Book-giving Guides

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Christmas shopping can be overwhelming. You want to show someone that you care about them, that they are important to you. And you want to give them something they will enjoy and even treasure for years to come. But as you’re scrolling through gift items on-line or wandering through yet another store, questions pop into your mind:

  • Will he like this?
  • Does she already have that?
  • If I spend all this money on this, will it be worth it?
  • Will they stop playing with it in a month or two?
  • What size does she wear?
  • What does he really like to do?
  • Do they already have something like this?

Lately, I’ve stumbled across a few great gift-giving lists. These are not your ordinary top-ten-toys lists. These are lists of books! Book-giving guides!

Books make fantastic gifts because they cost so little and give so much. Books can transport readers into different times and places. They allow you to leave your own life for a while and step inside someone else’s life. And if the book is Christian fiction, it gives the reader even more! Christian fiction can provide gems of value that can transform lives, jump-start faith, and delve into new and deeper insight.

I’ll share links to some of those book-giving guides here:

The first two lists are compiled by author Carolyn Astfalk. In addition to writing Christian romance, Carolyn is a full-time mom to four children and an avid reader. She posts a monthly “Open Book” blog that anyone can link to if they want to share what books they’ve been reading. I am always discovering new titles of interest on her blog.

I found another super-awesome book list on Jeannie Egolf’s Peanut Butter & Grace blog. This blog is worth following too. Previous posts give other “Shop Catholic” gift ideas, Advent reflections, video suggestions, and so much more!

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Shop Catholic This Christmas

Virtue Ink is another not-to-be missed website. Cathy Gilmore, the founder of Virtue Works Media, is dedicated to helping parents, grandparents, and teachers become effective spiritual mentors to the children and teens they love. You can learn about the TOTALLY Feminine GENIUS Generations Book Club on her website too. But be sure to check out the reading & entertainment list:

For the Catholic teen in your life, stop by CatholicTeenBooks.com for books in a variety of genres and many award-winning titles.

I will update this blog post if I discover more!

And I invite you to check out the new Christmas video that showcases my books!

Happy Advent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming Soon! New Release ELFLING by Corinna Turner

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Alone on the streets of London, young Serapia Ravena seeks the Duke she believes to be her father; her only hope of survival… 

Thirteen-year-old Lady Serapia Ravena has lived as an urchin on the streets of London since her mother’s death. Thrown from the house by her uncle, her only companion is her strange little pet, the ‘lizard chick’ Raven. Her only hope is a ring, and her mother’s dying command, ‘find the Duke of Albany’. But she has sought him in vain for years.

When the elusive Duke suddenly returns to the city, Serapia finds a loving father, and a wealthy, powerful one too. He thwarts her uncle’s murderous plans, and her life seems to have righted itself, with only happiness in store.

But it soon becomes clear that her father hides a dark secret, one that threatens his very life, and his very soul. The search for his salvation will carry Serapia hundreds of leagues, to the heart of the wild places, and to the fort of the elfin, bringing her face to face with her own mysterious heritage.

‘I was instantly drawn in’ – EOIN COLFER, author of Artemis Fowl

Corinna Turner’s new novel, ELFLING, is currently under consideration for a contract with Kindle. Kindle wants to know which books readers actually want to read, so they invite readers to let them know by nominating books via Kindle Scout. Readers who nominate ELFLING will get a free Kindle copy if Kindle takes on the book. Click here to check out/nominate ELFLING.

I was fortunate to have read an advanced copy of this hot new young adult fantasy story. I loved the main character, Lady Serapia Ravena and the intriguing story line. But I totally fell in love with her unusual little pet.

ravenWhat is it? Well, when Serapia first sees it, she thinks it resembles a baby bird with its underdeveloped wings and its little beak. But it also has a lizard-like tail and clawed front feet. The cute little thing fits in the palm of her hand–its leathery skin soft to the touch–and looks up at her with its huge golden eyes. Read the excerpt for more! And be warned…whether you consider yourself a fan of fantasy fiction or not, you will be drawn in to this clever story.


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Corinna Turner has been writing since she was fourteen and likes strong protagonists with plenty of integrity. She has an MA in English from Oxford University, but has foolishly gone on to work with both children and animals! Juggling work with the disabled and being a midwife to sheep, she spends as much time as she can in a little hut at the bottom of the garden, writing. She is a Catholic Christian with roots in the Methodist and Anglican churches. A keen cinema-goer, she lives in the UK with her classic campervan ‘Toby’ (short for Tobias!), her larger and more expensive substitute for her lovely Giant African Land Snail, Peter, who sadly passed away in October 2016.

