Summer & Books: St. Magnus, The Last Viking

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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.

 

finalStMagnusFrontCoverSt. Magnus Erlendson was the Earl of Orkney, and he lived from 1106 to about 1115. He is sometimes known as Magnus the Martyr.

His grandparents were Earl Thorfinn and Ingibiorg Finnsdottir. They had two sons, twins: Erlend and Paul. Erlend was Magnus’s father. Other relatives include the Norwegian Kings Olav II and Harald II. You can do an online search and find plenty of interesting historical facts—which I enjoy doing—but nothing compares to stepping into Susan Peek’s novel: St. Magnus, the Last Viking.

About the Book:

Come back in time 900 years, to the fierce and desolate Northern lands, where Norsemen ruled with ax and sword. A dying king, a shocking death-wish, his heirs divided with an oath of blood . . . In this fast-paced new novel by the highly popular Susan Peek, the conflict unfolds between Magnus Erlendson, a heroic young prince aflame with the love of God, and his outlawed cousin Hakon, who blames Magnus for his banishment from their kingdom. What follows is a tale of betrayal and revenge, bravery and forgiveness, as Magnus seeks to restore his father’s vanquished kingdom to its rightful hands. Entertaining and inspiring from start to finish, a must-read for all those who thrill to learn the life of a saint we never knew existed!


And now we have author Susan Peek’s answer as to why she chose to write about Saint Magnus!

After my first two novels, A Soldier Surrenders and Crusader King, were swiped up by big-name Catholic publishers (Ignatius Press and TAN Books) and incorporated into language arts programs in Catholic high schools and homeschool programs across the globe, I knew I had finally arrived as an author. My childhood dream was a reality. By now I had established a fan base (mostly teens, but surprisingly many adults as well), and my vision was crystal clear: I wanted to write fast-paced novels of obscure saints whose lives were filled with adventure and action, and in a style that would appeal to today’s modern youth. It was at this point that I decided to launch an actual series, which I thought I could call “God’s Forgotten Friends: Lives of Little-known Saints.” Armed with a pen and a stack of lined paper, I sat down to write a brand new book. (Back then I didn’t even own a computer. Yeah, pen and paper . . . insane, I know.)

But after the blinding flashes of inspiration that had determined my earlier two heroes, I found myself painfully stuck. Who should I write about next? There were thousands upon thousands of saints out there, yet I had no clue whose story to tell. I went into a slump, spending a few years (yes, years) researching unusual and random saints. I experimented with outlines and wrote corny first chapters of countless holy people – everyone from St. Thomas Beckett’s parents, to King Sebastian of Portugal, to St. Gabriel Possenti, to St. Anthony of Padua, who isn’t obscure at all and shows how desperate I was getting. I wrote hundreds of ridiculous pages of Saint Dymphna, which ended up in the trash like everything else. Nothing worked. My writing career was over. With a heavy heart, I admitted defeat and gave up.

In the meantime, I went back to writing for a Catholic company that produced audio plays, which my husband and I had been involved with back in the 1990’s. While I never enjoyed writing plays in the same way I loved writing novels, it was still a creative way to pass a boring afternoon and earn a bit of extra spending money as well. At the time, all the rage in bookstores and movies seemed to be Vikings. Everywhere I looked were Vikings, Vikings, Vikings. Horned helmets, axes, and hammers of Thor stared at me from every video store and shop window. So, like everyone else in the world, I decided to cash in on the fad. (Awful, I know, but hey, business is business.) So I began an epic quest to find a Viking saint.

Easier said than done.

I discovered two. Only two. Saint Olaf of Norway, and Saint Magnus of Orkney, who isn’t TECHNICALLY a Viking, as he lived at the very tail end of the period. But he was close enough and less complicated than Saint Olaf, and besides, if ever a saint’s life held excitement and conflict, it had to be his. So I chose Saint Magnus. Or maybe he chose me. Either way, I whacked out an audio play and was stunned when I started receiving letters after its production. So many people wrote to tell me they loved the story, and requests poured in to adapt it into a novel. I didn’t take it seriously for a few more years, because I had gone back, yet again, to my idea of a book about Saint Dymphna (which still wasn’t working).

