An Open Book – December 2018 #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 for the past month!

 

Heavenly Hosts

Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids by Kathryn Swegart

Amazon Synopsis: Your children likely know all about the Eucharist, that central ritual beloved by Catholics worldwide. But do they know that God’s presence in the Eucharist is miraculous?

Heavenly Hosts presents documented Eucharistic miracles in story form to bring middle-grade readers to a better understanding of the Real Presence. One story details a fourth-century priest in the Sahara Desert who loses his faith until the Christ Child appears in the Host; this miraculous sighting causes the priest to return to God. In another tale, Antonio, a ninth-century altar boy, stands firm in a test of faith and is rewarded for his fidelity. And in one memorable story in Italy, a thirteenth-century debate over the true nature of the Eucharist is settled when a donkey falls to its knees before a monstrance containing the consecrated Host.

My review: I have been working with the author on the second edition of this lovely book.  Compelling stories about Eucharistic miracles, along with beautiful illustrations makes this a perfect Communion or Confirmation gift. Highly recommend.

RWOutcast front cover

Roland West Outcast (A West Brothers Story) by Theresa Linden

Amazon Synopsis: He’s searching for the truth but is he ready to proclaim it?

For shy Roland West, speech class is synonymous with humiliation. The last thing he wants is more attention from the gossips and troublemakers of River Run High School. But when an outcast’s house is viciously vandalized, Roland needs to find the perpetrators–before they strike again. Yet nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Suspected by the police and ridiculed for his beliefs, Roland draws closer to the sinister truth. When the perpetrators threaten a good friend, can Roland overcome his fear of speaking out and expose them?

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the West Brothers Series. Linden creates characters that are real, believable and three-dimensional.  And the story is so compelling, I just wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when it ended.  Highly recommend (and not just for young adults!)

love and responsibility

Love and Responsibility by St. John Paul II

Amazon Synopsis: Drawing from his own pastoral experience as a priest and bishop before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla has produced a remarkably eloquent and resourceful defense of Catholic tradition in the sphere of family life and sexual morality. He writes in the conviction that science–biology, psychology, sociology–can provide valuable information on particular aspects of relations between the sexes, but that a full understanding can be obtained only by study of the human person as a whole. Central to his argument is the contrast between the personalistic and the utilitarian views of marriage and of sexual relations. The former views marriage as an interpersonal relationship, in which the well-being and self-realization of each partner are of overriding importance to the other. It is only within this framework that the full purpose of marriage can be realized. The alternative, utilitarian view, according to which a sexual partner is an object for use, holds no possibility of fulfillment and happiness. Wojtyla argues that divorce, artificial methods of birth control, adultery (pre-marital sex), and sexual perversions are all in various ways incompatible with the personalistic view of the sexual self-realization of the human person. Perhaps the most striking feature of the book is that Wojtyla appeals throughout to ordinary, human experience, logically examined. He draws support for his views on the proper gratification of sexual needs, on birth control, and on other matters, from the findings of physiologists and psychologists. His conclusions coincide with the traditional teachings of the Church, which invoke scriptural authority. His approach ensures that non-Christians also can consider his arguments on their own merits.

My review: I’ve read this book so many times, it’s starting to look ragged!  This is one of my favorite JP II books. It’s hard for me to believe that when I was a young mother, I delayed reading this book for many years because A) I had small children and B) I thought it would be too academic for me.  However, once I did read it, I couldn’t stop.  JP II was a brilliant man and explain clearly why marriage is the proper place for sexual relations and why birth control is contrary to basic vows of a marriage. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Donkey Bells

Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas 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. 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!

Boston Marathon

A Catholic’s Road to the Boston Marathon by Teresa Hurst

Amazon Synopsis: This book is not about running. While it’s set around training and marathons, ultimately it’s not about that. Instead, this book is about crosses. It’s about overcoming the ordinary fear and suffering that plagues each human soul in this race through life. It focuses on the tremendous value of the cross – with reflections on the Passion of Christ and how we can each relate in our own way. This book reiterates the fact that running is hugely spiritual. As in life, it is setting a goal and pushing yourself to reach it despite pain, fear, or the normal setbacks involved with the spiritual battles we are all called to fight.