Check out her books on www.CatholicTeenBooks.com or visit her website!


EXCERPT

Chapter 1—Raven

I was hungry. So hungry that most eleven-year-old girls of my rank would have been crying, throwing a tantrum, or fainting. Perhaps all three. Not me. I was thinking what to do about my hunger. I began each day with the same all-consuming thought.

I sat on a thin blanket under the overhang of an old, crooked stone house. I had to bend my head to sit up, but I scarcely registered the minor discomfort. Rain splashed from the eaves to the cobbles of the street only a few feet in front of my nose, but under here it was fairly dry; a good sleeping place. I contemplated the various possible solutions to this particular morning’s hunger, until a tiny scuffling noise preceded a whiskered nose from a narrow crack in the wall. When I remained motionless, the rat scurried almost soundlessly to the side of the blanket, attracted by a few crumbs so tiny even I hadn’t noticed them.

My hands shot out and seized the rat, wrapping around its plump body. Ignoring the squealing and the snapping teeth, I gripped the head and twisted, feeling the sudden give as the vertebrae in its neck parted company. Laying the twitching rodent beside me, a rare smile snuck onto my face.

So early in the morning and I had already acquired my day’s meal! I would take the rat down to the Scrinny Lane cookhouse, where I would skin it, cook it, and eat it. The bones would go to Old Joe the gluemaker as payment; the skin to the skin man in return for a precious half copper. In the new language I had learned since my mother’s death, a half copper equaled a piece of bread. If I was extravagant, I would eat it for supper. Otherwise it would go some way towards staving off the hunger on the morrow.

The smile fading, I shuffled to one side, picked up the blanket and knotted it around my shoulders like a cloak. The rat I tucked out of sight in my jacket. Its body still jerked slightly, still refused the truth. I wriggled out into the street, straightened and froze.

Two urchins stood waiting. Unlike me, who merely dressed as a boy, these were actual boys, bigger than I. Born in the gutter and never slept on a feather bed in their lives. They would cut my throat for the rat.

“We heard a squeaking,” said one boy, holding out a hand, his eyes cold.

“Do you see anything?” I said—running even before I had finished speaking.

The boys followed close on my heels. So close that when my bare foot slipped from under me on a slimy cobblestone the first was on me immediately. As I fell I caught sight of a mangy dog lurking by the side of the street. I struck the ground painfully, one hand already inside my jacket. The boy landed on top of me, a knife appearing in his hand like magic. Dragging the rat free I flung it towards the dog, which moved in a brown streak. The urchin had a choice of cutting my throat or getting the rat. It was no choice at all; he was already in mid-air after the meal. Back on my feet even as the rat struck the ground, I bolted.

I stopped in the comparative shelter of a lopsided building, wet, tired and sore. I didn’t bother contemplating the downturn in the day’s fortunes, too busy checking over my clothing. My knees and elbow were badly bruised, but nothing was torn, so I headed for a disreputable inn I knew where the landlord did not keep a porter on and usually allowed me to earn a few pence carrying the luggage.

When I arrived, the cheap coach was throwing out a passenger at the door. It was nothing personal; that was just how the cheap coaches went about things. The passenger, having gained the cobbles, ducked as his two cases were thrown down beside him. The coachman flogged his broken-down horses for a good few seconds before they were convinced to move and the coach swayed unsteadily away through the wet streets of London town.

I was already in motion. Stopping beside the passenger I put on my stolid, dependable expression and, with a tug of my forelock, took hold of the cases.

“I’ll get those, sir,” I said, in my feigned gutter accent. Was it really feigned? When had I last spoken as myself?

The traveler did not want to spend money on a bag boy, I could tell. He had planned to carry them quickly into the inn himself. Recoiling from appearing miserly when actually put to it, with a poor attempt at grace he gave me a curt nod and entered the inn, looking back only three times to check the luggage was following.

I dragged the heavy cases up the stairs, appreciating why the man had ducked their descent from the coach top. But my scrawny frame was up to it, and I set them down carefully in the room and waited. I only ever stuck my hand out as a last resort, it frequently seemed to do more harm than good. The traveler noticed my continued presence with a flash of irritation, dug a coin from his purse and threw it in my general direction.

I caught it and left quickly. It was a good-sized copper, and I was hungry enough that I went straight down to the inn kitchen and swapped it for a half copper and a chunk of bread. Retreating to the inn courtyard to eat my meal and watch for the next traveler, I eyed another urchin lingering there. Did he also have the landlord’s permission to carry bags?

