An Open Book – March 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

 

midwife

A Midwife’s Tale by Delia Parr

From Amazon: Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives who have served the families of Trinity, Pennsylvania, for generations. A widow with two grown children, she’s hopeful that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, but when Victoria runs off, Martha’s world is shattered.  Worse, a new doctor has arrived in town, threatening her job, and she can’t remember a time when her faith has been tested more. Still determined to do the work she knows God intended for her, Martha is unprepared for all that waits ahead. Whether it’s trying to stop a town scandal, mending broken relationships, or feeling the first whispers of an unexpected romance, she faces every trial and every opportunity with hope and faith.

My review: Forthcoming

canadian-soldier

The Lost Memoirs of a Canadian Soldier

From Amazon: This book is a compilation of letters and diary entries from Len Willans regarding his time in World War 1.

My review: I initially bought this for research for my WW1 novels.  It’s heart-wrenching and at the same time, fascinating to read this soldier’s diary from 100 years ago.

making-faces

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

From Amazon: Ambrose Young was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore. Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My review: This was an entertaining read, although it had more sexual tension than I’m used to in a Christian novel.  Also, there were a fair number of typos. Overall a good read, though.

 

wedding-dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

From Amazon: Four brides. One Dress. A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new—shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.” Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

My review: I enjoyed this book very much. It was pure entertainment, not too deep, somewhat predictable.

marriage

Marriage: A Fountain of Grace by Rosalie McPhee and Catherine Doherty

From Amazon: Love, love, love: never counting the cost. The timeless wisdom of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, is featured prominently in this new series of books. The theme of Catherine’s Little Mandate–a beautiful distillation of the Gospel of Jesus–weaves throughout and serves as an important foundation. Each book also gives an abundance of brief and profound quotations from Holy Scripture, and quotations from some of the great Catholic saints. These books are small enough to carry anywhere–and their wisdom is arranged in bite-size segments that you can read on the run, whenever you can spare time.

My review:  This is one of my favorite little books and I even have a personally autographed copy by Rosie McPhee Douthwright!  This is a perfect gift for a wedding shower, but it’s also an excellent book to give to engaged couples.  Highly recommend.

#FREE on Kindle: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

FREE On Kindle Until Thursday!!

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” contains 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day eight years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”  I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

The complete versions of each story are included in the book, along with family photos of all the couples. Here are excerpts of some of the stories.

David and Posie

Leon and Mary Lou

Robert and Sarah

Chris and Micki

James and Ellen

Mark and Kathy

Andrew and Regina

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

James and Pati

Damon and Melanie

Mark and Yvette

To download your FREE Kindle copy, click here.

Synopsis: Come My Beloved is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating storiesthat will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Included are the following stories: A widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later, finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; 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 couple meet through a Christian introduction service; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

To read reviews, more excerpts and watch the book trailer and interview on Son Rise Morning Show, click here.

Text and photo copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

An Old-Fashioned Love Story: My Grandparents

My maternal grandparents, John and Bessie May, met as teenagers. In this photo from 1916 — they were married in November of that year — they look very happy and very much in love. They went on to build a wonderful life together, welcoming and raising five children. My grandfather was half American Indian and half German. Like most couples, they also had their share of heartbreaks and challenges. My mother was their fourth living child, and the first to proudly graduate high school.  Their descendants include 22 grandchildren (14 still living) and more than 30 great-grandchildren.

According to my mother, and from what I observed as a young child, they continued to grow in love and remained happily married. Over the years, my grandmother had gained a lot of weight, but my grandfather told her that it didn’t matter to him, because there was “a lot more of her to love.”

We have an old home 8 mm home movie of their 50th wedding anniversary celebration from 1966, and there is one scene where they are hugging.  It’s endearing, but also a bit humorous because my grandmother had had a bit too much to drink.

In July of 1967, my grandmother died of a stroke.  My grandfather was never quite the same.

Mom Mom and Pop Pop

Bessie and John May, January 1955

The last time I saw him was on Christmas Day, 1968.  My mother and I went to visit him in his house on Carlisle Street in South Philly.  When we came in, he was sitting in his chair by the front door, his head low, a cigarette between two fingers.  He looked up at us and I think his mouth almost lifted in a smile when he saw us, but his eyes seemed so sad. Before my grandmother died, he was very animated and he used to pull me into a big hug and kiss me.  That day we gave him a few gifts — I remember thinking that it might make him happy.  But he opened them and again, tried to smile, then nodded and said, “Merry Christmas.”  Mom tried to talk with him, but he didn’t appear to be in a talkative mood.

