Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review: Kneel and Prey (Gabby Wells Thriller #1)




I read a lot of young adult fiction.  And I read a lot of Christian fiction.  In fact, those two genres pretty much sum up my entire literary life these days….

Kneel and Prey, the 1st Gabby Wells thriller, is like no other YA fiction I have come across before though.  Kneel and Prey is no light feel-good Christian fluff either. Full of mystery, suspense, and action, the story explores dark, evil themes taking the reader on an exciting and emotional ride.  Main character, Gabby Wells, is a motherless high school student who attempts to take on a terrorist and save a whole town from destruction. As she tries to stop a madman with a sinister agenda, she must also face her own inner struggles and personal losses.  

I love that Gabby Wells is a flawed and realistically sinful character.  She is Catholic and truly desires to serve and follow God. But even as she strives to do what’s right, she questions God and makes choices contrary to His will.  Gabby’s a little rough around the edges but, somehow, that makes her even more likable and genuine… and easy to relate to. 

Kneel and Prey was a welcome departure from the less intense Christian fiction I usually read.  The story had me gripping my Kindle with white-knuckles, tense and engrossed in the action right up to the unpredictable ending. And Gabby Wells, herself, had me cheering her on and praying for a happy ending right along with her. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: Erin's Ring by Laura Pearl




On my first Christmas as a married woman, my husband (of only two months) surprised me with the gift of a Claddagh ring.  The striking ring, which symbolizes friendship, love, and, loyalty is steeped in Irish tradition and culture.  It was the perfect gift from the Irishman I loved and had so recently promised to share my life with….

When I heard that Laura Pearl’s newest YA novel, Erin’s Ring, features just such a ring I knew I had to read it.  The Claddagh ring in the story is found in the churchyard and on it is an engraving from Michael to Erin.  Thirteen year old Molly McCormick, after discovering the treasure, sets out to solve the mystery of Michael and Erin, and why the ring bearing their message of love was found buried in the dirt.  

As Molly delves deeper into the history of her new home, the reader is treated to a second storyline intertwined with the first. Going back over 170 years, Pearl also tells the tale of young Ann O’Brien, as she leaves her home country of Ireland and immigrates to the small town of Dover, NH.  

This is historical fiction at its best.  The two story lines, masterfully braided together across time, complement and balance each other.  Ann is living the stories that Molly is learning about as she pours over records in the town library searching for the owner of the Claddagh ring and researching a school project.

As it turns out, the ring, though fairly prominently featured and obviously of importance, is not really what Erin’s Ring is all about though.  The story is really about a deep and abiding love for the Catholic faith.  Both Molly and Ann, in every challenge and situation, are driven by their faith.  They are unapologetically passionate about their faith.  They are inspired to work for what is right because of their faith. 

Pearl is an expert at creating authentically Catholic characters who are also multi-dimensional.  So, it comes as no surprise that it was the characters that drew me into the story.  I especially love that the relationships in their lives create a perfect conduit for their strengths and weaknesses to be revealed.  The relationships in the book are full of ups and downs, misunderstandings and insecurities, and, like the characters themselves, are just so real.  

Erin’s Ring is a beautiful love story but it’s not so much about the romantic love between a man and a woman.  Rather, it is about true love and devotion to the Catholic faith and to family.  With so many immoral worldly books on the shelves of our library these days, it can be near impossible to find wholesome reading material for teen girls.  This story fills a need for real Catholic fiction that never preaches, yet clearly delivers a message of hope and piety.  Erin’s Ring is exactly the kind of story I feel good about encouraging my daughters to curl up with.  In fact, it’s exactly the kind of book I myself enjoy curling up with!

** I received a free copy of Erin's Ring in exchange for my honest review. **

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

FREE TODAY- my Short Story, A LIFE IMPRISONED


http://www.amazon.com/Life-Imprisoned-short-story-ebook/dp/B00FBU3XE4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424809431&sr=8-1&keywords=a+life+IMprisoned

My powerfully moving short story, A Life Imprisoned, is free today over at Amazon.

It tells the story of a skittish priest, a convicted murdered, and a life-altering meeting-- all in 19 pages!

The story has been described as "thought-provoking", "unsettling", and "well written." To get yourself a copy TODAY for FREE click here!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mid-Summer Giveaway-- great, inspiring beach reads!

Just for fun....

Both my published works-



Recipient of the prestigious Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval

Motherhood is a gift.

Children are a blessing.

Marriage is a sacrament.

