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

Pregnancy: An Advent Eternally Renewed

My latest at CatholicMom.com:

Image by Bartek Ambrozik FreeImages.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nearing the end of a challenging pregnancy (1996)

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – November #openbook

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

What Follows After by Dan Walsh

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

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

The Crown of Sanctity
by Daniel O’Connor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firstborn by Robin Lee Hatcher

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

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

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

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

Mommie Dearest by
Christina Crawford

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

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

In a People House by Dr. Seuss

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

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

Llama llama Nighty-Night by Anna Dewdney

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

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

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

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2020

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 21-33) and one beautiful grandson. We are also blessed to be the parents of seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 25 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Here is a list of other novels that include themes about infant/pregnancy loss:

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

Motherhood Matters Study Guide

Motherhood Matters by Dorothy Pilarski is a beautiful book that contains reflections of a mother for mothers. 21st century mothering has become one where mothers are expected to work a double, sometimes triple shift: in the workplace,  still carrying most of the load of housework while often caring for their own parents or in laws.  In a culture that has run amuck, Motherhood Matters is a healthy reminder that motherhood is a vocation, a call from God.  It is a sacred gift – one that unfortunately many women have been forced into treating it like just a role or a series of tasks. For some unfortunately it’s treated like an afterthought.  Pilarski illustrates through these writings that truly ‘Motherhood Matters.’

PilarskiCover_Sm

 

Hot off the presses is the new Motherhood Matters Study Guide. I helped to edit this book as well as writing some of the reflections. Each study includes a story from Motherhood Matters, questions for discussion, a saint, a recommended book and activities. It’s extremely well done, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a year-long study of motherhood.

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An Open Book – June #openbook

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

 

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.

New Book: Remembering Mom

Remembering Mom front only

It’s taken me thirteen years and a pandemic to write, but this book about my mother is finally available!

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.

                  Kindle edition is available for pre-order and will be published on May 22, 2020.                       Print edition is available now!

Kindle Edition

Print Edition

An Open Book – May #openbook #socialdistancing

 

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

Larson

The Splendid and the Vile

by Erik Larson

Amazon Synopsis:  Published February 25, 2020. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

My review: Outstanding book. As usual with Larson’s books, I not only learned a great deal of the story behind the scenes of that historic first year Churchill was Prime Minister, I also enjoyed a compelling piece of history.  It makes me grateful to Churchill for not giving in to Hitler’s demands for “peace.”  It might’ve been a different world if not for the tenacity of Churchill and the British people. Highly recommend.

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Moonchild Rising: (Shadows of the Sun #1) by Mina Ambrose

New from Full Quiver Publishing!

Synopsis:  Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Catholic and Funda

Catholicism And Fundamentalismby Karl Keating

Amazon Synopsis: Karl Keating defends Catholicism from fundamentalist attacks and explains why fundamentalism has been so successful in converting “Romanists”. After showing the origins of fundamentalism, he examines representative anti-Catholic groups and presents their arguments in their own words. His rebuttals are clear, detailed, and charitable. Special emphasis is given to the scriptural basis for Catholic doctrines and beliefs.

My review: This is about my tenth time reading this book and it’s as good as it was the first time. If you have relatives who have fallen away from the fullness of the Catholic faith, this is a great book to help you “defend” the fullness of the Catholic faith. Topics include: Marian Beliefs, The Eucharist, Confession, Purgatory etc.  Highly recommend.

Book 1 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

by Linda Etchison

and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator

Amazon Synopsis: Join Sister Aloysius, an energetic, joyful young sister, as she steps off the bus and begins her walk to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Mercyville on a hot July afternoon. In Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyvillelearn how Sister Aloysius happily makes use of her suffering in the heat of the summer day by uniting her discomfort to the agony of Christ on the cross. Along the way she meets a young boy Pio who will be in her second-grade class. Pio helps her with her bag and the two have a very interesting talk about St. Aloysius and patron saints as well as about St. Peter, the first pope. Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville is the first of the Sister Aloysius booksThis series offers a large child-friendly 8.5 x 11 format and is illustrated in full color to capture the interest of young readers and pre-readers.

My review: This is the first in a wonderful children’s book series that introduces an enthusiastic religious sister, Sister Aloysius, who moves to a new town, ready to begin teaching. In this story, we are also introduced to little Pio, one of the students at the local school. We learn about St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Peter, our first pope — who denied Jesus three times and was crucified upside down — and St. Paul. The story is engaging for both parents and children and offers teachings about the Catholic faith within the story. Highly recommend!

