On Barb’s Bookshelf: Rightfully Ours

I’m thrilled to help introduce Carolyn Astfalk’s most-recent novel, Rightfully Ours (Full Quiver Publishing, 2017.) This one is written for the YA audience, but I’ve read it twice already and savored every page, so don’t leave it for just teenagers to enjoy! The book is already available for Kindle and the print edition can be pre-ordered–it will ship the week after Easter.

Rightfully Ours blog book tour/Barb Szyszkiewicz/Franciscanmom.com
Copyright 2017 Carolyn Astfalk. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

In this refreshing YA romance, readers have the chance to get into the head of the romantic hero. Paul lives in the Muellers’ guesthouse during his father’s deployment. He and Rachel, his landlords’ daughter, find their friendship turning into something deeper; while they struggle against temptation and Rachel’s dad’s opposition to their relationship, they discover historic artifacts buried beneath Rachel’s flower garden. I found Paul to be a more likable character than Rachel, perhaps because she is a few years younger than he and a little more immature.

A coming-of-age story of first love, buried treasure, and discovering some things are worth the wait.

 

One of the ways Carolyn helps to make her characters more real to the reader is by offering extras such as recipes, playlists and more. In this novel, music plays a huge role: when Paul inherits his father’s iPod, he listens to it to keep his connection to his dad alive. He puts the songs on shuffle and discovers that very often the song lyrics speak directly to a situation he’s working through. Carolyn has set up a Spotify playlist with the songs referenced in the novel. You can find that playlist, plus two recipes and other bonus content, on the Rightfully Ours Extras page.

Carolyn describes Rightfully Ours as a “Theology of the Body coming-of-age story.” That doesn’t mean it’s full of heavy theological content. It does mean that this book deals with the very real issues of sexual temptation that teens face, and the characters are challenged to reconcile their moral beliefs with their impulses to give in to that temptation. Readers also get a look at what parents of teenagers go through when they see their teens facing these issues.

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About the author: Carolyn Astfalk is a friend of mine and fellow Catholic Writers Guild member. She resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where it smells like either chocolate or manure, depending on wind direction. Carolyn is the author of the inspirational romances Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters and a CatholicMom.com contributor. Formerly, she served as the communications director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops. True to her Pittsburgh roots, she still says “pop” instead of “soda,” although her beverage of choice is tea.You can find her online here: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and at CarolynAstfalk.com.

 

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Visit the other stops on the Rightfully Ours book launch tour:

Monday, April 3 Virginia Lieto http://virginialieto.com

Tuesday, April 4 Bird Face Wendy https://birdfacewendy.wordpress.com

Wednesday, April 5 Plot Line and Sinker https://ellengable.wordpress.com

Thursday, April 6 Sarah Damm http://sarahdamm.com and Our Hearts are Restless heartsarerestless.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 8 Olivia Folmar Ard http://www.oliviafolmarard.com

Sunday, April 9 Things Visible & Invisible https://catholicbooksblog.wordpress.com/

Monday, April 10 Terry’s Thoughts www.thouchin.com and Erin McCole Cupp http://erinmccolecupp.com

Thursday, April 11 Peace to All Who Enter Here dmulcare.wordpress.com

Wednesday, April 12 Plot Line and Sinker https://ellengable.wordpress.com

 

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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: This Dread Road

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: 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!
This Blog Tour is Hosted By


En Pointe Author Services

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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Ornamental Graces: Book Tour and Character Interview

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: Unclaimed

Tired of the same old beach reads already this summer? Why not step out of your comfort zone and try a book that’s like nothing you’ve ever read before?

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Unclaimed, a dystopian spin on Jane Eyre, transports the reader into a world that, disturbingly, seems just around the corner. I was captivated by Jane E’s boldness and resilience as she navigated the challenging circumstances of living with a genetic defect in a designer-gene world. Erin McCole Cupp’s novel is a blend of three genres I rarely read (19th-century novel, dystopian fiction and fanfic) and it’s definitely a combo that works.

Unclaimed is the first of three novellas in the “Jane_E” series; the next installment is scheduled for release in early October.

I read this book before the cover design was released, and I’m beyond impressed at how well the design complements the story.

