Turning in Circles – Book Review

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Southern fiction at its best!

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Story summary: Savannah and Charleston, two sisters living in a small Southern town, have always been close. They’ve shared everything with one another…until Dillon, the one boy in school who’s bad news, sets his sights on Charleston. As she’s drawn down his dark, destructive path, Savannah panics, knowing this isn’t a relationship destined for anything but trouble.

She turns to her lifelong best friend, Ellerbe, for help, but there’s a shift in their relationship. The connection they’ve shared is taking a turn toward something more, something deeper. And Savannah isn’t sure she’s ready for a romance while trying to save her sister.

As Savannah’s foundation begins to crumble, every decision becomes an unchangeable step toward an outcome that could have tragic repercussions.

Get your copy here: Amazon link


I’ve seen Michelle Buckman’s titles and I’ve been wanting to check out her books for some time. I am so glad that I finally did. Please stop by her website to learn more about her and her books.

Michelle Buckman’s author page


My Review:

I really enjoyed this Southern fiction! Michelle Buckman has a beautiful and engaging writing style that pulls readers deep into the story and doesn’t let them go. The story begins at a leisurely Southern pace, introducing Savannah and her sister Charleston, but always hinting at trouble to come. The setting details and tone are captivating and give incredible dimension to the story. And while it’s set in modern times, the life of the people in this small farming community reminds me of simpler days when everyone knew everyone else and neighbors sat around drinking iced tea on front porches and took leisurely strolls through lovely streets and trails. But there is always something lurking beneath the surface, a hint of trouble, of mistakes that change lives, and of danger.  

As the story developed, this book became almost impossible to set down. And I came away with a bit of introspection. Savannah faces the same problem many of us do: watching a loved one go down the wrong path (in this case, a potentially dangerous one) and feeling powerless to do anything about it. She wrestles with how to respond to this, sometimes making things worse and other times not doing enough. So many moments in this story resonated with me and I’m sure they will with everyone who reads this story of family, friendship, and the challenges we all face with those we care about.

This is the first book by Michelle Buckman that I’ve read, and I look forward to reading more by her.

This month I am linking up with Carolyn Astfalk’s “An Open Book” and CatholicMom.com. What have you been reading lately? Feel free to link up your blog post too! You can find the details here.

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Book Review: The Things We Knew

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I just finished reading a book that is on the Sabbath Rest Book Talk reading list. With a bit of romance and a lot of mystery, this is a beautiful and emotional story of faith, family, forgiveness, and facing the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and can’t wait to read more from this author.

The Things We Knew by Catherine West

51eGLI0vfBLThis story takes place on the little island of Nantucket. Lynette lives at home, struggling to care for her father, who has memory issues that are not yet diagnosed, and their enormous family home, which is falling apart faster than she can fix it. She is one of five siblings. Her mother died when she was a teen. She can’t remember the specifics about that day and no one ever talks about it, but it’s obviously had a profound effect on every member of the family and even on the neighbors. Their family was once very close, but the relationships are now strained.

They were also close to the neighbor’s son, Nick Cooper, who is another main character in this story. He’s around the siblings ages and spent his childhood and teen years at the Carlisle’s home. You get the impression early on that he knows more about the Carlisle family than he wants to admit. He also cares deeply about this family, and about Lynette, in particular. And Lynette had a crush on him when they were teens.

As the siblings become aware of the bleak financial situation back home, and of their father’s failing health, they each return home to see what they can do. Once home, they find themselves facing the past, their own problems today, and strained relationships with one another, but they’ve got to work together for the sake of their father and their family home. The easy answer is to sell their large estate, and Nick’s father is all to eager for them to do this. In fact, all the siblings except for Lynette seem to like this easy answer. But Lynette loves her family home and wants their father to be able to spend his last years there. As the youngest, she hasn’t been accustomed to insisting on her way, but this is very important to her, so that’s about to change.

I really enjoyed this story and was sad for it to end. The writing is beautiful. The author develops characters and setting details that you can see, smell, and touch in your mind. With a bit of romance and a lot of mystery, this is a beautiful and emotional story of faith, forgiveness, and facing the truth. It is a heart wrenching story about a family in crisis who has lost so much and stands to lose so much more, but who also has much to gain.


