An Open Book – September #openbook

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

All Quiet On the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque

Synopsis: Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

My review: I tend to avoid books written in the present tense, but this one does it well. I also found it fascinating that this book is written from the POV of a German soldier instead of an Allied soldier. It doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the war and humanizes every soldier, both German and Allied. It has beautifully written passages. Highly recommend.

Synopsis: Fear is at the heart of the sexual revolution, and its most fitting monument is the “hook-up.” Dr. Morse exposes the sexual revolution’s fraudulent promise of freedom and fearlessly explodes some of modern society’s most cherished—and destructive—myths. She argues that strong, lasting marriages are essential for the survival of a free society, not to mention basic human happiness. She fires the opening shots of a new sexual revolution and shows how everyone, married or single, can help.

My review: I picked up this book for five dollars at a local Catholic bookstore. I liked it, but the author didn’t go far enough in explaining why contraception is disordered and one of the underlying causes of a “hook-up” world. However, on the whole, it was an excellent book. Recommend.

Synopsis: If you met God today, what would He say to you? Words of Hope is a collection of powerful dialogues and sayings given by Jesus to four gifted saints from the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Gertrude the Great and Margaret Mary Alacoque. These souls possessed the gift of “locution,” the ability to hear the actual voice of God. In this book, author Craig Turner collects into categories the locutions received by these saints, words from God that are meant not only for these four souls, but for all mankind.

My review: This is a beautiful book with powerful words given by Jesus to four gifted saints. These souls could hear the actual voice of God. Recommend.

Amazon Synopsis: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is a friendly, conversational book about pregnancy, birth, and your first three months as a new mom. With respect and honesty, authors Bonnie Way (mom of 5) and Anna Eastland (mom of 9) share their experiences, walking expectant moms through some of the questions and concerns they may experience from conception to colic. This book includes tips on dealing with first-trimester exhaustion, dressing your baby bump without breaking the bank, choosing the best care provider for your pregnancy, whether or not to write a birth plan, dealing with pain during labour, taking care of yourself and baby after birth, and more. If Bonnie and Anna could sit down with you to have coffee and chat about pregnancy and new babies, this is what they’d like to tell you – mom to mom.

My review: I enjoyed this step-by-step book for new mothers. It offers great information, especially for first-time moms. Recommend.

Arnprior Author’s New Novel Wins Award

The local newspaper published an article about my newest award.

Photo by James Hrkach

Local author Ellen Gable Hrkach is already an award-winning author whose books have received top prizes in various fiction awards. But, for Hrkach, the award for her newest book is particularly satisfying. Where Angels Pass, Hrkach’s twelfth book and based on a true story, won First Place in the Catholic Media Association Book Awards in the category of Catholic Novels (Educational). Her book also won Honorable Mention in an additional CMA category of Best Book by a Small Publisher. 

She says, “I’m grateful for any awards or recognition, but to win a CMA Book Award is a bucket list item that I can now check off.”  The CMA judges gave this comment about Hrkach’s book: “This is a timely and well-written story, showing the effects of child abuse by a priest, not only on the victim but also on the victim’s family. A worthwhile read!”

Hrkach explains, “Where Angels Pass tells the fictionalized story of my father’s abuse and the ensuing tragedies that befell our family because of that abuse. My siblings and I didn’t find out about the abuse until after my father died. When I discovered the reason he had such a troubled life, it all made sense to me.”

By writing this book, Hrkach wanted to share that despite the clerical abuse that had occurred for decades in the Catholic Church – and specifically with her father – her own Catholic faith, although tested, prevailed nonetheless. Similarly, her abused father remained a Catholic until his tragic death. She says, “I had a beautiful relationship with my dad and, despite all the difficulties, he was a wonderful and caring father.” Author Jim Sano says that the book is “a love story of a daughter for her father…that will surely touch people in a profound way.”

Former attorney and author Michael Seagriff says, “Ellen Gable has done a great service to our Church, the victims of this dreaded abuse, and particularly to their families whose suffering has gone virtually unnoticed. Masterful job mixing fact with fiction.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen. She began writing religious fiction as a hobby twenty years ago when her five sons were small children. “When I first started writing, I planned to eventually get around to working on a story about my father’s life, but for twenty years, I couldn’t actually sit down and write the story, partly because it was too difficult to relive our family’s most disturbing experiences.”  Then, Hrkach relates that, “Last summer, I just sat down and wrote for three weeks until I finished the first draft. Yes, it was excruciatingly painful to write about, but it was also very therapeutic.”

Six of Hrkach’s books have been translated into various languages, and the author’s books have been collectively downloaded 780,000 times on Kindle. To date, she has published twelve original works, has ghostwritten five others, and has contributed to numerous other books and websites.  Find out more about her at http://www.ellengable.com.

Where Angels Pass is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover on Amazon and through the author: fullquiverpublishing@gmail.com

An Open Book #open book August 2022

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

Tangled Violets by Denise-Marie Martin

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

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

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

Fantacy Daughter of Fate Part 1 by Vanessa Marie Caron

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

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

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

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

Friendship, love, action and adventure…

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

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

#NFP Awareness Week #nfpawareness

This week is NFP Awareness Week.

