An Open Book – February 2023

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

Summer at West Castle by Theresa Linden

Amazon Synopsis: College student Caitlyn Summer arrives at the Wests’ castle-like house to fill in for their live-in maid. After a recent decision blows her vision of the future, this ideal job and the peaceful surroundings are just what she needs to seek God’s will for her life. That is, until Jarret West, not wanting a repeat of past mistakes, backs out of a summer-long field study overseas and returns home. The two have never gotten along, and unforgettable baggage from the past makes it hard even to be cordial. While Jarret’s faults convince Caitlyn he hasn’t changed, she forces herself to offer kindness. Her act of mercy puts them on an unexpected path where Caitlyn is challenged to look beneath the surface and Jarret struggles to trust that God wills good for him.

Note: to avoid spoilers, read this story only after reading Anyone but Him.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful prequel of Anyone But Him and was so very sorry to see the story end. When I read Anyone But Him a few years ago, I had hoped the author would write the prequel of how this unlikely couple fell in love. Summer at West Castle does not disappoint, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a clean but compelling romance! 

Ashes Visible & Invisible by Catholic Teen Authors

Now available from Catholic Teen Books (My short story is highlighted below):

Finishing the Journey: When Liz’s faith journey hits a roadblock, will an unexpected detour and chance encounter set her back on track?

Follow Me: A teen’s future was all set-before his tragic loss. But his best friend’s secret past just might save it.

Take Up Your Cross: Justin’s religion is outlawed. When an unbeliever asks him about the meaning of life, what can he say?

A Big Ask: Could God be asking Paul to sacrifice a piece of himself for Lent–literally?

Lent Royal & Ancient: A modern American teen discovers what faith, life and love are like in seventeenth-century Scotland.

No Greater Love: Teenager Lexie Dugan struggles to understand the sacrifice of Lent when she’s asked to help take care of her siblings while her pregnant mother is on bed rest.

A Very Jurassic Lent: When a risky Ash Wednesday mission to sterilize T. rex eggs goes wrong, fasting is the least of Joshua, Darryl, and Harry’s worries.

Lucy and the Forsaken Path: A medieval girl stranded on a forsaken path confronts threats from without and turmoil from within.

Bread Alone: Struggling with loss, hunger, and temptation, Ethan finds himself walking in the steps of Jesus.

Prepare the Way: Asher’s desire to prepare for the Messiah intensifies after he’s robbed by bandits, but would fighting alongside the Zealots be the best way?

The Saint Michael Chaplet – A Divine Catechesis on the Angels and Gifts of Heaven

By Carol Puschaver

Amazon Synopsis: What if an angel … were to teach you a prayer to honor the Angels? Not just any angel, mind you, and no ordinary prayer, either. Too impossible to believe?

Well, consider … St. Michael the Archangel, Prince of the Heavenly Host, revealed the Chaplet that bears his name to a Carmelite religious in 1751. As this book makes clear, he did much, much more than teach a formula of pious words, presenting instead a wonderment of divine catechesis on the nine celestial angel choirs. The author’s deeply insightful meditations on the Archangel’s teaching are bound to encourage a fresh and finely nuanced perspective on the angels, and also inspire a far deeper, richer appreciation of these marvelous beings who, among many, many wondrous deeds, guard [us] in all [our] ways. (Psalm 91. 10)

You do believe in angels, …don’t you?

My review: This is a beautiful book written by my friend Carol Puschaver. If you want to read more about St. Michael, the St. Michael Chaplet, and the Angels, this is the book for you. God’s people have been given a great gift in Saint Michael, protector and intercessor. The demons would like you to believe that they don’t exist. Not only do they exist, but they are constantly trying to turn God’s people away from Him. Highly recommend!

Into the Mind of Infinity by Joe Livingston

Amazon Synopsis: The author received a powerful spiritual experience, and this book is the result of that experience. It brings science and religion together to prove the existence of God.

My review: This is a beautiful little book that seeks to prove the existence of God. Many great points are made from a scientific standpoint, and it is definitely worthwhile reading.

Coming on Valentine’s Day from FQP:

Stitch in the Ditch (Mibs Monahan Mysteries #3) by Joan L. Kelly

Synopsis: When the curator of the Gregory Tuppence Museum is stabbed to death with an antique Toledo steel dagger, Lieutenant Jace Trueblood and his team of detectives work diligently to track down the killer.   They soon discover evidence that the murder was connected to the forgery and theft of valuable items from the museum.

Along with investigating the curator’s death, Jace, with the help of his intuitive fiancée, Mibs Monahan, search for the person providing fake identifications to high school students.  Fake licenses directly contributed to DUI accidents, resulting in injuries and death.

Despite the challenges and activities of their busy lives, the couple finds joy in preparing for their upcoming wedding.  However, that joy is disrupted when a DNA test shatters Mibs’ life.  This new information has her wondering who she really is and what she has to do with a twenty-year-old kidnapping.

Ashes: Visible & Invisible Virtual Blog Tour

By Theresa Linden, Marie Keiser, Cynthia Toney, Ellen Gable, Antony Kolenc, Amanda Lauer, Carolyn Astfalk, Leslea Wahl, T.M. Gaouette, and Corinna Turner.

