Review: ‘The Singular Pilgrim’ by Rosemary Mahoney

51j39Zx8dYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I don’t read large books, because it takes me forever to even finish reading one book. But there was a particular reason I picked up this 400-page beast by Rosemary Mahoney: I have been struggling with my spirituality.

“The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground” is Mahoney’s account as she struggles with spirituality and tries to find it at some of the holiest places on the planet. The author ventures to Walsingham, U.K.; Lourdes, France; El Camino De Santiago, France and Spain; Varanasi, India; The Holy Land; and Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg, Ireland.

At each location, Mahoney slowly reveals parts of herself and why she doubted her upbringing.

In Lourdes, we find out that her mother had polio as a child, resulting in a paralyzed leg. In Varanasi, we learn about death and its significance.

In the Holy Land, Mahoney seeks out places where Jesus performed miracles and did the majority of his work, not just the place he was born or other traditional places in Christian theology. However, she learns that these places aren’t as honored as the more popular ones. And in Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, we feel Mahoney’s heartache as she suffers through a terrible breakup.

At first, I thought Mahoney was being sarcastic about Catholicism, judging those who are faithful including her mother. As the book progresses, she sheds layers away that show her humanity, her love for others and her true struggle with her religious beliefs. She seems rough and tough on the exterior, expecting too much from so little, like expecting answers without opening her heart. But we all struggle with this, wanting the burden to be lifted so we could “see the light.” Mahoney meets others who prove, instead, that these crosses are supposed to bring us closer, and not drive us away, from spirituality.

She also sheds light onto religious prejudices within the countries and religious areas. I don’t know if it amazed her as much as it amazes me — the strife, judgement and pain over areas of pilgrimage to a loving and accepting God.

“The Singular Pilgrim” has a lot of facts and history but also emotional and spiritual insight. Mahoney never tells anyone how to be spiritual. She just shares her struggles and journeys.

This book made me want to back my backpack and head back to Europe for a pilgrimage (I had just been there for my honeymoon.) Even more, it made me question my spirituality and opened up my eyes, heart and soul.

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Review: “Suddenly, Love” by Aharon Appelfeld

suddenlyloveErnst is a 70-year-old Red Army veteran, living alone with his housekeeper, Irena. His wife and child were killed in the second world war. Ernst slaves over the novels he writes about his life, occasionally reading bits and pieces to Irena. He is an educated atheist man. Irena, in contrast, is uneducated, religious, simple and somewhat inarticulate. Together, under the same roof, the pair inexplicably make a life together and fall in love as Ernst’s health deteriorates.

For cynics and skeptics, “Suddenly, Love” is an unbelievable tale. Irena dotes on Ernst with solid steadfastness, submitting to him completely. In return, Ernst is increasingly gentle and kind to Irena. They are drastically different in age, which heightens the unusualness of their relationship. However, they both have attributes in common. Ernst, in his old age, seeks kinship with his dead parents, and Irena, highly spiritual, prays constantly to the spirits of her own dead parents. Their connections to the past unite them, and the historical backdrop of the story makes their relationship easier for readers to understand. Continue reading “Review: “Suddenly, Love” by Aharon Appelfeld” »

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Meet the author: Robert Breneman



Robert Breneman, 85, of East Manchester Township released his book, “A Victim of Circumstance” in July.

“Upon looking back over the many experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, some where I had been in the valley of death so many times and God chose to save me from death and serious injury. By all odds, I couldn’t have survived without His grace and power. I wanted to relate some of these as evidence for others to see and benefit by them,” Breneman said via our local author web form.

A VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCESBreneman describes his book by saying, “This is a book of short stories. I wanted to pass along some of my experiences. Some good, some bad, some funny, some were the results of my decisions, and some where I was just ‘a victim of circumstances.’”

You can purchase Breneman’s self-published title here.

Breneman is retired with a wife, two daughters, one son, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, weightlifting, swimming and carpentry.

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Fantasy author, 15, to raise funds for “Mission of Hope” in Haiti charity

imageMeredith Shaw had a vivid dream.

