September’s Open Book & Sabbath Rest Book Talk

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone.  In addition to reviewing books for #OpenBook, I’ve started a monthly event on Facebook Live over at my author page.  It’s called Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and in it I’ll talk about a few of the books I’ve read in the past month in terms of how they, as fiction, help us grow in humanity.

This month’s focus was on meaning, or how fiction uses meaning to convey layer upon layer of experience, understanding, and dimensionality of the human experience.  When we humans use symbols to communicate meaning, we give flesh and bone and substance to the invisible.

September’s SRBT Featured Fiction:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

(Click here for my more detailed review of The Lion’s Heart)

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

Other stuff I’m reading:

It is Right and Just by Rev. John Cunningham, OP & Rev. George Cardinal Pell [nonfiction]

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

Night by Elie Weisel [narrative nonfiction]

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

And here’s September’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk video:

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

What are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

UNCLAIMED Blog Tour

Jane EyerFinal-FJM_Low_Res_500x750Thank you, everyone, who participated in any way with yesterday’s launch.  From the reviews that kept popping up, to seeing Unclaimed‘s cover all over the Open Book linkup, to the Unclaimed Release Party on Facebook, to having my husband check in during the party to say that Unclaimed had broken the top 100 in the same category as The Hunger Games, to waking up towards the comfortable middle of that same category today… it was a really, really nice launch day.

Oh, all that while also visiting our favorite librarian, getting some summer phonics in for Second Shift, oven canning dried blueberries, and in spite of it all, NOT EATING TAKEOUT OF ANY KIND!

Hold on.  I think this is turning into a Small Success Thursday post…

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That’s where you link up with CatholicMom.com and share about all the little things that went right this week (or, in my case, month or day or whatever).

Anyway, over the next week-ish, a number of kind bloggers will be talking about Unclaimed on their blogs while I get to prepping Nameless (Book 2) for your reading angst pleasure.

Later today, July 7, Tanya Weitzel will be posting a review on CatholicMom.com

Tomorrow, July 8, I’ll be over at Theresa Linden‘s.

July 9: Ellen Gable

July 10: Marianne Sciucco

July 11: Barb S. aka Franciscan Mom

July 12: Sarah Reinhard, aka Snoring Scholar

July 13: Sherrie’s Scriptorium

July 14: Carolyn Astfalk

July 15: Amy M. Bennett

July 16: Laura at Suburban Sainthood

Please visit those bloggers and give them some love, aka comments & shares!

Also, there still are party favors available until midnight (EDT) July 9 over at the Unclaimed Release Party on Facebook. Comment on the party favor threads that interest you, or just join in the discussion!

UNCLAIMED FB Party Cover

By the way, so much to love about a virtual book release party:

  • can last beyond the official end time without draining the introvert’s energy
  • great discussion
  • budget-friendly for the author who doesn’t have a ton of cash to drop on venue fees and actual snacks
  • higher likelihood of international guests attending
  • can be attended in underpants
  • or not–nobody has to know either way

Would a blog post on how I put together this particular launch party be helpful to anyone? I hesitate to ask, because I’m afraid it’s fishing for attention.  On reflection, though, if I know nobody’s interested beyond myself, I’ll just keep my notes in a file and not have to spend time tidying them up, giving them pretty pictures, actually remembering to write the bloody auto-Tweet, and so and so.

More About DYING FOR REVENGE

Dr. Barbara Golder's DYING FOR REVENGE murder mystery with a touch of police procedural and a whole lot of edge-of-your-seat suspense

I’m happy to host Dr. Barbara Golder on her book tour for DYING FOR REVENGE.  I reviewed it here and gave it a super-solid five stars, but if that’s not enough to convince you, here’s more!

Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback

Dying for Revenge Synopsis:

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’s this author, though?  

