Close to the Soul #1 in New Releases on #Kindle

Close to the Soul by Mary Jo Thayer (to be released on May 1st by FQP!) is #1 in New Releases on Kindle!

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:

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

With equal measures of heartbreak and joy, Close to the Soul is a gripping novel that strikes every emotional chord.  Fans of Francine Rivers will flock to this one!  Lori Nelson Spielman, best-selling author

When I started reading Close to the Soul, I wasn’t sure how Mary Jo would approach this difficult topic, especially from a young woman’s point of view. What I found was a beautiful and inspiring story written in such a refreshing way that celebrates life, faith, love, redemption, strength of spirit, and family amid a devastating challenge. I felt honored to read Close to the Soul’ and pray that many readers will share this story.   Jim Sano, author of the Fr. Tom Series

What an uplifting and hopeful story! I have to admit that it brought tears to my eyes more than once while I was reading it.  I loved the solid and unwavering faith displayed by the Fandel family. The story definitely brings out the truth of God’s wonderful and mysterious ways and his constant care of us even when we are going through rough times that we cannot understand. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.   Linda Etchison, author, Sr. Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

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

Wow! What a powerful and moving story set in the 1950’s. The story is of great value for readers today. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literature. Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

To preorder the book on Kindle, click here.

A Channel of Your Peace #bookblast #sale

A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn is currently on sale on Kindle for .99 (until Tuesday, April 20) and is this month’s Catholic Writers Guild Bookblast!

Synopsis:

Would a God who truly loves you allow things to get this bad?

Lapsed Catholic Erin Rafferty has the life she always wanted. Or at least she did, till the moment her fiancé of five years announces he’s leaving her for another woman. Heartbroken and humiliated, a further devastating development leaves her wondering if she can ever live a normal life again.

Mark Ashcroft is a devout Catholic looking for an equally devout Catholic wife. A chance encounter with Erin leaves Mark completely captivated, yet deeply unsettled, knowing Erin is not in a place to accept him, nor is she the model Christian woman he’d hoped to start a life with.

A tentative friendship begins, and Erin finds herself questioning her long-held rejection of her faith, while Mark finds himself healing from memories of his own wounded past.

But as love grows, further tragedy in Erin’s life threatens her burgeoning faith and her hope for a future with Mark.

What follows is a difficult journey of love, surrender, trust, and faith in the ultimate knowledge that Christ is always in the midst of our sufferings.

Excellent debut novel. I was very impressed with the writing. The story is masterfully written and was very hard to put down.”

Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Download A Channel of Your Peace for only .99 on Kindle!

An Open Book – February #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 and what I’ve been working on.

Free Fall by Jessica Barry

Synopsis: They say your daughter is dead.

You know they’re wrong.

When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, everyone assumes Allison Carpenter is dead.

But Maggie, Allison’s mother back home in Owl Creek, Maine, refuses to believe them. Maggie knows her daughter – or she used to, anyway. For the past two years, the two women have been estranged, and while Maggie doesn’t know anything about Ally’s life now – not even why she was on a private plane to begin with – she still believes in her girl’s strength, and in their love for each other.

As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers about the world Allison has been involved in. What was she running from? And can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?

Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a heart-stopping, propulsive thriller about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and the ones they love.

My review: This was certainly NOT what I expected it to be. It started off slow so it took 50 or so pages to get into this, but once I did, I definitely didn’t want to put it down. It’s a complex story with well-developed characters and some twists and turns. Well written, highly recommend! 4/5.

Synopsis: (from Amazon) The most popular Catholic novel in America. Immerse yourself in a sweeping story set against the backdrop of historical and present-day Marian Apparitions. Join unforgettable characters as their lives intertwine during the Great Tribulations. Discover why America’s best-loved Catholic novelist has thrilled, inspired, and surprised over one million readers who simply could not put this unforgettable epic down. Must-reading for every Catholic.

My review: With our world in the state it’s in, I picked this book up again after about 25 years. It’s not as badly written as I remembered (especially this edition where Michael O’Brien helped with the edits). It’s a great story but you can definitely tell the author had never written fiction before. I’ve never liked that the priest and several of the faithful Catholic characters smoke and drink as much as they do in this book. The author’s favorite phrase is: he/she took another drag of his cigarette. The POVs are constantly switching between characters even within the same paragraph. I’ve always thought that the gushing reviews at the front of the book by unknown people to be somewhat embarrassing and the synopsis that indicates it’s the “most popular Catholic novel in America” to be over the top. All that being said, this is and will always be a great story, if you can overlook the mediocre writing and character development in the women (all the women’s dialogue sounds the same.)

