Book Review: Julia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable

Today, I feel grateful to take part in a book tour for a new release.

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I remember saying years ago, that the best way to learn history is through stories of people. It helps put historical events in a context I can remember and appreciate. And so, today, I say thank you to all authors who write historical fiction. You help further my education

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MY REVIEW:

Julia’s Gifts is a sweet, love story set amidst the horrors of World War I. I read the story in the early morning hours of November 12, which felt so appropriate. To read a story of WWI, the day after Armistice Day brought the reality of the U.S. holiday, now known as Veteran’s Day, into a deeper appreciation for me.

My paternal grandfather fought in the war, returned home, and married my grandmother. My father, their first born, was born in 1919. These similarities enabled me to lose myself in the story of Julia’s Gifts, and appreciate my own heritage.

I liked Julia’s attitude for her future spouse. It’s a quality worth encouraging in everyone who dreams of marriage in their future.

The main characters in the story illustrated courage in the midst of difficult situations, perseverance through pain, and faith during times of stress; virtues that are worthy to strive to attain.

The story had a bit of a predictable side to it, but I enjoyed following the lives of Julia and her beloved.  I like stories that leave me with a feeling of hope, which Julia’s Gift accomplished.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. If a reader wants an uplifting, love story set during wartime, this book is a relaxing and quick read. Take a stroll into history and enjoy a wonderful story.

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Excerpt from Julia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable

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.

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Info Link:  http://www.fullquiverpublishing.com/our-publications/great-war-great-love-series-julias-gifts-by-ellen-gable/

Buy Link:  Amazon Kindle     Julia’s Gifts on Kindle

Amazon Print  Julia’s Gifts Paperback

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Questions for the author:

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.

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.

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Author Bio:

Short:  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:

Blog: Plot Line and Sinker

Full Quiver Publishing 

Amazon Author Page

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If you’d like to read other authors’ thoughts about Julia’s Gifts:

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 Heckenkamp 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  Prints of Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter

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                                                   RAnn This That and the Other Thing

November 14 Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists

November 15 Theresa Linden

November 16  Barbara Hosbach   and Alexandrina Brant

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, The Divine Gift of Motherhood

November 23  Leslie Lynch, author

 

 

The Bipolar Experience book review

I received this book, The Bipolar Experience from Eva Marie Everson because of my interest in mental health awareness. I am grateful to read it and broaden my understanding of bipolar. It took some time to move it to the top of my “read it now” pile, but once I started I didn’t stop until I turned the last page.

The story does a wonderful job of illustrating the illness, previously known as manic-depression, now called bipolar. It furthered my understanding of someone who struggles with this. LeaAnn’s husband, Kenneth reacted in the most loving way possible – he walked beside his beloved wife until she came to the point where she would accept treatment and stay there. As a mother of someone who also chose to stay in a treatment plan, I know the challenge he must have had.

I especially felt grateful to read her account of a part of bipolar that is not discussed in polite company – hypersexuality. I appreciated reading her thoughts about the anguish it caused her. I hadn’t thought of that aspect before. Lives are destroyed because of this secretive symptom.

Each time I read a first-person account of an illness, I gain more understanding. I’ve learned that it’s not a choice for them. They don’t want to live this way. No one wakes up and decides I want to have bipolar, or schizophrenia, or depression anymore than someone chooses to have diabetes or cancer.

I believe if we all could read and experience an illness through the eyes of the ones affected, we can react in a compassionate and loving way. I recommend this book for everyone who wants to gain understanding of an illness that affects so many in our world. Once we as a culture have empathy, we can change the way we help them all cope and move into recovery.

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice

It’s true – the book is always better than the movie. In 2015, I watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and loved it. It’s my go-to movie for relaxation. At a 4th of July party, my eighteen-year-old niece encouraged me to finish reading the book. “It has so much detail,” she said. “Especially the ending. It wraps everything up.” At her encouragement, I downloaded the audio version through my local library to my smart phone, put on my earbuds, and joined the twenty-first century.

I must admit. I looked forward to my daily walks, to my household chores, and time behind the wheel so I could “read” Pride and Prejudice and travel back in time through the words of Jane Austin.

I loved to feel annoyed with Mrs. Bennett, cringe when Mr. Collins talked, roll my eyes at Lydia, and sympathize with Lizzie, Jane, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley. All of them made the mundane things of life feel enjoyable as I joined them in their world while I did my work in mine. It also made me long for a time of manners and decorum, something I feel we’ve lost in our culture.

I laughed when they characters “told each other off” with such eloquence, and then wished them health and happiness before they left.

I enjoyed the lessons I learned through this story. How often do I make assumptions about people before I have all the facts? How important is prestige and money in life? How do I treat others? Am I willing to change my views?

The ending left me content. I know I’ll return to this book again and again to enjoy the rich language, the method Jane Austin used to craft her story, and loose myself back in time. And to remind myself on the use of manners.

Now, I need to download my next good read and go take a walk.

Book Review: I Liked My Life

I read this book in a little over a day, but I’m afraid I won’t finish it for a long time. It left me feeling grumpy. Yes, grumpy. And I will spend a good chunk of my brain power in thought. As I read the book, I felt like I stared into a mirror. And that made me grumpy. What about it left me unsettled? Did some of the personalities strike too close to home? The answer – yes – and then, what’s next? Is it too late to make a change? Is it even possible at this time in my life?

Abby captured personalities, real life situations and scenarios. I didn’t know what to expect when I won a copy of this book during a Facebook promotion. A woman, successful and devoted to her family, dies. After an investigation, her death is recorded as a suicide. But – she didn’t leave a note with an explanation. Now, her husband and daughter are left to wonder why and examine their life in detail. Was their behavior a factor? Why did she do it?

I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi, exams the family left behind, but also gives insight into the situation from the deceased as she watches from above. It was a novel approach to a nationwide epidemic. As the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., it affects families daily. I’ve experienced the grief of the survivors as I stood at the grave of four people who lost the battle against mental illness in the past few years. There is no comfort for the families left behind.

I’m glad I read it, but I have to admit, I was also glad to finish it. It kept me turning the page in spite of the pain that registered deep as the story progressed.

I won’t reveal the character who reminded me of me. I think that is up to each reader to determine and I don’t want to influence them. But I’m guessing most readers can identify with one of them. I didn’t want to face some of the truths revealed to me in this story of a once happy and contented family. Tragedy rocketed them into a new reality, as happens in most families.

It’s been a while since a novel made me exam my life in detail as this one did. I know this bad case of  “the grumpies” won’t last for me. I will take my new awareness, exam it, make a plan of action, implement it, and move on. I hope I become a better version of me as a result of reading, I Liked My Life.

 

Book Review: Rightfully Ours

It sent me a clear message about the struggles that some teens face

I won a copy Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk from a Facebook giveaway. I began reading it on Saturday morning and finished it on Monday afternoon. I found myself picking it up in spite of a flurry of activities, anxious to discover what came next.

As I read I thought, “This would be a great book for teens to read.” Even though it’s been almost fifty years since I fell into this age group, the feelings and thoughts of my youth came back in vivid memories as I read. Carolyn wrote how my brain tells me that I felt.

I liked the style of the writing. The main characters had flaws so they didn’t feel like cardboard caricatures. It had just the right amount of descriptive scenery to transport me to rural Pennsylvania, but not so much that I skipped those paragraphs. I thought the feelings between Paul and Rachel developed at a speed that felt real. Often times, one party feels differently and it takes time for the relationship to morph from friendship to deep feelings of affection. I liked the way Carolyn handled those thoughts and reactions, as well as how innocent situations can escalate out of control.

I also liked the way the author wove her beliefs into the story without it feeling preachy. It sent me a clear message about the struggles that some teens face and their wish to discover a way to handles their passions.

Coming of age stories fall into “one of my favorite” categories for novels, and this story lived up to my expectations.

I would recommend this book for teens, especially those in a dating relationship, and for those who wish to understand them. I plan to pass on Rightfully Ours to a local high school library so teenagers can enjoy this fast-moving, readable novel with plenty of action and a mystery that held my interest.

Turning in Circles Review

I received a complimentary copy for Turning in Circles from the author Michelle Buckman.

Once I began reading Turning in Circles, I had a hard time putting it down until I finished the book. The interaction between the two sisters kept my attention as I read the frustrations experienced by Savannah as the close relationship she had with Charleston dissolved. In spite of Savannah’s efforts, Charleston made choice after choice that kept me interested and disappointed at the same time.

Michelle Buckman’s characters felt real and believable. The story increased in drama the further I read. I visualized the settings as I read.

The sisters’ story illustrated what sometimes happens to people we love. We see them make choices that change the course of their life, often with inescapable consequences. We are powerless to stop the unhealthy changes in their life.

Turning in Circles depicts life as it often happens to us or those around us. We can learn from our mistakes and those of others to make changes for a better life.

For a thought-provoking read, pick up your copy of Turning in Circles.

Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness Review

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book was loaned to me as a recommended read, “It’s great story. I know you’ll like it,” my friend said as she handed me the book. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to it right away. Recently, she asked if I had finished it. That statement catapulted me into action. I started it Sunday night finished it today. I couldn’t put it down.

I found this to be a fascinating book. I saw many similarities with my journey through schizophrenia with my child. Parts of the book were extremely difficult to read as I remembered the emotions I had as I watched my child endure many of the same symptoms. At one point when Susannah shared her perception of body image later in the story, I had to stop and have a good cry. My daughter must have some of the same feelings and it’s hard to read it in black and white.

Susannah did a fantastic job of explaining how the brain works and what happened to her when her brain broke. I couldn’t help but wonder if part of my daughter’s illness could be explained as part of an autoimmune disease. Was that what triggered it for her?

After reading this book, I felt enlightened, encouraged, and in awe of her courage to write her story. It left me with renewed hope in science as it works to unlock the mysteries of the brain. I applaud those around her for their support in the midst of complete confusion and devastation.

I’d recommend this book to those who want to learn about rare illnesses, those who want to read a good memoir, those who want to learn about how our brain functions, and last, but not least, those who want to read a book with an ending that leaves the reader filled with hope.

I’m glad I read it. My friend was right.