My review: This is on my to-read list!  It’s written by a dear friend of mine!

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Donkey Bells by Catherine Doherty

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

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

Donkey Bells (by Catherine Doherty)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roland West, Outcast VBT

RWOutcast front coverI’m happy to be participating in the Virtual Book Tour of Theresa Linden’s newest book, Roland West Outcast, Book 5 in the West Brothers Series.

He’s searching for the truth but is he ready to proclaim it?

For shy Roland West, speech class is synonymous with humiliation. The last thing he wants is more attention from the gossips and troublemakers of River Run High School. But when an outcast’s house is viciously vandalized, Roland needs to find the perpetrators—before they strike again. Yet nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Suspected by the police and ridiculed for his beliefs, Roland draws closer to the sinister truth. When the perpetrators threaten a good friend, can Roland overcome his fear of speaking out and expose them?

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the West Brothers Series. Linden creates characters real, believable and three-dimensional.  And the story is so compelling, I just wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when it ended.  Highly recommend (and not just for young adults!)

Connect with Theresa Linden:

​website: www.theresalinden.com

​blog: Things Visible & Invisible

Facebook author page

​Twitter: @LindenTheresa

Buy links

PAPERBACK http://ow.ly/Do2c30mhyr5  (Tumblar House)

EBOOK http://ow.ly/F2oY30mhyA6  (Kindle on Amazon)

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Charlotte’s Honor VBT – Remembrance Day – Veterans Day

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Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War!

Charlotte’s Honor, my new book, takes place during the Great War (1914-1918).

Synopsis: After receiving  a telegram that her brother — and only surviving relative — has been killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

Remembrance Day/Veterans Day

Today is also a day to remember those who served in wars. I’d like to remember in a special way my father, father-in-law and stepfather (all now deceased). Each served their country in war: my father-in-law was in the United States Air Force during World War II and was ‘Missing in Action’ for months, my father and stepfather (my father’s first cousin) both served in Korea. Today is also my father’s birthday. He died in 1978 at the age of 49.

Remembering Tony An article about my father-in-law, who was a gunner for the USAF in WW II. He was shot down over Yugoslavia, near his father’s birthplace.Tony in army

Remembering Dad A tribute to my own father, who served in both the USMC and the United States Army, and who died when I was 18.Dad in Army

This last post is a special way to remember, with fondness, the three father figures in my life: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day 2009

Lest We Forget…

Humbled, Honored and Surprised: Arnprior Author Inducted Into Hall of Fame in New Jersey

Ellen Gable Hrkach photo.jpgFrom the Arnprior Chronicle Guide:

When local author, Ellen Gable Hrkach, was informed this past July that she was being inducted into her high school’s hall of fame, she was “humbled, honoured and surprised.” The award is “in recognition of outstanding achievement” regarding her success as an author of fiction. The induction ceremony took place on Oct. 7 in Glassboro, N.J. A graduate of Triton High School, class of 1977, Hrkach was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated sixth in a class of over 450 students. She joins 40 other Triton alumni whhave been inducted over the years.

The author recently released her ninth book, Charlotte’s Honor, the second of three books in the Great War — Great Love series. The first in the series, Julia’s Gifts, was published last year. Both books are appropriate for age 12 and over.

Hrkach, who writes under her maiden name (Gable), says that she “enjoys creating stories, especially historical fiction.” In her new book, Charlotte’s Honor, 21-year-old Charlotte enlists as a medical volunteer during the Great War. She begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Award-winning author Therese Heckenkamp highly recommended the novel, saying that it’s an “authentic story of compassion, self-sacrifice, and the true meaning of love.” Dr. Jean Egolf, wrote that “Charlotte’s Honor is a beautiful, tender and moving story set during World War One …” and that “it will not disappoint.”

The main female characters in the series are American and their love interests are Canadian. “I am American, and my husband, James, is Canadian. It’s been fun exploring that relationship with fictional characters.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen, having received her Canadian citizenship in 2014. The author began writing Christian fiction when her five sons were small children. The hobby eventually turned into a full-time career of writing, editing, book coaching, and ghostwriting.