Book 2 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows

by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator

Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows is the second book in the new Catholic children’s Sister Aloysius series about a joyful, young sister who is beginning her first teaching assignment. This second book in the series focuses on a discussion about the Seven Sorrows of Mary between Sister Aloysius and Pio, a young boy who will be in sister’s second grade class. Sister and Pio discuss how sorrowful Mary must have been as she shared the sufferings of Jesus throughout his life. This book is a great choice for parents and educators who want to instill in their children and students a love for and closeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The 8.5 x 11 inch format is perfect for engaging pre-school and primary grade children. T

My review: In the second book of this series, Sister Aloysius and her new little friend, Pio, arrive at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Readers learn about the Seven Sorrows of Mary and how to pray this special devotion. Beautifully illustrated. Highly recommend.

Book 3 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School

by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock

Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School follows the continuing story of Sister Aloysius as she prepares for her first teaching assignment. This book, the third in the Sister Aloysius series, has Sister Aloysius making an early morning visit to the Blessed Sacrament before preparing her classroom for the beginning of school. Sister Aloysius has help from Pio, a second-grade student whom Sister Aloysius met upon arriving in Mercyville, and his sister Catherine. Sister, Pio, and Catherine discuss the 3:00 Hour of Mercy and the importance of appealing to Our Lord’s mercy during this time. Also, in this series, the reader will see Sister Aloysius pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the quiet of the church and use Holy Water to bless herself as she leaves.

My review: This book continues the story of Sister Aloysius. In this book, we are introduced to Pio’s sister, Catherine, who help Sister prepare her classroom for the start of the new school year.  Readers also learn about the Hour of Mercy (3:00) and Saint Faustina. Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina and talked to her about His Divine Mercy and the “Hour of Mercy.”  Highly recommend.

 

Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood: A Life by Gavin Lambert

Amazon Synopsis: She spent her life in the movies. Her childhood is still there to see in Miracle on 34th Street. Her adolescence in Rebel Without a Cause. Her coming of age? Still playing in Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story and countless other hit movies. From the moment Natalie Wood made her debut in 1946, playing Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles’s ward in Tomorrow Is Forever at the age of seven, to her shocking, untimely death in 1981, the decades of her life are marked by movies that–for their moments–summed up America’s dreams.

Now the acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, whose twenty-year friendship with Natalie Wood began when she wanted to star in the movie adaptation of his novel Inside Daisy Clover, tells her extraordinary story. He writes about her parents, uncovering secrets that Natalie either didn’t know or kept hidden from those closest to her. Here is the young Natalie, from her years as a child actress at the mercy of a driven, controlling stage mother (“Make Mr. Pichel love you,” she whispered to the five-year-old Natalie before depositing her unexpectedly on the director’s lap), to her awkward adolescence when, suddenly too old for kiddie roles, she was shunted aside, just another freshman at Van Nuys High. Lambert shows us the glamorous movie star in her twenties—All the Fine Young Cannibals, Gypsy and Love with the Proper Stranger. He writes about her marriages, her divorces, her love affairs, her suicide attempt at twenty-six, the birth of her children, her friendships, her struggles as an actress and her tragic death by drowning (she was always terrified of water) at forty-three.

Review: I enjoyed this book very much, although enjoy might be the wrong word.  Natalie Wood was an incredibly beautiful actress who died far too soon.  Reading about her life behind the scenes was moving and sad and disturbing at times. Her mother was the epitome of a stage mother and could be quite cruel.  Recommend.

Belroy

To Be or Not To Be: Murdered by Basia Kent Belroy

Amazon Synopsis: WHY IS FULTON HIGH SCHOOL HAVING A RASH OF COPYCAT SUICIDES?
While covering the stories for her school paper, 17-year-old Peyton Simons begins to doubt they are suicides. Along with crushing on Justin, her Hamlet co-star in the school play, and trying to break up with her current boyfriend, Tyler, Peyton is intent on figuring out the mystery with the help of her great aunt’s new boyfriend, a retired detective. She’s awfully close to the truth! Will she survive the answer?

My review: Fun, young adult mystery told from the point of view of a teenage girl, Peyton. There are a rash of suicides at Fulton High School.  Peyton, however, doesn’t believe the most recent death was, in fact, a suicide.  Her investigation turns up information about a similar suicide that took place at Fulton twenty years previous. When she gets too close to the truth, she finds herself in danger. Fun, clean read with well-developed characters. Recommend for young teens and up.

Interview with Linda Etchison, author of Sister Aloysius books

Today I’m interviewing the author of the Sister Aloysius books, Linda Etchison.

Linda's Photo

What inspired you to write the Sr. Aloysius series?