  • When Liz’s faith journey hits a roadblock, will an unexpected detour and chance encounter set her back on track?
  • A teen’s future was all set—before his tragic loss. But his friend’s secret past just might save it.
  • Justin’s religion is outlawed. When an unbeliever asks him about the meaning of life, what can he say?
  • Could God be asking Paul to sacrifice a piece of himself for Lent—literally?
  • A modern American teen discovers what faith, life, and love are like in seventeenth-century Scotland.
  • Teenager Lexie Dugan struggles to understand the sacrifice of Lent when she’s asked to help take care of her siblings while her pregnant mother is on bed rest.
  • Asher’s desire to prepare for the Messiah intensifies after he’s robbed by bandits but would fighting alongside the Zealots be the best way?
  • When a risky Ash Wednesday mission to sterilize T. rex eggs goes wrong, fasting is the least of Joshua, Darryl, and Harry’s worries.
  • A medieval girl stranded on a forsaken path confronts threats from without and turmoil from within.
  • Struggling with loss, hunger, and temptation, Ethan finds himself walking in the steps of Jesus.

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Visible-Invisible-Leslea-Wahl/dp/B0BQ9ZXB4G/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63043118-ashes

Ashes Book Trailer on YouTube

Website: www.catholicteenbooks.com

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Advanced Reviews:

The Catholic Teen Book authors have done it again! We loved this book from page one; it’s a great way to dig deeper into Lent with your teens. The book has a story for everyone, and they all share the faith in different but wonderful ways. Highly recommend! Jennifer & Kate Waldyke, Co-hosts of Catholic Mom and Daughter

‘Ashes’, the latest compilation of stories from CatholicTeenBooks.com provides teen readers with plenty to think about. This compilation focuses on the theme of Lent, Easter, and our own mortality. In each of these stories, there is an encounter with death. Sometimes a death is pending or has just occurred or is threatening nearby. But the experienced and very talented authors at CatholicTeenBooks.com have not presented a depressing, frightening or dark anthology here. Instead, I was surprised to find that each story is uplifting, hopeful and very inspiring. What binds these stories is that each young person must make a leap of Faith, take a step into a fuller, more mature understanding of their Catholic Faith. Characters are called to forgive, to resist temptation, to be courageous, to be steadfast and responsible. All of them come to understand on a deeper level the sacrificial nature of Love.
I highly recommend this collection of stories from the authors at CatholicTeenBooks.com. Your teens will love how characters struggle when confronted with the stark reality of death but ultimately learn that with Faith, they can be heroes! Melinda Harrington Catholic Children’s Stories

This is the fourth anthology from the authors at the Catholic Teen Books collective. Each has been a great read. This Lenten volume is also, to be honest, my favourite of the four now. Each story was remarkable. Many of the contributors to this collection, in their own way, imitate Christ and are master storytellers in our own generation. I have a great deal of respect for the ten authors who contributed to this series. And a couple of them are among my all-time favourite authors. And I read a couple hundred books a year. This is a collection of 10 faith-filled stories by 10 great authors. In this collection, we have one short story from each of the contributors. Some contain characters you can encounter in novels by the authors. Some are from books and series that have been around for a few years and others to recent releases or forthcoming works. I really could not pick a favorite or least favorite. Each story is very well written. And I thoroughly enjoyed them all.
For fans of any of the authors in this collection, you need to pick this book up to read their contributions. For readers who love remarkable stories, this collection is for you also. And if you want some great reads that are clean Catholic fiction, this is the book for you. This anthology is Amazing! Steven R. McEvoy, BookReviewsAndMore.ca

Blog Tour Schedule and Reviews/Articles:

Jan 25  Ellen Gable                            Plot Line and Sinker                                                    

Jan 26  Barb S.                                   Franciscan Mom

Jan 27  Patrice Fagnant-McArthur    Spiritual Woman Thoughts Blog

Jan 28  Carolyn Astfalk                     My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

Jan 29  Amanda Lauer                       Blog

Jan 30   Marie Keiser                         Enjoying Womanhood

Jan 31  Barb S                                    CatholicMom.com

Feb 1   Corinna Turner                      Unseen Books

Feb 2   Catholic 365                          Catholic 365

Feb 3   Victoria Ryan                         Victoria Ryan Books

Feb 4   Mary Jo Thayer                     Blog

Feb 5   Theresa Linden                      Theresa Linden

Feb 6   Catholic Teen Books             Catholic Teen Books

Author Bios:

THERESA LINDEN is the author of award-winning Catholic fiction, including the West Brothers contemporary series and the Chasing Liberty dystopian trilogy. One of her great joys is to bring elements of faith to life through a story. She has more than a dozen published books, three of which won awards from the Catholic Press Association. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, including Secrets: Visible & Invisible, and Gifts: Visible & Invisible. Her articles and interviews can be found on various radio shows and in magazines, including EWTN’s The Good Fight, The National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, Today’s Catholic Teacher, and Catholic Mom. Her books are featured online on Catholic Teen Books, Catholic Reads, FORMED, and Virtue Works Media. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and children. You can learn more about her at www.TheresaLinden.com.

