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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month!
Amazon Synopsis: 2nd Edition – Carol Award Finalist, Selah Award Winner !! (Best Historical Fiction) It’s October, 1962. Life is simple. The world makes sense, and all families are happy. When they aren’t, everyone knows you’re supposed to pretend. With their family about to collapse, Colt Harrison and his little brother, Timmy, hatch a plan. They’ll run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt’s house in Savannah and refuse to come home until their parents get back together. But things go terribly, terribly wrong. Colt’s parents must come to grips with years of mistrust and fight for their son’s return…and to mend their broken marriage. In this emotional story, Dan Walsh takes readers on a suspense-filled journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life.
My review: I liked this book because it had some twists and turns and an interesting plot. The part of the story that takes place in 1962 was very well done and mentioned songs, TV shows and movies from that time. Recommend. 4/5.
Amazon Synopsis: 2,000 years ago, the Son of God prayed to His Father, “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This prayer, the greatest ever uttered by the lips of man, will not go unanswered. Jesus has revealed to an Italian mystic named Luisa that the time has now at last arrived for its fulfillment; that is, for the restoration of what was destroyed by Adam 6,000 years ago in the Fall of Man. In brief: the entire world is about to be radically transformed like never before in its history. This is probably something you should know about. This book has been written to inform you about the transformation and to enable you to take part in it and hasten it.
But this transformation will not be achieved through human effort. It will be given directly from Heaven by way of God’s greatest Gift: the Gift of Living in the Divine Will, which is the Crown of Sanctity, and which even now we must all strive to receive. In this sanctity is found The Culmination of Deification, the Fruitfulness of Mystical Marriage, the Aspiration of the Unification of Wills, and the Essence of Marian Consecration. This is none other than the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary promised at Fatima. It is the coming of the Kingdom of God.
This is a long book, but its length should turn away no one, as a thorough and detailed table of contents is given so that each reader can easily select only those sections in which he is interested for his perusal.
And any reader is sure to find much that interests him. Within these pages is a treasury of resources; not only concerning Luisa’s revelations directly, but also on new arguments for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity, extensive Catechesis on Private Revelation in general and on the spiritual life in general (including overviews of the greatest teachings on spirituality in the history of the Church), and details on the Era of Peace as revealed to Luisa and many other mystics, visionaries, and seers (Fatima, Medjugorje, Venerable Conchita, Fr. Gobbi, and dozens more). You will not regret reading this book.
“This is our great hope and our petition: “Your Kingdom come” – a kingdom of peace, justice, and serenity, that will re-establish the original harmony of creation.” St. JP II
My review: Amazing, compelling book about the times we’re living in and approved revelations of Jesus to Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta back in the late 1800’s and 1900’s. She was bedridden for most of her life and neither ate, drank or slept, only being nourished by the Holy Eucharist. She was called the “Little Daughter of the Divine Will.” Highly recommend. It’s permanently free on Kindle. 5/5.
Amazon Synopsis: Erika Welby had a secret she thought no one would ever discover. But someone knew …
“Dear Mrs. Welby, I know you were only seventeen when I was born. I’ve got many questions. I wonder if you have questions to ask me, too.”
Erika’s worst fear is realized when her well-kept secret shows up on her doorstep. As she reaches out to the daughter she gave up for adoption 21 years ago, her husband pulls away, leaving Erika with an impossible choice.
My review: The synopsis hooked me in, so I downloaded this when it was either free or .99. However, for me, the story didn’t deliver. We find out that before she was married, Erika had a one-night stand, got pregnant and wound up giving up the baby for adoption. She never told her husband or the man she had the one-night-stand with. When Erika hears from the daughter she gave up, she panics because her well-kept secret is about to be revealed. I found both the husband and wife standoffish and not that likeable. 3/5.
Amazon Synopsis:The 40th anniversary edition of the “shocking” #1 New York Times bestseller with an exclusive new introduction by the author (Los Angeles Times).
When Christina Crawford’s harrowing chronicle of child abuse was first published in 1978, it brought global attention to the previously closeted subject. It also shed light on the guarded world of Hollywood and stripped away the façade of Christina’s relentless, alcoholic abuser: her adoptive mother, movie star Joan Crawford.
Christina was a young girl shown off to the world as a fortunate little princess. But at home, her lonely, controlling, even ruthless mother made her life a nightmare. A fierce battle of wills, their relationship could be characterized as an ultimately successful, for Christina, struggle for independence. She endured and survived, becoming the voice of so many other victims who suffered in silence, and giving them the courage to forge a productive life out of chaos.
This ebook edition features an exclusive new introduction by the author, plus rare photographs from her personal collection and one hundred pages of revealing material not found in the original manuscript.
My review: I downloaded this when it was on sale for 1.99 on Kindle. Like many people, I’ve seen the disturbing movie. I was prepared for any disturbing incidents, but it was hard to stomach most of this book. Recommend only for those with a strong stomach. 3/5.
Amazon Synopsis: When a spunky mouse invites a passing bird to see what’s inside a People House, chaos ensues while beginning readers learn the names of 65 common household items—and that people are generally not pleased to find mice and birds in their houses! A super simple, delightfully silly introduction to objects around the home—from none other than Dr. Seuss!
My review: This is another favorite of my sons as they were growing up and I’m sure will be a favorite of my grandson’s. It’s got catchy rhyming (as usual for Dr. Seuss) and when reading it to a toddler, you can almost read it as a rap. I was surprised that I knew this book almost by heart! Highly recommend! 5/5.
Amazon Synopsis: What’s the best part of bedtime? Stories with Mama! Before cuddling, Llama Llama must splish and splash in the tub, then put his red pajamas on.
Dewdney’s catchy rhymes, effortless rhythm, and adorable artwork can now be enjoyed by even younger audiences. Toddlers will love this perfect read-aloud.
My review: This is a clever little book for toddlers with adorable pictures and great rhyming. One of my grandson’s favorites. Just short enough for bedtime. Highly recommend. 5/5.
Authenticity by Allison Wajert Venini is now available in Paperback and will be available on Kindle on October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
Synopsis: Mackenzie, a young actress in Philadelphia, suddenly falls ill on a film set. After she garners the attention and aid of a former tabloid darling with a sordid past, her parents pressure her to seduce him for personal gain. As she balances fostering a very real friendship with the actor while propping falsehoods to her parents, she also draws close to his inner circle of contacts. Jealousy, kindness, and instability are the forces she encounters through a man who has not fully achieved temperance.