Ellen Gable Hrkach

Ellen Gable Hrkach is an award-winning, bestselling author of five books. Her recently released novel, A Subtle Grace, is currently in the top ten of Religious Drama on Kindle. Her third novel, Stealing Jenny, was #1 on Amazon Kindle in Religious Drama for two months and has been in the top ten of that category since November 2011 with nearly 240,000 downloads.  Her second novel, In Name Only ,was awarded the Gold Medal in Religious Fiction at the 2010 IPPY Awards and has also been an Amazon Kindle #1 Bestseller in Religious Drama. She is currently the President of the Catholic Writers Guild, a columnist for Amazing CatechistsCatholicMom.com and various magazines and websites. She and her husband own a small Catholic publishing company which publishes “edgy Catholic fiction.” She blogs at Plot Line and Sinker. When she’s not writing or reading on her Kindle, Ellen enjoys watching classic movies and playing board games with her family. Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in the country outside of Pakenham, Ontario, Canada with her husband and sons. Contact her at: fullquiverpublishing(at)gmail.com.

Book Reviews by Ellen Gable Hrkach

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Rapunzel Let Down: A Fairy Tale Retold

Like her other novels, Regina Doman’s new book is based on a fairy tale, this time Rapunzel. As usual, Doman puts a modern spin to the story. To her credit, though, she is able to give us a totally different story filled with twists and turns while at the same time keeping it close enough to the original tale. In the summary of the book, the author asks “Can sex destroy love?”

Hermes and his family are spending the summer in their New England summer house. Hermes is 18 and has been raised in a faithful Catholic family and his father is a prominent politician. Hermes is “sick and ti...

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Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England

"It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls." - Blessed Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris

This quote by Blessed John Paul II could well be the theme of Dena Hunt’s exquisite novel, Treason, which takes place in 16th Century England when Catholicism was outlawed. Suffering for the faith in our current North American culture is something most modern Catholics have never considered. Religious apathy is evidenced by half-filled churches and the large numbers of Catholics who openly dissent from Church teachings on abortion, cont...

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Season of Joy

I recently spent an enjoyable few days reading Season of Joy by Virginia Carmichael.

After spending years of climbing the corporate ladder, pretty and successful CEO Calista Sheffield decides she wants to experience a different sort of holiday season, one of giving rather than receiving. So she volunteers at the downtown Denver Shelter, never expecting her wounded heart will be filled with hope and healing.

The shelter’s handsome director, Grant Monohan, is a person who has devoted his life to helping those less fortunate. He expects beautiful women like Calista to show up to volunt...

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Hana-lani

Hana-Lani is another beautifully written book by Christine Sunderland, although I wouldn’t characterize this one specifically as “Catholic Fiction.”

First, the synopsis: Hana-Lani is the name of the family home in Hawaii of Nani-lei, a native Hawaiian, her grandson, Henry, 52 and his hearing-impaired daughter, Lucy, 6. Henry and Lucy have recently returned to Maui from California after the tragic death of Maria, wife and mother, and Nani’s granddaughter.  Henry and Maria were both professors and had been working together for years on a research/writing project entitled “A His...

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A High and Hidden Place

A High and Hidden Place is the remarkable story of one woman’s quest to uncover her past. The novel begins in 1963 when 25-year-old journalist Christine Lenoir watches in horror as Lee Harvey Oswald is shot live on television. She begins to have flashbacks and vivid dreams about her life as a young child. Raised by religious sisters (Christine calls them “angel mothers”) in a convent in France, Christine is led to believe that her parents died of influenza. In actuality, she discovers that they and most of the residents of her hometown of Oradour were slaughtered by the Nazis one day in June o...

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The Book of Jotham

The Book of Jotham is a unique and beautifully moving account of a mentally challenged man (Jotham) who becomes one of Jesus’s followers.  What makes this book so unusual is that it’s written in the second person and is a fictional story of this man’s relationship with Jesus and the apostles.  The narrative from Jotham’s point of view is filled with sentence fragments and (what appear to be) simple thoughts. I initially wondered whether it might be difficult to read, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The writing style actually had a poetic feel to it.

The aut...

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Frozen Footprints

Eighteen-year-old twins Charlene and Max Perigard have grown up under their wealthy, but often cruel, grandfather. Both teens have a tumultuous relationship with the older man. When Max disappears and a ransom note is received, Charlene pleads with her grandfather to pay the ransom, but the older man assumes this is another attempt by his grandson to dishonestly acquire money from him. Without her grandfather’s help and fearing for Max’s safety, Charlene desperately tries to find her brother before it’s too late.