Natural Family Planning, Supporting God’s gifts of love and life in marriage.

Check out these articles I wrote about NFP!

Rebuilding a Culture of Life 

NFP and Resolutions for the New Year

Humanae Vitae and the Benefits of NFP

Responsible Parenthood and NFP

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

Open Book – July 2022 #openbook

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

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

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

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

My review: Coming soon!

Back From the Abyss by Robert Margetts

Amazon Synopsis: Three tragic events happened during my lifetime. First there was the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, when I was eleven years old. This was followed by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I was fifteen. The third event was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when I was 71. These three events are part of my history, as they are for many of you, and are very much the motivation for writing this book and what led me to stand in conscience against the use of weapons of mass destruction while still a member of the USAF. God changed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Our hearts have been hardened and wounded by these tragic events and by the painful events of our own personal lives. We desperately need to face the nuclear age with the heart of God, not with our own thinking but with God’s. Only then can we experience an age of peace upon the earth.

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

The Cross and the Beatitudes by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

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

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

Treasures Visible & Invisible by Catholic Teen Books authors

Amazon Synopsis: Treasures: Visible and Invisible is a collection of short stories by eight CatholicTeenBooks.com authors.

  • A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
  • Between an unearthed treasure and a visit from Heaven, a young monk is in for the surprise of his life!
  • A young girl seeks a mysterious treasure that holds the key to granting a nun’s dying wish.
  • Honora is desperate—then a peculiar clover and a mysterious young man change everything.
  • William’s weekend job is a little gift from heaven, but now his family needs a real miracle.
  • When threatened by mobsters, Grace receives help from a surprising source.
  • Alone and afraid, a young girl finds friendship in a stranger. But could this boy be trouble?
  • Kyle was determined to save the precious relic–but now his whole family is in danger.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories that center around St. Patrick’s life and legend. An ideal book to read around St. Patrick’s feast day or any time of the year. Recommend (and not just for teens).

In the Shadows of Freedom by C and C Spellman

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

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

Rescued! True Stories for Catholic Kids by Kathryn Griffin Swegart

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

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

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.

Now Available from FQP! Checkmate by Mina Ambrose

Checkmate, Shadows of the Son #4 by Mina Ambrose is now available on Kindle and in paperback.

Jude flies to California to search for his real parents and the truth of his origins but is left with more questions than answers

And unwilling to face the possibility that he may be half-vampire, he decides instead to concentrate on his quest, as the most immediate concern. He is convinced that Phaedra is the “damsel in distress” of his recurring nightmare and that it is his task to rescue her from the “dragon,” Charon.

He returns to the mansion for another renovation job (transforming the top floor into an observatory) and allows himself to be persuaded to join the vampires’ parties after hours. His hope is that he may learn the master’s plan for Phaedra and foil it.

Phaedra has been warned, but under the guise of a star party with her astronomy class, is lured to the mansion. Charon quickly ensnares her and she vanishes into the labyrinth. Jude begins a mad search for her, fearing what the master intends. But meddling with the powers of darkness brings dire consequences, and the price of saving her may be dearer than even he has reckoned.

Charon has promised that his vampire crew will become daywalkers, and he, lord of all. Is this to be the end of the world as we know it?

It’s available here on Kindle and at this link in paperback.

A World Such as Heaven Intended #FREE on #KINDLE

Today through Thursday, A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer, is FREE on Kindle.  This CALA-award-winning novel can be downloaded until Thursday for #free.

Synopsis: Amara McKirnan and Nathan Simmons share a devotion to their Catholic faith but their loyalties lie on opposite sides of the conflict. Dedicated to the Confederate cause, Amara offers to help out at her uncle’s makeshift hospital in Atlanta. Fate brought Nathan to their doorstep and into Amara’s life. Little does Amara know that the wounded soldier she cares for harbors a secret that will not only jeopardize his life but hers as well.

Follow Amara and Nathan’s story from the heart of war-torn Atlanta to the Northern Georgia battlefields to the plains of East Texas as their lives become intertwined in a way that shatters the separate worlds they once knew.

Reviews:
“Amanda Lauer brings history to life in this fast-paced, emotionally charged, splendid tale. Extremely enjoyable.”
May McGoldrick, International Bestselling Author of The Thistle and Rose, Secret Vows and the Highland Treasure Trilogy

“The South of 1864 springs to life in ‘A World Such as Heaven Intended.’ Rich in details of language, setting, and social mores, Lauer takes readers on the journey of her protagonist, Amara McKirnan, a strong woman ahead of her time who wrestles with her blended family and the horrors of the Civil War to find the peace and happiness she is convinced awaits her.”
Marni Graff, Author, The Nora Tierney Mysteries

“‘A World Such as Heaven Intended’ is a fast-moving historical romance that will keep you turning pages until the very end! An excellent read.”
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, Author, The Catholic Baby Name Book

“A charming romance with well-drawn characters and clear imagery, offering the reader a chance to slip away to another era and come home refreshed.”
A.K. Frailey, Author, The Deliverance Trilogy

Download your Kindle copy for FREE at this link.