ANTONY BARONE KOLENC is the author of The Harwood Mysteries, an exciting historical-fiction series for youth published by Loyola Press. He is a long-time member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and his novels all have the Catholic Writers Guild’s Seal of Approval. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps after 21 years of military service. A law professor who’s had his works published in numerous journals and magazines, Kolenc now speaks at legal, writing, and home-education events. He and his wife, Alisa, are the parents of five children and have been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren. To learn more about The Harwood Mysteries and its author, visit www.antonykolenc.com.

AMANDA LAUER loves writing books—particularly Young Adult Historic Fiction—that portray the Church in a positive light and depict God’s children endeavoring to become the best version of themselves every day. A journalist and proofreader by trade, Amanda embarked on her novelist career with the award-winning and best-selling Heaven Intended Civil War series. A World Such as Heaven Intended earned the 2016 YA CALA award. Currently, Amanda has several more books in the process of being published.  In addition to writing novels, Amanda works in the film industry writing and copy-editing screenplays. She was awarded Best Writer 2020 (Red Letter Awards) for her work as a co-writer on the movie The Islands. To learn more about Amanda, who’s blessed to be living in a world such as heaven intended, visit her website: www.AmandaLauer.com.

ELLEN GABLE HRKACH is an author of twelve books, ghostwriter, editor, self-publishing book coach, publisher, and contributor to multiple websites and books. She is the former president of the Catholic Writers Guild, and her books have won multiple awards: the IPPY Gold Medal (2010), and First Place in the Catholic Media Association Awards (2022). Married to her husband of 40 years, James, she is also the mother of five adult sons, three daughters-in-law, and Grammy to two precious grandchildren. When she’s not writing, Ellen can be found watching classic movies, researching her family tree, and playing with her grandchildren. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband in rural Ontario, Canada. Visit her website: www.EllenGable.com.

CAROLYN ASTFALK writes from the sweetest place on Earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and four children. In addition to her contemporary Catholic romances (sometimes referred to as Theology of the Body fiction), including the young adult coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours, she is a Catholicmom.com contributor. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters. When she is not washing dishes, doing laundry, or reading, you can find her blogging about books, faith, and family life at www.CarolynAstfalk.com.

LESLEA WAHL is the author of the award-winning Catholic teen mysteries The Perfect Blindside, An Unexpected Role, Where You Lead, and eXtreme Blindside. The characters in this short story, Luke, Celia, Austin, and Grandma Grace, appear in her newest adventurous novel, A Summer to Treasure. Leslea’s journey to become an author came through a search for value-based fiction for her own children. She now not only writes for teens but also has become a reviewer of Catholic teen fiction to help other families discover faith-based books. Leslea lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and children. The furry, four-legged members of her family often make cameo appearances in her novels. Leslea has always loved mysteries and hopes to encourage teens to grow in their faith through these fun adventures. For more information about her faith-filled Young Adult mysteries, please visit www.LesleaWahl.com.

T. M. GAOUETTE is the author of the Faith & Kung Fu series for young adults, as well as The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch and For Eden’s Sake. She also contributed to the last two Catholic Teen Books anthologies, Secrets: Visible & Invisible with her short story “Sister Francesca” and Gifts: Visible & Invisible with “Just Jesus.” Her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Born in Africa, raised in London, England, Gaouette now lives on a small farm in New England with her husband, where she homeschools their four children, raises goats, and writes fiction for teens and young adults. A former contributor for Project Inspired, Gaouette’s desire is to instill the love of God into the hearts of her readers. You can find out more at www.TMGaouette.com.

CYNTHIA T. TONEY writes characters that show tweens and teens how wonderful, powerful, and valuable God made them. Her current novel will accompany The Other Side of Freedom that will give readers more of Robert Brown (a.k.a. Sal) and Antonina, the girl he left behind. Cynthia is also the author of the Bird Face series; 8 Notes to a Nobody, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, 6 Dates to Disaster, and 3 Things to Forget, as well as short stories in the Catholic Teen Books anthologies Secrets: Visible and Invisible and Gifts: Visible and Invisible. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and a volunteer with the Independence Italian Cultural Museum in Louisiana. She has a passion for rescuing dogs from abuse, neglect, and euthanasia and lives with her husband and several canines. The public can also connect with her through her website http://www.CynthiaTToney.com and her blog http://www.BirdFaceWendy.wordpress.com. Look for her books and other writing at CatholicTeenBooks.com and her publisher’s website, WriteIntegrity.com.

MARIE KEISER is the author of Heaven’s Hunter. A former teacher, she now lives in Minnesota with her husband and young children. She is passionate about writing inspiring stories about people who struggle with Faith. When she’s not doing dishes, chasing toddlers, or changing diapers, she occasionally blogs about books, life, or ideas at EnjoyingWomanhood.com.

CORINNA TURNER is the author of the I Am Margaret and unSPARKed series for young adults, as well as stand-alone works such as Elfling and Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon (for teens) and Someday (for older teens and adults). She has just released The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis) the first book in her new Friends in High Places series about friendship with the saints. All of her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Liberation (‘I Am Margaret’ Book 3) was nominated for the Carnegie Medal Award 2016 and Elfling won first prize for “Teen and Young Adult Fiction” in the Catholic Press Association 2019 Book Awards. Several of her other books have been placed in the CPA Awards and the Catholic Arts and Letters Award.  Corinna Turner is a Lay Dominican with an MA in English from Oxford University, and lives in the UK. She has been writing since she was fourteen and likes strong protagonists with plenty of integrity. She used to have a Giant African Land Snail called Peter with a 6½” long shell—which is legal in the UK!—but now makes do with a cactus and a campervan. You can find out more at www.IAmMargaret.com.