Dr. Barbara Golder is a late literary bloomer.  Although she’s always loved books (and rivals Jane in the 3-deep-on-the-shelf sweepstakes), her paying career gravitated to medicine and law.  She has served as a hospital pathologist, forensic pathologist, and laboratory director.  Her work in forensic pathology prompted her to get a law degree, which she put to good use as a malpractice attorney and in a boutique practice of medical law, which allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom when her children were young.  She has also tried her hand at medical politics, serving as an officer in her state medical association; lobbying at a state and national level on medical issues, writing and lecturing for hire, including a memorable gig teaching nutritionists about the joys of chocolate for 8 straight hours, teaching middle and high school science, and, most recently, working for a large disability insurance company from which she is now retired.   Her writing career began when she authored a handbook of forensic medicine for the local medical examiner office in 1984.  Over the years she wrote extensively on law and  medicine and lectured on medicolegal topics.  On a lark, she entered a contest sponsored by the Telluride Times Journal and ended up with a regular humor column that memorialized the vagaries of second-home living on the Western Slope.   She currently lives on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee with two dogs, two cats and her husband of 41 years.

 

Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback


Oh, you want an excerpt now?  Well, just to please you:

 

John had just touched my face in his familiar way when the phone startled me out of my sleep. It was one of those vivid dreams, the kind that it takes a minute or two to realize you’ve passed from it into wakefulness. I was especially unhappy because, since his death five years ago, the only way I ever saw my husband or felt his touch was in my restless slumber. The phone rang again, insisting that I answer. In my line of work, a call in the middle of the night is never happy news. It means that death has come calling, unexpected, or violent, or both. It’s the time of night when teenagers run off the road, when drug deals go sour, when sick old men die, the man inside having given up the struggle to keep the man outside alive, when drunken spouses abuse each other to death. At the end of it all, somebody calls the medical examiner and I am pulled out of my orderly world into someone else’s dark night. I wondered idly what particular nightmare I was entering this time as I punched the keypad of my cell phone.

“Yeah?”

I am not particularly civil at three in the morning. Fortunately for me, the cops who are on duty at that hour — the ones most likely to call — aren’t too sensitive. This time it was the sheriff of San Miguel County himself who answered. His voice called up his lanky frame, thinning red hair, pockmarked face and crooked nose.

“Aren’t you just Dr. Mary Sunshine! Wake up, Jane Wallace, you’ve got a case.” His gravelly chuckle broke up a bit. Call reception isn’t always good in the mountains.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I rubbed my eyes and took another stab at civility. “What’s up, Tom?”

I sat up, stretching my neck and trying to come to consciousness. Tom had used my first name, something he never did, preferring to alternate between Dr. Wallace when he was vexed with me, and Doc when he approved of the way I was executing the demands of my office as Chief Medical Examiner for the Western Slope of Colorado.

“Oh, big dealings right here in Mountain Village. We got ourselves a celebrity murder, we do.”

The words were flippant and out of context with the somber nature of such early morning calls. There’s a certain propensity toward inappropriate humor among those of us who work regularly among the dead and the degenerate. I wouldn’t put it past any of my law enforcement brethren, least of all Patterson with his avuncular style, to string me along for the sake of a little joke to liven up an otherwise routine death. I could jest with the best of them. 

“Just as long as it’s not Mitch Houston, we’ll be fine.“

Houston, Hollywood’s current favorite leading man and a very hot commodity, had moved to town several months before, buying both a trophy home in Mountain Village and a remote cabin on a thousand acres in one of the basins in the Wilson Peaks, in a display of conspicuous consumption excessive even for Telluride, Colorado, my adopted home on the western slope of the Rockies. The silence at the other end of the phone did not bode well for my career on the comedy circuit. I sat upright, awake, my mind suddenly clear, and feeling dismayed.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

Any murder is a tragedy, but this one was going to be a pain in the ass to boot.

 

But is it really any good?  Don’t just take my word for it:

 

“Barbara Golder joins the ranks of Chesterton’s bloodthirsty heirs as she spins a tale that will delight mystery fans. With Dying for Revenge in hand, your beach experience is now complete!” Mark P. Shea, Mercy Works

Dying for Revenge dives into the deeply personal place in so many hearts with ‘justifiable’ reasons for revenge… but the face of mercy is entwined in the unexpected turn of events. You’ll be captivated…”  Patricia M. Chivers, ABLAZE Radio WNRE-LP 98.1 FM, Catholic Church of Saint Monica

Dying For Revenge is a darn good medical thriller — a page-turning plot and vivid characters — with a stop-you-in your tracks twist: the costs of revenge. It’s a gripping story — I defy anyone to put it down.” Deacon Dennis Dorner, Chancellor, Archdiocese of Atlanta