Eventually I did an author presentation at a school, where I learned that several of the boys had taken Saint Magnus as their confirmation patron after hearing the radio play, and one family even named their son after him. The students begged me to put Saint Magnus into a book, and that was the turning point, when I finally took it seriously. For the next several months I researched Saint Magnus in earnest, discovering to my horror that some of the facts in the audio play were way off the mark. I tweaked and changed and developed the characters fully, added more, loaded the story with battle scenes and adventure, and somehow ended up a year later with my third published book. It became a #1 new release on Amazon and I knew I had to keep going and write a fourth.

Again, easier said than done.

How I finally resurrected Saint Dymphna after years of failed attempts will be my last post in Theresa Linden’s wonderful blog. I hope you stay tuned. 🙂

Wow, I love to hear the reasons for all of Susan Peek’s stories! I can’t wait to hear about St. Dymphna!

My Review:

This story begins with the last will and testament of an 11th-century Norseman warrior, Thorfinn the Mighty. The opening scene sets the stage for the novel as the dying ruler makes a startling decision for the sake of the kingdom. The conflict begins here and never lets up. Peek pulls the reader from one tense moment to another. We go back in time and become witness to the dramatic trials Magnus endured and the sacrifices he made.

As the mother of three boys, ages twelve to fifteen, I can’t say enough about this book. My boys love to read and they enjoy saint stories, but Saint Magnus, The Last Viking appeals to them in ways no other saint books have. This is not a sterile retelling of the saint’s life. The characters leap off the page with energy my boys can relate to, keeping them completely engaged as the story of this saint unfolds.

With all the battles, fighting, and conflict, it’s obvious why this story appeals to boys, but I love it, too. As a writer, I thoroughly enjoy Peek’s powerful writing style and vivid descriptions. I marvel at her ability to develop every character in the story. Some lines and sections moved me so much that I found myself re-reading them for pure enjoyment.

Susan Peek’s inspired account of the life of Saint Magnus stirs up the desire to live as he did, with courage, perseverance, and brotherly love, faithful to God to the end. Peek has taken the life of this little-known saint whom time may have forgotten and whose story could’ve remained hidden, and she’s re-presented it to the modern Christian.

This book is not to be missed. I walk away from it knowing I will go back. The message of Saint Magnus’s life is a message for today and it remains with me even now. I can’t wait to step into my next Susan Peek book.

Visit Susan Peek and learn more about her and her books:

Website: http://www.susanpeekauthor.com

Goodreads author page

Amazon author page

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: Seven Riddles to Nowhere

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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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Have you ever heard of “selective mutism”? The main character of this story has it, which makes this story interesting in and of itself. But the mysteries and hunt make this story fun too. A great summer read for pre-teen and teen, Amy Cattapan‘s Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

About the Book:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Because of a tragic event that took place when he was five-years-old, seventh grader Kameron Boyd can’t make himself speak to adults when he steps outside his home. Kam’s mom hopes his new school will cure his talking issues, but just as he starts to feel comfortable, financial problems threaten the school’s existence.

Then a letter arrives with the opportunity to change everything. Kam learns that he and several others have been selected as potential heirs to a fortune. He just has to solve a series of seven riddles to find the treasure before the other students. If he succeeds, he’ll become heir to a fortune that could save his school.The riddles send Kam on a scavenger hunt through the churches of Chicago.

But solving them won’t be easy. With the school’s bully as one of the other potential heirs, Kam and his friends must decipher the hidden meanings in artwork and avoid the mysterious men following them in a quest to not only keep the school open, but keep Kam’s hopes for recovering his voice alive.


Author A. J. Cattapan shared some “behind the scenes” with me about this book.

If you remember from my post about Angelhood, this is actually the book she planned on writing during NaNo 2011, but the plot wasn’t working out.

In her own words:

“The story was inspired by the Catholic school I used to teach in that was closed due to financial issues caused by low enrollment.

All of the churches connected to the riddles are real churches in Chicago.

