Books that Touch on Life Issues: by Carolyn Astfalk

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Guest Post by Carolyn Astfalk, Inspirational Romance Author

Because fiction excels at creating empathy, books that involve deeply personal, emotionally-intense issues help readers consider situations in a whole new light. Over the years, I’ve read many books that touch on life issues – both at its beginning and end. These books are ones that touch on abortion and related life issues.

The reviews may not even mention abortion, as these aren’t “message” books but rather novels that skillfully weave life issues into the plot. Beneath the reviews are several other books that merit being included, but for which I did not post a review. (There was actually a time when I didn’t review almost everything I read! I also haven’t reviewed my own book, for obvious reasons.)

And finally, there are four dystopian series listed, which were also included in the end-of-life post. I hope you’ll click through and read more about these exceptional books!


9780997674743.mainAnyone But Him by Theresa Linden

Anyone But Him is brimming with delicious romance, keep-you-guessing mystery, and a dose of humor. Wonderfully written with well-developed characters, and a solid plot – all hallmarks of Theresa Linden’s books. With her first novel aimed at the new adult market, I hope many, many more readers are introduced to her writing. It’s a joy to read novels both well written and underpinned by the Catholic faith and the values Catholics hold dear. [Learn more about Anyone But Him.]


shadowsShadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

Shadows of Hope is a book-length exercise in dramatic irony that kept me engrossed until all was revealed, in dramatic fashion.

From the first pages – or from the book description alone – the reader knows that Marissa counsels Kaitlyn throughout her unplanned pregnancy and that, unbeknownst to both women, Marissa’s husband Colin is the father.

Tension builds as various conflicts unfold and layers of the characters are revealed: infertility, the absence of a father, infidelity, insecurity, and more bring great depth to Marissa, Kaitlyn, and even Colin.

The reader gets to examine the situation from each of the three characters’ points of view – closest with Marissa (1st person), but also Kaitlyn and Colin (3rd person).

Georgiana Daniels resists an easy resolution, instead delivering a true-to-life examination of the shared heartache, joy, and, eventually, hope, of three imperfect people bound by an unborn child.

Fans of women’s fiction will especially enjoy this well-written, thoughtful story. I look forward to reading more from this author.


discoveryDiscovery by Karina Fabian

If your mental picture of religious sisters is dour, old women with wimple habits and ankle-length skirts, then scrub that image before opening Discovery. The sisters in the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue are post-modern, brave pioneers with habits suited to work in zero gravity.

The challenges to their present mission on the alien craft Discovery are best summed up by Sister Rita’s exclamation of “Codists and Wiccans and evangelists, oh, my.” Sister Rita, along with stalwart pilot Sister Thomas and “spacey” but brilliant Sister Ann, have all sorts of conflicting interests to contend with: the brainy researchers, the working-class rockjacks, and, oh yeah, that alien ship.

Interwoven amongst the crew’s scientific discoveries are their personal discoveries, brought to light within the desolate alien craft. Karina Fabian does a good job of managing what could be an unwieldy cast of characters, two romances, devious intrigue, and a guilty conscience.

In the end, the most profound discovery isn’t an alien life form, but a relationship with God, whose love knows no boundaries, whose mercy overflows, and who calls us each for a unique purpose.

Just enough bread crumbs are dropped to keep the reader intrigued by the various interpersonal relationships and cryptic messages of Sister Ann, mounting to page-turning suspense in the final chapters.

Discovery is a journey worth taking.


23440072Unfailing Love by Julie Lessman

I awaited Isle of Hope for months, eager to read Julie Lessman’s voice in a contemporary novel. She did not disappoint.

The characters have depth, are well-drawn, and inhabit their modern coastal Georgia isle so naturally they made me long for a beach vacation.

The dramatic plot turns in Isle of Hope call to mind a soap opera (as they often do in Julie Lessman’s historical novels), which is less a criticism and more a testament to the author’s savvy given the enduring popularity of soaps (and perhaps a nod to her well-known love of Gone With the Wind). The novel includes perhaps the best one-sentence chapter-ending cliffhanger I’ve ever read.