And…without this book, I don’t think there would be the hundreds of great Catholic novels now available. This author gave me inspiration when I started out writing fiction. 3/5 for the great story.

Synopsis: With House of Gold, America’s favorite Catholic novelist returns to the riveting, apocalyptic storytelling which captured the hearts of countless readers in his explosive classic, Pierced by a Sword, while retaining the intimate, realistic characters who charmed, surprised, and ultimately swept readers away in his second novel, Conceived Without Sin. Join Bud Macfarlane as he takes you on a gripping spiritual odyssey that will reverberate through your soul long after you turn the final page.

My review: House of Gold has always been my favorite of the three in Bud’s series, probably because the writing is much better and one of the character’s names is Ellie (which is my nickname). It’s a fictionalized account of what might have happened had Y2K been real and all the computers shut down. Another great story, but this time, better written. Recommend! 4/5.

Amazon Synopsis: Now available! By the year 2030, medical science had become so advanced that death could be postponed indefinitely. A small group of ultra-wealthy people saw in this new technology an opportunity to create a more stable and peaceful world, but only if they had full control over the treatments. Keeping their life-extending procedures to themselves, they took on a near god-like identity under the name the Avogo, thinking that they could rule with consistent peace and wisdom that would come from their great age.

In 2045, fire reigned down from heaven. About two-thirds of the world’s population perished as the environment became harsh and desolate. Most people who survived took to living in earth-sheltered dwellings, including caves and tunnels. The Avogo — having been worried about climate change — had already prepared their own elaborate doomsday bunkers in mountainsides and stocked them well with the equipment and supplies they would need to continue their immortal lives. They welcomed survivors into their bunkers, offering a life of bliss to anyone who wanted to join their growing cities.

But that life of bliss was not free. People who joined the new cities had to agree to have a brain portal implanted into their heads. The portals enabled downloadable education… and reprogramming when their thoughts got out of line. And to monitor those thoughts, citizens had to live with a personal affective simulator bot (PASbot) at all times.

Now, in the year 2091, a seventeen-year-old boy named Jutta — born and raised in Volmar, the greatest of the new utopian cities — is plagued by a depression that he can’t shake and that no amount of reprogramming has remedied. Finding little enjoyment in the pleasures that the others in Volmar seem to love so much, he asks for the only solution that can possibly give him a new lease on life… the Refreshing.

Amazon Synopsis: Coming February 11, 2021 from FQP! Charon, master vampire, has known of an ancient prophecy foretelling the coming of a “nemesis” to destroy him and his kind on some future date. One of royal blood and—perhaps—half-human and half-vampire. His attempts throughout the ages to thwart the prophecy have failed. His senses tell him that the birth of his destroyer is imminent! He must act now, while it is a mere child, and vulnerable. He commands his horde to kidnap the baby and bring it back to him.

With great difficulty his plan is carried out. A great battle ensues; the child is snatched. Those that survive the perilous mission straggle back to the master’s lair. Only then is it discovered that the baby has been mysteriously lost.

The child falls into the hands of a humble couple living in the woods, who raise him as their own, in obscurity, preserved from danger until the time comes for him to fulfil his destiny. They name him Jude, unaware of his unusual heritage, though as he grows, he displays certain “oddities.” They are protective of the child and teach him to hide these oddities from a world unforgiving of anything different. He himself does not know what it all means, nor does he understand the recurring nightmares and “episodes” that seem so real. More frightening is the “phantom” that haunts the surrounding forest and seems fixated on him.

As Jude enters his teen years, he tries to piece together the puzzle of his life. Will a mysterious monk—who unexpectedly and fortuitously appears on the scene—help him sort it out?

Anything But Groovy by Amanda Lauer

Amazon Synopsis: Coming February 26 from FQ Publishing! Morgan is looking forward to junior high school and all the adventures it holds in store for her. But after a collision on the volleyball court, she wakes up on the first day of school trapped inside her mom’s teenage body circa1974. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to discover that living life as a seventh-grader in the ‘70s and dealing with everything going on in her mom’s life back then — from uncool parents, to annoying older brothers, to balancing friendships, and to ultimately doing what she can to survive bullying at the hands of the school’s biggest jock — is anything but groovy.

