Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2020

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Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 21-33) and one beautiful grandson. We are also blessed to be the parents of 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 a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

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

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 25 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 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.

(End of excerpt.)

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

Here is a list of other novels that include themes about infant/pregnancy loss:

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

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

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)

Fatima (2020) #Review #FATIMAthemovie

I was blessed to be able to watch the new movie about the Miracle of Fatima entitled, Fatima, a few months ago. I’ve heard a lot about it from one of the screenwriters on social media. It is available on demand as of August 28. You can watch the trailer here:

First, the synopsis: Based on historical events, three young shepherds in Fátima, Portugal, report visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story.

I would consider myself a quasi-expert on the miraculous events at Fatima. I’ve read many books on the subject and I’ve watched documentaries, as well as the original Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima from 1952.

What I loved about this movie: The cinematography was breathtaking. The music was beautifully done and added greatly to the story. The script was well done as were the costumes. I was especially pleased to see Lúcia Moniz, who played Lucia’s mother in the film. She looked familiar, but I had to look her up on IMDB to find out where I had seen her: she was the Portuguese girl and love interest of Colin Firth’s in Love, Actually. She plays a very different part in this movie as the unbelieving mother of Lucia. The acting of most of the cast was above average (although there were a few minor actors who weren’t quite on par with the rest of the cast).

The Miracle of the Sun was effective and well done, and for this, the music, and the cinematography, the movie is definitely worth seeing.

Photo Credit: Claudio Iannone ©2020 PICTUREHOUSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The two youngest children were delightful and believable. (The girl playing Jacinta was adorable.) I enjoyed both of their performances very much.

Photo Courtesy of Picturehouse ©2020 PICTUREHOUSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

What I didn’t like about this movie: I personally didn’t like how Our Blessed Mother was portrayed and how distracted the children seemed when they were receiving visions from Our Lady. To me, there was nothing heavenly about the woman in the vision. In fact, there seemed to be no attempt to make the Blessed Mother look ethereal. She was a beautiful lady dressed in white, barefoot and, at one point, bled from her heart. It almost felt like she walked up to the children when she appeared to them.

The young actress who played Lucia did an adequate job, but at times, there was something missing from her performance.

Photo Credit: Claudio Iannone ©2020 PICTUREHOUSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

There were several events that the writers choose to either change or leave out. For example, the writers also chose not to include that the Communist mayor threatened to boil the children in oil if they did not tell the truth. That’s a pretty big part to leave out. In the actual events, the children refused to say they were lying, regardless of the threats to be boiled alive.

Bottom line: Although the original 1952 Fatima, in my opinion, is a more faithful representation of the events of the Miracle of Fatima, this is a movie absolutely worth seeing. It’s powerful and uplifting. Recommend! 7/10.

This movie will be available On Demand starting August 28. If you’d like a code to see this movie for free in the comfort of your home, please comment below (before August 31) to be entered to win a free code. I have two free codes to give away!

This post is sponsored by Graf-Martin Communications on behalf of Elevation Pictures. Opinions expressed are my own.

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP Awareness Week! #NFP

This is the end of NFP Awareness Week but better late than never!

National NFP Awareness Week – JULY 19 – JULY 25, 2020

Live the truth and beauty of
God’s plan for married love!

Natural Family Planning
It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about freedom. It’s about gift.

“Celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality.”

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NFP Articles:

Rebuilding a Culture of Life 

NFP and Resolutions for the New Year

Humanae Vitae and the Benefits of NFP

Responsible Parenthood and NFP

My Last Period FB

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

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

Here's to 20 yearssm

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

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Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do NOT use without permission.

 

Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A St. Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection

Though War Be Waged

Since that most dire moment when “war broke out in heaven” as Lucifer rebelled against God, the war between good and evil has always raged, and our present time is no exception.  To the contrary, the forces of good and evil are locked in a battle that appears to be escalating, growing more ominous by the day.   And it hardly seems any exaggeration to feel that evil has the upper hand – and Satan is not about to pull any punches.

