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)

Close to the Soul Only .99 on #KINDLE

For a limited time only, Mary Jo Thayer’s Close to the Soul is available on Kindle for only .99. The paperback is on sale for only 13.99.

Get your copy here. #1 Bestseller in New Release for Religious Historical Fiction!

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:

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

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

This is a moving and powerful story set in the 1950’s. Life was different, and society was very different. But the story is of great value for readers today. I mentioned at the beginning that the book landed on my desk at a critical time. I had just found out I have a 25-year-old daughter I did not know about. Reading this, I could not help but think about this daughter and her mother. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literatureSteven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Where Angels Pass #FREE on #KINDLE

My new book, Where Angels Pass, is FREE on Kindle today through Sunday.

Synopsis: Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Reviews:

I have just completed reading your recent book Where Angels Pass and I wanted just to drop you a quick note to express my appreciation for it. As a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Pembroke, I have had the fortunate/unfortunate opportunity to confront the issue of clergy sexual abuse in my years of ministry. Fortunate, in that I have learned a great deal from the powerful witness and dignity of victims and have been privileged to have been allowed to share in their life’s journey of pain, suffering, and sometimes even the recovery of their faith. Unfortunate, in as much as those victims should never have had to deal with such a horrific event in their lives to begin with, or have encountered the unChristian manner in which they were dealt with by Church authorities. Your book captured both elements with grace, style, and dare I say, with the light of a Catholic faith that would shame many a professed cleric. Fr. Tim Moyle, Diocese of Pembroke

Stunning in its teaching of wisdom and compassion. Very powerful.  Fr. Arthur J.

Ellen Gable’s newest novel, Where Angels Pass, will take readers to the depths of their emotions. It is a beautifully written, yet heart-rending tale of sexual abuse and the long-term effects such a crime has on its victims. From the beginning of the story, Ellen draws in the reader bringing them close to loveable characters, each with their own story to tell. Curiosity and empathy compel the reader to keep moving through a story that might be difficult for some to read, as it zooms in on sexual abuse by clergy. Anger and compassion go hand-in-hand throughout this tale, and Ellen Gable does a remarkable job balancing the two. I believe this novel will bring to light the utter tragedy of clerical abuse and the ripple effect it has for generations to come. Yet through the darkness of that abomination, dawn rises, and we are assured that justice can prevail and healing can be achieved. I highly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to understand, for this just might be one of the most important novels of our time.  Mary Jo Thayer, award-winning author of Close to the Soul

Ellen Gable tells a very personal and difficult story with such gentleness, love, and heartfelt honesty. What I expected to be an uncomfortable story ended up being a love story of a daughter for her father, a father who suffered the lifelong effects of something no young person should ever experience. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing this deeply moving story that will surely touch readers in a very profound way.    Jim Sano, award-winning author, The Father’s Son

Incredible book. A story with uncompromising honesty. Children reflect our worst and best selves. What they inherit from us speaks to our final judgment. Here is a story that offers humanity hope despite one of the worst sins of all—the corruption of innocence.   A.K. Frailey, author

The greatest tragedy that could befall the Roman Catholic Church is for a child’s innocence to be stolen by a priest. And yet it has happened thousands of times and continues to happen. Told by Ellen Gable, as only she can tell it, with candor and faith, this story sheds light on the darkness of a case of clerical abuse. As the results of the abuse envelop an entire family, one sees how that the original victim truly had his life destroyed by one evil man. A moving and heart-breaking read that will change your life and strengthen your faith!  Elena-Maria Vidal, author

Pick up your FREE copy here.

An Open Book – March #openbook

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

Synopsis: 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: As we begin Lent today, I’m sharing one of my favorite Lent and Easter books. This beautiful book can help anyone maneuver through the “Season of Mercy.” Highly recommend!

Good Men and Grace by Alita Ngo

Coming Soon from FQP: Good Men and Grace is the story of an orphaned young man, Abel Wheaton, of mixed Anglo and American Indian descent, set in 1860, with flashbacks about 20 years into the past, in the U. S. Territories and states of the period.  Abel is a rider for the Pony Express.  On a few days’ break from his duties, he comes across the Pearces, a lost family of freed slaves traveling west from Chicago to Sacramento.  During Abel’s time with them, both heartwarming and heart-rending exchanges, and a life-threatening situation, take their toll as he gains greater insight into slavery in the South and a deeper understanding of himself and his own circumstances.  Join Abel, Jake, William, and of course, Grace, in a journey toward an unexpected, triumphant friendship.

Amazon Synopsis: From Alice and Abe to Zeb and Zipper, an alphabetical array of guests turns out for the biggest birthday party ever. But Hooper Humperdink isn’t on the guest list!

My review: I’ve been reading this one frequently with my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. I say “with” because he knows this one by heart (like many books). This one is especially entertaining! At first, it seems the author wants to exclude Hooper from his birthday party, but in the end (spoiler alert), he decides he wants to invite Hooper to his party. A fun read!

Amazon Synopsis: BOSTON, 1793—Beautiful and artistic, the only daughter of a prominent merchant, Molly Chase cannot help but attract the notice of Federalist Boston—especially its men. But she carries a painful secret: her father committed suicide and she found his body. Now nightmares plague her day and night, addling her mind and rendering her senseless. Molly needs a home, a nurse, and time to grieve and to find new purpose in life. But when she moves in with her friends, the Robbs, spiteful society gossips assume the worst. And when an imprudent decision leads to public scandal, Molly is tempted to take the easy way out: a marriage of convenience.

Merchant sailor Josiah Robb is as familiar to Molly as a brother—as dear and as exasperating. Yet she is no sister to him. He hopes to marry her before anyone else does, but sailing the high seas leaves no time for convincing Molly that he is more than her teasing childhood friend. Josiah wants a new job and a fresh start, and when he agrees to carry a confidential letter to President Washington, his life is forever changed.

In the wake of tragedy, these longtime friends discover a new intimacy. But slander, confusion, absence, and a wealthy, conniving bully stand between them. And with French spies on the loose, they not only have to rescue their reputations—they have to protect their lives.

My review: Wonderful story and beautifully written. Highly recommend!