My Queen My Mother by Marge Fenelon

Amazon Synopsis: In My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena, award-winning author Marge Steinhage Fenelon brings you along on a pilgrimage to nine Marian shrines across the United States. Each day of this spiritual journey helps you encounter God and a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother.

“My Queen, My Mother, I give myself entirely to you.”

The opening line to the Little Consecration sets the framework of this unique, nine-day pilgrimage, which culminates in a consecration to Mary.

This living novena is similar in style and structure to the pilgrimage Fenelon developed in the bestselling and award-winning Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The key difference, however, is that the first living novena was framed by Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land. For My Queen, My Mother, Fenelon chose sacred destinations that reflect the Catholic heritage of the United States.

The nine Marian sites Fenelon visits are:

  • Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, St. Augustine, Florida;
  • National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, New Orleans, Louisiana;
  • St. Mary’s Mission and Museum, Stevensville, Montana;
  • Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, Starkenburg, Missouri;
  • Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, Carey, Ohio;
  • The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, Wisconsin;
  • Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, Auriesville, New York;
  • House of Mary Shrine, Yankton, South Dakota; and
  • Our Lady of Peace Shrine, Santa Clara, California.

Even if you can’t make a physical pilgrimage as Fenelon did, you can still make a spiritual one through her extended guided meditation. Each day you’ll learn about a different shrine to Mary: its history, charism, and graces. Fenelon will also guide you to visit a new “place” in your heart, to understand more about yourself and how to open your heart more fully to Mary.

My review: This is a beautiful little book that takes you on a spiritual pilgrimage to different Marian shrines with reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I highly recommend it!

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. I knew little of this saint until I read about her during my research for A Subtle Grace. This book was a finalist in Religious Fiction in the 2015 IAN Awards. I dedicated this book to her.

It’s no surprise that St. Agnes’ feast day is so close to the U.S. March for Life (which is, sadly, canceled this year). Agnes’ name in Greek means “chaste, pure or sacred,” and in Latin, it means “lamb.” She is the patron saint of young girls, chastity, engaged couples, rape victims (and others). In past centuries, young girls would recite this prayer/poem to St. Agnes on the Eve of the feast day with the hope they would dream of their future husband.

Now good St. Agnes, play thy part,
And send to me my own sweetheart,
And show me such a happy bliss,
This night of him to have a kiss.

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!

An Open Book – January 2021 #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. I haven’t had a lot of time for pleasure reading this past month, but here’s what I read or re-read:

Donkey Bells by Catherine Doherty

Synopsis: Catherine Doherty is well known for reviving many holy Christian traditions. In Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas, Catherine’s three-in-one book on this most ‘expectant’ of holiday seasons, you’ll receive wonderful gifts:

Meaningful and heartwarming stories, the telling of which will surely become a family Christmas tradition. Including: The Little Christmas Angel O’Ryan, How Pride Became Humble, The Christmas Gift, Christmas in Harlem, The Bruised Reed, and others.

Customs which you can adopt into your own Christmas celebration, such as: The Advent Wreath, The ‘O’ Antiphons, Baking Christmas Foods and Decorating, and The Blessing of The Christmas Tree. Traditions surrounding important Advent and Christmas feast days are presented, including: St. Nicholas, The Immaculate Conception, Feast of the Holy Family, New Year’s Eve, Epiphany, and more.

Earthy and inspiring meditations to prepare the entire family for Christ’s coming, including:A Candle in Our Hearts, Little Things, The Gurgle of a Baby, Where Love Is God Is, Looking into the Child’s Eyes, Advent: A Modern Bethlehem, A Short Season—A Long Journey, and many more.

My review: This is my favorite Advent and Christmas book, although I can be found reading this well into January. This is another book I’ve read numerous times. I enjoy reading this on a comfy chair by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.  So many beautiful stories and traditions. Highly recommend!

Kathleen Morgan

The Christkindl’s Gift by Kathleen Morgan

Amazon Synopsis: When Anna Hannack’s father-in-law brings home a wounded stranger only days before Christmas, Anna’s not happy. Christian charity moves the Hannack family to help the injured man, but the young widow Anna keeps her distance. The tragedies of life have shattered her trust, and she’s determined not to let another stranger threaten her family. Could it be, though, that this rugged Scotsman is actually the gift Anna’s young children have asked of the Christ Child this Christmas?