“When medical brilliance and a riveting plot collide, you get Dying For Revenge — a story of intrigue, murder, and faith that will leave everyone suspect but only one guilty…” Rev. David Carter, JCL, Rector Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Chattanooga TN

“I know it sounds cliché, but I honestly couldn’t put this down. It isn’t just who-dun-it, but it’s the story of the power of understanding in a world that’s afraid of self-knowledge.” Joan Watson, Director of Adult Formation, Diocese of Nashville

 

Okay, hopefully by now you’re ready to fork over the cash: Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback

If you’re still on the fence, get to know Dr. Golder on social media and such:

Great book!  Get your copy today!

March on and Grab AN OPEN BOOK

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

We read. We talk.  We talk about what we read.

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Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

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With every sentence, Soulless Creatures kept me guessing. And while the story itself was surprising, the biggest surprise of all was the vital role the setting played. Who knew Oklahoma had so much to teach us? Not this East Coast girl. I love how the author took each character to the brink (or what “the brink” would be for a college freshman) and let him/her grow. The ending was unexpected and yet deeply satisfying. Highly recommended!

 

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard

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Slowing down is not my favorite thing to do, which makes a book like this so vital. Filled with valuable reflections and fresh but faithful takes on some of the most repeated words in all of Catholicism, Word by Word filled me with hope, made me smile, and, yes, slowed me down so that I could learn something. It’s a versatile book that’s worth reading straight through and worth keeping handy for quick prayer times. Break out the highlighter!

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

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What’s it about?  In case you didn’t know, “From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.”

If you’re wondering if this book is as good as it looks, wonder no more.  It is.  It’s even better.  It has hitherto for unknown bits about the making of the movie, yes.  The bigger surprise for me though was seeing the creative process through the eyes of immediacy as well as the eyes of memory and experience.  The Princess Bride was, initially, a flop.  Now it’s a classic.  Creatives? We’re in it for the long haul.  We have to be.  If we’re not, we’re going to remain mostly dead.

And some readalouds for Second Shift:

Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco

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I got this from the library as a St. Patrick’s Day readaloud.  It would’ve been a lot easier to read if I hadn’t been crying my eyes out from the second or third page.  This is the story of a family that had to leave hardships in Ireland only to show up in Chicago just in time for the Great Chicago Fire.  Young Fiona is a gifted lacemaker, and her skills just might be what her family needs to rise out of immigrant poverty, but when a terrible fire separates the family and destroys not just their home but their entire neighborhood, how will Fiona and her family ever find each other again?  You have to read to find out.  But do keep your tissues nearby–better yet, a lace hankie.

Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman (Illustrations by Susan Gaber)

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It’s a Purim Cinderella story! Orphan Raisel is raised by her Zaydeh (grandfather), who gives her a rich, scholarly education, even teaching her the Talmud.  When Zaydeh dies, Raisel must strike out on her own.  After much wandering, the rabbi in the big city makes his cook take Raisel on as her assistant, but Cook is not happy about this.  The story that follows echoes the Cinderella story, but instead of great shoes making the match, Raisel’s prince finds her because of her great mind.  I’m sure some feminist somewhere has something to say about how a smart girl shouldn’t get her happy ending by working in a kitchen and marrying a prince… but I’m not some feminist anywhere.  Raisel’s Riddle shows that a girl’s greatest gifts are kindness and wisdom, and by being clever and kind and generous, her true beauty stands out from even the loveliest Purim costumes.

7 Books I Read Over Hiatus

A writer never goes on hiatus from reading! Between the Catholic Writers Conference Live, the World Meeting of Families, and assorted review copies coming my way, I have a ton of books to share with you, mes amis!

7 (2)

The Sweetest Rain by Myra Johnson

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Summary:

As the drought of 1930 burns crops to a crisp, Bryony Linwood dreams of cooling winter snows and the life she would have had if Daddy hadn’t been killed in the Great War and Mama hadn’t moved Bryony and her sisters to their grandfather’s struggling tenant farm in tiny Eden, Arkansas. Now Mama’s gone, too, and as times grow tougher, Bryony will do whatever it takes to ensure her family’s survival.