The bread was finished all too quickly, as always, and I sat wishing another traveler would arrive. More at that moment for the distraction from my own thoughts, than for the coin I could earn. Only when I had some amount of food in my belly was I troubled by thoughts of the future. It was the only time I could afford to be.

I had lasted three years on the streets, three long, painful years since my mother died and my uncle threw me from the place that had always been my home.

“Be gone, witch child,” he’d snarled at me, “or I’ll duck you in the pond till you’re clean and cold.”

Even at eight years old I’d recognized a death threat when I heard one and I hadn’t tried to go back. Of course, I had always known my uncle hated me, but to be thrown from my own home to what should’ve been almost certain death? It had been utterly unexpected. The house in which my uncle now lived was mine, was it not? My rank came to me from my mother and there was nothing legal to take the property away from me.

Legally, though, my uncle was my guardian. No doubt he assumed me dead long since and it was a fair assumption. Serapion the urchin had no more chance of reclaiming what belonged to Lady Serapia Ravena than the morning’s rat had of breathing again.

In fact, Serapion the urchin had only one chance in the world and it was tied around my waist, carefully concealed under my clothing…

I looked up as the kitchen staff burst from the doorway, chattering excitedly to one another and followed by the cook, who swept something ahead of her with an expression of grim courage. They were calling for the landlord and I darted over to see what the to-do was about, slipping to the front. I’d have seized any distraction.

The heap of ash was tipped over the doorstep onto the cobbles of the yard. The landlord came striding out of the building even as I crouched to peer more closely at the tiny creature floundering weakly in the midst of the soot. As grey as ash, it resembled a bird, for it had a curved, beaky upper lip and a pair of little things that were clearly undeveloped wings on its back. But it was entirely featherless and had two tiny front paws, just now making feeble movements in the ash. Fragments of broken, blackened eggshell lay around it, showing it to be newborn. Or rather, new-hatched. I had never seen anything so intriguing.

“A demon-creature, sir, a demon-creature in the fire…”

“I was sweeping out the grate, sir, and I sees it…”

“It ain’t nat’ral, sir, ain’t right…”

“Shall we have a priest, sir? Don’t like the thought of it otherwise…”

A priest? Whatever for? I’d sensed evil often enough, and there was nothing of it here. But I’d learned long ago that other people just didn’t seem able to sense things as I could. Even my mother couldn’t. I had stopped mentioning my strange sensitivity only a short time after learning how to talk about it at all.

The landlord leant over to scrutinize the ‘demon-creature’. “Evilest looking blighter I ever did see,” he pronounced, “but soon sorted.” He raised his foot. His intent was obvious.

The baby animal raised its head and peered around with a pair of huge golden eyes. It gave a little cough and a cloud of ash came from its beak. It must be half choked. Without even considering it, I reached out and snatched it from the path of the landlord’s foot.

The assembled group turned a look of astonishment on me and the landlord swelled with rage. “You impudent little…” He took a step towards me.

For the second time that day, I ran for my life. Or in this case, the life of the creature I held pressed to my chest. I would survive a beating, it would not.

The landlord did not pursue me beyond his inn gates, but his furious shout followed, ringing in my ears. “If you ever come back…”

An inn without a porter was rare. One where I was trusted to carry bags was rarer still. I had lost the closest thing to a real job I had ever achieved, and for what? A deformed chick? I must be mad. Panting and heart pounding, I slipped into an alley and sank down on the cobbles to take a closer look at just what I had saved.

My hands were filthy with soot and the chick, or whatever it was, still grey, so that must be its natural color. It could not be a chick, I realized, as I looked more closely. Apart from its four legs it also had a tail, a very lizard-like tail. Its little, clawed front feet scrabbled gently at my thumb in a way that reminded me of a mouse. It could hold things in them, I suspected. It was, I concluded with a sense of shock, some rare exotic creature from across the seas. How its egg had come to end up in the inn fireplace was a question I did not even bother pondering. But if it was rare and from far away, then it was worth an enormous amount of money.

I looked at the tiny thing again. It fitted snugly in my palm, leathery hide soft against my skin. I’d never get close enough to the nobility to sell it for a pet. I’d have to sell to a middleman and it would go to an apothecary to be dried and powdered for potions. And much as I usually ignored the fact, I was terribly, achingly lonely. The creature raised its head again and gave another little cough, and I knew I could not sell it. It was mine and I would keep it. It would not eat much.

Talking of food… I looked again at my new companion in distress. It would need milk, or something… I tucked it securely inside my jacket for warmth and set off once more along the streets. Climbing up some abandoned scaffolding to the rooftops, I entered the attic of a deserted house through a hole in the roof. The rotten floor groaned under my weight, but I moved lightly to a pile of old rugs in a dry area of the room. There, curled in a little nest, lay a cat and her five kittens. The mother cat regarded me warily with yellow eyes, but did not run or move to attack. The cat and I had shared the loft on many a night.