Her quest transports her into a chilling nightmare. The twins struggle to s...

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Fallen Men

St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “No one in the world can change Truth.”

I am a Catholic novelist who writes books with Theology of the Body themes.  I am also trained in the Theology of the Body and have been a certified Natural Family Planning teacher for 29 years. In light of this, I looked forward to reading Fallen Men, a novel that tells the stories of three fictional Catholic priests: Ray, Dan and Tony.

The novel’s setting is present day Northern Ireland and Ireland. Father Ray and Father Dan are young priests and good friends; Father Tony is th...

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The Soul Reader (2)

The Soul Reader is the exciting sequel to Gerard Webster’s award-winning debut novel, In-Sight.

The sequel takes place a year after the previous book ends.  The protagonist, Ward, hasn’t seen or had any interaction with the woman he loves (Carrie) until she drops in and asks Ward to assist her in writing a book about the North Beach Project, the money-laundering scheme that led to his father’s murder. Ward initially turns her down because he recognizes that reopening the investigation would be dangerous. More importantly, he knows that getting involved could put his soul in jeopardy....

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Lessons in the Journey

Lessons in the Journey by first-time novelist Patrick Dawson is the hopeful and moving story of Elizabeth “Liz” Finch, a pediatric surgeon. At the beginning of the novel, she learns that her 14-year-old daughter has been shot and is not expected to live. The book is told mostly in flashbacks of Liz’s life, lessons she’s learned in her life’s journey.

It is through these flashbacks tha...

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Faith Beyond the Trials

Faith Beyond the Trials is a novel about John Taylor and the difficulties and hardships he faces after he is arrested for driving under the influence. One of the reasons I jumped at the chance of reviewing this novel was because it has 17 5-star reviews on Amazon.

The back cover says: “...the Taylors have achieved the American dream – prestigious careers, a sprawling home in Palm Beach and exoti...

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Along the River Road

Along the River Road by Isaac Morris is a compelling read and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. The author tackles the controversial issue of priest sex abuse and, overall, I think he did a good job.

The novel begins with a screaming woman whose husband is trying to kill her. I was hooked.

Sister Margaret Donovan is a former sheriff but is now a Dominican nun. Because of the lack of priests, she is the administrator of a small town parish, which for all intents and purposes is like the pastor, except she doesn’t say Mass. The current priest is in poor health, so a retired Arm...

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Pro Luce Habere

Pro Luce Habere...To Have Before the Light

Pro Luce Habere tells the story of Valéry, the protagonist vampire from On the Soul of A Vampire [read Ellen's review] and his life before he became a vampire and the 200 or so years following.

At the beginning of the novel, the year is 1212 and Valéry is a 14 year old on fire for God and his faith. He leaves home to join the Children’s Crusade only to end up in slavery at the hands of the people he sought to convert.  Four years later, near death from a beating, his “maker,...

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Targeted

In Targeted, the latest novel from John M. Wills, a cop killer is on the loose in Chicago. In a secondary plot, a well-liked priest, Fr. Ed Matthews, is accused of sexual abuse. Police officers Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson believe the priest to be innocent. Soon, however, Pete and Marilyn are taken off the sexual abuse case to assist the task force in finding the sniper before he strikes again. They are asked to work with Harry, a shifty, toothpick using, abrasive cop who has his own agenda and isn’t at all interested in working with the two officers.

Eventually, the FBI is brought in to help s...

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Viper

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...

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Offerings

Offerings by Christine Sunderland is a wonderfully entertaining novel which includes an interesting and engaging story as well as rich historical and descriptive passages.

Madeleine and Jack have been together for many years and have endured many trials. The novel begins with a flashback of Jack’s father dying, an event from which Jack has never truly recovered. The first chapter takes place at Madeleine’s son’s wedding where Jack collapses. Madeleine finds out that he has cancer and has months to live. The doctor convinces Madeleine not to share with Jack how serious his condit...

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A Shower of Roses

A Shower of Roses is the story of Eva, a Polish Catholic nurse who falls in love with Marek, an activist who works for the CIA. The story goes back and forth between 1981 and previous years in flashbacks.

Let me start by saying that I have enjoyed Tom Milton’s previous books. He has a solid easy-to-read writing style with good stories. What drew me to this one was the title. The book begins with a quote from St. Thérèse, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth; I will let fall a shower of roses.” I also was intrigued by the main character, Eva’s, desire to follow St. Thérèse's Little...

