A Love Such as Heaven Intended Now Available for #Preorder on #Kindle

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A Love Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Full Quiver Publishing‘s upcoming release, A Love Such as Heaven Intended (Heaven Intended #3) is now available for pre-order on Kindle.  The print edition will be available later this month.

Synopsis:

In A Love Such as Heaven Intended, budding Civil War socialite Josephine Bigelow is inspired by the words of Louisa May Alcott to make a name for herself as an investigative writer covering the plight of Confederate soldiers held in Federal prisons. Little did she know that one of the inmates she would encounter was her brother’s roommate from West Point Military Academy.

Even though her father is a Union brigadier general, Josephine’s infatuation with the handsome Confederate soldier Michael McKirnan is rekindled. As captivating as Josephine is, the last thing Michael needs is to entangle that beauty into his life of intrigue. The strong-willed Josephine will not be deterred and their lives become intertwined as they embark on a journey of a lifetime, trying to stay one step ahead of the military and a madman bent on revenge. As they journey from Washington, D.C., to St. Louis, Atlanta, and finally East Texas, the two of them discover what love, faith, compassion and loyalty truly mean.

Reviews:

“A Love Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer is a sweet love story that history lovers are sure to appreciate. I enjoyed the first two books in the Heaven Intended series, so it was fun diving into the third book. We even get a glimpse at characters from the previous two books. Fans of historic fiction are going to love this!”  Theresa Linden, award-winning author

“Thoroughly enjoyable! This book abounds with the virtues of faith, hope and love.  Lauer shows us that even during times of war, love wins.” Virginia Lieto,  Author, Editor and Public Speaker

“A Love Such as Heaven Intended is a sweeping love story that is nearly impossible to put down. With equal parts intriguing adventure, fascinating history lesson, and blossoming romance, Amanda Lauer has another hit on her hands.”  Leslea Wahl, Author of The Perfect Blindside, 2018 Catholic Press Association winner

“The third installment in Amanda Lauer’s Civil War romance series matches beautiful and determined Josephine with Michael, a West Point Military Academy graduate who seems to be on the wrong side of the conflict. Filled with historical and military detail and a unique setting for a Civil War novel, A Love Such as Heaven Intended will please both fans of history and of romance.”   Carolyn Astfalk,  Author, Stay With Me and Rightfully Ours

 

 

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An Open Book – April 2019 #openbook

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

 

Dawning of Dying

A Dawning of Dying by John W. May

Amazon Synopsis: A Dawning of Dying is a collection of poems written over the course of ten years whose themes are intended to be both existentially and metaphysically curious, if not haunting. These are poems that were inspired by feelings of dread, sublimity and elation. The ideas behind many of these works orbit around life and death, beauty and pain, the world of nature and the world of myth and superstition. The collection is also coupled with an appendix of author’s notes relating to the styles, influences, contexts, and ideas behind the selected works within the volume.

My review: This is a beautifully written book of poems, which taken individually are crafted with the author’s unique richness in language and imagery.  In his book, May admits that some of the verbiage is archaic. However, taken as a whole, these poems are an artistic beauty. The author also includes an appendix that “supports,” rather than “defines,” any given work. Highly recommend.

 

The Good Daughter

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint.
One runs for her life. One is left behind . . .

The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author—a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney—devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself—the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again—and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized—Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever . . .

My review: I enjoyed this page-turning thriller.  I’ve read several of Slaughter’s books and enjoyed them.  Her characters are extremely well-developed and the story is a multi-layered one that keeps the reader guessing until the end.  I guessed a few plot points and was surprised by others. She uses the verb LOOK way too much (only an author/editor would likely notice). And there is swearing, bad language and intense scenes, so it’s not appropriate for young teens. However, excellent read. 4.5 out of 5.

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Island of Two Trees by Brian Kennelly

To be published May 31, 2019

Synopsis: What would happen if you found yourself inside your father’s imagination?

This is the question Connor, Maggie, and Lucy are forced to answer in this adventure story within a story.

