Book Reviews

Links to Book Reviews:

Sons of Cain by Val Bianco
Poor Banished Children by Fiorella De Maria
Viper by John Desjarlais
Alex O’Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thieves by Regina Doman
In-Sight by Gerard D. Webster
The Soul Reader by Gerard D. Webster
Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable
In Name Only by Ellen Gable
A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable
Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable
Past Suspicion by Therese Heckenkamp
Death in the Choir by Lorraine V. Murray
Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue by Donna Alice Patton
Finding Grace by Laura H. Pearl
Saint Magnus The Last Viking by Susan Peek

Past Suspicion by Therese Heckenkamp


Past Suspicion
$12.95 Paperback
$2.99 Kindle Ebook


Reviews:

“Being home-schooled, Heckenkamp probably understands something about the brilliant recluse. It shows in her writing. Her heroine is sensitive, angry, hurt, intelligent, stubborn, curious, and has a large heart underneath all of her confusion. She is a typical seventeen year old. . . Heckenkamp captures the angst of those years beautifully. Her plot is solid, and is very movie or television friendly. . . lots of action; pathos; conflict; glamour; etc. It’s all there, and Heckenkamp is a confident and sure writer. She has no trouble keeping all of her balls in the air and resolving them at the end of this page-turner with a flair. Her denouement is terrifying, exciting, and then whoosh. . . she brings in the romantic element with panache.

Past Suspicion is a terrific first mystery/novel from a very promising talent. It is a particularly compelling achievement considering Ms. Heckenkamp has her future ahead of her. Bravo!”
– The Midwest Book Review

“Heckenkamp is a solid, engaging writer who has created well-developed characters and interesting plot lines. This is impressive considering that she began writing this novel as a teenager, finishing it by the time she was 22. Catholicism was skillfully woven into the story; it wasn’t preachy or over the top.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for an interesting, engaging read with a cast of well-defined characters. I look forward to the author’s future novels!”
– Ellen Gable, author of Stealing Jenny, In Name Only, and Emily’s Hope.

“[Heckenkamp] has crafted a marvelous story with layers and depth. Her characters are richly drawn and intriguing. Past Suspicion is a page-turner, and Heckenkamp is an author to be reckoned with. I expect to see her work in the future and suspect that she has a long and successful career in front of her.”
– Nancy Mehl, best-selling Christian author.

“Past Suspicion is billed as a suspense for young adult readers, yet . . . would be welcome by older fans of thrillers as well . . . a remarkable debut.”
– Kathryn Lively, author of Saints Preserve Us: an Ash Lake Mystery and Dangerous Words.

“Past Suspicion is a riveting mystery that will keep readers turning pages. An outstanding effort by a first-time novelist!”
– Regina Doman, author of The Shadow of the Bear and other Catholic novels for teens.

“Past Suspicion is suitable for readers 12 and up and can hold the attention of readers through age 100. I found this novel refreshing and commend Ms. Heckenkamp for not sullying the story with profanity.”
– E. Dian Moore, Christian Freelance Writer and Editor.

“[Heckenkamp] captures the torn emotions of the main character and the rising sense of danger very adeptly.”
Margot Davidson, reviewer for love2learn.net

“Though the story evolves well and comes to a satisfying climax and conclusion, the real appeal of this book is the character study. The first person narrative is smooth and plausible. . . . Robin is bright, funny, sad, inquisitive and sometimes, scared, but above all, she is authentic. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. . . . Robin Finley is both likeable and complex and the story is creative and cohesive, but the writing itself. . . is outstanding! Good stories aren’t too hard to find, but a good writer, now that’s a treasure! I salute Ms. Heckenkamp and look forward to her next work.”
Val Bianco, author of Sons of Cain

Read the CatholicFiction.net review of the Catholic young adult suspense novel Past Suspicion!

This review was written by Catholic author Ellen Gable and is featured on the website CatholicFiction.net:

Past Suspicion is an intriguing young adult thriller which tells the story of orphaned 17-year-old Robin Finley. Before her mother dies, she whispers, “Don’t trust anyone. . . .”