Michael Heath barely survived the war, and twelve years later all he wants to do is forget. A virtual recluse, his one passion is botanical illustration. Lost in the diversity of nature’s beauty, he finds escape from a troubled past and from his wealthy father’s continual pressure to take an interest in the family plantation.

When Bryony accepts employment at the Heath mansion, it’s just a job at first, a means to ward off destitution until the drought ends and Grandpa’s farm is prosperous again. But Bryony’s forced optimism and dogged determination disguise a heart as dry and despairing as the scorched earth . . . until she discovers Michael Heath and his beautiful botanical illustrations. As their relationship deepens, friendship soon blossoms into healing for wounded souls and a love that can’t be denied.

Call this one another guilty pleasure without the guilt.  The older I get more sweet Catholic romances I read, the more I am being converted to the genre.  By the way, when I say “sweet,” I don’t mean saccharine.  I mean happy-ending-but-not-without-the-pain-of-rebirth sweet.  Sweetest Rain has that plus real characters, believable conflict, and a historical period not often visited but done so in rich, lively detail.  BTW, I had no discomfort leaving this one around for my 11 year-old First Shift to read, even though they don’t like romance. The elder member of First Shift finished it before I did (she does have more leisure reading time, but still).  I enjoyed it, and I hope you will, too.  It’s also refreshing to see a larger Catholic publisher taking on some commercial-style fiction for actual grownups, so if you want to support that kind of undertaking, Sweetest Rain is a valuable use of your time and cash.

The Little Douglings books by Carissa Douglas

I was lucky to meet the author at the World Meeting of Families. Little did I know at the time that perhaps in the very hour when I met Carissa Douglas and set about acquiring Little Douglings books from her, First Shift was at the youth congress, meeting another kid who said, “Yeah, I’m here because my mom’s upstairs selling books.”  Catholic Writers’ Kids know how to find kindred spirits.

Anyway, all of us, young and old, enjoyed these three books.  In each, we see the story of a Catholic family trying to live out the sacraments through the ups and downs of living in an imperfect work.  However, because the Little Douglings choose to live the sacraments/teach each other how to live them, they make those ups and downs holy and fruitful in ways only sacramental living can.

Okay, for a second, ignore all the theology I just (uncharacteristically) poured into that mini-review.  These books are fun-filled ways to introduce big topics, even Theology of the Body (see A Gift of Myself), to pretty much all ages.  So without further ado…

I Go to Jesus

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This book will encourage the little ones in your life (and adults too) to come to a fuller appreciation of Christ, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.  Help remind them of His deep love for them and His desire to encounter them often through the gift of the Blessed Sacrament.

There’s really not much else to say other than I recommend this book for showing anyone of any age the value of the Eucharist.

A Gift of Myself

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This one is the sweetest little intro to the Theology of the Body.  Yes, it’s aimed at kids, but honestly, I know plenty of adults who could use this kind of intro.  The author starts with family conflict and shows the peace that can be gained by thinking of others… and how the model of a marriage ordered both mentally and physically towards denying oneself for the sake of new life is the manifestation of that peace.  Out of all three Douglings books so far, this one is my favorite.

All Things New

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This latest addition to the Little Douglings series will help the little ones in your life come to a deeper understanding of God’s unfailing Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This would make an ideal gift for the little one in your life preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation or for any little one, especially during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  It’s an honest yet sweet look at what that sacrament does, why we need it, and why it’s worth the effort.

Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day by Carol Benoist & Cathy Gilmore

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Meet the Risen Jesus with an amazing bunny―and his amazing tale―in this beautifully illustrated hardcover children’s book. Children will learn about Jesus’ friendship and comfort through the eyes of a timid bunny rabbit who experiences firsthand the love and joy Jesus brings. A new enhanced version will be available Easter 2014, and these first-edition copies are going fast! Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day is sure to be a family favorite every Easter.

I’m linking to Cathy Gilmore’s page, because she’s the author I got to meet at the Catholic Writers Conference.  She’s a good egg, very enthusiastic about what she does, and so approachable.

Anyway, this book is so stinking adorable, and I’m not just talking the illustrations.  The whole story is about a bunny who is scared of everything and about how God uses those fears to give the frightened bunny something, well, amazing.  Yes, this is a great book to prepare kids for the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter.  Yes, this is a great book to read during the last weeks of Lent (which, btw, will be here before you know it, so don’t slack, my friends).  However, this book has surprising year-round value, because it shows children (especially kids with many youthful fears, ahem, Second Shift of Kid) how God can work through our fears to give us great gifts.  In fact, that’s a good message for parents of timid children as well.  HIGHLY recommended.

Last but most certainly not least…

The Living Water Series by Stephanie Landsem

The Well

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For the Samaritan women of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—except for Mara, whose family has been shunned for the many sins of her mother, Nava. But will their encounter with two men—a mysterious young man from Caesarea named Shem and a Jewish teacher called Jesus—change their lives forever?

Packed with heart-wrenching emotion and many, many surprising twists, The Well pulled my heartstrings in so many directions… and that’s what makes me downright love a book.  This is another “wish Amazon had six stars to give” kind of book.  Warning: I read it on a Sunday (yes, in one day) without removing my churchgoing eye makeup, and when I finally closed the book, I looked like The Winter Soldier.  Or a tall, plump racoon.  Either way, this book needs a Five Tissue Warning but will leave your heart soaring with delight over how God can turn mess into message.

The Thief

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A Roman centurion longing for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a deadly secret witness a miracle that transforms their lives and leads them to the foot of the cross.

In The Thief, Stephanie Landsem does it again with a tough but vulnerable female protagonist, impossible situations, unbelievable hope, and the all-powerful touch of Christ on the pages of human history, of personal history. The edgy, risky prose makes the relationships in The Thief come alive and make the reader’s heart pound for them with each new plot twist, break for them at each agony, and cheer for them with each narrow escape.  I highly recommend this fresh take on the story of the Good Thief and the Centurion at  the foot of the cross.

Whew!  I thought I’d never get all that out there! However, see how I got the reviews out there without needing to write books about each book?  As I reflected in my December EMC Reader Newsletter, leaving a book review covers several Spiritual Works of Mercy.  No, I’m not  being self-serving in saying so.  With one book review, can you counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, comfort the afflicted, even bear wrongs patiently?  I think so.  I aim to chat about that in another post in the near future, as time permits.

BTW, I can probably make this a…

Seven Quick Takes Linkup

How’s your Christmas season going? Did you get an Amazon gift card? Did you already spend part of it on the It’s Still Christmas Sale?  Please consider spending some more of it on any or all of the above books! Have something else to recommend? Comment away!

TESTING LIBERTY AVAILABLE NOW #mondayblogs #dystopian

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear about the searing new release TESTING LIBERTY, sequel to CHASING LIBERTY, both by Theresa Linden.


Testing Liberty ~ book two in Theresa Linden’s fast-paced dystopian trilogy came out November 7th. Take a trip into the future and into the past with Liberty. Sneak peek: https://theresalinden.wordpress.com/excerpts/

Liberty bides her time in a cell in Aldonia’s Re-Education facility. Flames leap among billowing black clouds in her mind, consuming all other thoughts. Houses of the once-secret Maxwell colony burn. Faces flash in her mind, faces of the men, women, and children who had shown her freedom. The all-controlling government has captured them. This is her fault. Liberty will not rest until she repairs the damage.

“Testing Liberty is an action-packed thrill ride that’ll have you rooting for freedom, self-determination, and Liberty.”       ~Carolyn Astfalk, author of Stay with Me

“Testing Liberty never disappoints as it treks through the wild, the underground, and sordid inner-city slums to prove that freedom isn’t free.”      ~Don Mulcare

Theresa Linden, author of the Liberty TrilogyTheresa Linden resides with her husband and three boys in northeast Ohio. She was born in San Francisco, California. Her father was in the Coast Guard, so the family moved every three years. This probably accounts for her love of traveling and desire to see the world. Living by the ocean and under the palm trees in Guam and Hawaii spurred her imagination. She began writing illustrated short stories with her sister in grade school, borrowing characters from favorite movies and shows. Now, writing is her passion. Her favorite genres include Fantasy, Western, Contemporary, Supernatural and Futuristic. Other interests: acrylic painting, drawing with ink, hiking, traveling and American History. Theresa is a member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild  and the Elyria Library Writers’ Group. She has an Associate’s Degree in Electrical/Mechanical Drafting and a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University. She is currently working on the last book in the Chasing Liberty trilogy.