On Barb’s Bookshelf: This Dread Road

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An intriguing tale of two young women, a generation apart, who must learn to live with the consequences of romantic choices they make–and one man who figures prominently in both their lives. This Dread Road, Olivia Folmar Ard’s latest novel, is the third in the Bennett Series, but it works as a standalone novel (that said, I highly encourage you to read the other books in the series as well! You can get the whole Bennett Series for less than $7 on Kindle.)

Annemarie, a college freshman far from home and the reach of her overbearing mother’s attempts to set her up with every eligible bachelor in the region, falls hard for a man her parents certainly wouldn’t approve of. Her immaturity leads her to handle all of this the wrong way, with results that prove disastrous for her family relationship, her mental health and her love life.

50 years later, that same man mentors Claire, an heiress trying to escape her own mother and her own past.

In this parallel tale, you see young people making bad decisions–often due to immaturity and a lack of communication. Ard’s focus on the two young women, years apart, proves the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Release Date: February 14, 2017
Published by: Three Amigas Press
Genre: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction

Available from: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace

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– Summary –

It’s September 1968, and Howard Knox freshman Annemarie Vanderhorst is happy to be free of her controlling mother’s societal expectations. She vows to spend her time at college wisely in pursuit of her own dreams. But before she can figure out what she wants from life, Henry Eden, the dark and handsome stranger in her philosophy class, takes over every waking thought.

Nearly half a century later, Claire James returns to Bennett after leaving her fiancé, determined to be independent for once in her life. After convincing her father to let her work for the family business, she soon realizes being a responsible adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Loathed by her coworkers, neglected by her best friend, and held captive by a terrifying secret, she doesn’t know how much more she can take.

The lives of these two women, decades apart but uncannily similar, finally intersect one fateful night. With broken hearts and hope for the future, will they find the answers they’re looking for?

This Dread Road (The Bennett Series #3)

– About the Author –

Olivia started writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its divisi15800522_10209756472760857_6955444529121609696_oon in the 2008 District III Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Montevallo in 2012, married in 2013, and published her first novel in 2014. She received a Readers Favorite five-star review for her holiday novella, ‘Tis the Season, in 2016.

Olivia lives in central Alabama with her husband JD and their cats, Buddy and Lafayette. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television, teaching herself how to cook, and playing Pokémon GO.

– Connect with the Author –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Pinterest

– Advance Praise for This Dread Road

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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

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Meeting God in the Upper Room

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Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi describes the Upper Room as “the most important room in Christendom” in his new book, Meeting God in the Upper Room (Servant, 2017). In one whirlwind 8-week period, the Upper Room was the location for three significant events in the birth of the Church:

  • the Last Supper
  • Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to his disciples
  • Pentecost

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By Assaf Yekuel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Msgr. Vaghi notes in the Prologue that the Upper Room, or Cenacle, was renovated in the 14th century, which explains the architectural style of the room as seen above.

What must the disciples have felt during their time in that room? Did they celebrate the Passover with trepidation, having heard Jesus tell them again and again that this trip to Jerusalem would end in his death? Were they astounded and elated when the risen Christ appeared to them in that room, continuing to teach them to take on the work of building the Church? Were they simultaneously energized and terrified at the descent of the Holy Spirit and their commissioning to make disciples of all nations?

“Once we catch a glimpse of the events that transpired in this room, we will be forever captivated by the mystery of the God who loves us so much that, even as he prepared to return to the Father, promised that ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’ (John 14:18, NRSV)” (1)

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Msgr. Varghi’s discussion of the history of the Upper Room based on Gospel accounts complements the meditations that are the meat of this book. I found the history fascinating; in various chapters, you’ll read about personalities, prophecy, sacraments, and Catholic social teaching. Each chapter ends with a section titled “Preparing Your Upper Room” in which the reader is invited to consider the personal implications of Jesus’ message.

I recommend Meeting God in the Upper Room for spiritual reading during Lent or, even more appropriately, beginning in Holy Week and continuing through the Easter season, when you can read the book as you liturgically relive the events depicted in it.

