Open Book: June reads for July Reviews!

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

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One thing can be said for having a couple of complications dragging out weeks after super minor abdominal surgery: there’s lots of time to do nothing but sit in bed and READ!   Perhaps that’s the only thing to be said for it, though; being unable to work on one’s own writing and publishing is pretty frustrating.  That said, today is the rescheduled release date for UNCLAIMED, Book 1 in The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan.

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Unclaimed cover art Copyright 2016 Fiona Jayde Media

I was chomping so badly at the bit to get that up and running by June 24, but instead I was propped up in bed with my iPad and this guy for my reading buddy.

SiggieReadingBuddy

Funny story: five days after I came home from  the hospital, Siggie (above) suddenly started sniffing around my belly and instead of making me take his tennis ball out of his mouth to play fetch, he just gave it to me.  The two days later I was back at the doctor, and lo and behold! I had an infection developing.  Of course, if he were really intuitive, he wouldn’t have kept trying to jump directly onto my belly… but he’s still a good recovery companion.

Okay, let’s look at what I got to read in June…

Testing Liberty & Fight for Liberty by Theresa Linden

I really cannot rave well enough about the Chasing Liberty trilogy.  If you took The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, and 1984, wove them together with a fresh, deeply human sensibility and gave it just the lightest sprinkle of holy water… you might come close to getting a series as fast-paced, powerful and satisfying as Liberty’s three-part tale.

I loved Chasing Liberty, butTesting Liberty Brown Red in Testing Liberty, Linden really ups the ante.  It was like in Chasing we got to see the veneer of Aldonia’s oppressive deep green culture scraped painfully off, and then in Testing, we dive down deep, deeper into the hearts and lives threatened, destroyed, and changed for good or ill by the conflict between the Regimen’s culture and the inner drive for freedom and independence that some of the colonists live out for themselves… and are getting ready to share with Aldonia on a wider and far more risky basis.   Usually the middle installment in a trilogy is the most difficult to keep spinning on a lively axis, but Linden turns that idea on its head and somehow makes Testing even more heart-rending and engaging than its predecessor.

FightForLibertyAnd then in Fight for Liberty, it all comes so satisfyingly full-circle.  Something Linden does so powerfully in this conclusion(ish) to the series is that the encourages us to look at the future of freedom (and, frankly, the present) through the lens of our history.  The way she approached a renewal of personal freedom as a rebirth of the ideals and courage of the American Revolution is a tack we don’t see often taken in speculative fiction.  It works.  Fresh, engaging, honest and uplifting, we can see our future as fraught with danger… but also promising courage and hope and the best humanity has to offer.

Fight for Liberty dropped on July 4! Keep an eye out here for an in-depth interview with Theresa Linden later this week.  

The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem

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It’s the story of Mary and Martha illuminated in a way you’ve never imagined.  In this conclusion (I think?) to the Living Water series, Stephanie Landsem gives us a rich backstory on why Martha is the way she is–a controlling, put-upon, neat freak who’s never satisfied.  I’d never before considered the kind of heartbreak that might have gone into making a Martha.  Landsem took my preconceived notions of a picky, spoiled, overly pious Jewish daughter and made her into someone who’s been through just as much as any of us has in on our way to becoming the fragile, cautious creatures we can be… until we let Christ come in to our lives and change us.  This third book has just as much delicious angst as The Well but just as much sweet satisfaction as The Thief.  For readers who like a good ends-tied-up series, this last book makes that happen but infuses the ending of the trilogy with great energy; it left me happy for the characters (each in his/her way) but still sad to see it end.  Highly recommended.

At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett

At the Cross Road: Book 4 in the Black Horse Campground Mystery Series by Amy M. Bennett (Oak Tree Press)

People, I just adore this series.  It’s really so much fun to read.  Okay, I realize I just said that about a series with a body count, but hey, take me as I am.  In At the Crossroad, Corrie, Rick, and JD all have to face the past–their own and the ghosts of others.  The mystery is fast-paced, crisp, and richly human.  The storytelling is clean, and the violence and relationships are never gratutitous.  All these characters have come to feel like family to me over the years, to the point that, yes, I’ve declared myself #TeamRick (and Crossroad makes that seem even more possible than No Vacancy did… but I’m sure Amy will keep us guessing).  In fact, I kind of know who I want to set JD up with, but Amy would pee her pants if I told her, because it’s so outlandish… Anyway, I hope that the fact that these characters have taken on their own lives in my imagination (am I writing Black Horse fanfic in my head?!?!) is endorsement enough.

