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.


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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!

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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

Summer & Books: 6 Dates to Disaster

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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About the Book:

When Wendy’s family faces financial hardship, she must find a way to see Mrs. V and Sam again—but will she lose David forever in the process?

For her mom’s birthday, Wendy finds an old jewelry box at a flea market—the perfect gift for someone who loves salvaged junk. But inside the box is a cryptic note that appears to have been written recently. Wendy’s curiosity leads her on a search with boyfriend David at her side, eager to help. Who wrote the note, and did the intended recipient ever see it? But when Wendy’s stepfather loses his job, she needs more personal and urgent help—the financial kind.

The family’s plan to visit Alaska on vacation is headed down the sewer like a hard Louisiana rain. How will Wendy ever see Mrs. V or Sam again? An opportunity arrives in the form of tutoring Melissa, one of the Sticks, and Wendy’s money problems appear to be solved. Until the arrangement takes a turn that gets Wendy into trouble like never before. In the final months of ninth grade, she might lose everything she counted on for the future.


In addition to the fun story line and getting to hang with characters that I’ve come to know and love, this book gave me a lot to think about. Wendy has a lot of opportunities and moral choices to make in this story. I like to know how authors come up with story ideas and themes, so I asked Cynthia Toney a question.

Have you ever risked everything (or almost everything) like Wendy does to see someone you miss or to get what you want?

Today I’m not as impulsive as I was as a girl or young woman, but yes, I’ve taken risks in attempting to get what I want. There’s a saying: “The heart wants what the heart wants.” Often, I’d become frustrated because of a setback or because something wasn’t happening as quickly as I’d like. I’d leave a situation for what seemed a better one and then regret not giving the first one a little more time to develop into what I needed. Or I’d act out of desperation and later realize how undignified I appeared. Like Wendy, I found my integrity slipping away when I didn’t think my decisions through before making them.

~Cynthia T. Toney

My review:

Cynthia Toney has written another fun story in her “Bird Face” series. Many of the characters you’ve come to love in the first two books are back, even if only through email. Main character Wendy Robichaud and her family face new struggles. And Wendy stumbles upon a new mystery, a cryptic note she finds in an old jewelry box that she bought as a present for her mother. Wendy makes some choices she doesn’t quite think through and they lead her into a ton of trouble.

A great book for young teens that gives the reader a lot to think about: family responsibilities; giving tough advice to a friend; making mistakes, owning up to it, and paying the price.  I enjoyed the Cajun touches like this one, “My stomach flipped like a crab cake on a spatula.” I recommend this book for any teen, especially if they’ve enjoyed the first two books in this series.

Visit Cynthia T. Toney:

Website:  http://www.cynthiattoney.com

Blog:  http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.com

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/CynthiaTToney

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

Instagram:  @CynthiaTToney

Pinterest: Cynthia T. Toney, YA Author

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

CathTeenBooks

Summer & Books: Coming this June!

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website. Stop by every day to learn about a different book!

www.CatholicTeenBooks.com provides teen readers, parents, catechists, homeschool co-ops, youth ministers, teachers, and others with direct links to exciting, well-crafted books that raise the heart and mind to God and reflect the fullness and beauty of the Catholic faith.

The site is organized by genre and includes a wide range of books in the following categories:

  • contemporary
  • historical
  • mystery
  • speculative
  • saints
  • dystopian

Among those, you’ll find suspense, romance, coming of age stories, and lives of the saints with age-appropriate themes including the power of intercessory prayer, the communion of saints, the Rosary, virtue, Theology of the Body, and respect for life at all ages and stages.

“Today more than ever, teens need to know they are beautiful and valuable creations of God,” said author of the contemporary Bird Face series Cynthia T. Toney. “Catholic fiction and nonfiction can show them.”

Rather than stuffy, dry stories of saccharine piety, readers will find lively stories that appeal to the modern reader addressing difficult issues such as suicide, abortion, grief, family relationships, disabilities, and dating, all informed by the light of faith.

“A growing number of Catholic authors are producing high quality fiction, as well as riveting non-fiction or fictionalized versions of historical people and events,” according to Stephanie Engelman, author of A Single Bead. “The goal of these authors is to teach as Christ taught – through stories. They take ordinary people, with ordinary lives and challenges, and write extraordinary stories meant to change hearts while teaching minds. While avoiding being preachy or didactic, these authors impart wisdom and support Catholic moral and social teaching.”

Many of the books included have been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild’s Seal of Approval. Several have also received awards from the Catholic Press Association as well as secular organizations. Some books are currently used in schools throughout the United States. All are available in both paperback and electronic format through Amazon.com and other retailers.

“An incredible amount of excitement surrounds this new website,” said Theresa Linden, author of the award-winning Roland West, Loner. “We hope to see it grow into something wonderful for God, helping young readers find books they will thoroughly enjoy and that support, rather than tear down their faith. And also, helping authors of Catholic teen fiction reach their audiences.”

CathTeenBooks

A to Z blogging Challenge: R is for Research

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“R” is for Research

Love it or hate it, every writer needs to do it. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, your book can benefit from research. Since the research aspect is obvious for non-fiction, and I don’t write non-fiction anyway, this blog will focus on researching for fiction.