After creating a model island in their garage filled with castles, caves, mountains, forests, and villages, their father begins to weave a tale around the intricate craft, introducing a host of brave, mysterious, and wicked characters who serve two different magical trees for which their island is named.

But when their father begins to suffer from mysterious headaches, the children are summoned within the story—within his imagination—by the beautiful and virtuous queen. She informs them that they must confront and conquer a dark power that threatens to rip their father’s imagination apart, and in doing so, gain entry into our world.

The children set out to save their father, journeying across the very island where his story is set. Back home, as his imagination becomes cloudy and distorted, he struggles to see visions of his children and resorts to searching for signs and clues on the tiny model.

The Island of Two Trees is a soaring flight of the imagination and a tale that harnesses the power of love between a father and his children.

Review: on my to-read shelf.

Day by Day

Day by Day with Saint Faustina by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis: These pages bring you a beautiful collection of spiritual treasures drawn from the celebrated Diary of Catholic visionary and mystic, St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938).

Arranged by an award-winning and best-selling Catholic author Susan Tassone into a handy, day-by-day form, these selections from Faustina’s writings on Divine Mercy revealed to her over the years in mystical conversations with Jesus himself will help you do what Jesus told Faustina he wants you to do: trust completely in His mercy and show mercy to others.

By means of these daily readings, you’ll come to know and be enriched by St. Faustina’s Secrets of Sanctity, awakening in you the qualities of Divine Mercy that Jesus himself infused into Faustina’s soul: mercy (of course), but also trust, humility, and peaceful acceptance of God’s will for you.

Since her death just over 80 years ago, St. Faustina has been a source of strength and inspiration for millions of souls across the globe, including St. John Paul II who canonized her in the year 2000. Today, she can begin bringing you, too, the strength and inspiration you need.

In Day by Day with Saint Faustina, you’ll learn how to:

  • Grow daily closer to Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Use your suffering to help others, including the souls in purgatory.
  • Grasp the striking details of Faustina’s mystical experiences, prophecies, and revelations and discover what they mean for you in particular.
  • Soon you’ll begin to experience in your soul the graces that were poured into hers.

You’ll find yourself becoming, like Faustina, an Apostle of Mercy, teaching others by word and example about the infinite love and compassion of God, who is Divine Mercy.

Review: On my to-read shelf.

Open Book – March #openbook

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I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for Open Book!  Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month!   It’s Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent!

 

Into Glorious Light

Into Glorious Light:

Memoir of Converting from Exhausted Atheist to Joyful Christian.

by Paul Keough

Amazon Synopsis: Warning to the hate-crime police: this memoir is not politically correct. What it is, though, is a story very appropriate for Valentine’s Day. It is a story of searching for truth and falling in love with something greater than oneself, greater than humanity, greater than nature, the world and the universe. Paul quickly realized – even as an atheist – that there is no point in trying to make everyone like you. No matter what position you take, there will always be someone on the opposite side of that opinion. Given that, we might as well pursue the truth and do what we think is right, correct?

Truth reveals itself as seen here in these three strange occurrences that challenged his concept of truth:

1. How does an atheist scientist end up married with several children? Is not the world overpopulating from the totalitarian perspective? If that is true, wouldn’t having several children be irresponsible? Why would a trained doctoral scientist from a top university do such a thing? Was he not shocked when he found scientists, business leaders, doctors, scientists, engineers and other intelligent rational professionals were having more than two children?

2. How does a Wall Street analyst in New York City, often considered the center and top of the world, voluntarily leave Wall Street when there was more and more money to be made? Had he lost his marbles? What could be better than making a ton of money? But then we look around and see that most Wall Street professionals do leave Wall Street on average about four years after starting… so the fact that Paul lasted twice that time also seems unlikely.

3. Why would a nerdy science geek break up with a handsome woman who comes from wealth? As an atheist, why would it matter that she claimed to be a witch? If there was no such thing as a witch, or anything like that, why care about any label she gave herself? Except … was there trouble coming from being with a person claiming to be a witch?

