On Barb’s Bookshelf: Dying for Compassion

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Dying for Compassion (The Lady Doc Murders Book 2) by Barbara Golder. A murder mystery by an author whose mysteries include enough character development to satisfy readers like me who usually avoid that genre (and very little gore, especially considering the main character’s profession as the local coroner). Dying for Compassion puts a human face on the euthanasia debate and how it plays out in cases involving children and adults. dying for compassion

In my review of Dying for Revenge (The Lady Doc Murders Book 1) I noted,

There’s much more than a mystery in this thriller; it’s the story of a soul in torment.

Book 2 in the series is less about the tormented soul and more about trust. Dr. Jane Wallace is just about to let herself fall for Eoin when his ex-wife shows up and makes it clear that he’s not free to marry Jane. The doctor finds herself vacillating between wondering if he can be trusted at all to traveling to Ireland to clear his name after he’s indicted for murder.

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths at home vie for Jane’s mental attention as she considers the impact of an assisted-suicide advocacy group that has entrenched itself in the town, including its health-care workers and her own assistant medical examiner. Can that assistant be trusted to do her job without bias? Can Jane?

In this series, the second book is just as good as the first (and a good deal less violent). I highly recommend both!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Wear it like you mean it, plus a Catholic T-Shirt Box review

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

I was running errands over the weekend, and on one of my stops, a sales clerk asked me about the T-shirt I was wearing. Behind a tall counter, he was too far away to read the whole message.

“Pray, hope and don’t worry,” I told him. “It’s Padre Pio.”

He complimented the quote on the shirt, then backed up. “Oh no–I shouldn’t have said anything.”

He explained that earlier that day, he’d asked someone else about the message on her shirt. Even though he had also been complimentary in that instance, the customer had reported him to the manager.

“I don’t get it,” I replied. “If you’re going to wear a shirt with a message, you should be ready to talk about it.”

I got that T-shirt from the Catholic T-Shirt Club.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

This subscription-box service offers an exclusive monthly T-shirt design in a variety of combinations with sacramentals, prayer cards and children’s books, depending on the subscription you choose. Boxes range in price from $16/month for the children’s “Little Saint” box to $49 for the “Cardinal” box with two of everything: T-shirts plus several sacramentals. Shipping is $3 except for the larger “Cardinal” boxes, which ship for $5.

The box shown above is the “Bishop” box; it included the soft, brown Padre Pio-themed T-shirt, a vial of holy oil with information about its use, a prayer card containing a third-class relic of Saint Pio, and a Saint Pio medal. The sacramentals are not blessed, so those will need to be taken to a priest or deacon before use.

The card in the top of the box features a prayer written by Padre Pio on the front (shown in the images here) and a reflection about that prayer on the reverse side.

Part of the fun of a monthly subscription box is the element of surprise. As a subscriber, you’ll receive your box around the 20th of each month. There is no long-term commitment; you can cancel at any time by accessing your account online. Learn more at the Catholic T-Shirt Club FAQ.

Are you a member of a Catholic group or affiliated with a Catholic school? Check out their fundraising option!

Wear it like you mean it.

 

I received a sample box from the Catholic T-Shirt Club for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

"Wear it like you mean it: Catholic T-Shirt Club review" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (franciscanmom.com)
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

 

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Cinder Allia

Karen Ullo’s brand new novel, Cinder Allia, is the perfect read for a rainy summer day. A Cinderella story like you’ve never heard it before, Cinder Allia fills in a grim backstory to the famous Grimm fairy tale. More Joan of Arc than typical fairy-tale heroine, Allia is a take-charge girl who knows that she’s the only one who can change her circumstances.

This novel answers the burning question every reader has about the fairy tale: why would Cinderella’s father allow her stepmother to treat her so badly? Ullo reveals Allia’s stepmother’s motives in keeping her in servitude and serves up a surprising twist in the form of a not-so-perfect Prince Charming.

cinder allia

Who knew that a reader could manage to feel sympathy for the Evil Stepmother? It turns out that she’s trapped between a rock and a hard place too–though she’s still clearly a villain in this tale. And don’t go looking for fairy godmothers, pumpkin coaches or sweet little birds that put together ball gowns. Cinder Allia has none of those.

What it does have is a strong heroine with a keen survival instinct, struggling to overcome circumstances beyond her control in a world rife with treason and treachery. Move over, Katniss Everdeen: there’s a new leading lady in town.