CatholicChurchTours.com does organized tours that take students (and adults) on a tour of the churches in the book (the woman in church of this organization brought me on my research tours and she’s read Seven Riddles)!

The main character suffers from selective mutism and can’t speak to adults outside his home. As a teacher, I’ve had several students with some form of selective mutism who won’t speak above a whisper in school.”

My Review:

Seven Riddles to Nowhere is a blast! The characters are each unique and the writing style is crisp and fun. This story takes the reader on an exciting tour of Chicago streets and churches, while the characters gain insight into mysteries and symbols of our faith as they struggle to solve riddles. The tension and suspense mount right up to the very end!


I feel fortunate to have received an advanced copy of this book. Even though this is a middle-grade novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend this as a fun and fulling read!”

Connect with A.J. Cattapan:

Website: www.ajcattapan.com

Instagram: A.J.CattapanTwitter: @AJCattapan

Facebook: A.J. CattapanPinterest: A.J. Cattapan

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: Crusader King

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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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Earlier this month, I asked author Susan Peek to tell readers why she wrote her first novel, A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of St. Camillus de Lellis. In this post, I asked her to share the story behind her second book, Crusader King: A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades.

About the Book:

A new historical novel about the unusual life of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the leper crusader king who – despite ascending to the throne at only 13, his early death at 24 and his debilitating disease – performed great and heroic deeds in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Teenagers and avid readers of all ages will be amazed at this story and be inspired by a faith that accomplished the impossible!


Here is why Susan Peek chose this saint to write about:

A Soldier Surrenders was received with such enthusiasm that I realized with shock that I wasn’t the only person on the planet who was bored with long-winded, dull saint biographies containing lots of names, dates and facts, but with little – or no – excitement and action. So I made up my mind, then and there, to write more books. After my experience with Saint Camillus, I felt deeply drawn to researching and writing about heroes whom no one (or almost no one) had heard of. I also wanted to write stories that readers would find fun. An idea formed in my mind to focus on lives of little-known saints who had lived exciting lives.

Okay, so technically Baldwin isn’t a saint. At least not a canonized one (although he is considered Blessed in France, where many boys are named after him). But his life certainly was exciting, so he qualified on that point. I have always loved the Crusades and was searching for a crusading saint to write about. I considered the obvious, Saint Louis. Nah, didn’t work. I toyed with the monumental Godfrey de Bouillon, and gave some thought to Raymond of Toulouse. Neither of them worked either. Somehow none of those giant knights grabbed me by the throat with their steel gauntlets and shoved a sword against my neck, threatening me to write their story or else! No, they just meandered away, remounted their warhorses, and left me alone with no crusader to write about. Where was the knight whose story I HAD to tell? Who was he? Would he ever show up? I had no idea.

Then, like with Saint Camillus, Baldwin zapped me. I happened to run across a few pages in an out-of-print history text that mentioned him. I was immediately struck by this obscure saintly prince who not only ascended the throne of the crusading Kingdom of Jerusalem at age thirteen, but also happened to catch, of all things, the horrid disease of leprosy. Talk about a shocking twist in a story! Talk about a hero! Wow!

Amazingly, at first it didn’t even cross my mind to write a book about him. Instead, I spent many months looking for a book about him. I couldn’t find one anywhere. After awhile, I stopped hunting and forgot all about King Baldwin altogether.

Then, one evening in our church, I stopped to light a candle at my favorite side altar – one with the image of Our Lord’s Face from the Holy Shroud. My intention with the candle was to ask God to please let me know which book, if any, He desired me to write. As soon as I knelt before the Holy Face, a line from scripture jumped unbidden into my mind: “We have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.” (Isaias 53:4) The text prophesied Christ’s Passion, of course, but in that instant I thought of Baldwin, the young leper prince, who hadn’t crossed my mind in months. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was inspiring me to write his story.