So what is the average layperson to do?

Though War Be Waged Upon Me:  A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection is a book written by Carol Puschaver as one answer to this pressing question.  The reader can draw hope and remember that grace is at work as he/she appeals to St. Michael, starting with the Prayer to St. Michael that was composed by Pope Leo XIII.  As the book makes clear, however, there is much more not only to the Warrior Archangel, but also the many other prayers, including the especially powerful St. Michael Chaplet.

Also in this book:

St. Michael in Salvation History
The Vision of Pope Leo and the Original Prayer to St. Michael
St. Michael Chaplet
Prayer Treasury
Ways to Love and Honor St. Michael

The blurb: Make no mistake. Satan is very much alive — and hellbent on revenge. He is waging war against humanity, and indeed against all creation, with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose. Cast out of heaven; crushed at the foot of the Cross, he is multiplying evil and outrage and scandal to unprecedented effect as he “strikes at [the] heel” (Gen 3.15) of “fallen mankind” (St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition, 9).Without question we are living in a time of increasingly brazen evil. That is to say, a time of extraordinary and abundant grace also. Christ has already won the final victory over Satan. By His grace, we stand strong against the forces of evil. By that same ineffable grace, we stand in the company of holy angels — most especially the glorious Warrior Archangel Saint Michael. And the high ground belongs to us!

My review: This is a beautiful booklet dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.  If you thought the only St. Michael prayer was the one we sometimes say at the end of Mass, then this book will be an eye opener for you.  Included is a history of the St. Michael prayers as well as a chaplet and reflections. Highly recommend.

About the Author: Carol Puschaver earned her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English from Kent State University, Ohio, and lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong scholar, amateur historian and world traveler, she has a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Michael the Archangel.

To purchase the Kindle edition at only 1.99, click here.

To purchase the Paperback edition at only 5.99, click here.

Motherhood Matters Study Guide

Motherhood Matters by Dorothy Pilarski is a beautiful book that contains reflections of a mother for mothers. 21st century mothering has become one where mothers are expected to work a double, sometimes triple shift: in the workplace,  still carrying most of the load of housework while often caring for their own parents or in laws.  In a culture that has run amuck, Motherhood Matters is a healthy reminder that motherhood is a vocation, a call from God.  It is a sacred gift – one that unfortunately many women have been forced into treating it like just a role or a series of tasks. For some unfortunately it’s treated like an afterthought.  Pilarski illustrates through these writings that truly ‘Motherhood Matters.’

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Hot off the presses is the new Motherhood Matters Study Guide. I helped to edit this book as well as writing some of the reflections. Each study includes a story from Motherhood Matters, questions for discussion, a saint, a recommended book and activities. It’s extremely well done, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a year-long study of motherhood.

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An Open Book – June #openbook

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

 

Susan Tassone Book

 

Jesus Speaks to Faustina and You by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis:  In her celebrated 700-page spiritual Diary, St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) tells of her many visions of Jesus and her conversations with Him. For years now, best-selling and award-winning author Susan Tassone has lived in the thrall of that spiritual classic, recently drawing forth from its rich mystical depths 365 meditations.

Each meditation features Jesus’ words to Faustina, to which Tassone has added a short original reflection and a prayer to help you hear and live by Jesus’ words as if they had been spoken directly to you. From these pages, you’ll discover the mercy, love, and compassion of the Lord that’s available for you – day by day, each day of the year.

My review: Another beautiful book by Susan Tassone that is ideal for someone who likes daily reflections.  Highly recommend!

 

Remembering Mom front only

Remembering Mom 

My new book!

Amazon Synopsis: In Remembering Mom, author Ellen Gable shares memories of her beloved mother, an unconventional woman who was often thrust into situations by necessity. She endured having to watch her first husband spiral into psychosis and schizophrenia, then have him be committed to a psychiatric hospital on the same day she was in labor with their fourth child. She worked from home typing back in the day when women didn’t have jobs other than homemaking. Her humor was quirky, and she had some strange sayings. She could swear like a sailor, but loved her Catholic faith. She wasn’t a perfect Catholic, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was devoted to her five children. After the death of her first husband, she remained strong for her young adult children, then eventually found love again and another opportunity for motherhood.

Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Amazon Synopsis: In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.

With his unparalleled narrative skills, Erik Larson guides us through a relentlessly suspenseful chase over the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate.

My review: The two true stories here are compelling enough (Marconi’s development of the wireless and Dr. Hawley Crippen’s life leading up to him being accused, found guilty and hung for murder.)  I enjoyed how both stories converged at the end. However, the Marconi sections were quite technical and hard to follow so I scanned those.  Still a compelling story, but so far, my least favorite of Larson’s books.  Three stars out of five.

 

Violet

Violet (I Am Girl #2) by Renee Lichtenhan

Amazon Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Violet Windsor is obsessed with the rush and thrill of skateboarding through a dangerous, gang-ridden part of New York City. Certain that her high-society parents wouldn’t approve of the rough-and-tumble sport or the sketchy neighborhood, she and her best friend, Sloane, hide her secret adventures in a thick veil of lies.

When Violet’s neurodiverse brother, Oliver, begins drawing pictures that reveal a mysterious knowledge of her secrets, Violet is rattled to the core. Intrigued by clues in Oliver’s drawings, she follows them down a reckless path toward redemption and truth.

My review: New teen Violet Windsor secretly visits a dangerous part of New York City to pursue her passion for skateboarding. Her wealthy parents wouldn’t approve so she and her best friend, Sloane, keep her skateboarding adventures secret. Meanwhile, Violet’s autistic brother, Oliver, shows her drawings that indicate not only that he knows her secrets but that he has been gifted with artistic ability that might be supernatural in origin.

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel that includes all kinds of relevant, present-day issues. The writing quality is excellent. The characters are well-developed and believable, and the setting made me feel I was in the midst of New York City. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys a great story and characters!

Clint Hill

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill

Amazon Synopsis: The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir by Clint Hill that Kirkus Reviews called “clear and honest prose free from salaciousness and gossip,” Jackie Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent details his very close relationship with the First Lady during the four years leading up to and following President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination.

In those four years, Hill was by Mrs. Kennedy’s side for some of the happiest moments as well as the darkest. He was there for the birth of John, Jr. on November 25, 1960, as well as for the birth and sudden death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on August 8, 1963. Three and a half months later, the unthinkable happened.

Forty-seven years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the one vivid image that never leaves Clint Hill’s mind is that of President Kennedy’s head lying on Mrs. Kennedy’s lap in the back seat of the limousine, his eyes fixed, blood splattered all over the back of the car, Mrs. Kennedy, and Hill as well. Sprawled on the trunk of the car as it sped away from Dealey Plaza, Hill clung to the sides of the car, his feet wedged in so his body was as high as possible.

Clint Hill jumped on the car too late to save the president, but all he knew after that first shot was that if more shots were coming, the bullets had to hit him instead of the First Lady.

Mrs. Kennedy’s strength, class, and dignity over those tragic four days in November 1963 held the country together.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It really laid a firm foundation for what happened on November 22, 1963.  It showed me a side of Jackie Kennedy that I had never seen before.  I learned that Patrick Kennedy (the baby she lost while in the White House and just a few months before the assassination) was born at the same gestation (five weeks early) that I had been born and weighed the same as me (four pounds 11 ounces).  It’s hard to understand why I survived and he didn’t.  Recommend.

Remembering Mom: A Life of Endurance

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Mom and Me, May 22, 1982 Photo by Sassano Photographers copyright 1982

“Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.” St. Catherine of Siena

If the struggles my mother endured are any indication of her achievements in life, then what she achieved here on earth can be considered great, indeed.

My mother (Betti) was born in 1934 and died in 2007, but her influence in my life and in the lives of my children, nieces, nephews, and siblings has continued.

