An Open Book – January #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for “An Open Book.”  Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month (and will be reading this month).

Front Cover Final revisedsm

The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt

Amazon Synopsis: Is love ever wrong?Paul Meyer has never let anyone get too close.Until Max.The Lion’s Heart is a heart-rending story about love and sacrifice. The emotional struggle of Paul’s same-sex attraction, the guilt he feels, and his ambivalence toward his Catholic faith all come together in this look inside the heart of a tortured man. “Dena Hunt is a consummate story-teller who does not shirk or shy away from the difficult questions about life and love that her story raises. The Lion’s Heart contains not only the loves of lovers, spouses, parents, and children but also the demons and dragons that selfishness unleashes. The Lion’s Heart is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the hard-hearted. It pulsates with a passion that will bring true hearts to their knees.” Joseph Pearce, author of The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, co-editor of the St. Austin Review

My review: I reread a few weeks ago in preparation for a radio interview.  The interviewer wanted to ask me about a “Catholic novel that impacted me.”  I know I am slightly biased because I published this book, but even before I published it, I knew it was an extraordinary book.  The author brilliantly illustrates the Church’s teachings on sexuality through the story and characters. Highly recommend.

Barron

Letter to a Suffering Church by Bishop Robert Barron

Amazon Synopsis: The sexual abuse scandal has gripped the Catholic Church for the past thirty years, and continues to wreak havoc even today. It’s been a diabolical masterpiece, one that has compromised the work of the Church in every way and has left countless lives in ruin. Many Catholics are understandably asking, Why should I stay? Why not abandon this sinking ship before it drags me or my children under? In this stirring manifesto, Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, explains why this is not the time to leave, but the time to stay and fight. Reading the current crisis through the lenses of Scripture and Church history, Bishop Barron shows that we have faced such egregious scandals before; that the spiritual treasures of the Church were preserved by holy men and women who recommitted themselves to fighting evil; and that there is a clear path forward for us today. For Catholics questioning their faith, searching desperately for encouragement and hope, this book will offer reasons to stay and fight for the Body of Christ.

My review: I received this book for free from a local parish and read it one Sunday afternoon in December.  Bishop Barron gives a lot of excellent insight and guidance regarding the Church scandals.  Highly recommend (and only .75 on Kindle!)

 

book-of-jotham

The Book of Jotham by Arthur Powers

Synopsis: For 23 years the completed manuscript of The Book of Jotham sat in the author s desk drawer typewritten collecting dust and time. On an early autumn day in 2012, the manuscript arrived at Tuscany Press, and we discovered this compelling and moving story.

Jotham is a mentally challenged man-child who, like the other apostles, follows Jesus as Christ carries out his ministry and experiences death by crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Yet the other apostles the dedicated Mary, Peter, Thomas, and the rest while they care for Jotham and look out for him, don t understand why Jesus loves him so. Thomas even says, after Jesus offers a parable, I don t see why all the pots can t be strong and beautiful.

Jotham may be different, but through him, we come to see Jesus and Jotham not just with our eyes, but also with our hearts.

My review:  I read this again in preparation for FQP publishing the second edition of this book (hopefully before June!)  This is another book that is brilliantly written through the eyes of a mentally challenged man who follows Jesus. It’s a short read, but is very powerful.

 

Rule

Mortal Danger by Ann Rule

Amazon Synopsis: Featured here is the case of a Southern California family man who lured a beautiful flight attendant into a passionate and dangerous relationship. Other cases include that of the woman who masterminded her husband’s murder to gain his inheritance…the monstrous sadist whose prison release damaged a presidential candidate’s campaign and ended in a bitter double tragedy in a quiet neighborhood three thousand miles away…the shocking DNA link between a cold-blooded crime and a cold case…and inside the horrific case of the man who crossed an ocean and several countries to stalk the Eurasian beauty who had fled from him in desperation.

My review: Every now and then, I enjoy reading about true crime cases and Ann Rule is never a disappointment.  She takes the reader through cases with great attention to detail.  Recommend.

 

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Five Days in November by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin

Amazon Synopsis:  Don’t miss the New York Times bestseller Five Days in November, where Secret Service agent Clint Hill tells the stories behind the iconic images of those five infamous, tragic days surrounding JFK’s assassination, published for the 50th anniversary of his death.

On November 22, 1963, three shots were fired in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the world stopped for four days. For an entire generation, it was the end of an age of innocence.

That evening, a photo ran on the front pages of newspapers across the world, showing a Secret Service agent jumping on the back of the presidential limousine in a desperate attempt to protect the President and Mrs. Kennedy. That agent was Clint Hill.