The faith element is organic to the story, but is more extensive than in most inspirational romances or women’s fiction as multiple characters’ arcs echo the themes of forgiveness, (re)conversion, and redemption. I highlighted several passages that struck a chord – something I typically don’t do. By showing the natural consequences of selfish actions, the narrative deftly demonstrates how no sin is truly private, and its repercussions affect many people besides the perpetrator.

Some beautiful, tender, heart-melting moments of grief and sorrow are interwoven with the painful longing and simmering passion you’d expect.

A little tightening to reduce thematic repetition and some of the analogies would only make this good novel even better. As it is, it’s an engaging story of love, forgiveness, healing, and rebirth that left me looking forward to the next book in the series.


9780996816861.MAINLife-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Not only is Life-Changing love an entertaining read, but it’s a great tool for launching conversations between teens and parents about their expectations for dating and relationships.

Caitlyn Summers is in love with being in love. She yearns for her first boyfriend and her first kiss. And she knows just the boy to make those dreams come true: Roland West. Only Roland, despite the mixed signals he sends, is not interested in having a girlfriend.

By contrast, Caitlyn’s gorgeous best friend Zoe has gone from zero to well beyond the speed limit in mere days with Roland’s dangerous older brother Jarret.

When Jarret’s twin Keefe returns from a trip to Italy with his father, he’s changed -unwilling to allow Jarret to manipulate him, introspective, pious, and intrigued by Caitlyn.

The lives of the West brothers and Caitlyn and Zoe turn topsy-turvy as they struggle to navigate obedience to their parents, the longings of their hearts, and the predicament Jarret and Zoe have created for themselves.

Theresa Linden does an outstanding job of capturing the tension of the teenage years. The result is a moving story that shows the consequences of premature sexual relationships and the value of pursuing friendships that honor God and respect the dignity of each person.


22293276The Truth and Nothing But Lies by Cheri Vause

The Truth and Nothing But Lies is an engaging tale that could be ripped from the headlines if only the media delved so deeply. Its intricate plot and suspense hold attention and draw the reader to the end. Its greatest value, however, lies in its plain demonstration of the dire consequences of all-too-familiar actions cloaked in euphemisms of sexual liberation and freedom to choose.


17786919Rapunzel Let Down: A Fairy Tale Retold by Regina Doman

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” – Rom 5:20 In this modern adaption of the classic tale of Rapunzel, Regina Doman brings us the story of Hermes, a conservative senator’s son, who falls in love with Raphaella, the adopted daughter of a radical feminist. Hermes impregnates the innocent Raphaella and from there, sin begets sin and suffering. Fans of Doman’s fairytale novels and new readers alike will enjoy this adaption that brings to life both the dire consequences of sin and the graces borne of virtue. The contemporary setting meshes wonderfully with the timeless fairytale sprinkled liberally with a Catholic worldview. Reminiscent of Doman’s other novels, the heroic ending will have you on the edge of your seat.


tob-coverImage and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp

Even if you’ve read St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body from start to finish and a half-dozen nonfiction books about it on the side, I guarantee this collection of shorts will uncover the teachings in ways you hadn’t considered. It will challenge you in unexpected ways. One or two (or more) of the stories may make you uncomfortable. While the writing is polished, the varnish coating the darkness of our lives is stripped, laying bare the truths written on our heart and the lies we tell with our bodies.


Recommended for reading, reflection, discussion, and even entertainment. A gritty but beautiful introduction not only to the Theology of the Body as it is lived (or rejected), but also to the breadth and promise of Catholic fiction being written by contemporary authors. These shorts are accessible to any careful reader, whether familiar with the Theology of the Body or not.

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Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable


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The Gifting Series by K.E. Ganshert

The Liberty Series by Theresa Linden

I Am Margaret Series by Corinna Turner

The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp


carolyn

Carolyn Astfalk is a wife, mother, and author of contemporary inspy romances Stay With Me, Ornamental Graces, and Rightfully Ours. She formerly worked as a communications director and now works just to keep her head above water. Find her books on Amazon and her other words scattered around the blogosphere and social media.