My review: Paul Keough has written a compelling memoir of his journey from atheist to Catholic Christian. The eighth of twelve children, his sometimes mentally unstable (Catholic) mother and abusive non-Catholic father made his early life difficult. Often retreating to the safety of his imagination, Keough’s dysfunctional family was not unlike many families.  His religious upbringing was limited to a very brief stint at a Catholic school and CCD.  Eventually, he chose not to continue practicing any faith and, by age 16, he had embraced atheism.  The author takes us on a step-by-step journey from his childhood, college years and young adult life to his years on Wall Street, to his eventual conversion.  Recently published, this book is an ideal gift to those friends, relatives and acquaintances who may be dabbling with atheism.  Highly recommend.

 

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Bakhita: From Slave to Saint

by Roberto Italo Zanini

Amazon Synopsis: In 1948 Aurora Marin arrives with her family at the convent of the Canossian Sisters of Schio, Italy, where Sister Bakhita has just died. Aurora was hoping to see her before she died. She gathers her children around the picture of Bakhita and tells them of the incredible life of the woman that had raised her as her nanny.

Born in a village in Sudan, kidnapped by slavers, often beaten and abused, and later sold to Federico Marin, a Venetian merchant, Bakhita then came to Italy and became the nanny servant of Federico’s daughter, Aurora, who had lost her mother at birth. She is treated as an outcast by the peasants and the other servants due to her black skin and African background, but Bakhita is kind and generous to others. Bakhita gradually comes closer to God with the help of the kind village priest, and embraces the Catholic faith.

She requests to join the order of Canossian sisters, but Marin doesn’t want to give her up as his servant, treating her almost as his property. This leads to a moving court case that raised an uproar which impacts Bakhita’s freedom and ultimate decision to become a nun. Pope John Paul II declared her a saint in the year 2000.

My review: I’m not quite finished reading this book, but I’ve been inspired by its contents, and especially the dictated entries of Saint Josephine Bakhita to one of her fellow sisters.  Her story is one of great suffering and yet she shares her horrific journey with no sense of embellishment or exaggeration.  The strength of this book is in these entries, although the story behind the story is interesting too.  Highly recommend.

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Poor Banished Children by Fiorella de Maria

Amazon Synopsis: An explosion is heard off the coast of seventeenth-century England, and a woman washes up on the shore. She is barely alive and does not speak English, but she asks for a priest . . . in Latin.

She has a confession to make and a story to tell, but who is she and from where has she come?

Cast out of her superstitious, Maltese family, Warda turns to begging and stealing until she is fostered by an understanding Catholic priest who teaches her the art of healing. Her willful nature and hard-earned independence make her unfit for marriage, and so the good priest sends Warda to serve an anchorite, in the hope that his protégé will discern a religious vocation.

Such a calling Warda never has the opportunity to hear. Barbary pirates raid her village, capture her and sell her into slavery in Muslim North Africa. In the merciless land of Warda’s captivity, her wits, nerve, and self-respect are tested daily, as she struggles to survive without submitting to total and permanent enslavement. As she is slowly worn down by the brutality of her circumstances, she comes to believe that God has abandoned her and falls into despair, hatred, and a pattern of behavior which, ironically, mirrors that of her masters.

Poor Banished Children is the tale of one woman’s relentless search for freedom and redemption. The historical novel raises challenging questions about the nature of courage, free will, and ultimately salvation.

My review: This is on my To-Read shelf.

Julia’s Gifts Only .99 on #Kindle LTO

My book, Julia’s Gifts, is for sale on on Kindle is on sale for .99 from today until Thursday at eleven a.m.

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As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will her naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

Reviews:

“Touching story of faith and devotion that is sure to leave a lasting impression.” Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author

“Filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles – great and small – happen all around us.” Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author

“Touched my heart in many ways.” Theresa Linden, award-winning author

“A romantic drama that unfolds far from home—but takes us to the heart of home along the way.” A.K. Frailey, author

“Outstanding and unforgettable book.” Jean Heimann, author, Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World

To get your discounted ebook, click here.

