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.
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
The Dynamic Women of Faith Conference is a wonderful online conference coming up on Saturday, March 6, 2021 with Dr. Carrie Gress, Dorothy Pilarski, Gary Zimak, and Dr. Josephine Lombardi. The conference is only $35 CA and is an ideal Lenten retreat.
The Sisters of Life will be joining the conference by leading in the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
There will be all sorts of special guests and fun surprises throughout the day!
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?
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.
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!
“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.
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second edition of The Book of Jotham is now available on Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.
Synopsis: Winner of the 2012 Tuscany Prize for Novella. Jotham is a mentally challenged man-child who, like the other apostles, follows Jesus as Christ carries out his ministry and experiences death by crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Yet the other apostles the dedicated Mary, Peter, Thomas, and the rest while they care for Jotham and look out for him, don t understand why Jesus loves him so. Thomas even says, after Jesus offers a parable, I don t see why all the pots can t be strong and beautiful. Jotham may be different, but through him, we come to see Jesus and Jotham not just with our eyes, but also with our hearts.
“The Book of Jotham chronicles the spiritual journey of the fictional protagonist, from his initial fears due to his personal limitations to his discovery of his self worth in Christ. Written from the perspective of the title character, the author gives the reader a unique insight into the mind and the heart of one who is mentally challenged. And by placing the narrative in the familiar setting of Jesus’ public ministry and using Biblical characters like Mary, Peter and the Apostles, the reader is able to experience the Gospel story anew, through the eyes and gradual progression of faith of Jotham. The universal theme of the grace of adoption helps us to discover that, as children of Light, our conversion and progression of faith may not be so different from those who experience life like Jotham.” + Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
“This… is called “The Book of Jotham” because it’s a sort of Gospel according to the eponymous character. The ways in which St. Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot relate with their disabled brother are particularly powerful. The Book of Jotham is a work that never preaches but which will evoke a powerful pro-life response from the reader.” Joseph Pearce, author
“The book is a gem for anyone serious about a genuine, loving relationship with God.”Kaye Park Hinckley, award-winning author
“Reading The Book of Jotham is a powerful and life changing event. I really felt drawn into the story and actually believed that I could see out of Jotham’s eyes. This is a masterpiece of writing and deserves to become a classic. ” A.K. Frailey, author
“This novella won first place in the Tuscany Press competition for Best Novella for a reason. Try to imagine experiencing discipleship with Christ unencumbered by the burden of rationalism. Powers’ depiction of a mentally challenged young man who follows Christ is more than moving–it’s revealing. Then, because language itself is a product of rationalism, try to imagine how that discipleship might be expressed non-verbally, internally. Powers accomplishes something amazing here.” Dena Hunt, award-winning author
“Wonderful book. It’s hard to write a compelling narrative when the reader knows the historical events, but Powers does a masterful job. He bravely uses a second person point of view to pull the reader into the story, to become the mentally challenged young protagonist sitting on the side of the road when a charismatic rabbi comes along. You’ll fly through the pages, but then read a second time to enjoy the poetry of the words.”Ronald B. O’Gorman, MD, author
Synopsis: This amazing narrative will stir your heart and soul while it chronicles the experience of a simple Polish nun.
My review: These past few weeks, I’ve been helping a fellow Catholic author edit a book about Divine Mercy and St. Faustina. After editing this book, I felt compelled to read the Diary again. I’ve read this book before, but out of order. I’m reading it again, this time, in order. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
Synopsis: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
My review: With everything that’s going on since George Floyd’s death, and the racism that some have to endure, this was a compelling story, but a frustrating one. You know how the story will end, but it’s still frustrating getting to that point. There’s a surprise plot twist during the climax of the story, as there is in most of Picoult’s books. All in all, a good read. Four out of five.
Synopsis: Tess Morgan loves being a pediatric nurse and helping the children under her care. She’d always wanted a large family, but that dream was shattered when her fiancé was murdered while volunteering in South America.
Peter “Mac” MacPherson, a former football superstar, had dealt with his own tragedies—the deaths of his father followed by his wife while she was giving birth to their daughter. His faith sustained him through his grief, but can he help Tess believe again in God and finally find a family—with him?
Synopsis: About to give the closing argument on the most important case of her career, District Attorney Candice Boulanger is struck down by a heart attack. When she comes to, however, she discovers she is not in a hospital but in an odd courtroom with no windows and no doors.