Now Secret Service Agent Clint Hill commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy with this stunning book containing more than 150 photos, each accompanied by Hill’s incomparable insider account of those terrible days. With poignant narration accompanying rarely seen images, we witness three-year-old John Kennedy Jr.’s pleas to come to Texas with his parents and the rapturous crowds of mixed ages and races that greeted the Kennedys at every stop in Texas. We stand beside a shaken Lyndon Johnson as he is hurriedly sworn in as the new president. We experience the first lady’s steely courage when she insists on walking through the streets of Washington, DC, in her husband’s funeral procession.

A story that has taken Clint Hill fifty years to tell, this is a work of personal and historical scope. Besides the unbearable grief of a nation and the monumental consequences of the event, the death of JFK was a personal blow to a man sworn to protect the first family, and who knew, from the moment the shots rang out in Dallas, that nothing would ever be the same.

My review: My parents were devastated at President Kennedy’s assassination. I was only four years old at the time, but all I remember is seeing my parents cry and the beating of the drums during the televised funeral. Ever since then, I’ve read many books on the assassination.  This one was particularly interesting in that it tells the story from the POV of the secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy.  Compelling read.  Highly recommend.

 

A Very, Merry and Blessed Christmas to All!

photo credit: Josh Hrkach 2011 (copyright)

photo credit: Josh Hrkach 2011 (copyright)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11

“Fear not little flock, fear not. Come with me to Bethlehem. Let us celebrate a joyous Christmas. Let us be merry and happy no matter what because Christ is born.” Catherine Doherty

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

In Name Only Coming Soon to #Audible

INO AB cover

I’ve just approved the Audible edition of

In Name Only so it will soon be available on #Audible!

(Hopefully before the end of the year!)

Synopsis:  Book One, “O’Donovan Family Series.”

1876, Philadelphia. Caroline Martin’s life has finally taken a turn for the better. After years of hard work, she has met a virtuous and wealthy man whose love seems to promise the kind of life realized only within the comforting novels she keeps on her night table. Tragedy, however, will teach Caroline of the complexity with which God Himself authors the lives of those who turn toward him. Gold Medal winner for Religious Fiction in the 2010 IPPY Awards.

Donkey Bells by Catherine Doherty

Donkey Bells
One of my favorite Advent books and one that I read every year at this time is a book by Catherine Doherty called “Donkey Bells,” published by Madonna House Publications. I love to read this inspiring book curled up in a comfortable chair by the wood stove, a hot chocolate or apple cider beside me, Advent and Christmas music playing quietly in the background. This lovely book is filled with heartwarming stories, customs and traditions (such as the Advent wreath, baking, the blessing of the Christmas tree) and moving reflections for the season. It is a beautiful way for children, teens and adults to prepare their hearts for Christmas.

I love this story from Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty
(Available as a paperback and e-book)

Donkey Bells (by Catherine Doherty)

It came to me, during these days of Advent, that I should share with you a custom which is not necessarily liturgical but which adds to the enjoyment of this lovely season. It has deep spiritual connotations; at least it did for our family, and for many others I knew when I was a young child.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that if I was good during this holy season of Advent, and offered my little acts of charity and obedience throughout Advent to the little Christ Child for a gift on his birthday, then sometime during Advent, at first very faintly and then quite clearly, I would hear bells. As she put it, the first church bells.

These were the bells around the neck of the little donkey that carried Our Lady. For mother explained that Our Lady carried Our Lord. She was the temple of the Holy Spirit, the first ‘church’ as it were, since Christ reposed in her. And the donkey, carrying Our Lady and sounding his bells as he walked, wore the first church bells.

Around the second week of Advent, mother wore a little bracelet that had tinkling bells. As she moved her hand I could hear them tinkle, and I got excited because I associated them with the donkey’s bells.

As young as I was, my imagination would build up a lot of little stories about the trip of Our Lady from Nazareth to Bethlehem — stories which I would share with my mother, and which would spur me on to further good deeds and little sacrifices.

During the third week of Advent, mother’s bracelet miraculously got many more bells on it. The sound grew louder and louder as Christmas approached. It was wonderful.

My brother and I used to listen. Mother’s bells were first around her wrist and then around her knee too. Then more bells, as it got closer to Christmas. We were really excited about them.

I introduced this little custom in Madonna House. During Advent, I wear a kind of bracelet that can be heard as I walk or move, in whatever room of the house I may be. The members of our family tell me that it spurs them on, even as it did me when I was a child, to meditate more profoundly on the mystery of Advent.

Here at Madonna House, we have begun in these last few years to make a collection of miniature donkeys — of wood, glass, ceramics, rope — you name it. And we have an album of Christmas cards (which we save from the many we receive) that depict the donkey in the manger scene.

The presence of the donkey and the ox in Scripture is symbolic of the prophets who foretold the Incarnation. And also of the fact that “the ox and ass know their Master’s voice, but Israel doesn’t know the voice of God” (Isaiah 1:3). So, you see, there is some spiritual foundation for my love for the donkey which brings such great joy to my heart.