Intimate Preparations #ValentinesDay

candlelightSmallFebruary is the month of Valentine’s Day, so below is a reprint of an article I originally wrote for Catholic Mom and Amazing Catechists years ago.

“And so I take (my wife) not for any lustful motive, but I do it in singleness of heart. Be kind enough to…bring us to old age together.” Tobit 8:7

“..Now, gird up your loins and arise…”  Jer: 1:17

Which scripture verse more accurately describes how a couple should prepare for the conjugal embrace?   Praying for a singleness of heart, without lustful motive…or girding up one’s loins for “war”?

Yet many couples prepare for intimacy by “girding up their loins:” wearing condoms, inserting diaphragms, taking a pill, putting on a patch, having an IUD inserted, undergoing an operation. It seems to me that these couples are preparing more for “war” than for the marital embrace, “protecting” themselves against unwanted pregnancy, “protecting” themselves against their spouse’s fertility.

Compare that to the couples who do not use contraceptives.  They are generous in opening their marriage to children, and when necessary, they use Natural Family Planning and abstain in the fertile time.  They’re not girding up their loins; they’re not “protecting” each other from an unwanted pregnancy.  When they give of themselves in the marital act, it is a total gift, not a partial one.

The question is: How do you prepare for intimacy?

Some might answer, “We watch porn.”  Others may say, “I make sure my diaphragm is in place,” or “We keep a packet of condoms by the bed.”

And yet…are these really appropriate ways for a couple to prepare for the most intimate act between husband and wife?

Obviously not.

So how can a couple prepare? Here is a short list of helpful ways:

1. Pray Together

Marital prayer is an ideal way to prepare for intimacy. When marital prayer is frequent, praying before relations becomes a logical extension.  The conjugal embrace is itself a prayer.  Let’s review what makes this act so holy and meaningful.  In the marital embrace, with their bodies, husband and wife renew their wedding vows.  Becoming one with our beloved spouse is the ultimate spiritual, physical and emotional experience. We become one flesh…so much so that sometimes, nine months later, we must give the representation of that oneness a name.

2. Throw Away the Contraception

No, I’m not asking couples to have as many children as possible.  But what I am saying is that for the conjugal embrace to be honest and life-giving, it must be free, total, faithful and fruitful.  Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  NFP couples chart the wife’s fertility signs and, if avoiding pregnancy, abstain in the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are giving themselves fully and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.  See my previous post on the Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.  For more information on NFP, check out my previous post on NFP.

3. Healthy Relationship

I know a few couples who fight constantly. These same couples brag that they have a great sex life.  Well, they may have a lot of “good feelings” but when a couple is not getting along in their day-to-day life, sex, even ‘good’ sex, is not going to fix that.  What about the husband who treats his wife in a condescending, critical manner, then expects her to be ready and willing to engage in the marital embrace…or a wife who constantly nags her husband, then wants him to be affectionate to her?  Communicate with one another; treat each other with kindness, respect and love.

4. No Pornography

Some secular marriage counselors recommend that a couple use porn to “spice up their sex life.”  Instead of “enhancing” a marital sex life, viewing sexually explicit videos has the potential of destroying a marriage. Blessed John Paul II said: “…the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Porn trains people to be selfish about their sexuality, not selfless. It teaches them to think about sex as something they take, not something they give. Any behavior that causes a person to be self-centered or selfish is never good for marriage. And…pornography can be highly addictive.  Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of PA’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today….pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever.” 

5. Single Candle Light

I enjoy romantic, candlelit dinners with my husband.  Well, why not a candlelit conjugal embrace? In the 15th century, it was common for painters to place one solitary lit candle in their paintings to symbolize the presence of Christ. If you have small children or might fall asleep too quickly afterwards, perhaps you can use an electric candle/light…or set an alarm…but be prudent. A simple, solitary light can bring more symbolism to your intimacy.  And…it can help put you both in the “mood.”