On the one hand, she was generous to a fault, often going into debt when we were young so that my siblings and I could have plentiful presents under the Christmas tree. She loved coming up to Canada and especially enjoyed surprising my boys with unexpected trips (and she never missed a Baptism or a First Communion or musical performance until she became terminally ill).  She had a unique, wry sense of humor and was laugh-out-loud funny sometimes.  Even today, she still makes me laugh when I think of one of her funny sayings.

On the other hand, she chain-smoked most of her life (she quit when she was 61), could swear like a sailor, and wasn’t always faithful with church attendance.

But as a young mother with three small children and nine months pregnant with another, my mother watched her husband (my father) spiral into a full-blown psychotic breakdown and watch as he was committed to a psychiatric hospital. That same day, she went into labor with my youngest brother. With the help of extended family, she endured, and Dad finally came home.

Mom survived a critical illness when she was 33 years old and was not expected to live. I was only seven at the time, but I remember how thin she was. She weighed eighty pounds and at five feet, six inches tall, she was a walking skeleton.  She beat the odds, though, and lived a fairly healthy life until her sixties when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caught up with her.

She became a widow at age 44 when my father died suddenly.

Mom later married remarried, got pregnant at the age of 47 and was thrilled. When her doctor suggested she have an abortion (because it was too risky and the baby might be deformed), she refused. When he demanded she have an abortion, Mom swore at him. Then he then told her to find another doctor because he wouldn’t be delivering the baby. I’m thankful that she and my stepfather were open to life. Again, Mom beat the odds, had an uneventful pregnancy, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (my youngest sister, now 38).

A lifetime of smoking caught up with her in early 2004, when she contracted a particular virulent strain of pneumonia, was on a ventilator and in a coma (and supposedly “brain dead.”)  Once more, she beat the odds and eventually woke up and endured eight months in rehab and lived an additional three years (which she never took for granted).

I had never known Mom to be anything but determined and tenacious. And she always tried to find the humor in everything. Just before she died, she called me up to tell me that she had just watched a TV program on the Little People of America. “Did you know you could join them, if you wanted?”

“Um, okay.”

“Yes, the maximum height is four feet, ten inches.  You’re four-nine.”

“Why would I want to join them?”

“So you could go to conventions and feel like the tallest person in the room!” Then she burst out laughing.

People were always surprised when they met Mom because she was tall (five feet, six inches) and I’m so short (four feet, nine inches).  If we were doing dishes together, she would look down at me and say, “El, are you standing in a hole?”

In the months before she died, we had many wonderful conversations.  We talked about her life, her memories, her faith.  We talked about Jesus and heaven and how exciting it would be to meet Jesus.

When she was within hours of death, my youngest sister called me, and I made the trip to New Jersey from Canada.  After a two-hour wait at the border, we arrived in Cortland, New York, so I called to let her know I was halfway there.  My sister answered the phone and told Mom that I was in Cortland. I could hear her say, “She’s only in Cortland?  Tell her I love her and to be careful.”

Shortly after that, she went into a coma. I arrived that evening. She was still alive but unconscious.  She had asked my sister and I to recite the Litany of the Saints and the Divine Mercy Chaplet when her time was close, so we did that and then I went to bed. The next morning when I checked on her, her breathing had slowed and she was cool, but she still had a weak pulse.  I whispered in her ear, “It’s okay if you need to go, Mom.  We’ll be all right.  I love you.”

An hour or so later, my other siblings had assembled around her bedside.  I was sitting next to my brother and all of a sudden, I felt as if Mom were on the ceiling looking down at us.  I was about to nudge my brother on the shoulder and tell him when he said, “Hey, El, I feel like Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”

Mom entered into eternal life on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8, 2007 and was buried on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, August 14th.   It’s been thirteen years since she died, and her influence and humor is still being felt by our family.  If Mom’s endurance and tenacity are any indication, great things were definitely achieved with her life.

