An Open Book – October #openbook

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

Home At Last (edited by Rosalind Moss)

Amazon Synopsis: The impressive Bernini columns that stretch from St. Peter’s Basilica out towards Rome, enclosing St. Peter’s Square, have been described as the arms of the Church reaching out and welcoming all people, all language groups, all cultures, and all individuals looking for truth, happiness in this life, and eternal salvation in the next. Our beloved converts have come to love the Church as their mother and home. They have prayed, argued, studied, and finally embraced the Catholic faith. But it wasn’t by their works alone that they have found a home in the Church. Ultimately they–like all Catholics–are members of the Church because of God’s generous gift of faith, which we neither earn nor deserve. May these converts, and all like them, persevere in their newfound faith and bear fruit a hundredfold. -Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop, Archdiocese of Santa Fe

My review: I’ve been watching the former Rosalind Moss (now Mother Miriam) on YouTube for quite sometime, so I decided to purchase this book to read more about her conversion story and the conversion story of others. Mother Miriam’s is probably the most interesting to me. A Jewish girl brought up in New York City became an Evangelical, then a Catholic, then became a sister and founded a new religious order. Fascinating read, but the other stories are also quite compelling. It’s always interesting to see how the Holy Spirit works in the conversion of others. Every conversion story is as unique as each individual person. Highly recommend! 5/5.

Our House by Louise Candlish

Amazon Synopsis: On a bright morning in the suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband, Bram, have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years; how can another family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared–along with their two young children–when she needs him most?

As the nightmare takes hold, Fiona begins to untangle the lies that led to a devastating crime–and a betrayal so shocking it will teach her to keep her own secrets behind locked doors….

My review: I happened to pick this book up at Costco. The blurb definitely hooked me in. It was a great read (although the middle section where the author dragged out the antagonists’ cat-and-mouse games, I just skimmed because it was too much of the same). However, the last 70 or so pages were compelling and I read that in one sitting. Highly recommend. 4/5.

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties

by Tom O’Neill

Amazon Synopsis: Over two grim nights in Los Angeles, the young followers of Charles Manson murdered seven people, including the actress Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant. With no mercy and seemingly no motive, the Manson Family followed their leader’s every order — their crimes lit a flame of paranoia across the nation, spelling the end of the sixties. Manson became one of history’s most infamous criminals, his name forever attached to an era when charlatans mixed with prodigies, free love was as possible as brainwashing, and utopia — or dystopia — was just an acid trip away.

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O’Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the “official” story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi — prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter — turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O’Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions.

O’Neill’s quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco’s summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA’s mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

My review: I bought this book after seeing the author’s gripping interview on Joe Rogan’s YouTube channel. I wanted to hear more about his research. Chaos is a very interesting book. although tedious at times. The author had legitimate questions and sometimes the answers were not what he (or his readers) expected. My one biggest disappointment in this book is that there is never any definitive answer to many of the questions he asked. He did, however, illustrate with evidence how Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor in the original Manson trials, lied by omission during the trial and in his book, Helter Skelter (which I’ve read at least five times: it’s probably THE most compelling book I’ve ever read!) Recommend to true crime readers: 3.5/5.

Woman in the Trees by Theoni Bell

Amazon Synopsis: Set within the expanses of the American frontier, The Woman in the Trees follows Slainie, an inquisitive pioneer girl, whose life is forever transformed when a mysterious seer shows up at her door. Amidst the backdrop of the Civil War, family tragedy, and the nation’s most destructive wildfire, Slainie must navigate her rugged pioneer life as she encounters love and loss, and comes face to face with the story of America’s first approved Marian apparition.

My review: I really enjoyed this young adult book about America’s first approved Marian apparition. I also enjoyed the descriptions of what it was like in the pioneer days, especially with immigrants. Recommend! 4/5

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins

Amazon Synopsis: A madcap band of dancing, prancing monkeys explain hands, fingers, and thumbs to beginning readers.