A judge explains she has been momentarily taken out of her life to prosecute a different case: the relationship she had with her former “best friend forever” Milly Winters. He promises Candice that, although she is allowed to return to her life at any time, if she sees the trial all the way through, she will receive supernatural aid to help her attain her greatest desire.
Candice and Milly had been best friends since kindergarten and had vowed their friendship would last “no matter what.” Even in their teens, when Candice started drifting from her Christian faith, they managed to set aside their differences—until one day an incident blew their friendship apart.
During the trial, the two women are allowed to call as witnesses scenes from their past. Milly, as defense counsel, presents reasons the two of them should once again become friends, while Candice, still angry at Milly, argues why they shouldn’t.
Can their friendship survive . . . even if one of them has already died?
My review: Interesting idea for a book. A.J. Avila can write well and the story overall is a good one. The only thing detracting from this book is the cover, which is too simplistic and screams “self-published.”
Synopsis: Arthur Davenport has it all: looks, money, and a successful future planned by his parents. He knows that something is missing, but when he and Josie, his mother’s maid, develop a friendship that can only be based on Christian values, he realizes that his love for her is the key to his happiness. Can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury for a life of service with her?
Newport, Rhode Island in the last decades of the nineteenth century was a stunningly beautiful and glamorous playground for the rich during the summer months, and a perfect setting for a romance between a rich young man from New York City and a local girl who works for his family. The two couldn’t possibly expect to have anything in common, as he is expected to follow his father in a financial career and she is merely a maid with a mother who takes care of local children while their parents work. Arthur Davenport, spoiled and bored, unsure of his place in his family and in the eyes of God, truly meets his match in Josie Warren, who is often just a bit hard on herself for not being the perfect Christian in thought as well as deed. The two meet on the famous Cliff Walk, and neither of them can imagine where or how their instant attraction will take them as he struggles to make his parents understand that his calling is the same as hers, to help those less fortunate. He has no money of his own, and if they disinherit him out of disapproval, how can he help Josie, who has spent her life working hard to help support herself and her mother? More importantly, how can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury just to be with her?
Synopsis: Thirteen years before the bloody 1994 genocide that swept across Rwanda and left more than a million people dead, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ appeared to eight young people in the remote village of Kibeho. Through these visionaries, Mary and Jesus warned of the looming holocaust, which (they assured) could be averted if Rwandans opened their hearts to God and embraced His love. Mary also sent messages to government and church leaders to instruct them how to end the ethnic hatred simmering in their country. She warned them that Rwanda would become “a river of blood”—a land of unspeakable carnage—if the hatred of the people was not quickly quelled by love. Some leaders listened, but very few believed. The prophetic and apocalyptic warnings tragically came true during 100 horrifying days of savage bloodletting and mass murder. Much like what happened at similar sites such as Fátima and Lourdes, the messengers of Kibeho were at first mocked and disbelieved. But as miracle after miracle occurred in the tiny village, tens of thousands of Rwandans journeyed to Kibeho to behold the apparitions. After the genocide, and two decades of rigorous investigation, Our Lady of Kibeho became the first and only Vatican-approved Marian (related to the Virgin Mary) site in all of Africa. But the story still remained largely unknown. Now, however, Immaculée Ilibagiza has changed all that. She has made many pilgrimages to Kibeho, both before and after the holocaust, has personally witnessed true miracles, and has spoken with a number of the visionaries themselves. What she has discovered will deeply touch your heart!
My review: Beautiful, compelling book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho. Highly recommend!
Motherhood Matters by Dorothy Pilarski is a beautiful book that contains reflections of a mother for mothers. 21st century mothering has become one where mothers are expected to work a double, sometimes triple shift: in the workplace, still carrying most of the load of housework while often caring for their own parents or in laws. In a culture that has run amuck, Motherhood Matters is a healthy reminder that motherhood is a vocation, a call from God. It is a sacred gift – one that unfortunately many women have been forced into treating it like just a role or a series of tasks. For some unfortunately it’s treated like an afterthought. Pilarski illustrates through these writings that truly ‘Motherhood Matters.’
Hot off the presses is the new Motherhood Matters Study Guide. I helped to edit this book as well as writing some of the reflections. Each study includes a story from Motherhood Matters, questions for discussion, a saint, a recommended book and activities. It’s extremely well done, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a year-long study of motherhood.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.