I just finished writing a book about Mom, entitled, Remembering Mom. It’s available on Kindle and in print.

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – May #openbook #socialdistancing

 

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

Larson

The Splendid and the Vile

by Erik Larson

Amazon Synopsis:  Published February 25, 2020. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

My review: Outstanding book. As usual with Larson’s books, I not only learned a great deal of the story behind the scenes of that historic first year Churchill was Prime Minister, I also enjoyed a compelling piece of history.  It makes me grateful to Churchill for not giving in to Hitler’s demands for “peace.”  It might’ve been a different world if not for the tenacity of Churchill and the British people. Highly recommend.

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Moonchild Rising: (Shadows of the Sun #1) by Mina Ambrose

New from Full Quiver Publishing!

Synopsis:  Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Catholic and Funda

Catholicism And Fundamentalismby Karl Keating

Amazon Synopsis: Karl Keating defends Catholicism from fundamentalist attacks and explains why fundamentalism has been so successful in converting “Romanists”. After showing the origins of fundamentalism, he examines representative anti-Catholic groups and presents their arguments in their own words. His rebuttals are clear, detailed, and charitable. Special emphasis is given to the scriptural basis for Catholic doctrines and beliefs.

My review: This is about my tenth time reading this book and it’s as good as it was the first time. If you have relatives who have fallen away from the fullness of the Catholic faith, this is a great book to help you “defend” the fullness of the Catholic faith. Topics include: Marian Beliefs, The Eucharist, Confession, Purgatory etc.  Highly recommend.

Book 1 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

by Linda Etchison

and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator

Amazon Synopsis: Join Sister Aloysius, an energetic, joyful young sister, as she steps off the bus and begins her walk to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Mercyville on a hot July afternoon. In Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyvillelearn how Sister Aloysius happily makes use of her suffering in the heat of the summer day by uniting her discomfort to the agony of Christ on the cross. Along the way she meets a young boy Pio who will be in her second-grade class. Pio helps her with her bag and the two have a very interesting talk about St. Aloysius and patron saints as well as about St. Peter, the first pope. Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville is the first of the Sister Aloysius booksThis series offers a large child-friendly 8.5 x 11 format and is illustrated in full color to capture the interest of young readers and pre-readers.

My review: This is the first in a wonderful children’s book series that introduces an enthusiastic religious sister, Sister Aloysius, who moves to a new town, ready to begin teaching. In this story, we are also introduced to little Pio, one of the students at the local school. We learn about St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Peter, our first pope — who denied Jesus three times and was crucified upside down — and St. Paul. The story is engaging for both parents and children and offers teachings about the Catholic faith within the story. Highly recommend!

Book 2 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows

by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator

Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows is the second book in the new Catholic children’s Sister Aloysius series about a joyful, young sister who is beginning her first teaching assignment. This second book in the series focuses on a discussion about the Seven Sorrows of Mary between Sister Aloysius and Pio, a young boy who will be in sister’s second grade class. Sister and Pio discuss how sorrowful Mary must have been as she shared the sufferings of Jesus throughout his life. This book is a great choice for parents and educators who want to instill in their children and students a love for and closeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The 8.5 x 11 inch format is perfect for engaging pre-school and primary grade children. T

My review: In the second book of this series, Sister Aloysius and her new little friend, Pio, arrive at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Readers learn about the Seven Sorrows of Mary and how to pray this special devotion. Beautifully illustrated. Highly recommend.

Book 3 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School

by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock

Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School follows the continuing story of Sister Aloysius as she prepares for her first teaching assignment. This book, the third in the Sister Aloysius series, has Sister Aloysius making an early morning visit to the Blessed Sacrament before preparing her classroom for the beginning of school. Sister Aloysius has help from Pio, a second-grade student whom Sister Aloysius met upon arriving in Mercyville, and his sister Catherine. Sister, Pio, and Catherine discuss the 3:00 Hour of Mercy and the importance of appealing to Our Lord’s mercy during this time. Also, in this series, the reader will see Sister Aloysius pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the quiet of the church and use Holy Water to bless herself as she leaves.