Now I put my handful down carefully at the edge of the nest and crouched there, watching, ready to snatch it back out if the cat tried to harm it. This was a very long shot, and I knew it. The creature was unlikely to know how to get to the food on its own, for one thing, and the mother cat might try to savage it if it got close. I’d probably have to catch the cat and hold her down while carefully guiding the lizard-chick to the teat. But I wouldn’t do it immediately when there was just the feeblest chance I wouldn’t have to shatter the trust that existed between us.

The lizard-chick peered around, coughing again. Its babyish gaze travelled from me to the mother cat and it swayed forward unsteadily, opening its beaky mouth again to let out a soft, quavering cry not unlike those of the kittens. The mother cat went on watching me, seeming scarcely aware of the intruder now easing its way slowly, but persistently, in among her brood. Finally the lizard-chick’s mouth closed around a teat and it began to swallow. Every so often it released its mouthful to give the kittenish cry again. The cat still did not react.

I watched in something close to wonderment. The mother cat hadn’t noticed the interloper, of that I felt sure, and the back of my neck prickled in the way I associated with my odd senses. My new pet intrigued me more and more.

 

Although I usually avoided staying in the same sleeping place for more than one night at a time, I remained in the loft for over a week. By then, desperate to sleep elsewhere, I began to consider coming to the loft in the daytime to let my pet feed. But my problem was solved when my casual offering of a crumb of bread was eagerly swallowed by the lizard-chick.

“You don’t need milk any more, huh?” I said, stroking under the soft leathery chin. “Well, time for a name, I suppose…”

I turned my pet around in my hands. I had already established as well as I could that the lizard-chick was female, something most young noblewomen could not have done. Now I considered the question of a name. The baby was still a uniform grey all over, apart from her beautiful golden eyes.

“You are quite like a bird,” I mused softly. “And you’re mine. I’m a Ravena, in name, at least. Ravens are black not grey, but you’re close, and there are girl ravens as well as boy ravens. I’ll call you Raven. Then you’re part of me.”

 

 

Work of the Holy Angels

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Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. AMEN

As a writer, I love to hear from my readers. I love to know what they think of my stories and what they hope comes next. My readers influence me. The themes and story line of my latest release, Standing Strong, were inspired by a reader. You can read all about it on author Cynthia Toney’s blog post about my book.

angel3Recently, a reader inspired me to look into a religious movement that I never knew existed. A professor of theology who read my book Battle for His Soul asked if I had any connection with Opus Angelorum or if the story was inspired by its spirituality.

I was not familiar with this spirituality, however, I wrote Battle for His Soul to draw attention to the spiritual battle that goes on all around us and to increase devotion to our guardian angels. And I researched the Church’s teaching on angels, using Scriptures and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

But this reader got me curious. So of course I had to look it up! And I am so glad I did! The group is called Opus Sanctorum Angelorum.

From their “About Us” page:

Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, the Work of the Holy Angels, is an international movement within the Catholic Church faithful to the Magisterium. It is ordered to promoting devotion to the holy angels and a covenant bond with them through a Church-approved consecration, so that the holy angels may lead us more effectively to God.

Their website is packed with information!

  • You can learn about the holy angels on their “Catechesis on the Angels” page, which includes dozens of Scriptural and Catechism of the Catholic Church references.
  • They have a page of commonly asked questions on the Angels, which includes questions like “How do angels communicate with us?” and “Do angels have wings?”
  • As you learn about the spirituality of this association, you will also find beautiful quotes and prayers.
  • And you can read about real life experiences of the intervention of holy angels in people’s lives. Here is one of many testimonies on the website:

After reading your newsletter, I was reminded of this incident and wanted to tell you about it. When my daughter was 21 months old, we were walking on the upper level of a school building. I turned my back for a few seconds and when I looked again, she was running towards a two-story flight of concrete stairs. Before I could stop her, she began to run down them and tripped. She started to fall, but before her head hit the step something caught her and slowly pushed her back to an upright position. When I arrived next to her, she was standing still. There was no possible ordinary explanation for this. Although I could not see anything, I felt a strong presence and I know it was her Guardian Angel that saved her that day.                             ~Erica S.

cemetery-1670233_1920Want even more than you can find on their website, they have a link to their store where you can find books and audio on angels, prayers cards and crucifixes. And they offer something I’ve always wanted to try: Silent Retreats!