Follow her blog “My Scribblers Heart”.

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New Adult Mystery Romance: Giveaway

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My new adult Christian mystery romance ANYONE BUT HIM came out this month. And you have two chances to win a free copy!

  1. Stop by Sarah Damm’s blog for her book review and a giveaway!
  2. Stop by CatholicMom.com to check out an excerpt and the book trailer and then enter a second giveaway!

Click here to check out the entire Virtual Book Tour. You’ll find more reviews of Anyone But Him, a cooking video and printable recipe taken from a scene in the story, and an author interview!

If you know someone who might enjoy this book, please spread the word!

Anyone But Him is brimming with delicious romance, keep-you-guessing mystery, and a dose of humor. Wonderfully written with well-developed characters, and a solid plot.” ~An Open Book Family

Virtual Book Tour ~ Christian Mystery ANYONE BUT HIM

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Blog Tour for Anyone But Him

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Thank you to all the bloggers who are taking part in this Virtual Book Tour! And thank you to everyone who visits the blog stops!

First stop, April 5th: Steven R. McEvoy’s blog Book Reviews and More
Steven R. McEvoy is a prolific reader and reviewer. Last year he read 380 books! He also creates “Top Ten” lists and posts author interviews with 20 Questions. Click here for my interview on his site. He also plans to share an early review of Anyone But Him.

Second stop, April 6th – Larry Peterson’s blog Cradling Catholic   
Larry Peterson is the author of The Demons of Abadon, a supernatural thriller pitting Good against Evil, and several other books. His blog made the list of the Top 100 Catholic Blogs!

Third stop, April 9th – Carolyn Astfalk’s blog My Scribblers Heart
Carolyn Astfalk is the author of three inspirational Christian romances, including her debut young adult romance, Rightfully Ours. She is also a prolific reader, reviewer, and blogger. You can learn more about the books she’s read from her monthly An Open Book blog post. For the blog tour, she will be posting a recipe from a meal prepared in Anyone But Him!

Fourth stop, April 10th – Ellen Gable Hrkach’s blog Plot Line and Sinker
Ellen Hrkach is the author of several bestsellers, including the award-winner In Name Only. She is also the founder of Full Quiver Publishing, a publisher that seeks to make fiction available that celebrates the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage.

Fifth stop, April 16th – Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur’s blog Spiritual Woman   
Patrice MacArthur is a homeschooling mom, writer, editor, artist, and the author of The Catholic Baby Name Book and Letters from Mary to a Young Mother.

Sixth stop, April 18th – Ellen Gable Hrkach’s blog Plot Line and Sinker
Ellen will be posting her review of Anyone But Him one day, and she will post an author interview on the other! Please stop by her blog both days to check them both out!

Seventh stop, April 19th – A. K. Frailey’s blog The Writings of A. K. FraileyA. K. Frailey is a novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. She has nine published books and several articles in national magazines. She recently released the second book in her science fiction series, Newearth: Justine Awakens. If you are a science fiction fan, please check that out on her blog too!

Eighth stop, April 23rd – Sarah Damm’s blog      
Sarah Damm’s faith shines through on every page of her blog. She writes at CatholicMom.com and WINE: Women in the New Evangelization. She is also one of the contributors of The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections.


Ninth stop, also on April 23rd – CatholicMom.com  

Created in 2000, this website is all about Faith, Family, and Fun from a Catholic perspective. It is a rich resource for all Catholics seeking spiritual enrichment for their families. I am happy that this will be one of the blog stops for Anyone But Him! They will be hosting a giveaway of the book!

Last stop on the blog tour, April 27th – Barb Szyszkiewicz’s blog Franciscan Mom  
Barb Szyszkiewicz is another prolific reader and reviewer. She is also an editor at CatholicMom.com and a contributing writer for Today’s Catholic Teacher.

Please come along on the virtual blog tour!

