Advent, Faith and Trust

It dawned on me a few years ago when I was flying back from New Jersey that it takes tremendous amount of trust to get on a plane. We rely on the pilots to fly the plane with precision, expect that the builders created a solid, well-performing plane, and trust that the mechanics have serviced the plane properly.  After all, which one of us wants to be 20,000 feet in the air when a mechanical problem happens or when a pilot encounters a situation he’s not trained to handle?

Of course, the same can be said for any situation.  We depend on and have faith in our doctors, food companies, school bus drivers and others.  On a daily basis, we are called to rely on humans who have the potential of making mistakes.

Consider how most couples “trust” with regard to their fertility.  They take pills, get injections, apply chemical patches, insert devices, consent to operations.  Instead of working with their fertility, they try to eliminate it. Instead of embracing their fertility, they fight it. They “trust” that by using contraceptives, they will be able to “control” their fertility.

Newsflash: none of these chemicals, devices or operations are 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.  Only complete abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.  And yet millions of couples put their “faith” in the contraceptive methods on a daily basis.  If the methods “fail,” and a child is conceived, many will resort to abortion. 

So what does this all have to do with Advent?

When told that she would be the mother of our Savior, Mary replied, “Be it done to me according to your word.”  That took tremendous trust and faith in God’s plan for her.  She didn’t say, “Hmmm, let me think about that for a few weeks and I’ll get back to you.”  Without her yes, we would not be preparing to celebrate the beautiful feast of Christmas. It must’ve been difficult for her to give birth in a stable, surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals.  And yet Mary believed and trusted that this was God’s plan for her and accepted it without question.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

So what is God’s plan for us especially regarding our fertility?  I can tell you what it is not: God’s plan is not for us to destroy the gift of our fertility with devices, behaviors, chemicals or operations.  This reliance that many couples place in contraceptives can sometimes result in an unwanted, permanent loss of fertility and can lead to numerous other consequences as well.  St. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) talks about one of the most common consequences of contraceptive use: “A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”(HV 17)

God’s plan is for couples to embrace their fertility and to be generously open to life.  Does that mean that God wants us to have as many children as possible?  No, it doesn’t.  God gave us the gift of reason and he also gave us a built-in natural method of avoiding pregnancy that works with fertility and not against it. God, the Author of life, wants to be part of our decisions regarding our fertility.

Couples who want to trust God with their decisions will trust Him with all of their decisions, including the beautiful gift of fertility.  When couples have serious need to avoid pregnancy, Natural Family Planning is a moral way to do so.  NFP uses no devices and works with God instead of against Him. Wives who use NFP seldom feel used by their husbands. NFP also works well to achieve pregnancy. It’s healthy, effective and safe.  NFP encourages good communication and strengthens marital relationships. And it’s environmentally safe.

Advent is an ideal time to ask ourselves:  do we depend on a chemical company or condom manufacturer…or do we trust God, the Author of Life?

Learning Natural Family Planning nowadays is as simple as turning on your computer. For more information on NFP, check out the following websites:

Couple to Couple League

Billings Ovulation Method

Creighton Method

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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

An Open Book – December #openbook

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

Coming from FQP December 8, 2020, 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.

My review: I may be biased because I’m publishing this book, but it’s a relevant story about an unlikely friendship between a cranky elderly man and his tenant, a 17-year-old black teen. Highly recommend!

A Scarlet Cord by Deborah Raney

Amazon Synopsis: In the four years since her husband’s death, Melanie LaSalle’s life has been consumed with managing the family design firm and caring for her five-year-old daughter, Jerica. The possibility of a new relationship is the last thing on her mind. But when Melanie meets Joel Ellington, a new staff member at her church, she is instantly attracted to his warm spirit. As their friendship deepens, however, Melanie is troubled by something she can’t quite understand or explain. Joel past seems to be off-limits, even to Melanie. Because of her growing feelings for him, Melanie pushes her doubts away. But when Joel disappears, along with the contents of a church bank account, she can no longer ignore her suspicions.
Now, torn between her feelings for Joel and the evidence mounting against him, Melanie faces a heart-wrenching decision: to forget the man who gave her reason to love again or to trust Joel enough to give him her heart.
Exploring themes of the importance of truth, loyalty, and trust, A Scarlet Cord illustrates that who we truly are depends little on outward appearances and soley on our relationship with God, and on the fact that through faith in Him, we can find places of comfort, healing, and selfless love.