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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.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: A Sea Without a Shore

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The weary, lonely and brokenhearted are the audience for Jeannie Ewing’s new devotional, A Sea without a Shore.
Jeannie Ewing often writes on the meaning of suffering. Her words will resonate with readers who feel alone in their pain. While this book is centered on suffering, it is infused with hope. The meditations in chapter 8 (“Faith, Hope and Charity”) are some of the most powerful ones in the book. This, I’m sure, is no accident: these are powerful virtues, as they must be to conquer the despair that can so easily come to those beaten down by life’s difficulties.
These meditations are not casual or flip: they are heartfelt, reverent outpourings of the soul. The language is formal, even poetic, with a unique cadence. Written in the first person, each meditation invites the soul to cling to God in prayer.

This devotional is the kind of book you can flip through, scanning the headings to find just the meditation you need for that day.

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 About the Book

Everyone experiences suffering and trials throughout life, whether in the form of death or significant loss of a relationship, finances, a home or job, and even a pet. Loss affects us all, and we are often left feeling empty, lonely, and lost in the midst of such excruciating darkness. Others may attempt to ameliorate our fears, concerns, and struggle, but to no avail. Even our faith may seem to fail us. Jeannie Ewing understands that holy darkness may veil us in a cloud of unknowing for a time, but we don’t have to capitulate to despair. Instead, we can journey through the mysteries and misunderstandings through the eyes of faith. In A Sea Without A Shore: Spiritual Reflections for the Brokenhearted, Weary, and Lonely, you will find a familiar friend journeying with you throughout the often murky and tumultuous waters of grief. No matter the cause of your pain and strife, this devotional will offer short but poignant insights that open your heart to God’s love and mercy.
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 About the Author

Jeannie Ewing believes the world focuses too much on superficial happiness and then crumbles when sorrow strikes. Because life is about more than what makes us feel fuzzy inside, she writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers and is the author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and dozens of other radio shows and podcasts.

Facebook – Love Alone Creates: https://www.facebook.com/lovealonecreates
Click to enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers or one of two paperback copies of A Sea Without A Shore!
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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.

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: What Pope Francis Really Said

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Every time Pope Francis writes an encyclical or makes an off-the-cuff remark on an airplane, the media (both Catholic and secular) jump all over it with various interpretations.

That’s a problem, states Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said (Servant, 2016). Depending on your news source (or who you follow on Twitter and Facebook) you’ll get wildly different versions of the same wrong story. Add in our lack of critical-reading skills and our willingness to accept “fake news” at face value and you wind up with a great deal of confusion about the Pope’s teachings and motivations.

He is celebrated by some for saying things he never said and rejected by others for doing things they don’t really understand (ix).

That airplane photo on the cover isn’t just a convenient file photo. It’s a symbol of the world’s eagerness to take one sentence out of an entire speech and make a huge (and often hugely inaccurate) news story out of it. The problem is not that Pope Francis holds news conferences on airplanes. The problem lies in what people do with the statements he makes.

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I can’t remember so much attention being paid to things previous popes said and wrote. It’s good, because the world (including the Catholic world) is watching and learning, but it’s challenging, because it’s so easy to take things out of context. I eagerly read Hoopes’ book because I find myself having to say, “That’s not what he said” way too many times when the subject of Pope Francis comes up!

Tom Hoopes traces Pope Francis’ papacy chronologically, from a speech then-Cardinal Bergoglio made in the conclave to the World Meeting of Families in the fall of 2015. Beginning with the retelling of the Gospel story in which Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and is vilified by the leaders of the synagogue for doing so, Hoopes mentions that Jesus refuses to be “stage-managed by what officialdom is asking him to do and instead [turns] his attention to those who are looking to have a real encounter with him.” (2) Pope Francis operates in much the same way.

Hoopes assures readers who have painted the Pope as “too liberal” of Pope Francis’ unswerving commitment to the dignity of marriage and the right to life, while reminding those who believe he’s “too conservative” that Pope Francis decries the violence that begets more violence and often leads to war. Hoopes also mentions that Pope Francis is not saying anything new. He paraphrases the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoes Popes John Paul II and Benedict, and frequently references Scripture.

In a fast-paced world with a second-by-second news cycle that reduces entire speeches to 140-character tidbits, Catholics need to read What Pope Francis Really Said to catch up on the truth behind what Pope Francis has said in the past so that they can be prepared to defend, and live out, what the Pope says in the future.