She is currently working on the third novel of the Great War — Great Love series, Ella’s Promise, as well as two other novels entitled Where Angels Pass and A Faithful Heart.

Awards and Translations

In 2015, Hrkach’s fifth book, A Subtle Grace, was a finalist in the IAN Book Awards in both the romance and historical categories. In 2010, Hrkach’s second book, In Name Only, won the IPPY Gold Medal in Religious Fiction. In 2006, her first novel, Emily’s Hope, won an Honourable Mention in the IPPY awards.

All of her books are available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback. Her third book, Stealing Jenny, is available in three languages: Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian and will soon be translated into Lithuanian. Julia’s Gifts is available in Italian and will soon be available in Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Stealing Jenny is also available as an audiobook (narrated by Lisa Reichert). Since 2009, the author’s books have been collectively downloaded nearly a quarter of a million times on Kindle. To date, she has published nine original works and has contributed to numerous other books.

Upcoming Book Signings

The author will be signing and selling books at the following events during the month of November:

Friday, Nov. 2: The Knights of Columbus Ladies’ Shopping Night, St. John Chrysostom Parish Hall, Arnprior, Ont., from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 10: Catholic Women’s League Bake Sale and Bazaar, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall, Braeside, Ont. from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 24: Christmas Craft, Bake and Business Sale, Nick Smith Centre, Arnprior, Ont. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Charlotte’s Honor costs $15 for the print edition and $4.99 for the Kindle edition. It’s available online via Amazon and through the publisher’s website at www.fullquiverpublishing.com. More information can be found at the author’s website: www.ellengable.com.

Charlotte’s Honor Now Available for Pre-Order

Charlotte's Honour Front Cover sm

Charlotte’s Honor (Great War Great Love #2) Kindle Edition is now available for pre-order at this link!  It will be released on October 22, 2018, the Feast of St. John Paul II!

The paperback edition will be available shortly after October 22, 2018.

Synopsis: After receiving notification that her brother –and only relative — is killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

Advanced Reviews:

Charlotte’s Honor is a beautiful, tender, and moving story set during World War One.  The perfect mix of historical detail and romance, this second installment in Gable’s Great War Great Love Trilogy will not disappoint. Charlotte Zielinski,  to whom we were first introduced in Julia’s Gifts, is a strongly positive role model for our daughters. She endures trials throughout this story that most of us cannot imagine facing today, yet the genuine manner in which the characters react and respond rings true for all time. I would add Charlotte’s Honor to the must-read list for any historical fiction, mother-daughter generational, or virtue-based book club. Of course, Gable’s tales are perfectly delectable as a personal poolside treat as well!”       Jean Egolf, author,  the Molly McBride series

“Charlotte’s Honor includes a little bit of everything: WW1 history, sweet romance, and a little mystery/suspense. This page-turning love story (it’s a fast read!) is built on a foundation of faith and above all, the dignity of human life.  Charlotte (whose honor has more than one meaning here) devotes herself to the care of dying soldiers. It is through this calling that Charlotte meets and falls in love with Paul, a skilled surgeon who has closed his heart to the possibility of romance. Expect a little humor amidst the backdrop of wartime brutality and a couple of surprises along the way. Charlotte’s Honor is not only a pleasant romantic escape but edifying as well.” Carolyn Astfalk, author, Ornamental Graces, Rightfully Ours

“Set toward the end of the Great War, Charlotte’s Honor allows readers to glimpse ugliness and death, blossoming relationships, and the most challenging experiences a person could face, juxtaposing the brutality of war with the beauty of sacrificial love.”  Theresa Linden, award-winning author

“A charming story set in WW II France where love and faith endure through times of trial. Though Charlotte must face death every day, her commitment to kindness leads to hope and a new life.” A.K. Frailey, author of Last of Her Kind

“Ellen Gable delivers another impressive historical romance novel, a worthy sequel to her first book in the Great War Great Love series. When Charlotte Zielinski, a medical volunteer, meets skilled surgeon Dr. Paul Kilgallen at a field hospital in France during World War I, they face great hardships that require courage, dedication, hope—and faith. Charlotte’s Honor is an authentic story filled with compassion, self-sacrifice, and the true meaning of love. A wonderful read and highly recommended!”  Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author

An Open Book – October 2018

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

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

Harry Brady

A New Lens on Life: Jesus Was My Ophthalmologist

by Harry Brady

Publisher synopsis: Growing up on the Northside of Pittsburgh with an alcoholic father and rats in the basement, Harry R. Brady developed an Irish wit that glows throughout A New Lens on Life—Jesus was My Ophthalmologist.