Emmy O’Brien knows all that. There was even a time she fought to promote those very values and beliefs. After having four children in rapid succession though, the demands of home and family have blurred her strong convictions. Tired, overwhelmed, and dissatisfied much of the time, she struggles each day to meet the needs of those around her. When her husband receives a phone call from a 16 year old girl, unexpectedly pregnant and suddenly homeless, Emmy’s world is turned upside down and she must now decide, are her old-fashioned values and beliefs still worth fighting for?

--and--




A skittish priest, a convicted murdered, and a life-altering meeting-- all in 19 pages!
A Life Imprisoned is a thought-provoking short story, available in e-book format, that explores themes of comfort zones vs. being challenged, our legal system, and the value and importance of life.

FREE in Kindle format today through July 17 at Amazon.com

 This post may contain affiliate links.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kids say the darndest things.....




I was helping out at church for a few hours in early May.  It was First Communion and the DRE asked me to help out in the nursery.  I gladly agreed.  I was gone for only 2 ½ hours and my children were home with Tim the whole time.  When I returned, I spent the rest of the day with my family.  I took my youngest with me to run a few errands, I played a few games with her (she’s very into Old Maid and Go Fish these days), then I let her help me with dinner preparations.

After prayers that night, about 7 hours after my return from my babysitting stint at church, my little one snuggled up close to me and said, “Mommy I still miss you from when you were gone this morning.”




My three middle children and I learned all about American History this year.  We ended the year discussing slavery and the civil war.  In our studies, we read about the Dred Scott case.  I took the opportunity to pointed out that, in many ways, the supreme court decision that Scott was not truly a person but only the property of his master and therefore had no right to file a case let alone to be given the freedom he was seeking, mirrored the current view of unborn babies.  I explained how the issue of abortion is so similar to that of slavery and that the same justifications are offered- “it is not really a person we are referring to…..”  (Thankfully, our book went on to share more positive stories from that time in history too- teaching about the works of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, and other abolitionists.)

A few days after our history lesson on Dred Scott, my nine year old son looked up out of the blue and said (as if he’d just stumbled upon a really great idea), “You know what?  People should fight to end abortion, like they did to end slavery.”  

I should note--  My nine year old son has participated with us in the 40 days for Life campaign just about every year since he was 3, he goes along with me to drop his sister off to volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center every week, he watched me write, and then spend the last two years promoting, my pro-life stories (check them out here and here).   I assured him there ARE people fighting to end abortion.....

**This post may contain affiliate links.**

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review- Finding Grace




            From the moment I got my hands on Laura Pearl’s novel, Finding Grace it surprised me by being so much more than I expected.  
 
Knowing only that it was the story of a 13 year old girl with a name that was a challenge to live up to, I expected a somewhat simple tale.  I was surprised to find that Finding Grace was anything but a short one-dimensional story….

Instead of the quick read of maybe 150 pages or so that I had envisioned, the book boasts well over 300 big pages.  This is book is no quick afternoon read.    

Instead of just introducing the reader to young Grace Kelly in her early teen years, the book follows her all the way through high school and college.  

Instead of a sweet, light-hearted glimpse into the ordinary struggles and innocent awkwardness of adolescence, the book delves deep into difficult and mature themes.  

Pearl tackles issues that may have been relatively new and disturbing in the 1970’s but have become commonplace and “normal” in our day and age.  She confronts such difficult subjects as pre-marital sex, underage drinking, contraception, the feminist movement, moral relativism, and much more all while staying true to the plotline and never losing sight of the story itself.  

There was much I liked about Pearl’s debut novel.  First, the book did not come across as overtly preachy yet the main characters never failed to stand up for what they believe in.  There are also a great variety of secondary characters with who Grace shares her life and her story.  Each of the secondary characters adds to the lessons of the book, some by the wise choices they make, others by their poor choices.  Amazingly with such a large cast of characters, Pearl does a wonderful job of developing each of them so thoroughly and making each one so unique and memorable that I had no trouble keeping them all straight in my mind.  

Second, the relationships between characters were full of complexity and substance.  And amid those sometimes challenging, continually honest interactions in Grace’s life, many of the most important messages in the book are revealed.  

And lastly, the story promotes all the things I value as a Catholic.  Morality, truth, virtue, faith, it’s all there.  The traditional, old fashioned ideals of Grace’s close knit family become the lens through which she views the changing world around her.  Her family and her faith are what allow her to navigate the often thorny path of the narrow road.  Interwoven into the fabric of the story are compelling reasons for staying true to the precepts of the Catholic faith.   As a bonus, through Grace’s always believable life experiences, is revealed beautiful examples of holiness from the lives of the saints. 