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 from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#OpenBook: November 2016 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

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

different-heroismA Different Heroism (Father Jay book 3) by Jane Lebak. Third in a series, this novel covers further ground in Father Jay and his brother Kevin’s contentious relationship, Jay’s impromptu shelter for homeless/neglected boys, and Jay’s ongoing health issues. A shaky truce with his brother and an order from his bishop force Jay into a week’s vacation–and everything starts to fall apart with the gang of “Archangels” he shelters. A fast-paced and enjoyable read. I’m a fan of these characters and eagerly await more Father Jay stories.
tis-the-season‘Tis the Season by Olivia Folmar Ard. In an age of oversharing, a young couple trying to conceive and battling Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) struggles to keep their health issues private. Ironic much? Even more so, considering Lauren spends a lot of time creating and maintaining the perfect social-media persona. And there’s nothing like a holiday trip to see her in-laws to threaten to dismantle all that online perfection. Despite my distaste for “rushing the season” in so many other ways, I’m always up to read a good Christmas story, and this novella did not disappoint.
most-highly-favored-daughterMost Highly Favored Daughter: A Sanctified Suspense by Janice Lane Palko. Set in Pittsburgh against the backdrop of the Super Bowl, this novel tells a harrowing story of human trafficking with an unexpected twist. Heiress Cara Wells is framed with the horrible crime of abusing a young child–but she remembers nothing of what happened that night after falling violently ill. Resolved to untangle the mystery and rescue the young victim of the crime, Cara puts even her marriage and her life on the line. Great local color. (Review copy received from author)
what-lightWhat Light by Jay Asher. Sierra spends 11 months of the year on a Christmas tree farm. The rest of the year she lives in a trailer at a tree lot, hours away from home. This might be her family’s last year at the tree lot, and she’s determined to make the most of it. She’s also determined to give the cute guy who buys trees for poor families a change, even though plenty of locals warn her that he’s trouble. Great premise, well-told story. Appropriate for high-school students (and it’s not even R-rated!) Reads like a Hallmark Christmas movie, which is not at all a bad thing.
christmas-clubThe Christmas Club by Barbara Hinske. Cute Christmas romance novella; a woman loses an envelope of money–all she has for Christmas gifts. Two kindhearted people replace the money, then separately learn how the people who found the lost cash were impacted by the windfall. A series of near misses for the two who replaced the money keeps the story going. This is a sweet, feel-good Christmas story and a quick read.
grace-crasherThe Grace Crasher by Mara Faro. In love with being in love, Julia obsesses over finding an affordable apartment right near her latest crush, a musician who makes her feel like the only person in his audience. Problem is, the only place her budget can handle comes with strings attached: she has to pretend she’s a born-again Christian. What’s an erstwhile Catholic girl to do? And how will she handle it when her landlady’s son discovers that she’s not the person she pretends to be? I enjoyed the local setting of this novel, and I think I’ve been to the Christian bookstore that figures so prominently in the plot (or one suspiciously like it). A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.
someday-someday-maybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. Cute story of a struggling aspiring actress in NYC whose self-sabotaging behavior makes for a fun read, with a little bit of audience frustration thrown in for good measure. WHY does she have to go for the wrong guy? WHY does she go with THAT agent? My favorite part: the pages ripped straight from Franny’s Filofax, between each chapter. Franny’s roommates are terrific characters and merit stories of their own!
destiny-of-sunshine-ranchThe Destiny of Sunshine Ranch by T.M. Gaouette. This novel peeks into the world of children in foster care, kids who have experienced things no child ever should. Sunshine Ranch is the home of a vulnerable child’s dreams, with loving, faithful couple Martha and David caring for and educating 10 children who are in the foster-care system. Life at the ranch is not without its challenges, especially for 10-year-old Benedict who has had things particularly rough. This heartwarming tale has an unexpected ending.
more-than-a-promiseMore than a Promise by Ruth Logan Herne. Grieving the very public breakup of her marriage, artist Elle returns to her hometown to set up her studio and start over. She’s equally captivated and irritated by the 3 young motherless boys next door, left to run wild while their father runs the family business. When the boys’ grandmother threatens the only home they’d ever known, Elle comes up with a crazy scheme to keep the family together and announces her engagement to their dad. The premise is pretty far-fetched, but this novel is worth reading just for the great portrayals of the children.
when-you-reach-meWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This novel for middle-school students follows a city kid who’s on her own after school and must navigate a world that includes the usual middle-school friendship dramas, plus gang violence, homelessness and a series of mysterious notes. There’s a time-travel element as well. Great suspense!
beyond-carouselBeyond the Carousel. Bette Lee Crosby continues her Wyattsville saga with yet another story that reinforces my wish to live in a town just like it. This novel spans three generations of a family whose happy life is shattered by a senseless, unsolved murder. Detective Jack Mahoney, out of love for the granddaughter of the murder victim, stakes his career on solving the crime. Don’t think this is just a mystery, though–it’s a three-generation love story.
(Review based on advance reader copy via Socialbook.) This novel will be released in January 2017.