I rushed home and, as I had done with Saint Camillus, snatched up pen and paper right there on the spot and started writing. Over the weeks, the story fell into place almost effortlessly. Research and ideas flowed at every turn. I completed the rough draft in six weeks of excitement, adrenaline, and not a few burnt meals. (My family teased me that all our meals were “Jerusalem food” since I spent all my time lost in the Holy Land instead of the kitchen, where a normal mom would be. The joke still stands to this day whenever I forget to take something out of the oven in time.) Although there remained many months of hard work ahead of me after that first draft, Crusader King was by far my easiest book to write.

With two books now published, my dream of being a real author was actually coming true. There was only one thing left for me to do. Write a third book.

But that is another blog post. 🙂

Here is a review from a teen boy’s perspective:

This review is from my 14-year-old son. “I really like Susan Peek’s writing style. I read the book in one day, then read it several times over the next few weeks. The way Baldwin perseveres despite his illness and struggles makes me want to imitate his example. This was an intriguing novel that I just couldn’t put down.”

Visit Susan Peek and learn more about her and her books:

Website: http://www.susanpeekauthor.com

Goodreads author page

Amazon author page

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: A Soldier Surrenders

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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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Author Susan Peek shares how she got to know about St. Camillus de Lellus and why she chose him to write about! Her answer is so amazing!

A Soldier Surrenders by Susan Peek

About the Book:

At last . . . a saint for strugglers! Soldiering, gambling, brawling, drinking. As a young man, Saint Camillus excelled at them all. Add to that his fiery temper and innate knack for getting in trouble, and Camillus de Lellis seems the last person who could ever achieve holiness! But God had plans for the stubborn young soldier, whether Camillus liked it or not . . .

“This novel for adult and young adult readers will introduce them to a great saint – a physical giant who had to contend with many personal struggles, much weakness, and repeated failures before he could become a moral giant. The story of Camillus de Lellis’ conversion will leave no reader unmoved, and those that feel hopeless about themselves will find new hope, a hero, and a friend in Christ.” – Michael O’Brien Bestselling Catholic Author.

Back in print by popular demand, this fast-paced and inspiring story of the wayward soldier-of-fortune who became an intrepid Soldier of Christ will appeal even to those who don’t normally like to read!


I asked author Susan Peek why she chose to write about this saint:

My special friendship with Saint Camillus, one of my absolute top buddies in Heaven, started three decades ago. The year 1986 found me a glowing, wide-eyed wannabe nun in a Carmelite cloister, and Saint Camillus existing as a mere name on the tattered page of my daily missal that popped up every July 18. Above his Mass readings, in tiny print requiring a magnifying glass to read, were typed the words: “St. Camillus was born in Italy. His youth was spent in dissipation but he was converted and gave himself to the service of the sick in the hospitals. He founded an Order which bears his own name. He died at Rome July 14, 1614. Pope Benedict XIV canonised him in 1746, Pope Leo XIII declared him patron of hospitals and infirmaries and inserted his name in the litany of the dying.” End of itty-bitty print. So every July 18, I would open that page, squint to read the tiny words, yawn, attend Mass, and inevitably forget about St. Camillus by the time I got my piece of dry toast for breakfast. He was just another . . . ahem, boring saint.

I imagine that most Catholics around the world treated him more or less the same way. He must have been fed up that so few people knew or loved him, because one day he zapped me. I remember the day perfectly. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, the time allotted for spiritual reading. I browsed the convent library, dismayed that every saint life I picked up seemed so, well . . . let’s be honest: Boring. I had already read the few exciting saint stories the small cloister library had to offer, and everything left on the shelves contained long lists of names, big words, tons of dates, and no action whatsoever. THEN . . . hidden behind a stack of dusty theological volumes, I spied a hardback book simply entitled “Saint Camillus.” Not even remembering his name from my tattered missal page with the minuscule print, I pulled it out, intrigued, wondering who this guy was. That book, literally, changed my life.

It was written as a novel, so immediately had dialogue and action. Camillus was far from holiness in chapter one – quite the lovable rogue, in fact. I was hooked. I read, engrossed, until the bell rang. It was hard to put down. Over the next several days, I found myself dying for spiritual reading time so that I could find out how this stubborn, proud, endearing young soldier was ever going to earn the accolade of “saint.” Finally I was enjoying – REALLY enjoying! – a saint book!

Then, half way through the book, he converted, became holy, was ordained a priest, and did all the usual boring stuff for the remaining 100 pages. The plot was gone. There was no reason left to root for him and worry about him, and my interest in the book waned.

(Maybe you can tell I wasn’t cut out to be a Carmelite nun. I wanted action-packed stuff. Excitement. Adventure. Not the typical things found in a cloister.)

Fast-forward to 1993. By then I had left the convent, gotten married, and was expecting my fourth child (who, by the way, is now a cloistered nun 🙂 ). Although I had always loved to write and secretly hoped my entire life to somehow become an author, the diapers and babies and duties of motherhood kept me far from my typewriter. Until one summer afternoon when I received a phone call that also changed my life. The man on the other end was a friend of my sister, and he was hoping to start a Catholic movie company. He had heard from big sis that I love to write. So he asked if I would consider writing a movie screenplay for him. Needless to say, I was blown away. “What do you want it to be about?” I asked. His answer, “Whatever you want to write about,” blew me away even more. It took me 30 seconds to decide. I wanted to write only one story – the conversion story of Saint Camillus (the bits BEFORE he became holy and, well, boring).

The next months were a flurry of excitement. Researching, writing, having a blast. My husband Jeff hopped on board and we actually wrote the movie together. My sister’s friend loved it, bought it, and started costumes, casting, producing, the whole nine yards. Then . . . he ran out of money. The project ground to a halt. Disappointment and apologies abounded. Everyone tried to accept God’s will. Seemed like Saint Camillus didn’t want to be known after all.

Later, my husband and I found an agent in New York who loved the screenplay but was unable to sell it. Unlike now, back in the 1990’s Catholic movies were all but non-existent. No producer was interested in a saint’s life for a movie.

The manuscript was henceforth stuffed in a bottom drawer and left to gather dust. Meanwhile, I had more babies, kept busy with more diapers, and forgot about the whole thing.

Until one day several years later. I woke up from a nap, literally, as if hit by a bolt of lightning. I jumped out of bed with the urgent thought, “Adapt it as a novel!” I felt it so strongly that I grabbed a pen and paper right then and there, and started writing.

By the end of the year, “A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of St. Camillus de Lellis” was not only published, but incorporated into the curriculum of a small Catholic school in Idaho. Humble beginnings, but it has since gone through four editions, been sold for foreign translation rights in Europe, and is now used in Catholic schools across the English-speaking world. And all because of a dusty book in a Carmelite library and a phone call from a wonderful man with a vision.

I truly believe Saint Camillus is a saint for everyone. He was not always holy. He struggled. He fought. He was a man with many vices and much to overcome. But he did it. He became a saint! And if he can do it, so can we!

Maybe someday he will zap you from Heaven too. He really is a friend worth getting to know!

My Review:

Within the first few pages of this story, I knew that this was a much needed story for our age. Children are not always raised in ideal situations. A parent dies. Or parents divorce. One parent may have faith, but the lifestyle and ideals of the other may be more appealing to the child. The parent with faith worries about the effects of the culture on the child.

St. Camillus’s mother was strong in her faith and tried to impart it to her son, but his father was a soldier and didn’t have much time for that. As a boy and young man, Camillus found his father’s ways more attractive. His mother died while he was young and as soon as he was able, he followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a soldier.

This is not the end of the story but only the beginning. This story makes so clear the powerful message that Our Lord is always there, with each one of us, calling us to Himself and to holiness. Our Lord never gives up on us.

Maybe more so than other saints, the story of St. Camillus’s conversion gives hope to the person who struggles with weakness and sin. Camillus had a bad temper and a love of gambling. For the longest time, he did not see the value of faith or self-control. He may have recognized virtue in others but did not see it as a possibility for himself.

But God did not give up on him, just as He does not give up on any one of us. Like a good father, Our Lord allowed many sufferings to come to Camillus. And like so many of us, Camillus had to reach rock bottom before he could look up in faith.

While I enjoy the stories of saints who responded to the call of God at a very young age, St. Camillus is not that saint. In many ways, he is more relate-able. For those who struggle with sin or various addictions, who feel deeply the hardships of life, and who suffer from the consequences of their own actions, there is the story of St. Camillus de Lellis.

Peek’s fast-paced writing style is perfect for this story. She brings the reader right into the conflict, struggles, and agony Camillus endures. She weaves the action, thoughts, and emotions of characters together expertly. I also found myself deeply moved by the moments of grace and spiritual insight that came to him and the way his conversion unfolded.

I recommend this book to everyone who loves saint stories. You will not be able to put this book down. But I especially recommend it to the person who struggles or who feels he or she has fallen too far and is unable to reach that better way. There is hope for us all. Holiness is obtainable for anyone. God can do all things. St. Camillus de Lellis, pray for us.

Visit Susan Peek and learn more about her and her books:

Website: http://www.susanpeekauthor.com

Goodreads author page

Amazon author page

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: Angelhood

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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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Are you concerned that the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why might be detrimental to teens? Here is a novel for teens that deals with suicide in a life-affirming manner: Amy Cattapan‘s Angelhood.

About the Book:

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her.

Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

But Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. She’s going to find peace in the afterlife…as soon as she can convince Vera that living is what life is all about.


Author A. J. Cattapan shared some “behind the scenes” with me about this book.

While she planned on writing Seven Riddles during NaNo 2011, the plot wasn’t working out and she ended up writing Angelhood!

“I was so frustrated and depressed that my writing career was over before it had begun, that three days before NaNo started I got an idea for a story about a girl who believes her acting career is over before it’s begun. In 3 days, I had all the characters mapped out and the story outlined, so that become my NaNo project instead of Seven Riddles.”

Many of the plays mentioned in the book are plays that A.J. Cattapan performed in high school or after college. And the basilica where the guardian angels meet, Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, is a real church in Chicago that she visited while doing research for Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

I’ve heard many good things about this book, and I love Cattapan’s writing style (I read Seven Riddles to Nowhere), so Angelhood is on my “to read” list. But since I haven’t read it yet, I’ll share a review from Amazon.

Review:

“This is a YA novel but it will appeal to adults as well. Parents, this YA novel is completely safe to share with your kids in middle school and up. It’s a powerful and compassionate look at suicide as seen through the eyes of a teenager who does the unthinkable. In this story, “purgatory” means that a person becomes the guardian angel for someone else contemplating the same fate. Purgatory ends when the ultimate choice for life or death is made.
A.J. Cattapan has written a great story with terrific characters. I was carried away by Nanette’s battle to keep her charge from giving in to the darkness and evil that tried to surround her.
This is a difficult and dark subject but the author has written a story based on hope, not darkness.” ~Barb Szyszkiewicz

Connect with A.J. Cattapan:

Website: www.ajcattapan.com

Instagram: A.J.CattapanTwitter: @AJCattapan

Facebook: A.J. CattapanPinterest: A.J. Cattapan

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: Rightfully Ours

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

Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

About the Book:

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?


I love how, in addition to having descriptive scenes that appeal to all five senses, author Carolyn Astfalk often mentions songs in her books. She has created playlists for all of her stories. You can check out the playlist for Rightfully Ours by clicking here. And you will want to check out the book trailer too!

I asked Carolyn a few questions about music and her writing:

Do you listen to music while you write?

I don’t often listen to music while I write these days, mainly due to where and when I write. There’s already so much noise around me, that it would only further distract me. However, I wrote Rightfully Ours under different conditions, and I did listen to a lot of music. I still find that when I’m stuck, music helps me to capture the mood of a scene or a character’s feelings.

Do all of your books mention songs? 

Yes, all of the published novels do. It’s generally a passing reference, a title, or a word or two. My early drafts included small passages of lyrics, but I replaced all of those with original lyrics in later drafts to avoid any copyright issues.

What elements do you think music adds to a story?

I think it helps set a mood for a scene. The type of music the characters are hearing can help establish the scene in a reader’s mind. For example, a restaurant playing country music has a completely different ambience than one playing classical music or jazz. If it’s a song that’s universally known or a cultural touchstone, it creates a sort of shorthand between the writer and the reader. Whether it’s a Christmas carol, an old hymn, or a patriotic song, music is so tied to memories that it can immediately help the reader draw significant associations.


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.

While all the characters are realistic, Paul was my favorite. Rachel is fourteen when the story begins, and Paul is sixteen. He lost his mother as a child and has a father in the military. The story line surrounding this aspect had me considering what it must be like for the children of military men and women on active duty, and for those that have lost one or both parents. I found myself understanding more deeply and truly appreciating the sacrifice our service men and women make for our country.

I enjoyed watching Paul and Rachel’s friendship develop. At times, they misunderstand each other and jump to conclusions or wistfully wonder if the other feels the same way. They support each other and grow together while facing challenges and while embarking upon a “treasure hunt” in the flower garden. It all felt so real.

Mostly, I like the message of developing a strong conviction about waiting for marriage, rather than allowing oneself the temporary thrill of partaking in something that isn’t “rightfully ours.” I also like how the story tackles the real temptations and challenges a teen in a relationship could face, the behaviors that increase the trials, and those that safeguard from falling. This story has so much to offer.

Visit author Carolyn Astfalk and learn more about her and her books:

Website: www.carolynastfalk.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CMAstfalk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/castfalk/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3428010-carolyn

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

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: Treachery & Truth

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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.

Treachery Truth cover (002)

Good King Wenceslaus went out . . .  You know the song. You sing it at Christmas. Well, maybe you don’t sing, but you hear the song on the radio! But do you know the story behind the song? The story behind the man?

Treachery and Truth by Katy Huth Jones

About the Book:

Immersed in the historical background of the tenth century, this true tale of Good King Wenceslas, as told by his faithful servant Poidevin, brings the reader into the Dark Ages. Fear grips the land of Bohemia as the faithful face betrayal and persecution under the reign of the pagan Duchess Dragomira. As she struggles for power with the rightful heir, Prince Václav, her foes forge alliances in secret despite the risk of discovery. Who will survive?


I asked author Katy Huth Jones about her book:

I’d sung the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” all my life but didn’t learn the whole story about the real historical person until 1990. When I realized how faithful, courageous, and bold this early tenth-century saint had been at such a young age (he won his first battle at age 14), and how brightly shone the light of his faith during those dark pagan times, I knew I had to know more and share his inspirational story with teen readers. I decided to write the novel from the point of view of his young servant, Poidevin, and use Wenceslas’ Czech name, Václav. In December 2016, my husband and I finally had the opportunity to visit Prague and see all the places, statues, and art that I had only researched.

As a writer, I’m jealous. I would love to be able to visit the places I write about. Katy Huth Jones has a few pictures to share with us from her trip.

Wenceslas Statue closeup (002)

This is the famous statue in Wenceslas Square.

Wenceslas and Ludmila closeup stained glass (002)

Here we have a detail of a beautiful stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral, where Wenceslas is buried—that’s him as a boy praying with his grandmother, Saint Ludmila.

Wenceslas mural closeup (002)

Katy loves this mural of Saint Wenceslas because it shows him as a young teen, leading his army into battle.

Reviews:

I can’t wait to read Treachery and Truth. Judging by the description and reviews, I think my teen boys will love it too.

“In a time when so many people are searching for truth and trying to decide what to believe in, this historical novel offers a powerful example that may be especially important to our young people–a fine piece of writing from a gifted author.” ~ Amazon reviewer

“While it is written for teens, I enjoyed it immensely! I knew next to nothing about King Wenceslas/Vaclav nor Bohemian history. As seen through the eyes of his servant Poidevin, the reader glimpses the bravery, fortitude, humility, and generosity of Vaclav as well as the history of his life, political alliances, marriage, and death. His story also delivers beautiful messages about the meaning of suffering, fidelity to Christ, and loving our enemies.” ~Amazon reviewer

Visit Katy Huth Jones and learn more about her and her books:

Website/blog: http://katyhuthjones.blogspot.com

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/KatyHuthJones/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatyHuthJones

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2914315.Katy_Huth_Jones

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/piccolokate/

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