6. Focus on Your Spouse

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” This quote from Blessed Mother Teresa is an ideal quote for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about “me.”  It’s about “us.”  What are your spouse’s needs?  Think of his/her needs in all facets of your relationship. Intimate ‘memos’ bring a couple closer.  Notes in your spouse’s lunch, special messages left on his workbench or on her desk, daily texts are all ways to intimately connect during the day and let your spouse know you are thinking of him/her.   The important thing is to focus on the other in all things and when it comes time for the marital embrace, this selflessness will follow naturally.

7. We Can Work It Out

When you consider all the day-to-day challenges like children, work, fatigue, family bed, stress and sickness, it’s often a miracle that a couple has the time to engage in marital intimacy at all.  The spontaneity of early marriage eventually gives way to planning for intimacy.  “Family bed?”  Consider another location for the marital embrace.  Mom too tired?  Perhaps Dad can take the kids out to the park while Mom gets a well-deserved rest after dinner. Dad too stressed?  Mom can have a hot relaxing bath waiting for Dad when he arrives home.

Do you want to prepare for the holiest, most satisfying intimate experience possible?  Treat your spouse with respect, pray together, focus on your spouse, don’t use porn and be creative in finding time for intimacy.

I’ve made the Kindle edition of my book, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship only .99 for the entire month of February. To download your copy, click here.

An Open Book February 2019 #openbook

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

 

place called sat

A Place Called Saturday by Mary Astor

Synopsis: In 1968, when abortion was still a matter of controversy, Mary Astor wrote this heartwarming story of Cora, who was raped by a young, unknown assailant and becomes pregnant. Go with Cora as she faces the obstacles that will affect her life, her husband’s, and that of her unborn child. (from the inside flap)

My review:  This has been on my book shelf for a while and I listed it as one of my “To Read” books several months ago.  I finally picked it up and when I did, I couldn’t stop.  It’s the late 60’s. Cora is a young married woman. She and her husband have been trying to conceive for a couple of years. One hot summer afternoon, she is raped and a few months later she discovers she is pregnant.  She realizes that the baby is likely the product of the rape, but she refuses to consider abortion, which at the time many doctors would perform in the case of rape.  This makes the relationship with her husband difficult because he doesn’t think he can raise his wife’s rapist’s child.  Cora reminds him that the child is 50% hers. The author, Mary Astor, knows the topic of abortion well because she had at least two abortions in her early career (even if an actress was married, she would be pressured into having an abortion because of career advancement).  Astor later became Catholic and sincerely regretted her abortions.  I suspect that Astor created Cora partly to repent her two abortions.  The writing is a bit stilted at times, but overall, a great read. 4.5 out of 5.

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Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

On Sale on Kindle for only .99!

Synopsis: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating stories which will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Some of the stories include: a widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “what if we stopped having sex,” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

My review: This is a book I edited and published eight years ago with the help of my friend, Kathy.  It’s a beautiful collection of courtship stories and is only .99 on Kindle (the entire month of February.)

tears in a bottle

Tears in a Bottle by Sylvia Bambola

Synopsis: Becky Taylor, a young woman burdened by great expectations, is lying on a cold recovery table in an abortion clinic when she hears a man’s voice, then gunshots. She holds her breath and lies perfectly still behind the curtain. When the gunman is finished, Becky is the only one left alive in the clinic. This act brings together two strangers who both seek answers to life’s most wrenching questions, mainly: Are God’s love and mercy big enough for every sin? The answer transforms multiple lives.

My review: This is an excellent pro-life novel (although at least one of the antagonists is rather one-dimensional (womanizing and alcoholic) with a compelling story and believable story line, especially in 2019. The characters are generic Christian (not Catholic). I bought this book 20 years ago at a pro-life conference. I’ve read it numerous times and read it again recently. It’s surprising that this book was originally written 20 years ago. It is especially pertinent in light of the State of New York’s recent decision to allow abortion up to the moment of birth.  Disturbing, sad and enlightening, this story is a must-read for those in the pro-life movement. Highly recommend! 4.5 out of 5 stars.