On Barb’s Bookshelf: Julia’s Gifts

Book Tour Promo-1.jpg

When you open up Ellen Gable’s newest novel, Julia’s Gifts, prepare to be charmed.

As you continue reading, prepare to weep a little — and smile a little more.

Julia’s Gifts begins in Philadelphia during World War I, but the scene quickly shifts to France as the plucky twenty-year-old protagonist gamely makes her way to the battlefront to serve in a field hospital.

Before crossing the Atlantic, however, Julia is busy purchasing Christmas gifts for her family. Years before, when her mother suggested that she begin to pray for her future spouse, Julia decided to take things one step further and make or purchase a Christmas gift for her beloved each year. She already has two pairs of hand-knit socks, plus a leather-bound pocket notebook,  stashed away; this year, determined that this will be the year she meets her beloved, she overspends on a beautiful engraved pocket watch.

I loved Julia’s hopefulness, shown that December of 1917 when she spent nearly all she had on a gift for someone she had not yet met. These gifts figure significantly in the story — because she brings them to a war zone with her, in the hopes that she’ll get to give them to her one true love. Instead, she finds that she’s called to sacrifice them in ways she never imagined.

 

Final Julia's Gifts Front rev.jpg

Because I enjoyed Julia’s story so much, I was happy to learn that this is the first of a trilogy called “Great War Great Love.” Here’s what you can expect from the next two books:

Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and takes place at approximately the same time as Julia’s Gifts, but focuses on a different female protagonist, Charlotte, who finds her purpose in life when she begins working in the death ward and holding men’s hands as they die.  She is attracted to Canadian Dr. Paul Kilgallen. During an advance by the enemy, everyone at the field hospital evacuates, except for Charlotte and Dr. K.  They remain hidden in the basement of the chateau to take care of the terminally ill men and those soldiers who can’t be moved. Charlotte becomes convinced that Paul is her own “beloved.” But when she loses contact with Paul, she fears not only for his safety, but begins to doubt his love for her.  Charlotte’s Honor will be released in late 2018.

Ella’s Promise is Book #3 in the series. It is about the daughter of German immigrants, Ella, an American nurse who (because of the time period) was discouraged from continuing on in her studies to be a doctor.  She works as a nurse for three years in Philadelphia but reads medical books every opportunity she gets. During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own beloved in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.

Julia’s Gifts is written for a YA audience and will appeal to young teen readers as well as adults. Be assured that while it is a historical romance, it is a “clean romance” and you can feel safe handing it to your daughters to enjoy — as long as they have the stomach for the inevitable description of war injuries.

Read the first few pages:

December 17, 1917

The bustling streets of Center City Philadelphia shimmered with electric lights, heralding that Christmas was near. Julia Marie Murphy lifted her head and gazed upward. The night sky was filled with snow clouds, the air brisk. She pulled on her gloves and buttoned the top of her coat. Her thoughts turned to her future husband. Dear God in heaven, please protect my beloved.

Tens of thousands of American men had already enlisted to fight in this “Great War.” The gentlemen that Julia knew seemed anxious to join, and Julia thanked God that her three brothers were too young to fight.

In a few short weeks, it would be 1918.  All of her father’s friends and acquaintances expected the war to end soon, hopefully before the middle of the year.  But 1918 held far more significance for Julia.  This would be the year that she would turn 21.

She approached Lit Brothers department store, admiring the display windows that were outlined with colored electric lights. Julia was thankful that it was Monday. If it were Thursday, the ban on electric lights (in support of the war effort) would mean the windows would be dark.

Julia stared, transfixed, through the window at the tall display. Shimmery red fabric hung from a back wall, a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch lay on top of a cylindrical pedestal.  Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag: $12.25, almost 20 percent of her annual salary. But it was beautiful and every man needed one. The price notwithstanding, this would be a perfect gift for her beloved. Yes, it was extravagant, especially during wartime. Yes, there were less expensive items she could purchase. It didn’t matter. This was the ideal gift.

After purchasing it, she took it to the engraving department on the second floor. Behind the counter, the tall, lanky middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache smiled. “What would you like engraved on this?”

“To my beloved, next line, all my love, Julia.”

His eyebrows lifted.  “I’m certain the gentleman would prefer to have his Christian name engraved on this lovely timepiece.  Don’t you agree?”

“Well, yes, I imagine he would.  But I don’t really know his name or who he is yet.”

The man’s mouth fell open and he stuttered.  “I’m..I’m…s…sorry, Miss. I…I don’t understand.  You’ve bought an expensive pocket watch for someone you don’t know?”

Julia sighed.  She shouldn’t have said anything.

“Please just use the words I gave you.”

The man nodded and regarded Julia with an expression of suspicious curiosity, a look one might give a person in an asylum.

