Ellen Gable’s ‘A Subtle Grace’ Book Review

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ASG pic

Ellen Gable’s A Subtle Grace, the sequel to the Amazon best-seller, In Name Only, is her best work to date.  I am a big fan of In Name Only, the first O’Donovan Family novel, and have been looking forward to the release of the second book.  If you haven’t read the first book, you will still enjoy A Subtle Grace, because it can stand alone. Both books are available on Amazon in print and Kindle format.

Set in Philadelphia, in 1896, the novel follows the story of 19-year-old Kathleen O’Donovan, daughter of Caroline and David O’Donovan, who are featured in In Name Only.  The impulsive and immature Kathleen witnesses the pairing off of many of her friends and is longing for a husband of her own.  However, she desires marriage over a true relationship and this is what eventually gets her into trouble.

She is training to be a nurse and, in the process, becomes acquainted with the town doctor.  Kathleen also develops an infatuation with the Local Police Chief’s son.  It is in these relationships that Gable juxtaposes love and lust.  It is a potent illustration of what constitutes authentic love and what it takes to achieve that.

One of Gable’s strengths is the lengths she goes to paint a historically accurate picture of the time period.  Her writing gives the reader a vivid mental picture of what life was like in the late 1800’s, the food, fashions and social practices all add to the reader’s enjoyment.

Another strength is Gable’s ability to write a good villain.  And by good, I mean bad. Evil!  It is a self-indulgent pleasure to hope the ‘bad guy’ will get his comeuppance. Gable helps you to relish that feeling.

There are several sub-plots which keep the story moving; Kathleen’s brother Will’s calling to the priesthood, a secret buried deep within her father’s past, and another brother’s shame.

Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this novel.  Those who enjoy the genre of romance–particularly Christian romance–will savor it. Not merely the story of a young girl’s journey to maturity, A Subtle Grace is a masterfully written illustration of the difference between lust and love, between rashness and fortitude, between mere existence and truly living.

Don’t You Forget About Me Book Review

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Being constantly bullied by classmates is bad enough…but finding a corpse as well?  Mary Catherine Whelihan has shaken the dust of Walkerville from her feet and reinvented herself as Mary Cate Wheeler, best-selling children’s author.

However, when an invitation to speak at Our Lady of the Seven Dolors School coincides with beloved Sister Thomas Marie’s funeral, she is tempted to return to her hometown.  A cryptic e-mail from an old flame, and the promise of tomato pie, seal the deal.

Back in Walkerville, it seems that everything has changed, except for Mary Catherine.  She is still the same wounded soul, who insulates herself against being hurt, by distancing herself from everyone and everything.  Mary Catherine is so blinded by the past, that she is unable to see her classmates as anything but caricatures and completely misses the big picture.  Her childhood best friend (and crush) Gene Marcasian, MD, sees everything, however.

Once Gene clues Mary Catherine in about the ‘Curse of ’87,’ the danger begins.  Someone doesn’t want the duo to discover what lurks within Walkerville, and Gene and Cate find themselves running for their lives.

Erin McCole Cupp has created a quirky, fun mystery-romance that will tickle your funny bone while making your hair stand on end.  I highly recommend this entertaining read.

Click here to visit the Don’t You Forget About Me Amazon page

Book Review: Clare’s Costly Cookie by Julie Kelly

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Clare’s Costly Cookie , published by Nativity Press, is the sweet story of a young girl and her developing relationship with Jesus.  Written as a series of prayerful conversations between Clare and Jesus, it is a wonderful tool for teaching children not only how to pray, but offers many life lessons that will enable them to grow in holiness.

Clare, the third of four children, often steals away to pray and work out her problems.  She encounters the challenges of any nine-year-old;  having to watch her younger brother, arguing with her older siblings, dealing with family members’ foul moods, struggles with sharing and speaking kindly toward others…the list goes on.  Clare, in her prayer, models for the reader how to pour one’s heart out to Jesus.  Each chapter brings a new challenge and a new prayer.  After praying, Clare listens quietly, and a solution to her problem is revealed to her. She concludes with a resolution to change or try harder.  At the end of each chapter there is a scripture quote which is related to the problem Clare brought to prayer.

This book functions almost as a mini-catechism, exposing the reader to topics such as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, resisting temptation, the armor of God, redemptive suffering,  the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, humility and Eucharistic Adoration. Interwoven through Clare’s prayer are short stories of the saints, which help her resolve to be more like them in her daily life.

Author Julie Kelly is a Catholic homeschooling mom of six children and founder of Nativity Press.  A former retreat director, her expertise in this area comes through in her uncomplicated, yet eloquent writing.  The simple, elegant illustrations by Mary MacArthur enhance the reader’s experience and understanding of the story.

I wish I would have had this treasure to use when my own children were preparing for the sacrament of First Holy Communion.  It would have made teaching them much, much easier. At a mere 96 pages, this book is packed with Catholic teaching.  The engaging dialogues are a perfect read-aloud for parents of younger children and excellent for students in the elementary grades to tackle on their own.  Clare’s Costly Cookie would make a delightful gift for any child, particularly one who is preparing for or has received their First Holy Communion.

 

 

Book Review: Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent

cultivating God's garden

Lent and Advent are good times during the liturgical year to read books of reflections on our relationship with the Lord.  So, when I saw that Marageret Rose Realy had just published Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent, I downloaded it onto my Kindle and made a quick survey of it, to see whether I wanted to use it this year.  From the first page, I was hooked.

cultivating God's gardenThis book, despite the title, isn’t just for gardeners.  And I’m thankful for that, because I have what they call a black thumb.  In fact, I’m so toxic to anything that grows, I’ve been banned from the family garden.  But that’s okay with me, because mostly everything about gardening (having to go outside, for example), doesn’t match my personal tastes.  Except for the flowers, of course.  I love having fresh cut flowers on my table.  I just like when they come from somewhere else and I don’t have anything to do with the process that happens before they appear in a vase in my dining room.  But I digress…

Margaret Rose Realy is a talented writer, who brings readers gently through the season of Lent, encouraging us, with earthy metaphors, to look at ourselves in a new way.  Realy’s reflections reveal the presence of God through nature and draw us closer to Him as we ponder her musings on gardening, neighbors and the cycle of life.  There is a peace that comes from meditating on Realy’s entries that I haven’t found in a book like this in quite sometime.  In this brief encounter with her thoughts, I was reminded that the Lord is often found in a whisper or a gentle breeze.

Pick up this book for Lent–in fact, download it right now— if you are looking for an oasis of peace in our often chaotic world.  You will be rewarded greatly.