Christian Christmas Read ~ Ornamental Graces

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Free Kindle download today, December 15th!

Summary:

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?

Excerpt:

The man had lifted a Douglas fir from where it leaned against the rope Dan strung across the lot. He stamped its trunk on the frozen, dry ground a couple times and then twirled it around so the woman could see every side. It was a woman, wasn’t it? No telltale pink gloves or hand-knit, sparkly scarf. No expensive boots designed for gawking rather than walking. Just a puffy, navy jacket and white tennis shoes. It could be a skinny dude.

The person spent less than three seconds observing it before planting hands on hips and signaling disapproval with a shake of the head. Yeah, definitely a woman.

Dan rolled his eyes. Another one. If nothing else, this job had given him an unforgettable real-life lesson in male-female dynamics—a lesson that would’ve been helpful a couple of years ago. The man would ferret out the best-looking tree, well-shaped and full, and the woman would turn up her nose, forcing them to cycle through four to seven more trees before one met her approval—sometimes the same tree the man had first shown her.

Poor sap. He had at least three more trees to go.

Website:  www.carolynastfalk.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CarolynMAstfalk
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CMAstfalk
Instagram:  https://instagram.com/cmastfalk/

Bio:

Carolyn 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, Catholic Teen Books, Pennwriters, and is a CatholicMom.com and Today’s Catholic Teacher contributor. True to her Pittsburgh roots, she still says “pop” instead of “soda,” although her beverage of choice is tea.

Buy Link:

http://a.co/d/bW7fMgt

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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.

New Teen Fiction: 3 Things to Forget

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I am excited to share award-winning author Cynthia T. Toney’s newest release! This is the final book in the Bird Face series! To celebrate, the publisher has made book one FREE on Amazon on release day only:  October 16th! And the new release, 3 Things to Forget, is only 99 cents today too!


3 Things to ForgetNew People
New Challenges
And a whole new Altitude

In Alaska, Wendy thinks she’s left behind the problems resulting from her mistakes in Louisiana, at least for a while. But starting the summer at her friend Sam’s house and volunteering with Alaska Wildlife Conservation bring not only strange surroundings but also strangers into her life. And those strangers have a secret involving a troubled girl who threatens Wendy’s friendship with Sam.

As Wendy struggles to understand the Alaskans she meets and gets to know, will she be able to forget what she hopes to, or will her new challenges teach her the importance of remembering the past?


I was happy to have received an advanced copy of this book and so I’d like to share my review!

My Review

Cynthia Toney has written another strong story about friendship and the complicated issues that many teens face, this one with the beautiful messages of encouraging teens to share their troubles with their parents and offering kindness even to the unkind.

Wendy is such an admirable character in the way she longs to bring comfort and joy to her elderly friend who has Alzheimer’s. She is a three-dimensional character with interests in writing, sign language, and cute little wolf pups, but she also has room to grow. The more she tries to help her friends in this story, the more of a mess she makes! This is especially true of her relationship with Dev—a girl with many secrets. Wendy becomes so suspicious of Dev’s motives that she even starts to lose faith in her best friend, Sam. Her stepsister gives her great advice that we can all benefit from: “There’s always more to a person’s story than you think when you first meet them.”

With a beautiful Alaskan setting, mystery, and drama, teen readers are sure to love this fourth book in The Bird Face Series. If they’ve read the first three books, like I have, they will also enjoy revisiting favorite characters. Ever since reading 6 Dates to Disaster, I’ve been looking forward to finding out more about Sam, and this story does not disappoint.

Click here to get your copy!

Visit Cynthia T. Toney’s website to learn more about the author and the series.

 

Blog Tour: Where You Lead

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I am excited to be part of the Virtual Book Tour for Leslea Wahl’s newest Christian young adult mystery, Where You Lead! Please check out my post so you can not only learn about the book but find out about a treasure hunt and discover author Leslea Wahl’s favorite Washington DC sites. Note: these sites are also mentioned in this story!


where you leadTeen Eve Donahue’s lonely existence changes in an instant when visions of a mysterious stranger haunt her. Certain God is calling her for a mission, she bravely says yes and begins her quest to meet this young man. Thousands of miles away, Nick Hammond has been dealing with his own unusual experience, an unwavering certainty to convince his father to run for political office. When these two unlikely teens finally meet, their belief that God has called them to work together sets them on a journey of faith to untangle a web of deception involving international trade agreements, lost confederate gold, and a blossoming romance. As they follow century old clues, they realize God can call us all in big and small ways. We just need to listen.

Available in Kindle and paperback. Buy the book here.


Wahl is one of my favorite authors of young adult fiction. But she is also the favorite of a lot of readers! I want to congratulate her on the Gold Medal The Perfect Blindside recently won from Readers Choice! This book was also the 1st-place winner of the 2016 Catholic Press Association book awards, in the teen fiction category. Another one of her books, An Unexpected Role, was a Gold Medalist in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Her books have also received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. You can check out other awards her books have won here. Or on her website. And if you ask me, Where You Lead is another winner!

My review:

This is an incredibly fun mystery with a great combination of action and adventure and tension that builds throughout the story. The main characters, Nick and Eve, are well-developed and likeable. She’s romantic, talkative, and has a style all her own: Eve doesn’t try to be like everyone else; she’s comfortable just being herself. Nick is level-headed, resourceful, and charming. Plus, he comes from a big and very interesting family.

I enjoyed the attraction and interactions between these characters and following along as they tried to solve this unique mystery. As a history lover, I enjoyed the tidbits about the Civil War and the “virtual tour” of Washington D.C., visiting museums, monuments, cemeteries, and other historical places with the characters.

Several wonderful messages are weaved through this story, too, like trusting in God even when we can’t understand His plan and realizing that the smaller missions from God are just as important as the bigger missions. With her sharp writing style, ability to develop a riveting mystery, and the way she weaves faith into her stories, Leslea Wahl has become one of my favorite authors.

I highly recommend this story for teens and adults. In addition to the bits of history and positive role models, this book is just plain fun!


Leslea Wahl’s 10 Favorite DC Sites

“As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed books where the setting of a story comes alive through the eyes of the characters. I certainly hope I that I was able to accomplish that feat in my new novel, Where You Lead. This adventurous mystery is set in a city that is near and dear to my heart. A place that I lived for four years, right after I was married – Washington DC. I loved every moment of our time there and had so much fun including some of my favorite spots in this story. Here are 10 of my favorite DC sites that are part of this book’s adventure.”  ~Leslea Wahl

1. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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2 – Embassy Row

 

3 – Georgetown

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4 – The Smithsonian

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5 – The National Cathedral

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6 – The Tidal Basin and cherry blossoms

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7 – The Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument

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8 – The C&O Canal

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9 – Oak Park Cemetery

10- Arlington Cemetery

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treasure huntClick here for the treasure hunt!


bookLeslea Wahl is a Colorado native who loves to travel with her family. She considers herself blessed to have found a way to intertwine her two passions by creating adventurous stories with positive Christian messages for today’s youth. She hopes to inspire others to find their gifts as well. Her first book, The Perfect Blindside, was awarded a 2016 Illumination Christian Book Award silver medal and was a first place winner at the 2016 Catholic Press Association Book Awards.

Available in Kindle and paperback. Buy Where You Lead here.

Contact Leslea Wahl:​

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.

The Fun of An Audiobook!

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Children love being read to. Do you ever grow out of that? My boys are all teens now, but I loved reading to my kids when they were younger and they loved being read to. My son who has autism wanted specific stories read over and over, so I’ve got many memorized, even to this day.

I also enjoyed being read to as a kid. Actually, I love when my kids read to me now!

There is something about listening to someone read a story that transports you right into the pages. A good storyteller can bring characters to life, deepen emotions, develop tension, and enhance the overall experience.

ACX BattleBecause of this, I decided to have my supernatural Christian fiction Battle For His Soul turned into an audiobook. Not sure what to do, I sought advice from other authors who’ve turned their books into audiobooks. (More on them in a moment.) Then I joined ACX, searched for and found the perfect narrator. (More on him in a moment, too.)