After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp

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A sequel to Heckenkamp’s Frozen Footprints that yet stands strong on its own, After the Thaw is a story of courage, healing, redemption, self-sacrifice, and the value of honesty.  The plot was fast-paced and kept me well invested in the future of heroine Charlene, the people she loves, and the people who sought to use her for their own ends.  Serious and tragic but with a great touch of humanity, Thaw kept me turning the pages and caring about the characters.  Should Charlene really marry Ben?  I mean, he’s a good guy, but is he the guy?  And what is going on with Clay and that pregnant girl?  For all the angst of the beginning and middle, the end is super satisfying with a touch of just-right sweetness.  Tough but still clean, this would make a great beach read.

Sunflowers in a Hurricane by Anne Faye

Sunflower Front CoverA sweet, touching story of healing, forgiveness and closure, Sunflowers in a Hurricane weaves together the lives touched, smote and healed by an unlikely friendship. When single-mom Cheryl must clear out her estranged mother’s house, daughter Ruth becomes the garden help and Mass companion of elderly widower George next door.  The move brings Cheryl face-to-face with her difficult past, a past she’s been evading ever since Ruth was conceived, as well as with her fears for her own and Ruth’s future.  Meanwhile, George stands courageously and compassionately in the face of his own past losses resurfacing in ways he hadn’t expected. The two households mirror each other in ways that make us think more deeply about the nature of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption.  Faye turns a tale with an honest kindness often missing from family drama fiction these days, while keeping readers hooked on the story.  This was an uplifting and enjoyable read you’ll want for your beach bag!

Don’t forget to link up YOUR reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Top 10 Reasons You Will Love Catholic Teen Fiction!

Thank you to Theresa Linden, author of the Liberty Trilogy and the newly released Roland West, Loner. In the style of Late Nights gone by, here’s…

 

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1.      Because reading Catholic teen fiction can be more fun than going to the movies.

2.      Because you might waste an entire day stretched out on the couch, reading, but you won’t need to feel guilty.

3.      You also won’t need to find that bookmark you lost because you won’t want to put the book down.

4.      And you won’t need to save your receipts or scraps of junk mail to use for bookmarks. Same reason as number 4.

5.      Because Catholic fiction reveals that there’s more to life than what we can see.

6.      Because of fun author names like Heckenkamp, Cattapan, and Peek.

7.      Because of fun story lines take the reader back in time or into the future, close to the saints, or close to trouble.

8.      Because books don’t need batteries but Catholic books still shed light.

9.      Because you ARE a Catholic teen, so reading fiction for Hindu octogenarians might not be your thing.

10. Because Catholic fiction can stir your heart and give you courage… and direct your soul to God.

Bonus reason: ‘Cause you really don’t want Roland West to stay a loner. That would be sad.

Win your copy of Roland West with this giveaway!

More about Roland West, Loner:

Roland West, Loner is a contemporary Christian story of a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself friendless at a new school and the subject of cruel rumors. Despised by older twin brothers, he feels utterly alone but not without hope. If he can avoid his brothers while his father is away, he might have a solution to his problem. When his brothers lock him away, having a plan of their own, he gets rescued by an unlikely pair: a neighboring autistic boy and his brother. Struggling to trust his new friends, secrets, rumors, lies, and an unusual inheritance put him on a journey that just might have the power to change the life of this loner.

See the trailer here!

Roland West, Loner addresses loneliness, sibling relationships, facing fears, autism, and the Communion of the Saints. Susan Peek, highly popular author of saint stories for teens, including A Soldier Surrenders said, “A heartwarming tale of friendship, faith, and forgiveness. Linden had me laughing on one page and crying on the next. The story stayed with me long after I closed the last page. Simply put, Roland West, Loner is the best Catholic fiction I’ve read in ages.”

Theresa Linden, author of the Liberty TrilogyTheresa Linden, an avid reader and writer since grade school, 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.

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.

Dystopian Stories, Catholic Authors: A Guest Post by Theresa Linden

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 meet today’s guest, Theresa Linden.

CHASING LIBERTYcoverCatholic Authors Are Well-suited to Writing Dystopian Fiction

Before I wrote my dystopian fiction, Chasing Liberty, I wrote Catholic teen fiction and Young Adult with supernatural elements. I enjoyed reading Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries, Louis L’Amour’s Westerns, Louis De Wohl’s novels about saints, and Dean Koontz’ supernatural fiction. I didn’t read or write dystopian. In fact, the word was not even familiar to me.

A dystopia is an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is literally translated as “not-good place” . . . (Definition from Wikipedia)

Disturbing events occurring in our world got me thinking and concerned about our future. A little, endangered fish is protected at the expense of drought-stricken farmers in California. The government tracks us through our phones and cars. They data-mine our online activity, searching for key phrases. Scientists push past ethical boundaries to experiment with human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Worse than the loss of privacy, the freedom of the individual is challenged. People are fined for living according to their faith. And the dignity of the human person seems all but lost.

What does tomorrow hold? Are we heading for a “not-good place”?

Writers of dystopia often show a totalitarian government, as in 1984, Hunger Games and Divergent. People are robbed of their freedom to choose the direction of their lives, and they are often forced into dehumanizing situations. Some stories include man-made environmental disasters or overpopulation, like in Soylent Green. Some concern the danger of advances in science and technology. Perhaps all are written to warn people about current ideologies or trends that could lead to a frightening future.

A Catholic perspective can bring to the story the wisdom of the Church, the solitary institution that has lasted 2,000 years while empires have risen and fallen around her: Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, Persian Empire, Russian Empire…etc. The Church has witnessed the cyclical nature of history. After a fall, a new society rises up.

The Church alone has remained constant. Her Truths are eternal. And Her wisdom can shed light on the true ills of society, identify their roots, and provide the medicine for healing.

Our culture today has its own values and makes its own judgments on good and evil. These values may seem great on the surface. And the majority may agree or at least tolerate these things, but it doesn’t make them right. The judgments of the world, when not conformed to eternal Truth, do not stand the test of time. And the ideologies of the world do not bring true healing to the ills of society.

The world governments in Chasing Liberty have united over their concern for the earth. They are called the Regimen Custodia Terra, the guardians of the earth. They grieve over species that have gone extinct, the waste of natural resources, and pollution. Many of their concerns are worthy. And Christians agree that we should take care of the earth because God has made us its stewards.

But the Christian perspective recognizes a distinct difference. All natural things do not have equal value. Humans have a unique dignity. They alone have been made in the image and likeness of God.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter Laudato Si, writes, “At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure.” (sec. 90)

Remove the respect for the natural hierarchy of created things, and humans become a parasite and the earth is elevated above them. This destabilizes society.

Testing Liberty Brown RedAll writers of dystopian fiction remove one or more elements that lead to a stable society. Remove the freedom of the individual and you have an oppressive government. Remove the family and you have individuals selfishly pursuing their own interests. Remove the respect for human life and you have a society where the imperfect and inconvenient are valueless and disposable.

Dystopian writers often propose solutions to the problems or provide a hero with special powers that takes dramatic steps to bring freedom. But real solutions go deeper.

A novelist with a Catholic perspective possesses the vision of a true utopian society. What makes a perfect society? Is it the freedom to do as one pleases without interference from government or law? Is it sex without natural consequences or scientific developments unhindered by moral considerations? Is it freedom from responsibility or from judgment?

The answer is written in our hearts and in our bodies, and given fully through the Church. True freedom cooperates with nature and with divinely-revealed Truth. True freedom is the ability to do what is right and to live according to conscience. No government or society should oppose this because it is crucial to sustaining civilization. People living in accord with truth and goodness—in accord with human dignity— can create a culture that builds up rather than destroys. It begins in the family, the building block of a stable society, and spreads from there. A strong civilization respects life and recognizes a natural order or hierarchy of created things.

The founders of our country had a sense of this as they struggled to separate themselves from a controlling government. They believed that all men were created equal and endowed with God-given rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A society that veers away from truth, begins to destroy itself. It becomes hostile to sound doctrine and prefers relativism. People grow selfish and prefer to rely on someone else, often the government, to provide the answers to today’s ills, reducing the direct responsibility of the individual and eliminating the need for faith. As happened to the Roman Empire, immorality, laziness, and false ideologies lead to their downfall.

So the writer of dystopian sends a warning. The evil that is tolerated in our culture, if not confronted, will eventually lead to a collapse of our society. The Catholic writer also sees past this. Even if our society is destroyed, there is always hope as long as there are people in the world who seek what is right and good and true.

What is your favorite dystopian story and why? What message do you get from the story?

TLindenHeadshotTheresa 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.

7 Quick Takes with Chasing Liberty Author Theresa Linden

7QTlogoIt’s time for Seven Quick Takes Friday, a Friday linkup over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Today I’m delighted to bring you an interview with author Theresa Linden.  TLindenHeadshot

Theresa 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.

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Tell us about Chasing Liberty.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication?

CHASING LIBERTYcoverChasing Liberty is the story of a young woman who seeks freedom in a society where the government controls every aspect of life. Nature is elevated above man. Developments in science and technology are not balanced with developments in morals and ethics. Faith, family and freedom have been lost.

The idea for this story came directly from the news. We used to watch Glenn Beck when he was on TV, and my jaw would drop at some of the stories on that show . . . disturbing things about the government watching you, about deep-green movements that think of humans as little more than parasites, about scientific advancements that cross ethical boundaries. Beck encouraged viewers not to take his word for it but to do their own research. So I did. The more I discovered, I kept thinking, “Wow, this can’t be real. It seems like fiction.” I wondered what our world, our country would be like if all this came to pass. As a writer, I don’t just wonder . . . I write!

From start to publication, Chasing Liberty took 2-1/2 years.

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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?

Favorite – I love developing characters and their relationships, thinking of ways to make them unique and bring them to life, giving them strengths and weakness, habits and quirks. I wanted Liberty to come across as strong and courageous, a person who doesn’t blindly go along with the culture but who is willing to stand against it. Even if she stands alone. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, even knowing the government is always listening and has programs that tag phrases considered “hate speech.”

Least favorite – While I enjoy all the different stages of writing, my least favorite part was the research, only because it opened my eyes to many evil ideologies in our world. I discovered how influential special-interest groups have been in our government and in world governments. Scary stuff.

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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like?

If an author wants to have a publisher, I have learned, there is a lot of waiting involved. It took me one year to write the story, beginning in the summer of 2012. Then I spent several months looking for a publisher, several months waiting. Wanting to get my story out there, I decided to self-publish, and that was when World Castle Publishing offered me a contract. There was more waiting after that. Almost a year later, November of 2014, Chasing Liberty was released. My first published book! I am excited that the second book in this trilogy, Testing Liberty, will come out this fall.

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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

I am a homeschooling mother of three teenage, adopted boys, one of which has autism. During the school year, homeschooling takes up the bulk of my day. And of course there are all the daily chores which I am learning to share with my boys. At the end of the day, I try to do something related to writing whether re-reading a section I’ve written, or critiquing a friend’s work, but it’s often hard to focus on actual writing. So I look forward to the weekends for that. Most of my writing takes place over summer. This summer, I am working on the third book in the Liberty trilogy, Fight for Liberty. I have set myself some unrealistic goals in order to finish the first draft before school begins. Amazingly, have been keeping them!Testing Liberty Brown Red

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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?

I enjoy developing characters, so I hope that is my greatest strength. I want my characters to feel real. Sometimes I do character interviews toward the beginning of developing a story, so that I can really get to know them. I even write scenes that will never make it to the final story, just so I can experience their past or moments in their lives that made them who they are.

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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why?

This is a hard question to answer because I feel like my writing style changes with each book I write. I write constantly, and I often read articles and books on how to improve. By the time I finish writing a story, I can always go back and find things that I could strengthen or do differently. I hope my writing style gets stronger and stronger over the years, but I know there will always be room for improvement.

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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?

Chasing Liberty is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your preferred online bookseller.

If you like book trailers, check out the trailers for Chasing Liberty and for Testing Liberty.

I have a summer blog, Virtual Tour of America, for anyone who enjoys reflecting on the early history of our country.

And I can be found on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.