You can watch Sabbath Rest Book Talk on Youtube. Check out any of the past episodes or catch this September’s episode. The theme will be aging.

CWG Book Blast: Finding Patience by Virginia Lieto

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It is wonderful to stumble upon books for children that have fun stories and promote virtue. I am happy to share this wonderful book written by fellow Catholic Writers Guild author Virginia Lieto!

FHC-2017-Cover-copy-233x300Book Summary:

Eight-year-old, Faith Livingstone, just moved to town and is about to enter a new school. She wants to make new friends fast; to feel like she belongs in her new surroundings. It can’t happen fast enough for Faith! Watch how God shows her the way to new friends and new virtue!

 


Excerpt:

After school, Faith ran up to her room.

Mama rushed up the stairs and knocked on the door. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

Faith sobbed, “Nobody likes me!”

“No, no,” replied Mama. “They just don’t know you yet.”

“I want to go home,” cried Faith, “to be with my friends!”

Mama took Faith in her arms and said, “Faith, this is our home.  Daddy’s job is here and we all need to be together as a family.”


My  Review:

I enjoyed this thoughtful story by Virginia Lieto. I would’ve loved to read it to my kids when they were younger. Children will love the colorful illustrations, the characters, and a story they can relate to. I think this would be a great book especially for children who are transitioning to a new school or have moved. My father was in the Coast Guard and we moved often. Finding a friend in school was always so important but didn’t happen overnight. The message of practicing patience is so important for children at this age and this story presents it beautifully!


Get the book here: https://amzn.to/2rAhzup

Tell your friends about the book too! Tweet:

Looking for a way to teach your child patience, without coming across as “preachy?” Let Finding Patience show you the way. https://amzn.to/2rAhzup


Author Biography:

Virginia Lieto is an adjunct professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, where she also obtained her Master of Arts Degree in Pastoral Theology. In addition to teaching, and speaking publicly on the Catholic faith, she is the author of the children’s book “Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity – Finding Patience,” a Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval recipient. She contributes to Catechist Magazine, Catholicmom.com, and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine’s Theology Blog. In addition, Virginia freelances for such internet companies as Biblezon, providing Catholic content for children. She also maintains her own blog, at virginialieto.com, focused on virtue and morality.

Website: http://virginialieto.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorvirginialieto/

Twitter: @virginialieto

JPII Unfolds the Mystery of Love

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menThe mystery of love? Whether it’s Valentines Day, Christmas, your birthday, or any day of the week…who doesn’t want to unwrap that mystery?

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of Edward Sri’s Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love. I admit I prefer fiction to non-fiction, but I am enjoying this book so much that I want to tell everyone all about it!

Easy to read, this book provides practical insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility. It has discussion questions at the end of each of fourteen chapters, making it ideal for a book club or for digging deeper into what you’ve just read. The topics are ones we all can relate to, but it contains many eye-openers that will likely change the way you think about love and relationships.

It is one I will read over and over so I can more fully grasp the messages and so I can grow in my relationships—especially my relationship with my husband. Honestly, as a writer, I’ll also use it as a resource for relationships in my stories!

The book covers real-life relationship issues:

  • What makes a true friendship and how can this kind of friendship lay the foundation for love?
  • What are the two main ways men and women are attracted to each other?
  • How can these attractions lead to either friendship and selfless love or to a relationship where someone is being used?
  • How do I know if I am in a relationship of authentic love or just another relationship that is doomed to failure?
  • What ingredients are necessary for true love?
  • The differences between men and women and the particular needs of a man and a woman in marriage.
  • Two aspects of love and knowing the difference is crucial for any relationship with the opposite sex.
  • The difference between feeling “I’m in love” and love itself.
  • Why should people wait for marriage to have sex?
  • The problem of pornography.
  • How can I be a better spouse?
  • How can I grow in self-giving love?
  • How to win the fight for purity in our relationships and in our hearts.

There is a lot more about friendship, attraction, relationships, emotions, love, sexuality, marriage, and chastity in the book too.

“Friendship… consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.”    ~John Paul II, Love and Responsibility


While I find this non-fiction book indispensable, I believe fiction is another great way to grow in our understanding of these themes and to unfold the mystery of love.