I love my guardian angel and feel so very close to him at times. Sometimes when I am too tired to pray, I ask him to say hello to God for me. I know he is ever by my side, praying for me and helping me to follow the right path, step by step.

Angels are God’s messengers and our constant companions. They want us to grow in holiness and to draw ever closer to God through Jesus Christ. I encourage you to visit their website so that you can learn more about angels and increase your devotion to your own guardian angel.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”          ~Hebrews 1:14

Book Review: The Grace Crasher

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516arGS316L._SX331_BO1204203200_It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so much while reading a book. This story has so many hysterical parts! I absolutely loved it!

The Grace Crasher opens with Julia and her best friend Robin in a Christian store, shopping for things that can help Julia look like she’s evangelical. She desperately wants to get an apartment but the landlady is a born-again Christian.

At one point, Julia tries on a shirt and turns her backside to Robin.

“Does this Jesus shirt make my butt look big?”

“Not big, just …trapezoidal.”

Then they move to the Bibles. Julia grabs the plain one that simply said Holy Bible because it seemed like the most Bible-ish one.

We soon learn more about Julia, her family, and her interests. She has a crush on Dylan Heath, the lead singer of a local indie band, but when she sees cute Mark, the store’s manager, she decides it’s a good idea to have a backup crush.

I must admit: it was Carolyn Astfalk’s review of The Grace Crasher that compelled me to get a copy for myself. Her book reviews are thorough and reliable, and I think we have similar tastes.

I cracked this book open (actually I read an ebook, so that phrase doesn’t really work) expecting to find a light, humorous, enjoyable story that I could read a little at a time before bed, and I was not disappointed. Author Mara Faro pokes fun at both Evangelical and Catholic Christians, but not in a mean way. It was all gut-busting fun! But as the story developed I also found surprising depth of character and story-line. The main character faces trials many can identify with and goes through a beautiful transformation.

Well-developed and realistic characters, along with the continuous humor, and the deeper spiritual insights made this a fantastic story that I highly recommend.

Other Reviews:

“A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.” ~

“Julia’s path is a relatable one, and in her flaws and the flaws of the characters around her, we see ourselves and our own brokenness with delightful clarity.” ~

“Loved it! Fun, inspiring, quirky,…I had lots of laughs reading this!” ~Amazon review

Funny, insightful, and brilliant!” ~Vera A. Velk

A hilarious, poignant story that sets the broken love among families, friends, lovers, and fellow believers against the backdrop of God’s unfailing, patient, perfect love.” ~

You can learn more about the author Mara Faro at her website.

You can get the book on Amazon in both paperback or ebook format.

~Blog Tour~ New Historical Fiction: Julia’s Gifts

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Final Julia's Gifts Front rev (002)Julia’s Gifts (Great War Great Love #1) by Ellen Gable

Blurb:   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.

Buy Links:  Amazon Kindle and Amazon Print

Excerpt:

December 17, 1917

The bustling streets of Center City Philadelphia shimmered with electric lights, heralding that Christmas was near. Julia Marie Murphy lifted her head and gazed upward. The night sky was filled with snow clouds, the air brisk. She pulled on her gloves and buttoned the top of her coat. Her thoughts turned to her future husband. Dear God in heaven, please protect my beloved. 

Tens of thousands of American men had already enlisted to fight in this “Great War.” The gentlemen that Julia knew seemed anxious to join, and Julia thanked God that her three brothers were too young to fight.

In a few short weeks, it would be 1918.  All of her father’s friends and acquaintances expected the war to end soon, hopefully before the middle of the year.  But 1918 held far more significance for Julia.  This would be the year that she would turn 21. 

She approached Lit Brothers department store, admiring the display windows that were outlined with colored electric lights. Julia was thankful that it was Monday. If it were Thursday, the ban on electric lights (in support of the war effort) would mean the windows would be dark.

Julia stared, transfixed, through the window at the tall display. Shimmery red fabric hung from a back wall, a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch lay on top of a cylindrical pedestal.  Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag: $12.25, almost 20 percent of her annual salary. But it was beautiful and every man needed one. The price notwithstanding, this would be a perfect gift for her beloved. Yes, it was extravagant, especially during wartime. Yes, there were less expensive items she could purchase. It didn’t matter. This was the ideal gift.

After purchasing it, she took it to the engraving department on the second floor. Behind the counter, the tall, lanky middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache smiled. “What would you like engraved on this?”

“To my beloved, next line, all my love, Julia.”

His eyebrows lifted.  “I’m certain the gentleman would prefer to have his Christian name engraved on this lovely timepiece.  Don’t you agree?”

“Well, yes, I imagine he would.  But I don’t really know his name or who he is yet.”

The man’s mouth fell open and he stuttered.  “I’m..I’m…s…sorry, Miss. I…I don’t understand.  You’ve bought an expensive pocket watch for someone you don’t know?”

Julia sighed.  She shouldn’t have said anything. 

“Please just use the words I gave you.”

The man nodded and regarded Julia with an expression of suspicious curiosity, a look one might give a person in an asylum.

“How long will it take?”

“For the engraving?  Ten days.  Sorry, Miss, but you won’t have it in time for Christmas.”

“That’s all right.” Julia turned and walked a few steps and heard the salesman mumble, “Now there’s an odd girl.  Buying a gift for someone she doesn’t know. Tsk tsk.”

Sighing, she checked her own wristwatch and hurried out of the store to begin the three-block walk to her trolley stop.  If she didn’t get there in time for the five p.m. streetcar, she would be waiting half an hour.

This year Julia was determined that she would meet her beloved, the man for whom she had been praying these past four years. Why hadn’t she met him yet?  Some of her friends were already married. Her beloved was out there and she would find him.  Yes, 1918 would also be the year that she would meet her beloved.

Each December, Julia wondered what she would buy her beloved for Christmas. Last year, she searched different stores but found nothing special. She finally discovered — and bought — a brown leather pocket journal at a specialty store at Broad and Bigler Streets. She didn’t know whether her beloved would be the sort to write in one, but it seemed like an appropriate gift, especially since it had a delicate leaf embossed on the cover. The year before, she had bought a sterling silver Miraculous Medal because her beloved would be Catholic.

That first year, her mother suggested that she begin praying for her future husband.  After a few weeks of doing so, Julia felt inspired to do more. It had been the week before Christmas, so she decided that she would buy or make him a Christmas gift each year until they met.  With no job and no money that year, Julia knit him two pairs of socks, one blue-green and one green-brown, with finely-made yarn that her mother had given her.

The fact that she had made or bought gifts, and had spent hard-earned money for her future husband, had not pleased her father as he thought it too impractical and sentimental. Her mother, however, had declared that it was a beautiful gesture. Of course, if Mother knew how much she had spent on the most recent gift, she was pretty certain her mother wouldn’t be happy.

Ellen Gable is an award-winning author, Marketing Director for Live the Fast, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. However, the roles she loves the most are being wife to her husband and mother to their five sons, ages 18-30. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband of 35 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario Canada.

Find Ellen at her Blog: Plot Line and Sinker, Full Quiver Publishing, Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, Linked In, and Google+


Author Interview: Ellen Gable

What was the inspiration for Julia’s Gifts?

When I was a teenager, I yearned to meet my future spouse.  It was difficult because most of my friends (and all of my siblings) had boyfriends.  Since I looked very young, boys weren’t    interested in me. I felt lonely, especially on Friday nights when all my siblings and friends were on dates, and I was home watching the Donny and Marie Show.

I began praying that God would “send me a man.”  Until then, I prayed for my future husband.  While I never actually bought a gift for him, I did write letters to him. 

A few years ago, it occurred to me that it would be a beautiful gesture for a young woman to buy Christmas gifts for her future spouse.  From that small seed, Julia’s Gifts was born.


Why World War 1?

I’ve always been interested in history and I knew very little about this war.  I decided to focus the bulk of my research on the last year of the War (after the United States entered).  Because I am American and my husband is Canadian, Julia is American and her future spouse (Peter) is Canadian. I read and studied many books and researched online for three years before actually sitting down to write the novel.  


Why is the name of the series Great War Great Love?

I owe my gratitude to the son of a friend of mine, Ian, for coming up with the title. The reason for the title is that World War 1 was called the “Great War” by the Allies before the USA entered the war, and is still often called the “Great War,” by British, Canadians and Australians. And Great Love because there are many examples of how couples met and fell in love during times of war.


The sonnets/poems in this story are beautifully written.  Tell us a bit about them.

Well, I’m not a poet, but my husband has written songs and poems. So I asked him if he would be willing to write sonnets for my book.  I explained in detail what I needed the sonnet to express and he took it from there.  The sonnets are a beautiful addition to this novel, especially because my husband wrote them. 


Can you tell us about the next two books of the series?

Yes. Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and takes place at approximately the same time as Julia’s Gifts, but focuses on a different female protagonist, Charlotte, who finds her purpose in live when she begins working in the death ward and holding men’s hands as they die.  She is attracted to Canadian Dr. Paul Kilgallen. During an advance by the enemy, everyone at the field hospital evacuates, except for Charlotte and Dr. K.  They remain hidden in the basement of the chateau to take care of the terminally ill men and those soldiers who can’t be moved. Charlotte becomes convinced that Paul is her own “beloved.” But when she loses contact with Paul, she fears not only for his safety, but begins to doubt his love for her.  Charlotte’s Honor will be released in late 2018.

Ella’s Promise is Book #3 in the series. It is about the daughter of German immigrants, Ella, an American nurse who (because of the time period) was discouraged from continuing on in her studies to be a doctor.  She works as a nurse for three years in Philadelphia but reads medical books every opportunity she gets. During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own beloved in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.


This is very different from your other books in that it is a very clean romance and can be read by young teens to elderly women to middle-aged men.  Was that a conscious choice?

Yes, it is very different and no, it wasn’t a conscious choice, at first.  When I came up with the story and as I was gradually developing the characters and plotlines, it made the most sense to keep this a “sweet” and “clean” love story that anyone can enjoy.  It is, however, a war novel, so there are descriptions of war injuries.


How do you find time to write?

The question really is: when do I feel inspired to write?  I work for a non-profit organization, and I run a micro-press publishing company.  I also write articles for various websites.  Some authors can force themselves to write a short novel (say, during November, national novel writing month).  However, for me, I need to be inspired.  For some strange reason, January is always a rich writing month for me.  When I’m inspired, writing comes easily.


Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite Catholic author is Dena Hunt (author of Treason and The Lion’s Heart), but I also enjoy reading Willa Cather’s books (Death Comes For the Archbishop).  Dena’s books are incredibly well-written and moving.  Cather’s books are well-written and rich in meaning.

And while this may seem biased, I enjoy reading books by all the Full Quiver Authors.  I also enjoy the books of the authors who are fellow members of the Catholic Writers Guild

One of my favorite secular authors is Nelson DeMille (author of the John Corey series).   I also enjoy reading Kathleen Morgan’s Christian historical novels.


 Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links

November 1  (Open Book)   Plot Line and Sinker

November 2   Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith

November 3   Therese Heckenkemp and Catholic-Fiction.com

November 4  Karen Kelly Boyce

November 5  Christopher Blunt

November 6 Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

November 7  Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire

November 8  A.K. Frailey   Sarah Reinhard

November 9  Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You

November 10  Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom

November 11  Plot Line and Sinker  Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post

November 12  Spiritual Woman   Patrice Fagnant MacArthur

November 13  Mike Seagriff, Harvesting the Fruits of Comtemplation

November 14 Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists

November 15 Theresa Linden

November 16  Barbara Hosbach

November 17  Barb Szyszkiewicz    Catholic Mom

November 18 Cathy Gilmore, Virtue Works Media

November 19 Erin McCole Cupp

November 20 Virginia Lieto

November 21 Elena Maria Vidal  Tea at Trianon

November 22  Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller

Prints of Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter


Advanced Reviews:

Can beauty and life survive destruction and death? Vivid writing transports readers to the past, where young love is forged and tested amidst the devastation of war-torn France. Graced with soulful sonnets and life-and-death situations, this is no simple romance. It’s a strong and tender Catholic historical novel about growing in maturity and fortitude while discovering the power of hope, self-sacrifice, and prayer. I read Julia’s Gifts within two days, but this touching story of faith and devotion is sure to leave a lasting impression!”    ~Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author of Frozen Footprints and After the Thaw


“Award-winning author Ellen Gable has created a stunning love story set amidst the backdrop of World War I. Filled with adventure, romance, and intrigue, this gripping tale will keep you on the edge of your seat.  There is so much to treasure in this beautifully-written book: miracles of faith, the power of prayer, the strength of true love, and the grace in using one’s God-given gifts to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles make this an outstanding and unforgettable book.” Jean M. Heimann, author of Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World


“A sweet romance set amidst the carnage of World War I France, Julia’s Gifts is filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles – great and small – happen all around us.”   Carolyn Astfalk, author, Stay With Me


“Julia’s Gifts is a sweet and touching love story laced with beautiful messages. Well-researched, the dialog and details make the story feel genuine, taking readers back to the WWI era where people shop at Lit Brothers department store, ride on trolley cars, and frequent the Horn and Hardart’s Automat. Following Julia as she works overseas as a volunteer medical aid opened my eyes to the hardships of war and especially the great trials and sacrifices of the nurses and volunteers. This story touched my heart in many ways, but the poems written by the character Major Peter Winslow are simply amazing.”    Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Catholic teen fiction


“In the new Great War Great Love series by Ellen Gable, Julia’s Gifts took me on a poignant journey into the midst of terrible suffering and enduring hope. A young woman volunteers to serve in a war-time hospital in France and encounters, up close and personal, the horrors of war. The descriptions of war-torn France felt very authentic and really helped me to envision actual environment. Julia’s dreams for her future husband face unexpected and ingenious twists and turns. Julia’s Gifts is a romantic drama that unfolds far from home—but takes us to the heart of home along the way.”  A.K. Frailey, author

 

Book Review of Angel on Assignment

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Today we have another guest post from author Susan Peek!