Read the full review here.

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable
Published in 2014 by FQ Publishing
414 pages

There is plenty to love about this beautiful novel, including the genuine characters, the description, the rich historical detail, the joyous moments, and the frightening ones.

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable is an inspirational historical romance, and more. It takes you on a genuine journey into the past, into the lives of the endearing O’Donovan Family. While the main story focuses on the oldest daughter, Kathleen, I enjoyed the intertwining, equally interesting, stories of the close-knit Catholic family and how they coped with life’s challenges: losses, tragedy, vocations, and temptations.

At 19 years old and living a privileged life in 1896 Philadelphia, Kathleen longs to be married and to begin a family before she reaches “old maid” status. She becomes fascinated by the attentions of a certain young man, but when her sparkling expectations for the future are savagely crushed, she has to learn to hope and love again. With time and trials, she matures into a selfless, instead of a somewhat self-absorbed, young woman. Even though she cannot fathom God’s plan for her life, she must trust in Him. Meanwhile, a lurking threat follows her like a dark shadow, marring her happiness.

A Subtle Grace is the sequel to the lovely book In Name Only, yet A Subtle Grace can be enjoyed independently. Of course, readers of the first book won’t want to miss this one! We get to see where life has taken Caroline and David and their family, and how the journey of life continues. The story kept me so interested that I hardly realized this was, in fact, a lengthy book.

A Subtle Grace is a novel to stir your heart, your emotions, and your soul. I highly recommend it!

A Subtle Grace is available as a Kindle ebook and will soon be available in paperback as well.

Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue by Donna Alice Patton

Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue by Donna Alice Patton
Published in 2013 by MuseItUp Publishing
332 pages

From the clever title and stunning cover, to the well-written story, Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue by Donna Alice Patton is a mystery suspense novel that delivers what it promises.

The novel has an engaging beginning with plenty of tension. A mere week before Christmas, Laura Barkley receives a desperate call from her husband, Peter, right before he dies tragically in the museum where he works. When the priceless blue Anastasia Diamond is revealed missing, suspicion falls on Peter—and thus Laura—adding to her burden as her life crumbles around her.

Eleven months later, Laura is doing her best to eke out a stable existence for herself and her little twin daughters, when the threats and fear begin anew. Whom should she trust and where should she go? And will she ever be able to decipher Peter’s final clue and find the Anastasia Diamond before it’s too late?

The mystery kept me reading, and the touches of romance added to the enjoyment of the layered story. Characters are rounded and real, and I truly felt for Laura and her girls and all the hardship they’ve endured. This is a novel that grabs at your emotions and a book that any lover of suspense could enjoy.

Many potential readers will also be happy to know that this is a clean read. The Catholic faith elements are minimal, but a very nice touch. Laura progresses from a lapsed Catholic who thinks she must rely on herself for everything, to realizing that, both humanly and spiritually, she can’t (and shouldn’t) always go it alone.

Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue is set in the late 1970s, a time period that I don’t often come across in a novel, so I found it quite interesting as well as unique. The time period and setting always felt authentic to me, and I particularly enjoyed experiencing the Blizzard of ’78 in the climax.

Thank you, Ms. Patton, for a great story!

Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue is available as a Kindle ebook.

Finding Grace by Laura H. Pearl

Finding Grace by Laura H. Pearl
Published in 2012 by Bezalel Books

332 pages

Review of Finding Grace:

Laura H. Pearl’s first novel, Finding Grace, was a pure delight to read. The story is absorbing on so many levels.

The main character, Grace, is thirteen at the beginning of the book, but her story spans the years of 1972-1980 as she becomes a young woman in a world fraught with challenges. She strives to live as a good Catholic so that she may one day become a saint; but goodness doesn’t come easily, and as she struggles to live her faith, she encounters life in all its many facets of good and evil, joy and disappointments. Add to this the pain of falling deeply in love with a young man who sees her only as a friend, and I had to keep turning pages, staying up late, to find out how everything turns out.