My grandfather passed away six weeks later (on February 7th, 1969, 48 years ago today). When I asked Mom how he died, she said, “He died of a broken heart.”

Their story is also included in my first novel, Emily’s Hope.

Remembering both of my grandparents today in a special way.

“May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Text and photos copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – February 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

the-tree-cover

The Tree by Denise Mallett

Synopsis: With only two months to save his country, Josiah believes he has been dealt an impossible hand: he must find a myth… if a myth can be found. Setting out into hostile wilderness with a man who serves the queen–but is the King’s man–Josiah begins crossing into the wilds of his own soul… and into a realm beyond reason.

As masks begin to slip, Rianne’s aristocratic life is revealed as all but secure. Believing herself to stand alone against a master thespian and murderer, caught between the treacherous past and a bleeding future, she is forced to wonder if darkness has the power to consume the light

Review: I was given this book by the author’s mother a few years ago and I must say, it was not what I expected.  The story is engaging, the characters well-developed and the writing is more like that of a seasoned professional than a debut author.  Highly recommend!  Look for more books by this talented author soon! (Not available yet on Amazon, but it is available at the author’s website above).

broken-brain

Broken Brain, Fortified Faith (Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness) by Virginia Pillars

Synopsis: Broken Brain, Fortified Faith is the story of one family’s journey through schizophrenia, navigating the uncharted waters of mental illness to find help for their daughter, Amber, and support for their family. This memoir is an honest look at the stress, anger, education, and finally, hope experienced through eyes of a mother. Along the way, she questions her trust in God as their family encounters setbacks, inadequate treatments, and additional family health crises, but with the help of trusted family, friends, education, and support groups, author Virginia Pillars learns to rely on her faith as she faces the challenges that often accompany mental illness.

Review: This was an excellent read, well-written and compelling.   Thankfully, we are moving away from the stigma of talking about mental illness.  Back in the sixties, my father (now deceased) suffered from schizophrenia as well as manic depression.  But it wasn’t something he could share with either employers or anyone outside of the family. In this book, the author takes us step by step through her journey of, at first, disbelief, then frustration to — finally — hope and recovery.  Highly recommend!

love-letters

 Love Letters of the Great War

Synopsis: From the private papers of Winston Churchill to the tender notes of an unknown Tommy in the trenches, Love Letters of the Great War brings together some of the most romantic correspondence ever written. Many of the letters collected here are eloquent declarations of love and longing; others contain wrenching accounts of fear, jealousy and betrayal; and a number share sweet dreams of home. But in all the correspondence – whether from British, American, French, German, Russian, Australian and Canadian troops in the height of battle, or from the heartbroken wives and sweethearts left behind – there lies a truly human portrait of love and war. A century on from the start of the First World War, these letters offer an intimate glimpse into the hearts of men and women separated by conflict, and show how love can transcend even the bleakest and most devastating of realities.

Review: I enjoyed reading these letters and purchased this book for research for my work in progress entitled, Julia’s Gifts (Great War – Great Love #1).  It’s a sometimes heart-wrenching read, especially since some of the authors of the letters died after writing these beautiful notes to their wives, girlfriends, fiancees. There are also letters from the women to the men.  If you enjoy history, this is a wonderful nostalgic read.

Merry Christmas 2016!

photo credit: Josh Hrkach 2011 (copyright)

photo credit: Josh Hrkach 2011 (copyright)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11

“Fear not little flock, fear not. Come with me to Bethlehem. Let us celebrate a joyous Christmas. Let us be merry and happy no matter what because Christ is born.” Catherine Doherty

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Pregnancy and the First #Advent

One of my favorite Advent quotes is from Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House:

“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

Every new life encompassed within his or her mother’s womb “sings of the first Advent,” as Catherine so eloquently said in her book, “Dear Parents.” Not all of these lives will actually be born. Sadly, some will be miscarried and others will be aborted.

However, for those women who nurture their babies lovingly in their wombs, pregnancy can also be a great time for character growth. Mary was a wonderful 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.

But Mary also acted as my consoler during seven miscarriages. For who else could understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross and watched her Son die in agony, then embraced him lovingly after His death?

Let us embrace the last week of Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach