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.

An Open Book – January 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

joy-to-the-world

Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) by Scott Hahn

From the Amazon summary: The cast of characters is strange and exotic: shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. The strangeness calls for an explanation, and this book provides it by examining the characters and the story in light of the biblical and historical context.

Bestselling author Scott Hahn who has written extensively on Scripture and the early Church, brings evidence to light, dispelling some of the mystery of the story. Yet Christmas is made familiar all over again by showing it to be a family story. Christmas, as it appears in the New Testament, is the story of a father, a mother, and a child–their relationships, their interactions, their principles, their individual lives, and their common life. To see the life of this “earthly trinity” is to gaze into heaven.

My review:  Excellent book, a kind of “behind-the-scenes” narrative. I was able to buy the Kindle edition for 1.99 when it was on sale a few weeks ago.

unsinkable

Unsinkable: a Memoir by Debbie Reynolds

From the Amazon summary: Unsinkable is the definitive memoir by film legend and Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds. Actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age, anecdotes about her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and her experiences as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, and intimate details of her marriages and family life with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.

My review: Like most people, I was shocked at Carrie Fisher’s death last week and then just one day later, equally saddened by her mother’s death.  I’ve always liked both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but this book gives the reader a better idea of all the heartbreak and financial challenges Debbie has had to face in her life. The Kindle edition was reduced in price a few days after Debbie’s death so I took advantage and downloaded it. For mature audiences only.

heart-div

A Heart Divided: A Novel by Kathleen Morgan

From the Amazon summary: It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen’s arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff’s return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them? Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

My review:  Just started reading this one, but if it’s like other Kathleen Morgan books, it will be a clean, Christian romance that I will thoroughly enjoy.

 

Discovery Only .99 on #Kindle! One Day Only!

discovery-front-finalDiscovery by Karina Fabian, is on sale for only .99 today!

Synopsis: Sisters Ann, Tommie and Rita are part of a classified mission to explore an alien ship that has crash landed on an asteroid three billion miles from earth. Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe… but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill. Researchers discover something unique about the third arm of the ship: something wonderful, terrifying and…holy. This discovery challenges Rita and Ann to confront their own pasts in order to secure the safety of the mission and the very souls of the crew.

Review: Karina Fabian’s Discovery is a suspenseful space adventure with deep roots that extend to questions about life, death, faith, and purpose.  The crew members of the Edwina Taggert have radically different motives for embarking on a mission to explore an alien vessel. With the dexterity of an Isaac Asimov or Larry Niven, Fabian makes the science and speculative science of the story accessible, deftly weaving it into the fabric of the story.   What the crew of Discovery finds when they arrive at their destination challenges their beliefs, aspirations, and schemes, and keeps the reader wondering to the last page.  T.M. Doran, author of Toward the Gleam, Terrapin, Iota

Excerpt:  Augustus laughed and put a friendly arm around James’ shoulder, leading him down to the ship’s offices. He said nothing more until they got to the conference room. He held the door open for James, and when they had stepped through, announced, “Gentlemen, I’d like you to meet Dr. James Smith. He thinks I want him to find Atlantis.”

Two men sat at the table. The younger dressed in jeans and a gray collared shirt with the Luna Technological University logo over the pocket; his mousy brown hair and pale brown eyes combined with a tense, nervous posture reminded James of many worried grad students he had known. The older, a fifty-something man dressed in a similar shirt but with tweed pants, nodded James’ way. His relaxed full-throated chuckle was for Cole’s benefit.

Augustus continued, “James, this is Dr. William Thoren, Dean of Astrophysics at LunaTech, and this is Chris Davidson.” “My protégé,” Thoren added when Augustus paused.

The entrepreneur’s eyes flicked in annoyance. He hated having his dramatic moments spoiled. Nonetheless, he continued on as if the dean had not spoken. “Chris has been working on a rather uninspiring project for his doctorate that has had a surprising result. But wait!”

With that impish grin, he reached into his pockets and pulled out four small devices, which he set at four points of the room. When he pressed the remote in his hand, they heard a brief hum, then a shimmery fog formed a dome over them. No one outside the dome would be able to hear them and would only see vague shapes.

Scientists from the moon? Security fields? Well, if Augustus wants my attention, he’s got it. James took a seat at the table, and cocked a brow at Augustus. “So you’ve found the Lost City of Atlantis in space?”

“Close, my friend. Close. Chris?”

Chris gave a brief glance at his supervisor, and Thoren nodded in a benign, “carry on.” He pulled out a handheld computer, set it on the small table, and pressed some buttons. A holographic map of the solar system from the Sun to the asteroid belt appeared, beautifully detailed and large enough that James had to sit back a bit.

“Sir, are you familiar with the Kuiper Belt?” Chris asked.

James shrugged. What’s going on? “Ky-per Belt? That’s not like the asteroid belt?”

“This is the asteroid belt.” Chris set his finger on the thin line of rocks just past Mars’ orbit. He slowly pulled his finger toward himself. As he did, planets rushed past James’ field of vision: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. A moment of black space, then the image stopped at a smattering of dots of various sizes.

“This is the Kuiper Belt. K-U-I-P-E-R, even though it’s pronounced ‘Kyper.’ It’s really just the rubble left over from the formation of the solar system. Most of it isn’t even rock, but ice. Comets come from here. We don’t hear much about it because the distances even from the Outer Planets mean it’s not really cost effective to live or work there. And since the commercialization of space, most people don’t even care…”

“Excuse me, Chris, but why am I getting an astronomy lesson?”

The entrepreneur grinned. “Give him a minute.” He jerked his head encouragingly at the grad student, who gave him a shy smile in return.

From the corner of his eye, James saw Thoren glower; then, the expression was smoothed away.

Chris didn’t notice. “Okay, the last time anyone has bothered to explore the Kuiper Belt was with the Seeker Probe of 2215. The American President, Linda Montero-Fadil, pretty much pushed it through on personality and stubbornness, but they called it Fadil’s Folly…” Thoren cleared his throat.

“Anyway!” Chris started, then floundered a moment, his train of thought derailed. He took a breath, touched an area of the map with two fingers and pulled it apart, expanding that area. He did it again and again, then rotated it and circled an object with a dark center. The rest of the map fell away.

“This is 2217RB86. Seeker did a flyby of it and its neighboring objects. That’s what you call, um, objects in the Kuiper Belt. Or Ky-boes. That’s what we call them at the university. So, this Ky-bo caught my attention because it’s got some very unusual readings, especially around this dark dot… I won’t bore you with the details. The point is, Dr. Thoren was able to get us some time on Old COOT — that’s a telescope on L5 Station – and um…” He stopped to glance around, as if making sure the security field was still in place. Then he pressed another button and pulled up a different, sharper image of the Ky-bo.

“We found this.”

“Oh, my.” James leaned forward, his nose only inches from the image. The dark circle had resolved into six crescent arms jutting from a sphere. One arm was partially dug into the rock.

“He didn’t find Atlantis,” Augustus smirked.

No, he didn’t.

Chris Davidson had discovered an alien starship.

 

Discovery by Karina Fabian, on sale for .99 today!

 

 

An Open Book – December #openbook

Open Book

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

Donkey BellsDonkey Bells by Catherine Doherty

This is one of my favorite Advent books.  I love to curl up in a comfy chair next to a warm woodstove and read this wonderful book during December.  It’s also a great companion to lighting the Advent wreath each night.

From the publisher: Meaningful and heartwarming stories, customs which you can adopt into your own Christmas celebration, and earthy and inspiring meditations to prepare the entire family for Christ’s coming. Discover how Christians celebrated Christmas before the days of television, shopping malls, and the Internet…

Catherine Doherty is well known for reviving many holy Christian traditions. In Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas, Catherine’s three-in-one book on this most ‘expectant’ of holiday seasons, you’ll receive wonderful gifts.  Purchase it at the publisher’s website here (it’s available in print or ebook).

 

wrath-of-the-angelWrath of the Angel by John R. Monteith

I’m about two-thirds of the way through this book and it’s quite a compelling read.  Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

Warriors who take cybernetic control of predatory animals. A wounded soldier-turned alcoholic exorcist. A child who attacks with his mind. As Nate Clark leads his brothers out of a broken childhood, he discovers his supernatural ability to wield eagles, wolves, and leopards as weapons. His journey to establish his self-worth by protecting good people from evil attracts Father Mark Bannen, who suspects demonic manipulation as the source of Nate’s apparently benevolent powers.

Questioning if his ends justify his means, Nate must decide if he can marry the woman he loves, draw vengeful blood, and protect his life’s work from the exorcist who threatens to expel its source.

The occult clashes with Christianity; a priest battles demons; and an epic journey of dark versus light explores the limits of mankind’s understanding of nature’s conflicting forces.  It’s only .99 on Amazon Kindle.

 

A Subtle Grace Only .99 on Kindle!

A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013For the next five days, the stand alone sequel to my second book, In Name Only, A Subtle Grace  is on sale for only .99!!