Countdown to release ANYONE BUT HIM, New Adult Christian Mystery

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In two days, my debut Christian mystery romance comes out! So today I am sharing the “Press Release.”


 

Press Release: Award-Winning Novelist Pens Pro-Life Mystery Romance

Redemptive Message Converts Hearts and Minds

Pro-life mystery romance, ANYONE BUT HIM by Theresa Linden, is slated for release this April 5, 2018. Theresa writes Catholic fiction in a variety of genres, including dystopian, supernatural, and contemporary. She has eight published young adult and new adult novels. Two of her short stories appear in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body. Her books won awards from the Catholic Press Association two years in a row. Theresa’s passion is to create stories that weave together the natural and supernatural, bringing spiritual realities to her readers’ imaginations and showing the power of faith and grace.

Her emotionally-charged mystery romance, ANYONE BUT HIM, follows a young woman suffering from amnesia. She finds herself clear across the country from her childhood home and married to a man who pushed her best friend in high school to have an abortion. Unable to remember the past three years, she struggles to solve the mysteries of her amnesia and her marriage to this man who had never shared her values. Suspicious circumstances surrounding her husband tempt her to leave and start life over, but they also challenge her Christian faith and convictions about marriage. The arrival of her first love, her husband’s younger brother, intent on helping her regain her memory, offers a glimmer of hope. Together they uncover secrets involving her coworkers and the local abortion clinic, but nothing to explain why she married this man. Who changed – him or her?

Early Review:

“I sped through chapters trying to guess who could be trusted, who had changed, and how an investigation into an abortion clinic’s deceptive practices could be the key to Caitlyn regaining her memory.”  ~Carolyn Astfalk, author of contemporary inspirational romances, including Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces

 

ANYONE BUT HIM by Theresa Linden

6 x 9 300 pages ISBN-13: 978-0-9976747-4-3 LCCN:  2017918741

$13.99 in USA Publication Date: April 5, 2018

Hardback Paperback eBook

Christian Mystery Romance

 

Stay tuned for the “Virtual Book Tour” blog stops & dates! The book tour will include early reviews, a recipe from the story, book trailer, author interview, and a giveaway!

 

 

Summer & Books: Testing Liberty

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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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I never meant for Chasing Liberty to be a trilogy. I wrote it as a stand-alone that was meant to get readers thinking. But my readers wanted to know what happens next, and the characters began to tell me. The second and third books in this trilogy came together rather quickly.

Check out the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win the entire trilogy.

About the Book:

Hidden no more. Imprisoned by the all-controlling government. Slated for Re-Education. Liberty must escape from a high-security facility to rescue the colonists who lost their freedom. Their capture is her fault.

Set in the not-so-distant future, where the government controls society through indoctrination, population control, and the eradication of the family, Liberty bides her time in Aldonia’s Re-Education facility. If she fails to escape and rescue the others, the children, teens and adults of the Maxwell Colony will be integrated into society, facing sterilization and indoctrination. She is not alone in the desire to rescue the colonists. An underground, anti-government group has been rescuing people from Aldonia for years, but never have they attempted to rescue so many at one time. To do so would risk exposing, even ending, their operation. Dedrick, one of the top rescuers, grieves for his family members who are now residents of government’s facilities. He wants Liberty free, but he is opposed to working with her.

Racing through the wild, the underground and sordid inner-city slums, Testing Liberty follows Liberty from one trial to another, to her final sacrifice.


Check out the book trailer here. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will share a few images that tell some of the story from Testing Liberty.

Here are a couple of review snippets from Amazon.

A great sequel to Chasing Liberty. It takes up from the first story and carries it forward. You meet more characters, also thoughtfully drawn. It is full of action and surprises, as well as thought provoking ideas. It is totally believable, as our society heads the way of the Regimen thinking today. I like how Dedrick and Liberty draw closer, although she has to atone for what she caused to happen in book one. I can’t wait for the wrap-up in the last book. I hope they overthrow the Regimen and return America to its roots.

“Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty have made me a fan of dystopian fiction. Smart, suspenseful, and well-written, these gems will have you eagerly awaiting the final book in the series!”

