Simplemama

A Subtle Grace GIVEAWAY

Yay, it’s time for a book Giveaway! I love books, I love freebies, and I love helping authors promote their books – especially for the books I really enjoyed reading and know others would as well.

In my Books I Read in 2013, I included Ellen Gable’s A Subtle Grace

Not to be outdone in generosity, Ellen has been kind enough to team up with me to offer not one, but TWO GIVEAWAYS of A Subtle Grace! A paperback copy and a Kindle edition! Thank you, Ellen!

You can enter the Giveaway in the Rafflecopter giveaway below. After you do that, you can read a bit more about my review of the book and learn more about Ellen based on the questions I asked her about herself and her books. I love how blogging and social media connect us readers with authors so we can get to know more about them and their books.

Enter the A Subtle Grace GiveAway Here

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Review

Repeating what I said in my previous post, A Subtle Grace is a lovely and delightfully satisfying Young Adult/Adult Catholic fiction! Ellen Gable, a fellow contributor at CatholicMom.com, reached out and asked if I’d like to review her book. I was not very familiar with the book but thought it would be fun to give it a try. Little did I know just how much I’d enjoy it!

I’m not usually much of a sappy romance novel reader, usually those types of books are too…romantic and mushy or even overly detailed and graphic. And I can proudly say I have never read one of those “romance” novels with the picture of an insanely muscular dude with long hair and a ripped shirt cradling a weak-looking super skinny woman with disproportionate voluptuous breasts flowing out from her ripped shirt. Some people call those books, I’m more inclined to label them as trash. But that’s just me.

Anyway, Ellen Gable’s books are definitely not trash but quite the opposite! Reading A Subtle Grace was more like biting into a new dessert I wasn’t sure I’d like but ended up loving every.single.delicious.page I ate read. I’m glad to have an option for a romance novel I can read without blushing and one which I can lend to young adults to illustrate the differences between lust and true virtuous love! I lent it to our high-school aged babysitter and plan to keep it around for my daughter when she’s ready for it.

My only complaint about the book was that it was so engrossing that I couldn’t put it down! I’d stay up way too late just to see how the plot would unravel.

I don’t want to give anything away – except for the book!. You can read the summary of the book here. Basically, it takes place in the late 1800’s set in Philadelphia. It’s a sequel to Gable’s, In Name Only – which I haven’t read yet but definitely intend to as soon as I can! I was so impressed with how Gable wove all the Catholic traditions and historical culture into the story. She presents the story with a delicate, but enthralling, style.

And now for the interview with Ellen

Ellen, how long have you been a writer? What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve been writing non-fiction for 20 years.  Here’s one of my first published articles, which was originally published in the Nazareth Journal in 1994.

With regard to fiction, my husband was the one who initially gave me the idea to write a novel based on my story and my great-grandmother’s story (my first novel, Emily’s Hope). I enjoyed writing fiction so much that I decided to write a second novel, this time about a fictional 19th century Philadelphia family, the O’Donovans.

Where did the idea for the O’Donovan family come from?

The idea for a love triangle and the basic storyline of In Name Only (O’Donovan #1)  came to me very quickly one night when I couldn’t get to sleep.  It took about four years to develop and complete the novel because at the time, I was a busy homeschooling mother of five and part-time court transcriptionist. When I finished that novel, I knew that I wanted to continue the story of the O’Donovans because I had come to love the characters.

I was impressed with the amount of historical information you included in A Subtle Grace, especially regarding the Catholic customs, traditions, and the general way of thinking of that time period. Was it difficult to find information for this?

Research is one of my favorite things to do.  Authors are so fortunate nowadays to have research via the internet right at our fingertips.  All I needed to go was to go onto YouTube and view actual silent movies from the late 1890’s to get a feel for the time period. I’ve also read many novels written in the 1800’s. There are some great websites out there with excellent quality period photos. In terms of Catholic customs etc, I read sections of a 19th century Catholic encyclopedia online.  It’s fascinating reading material. The biggest surprise for me was when I found out that illegitimate men could not enter the priesthood without a special dispensation from the Pope.  This caused a huge change (and major rewrites) in the “Will” storyline that actually made the story more interesting.