Summer at West Castle VBT and Review

Today I’m participating in the Virtual Blog Tour for Summer at West Castle by Theresa Linden.

Synopsis: College student Caitlyn Summer arrives at the Wests’ castle-like house to fill in for their live-in maid. After a recent decision blows her vision of the future, this ideal job and the peaceful surroundings are just what she needs to seek God’s will for her life. That is, until Jarret West, not wanting a repeat of past mistakes, backs out of a summer-long field study overseas and returns home. The two have never gotten along, and unforgettable baggage from the past makes it hard even to be cordial. While Jarret’s faults convince Caitlyn he hasn’t changed, she forces herself to offer kindness. Her act of mercy puts them on an unexpected path where Caitlyn is challenged to look beneath the surface, and Jarret struggles to trust that God wills good for him.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful prequel of Anyone But Him and was so very sorry to see the story end. When I read Anyone But Him a few years ago, I had hoped the author would write the prequel of how this unlikely couple fell in love. Summer at West Castle does not disappoint, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a clean but compelling romance! Note: To avoid spoilers, read Anyone But Him before you read this story.

About the Author: Theresa Linden is the author of award-winning Catholic fiction. One of her great joys is to bring elements of faith to life through a story. She has over a dozen published books, three of which won awards from the Catholic Press Association. Her articles and interviews can be found on various radio shows and magazines, including EWTN’s The Good Fight, The National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, Catholic Teacher, and Catholic Mom. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and CatholicTeenBooks.com. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and family.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-West-Castle-Theresa-Linden/dp/1734992956

Ebooks: https://books2read.com/u/4AvZ0q

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/65755374-summer-at-west-castle

Author website: https://www.theresalinden.com/westbrothers/summer-at-west-castle Silver Fire Publishing website: https://www.silverfirepublishing.com/west-brothers-series/summer-at-west-castle

Amazon: Anyone But Him

An Open Book #openbook November

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

Synopsis: In Champions of the Rosary, Fr. Calloway has written what is probably the most comprehensive book ever published on the rosary. The author deftly negotiates the complexities of the story of the rosary, weaving the historical, theological, and devotional strands into a veritable masterpiece of scholarship and piety. This book should turn every one of its readers into a champion of the rosary!

My review: I received this book (and it’s signed by the author!) back in 2017 and have read snippets here and there. This past month, being the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, I picked it up and started reading and couldn’t stop. It’s a fascinating and compelling history of the Rosary, of the many “Champions of the Rosary,” and how the Rosary can be used as a spiritual weapon. Throughout the book, he writes of the many wartime miracles attributed to the Rosary, as well as other unexplained phenomena, cures, and miracles. “Praying the Rosary is like praying the Word of God,” he writes. I highly recommend this extraordinary book!

Bonvida’s Awakening by C.D. Smith

Coming Soon!

Synopsis: Darkness has awakened. . . 

Eighteen-year-old Atticus wakes from a fall and learns he comes from an ancient bloodline and that he alone can wield the Sword of Bonvida. To do this, he must first travel treacherous lands to gather the shards that give the sword its power. Then he must face Luvanasis, who has escaped the dark realm of Calsriv with his army of Arcods and taken control of Bonvida. But how can he accomplish any of this when he struggles to accept his own identity as the chosen one?

Left as an infant in the hands of farmers, Atticus longs for adventure and hopes to one day become a knight. But now that the adventure lay at his feet, he’s not sure he has what it takes. Compelled to help in this great mission, others join Atticus: Daria, his adventurous sister; Zane, a scholar with knowledge of the old stories and prophecies; Prince Victor from the kingdom of El-Valr; Barlos, Victor’s army commander; Meg, a young girl sent off by her father; and Lena from the sea colony of the Brus. As the evil wakes, they must keep faith and hope, trusting one another and persevering in their quest. 

My review: I’ve been coaching this new author to publish his first book. It’s an intriguing book that will please fantasy lovers.

Amazon Synopsis: Richard Belzer (Law & Order) and David Wayne are back to set the record straight after Dead Wrong; this time they’re going to uncover the truth about the many witness deaths tied to the JFK assassination. For decades, government pundits have dismissed these “coincidental” deaths, even regarding them as “myths” as “urban legends.”

Like most people, Richard and David were initially unsure about what to make of these ‘coincidences’. After all, events don’t “consult the odds” prior to happening; they simply happen. Then someone comes along later and figures out what the odds of it happening were. Some of the deaths seemed purely coincidental; heart attacks, hunting accidents. Others clearly seemed noteworthy; witnesses who did seem to know something and did seem to die mysteriously.

Hit List is a fair examination of the evidence of each case, leading to (necessarily) different conclusions. The findings were absolutely staggering; as some cases were clearly linked to a “clean-up operation” after the murder of President Kennedy, while others were the result of ‘other forces’. The impeccable research and writing of Richard Belzer and David Wayne show that if the government is trying to hide anything, they’re the duo who will uncover it.

