounds, and on the Blessed Mother’s sorrows. Susan also includes chapters on unique litanies, the Divine Mercy devotion, and confession.

My review: Susan Tassone has done it again. “The Purgatory Lady” truly loves the Holy Souls in Purgatory but she also loves the souls on earth and wants to be able to see everyone in heaven. I am blessed to know this beautiful soul and I highly recommend this and all her books!

Anything But Groovy by Amanda Lauer

Synopsis: New from FQP! Morgan is looking forward to junior high school and all the adventures it holds in store for her. But after a collision on the volleyball court, she wakes up on the first day of school trapped inside her mom’s teenage body circa1974. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to discover that living life as a seventh-grader in the ‘70s and dealing with everything going on in her mom’s life back then — from uncool parents, to annoying older brothers,  balancing friendships, and ultimately doing what she can to survive bullying at the hands of the school’s biggest jock — is anything but groovy.

Amazon Synopsis: Ashlyn may finally have her life under control. Abandoned by her own mother when she was a kid, Ashlyn found a home when the Castletons embraced her as their fourth child. Nowadays Ashlyn plays viola in the Castleton String Quartet. She’s got a family and rent money. What more could she ask for? 

After months of searching for his biological family, Michael has just seen his DNA results. Astonishingly, he has a full sister–violinist Lindsey Castleton. One frenzied drive later, Michael finds Lindsey performing with her string quartet, alongside the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.

The Castleton siblings insist the report is wrong because their parents weren’t even in the same country when Michael was born. Is this a scam? The deeper they dig into his story, though, the more Ashlyn wants him to be a Castleton. Michael seems stable, strong, and reliable. Not to mention his gorgeous eyes and dusky voice.

As each answer reveals another question, Michael and Ashlyn are drawn together by the brokenness of their past. To achieve the potential of their future, Ashlyn will have to trust Michael enough to open her heart, but with trust comes the risk of betrayal.

Heart of the Violist is the first novel of the Castleton String Quartet romances, a story about the families we’re born into and the families love can make for us.

My review: I really enjoyed this clean read by Maddie Evans. Great story and characters. My only criticism is that there were more than a few typos. Overall, though, highly recommend. 4/5.

Amazon Synopsis: Research and experience tell us that children who are hopeful, purposeful and goal oriented do well in and out of school, build successful futures and are happy. The author uses the metaphor of sailing to explore this concept in parent-friendly ways. The rudder of the sail boat is a hopeful, purposeful outlook that the parent helps the child acquire. The centerboard represents the practices and habits that the parent helps the child internalize that despite challenges, adversities and loss, help the child build a successful future. The author’s Nine Winning Practices model is presented with numerous anecdotes and stories that a parent can use in helping a child develop a success oriented perspective. Using the rudder and centerboard, the sailor can arrive at the desired destination regardless of the winds that are confronted. So also, a child who is hopeful, purposeful and goal oriented and who also embraces success oriented principles and habits will be enabled to build a future that is chosen and planned regardless of the life challenges encountered along the way. This book is the third in the author’s Raising Successful Children Series. The author brings many years of experience in this series of books for parents. His experience includes that of educator, counselor/therapist, lecturer, consultant, parent and grandparent. Parents are shown how to help their child keep their rudder in hand and their centerboard in the water so as to arrive at the desired destination and future despite the confronted challenges and adversities.

My review: This is a book that I edited and helped the author to publish. It’s an excellent parenting (and grandparenting) book that seeks to help parents bring out the best in their children. Highly recommend!

Synopsis: Three tragic events happened during my lifetime. First there was the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, when I was eleven years old. This was followed by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I was fifteen. The third event was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when I was 71. These three events are part of my history, as they are for many of you, and are very much the motivation for writing this book and what led me to stand in conscience against the use of weapons of mass destruction while still a member of the USAF. God changed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Our hearts have been hardened and wounded by these tragic events and by the painful events of our own personal lives. We desperately need to face the nuclear age with the heart of God, not with our own thinking but with God’s. Only then can we experience an age of peace upon the earth.

My review: This is another book that I edited and assisted the author in publishing. It’s a heart-wrenching memoir of a former Air Force Major who changed his stance on the use the weapons of mass destruction and was discharged from the Air Force for doing so. The author gives a spiritual solution to the many issues that plague us today and connects the use of weapons of mass destruction to widespread abortion. Fascinating read. Highly recommend.

An Open Book – February #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month and what I’ve been working on.

Free Fall by Jessica Barry

Synopsis: They say your daughter is dead.

You know they’re wrong.

When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, everyone assumes Allison Carpenter is dead.

But Maggie, Allison’s mother back home in Owl Creek, Maine, refuses to believe them. Maggie knows her daughter – or she used to, anyway. For the past two years, the two women have been estranged, and while Maggie doesn’t know anything about Ally’s life now – not even why she was on a private plane to begin with – she still believes in her girl’s strength, and in their love for each other.

As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers about the world Allison has been involved in. What was she running from? And can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?

Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a heart-stopping, propulsive thriller about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and the ones they love.

My review: This was certainly NOT what I expected it to be. It started off slow so it took 50 or so pages to get into this, but once I did, I definitely didn’t want to put it down. It’s a complex story with well-developed characters and some twists and turns. Well written, highly recommend! 4/5.

Synopsis: (from Amazon) The most popular Catholic novel in America. Immerse yourself in a sweeping story set against the backdrop of historical and present-day Marian Apparitions. Join unforgettable characters as their lives intertwine during the Great Tribulations. Discover why America’s best-loved Catholic novelist has thrilled, inspired, and surprised over one million readers who simply could not put this unforgettable epic down. Must-reading for every Catholic.

My review: With our world in the state it’s in, I picked this book up again after about 25 years. It’s not as badly written as I remembered (especially this edition where Michael O’Brien helped with the edits). It’s a great story but you can definitely tell the author had never written fiction before. I’ve never liked that the priest and several of the faithful Catholic characters smoke and drink as much as they do in this book. The author’s favorite phrase is: he/she took another drag of his cigarette. The POVs are constantly switching between characters even within the same paragraph. I’ve always thought that the gushing reviews at the front of the book by unknown people to be somewhat embarrassing and the synopsis that indicates it’s the “most popular Catholic novel in America” to be over the top. All that being said, this is and will always be a great story, if you can overlook the mediocre writing and character development in the women (all the women’s dialogue sounds the same.)

And…without this book, I don’t think there would be the hundreds of great Catholic novels now available. This author gave me inspiration when I started out writing fiction. 3/5 for the great story.

Synopsis: With House of Gold, America’s favorite Catholic novelist returns to the riveting, apocalyptic storytelling which captured the hearts of countless readers in his explosive classic, Pierced by a Sword, while retaining the intimate, realistic characters who charmed, surprised, and ultimately swept readers away in his second novel, Conceived Without Sin. Join Bud Macfarlane as he takes you on a gripping spiritual odyssey that will reverberate through your soul long after you turn the final page.

My review: House of Gold has always been my favorite of the three in Bud’s series, probably because the writing is much better and one of the character’s names is Ellie (which is my nickname). It’s a fictionalized account of what might have happened had Y2K been real and all the computers shut down. Another great story, but this time, better written. Recommend! 4/5.

Amazon Synopsis: Now available! By the year 2030, medical science had become so advanced that death could be postponed indefinitely. A small group of ultra-wealthy people saw in this new technology an opportunity to create a more stable and peaceful world, but only if they had full control over the treatments. Keeping their life-extending procedures to themselves, they took on a near god-like identity under the name the Avogo, thinking that they could rule with consistent peace and wisdom that would come from their great age.