First, let me continue to promote the benefits of audiobooks! Audiobooks allow you to have your hands free so you can drive, work in the yard, do dishes, or even take a walk… all while enjoying your favorite story. They are perfect for that long ride into work or on vacation.

Readers, you can enjoy stories constantly, not just when you are free to hold a book in your hands and turn pages!

When I decided to turn Battle for His Soul into an audio book, I wanted the perfect narrator. I listened to several on ACX and asked a few to audition before finally choosing Keith McCarthy. Something about his voice just felt right. Plus, he is able to do different voices, male and female, and convey various attitudes and dispositions. He also seems to know just when to pause and what words to emphasize to really bring a story to life.

At the completion of the project, I was so excited to hear the final product and so amazed by Keith’s skills that I wanted to tell everyone about him.


Interview ~ Keith McCarthy

How did you get started as a narrator for ACX?

Keithheadshot (002)In addition to acting, I also teach theater and English. A couple of years ago, to help with my students’ comprehension of the books they read, I posted videos of myself reading the books aloud on YouTube. The videos quickly took off and as my subscriber list grew and grew, I wondered if there were a way I could do this professionally.  It turns out, there was.

How many audiobooks have you narrated?

It depends on which books we are counting. I have an ongoing contract with Rosen Publishing, a large publisher of educational materials, to create audio books of their nonfiction books that are used in kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms. Those are only available to students in schools that have purchased this program, and the books themselves are very short…. 24 to 48 pages, but thus far I’ve done about 35 of those, with more to come. As far as books available on Audible,  I’ve done about 20. And I’ve done about 10 in my YouTube channel.

You have an incredible skill with creating voices. What other forms of acting have you done?

Mainly theater. I’ve acted in a variety of venues across Boston’s North Shore… on average a play or two every year. I also direct my school plays… about 55 of them over the past 20 years.

What are your favorite voices to do? 

I like the villains most… and anyone cocky or arrogant….those are the fun ones. I also enjoy narrating history. My dream job is to narrate a Ken Burns style documentary for PBS.

Which character in Battle for His Soul did you like doing best?

Jesus! A close second was Selena. I hadn’t done a lot of Spanish/Mexican accents in the past, so I practiced quite a bit before I started and I think it came out pretty well.

My note: Keith’s portrayal of Jesus in this story had me spellbound. As I listened to him performing this scene, for a moment, I was no longer the author and I could think of nothing other than the words he spoke. He did an amazing job!

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

I would just add that it was a joy working on this book. After narrating lots of not always terribly interesting, at least to me, informational text on everything from Poker Strategy to the JavaScript programming language (try narrating lines of computer code for two hours and see how sane you feel) it had been my goal to narrate more books for young adults and kids, so it was refreshing to work on such an entertaining and well-crafted book. 

Follow Keith McCarthy on his Youtube channel and check out other books that he’s narrated by clicking here.


And now, a bit about the authors who inspired me to embark upon this journey: Susan Peek and Carolyn Astfalk.

Susan’s passion is writing stories of little-known saints and heroes. She has several books for children and several more for teens, and she has turned two of them (St. Magnus the Last Viking and A Soldier Surrenders) into audiobooks. She is presently working on the audio book for The Kings Prey.

Carolyn writes inspirational Christian romance. She has two adult titles: Ornamental Graces and Stay With Me. And one young adult story: Rightfully Ours. All of her books are available as audiobooks.

Both of these authors are featured on CatholicTeenBooks.com, along with several other amazing authors.

If you are an author and interested in turning your story into an audiobook, check out Carolyn Astfalk’s blog post “Tips for Turning Your Novel into an Audiobook Using ACX.” Carolyn recently presented these tips at a writers’ conference. She has a second article which is just as helpful, once you’ve decided to create an audiobook: “Tips for Marketing Your Audiobook”

If you like audiobooks and are a fan of Catholic teen fiction, here are a few more books you might enjoy:audiobooks.jpg

 

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!