Nonfiction

fearless-lg-coverFearless by Sonja Corbitt puts fear and anxiety into a different perspective, framing them as spiritual attacks and providing tools with which to vanquish them. In short, Fearless is all about spiritual warfare. A mix of personal testimony, quotes from Scripture and the saints and plenty of wise counsel round out this book, which begs to be read (and reread) slowly and with pen and journal close by. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher)

Teresa-21Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta by Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi Hess Saxton has collected some of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s most inspiring words and paired them with prayers, daily Mass readings and calls to action in a newly-published seasonal daily devotional. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher)

who-does-he-say-you-areWho Does He Say You Are? by Colleen C. Mitchell. Expect to be surprised, challenged and changed. Colleen brings out the qualities in several Gospel women that are in every woman, and directs our spiritual journey as we discover how we can be healed as they were. Throughout the book, she shares her own journey of brokenness, faith, healing and trust. The Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter aren’t merely journal prompts: they are calls to action. (Review copy received from publisher)

missing-kennedyThe Missing Kennedy by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Examining the lives of Rosemary Kennedy and the Franciscan nun who cared for her during most of her adult life, Pentacoff’s book connects a privileged handicapped woman who lived a sequestered life with the very ordinary women who ministered to and visited her. The author grew up around Rosemary Kennedy, who was cared for by Sister Paulus, the author’s aunt. Koehler-Pentacoff, along with her parents, was present for holidays, birthdays and ordinary days with Rosemary Kennedy. This is a chronicle of an era when mental illness was misunderstood, and treatments for mental illness were dramatically different than the treatment available today. The book is not a comprehensive biography of Rosemary Kennedy, but the story of how Ms. Kennedy’s life intersected with that of the author. (I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purposes of this review.)

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!

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt

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Sonja Corbitt’s Fearless puts fear and anxiety into a different perspective, framing them as spiritual attacks and providing tools with which to vanquish them. In short, Fearless is all about spiritual warfare.

Before reading Sonja’s book, I thought of spiritual warfare as something that was undertaken by the clergy or exorcists or very holy people. Fearless brings home the point that we are all subject to attack. “At its deepest root,” Sonja explains, “fear is a spiritual battle with a spiritual enemy.” (6)

Fear comes from the enemy: my enemy, your enemy, and God’s enemy. In affirming the spiritual basis of my fear I am not blaming myself for struggling with it; I am simply acknowledging that I am somehow being manipulated. As St. Anthony [of Padua] said, ‘Fear not. ‘Tis but an artifice of the Evil One to distract you.'” (7; emphasis mine)

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A mix of personal testimony, quotes from Scripture and the saints and plenty of wise counsel round out this book, which begs to be read (and reread) slowly and with pen and journal close by. Each chapter of the book is divided into sections that are a good length for personal meditation or group discussion. At the end of each chapter, you’ll find a review, an invitation to further action, and a God Prompt, followed by group-discussion questions.

Sonja Corbitt challenges readers to use love as a weapon against destructive fear. Advent is the perfect time to read a book like Fearless: to take up the challenge of fighting the enemy behind the fear and embracing life with confidence.

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 by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Ornamental Graces: Book Tour and Character Interview

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Carolyn Astfalk’s newest novel, Ornamental Graces, is a Catholic romance with Theology of the Body underpinning the story.

This novel chronicles the on-again, off-again romance between Emily, a young teacher obsessed with all things French, and Dan, whose wounds from a past relationship make him wary of starting over. There are some terrific peripheral characters as well; you’ll want to adopt Grandma. Will Dan be able to finally put his past behind him and open up to new love?

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As part of her blog book tour, Carolyn generously agreed to allow me to interview the supporting characters in the novel.

GRANDMA

What was it about Emily that made you encourage Dan to pursue a relationship with her? 

Oh, I’d like to think after all these years I’m a pretty good judge of character. But I’ll tell you what tipped me off. When we were at the grocery store, there was a young woman with two little ones. While the mother was tending to the toddler having a tantrum in the cart, the older child had helped by getting the eggs – and dropping them on the floor. Emily alerted someone from the store and tried to soothe the mother, who was at the brink of tears. Emily was kind, considerate and helpful. Told me a lot about the kind of young lady she is. I knew that kind of woman would love my Daniel the way he deserved to be loved. And Daniel needed to see what a blessing Emily would be in his life. That she would bring all his better instincts to the surface and help him be the kind of man anyone would be proud to call a friend, a grandson, or a husband.

Tell us about how the power of a grandmother’s prayer was at work in changing Dan’s life.

I pray for each of my grandchildren by name every day, but it’s no secret that Daniel has been special to me. As he grew older, he took care of me more than I took care of him. If I told you all the ways, the list would be long and boring. When he broke up with what’s-her-name, I know he was broken-hearted. I thought given a little time, he’d perk up, but instead he seemed to drift further and further from, well, just about everything good in his life. That’s when I started saying novenas for him, having Masses said, and I particularly called on the Blessed Mother, because she knows what it’s like to watch a son – and that’s what Daniel was to me in many ways – suffer. I know God hears all our prayers, but he doesn’t always answer how and when we’d like. But in this case, he gave me my heart’s desire. I’ve never been prouder of anyone than I was of Daniel when he turned back to God and turned his life around. I’d been praying for the right woman to come along too, and I believe Emily is the answer to that prayer.

ROBERT 

You’re the one who really set up Emily and Dan (or was it Elizabeth?) What was it about the two of them that led you to want them to get together?

He’s a man, she’s a woman, and, frankly, with soon-to-be eight people in this little house, we can’t spare a square foot for Emily. But, seriously, the possibility of getting them together came up while Emily was in her own place anyway. Elizabeth’s been telling me for years I’ve been too overprotective of my sister, so, I’d been making a conscious effort to treat her like a grown-up. Most of the time. And when I looked at her that way, I realized that she’s really something special. You should see her with my kids. I’ve always known she’d make someone a great wife and be a great mom too. But I didn’t want her to settle for just any guy. When I met Dan, I could see them together. They’re both pretty easy-going but hard-working. They take their faith seriously and they like kids. Seemed like a good fit to me.

How did you handle the issue of your good friend dating your little sister?

If I had realized how complicated those two would make it, I might’ve thought twice about the whole thing. On again, off again, on again, off again. I couldn’t keep up. And Dan certainly put me in an awkward position a time or two. I just tried to be straight with both of them and honor whatever they asked of me. Y’know, just be the brother she needed and the friend he needed.

ELIZABETH 

Did you think it was a good idea for Robert to set Dan up with Emily? 

Gosh, yes. Robert was just going to offer to introduce them when he got around to it. Who knows when that would’ve been! So, I took things into my own hands and made plans to get them both around our table at the same time. Listen, we’ve been married awhile, but I know how hard it is to meet people, and Emily – not that she was super picky or anything – but she was looking for a guy with certain values. And, she’s not the most outgoing girl around. After I met Dan and had a pretty good sense of what kind of man he was, I couldn’t wait to give them a chance to get to know one another.

How did the dynamics of their relationship affect your relationship with your sister-in-law?

Well, like Robert said, the whole on again, off again thing was tough to navigate. Maybe it’s because the biggest drama around here is created by people who can’t even use the potty consistently, but I’ll admit to a few eye rolls behind her back. [laughs] But Emily is so dear to me. I’ve watched her grow up. And to watch her fall in love . . . [sigh]. Their whole relationship, with all the starts and stops, meant she needed a friend, and at the same time, so did I. It was the first time we related solely woman to woman. I don’t think of her so much as Robert’s little sister anymore as I do my friend.