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Infinite Space, Infinite God II

Out of This World!

I was privileged recently to read a copy of this wonderful Catholic science fiction book Infinite Space Infinite God II. It is a compilation of 12 short stories which have both inherent science fiction and Catholic/Christian themes.  It is similar to ISIG I but slightly different in that most of the stories focus on the individual.  The editors state: “Institutions had let humankind down overall, so it was up to the individual...”

These are stories with Catholic characters and situations, most set far into the future, where Catholic p...

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The Boys Upstairs

Looking for a great holiday read? The Boys Upstairs by Jane Lebak is a delightful Christmas novella. The “boys” are homeless kids that Fr. Jay Farrell has taken in and sheltered in the upstairs of St. Gus’s rectory. Fr. Jay has little in the way of material goods and the priest is continuously depending on the generosity of others to help feed and shelter the children.

At the beginning of the story, Officer Kevin Farrell (Fr. Jay’s estranged brother) shows up at St. Gus’s rectory with three more children who need a place to stay until an appropriate foster home can be fou...

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Olivia's Gift

Olivia’s Gift is Nancy Carabio Belanger’s delightful sequel to Olivia and the Little Way. It continues the story of Olivia Thomas and her family. Again, each chapter starts with a beautiful and relevant quote from St. Therese of Lisieux. Olivia, now 12 years old, continues to find it challenging following St. Therese’s “The Little Way.”

The novel begins with Olivia noticing an ad in the newspaper about a little poor girl in Guatemala. She resolves to count her pennies, be more frugal and do whatever she needs to do to save money to sponsor the girl. Olivia a...

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Sacred Betrayal

The back cover of Sacred Betrayal says the following:

When he was a younger priest, Archbishop Garrote and his sister, Sr. Frances Mary, shared a common vision of the Catholic Church. Now he has lost that vision and feels threatened by an activist group in his archdiocese known as Cry Justice, of which his sister and another friend, Father Charlie, are prominent members. Father Will Owens, the archbishop’s driver and assistant, holds a deadly grudge against Sr. Frances …convinced that he is the redeemer chosen to bring the church back ...

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Gripped by Fear

Gripped by Fear by John M. Wills is a crime novel and, at first glance, reminded me of a Mary Higgins Clark book. The back cover of the book says that the author “spent 35 years in law enforcement,” and the novel’s story, for the most part, rings very true to life.

Detectives Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson are two detectives with the Violent Crimes Unit of the Chicago Police Force. They are working together to find the rapist who is targeting “women who labor as office cleaners in downtown Chicago, sexually assaulting them as they travel to and from their jobs.” In ...

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On the Soul of a Vampire

Love means to love that which is unlovable, or it is no virtue at all; forgiving means to pardon that which is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.” This beautiful quote by G.K. Chesterton sets the tone for On the Soul of the Vampire, which begins in Philadelphia in 1997. Much of the novel is told in the first person: Valery, an 800-year-old vampire, sees the beautiful Angelina and is immediately enthralled to the point of obsession. He begins to “stalk” her but in vampire-like fashion, remains “in the shadows” at first. Valery eventually discovers that An...

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Danny Gospel

Danny Gospel is one of those novels that I know will stay with me long after I’ve finished reading it. This book is an absolutely delightful tale of a young man who’s “kinda different” but his “heart is pure.”

 

Set in Iowa, the novel begins with Danny waking up to a woman, dressed in white, who kisses him. For the rest of the book, while he searches for this mysterious girl, we learn about Danny’s tragic life, told in his own peculiar and unique way. Danny’s own words are “I’m always in mourning, even when I’m happy.” This ...

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Infamy

Infamy is the story of a Latino American, Fenly Aquino, who works for Homeland Security. He is assigned to travel to Spain to work with Raquel Lopez, a former cop, to assist the Spanish anti-terrorist team in stopping a terrorist attack about to happen on U.S. soil. Both Fenly and Raquel have lost loved ones to terrorism: Fenly lost his fiancee, Camila, in 9/11 and Raquel lost her brother in the attack on Madrid commuter trains. They discover the current plot involves laundered money, drug dealers, prostitutes, Americans living in Spain and possible involvement of other U.S. security personne...