After my father passed away, the idea came to me to create a character in a children’s book and name her Sister Aloysius in honor of my dad, Aloysius John Winka.  I cannot remember anything other than the idea popped into my head, and I knew my dad would like it.  I guess I just let the idea rest in the back of my mind, pondering it for a few years as other ideas began to come along.

What do you love most about writing these stories for children?

As I write them, I like thinking of parents reading them to and with their children.  I like to think that the stories will help people love Jesus, his Blessed Mother, and the wonderful Church that he has left us. As I write, in a small way I am able to share my own faith through the character of Sister Aloysius.

Where do you get your inspiration for the Sr. Aloysius stories?

I have to say that my inspiration must come from the Holy Spirit.  I look back on the stories and reread them and think to myself, how did I think of that?? I have to give God the credit.  Most ideas pop into my head when my mind during adoration.  Many of the little things in the stories come from my own life.  I attended a Catholic school in my early grade school years before it closed.  It was staffed with sisters from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.  My first-grade teacher was a wonderful woman named Sister Benedict who remained a family friend until she died.  She loved everyone and was full of joy and cheer.  Later, I was also a teacher in the public schools for 18 years, so I have my own teaching experience to use.  My dad was a wonderful inspiration as well.  He never missed an opportunity to talk about his faith and the Catholic Church to anyone in the coffee shop or on the job.  He loved it and spent many evenings sitting on the couch, studying and reading, trying to learn all that he could about the Church.  He had many stories of faith to share with us. He prayed as he worked.

Have you always loved stories and reading?

From the time I could ride my bike, I would ride to the public library and check out books to read.  I didn’t always enjoy reading things that were assigned in school though until I was older.  My first job was actually working in the public library.  I loved working there. I started working part time after my sophomore year in high school and worked there until I finished junior college.  My love of books carried through to my studies.  I chose junior high education with fields of English and library science as my major.  After college I taught junior high and high school English coupled with being a school librarian. After 18 years working in public schools, I became a homeschooling mother. Reading was a big part of the Seton Home Study Program that we used.  Using the Seton program gave me an opportunity to read many wonderful books that I hadn’t had the chance to read before.  I have to admit that through the years I have collected many books, though, that I haven’t yet found the time to read.

What message do you hope the children and parents who read your books will bring away after reading these books?

Sister Aloysius wants everyone to love Jesus as a best friend.  I think that my hope is that everyone will come to know Jesus and realize that he is the very best friend anyone could have.  For many years as a PSR catechist, I have watched children pass through class seeming engaged and learning the material only to have them leave the Church once they were confirmed.  It breaks my heart.  My hope with these books is that children and parents will all come to know Jesus as their very best friend and come to love the wonderful Church that he left to help us get to heaven.

How can families explore the themes in the Sr. Aloysius books?

Included on the parent pages in the books are references to the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The stories are a great way to launch into Bible study.  Other bits of information are also included that can be used to help parents jump-start a discussion.  My hope is to have stories that parents enjoy reading along with their children, stories that help parents share their own faith, and stories that parents and children can possibly learn from together.

Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and books?

Narrowing down to favorites is nearly impossible.  I could go on and on. There are so many great books that I’ve enjoyed.  There were books that I read as a child, though, which I definitely made of point of having so that I could read them to my children.  They were fun stories to read aloud.  Some of them are The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins, A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer, Dr. Seuss books, and the Berenstain Bears books by Stan and Jan Berenstain.  Also, favorites that I used with my own children were the St. Joseph Picture Books by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik.  My children and I both loved reading the Magic Tree House chapter books by Mary Pope Osborne. Two favorite sets of books from Neumann Press I discovered while homeschooling were Catholic Stories for Boys and Girls: Stories written and compiled in days long past by Catholic nuns in America and dedicated to Mary the Mother of God our dear lady of the Miraculous Medal (Volumes I-IV), and Angel Food for Boys and Girls: Little Talks to Young Folks (Volumes I-IV) by Father Gerald T. Brennan.  I guess my all-time favorite book as a child would have to be Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.  I say that because it was the only book I read and reread multiple times.

Which is your favorite Sr. Aloysius book and why?

That is a hard question to answer, but when I read the question, the second book, Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows, flashed into my mind.  I think it’s a very important book because I think that the world desperately needs Mary now.  I don’t think that she is loved and appreciated as much as Our Lord wants her to be.  She is the Queen of Heaven and our Mother as well.  She cares so much for all of us and has willingly suffered for us along with her Son.  She is the dispenser of graces.  She has appeared over and over again throughout time to warn us and try to draw us to her son.  It’s her Immaculate Heart to which we need to turn in order to save the world and the many lost souls in it.

Purchase links for the Sister Aloysius books: they’re available in hardcover or paperback:

Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows

Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for School