The characters are fully developed, easy to relate to, and real. Grace’s relationships with her parents, her many brothers, and her friends, are genuine. Readers will become invested in Grace’s fate, and yearn for her to win her true love in the end. While this book is a wonderful coming-of-age story for teens, it is also great for adults looking for a romantic story that is deep and meaningful. Not a shallow romance, Finding Grace has all the hallmarks readers could want: romance, conflict, humor, life, love, laughter, and tears.

Parents can feel confident in buying this for their teens. Finding Grace is a moral read, without being bland or boring. The importance of family and faith is highlighted. Yes, there are lessons to be learned, but readers will be highly entertained along the way.

I laughed out loud. I shared in the heartaches as Grace learned who she is, and who she can be, with the grace of God. I really do miss the characters and I’m sad to be done with the novel, even though it has a beautiful ending! This is a book that I will definitely recommend to my own daughter someday.

Finding Grace is available in paperback and as a Kindle ebook.

Sons of Cain by Val Bianco

Sons of Cain by Val Bianco
Published in 2011 by Lepanto Group, LLC

444 pages

Review of Sons of Cain:

Just looking at the cover of Sons of Cain will send a shiver through you. This novel by Val Bianco is a true Catholic thriller. A fascinating story of grand proportions, Sons of Cain wraps around your very mind, heart, and soul, and refuses to let go.

The prologue provides a stunning beginning—even more so because it is based in truth, on Pope Leo XIII’s frightening vision that occurred in 1884 . After reading this vivid prologue, you will forever have a devotion to Saint Michael, the warrior archangel.

Sons of Cain is a cleverly-written, well-plotted, solid story that deals with the battle between Good and Evil—but not merely as a vague, abstract concept. On the contrary, physical and spiritual battles erupt on very personal levels. Nick Rieper, ex Navy Seal with a tumultuous past, has formed a band of warriors, the Knights of Longinus, who dedicate themselves to fighting Satanism. Father Picora, who has risen above his own broken past, is Rieper’s confessor and friend. Together, these strong Catholics must stop the Cainites from destroying America, even if it costs them their lives.

Interestingly, while Sons of Cain is geared for male readers, I can attest that females will enjoy it, too. One of the main viewpoint characters, Robyn Alexander, is a beautiful, smart young woman who faces some mighty challenges. After circumstances bring her together with Father Picora, Reiper (whom she is attracted to), and the Knights of Longinus, Robyn will find her life forever altered.

While there are many characters in this book, they are all believable and intriguing. The author includes in-depth background, insight, and motivation. Thus the story has some slower parts, but these offer interesting and necessary information and are well countered by intensely gripping action scenes. The good characters are easy to empathize with, and they are not sugar-coated goody-goodies. And the bad characters? (Pause here to shiver!) The bad characters are terrifying. I must caution: Do not read this book when you are alone at night! Also, this is not a book for young readers or the faint of heart. Be aware that there is some foul language, due to the nature of the subject matter and some corrupt characters.

At the same time, Sons of Cain offers a wealth of traditional Catholic teaching without bogging the reader down with dry preaching. I loved that the scriptural references were taken from the Douay-Rheims Bible, something you rarely see in fiction these days.

Sons of Cain is shockingly pertinent to the times we live in, times filled with issues of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, government corruption, and other unspeakable evils. The strong sense of reality makes this book all the more frightening. It is chilling to realize that so much in the story is actually based in truth, and leaves you wondering . . .

After you finish reading, you must check out the “What’s real?” page on the author’s website. Still need more? Keep your eyes open for the sequel!

Death in the Choir by Lorraine V. Murray


Death in the Choir by Lorraine V. Murray
Published in 2009 by Tumblar House

181 pages

Review of Death in the Choir:

Short and sweet (but not too sweet!) and seasoned with suspense—this is how I sum up Death in the Choir, a cozy mystery by Lorraine V. Murray.