The “scrawny little kid with glasses” peppered his childhood with classroom misbehavior, sandlot exploits, misadventures with fireworks, and practical jokes, and tempered it with endearing innocence and compassion for others.

Then, as the lone survivor of a tractor-trailer accident that killed three college classmates, Harry lost his Faith and challenged God. “Why did You save me?”

Still mourning his friends’ deaths while sitting next to classmate Antonin Scalia at graduation from Georgetown, Harry questioned God’s very existence.

Inspired by the love of his life, he finished medical school, started a family, and wound up in the Army. During his M.A.S.H.-like service as a Captain and surgeon in Korea during the  Vietnam War, Harry’s mischievous and creative stunts shocked his superiors as he served those in need.

Later, he performed sight-restoring and sight-saving surgeries for the blind and the vision-impaired in Haiti.  His Brady Clinic for the Homeless at Saint Louis University has provided free service to more than 11,000 medically disenfranchised people. In this rollicking and deeply inspiring autobiography filled with twists and turns, Harry discovers that after living 64 years with his own spiritual vision impairment, that Faith and Reason are two compatible expressions of one universal truth.

My review: I had the absolute pleasure of working with Harry by editing his book.  Dr. Brady is one of most entertaining and inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  Highly recommend this wonderful book.

 

 

WhereverYouLead 500x750

Where You Lead by Leslea Wahl

Amazon Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Eve Donahue’s lonely existence changes in an instant when visions of a mysterious stranger haunt her. Certain God is calling her for a mission, she bravely says yes and begins her quest to meet this young man.

Thousands of miles away, Nick Hammond has been dealing with his own unusual experience, an unwavering certainness to convince his father to run for political office.

When these two unlikely teens finally meet, their belief that God has called them to work together sets them on a journey of faith to untangle a web of deception involving international trade agreements, lost confederate gold, and a blossoming romance. As they follow century old clues, they realize God can call us all in big and small ways. We just need to listen and say “Yes Lord, I will go where You lead.”

My review: Thoroughly enjoyed this book!  More detailed review to come!

Hidden Legacy

The Hidden Legacy by Carrie Sue Barnes

Amazon Synopsis: A young American woman departs for France, leaving behind her family and fiancé, to serve as a nurse during World War I. Her unpredictable experiences and choices will reshape not only her, but the generations to come after her, as well. Your legacy is built one decision at a time. Forsaking the comforts of home at the height of World War I, Annie Walcott serves as a nurse at a French estate turned war hospital. In the face of daily hardships and losses, she shutters her heart against the emotional toll of her work. When Kyle, the brother of a patient, arrives at the hospital, his and Annie’s unforeseen connection threatens to dismantle her protective walls. New possibilities and former loyalties clash. Will Annie have the courage to become the woman of unrivaled strength and faith she longs to be? Can she embrace the sacrifices necessary to step forward in love? Eighty years later, in a tiny Midwest town where Annie has led a quiet, contented life, she finally confides her untold memories to her great-granddaughter Laurel. The heritage of secrets casts a startling new light on Laurel’s family, faith, and identity. In Annie’s final days, can Laurel allow truth to heal the past and fortify her for the future?

My review: The Hidden Legacy is a beautiful story of Annie Walcott who served as a WW 1 nurse in France. The book goes back and forth between young Annie’s perspective and 100-year-old Annie’s perspective as she tells her great-granddaughter Laurel what it was like to serve as a nurse so long ago. Annie describes events and people who changed the course of her life and, consequently, Laurel’s. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Bella Dodd

School of Darkness by Bella Dodd

Amazon synopsis:  Dodd’s re-entrance into the Catholic Church—which as a communist she had so bitterly attacked—was a natural result of her new state of mind. In the early 1950s, she provided detailed explanations of the Communist subversion of the Church, reporting that “in the 1930s we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within, [and that] right now they are in the highest places in the Church.” From such positions they were working to bring about change in order to weaken the Church’s effectiveness against Communism. She said further that these changes would be so drastic that “you will not recognize the Catholic Church.”

Bella Dodd’s story is a human document of immense importance to Americans today. Here are the inner workings of the Communist Party in the United States in the early to mid-20th century as seen from the secret counsels and strategy meetings of the National Committee, to which she belonged for a crucial span of years. The climax of the book is a snowy Christmas Eve when Bella finds the reaffirmation of her faith, and is able to say, “I have learned from bitter experience that you cannot serve man unless you first serve God in sincerity and truth.” Not being able to secure her baptismal certificate from Italy after inquiry, she was baptized by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

My review:  I ordered this after hearing Fr. Altier’s homily on the Communist infiltration of the Catholic Church. Although the synopsis indicates it tells about how Communism infiltrated the Catholic Church, it doesn’t.  It goes into the detailed story of how she became a Communist and how she was expelled from the party and eventually became Catholic.  Still, I’d recommend it.  It illustrates just how devious Communism is in its brainwashing. Four of five stars.

Saints

Lives of the Saints by Michael Ruszalia

Amazon Synopsis: This book, written from a Catholic perspective, provides an overview to the lives of the saints celebrated from January to March on the Roman calendar. It is the first in a series, which will cover the whole Church year. It makes for inspirational spiritual reading any time of the year, providing an introduction to the patron saints for many walks of life. Included are the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul, early martyrs like St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, early evangelizers like St. Patrick, medieval giants such as St. Thomas Aquinas, American saints such as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann, and many others.

My review: I got this during a free promo on Kindle.  It’s a beautiful book and I’m enjoying it very much.

Picoult

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

Amazon Synopsis: For career-driven assistant district attorney Nina Frost, the question inspires pangs of guilt familiar to all parents torn by the demands of home and office. But whereas most parents lie awake at night vividly conjuring the worst scenarios that could befall their children in their absence, Nina lives the reality of such crises — and it’s her job to do something about them. Nina Frost prosecutes child molesters — and in the course of her everyday work, she has endured the frustration of seeing too many criminals slip through the system and walk free.
But even the strongest walls cannot guard Nina from the shattering discovery that her own beloved son has been sexually abused.
Five-year-old Nathaniel is the only one who knows the identity of his assailant — but in the initial fallout of his trauma, he’s been left mute, unable to speak a single word. Knowing the futility of trusting the courts to exact justice for Nathaniel, and ripped apart by a maddening sense of helplessness, Nina finds herself in a grip of rage she can’t deny — no matter the consequence, whatever the sacrifice. What does it take to be a good mother? How far can a person go…and still live with herself? What happens if one’s absolute truths and convictions are turned upside down?

My review: With the current crisis within the Church, I wanted to re-read this novel  that I had read years ago.  It packs a powerful punch.  Picoult dives head first into the topic of clerical abuse. This is one of Picoult’s best books, in my opinion, because she does an excellent job of keeping the reader turning the pages and at the same time eliciting fear, relief, joy, and sadness.  Highly recommend (NB: although studies show that the high percentage of young men abused by priests are post-pubescent, the child in the book is only five years old.)

Bound

Bound by Vigaya Bodach

Amazon Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Joshi, an adopted girl from India, burn survivor, and primary caretaker of her intellectually disabled sister, Joy, has one dream–to be a physician. Her traditional Indian father relies upon Rebecca to care for Joy while he buries himself in work to drown his grief over his wife’s death. Leaving home is the only way Rebecca can envision reaching her goal. She helps Joy develop greater independence, and is devastated when Joy becomes pregnant. Rebecca tussles–with her father and with herself–over who is responsible for Joy and her baby. When Rebecca discovers the truth of what happened the day she was burned, she struggles to hold onto her dream while wrestling with questions of life, love, and responsibility.

My review:  Powerful debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful story.  The characters are very well-defined, three-dimensional and real, the setting full of sensory details and the plot exceptional.  Highly recommend!