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Book Review of Angel on Assignment by Wanda Carter Roush

The moment I saw the gorgeous cover of Angel on Assignment written by Wanda Carter Roush and illustrated by Mike Motz, I knew my children HAD to have this book.

Although I haven’t read Elf on the Shelf, for which this story is a Christian alternative, I was nonetheless delighted by the idea of a Guardian Angel “sitting upon a shelf” watching over whatever child God had assigned him. But before the young reader gets to that part, the book kicks off introducing angels from the New Testament.  Gabriel the Archangel appears first, greeting the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, then visits Saint Joseph with instructions to name the Baby “Jesus.” Next come the Heavenly Spirits who filled the sky on Christmas night, followed by those present at the Manger, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Our Lord. After introducing these angels from Holy Scripture, the author shifts focus and the rest of the book is about our own Guardian Angels and how they protect, inspire, comfort, and encourage us. The final pages contain directions on how young children can make, with parental help, a craft angel to sit on their own bedroom shelf!

I absolutely love the concept of this story. The message is joyful, and presentation fun, and the illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. The only thing that disappointed me is that the text is written as a poem (I assume Elf on the Shelf is too) and some of the stanzas seemed contrived, as if the author was fumbling to fit rhyming words together. In several places, my 8-year-old had a bewildered look on her face, not understanding the awkward rhyme, which forced me to stop and paraphrase what the author intended to say. That broke the flow of the story and was frustrating. I wish the text was more “little-kid-friendly” with perhaps a simpler rhyme. Having said that, I definitely plan to purchase a copy as a Christmas gift for a little girl I know.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookCrash in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation and the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

ChristmasFrontCoverSusan Peek is the author of fast-paced and exciting saints stories for children and young adults. I highly recommend her books as Christmas gifts, whether you have children or teens to shop for. Be sure to check out her Christmas story The Forgotten Christmas Saint: St. Anastasia!

Church Suffering, Militant, and Triumphant!

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I love the month of November and not just because it’s my birthmonth! This month reminds us that we are called to be part of something that transcends space and time: we are called to be part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

What is the Mystical Body of Christ?

St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “You are the Body of Christ, member for member” (1 Cor 12:27), and of Christ “the Head of His Body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18).

So St. Paul compares the Church to a body which has many parts with different functions but are still united. The members of the Church are bound together by supernatural life through Christ. This includes the members of the Church who are in Heaven, Purgatory, and still alive on earth, that is: the Church Triumphant, Church Suffering, and Church Militant.


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Faith or The Church Triumphant, oil on canvas painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1664 – 1665 (public domain)

This November begins with the Feast of All Saints, a celebration of those who have fought the good fight of the faith and have taken hold of the eternal life to which we are all called (1 Tim 6:12). They are our intercessors and our inspiration. “…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

 


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Ludovico Carracci circa 1610. Public Domain.

November 2, we Commemorate all the Faithfully Departed, keeping the Church Suffering close to our hearts and offering prayers on their behalf, for they can no longer pray for themselves. Several Franciscan saints have been great helpers of the Holy Souls.

Padre Pio encourages us with these words: “The souls in Purgatory pray for us, and their prayers are even more effective than ours, because they are accompanied by their suffering. So, let’s pray for them, and let’s pray them to pray for us.

 

If you aren’t sure what Purgatory is or you’d like to learn more, here’s a nice article about what it isn’t.


 

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Knights of Christ in the Ghent Altarpiece. Public Domain

Next, on November 23rd in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of country, family, and our many blessings from Divine Providence. In a way, this is a celebration of the Church Militant, those who are in the world and actively involved in the great battle between good and evil. As we offer thanksgiving for our many blessings, including our faith, family, and Church, let us find ourselves renewed in zeal to continue fighting the good fight.

I am a Secular Franciscan and for us Franciscans, the themes of this month circle back to the Church Suffering and Church Triumphant, as we commemorate all the deceased members of the Franciscan orders on the 24th and celebrate all the Franciscan saints on the 29th.

No matter how dark the days or how heavy the cross we carry, let us never forget that we are part of something amazing—the Mystical Body of Christ. And we are called to be great saints!


Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.                      ~Prayer of St. Gertrude