Francesca, a lonely thirty-eight-year-old widow with no children, lives with a cat and a dreams of meeting someone special. For this purpose, she joins the choir at St. Rita’s Catholic Church. She encounters a few romantic possibilities, but when death strikes, her focus shifts to uncovering the truth. Was it suicide—or murder? Everyone seems to have a motive. Suspects include choir members, relations of the deceased, even Father John and a handsome police detective.

Featuring a tight plot sprinkled with clues and humor, Death in the Choir reads smoothly and enticingly. The characters are convincing and well-rounded. From Francesca lying on the floor doing stomach-flattening exercises (and being interrupted by the doorbell and frantically preparing to answer it), to her mentally justifying taking “just one more” donut or muffin, she is real, she is flawed, and she is lovable. She is someone you could imagine being friends with.

At 181 pages, Death in the Choir is just the right length for a rainy-day read; it has the perfect amount of everything (plot, description, characters, dialogue), without a clutter of excess.

I thought I’d figured out the mystery, but I was wrong. The story keeps you thinking and guessing—and that’s what you want in a mystery.

Death in the Choir is a satisfying and recommended read. And it is certainly refreshing to find a Catholic mystery geared for women readers! I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Death of a Liturgist.

Poor Banished Children by Fiorella De Maria


Poor Banished Children by Fiorella De Maria
Published in 2011 by Ignatius Press

299 pages

Review of Poor Banished Children:

Poor Banished Children by Fiorella De Baria is a truly unforgettable historical novel about rejection, survival, despair, and redemption. I feared it might be a ponderous read, but in contrast it was swift-paced and completely compelling. Scenes will be seared in your mind long after you close the book.

Set in the 1600s, this tale (completely untainted by modernism) is about a young Maltese girl who is spurned by her family, taken in and nourished in both body and soul by a physician priest, before being torn from her religious life by Barbary pirates and sold into a savage world of slavery in Muslim North Africa.

Be warned that this is no story for light entertainment. Exciting as it is, and as hard to put down as it is, it is also hard to read because it is fraught with the most wretched of abuses and suffering, unspeakable atrocities made painfully vivid by such expert writing. Not for weak stomachs or the faint of heart! Make sure that you can handle the strong depictions of degrading, inhuman treatment of slaves, the merciless torments, misery and horrors. In many ways, Poor Banished Children is more frightening than inspiring.

And yet . . . I couldn’t put it down (even when I should have been sleeping). I had to read on, hoping for mercy and redemption. The main character struggles and fights and prays and despairs as she relives her tale during what she feels must be her death-bed confession. She clings and falls from her Catholic faith, convinced that she is unworthy of love, unable to be saved, and yet she yearns for absolution.

Poor Banished Children is a powerful Catholic historical adventure story in which the main character fights for survival of both her body and soul. It is gripping and haunting, filled with many religious elements that enrich the story and are never superfluous. Poor Banished Children is highly recommended for adult readers, Catholic or not—just make sure you are up to the challenge of a truly soul-shaking journey!

The Soul Reader by Gerard D. Webster


The Soul Reader by Gerard D. Webster

Published in 2011 by WestBow Press A Divison Of Thomas Nelson
260 pages

Review of The Soul Reader:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a common saying, but in the case of The Soul Reader by Gerard D. Webster, the book’s captivating cover caught my attention immediately, and the image of a man hooded in shadows does a great job of conveying the dark suspense lurking within this book’s pages.

The Soul Reader, Webster’s second novel, is the sequel to In-Sight, and while I highly recommend reading In-Sight first, it isn’t necessary. The Soul Reader stands strong on its own merit, complete with living and breathing characters, a well-layered plot, colorful images, interesting settings, and a dynamic story.

Ward McNulty’s life is fast flowing downhill after a tragic accident, a painful breakup, and the murder of his father. Ward lost his job, and now he’s losing his home. Just as he is preparing to move back in with his mother, ex-girlfriend Carrie Hope re-enters his life, trying to convince him to collaborate on a high-profile book dealing with the disastrous North Beach Project.