Full Quiver Publishing is a great place to find fiction that celebrates the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage. Check out their website for books in a variety of genres.


carolyn saleAuthor Carolyn Astfalk writes contemporary Catholic romances, sometimes also referred to as Theology of the Body fiction. Her book Ornamental Graces is #FREE on Valentine’s Day!

After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend. Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of–sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her.

Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

An inspirational Christmas romance that spans every season.


marchmeme.pngA young adult fiction, faithful to Catholic truth, that unfolds the mystery of love:

The ebook version of my contemporary young adult fiction Life-Changing Love is on sale for 99cents through the month of November.

With interesting characters and a fun story-line, this story addresses themes such as courtship vs. current dating practices, struggling with purity, obedience, finding the beauty within, Eucharistic miracles, supporting a friend faced with a crisis pregnancy, abortion vs. adoption, speaking the truth when it’s hard.


CathTeenBooks

For young adult fiction, in a variety of genres, that unfolds one mystery or another of faith and/or love, check out CatholicTeenBooks.com

Check out Carolyn Astfalk’s #OpenBook blog on My Scribbler’s Heart and CatholicMom.com

4 Books You Want to Read

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Toward the end of last year and the beginning of this, I’ve read some books that I highly recommend. You might want to check out these books yourself… for the love of puppies, special needs children, human life, and your soul!

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If you read this book, you will know….Miranda Gargasz has a heart for all living things, but especially the at-risk doggies!

I purchased a copy of this book as soon as it came out! My children thumbed through to see all the cute dog pictures, but then I finally got the book back, and I found a wealth of information inside. Author Miranda Gargasz did a ton of research!

She provides the sad statistics about the numbers of dogs that enter animal shelters every year, and the numbers that never make it out. She explains what goes on behind the scenes in dog kennels and gives examples of the incredible efforts of the Lorain County Dog Kennel (LCDK) workers and volunteers. This book includes several heart-wrenching and heartwarming interviews of these workers and volunteers.

It also spotlights specific LCDK dogs that have been through great difficulties–abandonment, abuse, neglect, accidents–but have been given a second chance. Miranda tells the stories of her own two dogs (both from LCDK), the trials and victories, and the treasure her family has found in them.

And Miranda also provides concrete advice and ways you can help. This book is valuable for its content, but you might also want to get your copy to help the dogs. MORE THAN A VILLAGE: making a difference in the lives of homeless pets—all the proceeds go to the Lorain County Dog Kennel!


9781910806074 (002)I finally read the first book in the I AM MARGARET series! I read all the other books in the series already. Don’t ask me how I ended up reading the first book last.

Anyway, I absolutely loved this book and all the books in the series and will definitely re-read them. Turner presents a dark futuristic society where not all people are considered equal. Those with imperfections, no matter how insignificant, are kept around only so that they can provide “parts” for other people.

Filled with moments of pain, compassion, courage, and hope, this story is tense and fast-paced with twists and surprises, but more-importantly it is thought provoking. The Catholic perspective gives even more depth to this dystopian (compared to other popular dystopians). It really delves into the meaning and value of all human life, regardless of a person’s ability to contribute to society.

Note to parents: this book contains violence, gore, rough language, and sexual innuendos (no sex or anything like that—it’s a very clean book). It is suitable for mature teens and adults, and is sure to deepen a person’s faith, perseverance, and admiration of the martyrs. Check out I AM MARGARET! Great reading material for the #MarchForLife bus trip!


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START HERE! With BROTHERS: A Prequel Novella 

This novella is a great introduction to the I AM MARGARET series, or consider it a bonus for those who have already read the series.

Corinna truly knows how to create solid characters, a sense of urgency, and a well-developed dystopian world. In this story, I enjoyed meeting a new character and following one that I got to know through the I AM MARGARET series. I love how Catholic elements are weaved into the plot because any true change in a person or society must affect not only the physical but the spiritual, the complete person. This story rings with beautiful messages of faith, forgiveness, and trust, and powerfully demonstrates that we, as members of the Body of Christ, belong to one spiritual family.


rebecca

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this children’s story, REBECCA & HEART, as much as I did. But I must confess this story really touched my heart, and I would love for everyone to read it. Rebecca, the main character, has autism. We also have a son with autism, and he is such a treasure to us. While most children with autism struggle with social interactions and are overwhelmed with sensory input of one kind or another, every child is unique. Some have special abilities like Rebecca, but most don’t. Still, every child, no matter their gifts or challenges, brings something wonderful to the people around them, if people know how to look for it and appreciate it.