My review: On my To-Read shelf.

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

Amazon Synopsis: It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, nonstop, to the top. Once there it pauses for a few seconds, but the doors don’t open. Instead, the elevator begins to descend floor-by-floor. Then it plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a random accident. . . . But on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And then Wednesday brings yet another tragic high-rise catastrophe. In only three days, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance and entertainment–is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s succeeding. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men and women working in offices across the city refuse to leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment towers go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? Are these deadly acts of sabotage somehow connected to a fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist race against time to uncover the truth before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its ribbon-cutting on Friday night.

With each diabolical twist, Linwood Barclay ratchets up the tension, building to a shattering finale. Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible . . . and will chill you to the bone.

My review: I picked this paperback up at Costco. The story is excellent, but the writing style is mediocre, at best. While the story is excellent, it wasn’t compelling enough to keep reading until late in the novel. Also, a pet peeve of mine when reading other authors’ works is when they use words repetitively. In this case, it’s the verb LOOK… continuously. This author uses LOOK sometimes several times in the same paragraph. To me, that’s just sloppy. 3.5/5. Recommend if you can overLOOK the looks.

Free Fall by Jessica Barry

Amazon Synopsis: They say your daughter is dead. You know they’re wrong.

When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, everyone assumes Allison Carpenter is dead.

But Maggie, Allison’s mother back home in Owl Creek, Maine, refuses to believe them. Maggie knows her daughter – or she used to, anyway. For the past two years, the two women have been estranged, and while Maggie doesn’t know anything about Ally’s life now – not even why she was on a private plane to begin with – she still believes in her girl’s strength, and in their love for each other.

As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers about the world Allison has been involved in. What was she running from? And can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?

Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a heart-stopping, propulsive thriller about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and the ones they love.

My review: On my To Read Shelf.

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

FQP Christmas Sale 2020

Every FQP print book in our catalog is on sale, some at drastically reduced prices.

My books, Julia’s Gifts, Charlotte’s Honor and Ella’s Promise are all on sale for 9.99 USD each (30% discount)!

The O’Donovan Family Books are also on sale for 12.99 each (That’s 35% discount!)

I’ll be showcasing some of our other books in the coming weeks!

Check out all the great titles from FQP here at this link!

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)

An Open Book – October #openbook

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

Home At Last (edited by Rosalind Moss)

Amazon Synopsis: The impressive Bernini columns that stretch from St. Peter’s Basilica out towards Rome, enclosing St. Peter’s Square, have been described as the arms of the Church reaching out and welcoming all people, all language groups, all cultures, and all individuals looking for truth, happiness in this life, and eternal salvation in the next. Our beloved converts have come to love the Church as their mother and home. They have prayed, argued, studied, and finally embraced the Catholic faith. But it wasn’t by their works alone that they have found a home in the Church. Ultimately they–like all Catholics–are members of the Church because of God’s generous gift of faith, which we neither earn nor deserve. May these converts, and all like them, persevere in their newfound faith and bear fruit a hundredfold. -Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop, Archdiocese of Santa Fe

My review: I’ve been watching the former Rosalind Moss (now Mother Miriam) on YouTube for quite sometime, so I decided to purchase this book to read more about her conversion story and the conversion story of others. Mother Miriam’s is probably the most interesting to me. A Jewish girl brought up in New York City became an Evangelical, then a Catholic, then became a sister and founded a new religious order. Fascinating read, but the other stories are also quite compelling. It’s always interesting to see how the Holy Spirit works in the conversion of others. Every conversion story is as unique as each individual person. Highly recommend! 5/5.

Our House by Louise Candlish

Amazon Synopsis: On a bright morning in the suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband, Bram, have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years; how can another family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared–along with their two young children–when she needs him most?

As the nightmare takes hold, Fiona begins to untangle the lies that led to a devastating crime–and a betrayal so shocking it will teach her to keep her own secrets behind locked doors….

My review: I happened to pick this book up at Costco. The blurb definitely hooked me in. It was a great read (although the middle section where the author dragged out the antagonists’ cat-and-mouse games, I just skimmed because it was too much of the same). However, the last 70 or so pages were compelling and I read that in one sitting. Highly recommend. 4/5.

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties

by Tom O’Neill

Amazon Synopsis: Over two grim nights in Los Angeles, the young followers of Charles Manson murdered seven people, including the actress Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant. With no mercy and seemingly no motive, the Manson Family followed their leader’s every order — their crimes lit a flame of paranoia across the nation, spelling the end of the sixties. Manson became one of history’s most infamous criminals, his name forever attached to an era when charlatans mixed with prodigies, free love was as possible as brainwashing, and utopia — or dystopia — was just an acid trip away.

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O’Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the “official” story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi — prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter — turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O’Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions.

O’Neill’s quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco’s summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA’s mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

My review: I bought this book after seeing the author’s gripping interview on Joe Rogan’s YouTube channel. I wanted to hear more about his research. Chaos is a very interesting book. although tedious at times. The author had legitimate questions and sometimes the answers were not what he (or his readers) expected. My one biggest disappointment in this book is that there is never any definitive answer to many of the questions he asked. He did, however, illustrate with evidence how Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor in the original Manson trials, lied by omission during the trial and in his book, Helter Skelter (which I’ve read at least five times: it’s probably THE most compelling book I’ve ever read!) Recommend to true crime readers: 3.5/5.

Woman in the Trees by Theoni Bell

Amazon Synopsis: Set within the expanses of the American frontier, The Woman in the Trees follows Slainie, an inquisitive pioneer girl, whose life is forever transformed when a mysterious seer shows up at her door. Amidst the backdrop of the Civil War, family tragedy, and the nation’s most destructive wildfire, Slainie must navigate her rugged pioneer life as she encounters love and loss, and comes face to face with the story of America’s first approved Marian apparition.

My review: I really enjoyed this young adult book about America’s first approved Marian apparition. I also enjoyed the descriptions of what it was like in the pioneer days, especially with immigrants. Recommend! 4/5

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins

Amazon Synopsis: A madcap band of dancing, prancing monkeys explain hands, fingers, and thumbs to beginning readers.

My review: I just recently purchased this book for my grandson. Since I’ve been babysitting him part-time, one of the things we do together is read. This was one of my boys’ favorite books growing up and it has become one of my grandson’s favorite books. It’s simple, funny and entertaining. Highly recommend. 5/5.

Go Dog Go by P. D. Eastman

Amazon Synopsis: Reading goes to the dogs in this timeless Beginner Book edited by Dr. Seuss. From big dogs and little dogs to red, green, and blue dogs, dogs going up and dogs going fast . . . who knew dogs were so busy? And laughter will ensue at the repeated question “Do you like my hat?” Like P. D. Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother? Go, Dog. Go! has been a go-to favorite for over fifty years, leaving audiences of all breeds wagging their tails with delight.

My review: Believe it or not, this is one of the books that taught me to read (it was published in 1961.) I remember absolutely loving the part at the end with the tree (no spoilers here!) and my boys shared the same excitement. So this is another book I bought for my grandson in the hopes he can also enjoy it! Highly recommend. 5/5.

Authenticity Now Available!

Authenticity by Allison Wajert Venini is now available in Paperback and will be available on Kindle on October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary.

Synopsis: Mackenzie, a young actress in Philadelphia, suddenly falls ill on a film set.  After she garners the attention and aid of a former tabloid darling with a sordid past, her parents pressure her to seduce him for personal gain.  As she balances fostering a very real friendship with the actor while propping falsehoods to her parents, she also draws close to his inner circle of contacts.  Jealousy, kindness, and instability are the forces she encounters through a man who has not fully achieved temperance.

To purchase the print edition, click here.

To purchase the Kindle edition, click here.