Christmas Gift Ideas for Catholic Children

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Books by Susan Peek,

author of fast-paced saint stories

ChristmasFrontCoverMeet Saint Anastasia, one of the greatest Christmas saints and the Patroness of Martyrs. Take her hand and let her lead you to the Crib! For centuries, this humble and unassuming martyr has remained hidden in the shadows of the stable. Yet of all the saints in Heaven, she is the only one whose feast day falls on Christmas itself! It’s about time she stepped forward and made some new friends! Join Saint Anastasia and her best friend, Saint Theodota, as they bravely prove their love for God and neighbor, even unto the sacrifice of their own lives.

AOGfrontCoverChildren’s Stories of Animals Who Encountered Saints . . . Told from the Animals’ Points of View! Three delightful stories for young Catholics, beautifully illustrated with black and white drawings. Includes Bonus Reproducible Coloring Book in the back! Stories in Volume One: “The Little Lamb’s Wish”  “The Hungry Gray Mule” and “The Loyal Friend”

AOGV2cover final front cover animals of god volume two (2)Two more stories of animals that encountered saints…told by the animals’ points of view! Stories include: “The Lion Who Lost His Appetite” Rex the Lion has it made. A delightful tale of a saint’s unwavering trust and God’s infinite power, told from the lion’s point of view! “Cuthbert for Breakfast” An endearing story of brotherly love and God’s unfailing mercy, told by the little goose’s point of view!

SmallFrontCoverGOD and learned to love Him enormously! Being different from others is never easy. Saint John the Dwarf, of all people, could tell you that! Forever standing on chairs to reach things, unable to play games with other children because of his size, and being teased by the village bullies were all hard things to bear, and could have made John bitter and full of self-pity. But John discovered a secret – a great BIG secret – which changed his life and turned him into a giant of a saint. Join Little John on his adventures – from his home to a desert cave, to the altar and beyond – and let him teach you his secret of holiness too!

WilliamFrontCoverMeet Saint William, a young French nobleman who could have had it all . . . and gave it all up!Riches, fame, knighthood, an easy life in a grand castle. These were the things that rightly belonged to William by his noble birth. Instead he chose to leave it all behind and give himself completely to God. Building a hut in the quiet woods, he planned to live out his days there in prayer and solitude. But God had other plans for William . . . plans that ensured his suitcase would never stay unpacked!Join William as God sends him one surprise after another, until William finally receives the biggest surprise of all!

MY REVIEW

Whether she is writing teen fiction or children’s stories, Susan Peek knows how to bring characters to life and send them on exciting adventures.

Every book has detailed, beautiful artwork that allows children to visualize scenes. The simple vocabulary makes her stories easy to understand and enjoy. The setting details and imagery Susan Peek uses will draw young readers deeper into the story, speak to their imagination, and stir their little hearts.

Peek’s stories definitely entertain, but they also encourage virtue. The message of each story will appeal to a child’s sense of awe and have them appreciating the Blessed Mother, the saints, holiness, and the Blessed Sacrament in deeper ways.

Visit Susan Peek’s website. Find all of Susan Peek’s books on Amazon or through your favorite bookseller.


Little Runty Trilogy by Martina Parnelli

RuntyBook1FrontCoverA fresh telling – based on actual events! – of the trip taken by the donkey that went to Bethlehem, and all the wondrous things that he saw on the way and there at the cave. Full color illustrations bring to life more vividly this charming account of the classic Christmas story.

 

RuntyFrontCoverIn this exciting adventure, we join the donkey that was present at the crib of Bethlehem. Follow him as he accompanies the Holy Family through the events that occurred on their way to their new home in Egypt. Wondrous miracles, joyful happenings, visits from angels, or great hardships, Little Runty was there and saw it all!

 

Runty Book 3 frontAngels, miracles and adventures await Little Runty in this last of the Little Runty trilogy. The little donkey who went to Bethlehem and Egypt with the Holy family now rejoins them for the trip home. The trek is full of surprises and hardships and at its end there is the question of Runty’s return to the farmer from whom he was borrowed. Follow Runty through his journey and its happy conclusion in this last of the Little Runty series.