Do you relate to the characters of A Subtle Grace? How so?

The female characters always have a lot of me in them.  In A Subtle Grace, I could definitely relate to Kathleen when she was being impatient and frustrated that she was not married at age 19.  I certainly felt this way when I was 19, even though there was no societal pressure to get married like there was back in the 19th century.

Will there be a sequel to A Subtle Grace? Please?!

Yes, there will be a Book #3 that will involve a young Italian-American woman and Patrick O’Donovan as the main character. It will take place about ten to twelve years after A Subtle Grace ends. That’s about all I can say at present, since I haven’t really outlined anything yet for that book. I’m currently working on a novella entitled “Julia’s Gifts,” a World War I romance.

Aside from your fictional writing work, what other genre of writing do you do? Which is your favorite?

I blog at Plot Line and Sinker and I write articles on Natural Family Planning and the Theology of the Body for the local Catholic-Diocesan newspaper as well as for several Catholic websites.  My favorite type of writing is fiction.  Non-fiction in many ways is easier, but with fiction, the author gets to live the characters’ lives, be with them as they experience hardships and joys.  Reading is great fun, but writing can be even more fun!

As an accomplished book author, what advice or suggestions do you give to those who desire to write and publish books?

Always try to improve your writing skills and style.  Never be satisfied. If you want to write fiction, learn how to do it well: buy books, watch videos, read great fiction.  Join writers’ groups, critique groups and spend time developing your skills. Be humble in taking criticism. If you can’t take criticism, this probably isn’t the profession for you.

Head over to Ellen Gable’s blog to learn more about her and her books!

A Tour of my Favorite Artwork from the Art Museum

Last weekend, my husband was out of town and I was home with all four of the kids. Alone. With all the kids.

It was too cold to go out, too boring and crazy-mama-making to stay in together the whole day. So I decided it would be the perfect day to take advantage of our local art museum’s Free Saturdays!

At the time, that decision seemed very rational. Once I got there and realized what I’d done it was too late to turn back. I must have already turned insane to think I could bring four kids, especially the three younger ones who have to touch everything, to an art museum.

Our visit started out a little hectic, we almost got kicked out by the museum guard when all the kids – yes, all – decided to “explore” and see what was behind the walls they weren’t supposed to go in. I was annoyed but knew I would have done the same thing at their age . The guard was less than amused and gave me a look that made me feel like I should be ashamed for even thinking of infesting the place with my children, let alone even having any kids at all. I gave the kids a louder-than-usual scolding so she’d think I was a good enough mother who could “control” her children. I’m pretty sure she followed us the whole time just waiting for someone to break something or puke all over an original masterpiece.

Once we got to the “Living Room” area that children are actually allowed to look and touch, everyone seemed to calm down and somehow I was able to manage my stress level and just enjoy our time together.

Despite wrangling kids from behind prohibited walls and avoiding the evil glare of the security guard, I was able to enjoy a few moments to gaze at some of the more beautiful and thought-provoking artwork. I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorites from that day.

(Click on the link of the painting’s name for a closer look at the original print.)

1. Mary Cassatt’s Mother and Child1980, oil on canvas. 

This is one of my most favorite paintings, I have an 8×10 print of it framed and sitting on my dresser, I love it so much. I was happy to see it in the first room we went into. I don’t know that much about Mary Cassatt but I love her paintings, especially her mother and child ones. They capture the simple moments of the ordinary life of mothers and children with soft and tender strokes. I love her use of colors, using neutral and light colors in the backgrounds and then adding in a bolder color for emphasis and focus. For example, the red roses on the mother’s dress as well as the rosy cheeks and lips set on the pale skin of the child.

Some days I look at this Mother and Child and see a quiet peaceful scene of a child lovingly caressing his mother while the mother thinks joyful and peaceful thoughts of this momentary quiet time with her child. Other days – the ones which don’t leave me feeling all sappy and joyful about motherhood – I see a mother who is exhausted, tired of holding her cranky child, and is wondering when? When will he stop touching me and finally fall asleep?