Allia tightened her grip on the sword. Her scabbed palms burned with the wounds of hate while her heart drummed against the cross-shaped scar of love. No matter which she chose, it would leave her bleeding.

I highly recommend this book for teen and adult readers.

About the author: Karen Ullo is the author of the novels Jennifer the Damned (Wiseblood Books 2015) and Cinder Allia. She is managing editor of the Dappled Things journal and also writes recipes for Catholicmom.com. She holds an MFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. She is also a classically trained soprano who works as the music director at a church in Baton Rouge, LA, where she lives with her husband and two young sons. Visit her website: www.karenullo.com, Facebook page: www.facebook.com/karenulloauthor and blog: https://karenullo.wordpress.com/

(ARC received from author, who is a fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild)

Barb's Book shelf blog title

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#OpenBook: June 2017 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

cinder alliaCinder Allia by Karen Ullo. A Cinderella story like you’ve never heard it before, Cinder Allia fills in a grim backstory to the famous Grimm fairy tale. This novel answers the burning question every reader has about the fairy tale: why would Cinderella’s father allow her stepmother to treat her so badly? Ullo reveals Allia’s stepmother’s motives in keeping her in servitude and serves up a surprising twist in the form of a not-so-perfect Prince Charming. My full review is coming soon.(ARC received from author, who is a fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild)

dying for compassionDying for Compassion (The Lady Doc Murders Book 2) by Barbara Golder. A murder mystery by an author whose mysteries include enough character development to satisfy readers like me who usually avoid that genre (and very little gore, especially considering the main character’s profession as the local coroner). Dying for Compassion puts a human face on the euthanasia debate and how it plays out in cases involving children and adults. (ARC received from publisher a fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild)

shattered roseShattered Rose by T.L. Gray. A college student battling an eating disorder without a support system moves in with the wrong roommate and falls hard for the wrong guy, who happens to be her roommate’s cousin. If this isn’t challenging enough, the right guy comes along, and she doesn’t know how to trust him. Editing issues were distracting to this reader.

clairClair by Grace Greene. A sweet beach romance for sure, and a satisfying story. Clair’s friends get together at an exotic resort and put messages in bottles to see if they can attract romance. She does so halfheartedly because she’s already engaged. A year later, her heart is broken and she’s been conned out of her savings by that former fiance–but someone has found the message she put in the bottle and has come to seek her out. Part of the “Beach Brides” series written by multiple authors on a single theme.

sea keepers daughtersThe Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate. Whitney, a restauranteur trying to save her business from a hostile takeover, returns to the defunct hotel her grandmother used to run in the Outer Banks. Her hopes of easy money from the inheritance of this hotel are complicated by her stubborn stepfather and unexpected romance. I’m a big fan of this author’s work. This is part of a series but it’s less a series than a group of connected books, so you won’t miss anything if you read it as a standalone.

rejected writers take the stageRejected Writers Take the Stage by Suzanne Kelman. This was entertaining, but less so than the first novel in the series (they do need to be read in order.) The rejected writers set out to save their friend Annie’s farm by writing and performing a stage play, resulting in a comedy of errors. Add in the narrator’s daughter, pregnant with twins and close to her due date but insisting on helping with the show, and there are predictable hijinks afoot.

feels like familyFeels like Family by Sherryl Woods. Single attorney Helen decides to go about her dream of having a family–against her friends’ advice, by deceiving the man who loves her. Helen was, for me, the least likable character in this novel. It’s part of a series; I’ll look forward to reading the others.

stars among the deadStars among the Dead by Marcy McKay. This book is a prequel to Pennies from Burger Heaven and in some ways even more difficult to handle. The subject matter–a young girl and her drug-addicted mother who turns to prostitution to support her habit and her child is harrowing. Graphic violence. (ARC received from author)

Nonfiction

costa-1Healing Promises: The Essential guide to the Sacred Heart by Anne Costa. This book is packed with opportunities for growth in prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whether you’re already familiar with St. Margaret Mary’s revelations and their application in our lives or this topic is new to you, Costa’s book will invite you into a deeper practice of the Faith. Read my full review. (ARC received from publisher)