I’m sure that, as a child, Christ rode on a donkey many times. And also as a man, of course. In Scripture we know of only two times: one was when the donkey carried Our Lady, who in turn carried God, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The other was when the donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem as the people laid palm branches before Him, proclaiming him king.

Let us think for a moment: What kind of animal is a donkey? It is a beast of burden, the animal of the poor. Once again, the immense theme of poverty is illustrated in an animal. God chose the humblest, the smallest in status, because among the animals the donkey is considered very low. So God is teaching us a lesson here — a lesson of humility, of poverty, and of simplicity.

Have you ever seen a newborn donkey? Well, every donkey has a black cross on its gray fur, a marking which is especially noticeable just after it is born from its mother’s womb. It gets less clear as the donkey matures, but still is visible. I share this fact with you to teach you to open your heart to the bells of the donkey that carried Our Lady and also God.

The breath of the donkey and the ox made the stable warm. So we meditate on several things at once: the poverty and humility of the donkey God chose, and which should be our poverty and humility; and the breath of our love, which should warm God in our neighbor constantly.

Let us remember that the donkey also had no room at the inn. Neither woman, nor man, nor donkey had a place at the inn. So they went to live in a poor stable that wasn’t too well prepared for animals, let alone as a decent habitation for human beings.

Now, another meditation comes to us. Think of the millions of people who are left homeless on our streets. Tragic is this situation. We, as apostles, must be very careful that we do not exclude anyone from the inn of our heart.

I pray that our heart, our soul, our ears will hear very clearly ‘the bells of the donkey,’ not only in Advent but throughout the year. For whoever who is pure of heart and childlike shall hear the bells of the donkey ring in their life.

(Creative Commons Licence Pass It On by Madonna House Publications is free to re-publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.)

If you have a favorite Christmas or Advent story, please feel free to share!

A Love Such as Heaven Intended .99 on #Kindle #bookblast

A Love Front Only

A Love Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

This month’s CWG #Bookblast is A Love Such as Heaven Intended (Book 3 of the Heaven Intended Series) Only .99 on #Kindle #LTO  Click here for Kindle edition!

Synopsis:

In A Love Such as Heaven Intended, budding Civil War socialite Josephine Bigelow is inspired by the words of Louisa May Alcott to make a name for herself as an investigative writer covering the plight of Confederate soldiers held in Federal prisons. Little did she know that one of the inmates she would encounter was her brother’s roommate from West Point Military Academy.

Even though her father is a Union brigadier general, Josephine’s infatuation with the handsome Confederate soldier Michael McKirnan is rekindled. As captivating as Josephine is, the last thing Michael needs is to entangle that beauty into his life of intrigue. The strong-willed Josephine will not be deterred and their lives become intertwined as they embark on a journey of a lifetime, trying to stay one step ahead of the military and a madman bent on revenge. As they journey from Washington, D.C., to St. Louis, Atlanta, and finally East Texas, the two of them discover what love, faith, compassion and loyalty truly mean.

Reviews:

“A Love Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer is a sweet love story that history lovers are sure to appreciate. I enjoyed the first two books in the Heaven Intended series, so it was fun diving into the third book. We even get a glimpse at characters from the previous two books. Fans of historic fiction are going to love this!”  Theresa Linden, award-winning author

“Thoroughly enjoyable! This book abounds with the virtues of faith, hope and love.  Lauer shows us that even during times of war, love wins.” Virginia Lieto,  Author, Editor and Public Speaker

“A Love Such as Heaven Intended is a sweeping love story that is nearly impossible to put down. With equal parts intriguing adventure, fascinating history lesson, and blossoming romance, Amanda Lauer has another hit on her hands.”  Leslea Wahl, Author of The Perfect Blindside, 2018 Catholic Press Association winner

“The third installment in Amanda Lauer’s Civil War romance series matches beautiful and determined Josephine with Michael, a West Point Military Academy graduate who seems to be on the wrong side of the conflict. Filled with historical and military detail and a unique setting for a Civil War novel, A Love Such as Heaven Intended will please both fans of history and of romance.”   Carolyn Astfalk,  Author, Stay With Me and Rightfully Ours

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray For Us!

Today is the beautiful Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, Our Lady appeared in Mexico to a poor Indian, Juan Diego, at a time when human sacrifice was commonplace. Today through abortion, human sacrifice has become all too common, right up to the moment of delivery.

The following is an excerpt from a website with interesting background information and many images to download: www.sancta.org

“After complying to the Bishop’s request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native’s tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 478 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.”

Saint John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron saint of the unborn.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for an end to abortion!

To read more about Our Lady of Guadalupe:

http://www.sancta.org/intro.html

There are many ways to celebrate this feast. Our family usually has a Mexican-type dinner like tacos or fajitas. Although our kids are older now, in past years, we have celebrated by allowing them (youngest to oldest) to break open a pinata.

What does your family do to celebrate this beautiful feast day?