My review: Reading about the Kennedy Assassination is one of my guilty pleasures — that, and True Crime. This book encompasses both of those topics. I learned about this book while watching one of Richard Belzer’s (Law & Order) interviews on YouTube. Fascinating read. Recommend. 4/5.

Amazon Synopsis: #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille returns with a blistering thriller featuring his most popular series character, former NYPD homicide detective John Corey, called out of retirement to investigate a string of grisly murders much too close to home.

In his dazzling #1 bestseller, Plum Island, Nelson DeMille introduced readers to NYPD Homicide Detective John Corey, who we first meet sitting on the back porch of his uncle’s waterfront estate on Long Island, convalescing from wounds incurred in the line of duty. A visit from the local Chief of Police results in the legendary Detective Corey becoming involved in the investigation of the murders of a married couple who were scientists at the top-secret biological research facility on Plum Island.

Fast forward through six more bestselling John Corey novels and The Maze opens with Corey on the same porch, but now in forced retirement from his last job as a Federal Agent with the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. Corey is restless and looking for action, so when his former lover, Detective Beth Penrose, appears with a job offer, Corey has to once again make some decisions about his career—and about reuniting with Beth Penrose.

Inspired by, and based on the actual and still unsolved Gilgo Beach murders, The Maze takes the reader on a dangerous hunt for an apparent serial killer who has murdered nine—and maybe more—prostitutes and hidden their bodies in the thick undergrowth on a lonely stretch of beach.

As Corey digs deeper into this case, which has made national news, he comes to suspect that the failure of the local police to solve this sensational case may not be a result of their inexperience and incompetence—it may be something else. Something more sinister.

My review: I’ve been waiting for this book for over a year. It doesn’t disappoint. John Corey, the politically incorrect detective with politically incorrect humor and unorthodox investigative skills, is my favorite of DeMille’s characters. Besides being a compelling and entertaining story, Corey’s humor is laugh-out-loud funny! Recommend. (Warning: language and graphic violence.)

Infant Loss Awareness Month #neverbestill

My latest post at Amazing Catchecists: The entire month of October is devoted to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.

James and I are blessed, honored, and grateful to be the parents of five adult sons and three beautiful daughters-in-law (as well as two grandchildren!)

But not a day goes by that I don’t think about those seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are some of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Five Little Souls in Heaven    (This article was written 27 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny less-than-one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped, and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

Excerpt copyright 2005 Ellen Gable (End of excerpt.)

Here is a list of Catholic novels with miscarriage/baby loss as a theme.

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or infant death, please click the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach  (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach  (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach  (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

An Open Book – October 2022

I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and CatholicMom.com for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading and working on:

Mary’s Life Journey & Her Amazing Yes by Denise Mercado

Synopsis: (will be available October 21 via Amazon.)

Who is Mary, and why is she so important to the Catholic faith?

Denise Mercado invites readers to explore this question with her as she uncovers the meaning behind the rosary and other important Catholic traditions.

After being raised as a Catholic, Denise finds herself distracted by all life has to offer. When her youngest son is diagnosed with a terrible illness, however, she begins to question her beliefs and sets out on a quest to discover the truth.

Denise wanders through Protestantism, reading spiritual writings and attending a nondenominational church, but something is missing.

Denise returns to her roots and digs deep, investigating the rosary and its importance in her spiritual journey. She realizes that the rosary strengthens her faith and helps her navigate life’s troubles. Denise begins to look at the life of the Blessed Mother, Mary, in the Bible, the Infancy Gospels, and the apocryphal writings.

Join Denise as she shares her personal faith journey and the research that helped to shape it. You will come away with a greater appreciation for the stamina and endurance of the Mother of Our Lord and learn about the important origins of many Catholic beliefs.

My review: This is a wonderful book that outlines the life of Mary with the author’s thoughts as well as autobiographical information. It’s written in a more academic style that is refreshing in this day and age of so many self-publishing authors. Highly recommend.

Amazon Synopsis: He presided over 61,000 abortions—one of which was suffered by his then-girlfriend—and directed the largest abortion clinic in the world. He had helped to legalize abortion in the first place.
One day, he had a change of heart. One day, he found God.
At the drop of a hat, an abortion doctor renounced his profession—and his atheism—for pro-life advocacy and Christianity.
In the most shocking revelations ever expressed in an autobiography, one man unveils his entire life story, detailing countless events—from his gruesome abortion procedures to his conversion and involvement in The Silent Scream.
Discover one man’s incredible journey from death to life in Bernard Nathanson’s The Hand of God.

My review: I bought this book after watching Roe v. Wade on Netflix or Prime. The content of the movie was outstanding, but the acting, writing and directing was, unfortunately, mediocre. However, it made me want to read about Bernard Nathanson’s conversion (from atheist-abortionist to pro-life doctor to Catholic). I’m just starting this book, but it’s excellent already.

Redemption (Shadows of the Sun #5)
by Mina Ambrose

Synopsis: Now available for pre-order from Full Quiver Publishing!

Unnoticed by all except Phaedra, Jude’s body has been spirited away by Dr. Lee Davis and his henchmen in the midst of the great battle between Charon’s legions and Mara’s VK army.

Mara and the Prince set out, intending to track down the villains and retrieve the body of their son. Phaedra is left desolate.