Want to learn more about Theresa Linden and her books?

website: www.theresalinden.com

blog: Things Visible & Invisible

Facebook author page

Twitter: @LindenTheresa

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.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge: U is for Utopian

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“U” is for Utopian

I write dystopian fiction. A dystopia is an undesirable or frightening society characterized by misery. It is the opposite of utopia.

A utopian society has perfection in law and politics and very little crime, violence, or poverty. The term was first used by Sir Thomas More in his book, Utopia.

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Saint Thomas More was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, and councilor to Henry VII.  He was beheaded for refusing to acknowledge King Henry’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and for refusing to recognize the king as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

His parting words: “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

In 1516, he wrote a political satire called Utopia. While the word utopian has come to mean “a good place,” in Greek the word means “not place” or “nowhere” because the place doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. More’s story is all about the religious, social, and political customs of a fictional island. Through his story of this fictional land, he discusses some of the bad things going on in Europe at the time and he proposes a society based on rational thought, where there is no poverty or class distinction, and little crime or immoral behavior, and no threat of war.

It is a good idea for a writer to have a version of utopia in mind, all that is good and true, when they are writing conflict, challenges, and failings into the plot. We can’t delve into the bad if we don’t have the framework of good.

What would an ideal society look like to you?  What would an ideal life look like to you? What does “the ideal” look like to the protagonist in your story?

 

 

 

A to Z blogging Challenge: Q is for Query Letter

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“Q” is for . . .  the dreaded Query Letter

Writing is hard work, but it’s also fun and rewarding. I would love the opportunity to write all day and all night for a week, sleeping and eating as necessary. Editing has its rewards too, as you tighten a plot and polish a manuscript. I love the English language and enjoy learning new words and grammar and punctuation rules. (Call me weird if you want.) But writing a synopsis and query letter has always posed a challenge for me. I don’t enjoy it at all.

By the time I’m ready to write the query letter, I should know the story inside and out and be able to convey it in two paragraphs. I should be able to explain to an agent why my story is worth checking out and worth representing. But I struggle with this. So I am writing this post for myself and for every other writer who struggles with query letters.

Writers Digest gives a list of “10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter.” I am summarizing their suggestions here.

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  1. First, research agents. We want to find an agent who is interested in what we write. And we want to be able to refer to an agent by name in our query letter. (Writers Store has an online list of free resources for researching agents. You can also use Writer’s Market or Literary Marketplace, both of which can be purchased online or found at your local library.)
  2. Next, develop a hook that will get the agent interested in your manuscript right away. Then sell your manuscript with a summary of the story. This is similar to the back cover copy and should be no more than 100-200 words. Pour all your energy and skills into this part. (We will need to include genre, word count, title/subtitle)
  3. Then we want to show that we’ve done our research when selecting this specific agent. Consider mentioning one or two of the books they represent.
  4. In the last paragraph, let the agent know your platform. Do you speak at author events or writing conferences? Do you blog, tweet, or use Instagram, and have a ton of followers? If you don’t have a platform, don’t worry about it, but consider building one for the future. You can also include other published books or relevant awards in this paragraph. Keep it tight; don’t add too much.
  5. End with a short thank you and closing.

Study other successful query letter. Writers Digest has a link to query letter examples. They also include a list of what not to do, things like being arrogant or giving your age, saying how much your mom loves the book, or including irrelevant credits.

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When developing the story hook in your query letter, consider:

  • What does the protagonist want?
  • Why does she want it?
  • What keeps her from getting it?
  • What is unique about this story?
  • Don’t reveal the ending of the story here; save that for the synopsis.
  • Don’t go longer than 200 words. The entire query letter should be no more than 400 words.
  • Don’t mention more than 3 or 4 characters.
  • Don’t go into minor plot points.

Make sure to show your voice and personality in the hook.

Here is another helpful website by Jane Friedman, who has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. She has good advice for us at this stage of the game.

What resources or tips have you found most helpful in creating a query letter?