Virtual Attendance #cartoon

copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Back in 2013 when we created this cartoon, we had no idea how close this would be to the truth eight years in the future.

I never thought we’d be attending both weddings and funerals virtually. After all, the idea for this cartoon was supposed to be a joke, not real life.

However, our new normal seems to be here to stay.

We now teach marriage preparation virtually via Zoom. Sometimes the only way to attend Mass is via Zoom. We visit with family and friends via Zoom and FaceTime. Just about everything we used to do in person, we do via Zoom. Yes, it’s more convenient. Yes, it’s safer. But I do miss the face-to-face interaction and the hugs.

However, if we can’t find some humor in social distancing, virtual weddings and funerals, mask-wearing and sanitizer, then it’s going to be challenging finding it elsewhere these days.

Stay safe. Take time to smile, laugh and be happy about your blessings, even in these challenging circumstances.

Copyright 2021 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Two New Books From FQP!

Dubbie: The Double-Headed Eagle by Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, Illustrated by James Hrkach

On this beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception, FQP is proud to release two new books, Dubbie: The Double-Headed Eagle by Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen (children’s book) and Gus Busbi by Jim Sano (contemporary fiction).

Synopsis: What if the ugly duckling was actually an eagle — an eagle with two heads? It’s not easy being a double-headed eagle. This is something little Dubbie finds out soon after hatching. With his single-headed family being clueless how to raise him, he embarks on a quest to find kindred eagles. On this journey, he makes friends with a runaway girl named Emma, but also encounters villains with a hidden agenda who are intent on keeping the past in the past — particularly double-headed eagles. Will Dubbie find his double-headed family? Will he and Emma be able to outwit their foes? Follow their adventures through the magical city of Vienna and find out for yourself.

This delightful children’s book is FQP’s first venture into the world of children’s books. The author, Eduard Habsburg (Archduke Eduard of Austria) is a direct descendent of the Emperor at the time of the beginning of WW1. My husband James illustrated the book (including the cover).

Until Christmas, the book is only 9.99 USD (after Christmas, it will be 12.99).

Buy: Kindle edition at this link

Buy: Print edition at this link

Gus Busbi by Jim Sano

Synopsis: What can a black teen from the gang-controlled South End projects of Boston and a seventy-year-old curmudgeonly Italian man, who has given up on life, have in common? Jamiel Russell and Gus Busbi live in the same house but they’ve never met. They both would have just assumed it stayed that way, but life often has more in store for us than we plan for. This timely novel is the second story in the neighborhood of St. Francis Parish and shows the power of relationships, love, and forgiveness.

This is part of the Fr. Tom series by Jim Sano (two more upcoming books in the series!) and takes place in the Boston area at St. Francis’ Parish. A timely story about forgiveness!

Buy: Kindle Edition at this link

Buy: Print Edition at this link

Veterans Day 2020 #veteransday #remembranceday

My three fathers served a total of 16 years in various branches of the United States armed forces.

My father, Frank Gable, served in the United States Marine Corps from 1946-1950 and in the United States Army from 1950-1954. However, November 11th has always held a special place in my heart because it is my father’s birthday. Today he would’ve been 92. He died suddenly and tragically at the age of 49, just before my 19th birthday. My family and I walked around in shock, trying to get through the days following his death.

Frank Gable was short in stature (around five feet six inches tall), enjoyed watching “Gomer Pyle,” “Hogan’s Heroes” and the “Honeymooners.” He enjoyed playing the card game, Rummy, and Monopoly. His favorite candy was Hershey’s Kisses.  Over the years, he worked as a clerk and mailman. Years ago, my mom shared with me that he is the one who named me. And, when I was 15 or 16, he used to hug me and say, “El, you need to find a guy just about my size because you fit perfectly to me when we hug.” (I did!)

For Christians, the consolation is that we will see our loved ones again. I know that I will see my dad again someday. Until then…Happy Birthday, Dad. Remembering you in a special way today.

My father-in-law, Tony Hrkach (1925-1995) served as a tail gunner in the United States Air Force during the second World War.

Near the end of the war, during a routine mission, Tony’s plane was shot down over Yugoslavia (coincidentally, near his father’s birthplace). Frantically, he and his buddies parachuted out of the airplane. Unfortunately, however, one of his friends hit the side of a mountain and was killed. Tony and the others made it safely to the ground and were captured as soon as they landed.

They were marched for miles until they reached a POW camp. Remarkably, they found the Germans running the camp to be kind and, while it was not easy to be a prisoner of war, they were treated humanely.

When an announcement came over the radio that Germany had lost the war, their captors immediately handed their weapons and guns over to the Americans. Then, in a strange moment of understanding, they exchanged small personal tokens as reminders of their time together.

“I don’t just think of myself as a citizen of the United States; I think of myself as a citizen of the world,” he used to say. His idea was that we should remember first and foremost that we are all human beings, especially in time of war.

Like my own father and many other veterans, my father-in-law enjoyed “Hogan’s Heroes,” the television sitcom from the 1960’s about a German POW camp. The show attempted to put a human spin on such horrific times…the very thing that Tony found in his real experience with the ‘enemy.’  (With thanks to my husband James for writing this account of his father’s experience in the second World War.)