2. Edward Hopper’s Sunlight on Brownstones1956, oil on canvas.

What’s the first thing you notice in this painting? For me, it’s the light. What I love about oil paintings as how real they can look, like a photograph. I love the contrast between the warm light and the slanting shadows.

Glorious use of light aside, I always wonder – what are they looking at? Are they watching the sun rise together before a busy day? Or have they enjoyed an afternoon tea and are now enjoying the sunrise after a long day? I wish I could go into the painting and see the stunning sunrise – or sunset – mesmerizing them. I thought the description and analysis next to the painting was interesting and very different than how I look at it.

3. Edward Hooper’s Conference at Night1948, oil on canvas

Once again, it’s the light. The light flooding in through the window beckons me. I want to sit on that bench and feel the warmth of the sun heating up my back. The sun also taunts me, shining on the man sitting on the bench and on the woman’s face but not revealing what they are saying while the man in the hat remains in the shadow.

I want to know – what are they talking about? Is it a secret communist plot? Are they gossiping about the neighbors they can see from the window? Maybe it’s a shady business deal going south and the man is pleading for his life?

I asked my eight-year-old son where he thought they were and what they were talking about. He said, “They are in an art museum talking about the art.” Insightful.

4. Billy Morrow Jackson’s Reading, 1979 – 1989, oil on masonite

The room is literally bathed in light. It’s almost as if Jackson dipped his paintbrush into a sunbeam and covered the masonite with it’s brilliant glow. Then again, maybe it’s not the sun making the room glow. Maybe it’s a symbol of how the girl feels when she gets to sit and read a book alone in a quiet house: Heavenly. The analysis/description next to this one was actually very interesting and worth a closer look:

5. Billy Morrow JacksonMoments, 1977 – 78, oil on masonite

This one is always so interesting to me. At first glance, it’s a simple painting of a small town’s main street. But the longer you stand there and look at it, the more you see and realize there’s so much more to it than you first thought. It’s more like a moments through time, starting from left with the old covered wagon and running through history as you follow the runner down main street. Notice how the buildings change in style as well as the people’s fashion, the scene of the forgotten prairie and the poster of the succession of presidents. Jackson painting himself into his own painting is like his way of saying, “This is what I’ve seen and now I’ll paint the rest.”

Or maybe he didn’t mean that at all and just thought it would be fun to be in his own painting. I don’t blame him.

6. Fred Danziger Man Guarding Textiles1980, acrylic

I’ve never seen this one before but was captivated by it’s creative visual effects. The masking tape looked so real I had to do what I told the kids not to do and get super close to make it sure it wasn’t.

I have no idea what the “meaning” or “intention” of the painting is. Some cardboard cut-out guard is supposed to watch over fragile textiles that were once worn by some famous dead person but he’s actually an aspiring artist who likes painting murals of mountains on his night shift?

It’s a good thing I didn’t go to art school after all, I would have surely failed Art Theory 101.

Lastly,

7. Chihuly.

I’m blown away by his glass masterpieces. This chandelier hangs from the ceiling in the museum’s main lobby. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to get up there. Can you imagine the stress of the person in charge of such a job? Should it have fallen his career would have been shattered.

Whenever we go, we all love to stand under it and just look up into it. It’s really beautiful…yet sometimes it looks kind of like a big mess of an unknown sea urchin’s tangled tenticles reaching out to try and swallow me up. I have a strangely vivid imagination.

There’s also a cool Chihuly ocean floor of blown colored glass that is encased under the glass floor of a special balcony off the museum’s upper lobby area. Kids are allowed to get on, without shoes, and gently and quietly walk over it. It’s the kids’ – and my – favorite thing to do there.

After all that, I’ll leave you with one final masterpiece.

Erika Marie, Sparkling Tinsel Hanging from a Ceiling, Sony a6000, 16-50mm, f/3.5

 

Thank you for joining me on this stroll through my favorite art museum pieces. Which one was your favorite? Your least? Or did I bore you from the very beginning and am now talking to myself? 

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