My review: I just recently purchased this book for my grandson. Since I’ve been babysitting him part-time, one of the things we do together is read. This was one of my boys’ favorite books growing up and it has become one of my grandson’s favorite books. It’s simple, funny and entertaining. Highly recommend. 5/5.

Go Dog Go by P. D. Eastman

Amazon Synopsis: Reading goes to the dogs in this timeless Beginner Book edited by Dr. Seuss. From big dogs and little dogs to red, green, and blue dogs, dogs going up and dogs going fast . . . who knew dogs were so busy? And laughter will ensue at the repeated question “Do you like my hat?” Like P. D. Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother? Go, Dog. Go! has been a go-to favorite for over fifty years, leaving audiences of all breeds wagging their tails with delight.

My review: Believe it or not, this is one of the books that taught me to read (it was published in 1961.) I remember absolutely loving the part at the end with the tree (no spoilers here!) and my boys shared the same excitement. So this is another book I bought for my grandson in the hopes he can also enjoy it! Highly recommend. 5/5.

Open Book – September #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.

Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month:

The Last Closet by Moira Greyland

Amazon Synopsis: Marion Zimmer Bradley was a bestselling science fiction author, a feminist icon, and was awarded the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. She was best known for the Arthurian fiction novel THE MISTS OF AVALON and for her very popular Darkover series.

She was also a monster.

THE LAST CLOSET: The Dark Side of Avalon is a brutal tale of a harrowing childhood. It is the true story of predatory adults preying on the innocence of children without shame, guilt, or remorse. It is an eyewitness account of how high-minded utopian intellectuals, unchecked by law, tradition, religion, or morality, can create a literal Hell on Earth.

THE LAST CLOSET is also an inspiring story of survival. It is a powerful testimony to courage, to hope, and to faith. It is the story of Moira Greyland, the only daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley and convicted child molester Walter Breen, told in her own words.

My review: I’ve got a pretty strong stomach for disturbing books, but I could only read one chapter or part of a chapter at a time. The author talks about all this happening in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when sexual permissiveness was not as widespread as it is now. It is a testament to the author that she was able to pull herself out of her home life and have the courage to report her father to the police. My only criticism is that the book could’ve been edited better. It’s far too long and the author includes letters and comments from others. However, I do recommend it, but only for those with a strong stomach for disturbing stories.

The Butterfly Miracle by Michelle Halliwell

Amazon Synopsis: A devout Catholic, graduating at the top of her class with a scholarship to Harvard, is drugged and assaulted by a stranger. Unfairly pregnant, she must choose between her dreams and her faith.

My review: On my ‘To Read’shelf.

Tippi: a Memoir by Tippi Hedren

Amazon Synopsis: In this absorbing and surprising memoir, one of the biggest names of classic Hollywood—the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Marnie—tells her story, including never-before-revealed experiences on the set of some of the biggest cult films of all time . . . now with a foreword by Melanie Griffith

For decades, Tippi Hedren’s luminous beauty radiated from the silver screen, enchanting moviegoers and cementing her position among Hollywood’s elite—beauty and star power that continue to endure. For too long Hedren’s story has been told by others through whispered gossip and tabloid headlines. Now, Hedren sets the record straight, recalling how a young and virtuous Lutheran girl from small-town Minnesota became a worldwide legend—as one of the most famous Hitchcock girls, as an unwavering animal activist, and as the matriarch of a powerful Hollywood dynasty that includes her movie star daughter Melanie Griffith, and rising star Dakota Johnson, her granddaughter.

For the first time, Hedren digs deep into her complicated relationship with the man who discovered her talent, director Alfred Hitchcock, the benefactor who would become a repulsive and controlling director who contractually controlled her every move. She speaks openly about the dark pain she endured working with him on their most famous collaborations, The Birds and Marnie, and finding the courage she needed to break away.

My review: To come.