KRISTEN

If you’d had the chance to speak with Emily about Dan before they met each other, what would you tell her?

If you’d have asked me a year ago, my answer would be pretty different. But today, uh, I’d tell her to treat him right. That’s he’s a good guy at heart. Maybe I should’ve been a bit more careful with that heart. I don’t know. It’s kind of a time I’d really like to put behind me. We both made mistakes. Mostly me, maybe. I’d tell her to just let him love her.

Visit the other stops on Carolyn’s book tour, and sign up for her author newsletter for news of her next projects, recipes, playlists and more!

About the author: Carolyn Astfalk lives with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the wind carries either the scent of chocolate or cow manure. She is a CatholicMom.com contributor and author of the contemporary inspirational romances Stay With Me (Full Quiver Publishing) and Ornamental Graces. (Barb’s note: this bio was provided by Carolyn. I’d like to add that she’s funny, creative, and a really good sport. Follow her on Twitter @CMAstfalk.)

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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.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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The newly-canonized Saint Teresa of Calcutta is especially compelling, I think, because many of us remember when she was still alive, serving the most vulnerable and needy. Saint Teresa did more than serve, though–she inspired through her words and her example.

Heidi Hess Saxton has collected some of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s most inspiring words and paired them with prayers, daily Mass readings and calls to action in a newly-published seasonal daily devotional. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint.

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Advent devotionals based on daily Mass readings are difficult to put together, as Advent does not have the same number of days each year, and there are special feasts (St. Nicholas, the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe) to consider as well. Heidi has taken care to offer a guide to navigating the liturgical calendar as you read this book, so that it can be used year after year. As a reader, I appreciate such attention to detail!

Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta actually runs through the Octave of Christmas, with a bonus meditation for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, so be sure you don’t put it away on December 24.

In the meditation for the first Sunday of Advent, Heidi summarizes the purpose of this book:

As Christians, every part of our life is oriented toward our place as citizens in the kingdom of God. We are called to love. We are called to serve. We are called to recognize the face of Christ in everyone around us, even our enemies, for the greater good of all….As we begin our Advent journey, consider how God is calling you to choose the way of peace for the good of all…beginning with yourself. (3-4)

This daily devotional for Advent is one you’ll be able to stick with; I had a hard time putting it down! I highly recommend praying with this book through the Advent season and Octave of Christmas.

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 from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: Who Does He Say You Are?

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When you open up Colleen C. Mitchell’s book, Who Does He Say You Are, expect to be surprised, challenged and changed.

I took the “Which Gospel Woman Are You?” quiz before beginning to read the book, and I got a result that didn’t surprise me: I’m Martha. As Colleen observes in the chapter on Martha and Mary of Bethany, Martha is “stuck in her either/or mindset”–a place I often find myself as well. So when I started reading this book, I didn’t expect the women in the other chapters to resonate with me; after all, I’m Martha.

Turns out, I’m challenged to be like Anna the prophetess, and the woman with a hemorrhage, and the Syrophoenician woman, and, yes, Martha. And so are you.

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Colleen brings out the qualities in each of these women (and several more) that are in every woman, and directs our spiritual journey as we discover how we can be healed as they were. Throughout the book, she shares her own journey of brokenness, faith, healing and trust. The Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter aren’t merely journal prompts: they are calls to action.

We are not all called to be missionaries in remote parts of the world as Colleen and her family are, but we are called, Colleen reminds us.

“I do not know your story. Yours may read  lot like mine, or it may be altogether different. But I do know this: wherever you are in that story, God desires to draw near to you and remind you who you are. In the midst of your cracks and suffering and hard places and pain, he has a love letter to offer you. He handed it to your sisters of the Gospels in person. He hands it to you now through their stories. And I believe that in these stories there is healing and grace and purpose for you. There is wholeness and newness for the having.
And I know with every fiber of my being that God wants that for you. Because he says that you are loved by him.” (from the Prologue)

When you open Who Does He Say You Are?, open your mind and heart to the surprises and challenges within it. Be prepared to open your soul to God’s transforming love.