When she told her mother, Jennifer, about her dream, her mother advised her to write it down.

At 12, Shaw had the prologue to a fantasy novel.

“My parents were shocked,” she said.

At 14, the Cochranville teen had completed her novel, “The Swordmaker’s Daugher: The Poisoned Prince,” and sought someone to publish it. Her story was picked up by Tate Publishing and received a contract to write two more books.

“The process was pretty straightforward,” Shaw, now 15, said. She described a round of editing, where she could make changes to the book. Then, her book went into layout, where a font and cover art were selected, along with how the chapters were formatted. Now, after final edits and printing, her book is in the marketing stage while she works on the second installment. Continue reading “Fantasy author, 15, to raise funds for “Mission of Hope” in Haiti charity” »

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From Page to Projector: ‘Shoeless Joe’ / ‘Field of Dreams’

shoeless-joeProbably my favorite sports movie of all time is “Field of Dreams,” a film baseball romantics can point to as illustration for why they love the game with such passion. The characters, the story and especially the language draws out the heart of the game that has drawn adoring fans for more than a hundred years.

The movie, released in 1989, stars Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, a struggling Iowa corn farmer who hears a mystic message one day: “If you build it, he will come.” Ray takes this to mean he should build a baseball field on his land in the hopes of bringing back his dead father’s favorite baseball player, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson of the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox. Sure enough, Jackson returns to play the game from which he was banned. Ray is sent on more baseball and soul-searching quests, ranging from easing the pain of reclusive author Terence Mann, fulfilling the dream of long-dead ballplayer-turned-physician Archibald “Moonlight” Graham and even finding a way to save his family’s farm.

Continue reading “From Page to Projector: ‘Shoeless Joe’ / ‘Field of Dreams’” »

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Comic Book Wednesday: ‘Outcast’

outcast_1We have heard this story before: A man’s special powers ruin his relationships and life until he can harness his abilities and prove to everyone he is good, not evil. We read about this in Spider-Man, Superman, Green Lantern … almost every comic story.

However, Robert Kirkman, author of “The Walking Dead,” likes things a bit more creepy. He takes cues from “The Exorcist” and the powerful world of demonic possession, and creates a new comic book titled “Outcast.”

Kyle is living in the filthy home where he grew up. All through the house, he has flashbacks to a sinister time there, yet he is back there nonetheless. His sister, Megan, shows up, offering to help him, to get him proper food, and then later, tries to take him to her place for family time.

But on their way home, Kyle is stopped by Reverend (that’s what everyone is calling the pastor, though I couldn’t find a first name), who proceeds to recruit him to help with a demonic possession of a little boy.

The next day, Kyle stops by the possessed boy’s family’s house, to try to help. It is there he finds he has weird abilities: He can suck the demon out of someone and his blood causes pain to the demon inside the possessed person.

He isn’t so much a believer of God, he tells the Reverend earlier in the comic. However, he wants answers to why demons seem to follow him, calling him the Outcast and saying they need him. He needs answers to get his family back.

Robert Kirkman admits in the last page of the comic that zombies and the apocalypse aren’t real, though they are fun to write about. What are real are demonic possession, exorcisms and demons, and those makes a story like this even more scary than other stories Kirkman has written, he says.

I agree. This is a chilling tale, and after this first issue the story can take any turn. For now, it ties up nicely but leaves enough of a cliffhanger so that we are enticed to see what Kyle does next to save his well-being.

The art, done by Paul Azaceta, is especially creepy. Seeing the possessed boy smirk after kicking his mother in the face, breaking her nose, or the boy grinning at Kyle and say “I know you” just makes me shiver.  Azaceta seems to take a cue from “The Exorcist” but it doesn’t make it any less scary and real.

If you love horror tales, Robert Kirkman or both, pick up “Outcast.” It is sure to be a popular title.

Comic Book Wednesday is a new feature that will showcase a variety of visually based books that fit into this wide category, to give a taste of this other form of reading.

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Meet the author: Jonathan Brandow



Jonathan Brandow, 63, of Lemoyne, released his book “The Just Market: Torah’s Response to the Crisis of the Modern Economy” in July.

“The book is based on my knowledge of Jewish source texts and personal career experiences as a labor activist, policy development consultant and entrepreneur,” Brandow said via our local author web form.

Just Market Front Cover FinalThe synopsis of the book is as follows, according to Brandow:

Torah, Talmud and other Jewish source texts wrestle with many of the same economic concerns that occupy the contemporary public square: income inequality, structural unemployment, instability, rampant financial fraud and spiraling personal debt. The Just Market: Torah’s Response to the Crisis of the Modern Economy identifies six foundations of ancient Jewish economic policy and explores their application to the modern world:

Access to the Necessities of Life
Universal Employment Opportunity
A Level Playing Field
Commercial and Promotional Integrity
Respect for Labor
Sabbatical Values

Just Market values respect competition. But they also represent a culture of economic justice that prioritizes employment opportunity and universal access to human needs.

To learn more about Brandow’s book, visit

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18-year-old York native Gabriella Gill pens novel, films book trailer


Morgan Elise Beatty, left, receives direction from author Gabriella Gill and assistant director Aimee Kallstrom. Gill wrote a young adult superhero novel, “Saving Metropolis,” and in July, she shot a book trailer to accompany the novel. The group met under the State Street Bridge near Harrisburg for the shoot. “‘Saving Metropolis’ is the story of a teenage girl who has always dreamed of becoming a superhero, and who, when her dream comes true, must deal with the repercussions of hiding such a secret, and adjusting to life in a new city and the friends she makes,” Gill said in an email. The book is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Morgan Elise Beatty is pictured in costume during shooting for the “Saving Metropolis” book trailer.

Morgan Elise Beatty is pictured in costume during shooting for the “Saving Metropolis” book trailer.


At far left, Aimee Kallstrom holds a slate board while Gabriella Gill films actress Morgan Elise Beatty. At near left, Kallstrom and Gill look through the camera.

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From Page to Projector: ‘Eight Men Out’

eight men outNow that we’re in the heart of summer, there’s only one thing running through my brain at the moment: the upcoming football season. But before that, there is America’s pastime, the lone sporting event that carries us sports fans through these hot months, the most ancient game of baseball. This year (probably because my Phillies haven’t given me much to be interested in), I’ve been thinking a lot about the game’s long and storied history, leading me to a pair of books involving the infamous 1919 Black Box scandal.

For those who don’t know, in the 1919 World Series, the Chicago White Sox, thought to be one of the greatest teams of the era, lost to the Cincinnati Reds, and it was discovered that several of the players agreed with gamblers to purposefully lose the Series for cash. The scandal nearly tore the sport apart, and it resulted in a very public trial. The eight players were found not guilty of criminal conspiracy charges, but they were banned for life from playing professional baseball.

The so-called Black Sox were best chronicled in Eliot Asinof’s book “Eight Men Out,” published in 1963. The team is perhaps best remembered in the modern public eye by the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” which came from W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 fiction novel, “Shoeless Joe.” I’ll tackle those two next week, after comparing the nonfiction book and its film adaptation, which was released in 1988.

Continue reading “From Page to Projector: ‘Eight Men Out’” »

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Local author Mike Harris to sign books in York, Gettysburg

Local author Mike Harris will sign books from 12 to 2 p.m. Aug. 10 at Irvin’s Books in West Manchester Township and at 3 p.m. Aug. 16 at Pages of the Past in Gettysburg.

Here’s a synopsis of his new book, “Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777:

Brandywine Creek calmly meanders through the Pennsylvania countryside today, but on September 11, 1777, it served as the scenic backdrop for the largest battle of the American Revolution, one that encompassed more troops over more land than any combat fought on American soil until the Civil War. Long overshadowed by the stunning American victory at Saratoga, the complex British campaign that defeated George Washington’s colonial army and led to the capture of the capital city of Philadelphia was one of the most important military events of the war. Michael C. Harris’s impressive Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, is the first full-length study of this pivotal engagement in many years.

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