“How long will it take?”

“For the engraving?  Ten days.  Sorry, Miss, but you won’t have it in time for Christmas.”

“That’s all right.” Julia turned and walked a few steps and heard the salesman mumble, “Now there’s an odd girl.  Buying a gift for someone she doesn’t know. Tsk tsk.”

Sighing, she checked her own wristwatch and hurried out of the store to begin the three-block walk to her trolley stop.  If she didn’t get there in time for the five p.m. streetcar, she would be waiting half an hour.

This year Julia was determined that she would meet her beloved, the man for whom she had been praying these past four years. Why hadn’t she met him yet?  Some of her friends were already married. Her beloved was out there and she would find him.  Yes, 1918 would also be the year that she would meet her beloved.

Each December, Julia wondered what she would buy her beloved for Christmas. Last year, she searched different stores but found nothing special. She finally discovered — and bought — a brown leather pocket journal at a specialty store at Broad and Bigler Streets. She didn’t know whether her beloved would be the sort to write in one, but it seemed like an appropriate gift, especially since it had a delicate leaf embossed on the cover. The year before, she had bought a sterling silver Miraculous Medal because her beloved would be Catholic.

That first year, her mother suggested that she begin praying for her future husband.  After a few weeks of doing so, Julia felt inspired to do more. It had been the week before Christmas, so she decided that she would buy or make him a Christmas gift each year until they met.  With no job and no money that year, Julia knit him two pairs of socks, one blue-green and one green-brown, with finely-made yarn that her mother had given her.

The fact that she had made or bought gifts, and had spent hard-earned money for her future husband, had not pleased her father as he thought it too impractical and sentimental. Her mother, however, had declared that it was a beautiful gesture. Of course, if Mother knew how much she had spent on the most recent gift, she was pretty certain her mother wouldn’t be happy.

Julia’s Gifts is available on Kindle and in paperback from Full Quiver Publishing.
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

Advertisements

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

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.

Rightfully Ours cover

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.

 

DSC_1055A - Version 2

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

 

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

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.

Dying for Revenge Final Front

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: 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!

Turning the Tables: Working Mother

When an author releases a new book, she often schedules a virtual book tour on various blogs. These tours feature interviews, promotions and book reviews. I’ve hosted several stops on virtual blog book tours as a way to help authors promote their new books.

erin mccole cupp author photoMy friend Erin McCole-Cupp has taken a different route upon the December 28 release of her novella, Working Mother. She’s interviewing a bunch of moms at her own blog, and today is my turn!

It was an honor to be interviewed as part of Erin’s promotion of her newest piece of short fiction. I’d like to tell you a bit about the story:

Working Mother is a well-researched piece of short fiction in which the Holy Family, in exile in Egypt after King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, faces a crisis after Joseph is injured at work. Living hand-to-mouth in a refugee camp, Mary seizes an opportunity to help support her family while Joseph recovers from his injury.

working motherThis short story proves that Erin McCole-Cupp’s writing chops aren’t limited to the 80s (see Don’t You Forget About Me), the future (see Jane E., Friendless Orphan) or the 90s (see her highly-anticipated sequel to DYFAM, currently in progress).

I love the cover image on this book, which was published by Full Quiver Publishing.

And I loved the story. I hope that Erin’s imagination will lead her to continue the tale. After all, we’ve only got that one story of Jesus’ youth–the Finding in the Temple at the age of 12. And then there’s nothing until his public ministry when he was about 30. That should give Erin plenty to work with.

Enjoy Working Mother. The short story is only 99 cents and it speaks to the devotion of the Blessed Mother for her son and for her husband. I give it 5 stars, and I want to read more!

 

Book Review: The Lion’s Heart

lions heart book coverThe plot of Dena Hunt’s new novel centers on the same-sex attraction between two characters, but at its core, the book explores the question, “what is love?”

Distinguishing love from lust and infatuation proves to be a challenge for more than one character in The Lion’s Heart, As I read the novel, I often found myself wondering who was the real victim in the situation. In the end, the answer was surprising.

Although two main characters in the novel share a same-sex relationship, the book is unequivocally Catholic. The reader is not beaten over the head with Catholic moral teaching, but instead is gently led by characters and events to understand that actions have consequences and that sacrifice and forgiveness can bring healing.

The truths revealed through the story of Max and Paul’s relationship is less about same-sex attraction and more about all human relationships. This is not a novel for a niche market, but a compelling story, well-told, that will lead any reader to soul-searching.

Dena HuntDena Hunt, award-winning author of Treason, is skilled at telling stories that keep the reader intrigued and provide much food for thought.

The Lion’s Heart is currently available on Kindle and is published by Full Quiver Publishing.

The fine print: I received a review copy of this book, and no other compensation, in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts expressed here are my own.