Meanwhile, Jude awakens in the mad scientist’s lab and finds himself in the hands of unscrupulous researchers who mean to study this half-human, half-vampire creature. But Dr. Davis is not content with that; he has mad plans for using Jude’s preternatural powers for his own gain.

Forced to play the doc’s infernal game in order to save his loved ones, Jude finds himself battling yet another “dragon,” perhaps worse than the first. It seems there is no way out, but that he must finally bow to Dr. Lee’s indomitable will—at the cost of his freedom, his sanity, perhaps his very life.

Or will Phaedra find the key so that Mara and the Prince can locate him in time to fly to his rescue?

An Open Book #open book August 2022

I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Tangled Violets by Denise-Marie Martin

Synopsis: Denise-Marie Martin’s debut novel exposes the greatest longings of the human heart: to belong and be loved. Tangled Violets is the riveting story of an adoptee’s search to find out who she is. Advanced degrees, professional success, and a string of failed marriages have done nothing to fill the void that has defined Lizzie Schmidt’s life. Armed with mostly false information, she embarks on an improbable journey of self-discovery, searching for her biological family before the days of the internet or consumer genetic testing made such reunions commonplace.

Tangled Violets is the shocking story of how far one woman is willing to go in search of love and acceptance—a journey that leads to joy, pain, lies, and absolute heartbreak. A tale of redemption and the healing power of forgiveness, this novel demonstrates that no matter what we have done or where we have been, no one is outside the mercy of God and the healing balm of his unconditional love.

My review: I was privileged to read an ARC of Tangled Violets (which is scheduled for publication on September 8, 2022.) Denise-Marie Martin’s debut novel is beautifully written, and I could not put the book down. It’s told from the point of view of an adopted child who grows up with many questions. As an adult, when she reaches out to find her birth parents, the story takes an unexpected but disturbing turn. The characters are so real that I felt I was in the story with them. The writing is beautiful and rich in imagery, and the story is compelling. I highly recommend this incredible book! 5/5.

Fantacy Daughter of Fate Part 1 by Vanessa Marie Caron

Synopsis: “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move forward despite that fear.”

Sixteen-year-old Arianna is at a crisis with her identity. Frustrated, she searches for answers to her past, but instead, she finds herself teleported to a whole other fantasy world, a world suffering under the tyrannical rule of the Shadow Lord, Keshieena.

Unintentionally branded as the powerful Stone Bearer, the protector of peace, and also the Fated One prophesied to restore the lost heir to the throne, Arianna embarks on a dangerous journey against all manner of evil. At first homesick and hesitant, Arianna doubts herself and her newfound abilities, but she is not alone. Under the protection and tutelage of her elusive yet handsome male companion, Arianna tests the limits of her powers, uncovering potential she’d never dreamed of.

Together, they pursue a series of archived texts that lead them closer to finding the rightful heir to Fantacy’s throne. However, with the Stone of Power in her possession, Arianna becomes the Shadow Lord’s personal target. The stakes rise further as Arianna develops an attachment to the suffering peoples of Fantacy. Although Arianna might not have found the answers to her past, her future has become clear: find the heir, protect the Stone and bring back peace.

Friendship, love, action and adventure…

Part One in the Fantacy Duology, “Fantacy: Daughter of Fate,” is geared towards young adults and teenagers who have a nostalgic fondness for the brightness of, “Narnia,” fused with the romance and intrigue of more contemporary works such as, “Throne of Glass,” and, “Eragon.”

My review: I enjoyed this fantasy novel and the beautiful world the author created. There was some telling (to be expected in a debut novel) but the unique imagery and setting made up for that. The story kept me turning the pages. It does include some violence so I’d recommend it for teens and older. 4/5.

Open Book – July 2022 #openbook

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

Amazon Synopsis: What if in one possible future that the burial cloth of Jesus Christ is proven to be authentic? That the technology of the given time can identify the creation of something so extraordinary that it goes way beyond scientific understanding? And what if someone was to tell you that it could happen in this lifetime? Well, there is such a possibility. And based on scientific facts with biblical understanding is a story describing such an event as it unfolds.

In the near future, an Earthquake erupts out in the West Bank desert, creating an eerie blue glow that forms over a valley they call The Corridor. Looked upon as a scientific phenomenon, science and religion have a need to investigate. And during their research, experience anomalies that go way beyond human understanding and are soon recognized as spiritual occurrences. Further up north in Europe is the Particle Collider and its discovery of another dimensional plane. It’s there that they make the most significant find of them all when testing for the Shroud’s authenticity. In effect, its repercussions have a global impact that alters the course of humanity.

A degree-holder in Science and the author of this book, Scott Simpson, has spent much of his time researching the Shroud of Turin and the fantastic world of subatomic particles. He’s also well versed in history and the political fields that go with it. But what caught his eye the most was the Shroud’s carbon testing and the dating flaw behind it. It was recently discovered that the material used was a repair job back in the 14th century, which piqued Simpson’s curiosity. And while stumbling upon some interesting facts about the Messiah’s return, it gave him a renewed sense of connection with his maker.

My review: Coming soon!

Back From the Abyss by Robert Margetts

Amazon 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 an eye-opening memoir from a retired serviceman who has information and experience regarding the atomic bombs and the spiritual morality/immorality of using them. Highly recommend.

The Cross and the Beatitudes by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Amazon synopsis: This classic work from the pen of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen brings together Christ’s Sermon on the Mount with his Seven Last Words. From the Mount of the Beatitudes to the Hill of Calvary, Our Lord’s public ministry and statements centered on the themes of love and forgiveness, which are explored here with Archbishop Sheen’s characteristic insight and passion.

My review: This is an absolutely beautifully written book (like most of Sheen’s books) that brings together Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with Christ’s last words on the cross. Highly recommend.

Treasures Visible & Invisible by Catholic Teen Books 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: I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories that center around St. Patrick’s life and legend. An ideal book to read around St. Patrick’s feast day or any time of the year. Recommend (and not just for teens).

In the Shadows of Freedom by C and C Spellman

Amazon Synopsis: It’s one person’s war for freedom in a world with no laws.
The United States is finally a meritocracy, where the best and most capable rise to the top. Existing laws and regulations continue to be repealed, and freedom is the mantra of the people.
Amanda Burrow, a talented painter, moves to New York City to attend an elite art academy. Once there, she falls for self-assured Ethan Ramsey, a staunch member of the National Citizens Party: the nation’s ruling faction. The NCP seeks to banish anything-or anyone-that might jeopardize an individual’s autonomy.
Amanda’s habitually dull and depressed world is turned upside down by her newfound relationship with Ethan. Yet as the NCP heightens its persecution of those who oppose its agenda, will Amanda find true freedom in a new and increasingly merciless society?

My review: Dystopian novels are generally not my preferred book to read, but this was well done with great characters. Recommend.

Rescued! True Stories for Catholic Kids by Kathryn Griffin Swegart

Amazon Synopsis: Ready to read exciting true stories? From first-century Jerusalem to 20th-century Maine, young readers are sure to be inspired by tales of courage and miraculous rescues. Ten stories packed with action. Stories include the angelic rescue of St. Peter from certain death, the escape of St. Patrick from slavery, and the amazing Nellie Cashman who rescued an entire village trapped by avalanches. Illustrated. From ages 7 and up.

My review: This is a beautiful book for kids that illustrates tales of courage and miraculous rescues. Highly recommend!

Miracle at the Mission VBT and Author Interview

Today I’m participating in Joseph Lewis’s Miracle of the Mission Virtual Blog Tour.

Amazon Synopsis:

Book 2 of the Westthorpe Academy Mysteries is here! After recovering from their daring exploits in the exciting first book of the series, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, best friends Joe Pryce and Pete Figueroa return for another thrilling, action-adventure in Miracle at the Mission.

During a summer trip to California, Joe and Pete visit Mission San Antonio de Padua where they meet an old Franciscan monk who warns them of the dangers they will soon face. The boys are drawn into a series of events filled with suspense, mystery, espionage, a high-speed car chase, and an assassination attempt by Russian operatives on the President of the United States.

Caught up in the pursuit of the assassins, the boys discover they have become suspects in the investigation. They must prove their innocence while also counting on the guidance of the old padre, who happens to bear a strange resemblance to Saint Junipero Serra himself.

With the world teetering on the brink of an international crisis, the story reaches its climax at another mission—Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel—where the boys and a large gathering of people witness an incredible miracle that changes their lives forever.

Author Joseph Lewis

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. Miracle at the Mission is your second book in a series called the Westthorpe Academy Mysteries. How did the idea for the series originate?

Miracle at the Mission is a sequel to my first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy. The idea for the series began while I was teaching at an all-boys Catholic prep high school in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. On the campus is a charming old mansion that was the original building of the school. Over the years, rumors abounded of how a ghost haunted the mansion and that a stash of old money was hidden somewhere within it.

After hearing of such stories over the years, I finally convinced myself that a story needed to be written. One summer, I put pen to paper and completed my first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, published in 2018. I borrowed the name Westthorpe from the original name of the property that surrounds the school––Westthorpe Farm­­­.

  • Miracle at the Mission provides a completely different setting from the first book and brings the series to the Spanish missions of California. What was the inspiration behind doing this?

Not long after the first book came out, several people began asking when the next one would be coming out. I was throwing some ideas together when my wife and I traveled to California to visit my son who is in the Marine Corps. During the trip, we toured some of the missions founded by St. Junipero Serra where I was immediately struck by the beauty, the holiness, and the history of these extraordinary places. It wasn’t long before I began piecing together a story of how the same two friends from the first story, Joe and Pete, take a summer trip of their own to California where they visit Pete’s older brother Luke who is a Marine and explore some of the missions themselves.

So, in borrowing from my own travel experience, I was able to formulate the basis of a story that would ultimately become Miracle at the Mission. The trip also gave me the opportunity to visualize many of the places I write about in the book which helps provide vivid descriptions and setting details that I hope will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the story. 

  • Your interest in St. Junipero Serra goes beyond just a curious fascination. Explain how and why Father Serra plays such an important part in the story. 

Many may remember that Junipero Serra was canonized a saint of the Church here in the United States in September of 2015. The canonization took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. and was overseen by Pope Francis himself who was visiting the United States at the time. Serra is the only saint to be canonized on American soil.

Unfortunately, not all the news surrounding this momentous event was positive. Many took the occasion to criticize Serra and to blame him for the abuses perpetrated upon Native Americans many years ago, particularly in California. Some people resorted to defacing or toppling his statues and doing damage to some of the missions.

As a history teacher, and having studied something about Father Serra’s life, I knew that much of the criticism directed towards him was inaccurate, misguided, and unfair. My book provides an opportunity to correct some of that and convey truths of who he really was––a man who worked tirelessly for social justice and truly loved the people he served. 

  • What do you anticipate the reader taking away from Miracle at the Mission?

Though the book is an exciting read, filled with mystery, adventure, intrigue and suspense, it is, above anything else, a story about faith, friendship, selflessness, and doing the right thing. It is a story that inspires hope that various peoples, cultures, and countries can join together in goodwill.

It is a reminder to us that although we live in a world filled with danger, uncertainty, and confusion, we can make a difference if we hold fast to those things that matter most: faith, hope, and love. And we needn’t look any further for help in this effort than the communion of saints who are there, interceding for us. And there is no finer example than the saintly Franciscan, Junipero Serra, who gave of himself totally in the service of his fellow man.

May his example inspire a more fervent faith and devotion, as well as a greater appreciation for the extraordinary work of the California missions and the Franciscan friars who founded them.

BUY LINKS

Amazon.com: Miracle at the Mission: 9781649495662: Lewis, Joseph: Books

Miracle at the Mission – Kindle edition by Lewis, Joseph. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Miracle at the Mission by Joseph Lewis, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

BLOG TOUR STOPS

EXCERPT

The padre turned and looked at Joe. The hood of his habit had opened wider, revealing more of his face. In the dim light, his eyes looked dark, his complexion a somewhat lighter olive-brown. His thinning gray hair was cut in the traditional tonsure style, something more common among religious orders in the past but not as much today. He wore a large crucifix that hung underneath his hood and rested over the top front of his habit.

As Joe prepared to leave, he suddenly stopped, though he wasn’t sure why. Something of what he had experienced earlier that day in the chapel seemed to compel him to want to listen to what the old padre had to say. Joe slid closer across the pew, stopping just a few feet from him in the pew.

“I am confident you will find your friend safe,” the priest said in a reassuring voice. “From what I gather, the three of you are here for an extraordinary week. So much of what is going on in the world today has found its way near to this very place. Important leaders will be meeting, and the eyes of the world will be watching. It is no coincidence that, at this time in history, they have come here, where so many peoples and cultures met not very long ago and welcomed the missionaries who brought the message of the Gospel. It was, and continues to be, a message of the love of neighbor, of joy and forgiveness, of thanksgiving for one another, and peace among all nations.”

Joe sat mesmerized. Though the padre referred to present-day events, his eloquent words and profound meaning made him seem like someone from another time, another world.

“But there are forces in the world that oppose these cherished things. Principalities who are enemies of God and of mankind, who choose the darkness; some who are visible and made of flesh and blood, others who are spirit and lurk in the shadows.” He paused as he looped the rosary beads he had been holding in his hand through the cincture around the waste of his habit. “My son, the world’s current dangers are real and require the courage and effort of a select few whose work can make the difference between conflict and resolution, division and harmony, hostility and goodwill for all peoples. The events of this week are crucial to determining the direction the world may be inclined to go. We must pray for God’s divine providence, that those who lead us may choose the path of peace. Look for the signs of God’s guiding hand in answer to those prayers. I also want to implore you and your friends to be vigilant this week, as you will be close to many of these things. The world can be a dangerous place, and sometimes people find themselves in circumstances they could hardly have anticipated.”

“I very much appreciate your concern, Father.” Joe politely accepted the padre’s advice, although he didn’t quite understand why he felt the need to offer it. But this wasn’t what Joe had come here searching for. He still didn’t know for certain if Pete was all right. Joe stood up. “I better get back and make sure my friend is okay.”

Sí te entiendo.” The padre grabbed hold of the back of the pew and pulled himself up. As he did, he shifted as if to favor one leg. He had a thin frame and couldn’t have been more than an inch or two over five feet. His worn sandals looked as though they had traveled many miles.

“Please don’t get up on my account,” Joe said.

“I wish to extend to you my priestly blessing, my son.” With some effort, he shifted his legs again and moved a little closer to Joe. “I am extremely glad you and your friends can spend some time with us in this beautiful place. You know, the mission is in great need of support to help maintain it, not only to preserve the legacy of the missions but for the work they continue to do. This mission is an active parish and serves many people and families, some of whom are descendants of the native people who first lived here many years ago. Please keep the missions, and the people they serve, always in your prayers, won’t you?”

“I will, Father.” Joe turned to leave but turned back again. “I sure hope we have a chance to talk again. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.”

 “So have I, my friend, so have I. God willing, we will have a chance to meet again. In the meantime, go in peace.”

The padre raised his right hand and extended it toward Joe, who bowed his head. “Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless this fine young man and his companions in all their endeavors. May their work bear much fruit in the service of your kingdom. I ask that you protect them and keep them safe from harm in the name of Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen. May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen. Amar a Dios, mi hijo. Love God, my son … and may He make a saint of you!”

“Thank you, Father.” Joe slid back across the pew, then genuflected before the tabernacle. He pivoted and glanced back at the old padre, but he wasn’t there!

Joe looked around the church. “Father?” There was no sign of him. Where could he have gone—and so quickly? … He seemed to mysteriously vanish into thin air.