Of A Subtle Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter of Prints of Grace Blog said, “This is one of my favorite contemporary works of Catholic fiction. The storytelling is masterful, the characters fascinating, and the writing is of high literary quality. People are imperfect—past, present, and future—but each is given the opportunity to grow, change, learn, and be redeemed. In this story it’s shown how the greatest mistake of our lives can be turned into one of the most amazing blessings and even be a source of hope for others. Life’s messy. People are complex. We’ve all got some skeletons in our closets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also fit some trophies and triumphs in there as well. A Subtle Grace has all of the elements that good Catholic fiction should.”

In her review, Jean Heimann, Catholic author and blogger, wrote that “In A Subtle Grace, Gable shows us through her characters, what happens when an individual lives his/her life based on principles rather than on passions. She clearly conveys the differences between love as a feeling vs. love as a choice, illustrating the consequences of each. Themes of redemption, forgiveness, discerning one’s vocation, healing, hope, and joy, all contribute to make this a story that tugs at the heart. A sequel to In Name Only, A Subtle Grace works well as an independent, stand-alone novel. You will definitely want to read both. A Subtle Grace is excellent read for historical romance fans. Those who enjoy Christian romance and suspense novels will find this story particularly enjoyable. This is a winner!”

Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author of Frozen Footprints says, “A Subtle Grace is the sequel to the lovely book In Name Only, yet A Subtle Grace can be enjoyed independently. Of course, readers of the first book won’t want to miss this one! The story kept me so interested that I hardly realized this was, in fact, a lengthy book. A Subtle Grace is a novel to stir your heart, your emotions, and your soul. I highly recommend it!”

Click here to read an excerpt and more reviews.

To download the book for only .99, click here.

Ornamental Graces Blog Tour

og-front-cover-final-jpegToday, I’m hosting Carolyn Astfalk, author of Ornamental Graces!

Summary:

After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend.

Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her.

Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

An inspirational Christmas romance that spans every season.

My review: I enjoyed this novel very much.  It’s a beautiful and touching story with well-developed, believable characters.  I highly recommend this inspirational romance that is a great read any time of year.
Amazon Link
Short Link
Goodreads Link
Book Trailer Link

Link to the Excerpt

Extras: Pinterest board, questions for book clubs, playlist, recipes
Book page on Carolyn’s website
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Carolyn Astfalk lives with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the wind carries either the scent of chocolate or cow manure. She is a CatholicMom.com contributor and author of the contemporary inspirational romances Stay With Me (Full Quiver Publishing) and Ornamental Graces.

An Open Book – November #openbook

Open Book

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

in-the-footsteps-of-st-thereseIn the Footsteps of St. Therese  by Terri Ong

Full disclosure: I helped to edit this book by fellow CWG member Terri Ong.  It’s a wonderful story!  It’s available here on Amazon in paperback only.

one-of-oursOne of Ours by Willa Cather

This is one of my favorite Willa Cather novels and I usually reread it every year around Veterans’ Day.  She captures well the innocence of young adulthood and the ravages of war.  From the Amazon blurb: One of Ours tells the story of a Nebraska farm boy who struggles to find meaning in his life. It is the story of a young man born after the American frontier has vanished, yet whose quintessentially American restlessness seeks redemption on a frontier far bloodier and more distant than that which his forefathers had already tamed. Before the war, Claude comes close to finding value in the world when his parents allow him to attend the University of Nebraska. Living in Lincoln he befriends the Ehrlich family, who expose him to a life of art, ideas, and culture. Later, when forced to return to his father’s farm, Claude seeks to find meaning in the form of human companionship. His attempt to find individual affirmation in the form of marriage fails, however, and the loneliness Claude encounters from his unaffectionate wife Enid compels him to volunteer in the overseas conflict. Claude’s violent death on the battlefield – portrayed as sacrificial and glorious by Cather in the mind of Claude’s mother – appealed to millions of Americans and probably played a role in the decision to award Cather the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours a year after it was published in 1922.  One of Ours is available on Amazon.

place-called-saturdayA Place Called Saturday by Mary Astor (actress)

From Goodreads: In 1968, when abortion was still a matter of controversy, Mary Astor wrote this heartwarming story of Cora, who was brutally raped by a young, unknown assailant and becomes pregnant. Cora faces the obstacles that will affect her life, her husband’s, and that of her unborn child.

I was surprised to find out that legendary screen actress Mary Astor was also a novelist.  As well, she converted to Catholicism.  I’ve only just started reading this, but it looks like it will be an excellent read.   It’s available on Amazon.

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensImage and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body

Edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

Last, but certainly not least, Full Quiver Publishing’s latest book has been released! 

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply?

Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more. By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.

With a Foreword by international Theology of the Body voice Damon Owens, Image and Likeness puts life and breath into St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in ways that readers won’t soon forget.

Warning: mature themes, content and language.

That’s it for this month!  Check out the other participants’ posts here.