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My stepfather, Joseph Power (1933-2012), trained in Parris Island, South Carolina, before shipping out to Korea. He attained the silver badge in Marine Marksman. Like my father and father-in-law, Joe never liked to talk about his experiences with war.  But he would say things like, “Be grateful for warm showers,” or “If that’s your only complaint, be thankful that you’re not being fired at.”

While we remember all those who fought in wars so that we may live in freedom, let us also remember that the real enemy isn’t necessarily the people we fight against, but the evil circumstances that result from greed, lust and power.

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach 2020

An Open Book – August #openbook

An Open Book 800W

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

Though War Be Waged

Though War Be Waged Upon Me:

A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection

by Carol Puschaver

Blurb: Make no mistake. Satan is very much alive — and hellbent on revenge. He is waging war against humanity, and indeed against all creation, with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose. Cast out of heaven; crushed at the foot of the Cross, he is multiplying evil and outrage and scandal to unprecedented effect as he “strikes at [the] heel” (Gen 3.15) of “fallen mankind” (St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition, 9).Without question we are living in a time of increasingly brazen evil. That is to say, a time of extraordinary and abundant grace also. Christ has already won the final victory over Satan. By His grace, we stand strong against the forces of evil. By that same ineffable grace, we stand in the company of holy angels — most especially the glorious Warrior Archangel Saint Michael.And the high ground belongs to us!

My review: This is a beautiful booklet dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.  If you thought the only St. Michael prayer was the one we sometimes say at the end of Mass, then this book will be an eye opener for you.  Included is a history of the St. Michael prayers as well as a chaplet and reflections. Highly recommend.

Unspeakable Beauty

Unspeakable Beauty by Joshua Elzner

Blurb: When Adam awakes without a past, he is impelled to ask the question, “Who am I?” and yet this question itself is already cradled in the awe of first discovery, in which his heart is stirred to childlike wonder and playfulness at his contact with a beautiful world that he had almost lost forever. But whenever his memory comes flooding back in, and his whole being is shaken by the trauma of a painful life, will he be able to retain his childlike wonder, and will he be able to answer this question, both for himself and for others?

His only hope lies in letting himself be buoyed up by what has gone before him, carries him now, and will always remain—a mystery greater than himself and yet enfolding him in his uniqueness, a mystery knitting his life together with the lives of so many others in a tapestry that, while composed of light and darkness, of joy and sorrow, of profound hope and inexpressible anguish, is nonetheless a masterpiece of unspeakable beauty.

My review: The author can write well and the story is engaging.  My only criticism is that it’s very, very long.  For those who can handle lengthy books, this is a good read.

Jazz

Jazz and Other Stories by Dena Hunt

Blurb: Like jazz music, these singular life stories play out in an improvisational current of tragedy, comedy, drama, and discovery. A little girl in rural Georgia, a young woman in Germany, a Floridian priest, a history professor in New Orleans, and others all contribute verses of experience—some with joy, some with sorrow, and some with shock, or even violence. Written over a period of many years by an award-winning author, these stories and their characters make up a varied collection of life’s jazz-like rhythm, its recurrent refrain of surprise, its terrible and beautiful crashes against the cymbals. Not one of the stories is about love, but they are all, in their different ways, love stories.

My review: This is a new book by my favorite author, Dena Hunt.  I’ve read some of the stories and they’re wonderful.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

Peace Among Brambles Front Cover for Kindle

Peace Among Brambles by May Akonobi

Blurb:  Mma loves children. Preoccupied by this love and the desire to have her own children, she rushes into marriage with Joey, throwing overboard her mother’s wise counsel to pray and seek God’s will. The honeymoon is a dream come true for Mma and her new husband. But when they return home, Mma finds that Joey’s mother and sister have moved in. What follows is a challenging time for Mma. How will she face her new situation? Will she ever realize her dream of having her own children?

My review: This is a beautiful story of a young Nigerian woman, who yearns for children. She  marries quickly without praying to God for guidance. What follows is a series of life lessons for Mma, who eventually learns to trust in God.

Reviews for Though War Be Waged Upon Me by Carol Puschaver

Though War Be Waged

Catholic reviewers have been enthusiastic about Though War Be Waged Upon Me:

Though War Be Waged Against Me by Carol Puschaver is a great collection of prayers and information about St. Michael the Archangel – an excellent resource for a much-needed devotion in these troubling times.

Linda Etchison, author of the Sister Aloysius books

This book is a powerful little gem that inspires deeper devotion to St. Michael and provides the prayers and practices to lives it out.

Laurie Power, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Parish

Is there a more timely saint for the present age – or any age! – than St. Michael the Archangel? This short book is filled with information about the beloved angel who stands between us and evil. Some prayers were familiar and some were new to me, especially the St. Michael Chaplet. The significance of classic depictions of St. Michael was also interesting.  For those who are familiar with the popular prayer to St. Michael but would like to go deeper and cultivate a devotion to the Archangel, this is a great book! I have a couple of Michaels in my life who will benefit greatly from it.

Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author

This prayer booklet came recommended from a friend. I am very thankful that they did and that I picked it up and I can highly recommend it. It is a small volume but packed full of information and prayers.

The chapters in this volume are:
Introduction
Mikha-el!
Defend Us in Battle
The Saint Michael Chaplet
A Small Prayer Treasury
An Archangel’s Beauty: Reflections on the Treasury of Western Christian Art
Ways to Love and Honor Saint Michael
Did you know …?

In the introduction we are told:

“As I reflect on the words of St. Paul in the context of current events around the world, I earnestly believe that we are living in a time of extraordinary, if not indeed unprecedented, grace.

The near-constant and ubiquitous barrage of evil can be mind-numbing and paralyzing: nuclear weapons’ brinksmanship, mass extinctions of untold species, resurgent nationalism coupled with seemingly irreconcilable ideological divides, the mounting, ominous frequency of “once-in-a-century” weather events, commonplace mass shootings, brazen terrorist attacks . . . and the list goes on.”

And that is exactly what this volume does. There are 15 prayers to Saint Michael in the chapter A Small Treasury of prayer. The book is a mix of prayers, instructions, and teachings.

Overall, I am very happy to have added this booklet to my library. It is a great little volume. And I highly recommend it.

Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

 

After the second wave of Church scandals two summers ago, my pastor requested and received permission from our bishop to lead the assembly in praying the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after each Mass.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

It struck me, those first weeks as we all prayed together, that there is power in this prayer.

I did not know that there is so much more to the story of St. Michael and devotion to him until I read Carol Puschaver’s Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A Saint Michael Treasure of Prayer and Reflection.

This booklet, only 68 pages long, details interesting saintly connections with St. Michael the Archangel as well as encouraging the faithful to make frequent recourse to him in prayer.

Ask his help!
How wonderful it is when someone turns to you with complete confidence and asks your help! They know you are capable, they entrust their need to you, and they give you a chance to shine with your God-given talents!
Recite the Prayer to St. Michael often, and seek his intercession, especially in time of danger, trial and temptation.
Ask him for the gifts of spiritual, moral and civic courage.
Ask his help to know and discern right from wrong and act accordingly. (57)

I love how this brings home the truth that we don’t need to wait for the big stuff to happen to call upon the saints for their intercession. Indeed, we shouldn’t wait. We should keep them close. We wouldn’t want our loved ones to wait for situations to get completely out of hand before asking for our help, after all.

Learn to pray the Litany to St. Michael, the St. Michael Chaplet, and other prayers listed in Though War Be Waged Upon Me, and find the best way to keep this powerful intercessor close to you.


(Review Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz)

Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom and Editor, Contributor Catholic Mom

Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A St. Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection

Though War Be Waged

Since that most dire moment when “war broke out in heaven” as Lucifer rebelled against God, the war between good and evil has always raged, and our present time is no exception.  To the contrary, the forces of good and evil are locked in a battle that appears to be escalating, growing more ominous by the day.   And it hardly seems any exaggeration to feel that evil has the upper hand – and Satan is not about to pull any punches.

So what is the average layperson to do?

Though War Be Waged Upon Me:  A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection is a book written by Carol Puschaver as one answer to this pressing question.  The reader can draw hope and remember that grace is at work as he/she appeals to St. Michael, starting with the Prayer to St. Michael that was composed by Pope Leo XIII.  As the book makes clear, however, there is much more not only to the Warrior Archangel, but also the many other prayers, including the especially powerful St. Michael Chaplet.

Also in this book:

St. Michael in Salvation History
The Vision of Pope Leo and the Original Prayer to St. Michael
St. Michael Chaplet
Prayer Treasury
Ways to Love and Honor St. Michael

The blurb: Make no mistake. Satan is very much alive — and hellbent on revenge. He is waging war against humanity, and indeed against all creation, with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose. Cast out of heaven; crushed at the foot of the Cross, he is multiplying evil and outrage and scandal to unprecedented effect as he “strikes at [the] heel” (Gen 3.15) of “fallen mankind” (St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition, 9).Without question we are living in a time of increasingly brazen evil. That is to say, a time of extraordinary and abundant grace also. Christ has already won the final victory over Satan. By His grace, we stand strong against the forces of evil. By that same ineffable grace, we stand in the company of holy angels — most especially the glorious Warrior Archangel Saint Michael. And the high ground belongs to us!

My review: This is a beautiful booklet dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.  If you thought the only St. Michael prayer was the one we sometimes say at the end of Mass, then this book will be an eye opener for you.  Included is a history of the St. Michael prayers as well as a chaplet and reflections. Highly recommend.

About the Author: Carol Puschaver earned her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English from Kent State University, Ohio, and lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong scholar, amateur historian and world traveler, she has a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Michael the Archangel.

To purchase the Kindle edition at only 1.99, click here.

To purchase the Paperback edition at only 5.99, click here.

Virtual Book Tour: Moonchild Rising Interview with Mina Ambrose

Moonchild Front JPG Final

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.

An Open Book – June #openbook

An Open Book 800W

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

 

Susan Tassone Book

 

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!

 

Remembering Mom front only

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.