Shadow Stalker by T.M. Gaouette

Amazon Synopsis: It all happened one morning. It was as if the world had gone mad. Well, maybe not the whole world, but enough of it to get noticed. People were waking up as if possessed; suffering souls resorting to tearing at their skin, crying out loud to no one in particular, haunted by a sudden internal torment that no one around them could decipher. For investigative reporter Elijah, this news story was way bigger than a scoop. Unless he could unmask the truth behind the madness, how could he stop it, once and for all? And more urgent – how could he keep it from happening to him?

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. In an age where sexual trafficking and molestation happens to the youngest of children, I found myself wishing this internal torment would happen to all those who destroy the innocence of a child. Compelling page-turner. Highly recommend.

Love’s Labour Started by

Martina Parnelli and M. Roberto Angelorum

Amazon Synopsis: A poetic peek into Renaissance era romance beckons us in this tale of lords and ladies at odds in their pursuits – pursuits that quickly change as camaraderie creates bonds from both unexpected turns and surprising discoveries. Medieval gentility makes for an authentic taste of yore in this tale of love and life’s lessons therein.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this play involving lords and ladies meeting and interacting. Romantic attractions occur but what follows is a beautiful illustration of chaste love and following one’s vocation. Exquisitely written in fine poetry. Highly recommend.

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

Lesscostsmall

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

 

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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Virtual Book Tour: Moonchild Rising Interview with Mina Ambrose

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As part of the Moonchild Rising Virtual Book Tour, here is my interview with the author, Mina Ambrose:

EG: What was your inspiration for Moonchild Rising (and in fact, all the upcoming books of the series Shadows of the Sun)?

MA: I’d always loved writing, eventually collecting a whole file-box of notes and story beginnings—none of which, incidentally, had anything to do with vampires—that never went anywhere, due to other interests pushing them to the back burner. Even after I “discovered” vampires (read a few books, saw a few movies, though I wasn’t really a fan of the horror genre) I soon grew tired of the gore and ugliness and lack of real story or interesting characters, though there was the odd exception.

Then along came Buffy the Vampire Slayer, sticking more or less to traditional vampire lore, but with certain intriguing innovations: its young female heroine, small and delicate—the very image of innocence, vulnerability and weakness, as the “slayer”—unusual at the time (not a learned doctor like Van Helsing, or a tough-guy vigilante type, or a whole crew of them); a vampire that regains its soul (I was skeptical at first, then it occurred to me that nothing is impossible with God); the “reformed” vampire joins her in her work and the two of them fall in love (possible in this case, I decided, because the restoration of the vampire’s soul allows him to choose good over evil). They were a cute couple and the show was entertaining, except, as usual, Hollywood kept getting off track. For example, to them, falling in love means falling into bed. And the heroine was typical—supposedly “good,” but actually not. It seemed to me the slayer must actually be above reproach or demons would just laugh at her; and she wouldn’t be in the business of killing vampires for very long. Neither is the vampire’s soul likely to be restored by evil means (supposedly a gypsy’s curse).

“No, that’s not right, it ought to be this way!” I’d say to myself in frustration each time. And finally, “If I was writing it…” And that’s how it started. It was not intended to be a retelling of someone else’s story, but merely to put things in their “right order,” from the Catholic perspective. With God as present as He is in the real world; the use of holy water and crucifixes as blessed objects with power against evil—not just superstition like some sort of lucky charm.

From the beginning my actual hero was meant to be the child that resulted from this unlikely marriage (for marriage it had to be). This was to be his story, ultimately, though the first book only hints at his presence on the last page.

author photoEG: How long did it take you to write the entire series?

MA: About twenty years, more or less.

EG: What intrigues you about vampires?