Refusing at first, Ward is ultimately roped in by his need to protect Carrie. He has a special “gift” that is also a curse: to see into the very soul of others, to see if they are spiritually dark and dead, or full of the divine life of grace. But even seeing where evil lurks may not be enough to save Ward and Carrie from those who don’t want the corrupt details of the North Beach Project revealed; these people are willing to stop the investigation at any price—and the price may just be Ward’s and Carrie’s lives.

With the help of a private investigator, Ward and Carrie begin to probe into the truth behind the mysterious deaths of three powerful people who were linked only by their connection with the North Beach Project. Ward visits his father’s murderer in prison and, following a lead, slips away to Columbia, where grave danger confronts him as he tries to escape the grasp of Culebra. Spanish for “snake,” Culebra is the nickname of a dangerous assassin who strikes quickly and leaves his signature in the form of a piece of snake skin laid over his dead victims’ eyes.

The Soul Reader may appear to be more of a guy’s novel, but I can attest to that fact that it can definitely be enjoyed by women as well. Webster’s writing is vivid, lively, and entertaining. Images are original and the story intriguing. This novel goes deeper than just a suspenseful adventure, addressing matters of the heart and soul, as well as forgiveness and redemption. The ending literally sent a shiver through me, and I can’t offer a better testimonial than that!

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable


Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

Published in 2011 by Full Quiver Publishing
201 pages

Review of Stealing Jenny:

When I first read the back cover of Stealing Jenny, Ellen Gable’s latest novel, I was intrigued by the promise of a suspense-filled contemporary story involving the kidnapping of a young pregnant mother. I was not disappointed. Stealing Jenny was everything I’d hoped, and more!

From page one, I was pulled into the story. Jenny Callahan, a young Catholic mother of five, is nearing the end of a precarious pregnancy and longing to cradle her new baby safely in her arms. With only days to go until the necessary scheduled C-section, Jenny is unaware of the unbalanced woman who is stalking her and plotting to tear this baby away from her at any cost.

When Jenny is kidnapped from a rural bus stop, her three-year-old son is the only witness. Jenny’s stunned family is desperate to find her. The abduction quickly becomes a high-profile case, with news media hounding the Callahans. Father Paul, the parish priest, offers comfort and assistance to the Callahans, and he leads a public rosary for the intention of Jenny’s safe return.

Meanwhile, Jenny awakens to find herself in a living nightmare: chained to a cot in a remote cabin, at the mercy of a sad, sick, and desperate woman. If Jenny can’t escape before her labor begins, she and her baby are both in extreme danger of death.

When I had to put this book down, I literally could not wait to pick it up again. The perfectly-paced story features a stellar cast of believable characters. Jenny is the main character point of view, but the author skillfully shifts to other character viewpoints including those of Tom (Jenny’s husband), Chris (the Callahan’s oldest daughter), Denise (the villain), and Sergeant Kathy Romano (in charge of the investigation). Also, the story is interspersed with well-timed, poignant flashbacks of Jenny and her husband before they were married, which add to the richness of the story.

Stealing Jenny is a smoothly written, chilling tale of gripping suspense. There are terrifying moments and heart-wrenching moments. Catholic faith and hope are tested. Above all, the sacredness and privilege of precious new life is made indisputably evident.

Ellen Gable is a masterful storyteller. At 201 pages, Stealing Jenny is the perfect length for an intense day of uninterrupted reading. I wished the novel was longer, not because it wasn’t complete in itself, but because it was such an enjoyable read, I never wanted it to end. I’m rooting for a sequel!

Viper by John Desjarlais


Viper by John Desjarlais
Published by Sophia Press 2011

Viper is an intriguing mystery novel starring Selena De La Cruz, a Latina insurance agent who used to work as a Special Agent with the DEA. At the beginning of the novel, Selena agrees to meet her old supervisor, Del Bragg, soon after All Souls Day (and the subsequent El Dia de Los Muertos, on November 2, a Mexican national holiday) at her home church where she learns that her name is recorded in the parish’s Book of the Dead, preceded by several other names of men who are being murdered one by one in the order they are listed.

Selena finds out that a young girl has been seeing “visions” of a “Blue Lady,” who announces the next killing. Selena is asked to return to her old job in order to assist law enforcement in solving the mystery before the killer reaches her name on the list.

Selena is unsure who the culprit could be, whether it’s her nemesis, “The Snake,” a notorious drug dealer Selena helped to put in prison, or perhaps someone more insidious.

I loved everything about Selena (from her ‘69 Dodge Charger to her zapatos) and found her to be believable and well-rounded. In the midst of this mystery, Selena finds herself returning to the Catholic faith of her childhood. I liked the fact that her boyfriend is Reed Stubblefield (protagonist from Desjarlais’s previous novel, Bleeder) and I thought this was a nice touch. I especially appreciated the relationship that Selena develops with the little girl who is seeing visions of a “Blue Lady.”

Good novelists make us believe that the characters are actual living, breathing persons. The author (a non-Hispanic male) handles the ethnic Hispanic part of the novel so expertly that I truly felt I knew Selena. Desjarlais is a top notch writer and he has created well-developed, believable cast of characters and dialogue. I especially loved the rich and well-researched history of the Aztecs and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Not only did I enjoy this story immensely, I also learned a lot about Aztec history.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an intriguing mystery with great characters!

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

The Perpetual Mystery by Charles Gill

The Perpetual Mystery by Charles Gill

Published in 2009 by Catholic Adventure Books
322 pages

Review of The Perpetual Mystery:

The Perpetual Mystery is the story of a family man, Scott Summit, who meets a mysterious woman named Karla in Europe. The discovery of a thousand year old manuscript describing a perpetual motion machine and the revelation of Karla’s secret leads them on a mysterious journey of adventure and discovery. Strange clues lead them to Rome where danger awaits them. The twists and turns of this book end with Scott and Karla running for their lives with only the knowledge of the clues and their faith to save them from the violence of their adversary. This is a solidly Catholic adventure that is good for adults as well as teenagers (age 14 and up).

Alex O’Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thieves by Regina Doman

AlexFrontCover
Alex O’Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves by Regina Doman

Published in 2010 by Chesterton Press
218 pages

Review of Alex O’Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves:

In the mood for a thought-provoking adventure with Catholic morals? Grab this book and “Open Sesame!”

Since this is Regina Doman’s fifth fairy tale novel, I knew when I opened Alex O’Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves, that I was in for quite an adventure. I was in no way disappointed. From start to finish, Alex O’Donnell was an exciting read filled with vivid descriptions, quirky characters, and a fully-loaded plot.

Fans of Regina’s previous novels will already be familiar with the two main characters, Kateri and Alex, and will enjoy how this book gives them front and center stage, plenty of room for character development, and adventures all their own. The story picks up momentum as you read and climaxes with a breathtaking, action-packed showdown.

Kateri, a level-headed hard-worker, wants an orderly life perfectly on track and true to her ideals, so she finds it perturbing that she is so attracted to Alex. He cannot possibly be the right guy for her, can he? In her mind, Alex is too carefree, irresponsible, and unrealistic. After all, his life is devoted to video-game playing, martial arts, and sword-fighting!

Nonetheless, uptight Kateri agrees to come for a visit to Alex’s home in northern Virginia. Meanwhile, a mysterious check arrives for the O’Donnell family, seemingly out of the blue, for over one million dollars—some kind of “winnings” from a sweepstakes the family never knew they entered. (But Alex’s computer-hacker dad knows more than he’s telling.) Kateri meets the O’Donnells and finds an endearing family including two amusing younger brothers and a mom who doesn’t let her multiple sclerosis get the best of her. Kateri does, however, have misgivings about Alex’s dad.

When the O’Donnell family uses the mystery money to open a family business, Kateri ends up moving away with them to work as their assistant manager for the ominous Twilight Hills Hotel. Before long, she is bound up in an intricate cyber-plot against the O’Donnells that will have very real life—and death—consequences.