MY REVIEW

Author and artist Martina Parneli has created a delightful trilogy that will not only entertain but edify its readers. Parneli’s sweet and engaging writing style is sure to connect with children. Detailed and beautiful artwork fill these books, giving young ones a lot to look at while being read to. Inspired by Venerable Maria D’Agreda’s book The Mystical City of God these stories provide unique insights into the Christmas story and beyond. All three stories convey beautiful messages like trusting God even with your imperfections, knowing that He has a plan for you, making the best of a situation, working hard, and holding onto hope. Through these stories, readers will also grow in a deeper understanding of the trials and sacrifices the Holy Family likely experienced during Jesus’s early years.

Visit Martina Parnelli’s website. Her books are available on Amazon or through your favorite bookseller.


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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Sweet Romances for Sweetest Day

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Sweetest Day ~ Saturday, October 20th

Are you ready?

I just discovered that Sweetest Day is mostly celebrated in the Midwest. Well, that makes sense, because I also discovered that it started in Cleveland, Ohio!

In 1921, Herbert Birch Kingston, an employee at a candy company, wanted to make the less fortunate happy, so he passed out candy to the homeless and orphans around Cleveland.

A year later, it became an official holiday!

So Sweetest Day is not just for couples. You can do something sweet for anyone! And while candy is nice, I think books are better!

This Sweetest Day, I would like to recommend a few sweet inspirational romances that will deepen your understanding of and longing for true love.

I’ve also interviewed the author, Carolyn Astfalk, so you can see what makes her books unique.


41MmpqQbnbLWith her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection. Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse. With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

Click here for reviews.  Click on the book covers to reach the Amazon links.


OG-Front-Cover-FINALAfter 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.

Check out the book trailer here.


rightfully oursSixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep. Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure. Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake? Themes include premarital chastity and overcoming temptation.

This young adult Christian fiction is always listed high on Amazon’s “Values & Virtues” category.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1.


Author Interview: Carolyn Astfalk

I’ve read all three of your published books. I found them all to be well-written and enjoyable with characters that remained with me even to this day. Stay With Meand Ornamental Graces are both adult romance and Rightfully Ours is young adult. Why do you write romance?

I didn’t set out to write romances. In fact, before I wrote the first draft of Rightfully Ours, which was my first attempt at fiction writing, I read very few romances. Somehow, as words spilled onto the page, what I imagined as a teen adventure morphed into a romance. And that’s what I’ve been writing ever since.

I’ve come to love clean, inspirational, and Christian romances. And I continue to read and write them because that spark of romance is not only fun, but provides opportunities for reflecting on the role of romantic love, which gives us a glimpse of the loving fervor with which God pursues each of us and helps us love as He loves.

Romance stories revolve around a central love story that ends in an optimistic ending. Christian romances are typically sweet (no explicit content) and they contain an element of faith woven into the plot. What makes your romance stories different from other Christian romance stories?

What sets my romances apart from other Christian romances is my Catholic worldview. Only a small minority of Christian romances include Catholic characters and themes.

I read heavily in the non-Catholic Christian genres and enjoy those novels very much. But there’s something to be said for seeing your own experience reflected in novels from time-to-time. So, when my characters pray, they’re more likely to bring out the rosary beads. If they’re practicing their faith, they’re at Mass on Sunday. They have the benefit of the sacraments and the grace that they offer. They’re more likely to be open to large families.

And, less significant, but contrary to what some Christian booksellers and publishers would condone, my characters enjoy a good beer, a glass of wine, or use a rare, well-placed mild curse word.

I also treat sexuality in a frank but non-explicit manner. I don’t gloss over the temptations we all face in remaining chaste, no matter our state in life. I try to communicate the joys and challenges of married sexuality lived in accordance with God’s plan.

I understand that themes in your stories reflect ideas found in Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. What is TOB and how do these ideas influence your writing?

When my husband and I were newlyweds, Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was becoming more widely known thanks to people like Christopher West, Janet Smith, and George Weigel. Simply put, the Theology of the Body, presented in a series of Wednesday audiences between 1979 and 1984, is a reflection on the body’s capacity for making visible an invisible reality manifested in our creation as male and female. It is an integrated look at the human person, made to love and be loved.

At the time, we volunteered for Catholic Engaged Encounter in our diocese and saw first-hand the extra challenges faced by couples who rejected the Church’s teaching on sexuality. As a consequence, I really delved into that aspect of theology and developed an affinity for it and a real love for Pope St. John Paul II.

While I never set out to write about the Theology of the Body, that holistic view of the meaning of our bodies always seems to find its way into my stories because it is integral to the intimacy between men and women and ultimately discovering our happily ever after.

How can a romance novel combat the false notions about love and sex that permeate our culture?

There’s a real dichotomy between the way love is often portrayed in modern media, often self-serving and fickle, and the kind of self-donative love we’re called to live.

The kind of romances I write are sometimes witty and flirty—at least I hope so! But, they also delve deeper. While the rush of attraction has an important role to play, I force my characters to move beyond those feelings to deal with what sustains love over the long term. So, that means they’ll wrangle with temptation, sin, forgiveness, mercy, and self-sacrifice.

Ultimately, that kind of love, self-sacrificial love, is more satisfying and fulfilling.

Christian YA fiction #Giveaways!

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Summer is a great time for books and free books are even better! If you enjoy Christian young adult fiction, here are two GIVEAWAYS for you!

THE PERFECT BLINDSIDE – Fresh off a championship medal, Jake Taylor’s parents have dragged him to a middle-of-nowhere town in Colorado, far from where he wants to be. Smart and savvy, Sophie has spent the summer before her junior year of high school avidly following Jake Taylor in every article she can find, but now she sees the “truth” behind the story — he’s really just a jerk. When the only thing they can see is each other’s flaws, how can Jake and Sophie work together to figure out what’s really been happening at the abandoned silver mine? Follow Sophie and Jake into secret tunnels as they unravel the mystery and challenge each other to become who God wants them to be.


AN UNEXPECTED ROLE – The devastation of a ruined summer.The gift of a second chance. Can Josie learn the lessons she needs in order to discover her true self? After a humiliating event and overwhelming peer pressure, 16-year-old Josie flees her home to spend the summer with her Aunt on a South Carolina island. Her fresh start turns into the summer of her dreams as friendships grow, romance blossoms, and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. However, when tragedy strikes someone close to her, Josie realizes there are more important things than her reputation. As she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also discovers who God wants her to be.


Click here for a chance to win both of Leslea Wahl’s books. Winners will be selected August 7th!


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RIGHTFULLY OURS – Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep. Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure. Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

Themes include premarital chastity and overcoming temptation.

“When a young man or woman recognizes that authentic love is a precious treasure, they are also enabled to live their sexuality in accordance with the divine plan, rejecting the false models which are, unfortunately, all too frequently publicized and very widespread.” Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Young People of Rome, Sept 8, 1997

Click here for a chance to win an AUDIOBOOK of Rightfully Ours! All you need to do is comment on the blog post here.  The winner will be selected on August 15th!


Happy reading and have a wonderful summer!

Book Blast: Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

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rightfully oursRightfully Ours: This young adult romance by inspirational fiction author Carolyn Astfalk bears a Nihil Obstat and is a CWG Seal of Approval winner!

A coming-of-age story of first love, buried treasure, and discovering some things are worth the wait.

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

Excerpt:

An unexpected detour left them lost in the dark. Paul had been certain they were heading the right way, but the two-lane country roads they had traveled the last half hour had few markers, and his older brother questioned whether they had missed a junction sign. Paul’s grip tightened on the clumsily-folded map as he peered out the window. Maybe Sean should drag his knuckles out of the Stone Age and get a GPS.

 Paul had been anxious about this move more than the others, even though it would only be temporary. The claw-like limbs of the barren trees whizzing by his window made the whole ordeal seem even more foreboding. He’d never been through North Central Pennsylvania, but in the daylight, the mountains would probably be beautiful, if a little desolate.

It’s only for a few months. By spring, Dad would be home, and things would go back to normal. Normal for them anyway. Besides, maybe he’d like it here.