Overmyer-Soar-coverBorn to Soar: Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life by Melissa Overmyer. This journal is designed to be used over the course of six weeks, so it’s a perfect summer spiritual retreat. Each of the six chapters of the book corresponds to one of the stages in the life cycle of the caterpillar who ultimately becomes a beautiful butterfly. That science lesson we remember from grade school becomes a lesson for our souls in Born to SoarRead my full review. (ARC received from publisher)

that nothing may be lostThat Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion by Father Paul Scalia. Father Paul Scalia’s new collection of essays has a unique structure: each chapter has an introduction written by a guest author, followed by several of Scalia’s own essays. Many of these were previously published as blog posts, monthly commentaries or bulletin columns. The detailed table of contents allows the reader to skip around as desired, choosing just the essay that invites itself to be read at that particular moment. The chapter introductions, by guest authors including Scott Hahn, Raymond Arroyo, Helen Alvaré and several others, may be read on their own as well. These essays provide not only important information, but an invitation to delve deeper into our faith through study, prayer and sacrament. I love that throughout this book, Father Scalia and his guest authors unfailingly express their own deep faith in God and affection for the Church and its traditions, welcoming the reader to ever more deeply participate in the life of faith. Read my full review. (ARC received from publisher)

witness to wonderWitness to Wonder by Regis Martin. Author and Franciscan University professor Dr. Regis Martin’s new book was written with committed Catholics in mind. Designed for the reader who wants to go deeper into the beauty and meaning of the Catholic faith, Witness to Wonder (Emmaus Road, 2017) delves into theology and poetry that energize Catholics in the appreciation and practice of the Faith. Read my full review.  (ARC received from publisher)

YOUCAT_BIBLEYOUCAT Bible. A two-page guide on reading the Bible is an eye-catching way to begin this book, designed for Catholic youth and young adults. This 10-step guide is supplemented with a quote from Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft. Throughout this study Bible, quotes from popes, saints theologians, and famous contemporary Catholics appear in the margin notes along with explanations of vocabulary and customs and references to other related Bible verses. Read my full review.  (ARC received from publisher)

Children’s/YA

finding patienceFinding Patience (Adventures in Faith, Hope and Charity) by Virginia Lieto. The first book in the “Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity” series is perfect for the emerging reader. This sweet story focuses on Faith, the oldest of three sisters, as the family moves to a new town. Lonely for friends, Faith doesn’t know how to go about finding friendship with kids her own age, and she quickly discovers that sitting back and waiting for friends to find her isn’t going to work. Faith’s mom empathizes with her and reassures her that all she needs is some patience. This book’s lessons on friendship and patience make it an ideal classroom read-aloud. “Finding Patience” ends with a prayer for patience, especially designed for the young reader. (ARC received from author, who is a fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild)

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

open book new logo

My plate is full. My cup runneth over.

It’s been a big week at work. First, the announcement that Holy Cross Family Ministries is welcoming CatholicMom.com as part of the family. I’m beyond grateful for the job I’ve had since March of 2015–I love the work that I get to do, and that it offers me the flexibility that my family circumstances require.

I’m equally grateful that Holy Cross Family Ministries will be keeping me on to do this work.

On the outside, things shouldn’t look too different. There may be some extra logos and links around as the various HCFM sites cross-promote each other. But nobody wants to change what makes CatholicMom.com special.

It’s so special, in fact, that founder Lisa Hendey and I won an award this weekend; for the second year in a row, CatholicMom.com placed second in the “Best group blog” category of the Catholic Press Association awards! Our names are on the award, but without the 125+ contributing writers, CatholicMom.com wouldn’t be what it is today.

closeup of blue ribbon

On the inside, things will be different. That’s the part you can’t see. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a different thing. There’s a whole team at HCFM that I’ll be working with. I’ve had a few emails from them and everyone is friendly and helpful and I think it will be easy to work with them. Eventually there will be someone who will be trained to do what I do, so there’s a backup plan in case of emergency or vacation.

I’ll have to get used to people who like to conduct business via phone instead of email, Evernote or Slack. I’ve never talked so much on my cell phone since I’ve had it than I have in the past week or so!

There are lots of people I need to meet and lots of details on lots of lists that we need to get figured out. It’s going to be a busy summer. I want to make sure that the transition is as seamless as possible for the many writers whose work I edit and for the readers who see it once it goes live on the website.

Right now, I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy and apprehensive at the same time. Once I have those boxes checked off on all those lists, I know I’ll feel better. I’ll feel even better when I finally get to meet everyone in person–that’s tentatively scheduled for August. (Not that I’m not used to working for and with people I haven’t yet met; I worked for CatholicMom.com for more than four months without ever meeting Lisa or even talking with her on the phone!)