My review: I enjoy reading this book each Christmas.  It’s a well-written and clean historical romance.  4/5 stars (there was one anachronism in the book.)

Pregnancy: An Advent Eternally Renewed

My latest at CatholicMom.com:

Image by Bartek Ambrozik FreeImages.com

“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent.  Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl!  Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation!  Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent.  Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.”  Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents

There are so many things to be thankful for during Advent this year.  Yes, it’s 2020, and many would prefer to rush to the end of this eventful, stressful year.

I don’t agree.  During this challenging time, we can use these beautiful weeks to prepare for and to be thankful for Our Savior’s birth and for Mother Mary’s “yes” to carrying Jesus. 

I was blessed to be pregnant during five Advents, and during each one, it was easier to understand this truth that “every pregnancy sings of the first Advent.”  However, the Advent before my January baby (number-four son) was probably the most impactful, given that I was exceptionally large, and I had suffered more during this pregnancy than in the previous three healthy ones combined. I had debilitating migraines every two days until four months along. I’m four feet nine inches tall and, before pregnancy, my weight was typically 95 pounds. I had already gained 65 pounds with that pregnancy, and the baby measured at seven pounds during December. (He would be born a month later at nearly ten pounds).  While I didn’t love the difficulties and challenges of childbearing, I was filled with joy when I was pregnant because it was a time when the fruit of our love was growing and kicking inside of me.

And growing and kicking this baby did. A lot of it! Because of the excess weight, I could barely walk, let alone move. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting on a stinky donkey and traveling in warm weather, far away from home, then giving birth in a damp, smelly stable. 

Needless to say, that was the first time I understood with greater clarity what Mother Mary endured that first Advent. I continue to be in awe of Our Lady’s yes to carrying Our Savior.   Mary was – and continues to be –a beautiful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors, and discomforts.

Mary also acted as my consoler when I lost seven babies through miscarriage.  There is no other woman who could so completely understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross, her heart pierced by the sword of watching her own flesh and blood, the very Savior of the world, die in agony.

Let us embrace this Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.  And let us pause, remember, and pray for all those who carry a precious child in their wombs, that they will understand with great clarity the unique and everlasting gift of carrying an eternal, human soul.

Nearing the end of a challenging pregnancy (1996)

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – November #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!

What Follows After by Dan Walsh

Amazon Synopsis: 2nd Edition – Carol Award Finalist, Selah Award Winner !! (Best Historical Fiction) It’s October, 1962. Life is simple. The world makes sense, and all families are happy. When they aren’t, everyone knows you’re supposed to pretend. With their family about to collapse, Colt Harrison and his little brother, Timmy, hatch a plan. They’ll run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt’s house in Savannah and refuse to come home until their parents get back together. But things go terribly, terribly wrong. Colt’s parents must come to grips with years of mistrust and fight for their son’s return…and to mend their broken marriage. In this emotional story, Dan Walsh takes readers on a suspense-filled journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life.

My review: I liked this book because it had some twists and turns and an interesting plot. The part of the story that takes place in 1962 was very well done and mentioned songs, TV shows and movies from that time. Recommend. 4/5.

The Crown of Sanctity
by Daniel O’Connor

Amazon Synopsis: 2,000 years ago, the Son of God prayed to His Father, “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This prayer, the greatest ever uttered by the lips of man, will not go unanswered. Jesus has revealed to an Italian mystic named Luisa that the time has now at last arrived for its fulfillment; that is, for the restoration of what was destroyed by Adam 6,000 years ago in the Fall of Man. In brief: the entire world is about to be radically transformed like never before in its history. This is probably something you should know about. This book has been written to inform you about the transformation and to enable you to take part in it and hasten it.

But this transformation will not be achieved through human effort. It will be given directly from Heaven by way of God’s greatest Gift: the Gift of Living in the Divine Will, which is the Crown of Sanctity, and which even now we must all strive to receive. In this sanctity is found The Culmination of Deification, the Fruitfulness of Mystical Marriage, the Aspiration of the Unification of Wills, and the Essence of Marian Consecration. This is none other than the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary promised at Fatima. It is the coming of the Kingdom of God.

This is a long book, but its length should turn away no one, as a thorough and detailed table of contents is given so that each reader can easily select only those sections in which he is interested for his perusal.