My review: This book continues the story of Sister Aloysius. In this book, we are introduced to Pio’s sister, Catherine, who help Sister prepare her classroom for the start of the new school year.  Readers also learn about the Hour of Mercy (3:00) and Saint Faustina. Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina and talked to her about His Divine Mercy and the “Hour of Mercy.”  Highly recommend.

 

Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood: A Life by Gavin Lambert

Amazon Synopsis: She spent her life in the movies. Her childhood is still there to see in Miracle on 34th Street. Her adolescence in Rebel Without a Cause. Her coming of age? Still playing in Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story and countless other hit movies. From the moment Natalie Wood made her debut in 1946, playing Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles’s ward in Tomorrow Is Forever at the age of seven, to her shocking, untimely death in 1981, the decades of her life are marked by movies that–for their moments–summed up America’s dreams.

Now the acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, whose twenty-year friendship with Natalie Wood began when she wanted to star in the movie adaptation of his novel Inside Daisy Clover, tells her extraordinary story. He writes about her parents, uncovering secrets that Natalie either didn’t know or kept hidden from those closest to her. Here is the young Natalie, from her years as a child actress at the mercy of a driven, controlling stage mother (“Make Mr. Pichel love you,” she whispered to the five-year-old Natalie before depositing her unexpectedly on the director’s lap), to her awkward adolescence when, suddenly too old for kiddie roles, she was shunted aside, just another freshman at Van Nuys High. Lambert shows us the glamorous movie star in her twenties—All the Fine Young Cannibals, Gypsy and Love with the Proper Stranger. He writes about her marriages, her divorces, her love affairs, her suicide attempt at twenty-six, the birth of her children, her friendships, her struggles as an actress and her tragic death by drowning (she was always terrified of water) at forty-three.

Review: I enjoyed this book very much, although enjoy might be the wrong word.  Natalie Wood was an incredibly beautiful actress who died far too soon.  Reading about her life behind the scenes was moving and sad and disturbing at times. Her mother was the epitome of a stage mother and could be quite cruel.  Recommend.

Belroy

To Be or Not To Be: Murdered by Basia Kent Belroy

Amazon Synopsis: WHY IS FULTON HIGH SCHOOL HAVING A RASH OF COPYCAT SUICIDES?
While covering the stories for her school paper, 17-year-old Peyton Simons begins to doubt they are suicides. Along with crushing on Justin, her Hamlet co-star in the school play, and trying to break up with her current boyfriend, Tyler, Peyton is intent on figuring out the mystery with the help of her great aunt’s new boyfriend, a retired detective. She’s awfully close to the truth! Will she survive the answer?

My review: Fun, young adult mystery told from the point of view of a teenage girl, Peyton. There are a rash of suicides at Fulton High School.  Peyton, however, doesn’t believe the most recent death was, in fact, a suicide.  Her investigation turns up information about a similar suicide that took place at Fulton twenty years previous. When she gets too close to the truth, she finds herself in danger. Fun, clean read with well-developed characters. Recommend for young teens and up.

Moonchild Rising: Shadows of the Sun #1 by Mina Ambrose

FQP’s new book, Moonchild Rising: Shadows of the Sun #1 by Mina Ambrose, is now available on Kindle.  Print edition will come later this month.

Moonchild front JPG

 

Synopsis: Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Reviews:

“A fast-paced, engaging book that draws clear lines between Good and Evil, leading the reader on a great adventure through the darkness we cannot see. I loved the story—and I’m not even a fan of vampires!”  Michelle Buckman, award-winning author, Rachel’s Contrition and Turning in Circles

“Can a vampire’s soul be saved? With beautiful imagery, Moonchild Rising pairs a redeemed vampire and a skilled huntress battling both the undead and the desires of their hearts.” Carolyn Astfalk, author, Come Back to Me and All in Good Time