Told from a fly’s perspective, this story has humor but also insight and depth. As Rebecca’s adoptive parents, and the others in her new home, try to understand Rebecca’s unique way of relating to others and the world around her, every one of them grows in compassion and sensitivity, not only toward Rebecca but toward each other. It is a great story for children and adults alike to help develop empathy for people who experience the world differently. This story would be perfect for schools and families. I highly recommend REBECCA & HEART.


What books have you read lately? Please post in the comments and share what you enjoyed about them!

Book Review: The Grace Crasher

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516arGS316L._SX331_BO1204203200_It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so much while reading a book. This story has so many hysterical parts! I absolutely loved it!

The Grace Crasher opens with Julia and her best friend Robin in a Christian store, shopping for things that can help Julia look like she’s evangelical. She desperately wants to get an apartment but the landlady is a born-again Christian.

At one point, Julia tries on a shirt and turns her backside to Robin.

“Does this Jesus shirt make my butt look big?”

“Not big, just …trapezoidal.”

Then they move to the Bibles. Julia grabs the plain one that simply said Holy Bible because it seemed like the most Bible-ish one.

We soon learn more about Julia, her family, and her interests. She has a crush on Dylan Heath, the lead singer of a local indie band, but when she sees cute Mark, the store’s manager, she decides it’s a good idea to have a backup crush.

I must admit: it was Carolyn Astfalk’s review of The Grace Crasher that compelled me to get a copy for myself. Her book reviews are thorough and reliable, and I think we have similar tastes.

I cracked this book open (actually I read an ebook, so that phrase doesn’t really work) expecting to find a light, humorous, enjoyable story that I could read a little at a time before bed, and I was not disappointed. Author Mara Faro pokes fun at both Evangelical and Catholic Christians, but not in a mean way. It was all gut-busting fun! But as the story developed I also found surprising depth of character and story-line. The main character faces trials many can identify with and goes through a beautiful transformation.

Well-developed and realistic characters, along with the continuous humor, and the deeper spiritual insights made this a fantastic story that I highly recommend.

Other Reviews:

“A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.” ~

“Julia’s path is a relatable one, and in her flaws and the flaws of the characters around her, we see ourselves and our own brokenness with delightful clarity.” ~

“Loved it! Fun, inspiring, quirky,…I had lots of laughs reading this!” ~Amazon review

Funny, insightful, and brilliant!” ~Vera A. Velk

A hilarious, poignant story that sets the broken love among families, friends, lovers, and fellow believers against the backdrop of God’s unfailing, patient, perfect love.” ~

You can learn more about the author Mara Faro at her website.

You can get the book on Amazon in both paperback or ebook format.

Jane Eyre Lives!

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I loved this unique dystopian trilogy, and I am certain you will love it too! For a limited time, all three books in the The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan are on sale for only 99 cents each.

I love the old classics but I also love futuristic stories. “Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E.” combines both elements in a fun-to-read, hard-to-put-down book. With imagination and a great writing style, Erin McCole Cupp has created a powerful futuristic story that is a real thought-provoker. Science fiction readers will love the creative futuristic elements. At times humorous and other times heart-wrenching, this story delves into issues worth considering as society advances. Having developed a strong connection to Jane E, I found myself incredibly moved by a climactic scene where faith plays out in a natural but powerful way. I can’t wait to read more of Jane E.!

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You can read an amazing review of the book on Catholic Reads.  If you haven’t heard of Catholic Reads, here’s what I found out about them on their website:

“We are a resource for Catholic readers hungry for fiction that explores their faith through creativity and fosters Catholic writers by promoting good books.”            ~excerpt from Catholic Reads mission statement

Kindle links:

Unclaimed (Book 1)

Nameless (Book 2)

Vanished (Book 3)

These book are also available in other formats:

Unclaimed on Nook, iBooks, Scribd, 24Symbols, Kobo, Inktera, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori

Nameless on Nook, iBooks, Scribd, 24Symbols, Kobo, Inktera, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori

Vanished on Nook, iBooks, Scribd, 24Symbols, Kobo, Inktera, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori