On Barb’s Bookshelf: Roland West, Outcast

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Theresa Linden’s latest novel in the West Brothers series is based on a scenario that really rings true: a group whose message is “tolerance” or “acceptance” refuses to accept certain people whose moral or political views differ from their own.

In Roland West, Outcast, that group is an after-school club at a high school. In real life … it could be anywhere, and it can happen to people of any age. (It happened to me just recently, and it was just as difficult a situation to navigate in my fifties as it is for my friend’s daughter, who was approached by a large group of students at freshman orientation, trying to pressure her into joining an after-school activity where political correctness is the order of the day. I think that particular 14-year-old handled the situation with much more aplomb than I did.)

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Synopsis: For shy Roland West, speech class is synonymous with humiliation. The last thing he wants is more attention from the gossips and troublemakers of River Run High School. But when an outcast’s house is viciously vandalized, Roland needs to find the perpetrators—before they strike again. Yet nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Suspected by the police and ridiculed for his beliefs, Roland draws closer to the sinister truth. When the perpetrators threaten a good friend, can Roland overcome his fear of speaking out and expose them?

I was impressed by Roland’s strength of character. He might not have the guts to deliver an oral presentation in class, but when it comes to standing up for someone else who’s been victimized, Roland is all in — even when the person he’s trying to help doesn’t seem to want it.

Roland West, Outcast, is perfect for middle- and high-school students who are struggling to find their unique voices in a world where harmony is purported to be prized, but it’s really only unison when you listen closely.

Books in the West Brothers Series (in chronological order, not in order of publication):

Roland West, Loner (read my full review)
Life-Changing Love (read my full review)
Battle for His Soul
Standing Strong
Roland West, Outcast 
(concurrent with Standing Strong)
Anyone But Him (read my full review)

I asked Theresa Linden about the order of the novels, as they’re not all published in chronological order; I was wondering if that made it particularly challenging for an author. (This book does work as a standalone, but I’m all about reading the full series to get the best sense of each character.)

Q: Is it hard to bounce around in the West Brothers’ timeline? Your last book was several years ahead of this one. It must be tough to make sure you don’t say anything in that one that would mess up what you had set up in Anyone But Him.

A: Standing Strong takes place at roughly the same time as Outcast, with one scene in both stories but shown from different perspectives, so that was a bit tricky. I also had to make sure the weather was right, the conversations in the driving scene, and other events. And I was thinking about Anyone But Him whenever I had Caitlyn and Jarret in the same scene. Fun! But, yes, a bit of a challenge. For all of the books going forward (I’ll write at least one more: the Confirmation story) I have to make sure Jarret comes across as being a bad boy, even though he’s changed now, because that’s how Caitlyn saw him.

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About the author: Theresa Linden is the author of award-winning faith-filled fiction that weaves the natural with the supernatural. She has eight published novels, including a dystopian trilogy, contemporary young adult fiction, a short story in the anthology Secrets: Visible & Invisible and two short stories in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body. She holds a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University and is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild. Her books are featured on CatholicTeenBooks.com, Catholic Reads, and Virtue Works Media. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in Elyria with her husband and three teenage boys. 

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Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 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: Anyone But Him

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Theresa Linden’s newest Catholic novel, Anyone But Him, centers on the theme of forgiveness and making a new start. Some of my favorite characters from Roland West, Loner and the other novels in the West Brothers series are all grown up in this novel directed at the new-adult audience.

In a surprising twist right off the bat, Caitlyn wakes up one morning to discover she’s married to her friend Roland’s bad-boy older brother, Jarret — and she’s horrified. She also can’t remember anything that’s happened in the past two or three years. How could she be married to the man who’d tormented her good friend for so long?Her coworkers at the private detective agency aren’t much help, and Jarret’s trying to solve the problem by keeping her locked in the house and not letting her call her family. There’s plenty of suspense to keep this story moving along, between strange encounters with both Caitlyn and Jarret’s coworkers and Caitlyn’s various escape attempts. Jarret seems like he’s changed since high school, and Caitlyn’s biggest mission is to find out if that’s for real.

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I like that Theresa Linden has continued the West Brothers series into the characters’ young adulthood, and that she’s framed this novel for the new-adult audience, which has protagonists and readers in the 18-30 age bracket. The first four West Brothers novels are for teens and young adults, but this one, I think, is better aimed at new-adult readers.

The West Brothers Series (in order)

Roland West, Loner (read my full review)
Life-Changing Love (read my full review)
Battle for His Soul
Standing Strong
Anyone But Him

About Theresa Linden

square theresaTheresa Linden is the author of award-winning Catholic teen fiction. Raised in a military family, she developed a strong patriotism and a sense of 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 has six published novels, and two short stories in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body (Full Quiver Publishing). She holds a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University and is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the International Writers Society. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and three teenage boys. To learn more, visit TheresaLinden.com, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

The “Liberty” Series: Win this Catholic Dystopian Trilogy

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

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

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Courtesy of Theresa Linden. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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

Giveaway ends: 12:00AM July 9th

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

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

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

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

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

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden’s new novel for teens, Life-Changing Love, releases today from Silver Fire Publishing. A standalone sequel to Roland West, Loner, this novel tells the story of Roland’s classmate Caitlyn, who at 15 is not allowed to date but who dearly wishes for a romantic relationship, competing for Roland’s attention with a girl who has no restrictions and seemingly few inhibitions.

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After reading (and thoroughly enjoying) both novels, I interviewed the author about the series and the idea of courtship as a dating alternative, which was central to Life-Changing Love.

  1. Roland West, Loner was written from a male character’s point of view; Life-Changing Love was told in the point of view of a female character. Did you find one easier to write than the other?

I enjoy writing from the point of view of both male and female characters. Once I create them, giving them unique characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses, they sort of come alive in my mind. I can hear their thoughts in my head and understand how they feel about different situations. The only characters I struggle with are those that aren’t developed enough. That’s when I realize I need to spend more time “creating” a particular character.

  1. Will there be more books in the series? If so, who’s the main character in the next installment?

I have several books planned but Battle for His Soul is completed and scheduled for release October 2, 2016. Jarret West is the main character. This story is different from the others because Jarret’s guardian angel is also a point-of-view character in the story. It brings a completely different perspective to the events in Jarret’s life.

  1. A central theme in the novel was the idea of courting as a healthy alternative to dating. How can families learn more about this?

Through this book, I hope to encourage families to openly discuss this topic. Our children’s souls are at stake. Today’s culture too often promotes an unhealthy view of relationships that reduces everything to the physical. It has turned dating into something spiritually dangerous. Children are “dating” at younger and younger ages, making inappropriate emotional bonds. This opens the door to temptations for making physical bonds as well. But they are not necessarily thinking about marriage.

Some argue that old-fashioned courtship puts too much pressure on the couple to marry. Courtship might not be the perfect solution, but families can take the ideas that work from both dating and courtship and create a plan for their children that will allow them to get to know themselves and others without undue pressure and by keeping things in the right order.

While I think there are many definitions of the word “courtship,” I see it as something family-focused where two people get to know each other in a natural way. When a person is older and seriously thinking about marriage, getting to know the families provides valuable understanding about the person. A couple can further get to know each other in group settings like college groups. Courtship-type practices can allow people to get to know each other without risking their souls.

Other resources:

Emotional Virtue by Sarah Swafford comes highly recommended as a guide for developing healthy and pure relationships.

National Catholic Register has an article titled “A Parent’s Guide to Courtship” by Lori Hadacek Chaplin.

Catholic News Agency has an article titled “The difference between courtship and dating” by Anthony Buono.

  1. What can families do to help their teens be more receptive to the idea of courting?

Here are a few concrete ideas that might make courtship feel like the natural way to go:

  • Regular family prayer: be the leader and example in showing that God comes first. Enlist the help of the patron saints for purity and chastity like St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Maria Goretti.
  • Regular family discussions: the teenage years come with a whole new set of hopes, ideas, and challenges. Be there to guide them and let them know you care.
  • Talk about virtue and the spiritual side of life. Our primary goal is to get ourselves and our loved ones to heaven. It’s easy to lose focus so practice making the discussion of virtue a part of daily life.
  • Create a welcome and open environment in the home so your teens feel comfortable inviting their friends over.
  • Point out good examples and bad examples as you notice them in the news or in TV shows, books, and movies. Discuss the consequences that come from these choices.
  • Remember that helping our children to protect their virtue and develop healthy, age-appropriate relationships is very important. We want our children to have the freedom to get to know others, while having fun and showing respect, cooperating with God’s plan for their life. It will help them to have successful marriages and families in the future!

Here’s the book trailer for Life-Changing Love:

The Fine Print: I received an advance copy of the book, and no other compensation, for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are mine alone. Your purchase of this book through my Amazon link supports Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

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!

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