All in all, Finding Grace was full of unexpected surprises that I found to be both enjoyable and insightful.  Grace is a character who sincerely strives to practice the virtues that lead to sainthood, never giving up even when the endeavor proves difficult. I look forward to sharing her story with my own daughters.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Water, water everywhere and life NEVER going according to MY plans



Way back in mid-February, on an already busy Saturday afternoon, as I got ready to go to our upcoming Teams of Our Lady meeting, Tim decided to fix the bathroom faucet that had very low water pressure.  

Things didn’t go as planned.   

The valve broke off the pipe and water gushed into our house at an alarmingly rapid rate.  We had water pressure now- but now we couldn’t turn it off.  The water main shut off was completely stuck.  Water poured into our house for about 45 minutes or so while we waited for a plumber to come and fix it.  The whole house was flooded in the process.   

We didn’t make it to our Teams meeting.

The insurance claims process, the water mitigation, the clean up and put back together of our soggy house has been long and exhausting.  Nothing has gone according to plan.

Not really a picture of our flood.  This is from last summer at the local "spray ground."  But it was cute and it fits the theme of water water everywhere.


The chaos and unpredictability of it all started almost immediately with four hours of ripping apart the wet mess of our home, followed by four days of dodging huge dehumidifiers and fans all over.  Followed by four five weeks of waiting…waiting…waiting for the new flooring, painting, minor carpentry repairs, and new bathroom vanity.   

In the meantime- under our old laminate, the kitchen floor was the most indescribably hideous, disgusting linoleum that was covered in mismatched patches and textured with streaky stripes of old tile glue.  It wouldn't come clean- I know, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed it with multiple cleaning agents ending up with bruised knees and a floor that still left the bottom of our socks a dingy brown color.

This week, more than a month since the flood, the contractors hired by the insurance company began the restoration work!!!!!  

First thing, Monday morning, we got a call- the flooring sub-contractor was coming to install the new laminate.  I looked at our school work for the day and planned out how to accomplish it all in the midst of workmen taking over our kitchen.  Then, an hour later, I got a call from the flooring company again.  They weren’t coming after all, because of rain in the forecast.  As we did our schoolwork, I watched out the window as NO rain fell on our house.  Nothing was fixed on Monday.

Tuesday, we got the same call again.  The flooring men were on their way.  The kids and I went to Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation assuming the workmen would arrive soon after we got home.  Instead, we came home to a voice mail message- the painters were coming.  Long story short—still no floors but the painters were at our house ALL day leaving at 5:30 with only one room completed!

Our leftover paint all lined up
 
Wednesday, there were paint cans, drop cloths, ladders, brushes, and baseboards stashed all over my house, but the painters weren’t coming because FINALLY the flooring WOULD be installed!  One team of workers took on the kitchen to install the laminate.  Another team tackled the bedrooms to put down new carpeting.  We couldn’t get down the hall, had to literally climb our way to the toilet, and had furniture and toys and stuff all over the family room (and all the painting supplies too) because it was the one room that would not be getting new flooring.  What a mess of a day!  The kids and I did about half of our planned work and then gave up because the distractions were too overwhelming.  When Tim got home from work the floors looked AWESOME, the house was mostly put back together and the kids and I were having trouble keeping our eyes open through dinner because we were so tired from all the chaos of the day.

Thursday, the painters came back.  Another loooong day of painting.  Workers all over my house.  Paint fumes permeating the air around us.  Apologetically sneaking by the painters and all their supplies to go to the bathroom.  And seemingly endless phone calls to figure out when the last of the work would be finished (our baseboards were never finished and somehow in the craziness of Wednesday the pile of uninstalled ones completely disappeared.  No one knew where they went.  No one was scheduled to finish them.  And no one would tell me when or IF they would ever be done.  The new bathroom vanity has not come in yet.  No word on an estimated date of arrival for that either.  Oh and the family room carpet is supposed to be professionally cleaned for us.  No one has even mentioned that.  AUGHHHH!).  My kids have been amazing troopers and have kept up with their school work as well as they possibly could.  They have stayed out of the workmen’s way and have not complained about the disruption of our lives.  We are hanging in there keeping our positive attitudes and our sense of humor about the whole situation- but just barely.

Our new kitchen flooring- still waiting for the baseboards.

This morning it’s Friday!   We still have no baseboards.  Still no official word on them even.  Still no word on any of the other unfinished work either.  But the kids and I have our co-op classes and after not leaving the house all week because I had to be here to supervise the workmen, we are all anxious to go see our friends and get some fresh air.  But….a half hour before we were set to leave, my four year old threw up ALL over the beautiful new laminate flooring.   No co-op for us….

Lent is all about letting go of our will and submitting to God’s, right?  I think I’m getting the message..… Can things quiet down just A LITTLE NOW?!?!!?!?!?!

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