In 2045, fire reigned down from heaven. About two-thirds of the world’s population perished as the environment became harsh and desolate. Most people who survived took to living in earth-sheltered dwellings, including caves and tunnels. The Avogo — having been worried about climate change — had already prepared their own elaborate doomsday bunkers in mountainsides and stocked them well with the equipment and supplies they would need to continue their immortal lives. They welcomed survivors into their bunkers, offering a life of bliss to anyone who wanted to join their growing cities.

But that life of bliss was not free. People who joined the new cities had to agree to have a brain portal implanted into their heads. The portals enabled downloadable education… and reprogramming when their thoughts got out of line. And to monitor those thoughts, citizens had to live with a personal affective simulator bot (PASbot) at all times.

Now, in the year 2091, a seventeen-year-old boy named Jutta — born and raised in Volmar, the greatest of the new utopian cities — is plagued by a depression that he can’t shake and that no amount of reprogramming has remedied. Finding little enjoyment in the pleasures that the others in Volmar seem to love so much, he asks for the only solution that can possibly give him a new lease on life… the Refreshing.

Amazon Synopsis: Coming February 11, 2021 from FQP! Charon, master vampire, has known of an ancient prophecy foretelling the coming of a “nemesis” to destroy him and his kind on some future date. One of royal blood and—perhaps—half-human and half-vampire. His attempts throughout the ages to thwart the prophecy have failed. His senses tell him that the birth of his destroyer is imminent! He must act now, while it is a mere child, and vulnerable. He commands his horde to kidnap the baby and bring it back to him.

With great difficulty his plan is carried out. A great battle ensues; the child is snatched. Those that survive the perilous mission straggle back to the master’s lair. Only then is it discovered that the baby has been mysteriously lost.

The child falls into the hands of a humble couple living in the woods, who raise him as their own, in obscurity, preserved from danger until the time comes for him to fulfil his destiny. They name him Jude, unaware of his unusual heritage, though as he grows, he displays certain “oddities.” They are protective of the child and teach him to hide these oddities from a world unforgiving of anything different. He himself does not know what it all means, nor does he understand the recurring nightmares and “episodes” that seem so real. More frightening is the “phantom” that haunts the surrounding forest and seems fixated on him.

As Jude enters his teen years, he tries to piece together the puzzle of his life. Will a mysterious monk—who unexpectedly and fortuitously appears on the scene—help him sort it out?

Anything But Groovy by Amanda Lauer

Amazon Synopsis: Coming February 26 from FQ Publishing! Morgan is looking forward to junior high school and all the adventures it holds in store for her. But after a collision on the volleyball court, she wakes up on the first day of school trapped inside her mom’s teenage body circa1974. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to discover that living life as a seventh-grader in the ‘70s and dealing with everything going on in her mom’s life back then — from uncool parents, to annoying older brothers, to balancing friendships, and to ultimately doing what she can to survive bullying at the hands of the school’s biggest jock — is anything but groovy.

My Queen My Mother by Marge Fenelon

Amazon Synopsis: In My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena, award-winning author Marge Steinhage Fenelon brings you along on a pilgrimage to nine Marian shrines across the United States. Each day of this spiritual journey helps you encounter God and a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother.

“My Queen, My Mother, I give myself entirely to you.”

The opening line to the Little Consecration sets the framework of this unique, nine-day pilgrimage, which culminates in a consecration to Mary.

This living novena is similar in style and structure to the pilgrimage Fenelon developed in the bestselling and award-winning Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The key difference, however, is that the first living novena was framed by Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land. For My Queen, My Mother, Fenelon chose sacred destinations that reflect the Catholic heritage of the United States.

The nine Marian sites Fenelon visits are:

  • Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, St. Augustine, Florida;
  • National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, New Orleans, Louisiana;
  • St. Mary’s Mission and Museum, Stevensville, Montana;
  • Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, Starkenburg, Missouri;
  • Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, Carey, Ohio;
  • The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, Wisconsin;
  • Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, Auriesville, New York;
  • House of Mary Shrine, Yankton, South Dakota; and
  • Our Lady of Peace Shrine, Santa Clara, California.