Ideas for Research

Characters – we want our characters to have unique talents, interests, and abilities, but we also want them to be realistic.

Got a child in your story but no child at home to base him on? Visit family or friends or even the library. Pay attention to the unique speech, mannerisms, interests, and interactions of children of different ages.

Got a teen in your story? Head out to the mall for some people watching! Pay attention to clothing styles and jewelry, along with the unique way each teen’s personality shows through body language and verbal communication.

For adult characters, consider people in your family or workplace and note different characteristics, personality quirks, and manners of speech that might work for a character in your book. Warning: don’t create a character that resembles a real person too closely if the person might take offense.

IMAG0097I modeled Toby Brandt in Roland West, Loner on my oldest son, who has autism. This character captures the personality and interests of my son at age 8 or 9, including his manner of speech and interesting behaviors and obsessions. And even some of the story conflict. While every child with autism is unique, I hope that people will find Toby a realistic character.


Setting – long, detailed passages of weather or setting descriptions will bore our readers, but we need enough details to allow them to picture the setting in their minds.

When possible, go on location to gather details. Go into the woods, warehouses, wilderness, or wherever your scene takes place. Take a notebook and focus on all five senses. When you can’t go on location or you want even more ideas, use the research of other writers, for example try the Setting Thesaurus on the Writers Helping Writers website.

I will share another favorite resource for setting details on the “V” blog next week.


Story ideas – these can come from anywhere and go in any direction but getting a few facts can go a long way in making a story feel believable. We don’t want readers to be thrown out of our story world because something doesn’t ring true.

Rightfully Ours Front (002)In Carolyn Astfalk’s new release, Rightfully Ours, sixteen-year-old Paul Porter relocates to Pennsylvania during his dad’s deployment. He makes a temporary home with the Muellers and develops a friendship with Rachel, the Muellers’ teenage daughter. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Author Carolyn Astfalk wanted to get her facts straight with this story so she researched sink holes (where and how they happen and how you rescue someone from one). She also researched how custody of a minor is handled when a single parent is deployed. And, she had to research how gold bars are authenticated.

Her hard work researching for this story makes it all the more believable and allows readers to truly immerse themselves in the romantic and adventure-filled story line. The e-book is available on Amazon and the paperback is coming soon. You can check out the book trailer here.


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The ideas for my dystopian trilogy came directly from the news. Governments too often step on the rights of the individual. Scientific and technological developments often cross ethical boundaries. And special interest groups attempt to indoctrinate us in order to push hidden agendas.

Because this trilogy is set in the near future, I did an incredible amount of online research into actual ideologies that influence world governments, the latest scientific developments, and cutting-edge technology. Unlike some dystopian stories, nothing that happens in this trilogy is that farfetched. If we don’t reclaim our culture and cling to faith, family, and freedom, this is a real possibility for our future.

The more I learned from research, the more I realized I needed to write this dystopian story. I only meant to write one book and get back to my other stories. I wanted to end Chasing Liberty showing a seed of change being planted. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What exactly is this freedom we should be fighting for? And how can one person make a difference?

This trilogy is available through most online booksellers and you can find the book trailers on my website.


What type of research have you done for your stories and what are your favorite resources?

A to Z blogging Challenge: K is for Klutz

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“K” is for Klutz

Thoughts on Character Flaws

I was an awkward girl and a klutzy teen. The majority of my friends seemed to have it all together. They moved through life with relative grace and ease.

One day in grade school, I was strolling across the playground with a friend, deep in conversation, and next thing I knew I was wrapped around a tetherball pole.

Other times, I got up to leave a classroom and my purse dragged me back to my desk, the strap hooked around the chair. Or only some of my books came with me, the others diving to the floor.

These humiliating experiences have inspired one of the characters in my Christian teen fiction: Caitlyn Summer. Caitlyn is super sweet, but she’s thin, shapeless, and klutzy. Caitlyn gets tangled in the streamers of a hanging plant, she trips climbing stairs, and worse: she blurts out things that should’ve remained secret. Her flaws humble and humiliate her but they also change the direction of the story.75HN5HHXIE.jpgWhile we want our characters to have admirable qualities and unique skills and abilities, every character needs flaws. This allows readers to either identify with or feel compassion for them. Character flaws can add tension or humor to a scene, stand in the way of a character attaining his or her goals, and give the character something to strive to overcome.

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They can be little things like a coffee addiction or fear of spiders or snakes. They can be deep psychological or moral weaknesses like pride, cowardice, and distrust.

How do you get a character’s flaws into the story?

Demonstrate it through their actions, thoughts, and dialog. They might not even see it as a flaw at first. Over the course of the story, reveal character flaws so that they are fully exposed to the character by the end of the story. In addition to beating the antagonist, give the protagonist something within themselves that they must overcome in order to bring about the victory.

Looking for resources to develop interesting character flaws? Check out this list on Writers Write. or have fun with this character flaw generator or this character trait generator.

If you are a fiction writer, I’d love to hear how you come up with character flaws. Please leave a comment.

Happy writing!