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A QUICK INTERVIEW with Erin McCole Cupp, author of Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan (Book 1)

 
Q: So what made you think you could get away with rewriting Jane Eyre?
 
EMC: I never expected to get away with it! I think of it as more of a translation than a rewrite, anyway, and when you’re reading a translation, you must always keep in mind that it is but a pale image of the original.  At any rate, way back in Y2K, I had spent the first part of the year reading a steady diet of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling–the revered trifecta of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction.  When our summer vacation came around, I decided I’d take a vacation from reading for professional development as an aspiring SF writer and bought a bunch of books from the literary classics bargain bin at a boardwalk bookshop.  A few chapters into Jane Eyre, my mind kept throwing up these weird parallels between the character of Helen Burns as Jane’s spirit guide and the character of Molly as Case’s spirit guide in Gibson’s Neuromancer. I remember thinking, “Wow, Jane Eyre would’ve made great cyberpunk.” [beat] “Oh, crap, now I have to write it!”  
 
Q:  That was sixteen years ago, and the first edition of Jane_E dropped a decade ago. What made you decide to revisit your first novel and rerelease it electronically? 
 
EMC: I just think (“hope” might be a better word) that the audience might be ready for it a bit more now compared to ten years ago.  I’d already been thinking of re-releasing it as a single book and getting a fresh cover, having it available in hard copy as well as electronic format.  However… it’s a long book when taken all in one slice! Jane’s story (mine as well as the Bronte version) also divides itself naturally into three parts: her early years, her developing relationship with her employer, and then everything that happens after that relationship catches fire, for lack of a better term (and those of you who’ve read Jane Eyre know of which I speak).  I figured that by breaking it down into smaller portions, a reader could take a chance on Book 1 (Unclaimed) without the commitment to some giant tome.  Of course if you want the giant tome, that’s still available.        
 
Q: So when do the next two books come out?  
 
EMC:  I’m looking at October 7 for Nameless (Book 2)  and December 6 for Runaway.  
 
Q: Why make us wait so long?!
 
EMC: Because I’m mean.  Ha!  Actually, there’s the cover art to take care of, thanks to Fiona Jayde Media.  I also wanted to give the text a little extra polish that may have gotten lost in the initial editing, which was done when I had infant twins.  I’m working with Rebecca Willen over at Our Hearts are Restless, and she’s great–reasonable, thorough, no-nonsense–but I’m also letting those aforementioned twins (now 12 and homeschooled) provide an additional level of copyediting.  
 
Q: What’s that like, letting your children correct your work?
 
EMC:  You mean, besides the weird factor of letting them read something on the edgy side that came out of my brain before they were even born?  Actually, it’s a lot less stressful than I thought it would be.  It’s a good way to model humility, really.  I mean, I’m the one always correcting their work, and now I’m letting them turn the tables.  I think it’s good for all three of us.   
 
Q: Any other projects in the works?  
 
EMC:  Always!  Besides the Jane E series, I’m a contributor to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, which is available on pre-order for an August 29th release.  I’m also working with Ellen Gable of Full Quiver Publishing on an anthology of Theology of the Body fiction and poetry tentatively titled Image and Likeness.  That’s exciting, working with so many talented authors, and that’s scheduled for a October 22 release.  Finally, I’m still pecking away at the first draft of the sequel to my murder mystery Don’t You Forget About Me.  

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: Dying for Revenge by Dr. Barbara Golder Plus a GIVEAWAY!

Sometimes it pays off to go a little outside your comfort zone when you choose a new book to read. I don’t normally pick up medical thrillers, fearing that they might be too scary and/or gory for me. For that reason, I hesitated a  bit when I was invited to participate in this book tour.

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about when it came to Dr. Barbara Golder’s novel, Dying for Revenge. It’s heavy on the suspense with none of the blood and guts. In other words, it kept me turning pages (and pages and pages), but I was still able to sleep without nightmares and I didn’t lose my appetite.

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I can’t watch shows like CSI on TV, but the detective work connected with forensic pathology is fascinating. In Dying for Revenge, the main character is a pathologist/investigator haunted by her own grief and desire for revenge. There’s much more than a mystery in this thriller; it’s the story of a soul in torment. And I stayed up way too late reading it.

I was happy to learn that there are 10 novels planned for the Lady Doc Murders series (this is the first). I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Here’s the synopsis of the novel, courtesy of FQ Publishing: 

Someone is killing the rich and famous residents of Telluride, Colorado, and the medical investigator, Dr. Jane Wallace, is on a collision course with the murderer. Compelled by profound loss and injustice, Jane will risk her own life to protect others from vengeful death, even as she exacts a high price from those who have destroyed her world. Dying for Revenge is a story of love, obsession and forgiveness, seen through the eyes of a passionate, beautiful woman trying to live her life — imperfectly but vibrantly — even if she won’t survive.

Who wants to win a copy of this novel? Simply leave a comment on this post to enter (yes, “Pick me!!!!!” counts!) I’ll leave the giveaway open until 11:59 PM Friday, June 10 and then choose one lucky winner at random. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to reply with mailing information before forfeiting the prize to a second-choice winner.

Visit the other stops on the Dying for Revenge Virtual Book Tour!

Wednesday, June 1 Ellen Gable Hrkach: Plot Line, and Sinker

Thursday, June 2  Sarah Reinhard: snoringscholar.com/

Friday, June 3, Patrice McArthur: spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 4, A.K. Frailey: akfrailey.com/

Sunday, June 5, Erin McCole Cupp: erinmccolecupp.com

Monday, June 6 Carolyn Astfalk: My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

Tuesday, June 7 Theresa Linden: Things Visible & Invisible

and Jean Heimann: catholicfire.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 8 Virginia Lieto: virginialieto.com/

Thursday, June 9 Christopher Blunt: christophercblunt.wordpress.com/

and Michael Seagriff: harvestingthefruitsofcontemplation.blogspot.ca/

Friday, June 10 Therese Heckenkamp: thereseheckenkamp.com/

Saturday, June 11 Plot Line and Sinker, Interview: ellengable.wordpress.com/

The Fine Print: I was provided an advance copy of this novel for the purposes of this review. I received no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone. Your purchase of this novel through my Amazon affiliate link helps support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Learning to Love with the Saints Review and Giveaway

Jean Heimann has blogged at Catholic Fire since 2003, and I think I’ve been reading her blog for almost that long. While she covers a wide range of faith-related topics on her blog, saints have come to be her main focus.

Jean’s blog covers the who, what, when and where of the saints whose lives and example have influenced her. Her new spiritual biography, Learning to Love with the Saints, explores the how and why of those saints’ personal influence on her life. In this book, Jean shares her own surprising and inspiring faith story, tracing a path walked with growing devotion and conviction. Learn how Jean’s life was influenced by the stories of the saints.

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Jean shows how Scripture, prayer, and the example and writings of various saints guided her throughout her life. Jean’s personal and family history is viewed through the lens of faith as she interweaves quotes from the saints and family vignettes. Honestly sharing her struggles and her joys, Jean expresses the hope that her story will draw readers to the Truth and, ultimately, closer to God. As you read this book you will come to see the saints, as Jean does, as “heavenly helpers.”

Would you like to win an autographed first-edition copy of Learning to Love with the Saints?

To be entered to win, simply leave a comment on this post answering the question:

Who’s YOUR go-to saint?

This giveaway will be open through 11:59 PM Wednesday, May 25. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours from the time the email is sent to respond. USA only, please!

Visit the other stops on Jean’s Learning to Love with the Saints Book Tour:

May 13 — Ellen Gable Hrkach at Plot, Line, and Sinker
May 14 — Rosemary Bogdan at A Catholic Mother’s Thoughts (with giveaway!)
May 15 — Carolyn Astfalk at My Scribbler’s Heart Blog (with giveaway!)
May 16 — Lisa Mladinich at Patheos
May 17—Nancy HC Ward at Joy Alive in our Hearts (with giveaway!)
May 18 — Esther Gefroh at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii
May 20–Jeannie Ewing at Love Alone Creates (with giveaway!)
May 21– Patrice Faganant McArthur at Spiritual Woman
May 22 — Melanie Jean Juneau at Association of Catholic Women Bloggers and Joy of Nine
May 23–Virginia Lieto at Virginia Lieto (with giveaway!)
May 24 — Tony Agnesi at Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life

The Fine Print: Buy this book through my Amazon link and support FranciscanMom.com with your purchase!
I received an advance review copy of this memoir, but no other compensation, for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Roland West, Loner by Theresa Linden

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Roland West is a ninth-grader who lives in a castle deep in the woods. Before this year, he’d never attended a brick-and-mortar school. Before this year, he was only bullied by his twin older brothers, one of whom is pretty much a psychopath. His dad is an archaeologist who travels frequently. His mom died when he was a young child. Roland is shy, wary of making friends, and wants to avoid gossip, so he finds himself bullied at school as well as at home.

Peter Brandt lives on the other side of the forest from Roland. His parents own a bed & breakfast, his younger brother has autism and is always getting into his stuff, and he’s just inherited an antique box (without the key) from his grandfather. When Peter stumbles upon the dungeon in Roland’s basement where Roland was locked up by his brothers, the two stumble into a mystery with a Communion-of-Saints twist that’s complicated by a creepy substitute teacher.

9780996816847.MAINSo begins Roland West, Loner, a young-adult novel by Theresa Linden. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stayed up way too late one night reading this–yes, it’s for teens, but grownups will enjoy it too.

The Catholic connections in the novel are deeply woven into the plot, but never forced. There’s a powerful scene involving the sacrament of Reconcilation as well as a fascinating subplot involving St. Conrad of Parzham. Readers will learn about, and relate to, this German Franciscan saint who was himself the victim of bullies for most of his life.

Roland West, Loner is a suspenseful read that’s appropriate for middle- and high-school students. I bought a copy for the Catholic school library and one for my own middle-schooler.

About author Theresa Linden: An avid reader and writer since grade school, Theresa Linden grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy. Follow her on Twitter @LindenTheresa and check out her website, Theresa Linden Fiction!

When you purchase this book through any of the affiliate links in this post, you support Franciscanmom.com at no extra cost to you!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Refuge of the Heart Review and Giveaway!

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Crises involving refugees are in the news right now, but once a situation moves off the front page, it becomes easy to forget that refugees are real people with real needs who have gone through really awful situations–and their problems are not solved overnight.

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Love the cover art for this book!

Refuge of the Heart, a new novel by Ruth Logan Herne, introduces the reader to Lena, a young woman who fled war-torn Chechnya with her 5-year-old sister Anna. Lena, who was a medical student on her way to a promising career before the war tore her family and her life apart, wants nothing more than to complete her nursing degree and find a job that pays well enough for her to move to a safer neighborhood with a good school for Anna. As the novel begins, D.A. Mitch Sanderson happens upon Lena and Anna as they discover a flat tire on their car on a snowy night. One broken date later, Mitch arranges for tire repairs for Lena’s car, and slowly goes on to win the independent Lena’s heart.

Lena’s past proves to be a complication for their relationship, as she fears legal reprisal for some of the things she did in order to survive the living hell of war in Chechnya. Mitch’s high-society family doesn’t help matters either.

This novel is a tribute to resiliency of spirit and a life lived gratefully. Lena has very little, but she constantly looks for ways to give back.

FM_Color_LogoTo help me introduce this book to more readers, publisher Franciscan Media is offering a copy of Refuge of the Heart to one lucky reader! To put your name in the hat for a FREE copy of this novel, simply answer this question in the comment box:

Thanksgiving dinner (two of them, actually–one at church and one at Mitch’s family home) is the first holiday celebration Mitch and Lena enjoy together. Name the one dish that must be on your family table for Thanksgiving.

This contest ends Tuesday, October 20 at noon Eastern. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. USA only, please!

Want more chances to win? Visit the other blogs on the book tour and enter your name in their giveaways!

About Author Ruth Logan Herne:

herneBorn into poverty, Ruth Logan Herne is the mother of six and grandmother to thirteen. She and her husband, Dave, live on a small farm in upstate New York. She works full time but carves a few hours each day to write the kind of stories she likes to read, filled with poignancy, warmth and delightful characters. She is the 2011 award winner from the American Christian Fiction Writers.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Stay With Me

Barb's Book shelf blog title

My friend, Catholic author Carolyn Astfalk, is celebrating the October 1 release of her novel, Stay with Me, published by Full Quiver Publishing. Billed as an “edgy Theology of the Body romance,” this book is a nice, thick read at over 300 pages–and I’d have been happy for more!

Stay with Me coverCarolyn Astfalk’s novel combines engaging characters with a plausible plot. The reader is drawn in immediately by Rebecca, who is blundering through the grocery store with her young niece and nephew in tow. You can’t help rooting for this innocent young woman, and you’ll find yourself hoping she’ll hit it off with the courteous guy she meets in the store.

Stay with Me is a great blend of romance and faith witness and comes complete with a great set of supporting characters like Abby (Rebecca’s boisterous sister), Father John (who’s connected to both Rebecca and her love interest) and Rebecca’s overbearing father.

I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of this novel and I really enjoyed it. I have to say that Abby was my favorite character, even though my personality is much more like Rebecca’s. Abby is funny, but with plenty of wisdom underneath, and I think her presence added a lot to the story.

It is important to note that you don’t need to be familiar with Dave Matthews Band music to enjoy this book. While DMB gets mentioned a lot, there’s plenty of other music that plays a role. Check out the playlist for the novel!

At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that Carolyn is a friend. I actually met her over the summer at the Catholic Writers Guild conference, and it was fun to discuss her story, and her characters, with the author in person. That’s reader heaven right there. Because we can’t all be together in one room to talk about the book, I asked Carolyn if she’d answer a few questions to go with this review.

1. Tell us about the fine line you walk in writing “edgy Theology of the Body romance.”

Unless you’re seeking pure escapism, I don’t think there’s much benefit it whitewashing the challenges and temptations inherent in trying to live the virtue of chastity. A story is both more engaging and provides more substance for reflection if the characters experience real problems and inhabit a recognizable world that is often indifferent or hostile to a lifestyle that acknowledges we are male and female, body as much as soul, and what we do with our bodies matters. That said, there are details and intimacies that are better left not even to our imaginations, but simply left out. There’s a point where edgy can become explicit and teeter towards pornography. That’s not a direction I want to take.

2. Which of your novel’s characters would you like to invite to dinner and why? (You can only choose one!)

If I were single, I’d choose Chris because while not perfect, he’s a genuine good guy, and I have an unfulfilled desire to ride on a Harley Davidson. But, being a married woman, I’d like to invite Rebecca’s sister Abby to dinner. You never know what’s going to come out of Abby’s mouth, so it’d be entertaining, and I think we could bond over our lives with several small children underfoot.

3. What’s been the most exciting part about launching this book? Have there been any surprises along the way?

Seeing such a large project come to completion – or at least fulfillment – is exciting. Most of my days are consumed by managing small, immediate tasks such as changing diapers, wiping up messes, and shepherding older kids. Launching a book exercised some completely different parts of my brain and tried my patience in different ways. The biggest surprise has been discovering how gracious and supportive other writers are. It’s been said a million times, but writing a book and finding its niche are not things you can do alone – at least not well. I’ve been blessed by so many people who offered advice, encouragement, and so much more.

 

Want to visit the other stops on Carolyn’s book tour?

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1: CATHOLICMOM.COM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2: RECONCILED TO YOU (ALLISON GINGRAS)
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3: PEACE TO ALL WHO ENTER HERE (DON MULCARE)
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4: KAREN KELLY BOYCE
MONDAY, OCTOBER 5: THERESE HECKENKAMP
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6:CATHOLIC FIRE (JEAN HEIMANN)
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7: SARAH DAMM AND ROBIN PATCHEN
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8: SNORING SCHOLAR (SARAH REINHARD), ERIN McCOLE CUPP, PLOT LINE AND SINKER (ELLEN GABLE)
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9: DOMESTIC VOCATION (CHRISTINE JOHNSON)

Still want more? Sign up for Carolyn’s newsletter!

Carolyn author pictureCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart.

Note: Amazon links to Stay With Me are affiliate links. This means that your purchase of this book, at no extra cost to you, puts a little something into my virtual Amazon tip jar. Thanks!