On Barb’s Bookshelf: Dying for Compassion

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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.


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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: 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

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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?


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.