Even if you can’t make a physical pilgrimage as Fenelon did, you can still make a spiritual one through her extended guided meditation. Each day you’ll learn about a different shrine to Mary: its history, charism, and graces. Fenelon will also guide you to visit a new “place” in your heart, to understand more about yourself and how to open your heart more fully to Mary.

My review: This is a beautiful little book that takes you on a spiritual pilgrimage to different Marian shrines with reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I highly recommend it!

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. I knew little of this saint until I read about her during my research for A Subtle Grace. This book was a finalist in Religious Fiction in the 2015 IAN Awards. I dedicated this book to her.

It’s no surprise that St. Agnes’ feast day is so close to the U.S. March for Life (which is, sadly, canceled this year). Agnes’ name in Greek means “chaste, pure or sacred,” and in Latin, it means “lamb.” She is the patron saint of young girls, chastity, engaged couples, rape victims (and others). In past centuries, young girls would recite this prayer/poem to St. Agnes on the Eve of the feast day with the hope they would dream of their future husband.

Now good St. Agnes, play thy part,
And send to me my own sweetheart,
And show me such a happy bliss,
This night of him to have a kiss.

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!

The Book of Jotham #FREE on #Kindle

The Book of Jotham is currently #FREE on #Kindle!

Synopsis: Jotham is a mentally challenged man-child who follows Jesus as He carries out His ministry and experiences death by crucifixion, then resurrection. The other apostles don’t understand why Jesus loves him so. Through Jotham, we come to see Jesus not just with our eyes, but also with our hearts.

Reviews:

“The Book of Jotham chronicles the spiritual journey of the fictional protagonist, from his initial fears due to his personal limitations to his discovery of his self­ worth in Christ. Written from the perspective of the title character, the author gives the reader a unique insight into the mind and the heart of one who is mentally challenged. And by placing the narrative in the familiar  setting of  Jesus’ public ministry and using Biblical characters like Mary, Peter and the Apostles, the reader is able to experience the Gospel story anew, through the eyes and gradual progression of faith of Jotham. The universal theme of the grace of adoption helps us to discover that, as children of Light, our conversion and progression of faith may not be so different from those who experience life like Jotham.”  + Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

This… is called “The Book of Jotham” because it’s a sort of Gospel according to the eponymous character. The ways in which St. Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot relate with their disabled brother are particularly powerful. The Book of Jotham is a work that never preaches but which will evoke a powerful pro-life response from the reader.” Joseph Pearce, author

 “The book is a gem for anyone serious about a genuine, loving relationship with God.” Kaye Park Hinckley, award-winning author

Reading The Book of Jotham is a powerful and life changing event. I really felt drawn into the story and actually believed that I could see out of Jotham’s eyes. This is a masterpiece of writing and deserves to become a classic. ”  A.K. Frailey, author

“This novella won first place in the Tuscany Press competition for Best Novella for a reason. Try to imagine experiencing discipleship with Christ unencumbered by the burden of rationalism. Powers’ depiction of a mentally challenged young man who follows Christ is more than moving–it’s revealing. Then, because language itself is a product of rationalism, try to imagine how that discipleship might be expressed non-verbally, internally. Powers accomplishes something amazing here.Dena Hunt, award-winning author

“Wonderful book. It’s hard to write a compelling narrative when the reader knows the historical events, but Powers does a masterful job. He bravely uses a second person point of view to pull the reader into the story, to become the mentally challenged young protagonist sitting on the side of the road when a charismatic rabbi comes along. You’ll fly through the pages, but then read a second time to enjoy the poetry of the words.” Ronald B. O’Gorman, MD, author

Pick up a FREE copy of The Book of Jotham on Kindle at this link.