MA: The “outsider” has always held a certain fascination, and a vampire is the quintessential outsider. Once human but now soulless, it is cut off from all it once had forever, not alive or dead, just undead, doomed to walk the night craving human blood. Though a horror, it is at the same time a pathetic creature. It is interesting to consider not only what must be done to protect the innocent (enter “the slayer”), but also to imagine the vampire’s point of view. At some point in its history the vampire seems to have taken on a romantic image, unlike most other monsters, and I suppose that’s part of the attraction (unlike zombies, which are ugly and disgusting and not romantic at all). Of course, that’s my opinion. Apparently they are pretty popular nowadays, for some unaccountable reason.

EG: Before the Prince became a vampire, he lived several centuries ago as a human. How did you go about creating a character who lived so long ago?

MA: Just as with any other character, but in addition, it is something like creating a historical novel, I suppose. I had to research the era and locale, by reading histories and looking at artwork depicting how people lived and worked and dressed in that time and place. Always keeping in mind that he must have a different worldview than someone born in our own time, but as a vampire the Prince would have been affected by his many experiences over the centuries, so there is a lot of leeway. For example, his “ambiguous accent” that Mara’s father couldn’t quite place.

EG: What sort of research, if any, did you do to write this book (series)?

MA: I’ve always been a bookworm, so my research mainly involved books on relevant topics: vampires, history, geography, astronomy, angels and art, for example. I resorted to the Internet when necessary, and asked for input from others, for instance the fight scenes; several of my children involved in martial arts provided helpful feedback.

EG: You have quite a few adult children. Did any of them read early copies of your manuscript?

MA: Yes, my three daughters and a daughter-in-law loved the manuscript—two of them read it several times during its various stages of development. I was pleased (and relieved) when they assured me that my characters are my own and not those of the TV series. Their input was greatly appreciated. Several of the boys (not big readers) read the first few chapters at one point. Their encouraging comments helped me to persevere during the dark times when I felt like chucking the whole thing.

EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

MA: There are so many I don’t know where to start. Michael O’Brien has to be at the top of the list for novels, ranging from historical to apocalyptic (even prophetic) to science fiction with characters sympathetic and interesting, people you can relate to. J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and of course George MacDonald with their classics. Josephine Tey’s mysteries, and Canon Sheehan’s accounts of Catholic Irish life set in the nineteenth century are a few of the older authors I admire. Joseph Pearce is top-notch in non-fiction and literary criticism, as well as poetry; I admire his sharp mind and common sense, and in particular his poetic way with words even when writing prose. A lot like G. K. Chesterton, another favorite. A few of the more recent authors are Robert Ovies, Roger Thomas, Gail Caress with a satisfying mix of adventure, romance, mystery, suspense—sometimes even horror and tragedy—but always the “right order of things.” Recently I have enjoyed a number of authors from FQP as well.

EG: Thank you, Mina, for the wonderful interview!

To purchase Moonchild Rising, click here for the Kindle edition and here for the paperback edition.

Virtual Book Tour: Moonchild Rising by Mina Ambrose

Beginning on Monday and for a week, my blog and other blogs will be hosting author Mina Ambrose for a Virtual Book Tour:

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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.

Keywords:    Religious inspirational,  vampire fiction, clean historical, Catholic fiction fantasy, Vampire conversion

Info Link:   https://www.fullquiverpublishing.com/our-publications/shadows-of-the-sun-series-by-mina-ambrose/

Buy Link Kindle:    https://www.amazon.com/Moonchild-Rising-Shadows-Sun-Book-ebook/dp/B087JY8X4C/

Buy Link Print:   https://www.amazon.com/dp/1987970152/

Categories:   Fantasy Fiction, Vampire Romance, Religious Inspirational Fiction, Catholic Romance Vampires, Supernatural

Goodreads link:   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53398004-moonchild-rising

 

Virtual Book Tour Stops

June 8   Patrice MacArthur

June 9  Steven McEvoy  Book Reviews and More

June 10  Ellen Gable  Plot Line and Sinker

June 11   Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

June 12  Karina Fabian

June 13   Theresa Linden

June 15  Sarah Reinhard, Snoring Scholar

 

Advanced 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

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:

 

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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!

 

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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