Incidentally, Regina took her inspiration for this novel from the Arabian Nights Tale of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” but reworked it so that the resulting story is unique and refreshingly modern—yet the story still pays homage to the old tale in the most clever ways!

Readers are sure to enjoy unique touches of humor, and Regina skillfully brought the complicated computer tech information down to an understandable level. At the same time, this novel addresses the question of technology—its use and overuse—in our modern world and whether it is possible to achieve a healthy balance.

Besides being a fun read, this book has a moral core. The characters do more than simply believe in God, they turn to Him; they care about God and their eternal souls. Yet they don’t expect to sit back and do nothing while God solves their problems for them. These character take action. This novel proves that Catholic characters don’t have to be boring, overly pious, or stodgy—they can be off-beat, exciting, and just as flawed and confused as real people.

I promise this book will be very different from any other novel you’ve read. Alex O’Donnell is an exciting and worthy addition—or start—to any fiction collection, Catholic or not. Highly recommended for readers 13 and up!

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

In Name Only

Published in 2009 by Full Quiver Publishing
406 pages

Review of In Name Only:

In Name Only by Ellen Gable, is a powerful Catholic historical romance novel layered with rich story lines, vibrant characters, and authentic atmosphere. I read this 406 page novel over the course of one week, and when I wasn’t able to indulge in reading, I found myself pondering the story—it was that absorbing!

In Name Only is Ellen Gable’s second novel, and she has once again written a finely crafted Catholic romance. This time, she demonstrates her diverse writing abilities by transporting readers back to 1876 Philadelphia. Amidst a convincing historical setting, readers follow Caroline Martin through the course of several years during which she faces challenges and heartaches which cause her to grow and mature. At the start, nineteen-year old Caroline journeys by train after her father’s death to live with her wealthy (and practically unknown) uncle and cousin in an impressive mansion. Caroline also meets her new neighbors, two brothers—Liam and David O’Donovan—who apparently couldn’t be any more different. While Caroline admires gentle Liam and even grows to love him, she despises David, who lives a callous, crude lifestyle and seems to have no sense of shame or remorse.

When tragedy strikes, Caroline’s life shatters. David’s presence only increases her torment, yet she cannot escape him. But God works in mysterious ways, and Caroline discovers first-hand how He can bring good out of evil, and that God’s plan really is more amazing than anything she could imagine. Ellen Gable manages the Catholic elements deftly, without preaching and slowing the story’s pace. The religious aspects are not forced, but interwoven naturally and believably. (Incidentally, I enjoyed the inclusion of the Latin Mass and Douay Rheims Bible.)

In Name Only reads true to life, with crosses, temptations, blessings, redemptions, and happiness. Despite how it sweeps you in, this is not a light and airy romance novel; it has substance and does not skirt serious issues, nor rely on graphic “love” scenes to hold your attention. Indeed, it depicts true love. The preciousness of life—particularly of the unborn—is emphasized. In addition, In Name Only illustrates the weakness of human nature, the far-reaching consequences of giving into temptation, and the power of forgiveness. Serious issues involving abortion, chastity, conversion, and marriage are dealt with skillfully. Due to such mature themes and subjects, please note that this is not a novel for young teens. One other warning: You may need a box of tissues. But your heart will glow at the story’s end.

In conclusion, this is the the best book I’ve read in a long time. It has all the qualities that make for an outstanding, memorable novel—and it’s Catholic as well! I highly recommend it!

Tyborne and the Gem of Christendom by Mother Mary Magdalen Taylor

The following book review was submitted by Rachael Dalhoff:

“Tyborne” is the story of two siblings, Walter and Isabel de Lisle, who are caught up in the anti-Catholic world of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Raised by good Catholic parents, Walter and Isabel become the wards of the Protestant Earl of Beauville upon their mother’s death. Each is faced with the choice between the compromising life of an apostate, or the sacrificial life of a recusant. Their souls hang in the balance. How will Walter and Isabel decide? This is a thrilling tale with all the suspense of a modern novel, heroic courage in the face of unimaginable suffering and torture, and true love which will leave the reader in awe at its triumph.

The 1994 edition is published by The Neumann Press.

Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable

Review of “Emily’s Hope”:

“Emily’s Hope,” by Ellen Gable, is a fascinating and poignant story about two women separated by years but bound by painful family ties. Their life experiences are similar, yet strikingly different.

At the start, petite seventeen-year-old Emily is a student looking for love and going along with modern attitudes despite the resulting conflict with her Catholic faith. This 353 page book is a fascinating journey through Emily’s emotional life as she makes many mistakes, marries for love, experiences tragedy, and uncovers a dark secret from her family’s past. Through it all, Emily grows in maturity and faith in a believable way, and the reader grows to love Emily while identifying with her trials and tribulations.

The story of Emily’s great-grandmother, Katherine, is interspersed skillfully throughout, and gives a disturbing picture of Katherine’s hard but selfish life. The consequences of her choices affect so many innocent souls, bur her heart is hardened to the truth, and the reader wonders if there is any hope for Katherine.

Keep in mind that it is certainly not a novel for children or young teens. Many unsavory situations arrive in the course of the story, such as pre-marital sex, suicide, infidelity, and abortion. These things are not used gratuitously, but are essential to the plot, illustrating the far-reaching consequences of such actions.

From a Traditional Catholic perspective, the book does have many modern “Novus Ordo” touches. “Guitar masses” are included and Natural Family Planning is used by the main characters as soon as they are married.

That said, decent modern Catholic novels are difficult to find, and this one has a lot of redeeming qualities, and the author obviously put her heart and soul into the writing. Also, the novel promotes saving sex for marriage and frowns on contraception.

In conclusion, “Emily’s Hope” is an absorbing novel with many admirable messages. The characters are vivid, the story engaging, and it may move you to tears while inspiring you.

In-Sight by Gerard D. Webster

In-Sight
by Gerard D. Webster

Published in 2009 by Outskirts Press

In-Sight has received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval!
In-Sight is also a Readers Favorite 2009 Award Winner!

Inspirational Catholic Mystery Trilogy

The Shadow of the Bear

Black as Night

Waking Rose

Three exciting novels. One amazing author. Regina Doman has taken three timeless fairy tales and rewoven the magical threads of plot, character, and setting into an original, modern mystery trilogy that teens and adults alike won’t be able to put down.

Most refreshingly, Doman’s books have a Catholic flair that is both compelling and convincing. She skillfully tells a powerful, plot-twisting story featuring teens confronting challenges with the help of their faith. Yet the pace is not bogged down with preaching. The characters simply live their faith, and this forces them into many suspenseful situations.

The first book, “The Shadow of the Bear: Snow White and Rose Red Retold,” introduces Blanche and Rose, two teen sisters living with their mother in New York City. After encountering a mysterious stranger one winter night, the girls become entangled in a dangerous plot involving stolen Catholic treasure, an abandoned church, and a dead priest. Once you read this first book, you’ll fall in love with the characters and be hooked on the trilogy.

Book two, “Black as Night,” based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” focuses on Blanche and Bear. Blanche, pursued by evil, seeks shelter in a friary while Bear, far away, tries to make sense of his life and where he belongs. When evil closes in and time runs out, a night of death arrives. Who will survive?

The final book in this trilogy, “Waking Rose,” is based on “Sleeping Beauty.” Rose has long loved Benedict (nicknamed “Fish”), but it is an unrequited love that tortures her. Little does she suspect the demons of Fish’s past that prevent him from letting anyone near. But when Rose is involved in a shocking accident, it is up to Fish to rescue her from the nightmare world where she is imprisoned. Will true love conquer all?

With the Christian fiction market saturated with Protestant novels, it is refreshing to read such thoroughly Catholic tales. These books have everything: mystery, action, danger, adventure, humor, romance, and-most refreshingly-moral values. This, combined with clever writing, results in three novels very worth reading!

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