Website:  http://www.carolynastfalk.com

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CMAstfalk

Instagram:  https://instagram.com/cmastfalk/

My Review:

Well-written and enjoyable, this story takes an honest look at the physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of teens in a serious relationship. As Paul’s and Rachel’s feelings for each other grow, they confront new emotions and urges that they don’t always know how to deal with. Like every child raised Christian, they know what they are “supposed” to do but in some moments, they don’t understand “why.” Sometimes they are confused and make poor choices, but through all the temptations, challenges, and even failures, they both develop an understanding of the value of chastity. By the end of the story, they have a clear, solid, and mature grasp of its worth.

Rightfully Ours provides a thoughtful analysis of intimacy from a teen’s point of view, making it a great book especially for teens who struggle with sexual temptation and for parents who want a deeper consideration of the trials teens in love face. (check out my full review on Goodreads!)

 


Author Bio:   carolynCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where it smells like either chocolate or manure, depending on wind direction. She is the author of the inspirational

 

romances Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters and a CatholicMom.com contributor. Formerly, she served as the communications direct of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affair agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops. True to her Pittsburgh roots, she still says “pop” instead of “soda,” although her beverage of choice is tea.

Buy Link: http://a.co/9BT0frl

Tweet:

A coming-of-age story of friendship, love & doing the right thing – even when it’s tough. Rightfully Ours @cmastfalk #YA #CatholicTeenBooks

New Release: Molly McBride and the Party Invitation

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I found a series your children will love!

As a writer, mother, and homeschooler, it has been important to me to instill a love of reading in my children. Although my boys are teens now, I still love to check out great books for all ages. I particularly love stories that are fun but also have a moral message. Just the other day, I found a series that your children will love: the Molly McBride series by Jean Schoonover-Egolf, who is both author and illustrator.Molly-McBride-and-the-Party-Invitation-cover-1-19

Earlier this month, Jean Egolf released the third book in this series: Molly McBride and the Party Invitation: A Story About the Virtue of Charity

Story summary:
Molly McBride is turning six, and her momma is planning a BIG party. Everyone in Molly’s class is supposed to get an invitation. But should a certain class bully be invited, too? Or would it be better if his were “lost”? Join Molly and friends as they learn that doing acts of charity, while always a good thing, isn’t always a party.

My review:  “Jean Schoonover-Egolf has captured the excitement and struggles of young children in the pages of this sweet story! Molly McBride and the Party Invitation brings Jesus’s lesson of loving one’s enemy to life through the eyes of soon-to-be six-year-old Molly. I love how themes from the Gospel are shown through this story and how the children, especially Molly, take these themes to heart. This is a wonderful story for children about finding happiness in doing the right thing and true charity when faced with unkind people. And the illustrations on every page are amazing!”     ~Theresa Linden

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written and Illustrated : “Paperback Beautifully written and illustrated, Molly McBride and the Party Invitation is the third in a series of books about Molly, a little girl who enjoys dressing in a purple habit. This one is about Molly’s sixth birthday party. Her mom insists on inviting every student in Molly’s class, but Molly doesn’t want to invite the bully in the class because “he is mean.” This is a wonderful book that illustrates the virtues of charity and love of neighbor. Highly recommend!”  

~Ellen Gable Hrkach, February 16, 2018

The first two books in this series:

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Volume 1: Molly McBride wants to be a nun, just like her friends, the Children of Mary Sisters. That’s why she hasn’t taken off her purple nun’s habit ever since her mom made it for her. But now, everyone is saying she needs to wear a scratchy new dress for her older sister Terry’s Big Event. Will Molly and her wolf-pet, Francis, find a way to keep wearing her purple habit?Join Molly and Francis as they learn all about nuns, habits, and being close to Jesus.

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Volume 2: Molly McBride is back and she is as stubborn as ever about her purple habit. She will wear nothing else! She’s managed to keep it on for her sister’s Big Day, but now the faith-filled five-year-old has a whole new wardrobe worry: kindergarten! Join the McBride family and the kindergarten class at Holy Trinity School as Molly and her loyal wolf-pet, Francis, discover that what we wear isn’t as important as what God sees inside of us.

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About the Author
Jeanie Egolf is a retired physician-turned-homeschooling-mom/artist/author who resides in Central Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her awesome hubby Jay Scott Egolf, MD, two amazing daughters, and one rescued “Huskador” puppy. Dr. Jeanie’s art is available for purchase throughout galleries in Ohio and Florida and online at www.zazzle.com/quirky_filly.
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