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 by the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

An Open Book: October 2016 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

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

image-and-likenessImage and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body, edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable. What, exactly, are “literary reflections on the Theology of the Body?” They’re stories and poems about how we live, and how we live our lives in relationship with each other, with our bodies, with our souls, and with God. It’s not some complicated, esoteric subject. Because it’s an anthology, there’s something for everyone, from detective stories to poetry to tales of family life that range from the harrowing to the uplifting. These stories and poems are about life. Like life, they are not always neat and tidy and packaged in a pretty box with a crisply-tied ribbon. I’ve come to expect just this from other work from Full Quiver Publishing: this publisher does not shy away from difficult subjects and situations in its commitment to promoting the culture of life and the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. Read my full review. (ARC provided by author)

og-front-cover-finalOrnamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk. This is no Harlequin/gothic/bodice-ripper/shades-of-grey novel. That’s not Carolyn Astfalk’s style. Ornamental Graces, like her previous novel, Stay with Me, is a Catholic romance with Theology of the Body underpinning the story. This novel tells the story of the on-again, off-again romance between Emily, a young teacher obsessed with all things French, and Dan, whose wounds from a past relationship make him wary of starting over. There are some terrific peripheral characters as well; you’ll want to adopt Grandma. Will Dan be able to finally put his past behind him and open up to new love? Read my full review. (ARC provided by author)

i-believe-you-by-jeanne-grunertI Believe You by Jeanne Grunert. David Majek and his sons are still finding their way 6 months after his wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver who was never apprehended for the crime. Then strange things start happening: a man in a fedora is watching the house, David’s bank account is drained of funds overnight, and as David struggles to maintain his household, run the family business and untangle these mysteries, details come to light that threaten to tear the family apart. I don’t usually read suspense novels, preferring fare that is more character-driven. But I found that David Majek’s character was quite well-developed in this novel, and it didn’t take long for me to get drawn into the story. Read my full review. (Review copy provided by author)

journey-to-the-crossJourney to the Cross by Shane Cloonan. The story in this children’s picture book is told from the point of view of the donkey who carried the Blessed Mother to Bethlehem, where she would give birth to Jesus; in this tale, the same donkey carried Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Passion Sunday, 33 years later. This book by a teenage author is worth adding to your Christmas-book basket. (ARC received from publisher)

unexpected-roleAn Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl. This YA book is about a high-school theatre geek who doesn’t fit in with the cool kids and who’s been the target of some in-person pranks and cyberbullying. Seeking a fresh start, she spends the summer with her aunt, only to keep running into one of the cool kids from home. Josie and Ryan get wrapped up in trying to solve a rash of local robberies. Great characters, painfully real situations, mystery and even a love interest–with some wisdom in the side. (I liked Wahl’s other work so much I preordered this one as soon as I heard about it!)

under-rose-tainted-skiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall. A housebound teenager battles agoraphobia and OCD. Left home alone for weeks while her mother goes on a business trip and recovers from a car accident, Norah develops a friendship with the boy next door, who shows her that not everyone sees her as a freak. The author does well at getting into the head of a teen battling mental illness, but the concept of leaving so unstable a teen home alone for any length of time didn’t ring true. (Netgalley review)

unnamed-9Nameless by Erin McCole Cupp. This second in a 3-part futuristic sendup of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre will keep you up nights! In Nameless, Jane_E is now employed as a live-in tutor for her employer’s young ward, and works there several weeks before meeting her employer. Once she does, though, sparks begin to fly! As Jane_E is convinced of her own ugliness, awkwardness and unworthiness, she questions Thorne’s motives and doubts his sincerity. Inevitably, romance ensues–but then the mysterious source of strange household events is revealed, and this threatens Jane_E’s integrity as well as her relationship with Thorne. I found this installment of the story even more suspenseful than the first part. Highly recommended! Read my full review. (ARC provided by author)

Nonfiction

loehr-2aThe Church is Our Mother by Gina Loehr. The author breaks down the functions of the Church into 7 activities which every mother is familiar with doing: creating, caring, teaching, accepting, sacrificing, healing and celebrating. Loehr compares the work of a mother with the work of the Church in concrete ways. Read my full review. (ARC provided by publisher)

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!

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