In the meantime, if you need me, I’m probably hiding holed up in my office. And there’s a good chance that I’ve put M&Ms on the grocery list. For medicinal purposes.

my plate is full my cup runneth over -sq
Image created at Recite.com. Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Healing Promises: The Essential Guide to the Sacred Heart”

My 1970s-era Catholic upbringing did not include the passing along of devotion to (and knowledge of) the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I am one of the many Catholics Anne Costa mentions in the introduction of Healing Promises: The Essential Guide to the Sacred Heart (Servant Books, 2017) who

“know the image but have yet to experience the depths of the love story behind it. . . . the graces that flow from enthronement of the Sacred Heart are being missed by far too many today.” (xi)

What’s devotion to the Sacred Heart all about? Where did this devotion come from? What’s “enthronement,” and how and why do we do this?

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“Through the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we encounter [the] faithful love of God.” (4)

Chapters are punctuated by prayer prompts called “Heart Notes.” These are invitations to contemplate the information presented and ponder it in our own hearts. Sometimes these are invitations to engage in works of mercy; others are Scriptures to read, topics on which to journal, or traditional prayers.

I’ve been a Catholic all my life, but until I read this book I did not understand the significance of the First Friday devotions I’ve seen practiced in many parishes. There’s a whole section about that devotion, and I appreciate Costa’s balanced approach to it, cautioning readers not to practice such devotions in a legalistic, ritualistic or superstitious manner, but to remember instead to “approach it with sincere and simple love in our hearts.” (49)

Costa leads the reader through an account of the revelations experienced by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, then breaks down the ways in which the faithful can foster devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in their own lives.

Costa’s writing is clear and to the point, and that does not get in the way of her obvious devotion to her topic.  As I tend to be turned off by overly-flowery prose, Costa’s simple and direct style proves that yes, you can invite the reader into a deep experience of prayer without using the type of language that was in vogue before your reader was even born.

Healing Promises is packed with opportunities for growth in prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whether you’re already familiar with St. Margaret Mary’s revelations and their application in our lives or this topic is new to you, Costa’s book will invite you into a deeper practice of the Faith.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

A Big Announcement #WorthRevisit

Just over 5 years ago, my first article was published at CatholicMom.com. Since that first “Tech Talk” June 12, 2012, I’ve written well over 500 articles for the website: mainly book reviews, Tech Talks, and recipes for the year-round Meatless Friday feature.

In March of 2015, that volunteer opportunity turned into my dream job.

It’s exciting to be able to work for one of my very favorite websites, and to be working WITH a veritable army of amazing contributing writers.

I’ll still be doing a little writing for CatholicMom, but most of my work is behind-the-scenes. I’m like Stage Crew, but for the Internet: checking props, hauling scenery and signaling the director to bring up the lights and start the music.

Best of all, I’m working from home, which means I can be available for Mom Duty at any time, I can get to daily Mass, and I don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes. That’s a vocational WIN right there.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a stagehand for a website that’s been a big influence on my life for quite a few years.

CM joins HCFM -f

Yesterday, there was a big announcement at CatholicMom.com: it’s been welcomed into a big family at Holy Cross Family Ministries. Translation: more power for the website, a larger and possibly multilingual international audience, and the opportunity for me to continue doing what I do (within my own time zone, even–I’ve been living in Eastern Time and working in Pacific for over two years)!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and work at CatholicMom.com, and I look forward to what the future will bring.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

The “Liberty” Series: Win this Catholic Dystopian Trilogy

Theresa Linden’s “Liberty” series will appeal to older teens and adults who enjoy dystopian fiction. I’ve ordered a copy of the first book, Chasing Liberty, for my teenager, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be fighting over that book.

Liberty trilogy – A young woman named Liberty lives in a dystopian society where the earth has been elevated above man and the government controls everything. Moving from one trial to another—escapes, imprisonment, secret missions, rescues, 3D games—this action-packed trilogy follows Liberty to her final sacrifice as she learns that true freedom is within, cannot be taken away, and is worth fighting for. The titles in the series are Chasing Liberty, Testing Liberty and Fight for Liberty.

chasing liberty trilogy promotion
Courtesy of Theresa Linden. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Enter the Chasing Liberty Trilogy Giveaway for a chance to win the complete trilogy!

Giveaway ends: 12:00AM July 9th

Winner will be announced at the end of Sabbath Rest Book Talk, 7:00PM July 9th and later posted on author website.

Learn more about why the author chose to write Catholic dystopian fiction.