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Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

I just finished reading Ann Margaret Lewis’s book Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. A collection of three stories, it is a delightful, enjoyable read from start to finish, beautifully written with characters who are familiar yet unique in the setting of this book. Lewis captures well the essence of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books. She offers a particularly unique approach to Holmes by writing a Catholic novel with the original (non-Catholic) characters. (Watson reminds Holmes that neither of them “have darkened the door o...

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The Admiral's Daughter

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” is certainly true with this novel by Tom Milton. If I were in a book store trying to figure out which book to buy, this certainly would not have caught my attention because it is very plain. As an author myself, presentation is everything. For a book of this caliber, I believe it deserves a better, more professional looking cover.

Once I started reading, however, I was quickly caught up in the story, which takes place in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement. The protagonists, Kristy (the admiral’s daughter) and Nathan, a writer, mee...

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Past Suspicion

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.”

Robin, a gifted artist, thinks that her mom has been too protective of her and continues to control her life even after she’s dead. Robin is forced to travel across the country from California to Wisconsin to live with an uncle she never knew existed. Unbeknownst to her uncle, she is planning to return to California as soon as she turns 18.

She settles (albeit temporarily) into her mother...

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The Mystery of Things

I have been wanting to read The Mystery of Things by Debra Murphy for a long time. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this book recently and, on one rainy Saturday, I finally had an opportunity to read it. I was surprised, on so many levels.

It was a hard-to-put down, compelling tale and one of the most entertaining and engaging Catholic novels I’ve ever read, filled with rich language and beautiful imagery, as well as excellent (and brilliant) writing. There’s a definite Flannery O’Connor feel to it, but this novel was unlike any other Catholic novel I had ever read. A...

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Olivia and the Little Way

Olivia and the Little Way is a delightful children’s novel about Olivia Thomas, a ten year old who moves with her family from Texas to Michigan. She is nervous about going to a new school so her grandmother (with whom she has a close relationship) gives her a St. Thérèse chaplet and tells her about ‘The Little Way,’ that St. Thérèse believed that “you can show your love for God by doing little things for Him with great love.”

Olivia loses the chaplet almost as soon as she receives it, however, and is frustrated when she is unable to bring ...

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One of Ours

During the climax of One of Ours, the extraordinary novel by Willa Cather, as men are dying by the dozens, I couldn’t help but recall the words of the moving WWI poem, In Flanders Fields by Canadian Dr. John McCrae: "We are the Dead. Short days ago, we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow; loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields.” McCrae, who died not long after he penned those poignant words, wrote the poem after witnessing the death of his friend the day before.

When one reads a novel such as One of Ours, it’s hard not to think of t...

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Fatherless

One More Soul, the publisher of Fatherless, describes itself as a “non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the truth about the blessings of children and the harms of contraception.” As an NFP teacher, an avid reader, and the author of two Catholic novels which promote the Church’s teachings on life, marriage and NFP, I had eagerly anticipated reading this book.

The title of the book, Fatherless, is very appropriate and it speaks so clearly to the importance of priestly or spiritual fatherhood. This novel also illustrates the essential role of fathers being physic...

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Passport

Christopher Blunt describes his debut novel as a “coming-of-age story about a young Catholic man’s discovery of self-sacrificial love.” In this day and age, where self-centeredness, casual sex and “friends with benefits” are becoming the norm, Passport offers an important and timely message: that only in dying to ourselves can we truly love others and find meaningful happiness.

The book’s protagonist, Stan, is a likable fellow, but one who lacks direction and drive in his life. He is an average guy who is trying to live out his Catholic faith but who has not yet fou...

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The Midnight Dancers: A Fairy Tale Retold

The Midnight Dancers is the fourth in Regina Doman’s series of “Fairy Tale Novels,” and this, by far, is my favorite of her four books. The story takes place in Bayside, Maryland and is a new take on Grimms’ “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and involves twelve sisters (six sisters and their six stepsisters) who are being raised in an extremely strict Christian household with little or no room for freedom.

The book’s main character, Rachel Durham, 18, is the oldest daughter who believes tha...

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Death Comes for the Archbishop

Willa Cather’s outstanding novel Death Comes for the Archbishop tells the story of Bishop Jean Latour and his friend, Father Joseph Vaillant, as they travel to New Mexico in the mid 19th century to bring the Catholic Faith to the natives. The novel is based on the true stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and Father Joseph Machebeuf. Even the author’s choice of names is appropriate: Father Latour (the tower) and Fr. Vaillant (valiant) and describes, in part, these characters.

Cather’s graphic, yet artistic descriptions of the unforgiving landscape of the Southwest are part o...

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