And any reader is sure to find much that interests him. Within these pages is a treasury of resources; not only concerning Luisa’s revelations directly, but also on new arguments for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity, extensive Catechesis on Private Revelation in general and on the spiritual life in general (including overviews of the greatest teachings on spirituality in the history of the Church), and details on the Era of Peace as revealed to Luisa and many other mystics, visionaries, and seers (Fatima, Medjugorje, Venerable Conchita, Fr. Gobbi, and dozens more). You will not regret reading this book.

“This is our great hope and our petition: “Your Kingdom come” – a kingdom of peace, justice, and serenity, that will re-establish the original harmony of creation.” St. JP II

My review: Amazing, compelling book about the times we’re living in and approved revelations of Jesus to Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta back in the late 1800’s and 1900’s. She was bedridden for most of her life and neither ate, drank or slept, only being nourished by the Holy Eucharist. She was called the “Little Daughter of the Divine Will.” Highly recommend. It’s permanently free on Kindle. 5/5.

Firstborn by Robin Lee Hatcher

Amazon Synopsis: Erika Welby had a secret she thought no one would ever discover. But someone knew …

“Dear Mrs. Welby, I know you were only seventeen when I was born. I’ve got many questions. I wonder if you have questions to ask me, too.”

Erika’s worst fear is realized when her well-kept secret shows up on her doorstep. As she reaches out to the daughter she gave up for adoption 21 years ago, her husband pulls away, leaving Erika with an impossible choice.

My review: The synopsis hooked me in, so I downloaded this when it was either free or .99. However, for me, the story didn’t deliver. We find out that before she was married, Erika had a one-night stand, got pregnant and wound up giving up the baby for adoption. She never told her husband or the man she had the one-night-stand with. When Erika hears from the daughter she gave up, she panics because her well-kept secret is about to be revealed. I found both the husband and wife standoffish and not that likeable. 3/5.

Mommie Dearest by
Christina Crawford

Amazon Synopsis: The 40th anniversary edition of the “shocking” #1 New York Times bestseller with an exclusive new introduction by the author (Los Angeles Times).
 
When Christina Crawford’s harrowing chronicle of child abuse was first published in 1978, it brought global attention to the previously closeted subject. It also shed light on the guarded world of Hollywood and stripped away the façade of Christina’s relentless, alcoholic abuser: her adoptive mother, movie star Joan Crawford.
 
Christina was a young girl shown off to the world as a fortunate little princess. But at home, her lonely, controlling, even ruthless mother made her life a nightmare. A fierce battle of wills, their relationship could be characterized as an ultimately successful, for Christina, struggle for independence. She endured and survived, becoming the voice of so many other victims who suffered in silence, and giving them the courage to forge a productive life out of chaos.
 
This ebook edition features an exclusive new introduction by the author, plus rare photographs from her personal collection and one hundred pages of revealing material not found in the original manuscript.

My review: I downloaded this when it was on sale for 1.99 on Kindle. Like many people, I’ve seen the disturbing movie. I was prepared for any disturbing incidents, but it was hard to stomach most of this book. Recommend only for those with a strong stomach. 3/5.

In a People House by Dr. Seuss

Amazon Synopsis: When a spunky mouse invites a passing bird to see what’s inside a People House, chaos ensues while beginning readers learn the names of 65 common household items—and that people are generally not pleased to find mice and birds in their houses! A super simple, delightfully silly introduction to objects around the home—from none other than Dr. Seuss!

My review: This is another favorite of my sons as they were growing up and I’m sure will be a favorite of my grandson’s. It’s got catchy rhyming (as usual for Dr. Seuss) and when reading it to a toddler, you can almost read it as a rap. I was surprised that I knew this book almost by heart! Highly recommend! 5/5.

Llama llama Nighty-Night by Anna Dewdney

Amazon Synopsis: What’s the best part of bedtime? Stories with Mama! Before cuddling, Llama Llama must splish and splash in the tub, then put his red pajamas on.

Dewdney’s catchy rhymes, effortless rhythm, and adorable artwork can now be enjoyed by even younger audiences. Toddlers will love this perfect read-aloud.

My review: This is a clever little book for toddlers with adorable pictures and great rhyming. One of my grandson’s favorites. Just short enough for bedtime. Highly recommend. 5/5.