Fight for Liberty will be on Erin McCole Cupp’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk July 9th. The theme for the books discussed in July: revolution!

Theresa LindenAbout Theresa Linden: Raised in a military family, Theresa Linden developed a strong patriotism and a sense of adventure. Love for faith, family, and freedom inspired her to write the dystopian Chasing Liberty trilogy. Her other published works include award-winning Roland West, Loner, first in a series of Catholic teen fiction, Life-Changing Love, and Battle for His Soul. A member of the Catholic Writers Guild, she balances her time between family, homeschooling, and writing.

Visit Theresa on Facebook, her blog Things Visible & Invisible, or on her website. Or follow her on Twitter.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
Barb's Book shelf blog title

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Born to Soar,” a spiritual journal

The beautiful monarch butterfly is the source of much fascination, the subject of many grade-school science lessons, and the motif around which Born to Soar, Melissa Overmyer’s new Scripture and prayer journal (Servant Books, 2017), was created.

The image of soaring flight evoked by a brilliant butterfly is a metaphor for the soaring prayer experiences described in the poetry of the mystic St. John of the Cross. The author includes short excerpts of this mystical poetry to remind the reader that, in prayer, our hearts seek to soar toward heaven.

Overmyer-Soar-cover

 

This journal is designed to be used over the course of six weeks, so it’s a perfect summer spiritual retreat. Each of the six chapters of the book corresponds to one of the stages in the life cycle of the caterpillar who ultimately becomes a beautiful butterfly. That science lesson we remember from grade school becomes a lesson for our souls in Born to Soar.

Don’t let the butterflies and flowers on the cover of the book fool you: this journal is designed to push you out of your spiritual comfort zone and motivate you to explore ways in which you can take the risk of growing closer to God.

Praying through journaling can be a liberating and beautiful means of expression. Your writing can take on the feeling of a love letter or a song and can be accompanied by a heart-wrenching release of emotions. . . . Do not be afraid of writing down how you truly feel — God knows your heart already. Instead, offer yourself — in all your beauty and your brokenness — freely to God and ask him to use your journal to bring you closer to him. Do not be afraid to give it all to God, who can turn our ashes to beauty, heal our deepest wounds, and set us free. (from the Introduction, p. xvii)

Each of the six sessions follows this format:

  • Description of the physical stage of the caterpillar’s life cycle
  • Overmyer’s reflection on how this stage compares to the process of spiritual renewal
  • Thoughts to ponder, with space for journaling
  • A moment with St. John of the Cross, including a quote from the saint’s writings, questions for reflection, and space for journaling
  • Thoughts for discussion (for group discussion or journal prompts)
  • Prayer
  • A “renewing truth” to be revisited on multiple occasions during the course of the week
  • Scripture passages for daily reflection, followed by a journal prompt and space for writing

I’d recommend Born to Soar to any reader who seeks to go deeper in the spiritual life. Overmyer makes the mystical works of St. John of the Cross accessible even to people like me who tend toward the practical. Her inviting approach and simple language engage the reader; I found myself wanting to go beyond each day’s reflections because I was hungry for what would come next.
Barb's Book shelf blog title

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Wrong Answer. Wrong Question?

“How was church?” I asked my daughter yesterday after she returned from the 8:00 Mass.

“Boring.”

Maybe I’d asked the wrong question. Maybe I should have inquired if she’d seen anyone she knows there, or how the music was, or who had preached the homily.

I don’t know what answer I’d hoped to hear. But the answer I did hear leads me to believe that I’ve failed.

When I was her age I suffered through the summers because I had to sit in the pews instead of with the musicians. I didn’t have a place to sing at home in the summertime. I’d go to Mass with my parents sometimes (and once I begged sheet music for original hymns from the songwriter who was playing them at Mass.) Other times, I’d walk to the church a mile away from our house. A lot depended on my work schedule.

I didn’t consider it boring, but then again, I didn’t go to Mass expecting entertainment. My biggest obstacle in the summer was that I wasn’t serving.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I haven’t taught my kids that Mass isn’t about entertainment. Maybe I haven’t stressed enough that we’re not there to get, but to give (and I’m not referring to what we’re putting into the collection baskets).

I can make my kids go (as long as they’re living in my house) and I can even insist that they don’t wear shorts to Mass. But I can’t make them want to.

Is my example enough? Is bringing them week after week after week, sending them to Catholic school, enough? Should I have done, said, been something more?

Have I failed my Domestic Church?

Photo copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz