Category Archives: Book Reviews

Walk in Her Sandals Book Review

A good Bible study makes me giddy, while a good novel sends me deep into the throws of whatever emotions the heroine happens to experience. Combine a great Bible study with a great novel, and you’ve got me hooked, balanced between the knowledge of the Bible story’s happy ending, the heroines’ uncertainty of such, and the wild array of emotions that such turmoil would bring.

Synopsis

Walk in Her Sandals –  Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Womenis that book. Conceived and edited by WINE (Women the New Evangelization) founder Kelly Wahlquist, and written by a long list of notable Catholic authors, it takes the reader through the roller coaster ride of Holy Week in a whole new way. The book combines scriptural meditation and reflection with a fictionalized account of five women living in Jerusalem at the time, utilizing the talents of Biblical fiction author Stephanie Landsem to bring to life Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his agonizing walk to Calvary, the three days filled with doubt and disappointment as his body lay in the tomb, and the joyous discovery of his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Format

Walk in Her Sandals was written for women, by women, and explores six gifts of womanhood– the gifts of receptivity, generosity, sensitivity, prayer, maternity, and, finally, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Each chapter begins with an enlightening lesson on scripture – an opportunity to understand the Biblical account, within it’s historical context, with a glimpse of how events of the Old Testament foretell and illuminate those in the New.

Next, Landsem’s fictionalized account brings the events to life from a whole new perspective – that of the women who witnessed them, including a beautiful and moving account of how Veronica might have experienced wiping the brow of Christ.

On the heels of these emotion-laden stories, the authors look at the gift of womanhood exhibited in that narrative, before reflecting more deeply on the scriptural account and meditating on that scripture through Lectio Divina.

Finally, questions for group discussion invite us to go still further with our small group, before the “Walking in the New Evangelization” portion provides suggestions on how we can use our gifts to bring Christ to others.

Recommendation

If you’d like to take your Lenten journey to the next level, this is an excellent tool to aid you on that path. Read it on your own, or get five to ten of your most faith-filled What if you could have been a witness to the events of the last days of Jesus' life...? What would you have thought and done? How would you have been changed?friends together, and hold a Lenten Bible study. Be sure to invite five to ten of your friends who don’t fully know Christ’s love yet, too.

Never done a Bible study? This is a great place to start. Done two dozen Bible studies? This one won’t disappoint.

It’s an easy read, yet it plunders the depths of the heart. It  engages the imagination, while penetrating the soul.

** Linking this blog post to the Catholic Women Blogger’s Network blog hop. To read other reflections and reviews of Walk in Her Sandals, click here!

**Links in this post contain affiliate links – if you click on them, and add anything to your cart, you pay the same price but I get paid a tiny little bit for directing you to the site. Thanks for your support!

Book Review: 7 Riddles to Nowhere

In her latest novel, 7 Riddles to Nowhere, author AJ Cattapan takes the reader on an intriguing and inspiring journey through the streets and churches of Chicago, as the young protagonist and his friends seek to win a fortune and save their school.


Most seventh graders would have other plans for the money. (Mine would probably want to add a trampoline park and swimming pool to the backyard.) Kam Boyd is hardly your average middle schooler, however, and when he’s presented with the opportunity to win a fortune, he’s determined to succeed in order to save his small school, which is threatened due to financial struggles.

Kam’s only recently moved to the school, but this selective mute had  hoped for a fresh start.  He has already become attached to his warm and generous teacher and several classmates who have befriended him despite the fact that he can’t speak to adults outside of his home, which means he barely talks at school.

Winning the contest is no small feat. Kam and his friends must find the answers to seven riddles, bravely traveling the streets of Chicago. They must also compete with other, less honorable teams, most notably the school bully and his sorry lot of friends. The chase takes them through beautiful city churches, where the clues and answers are hidden in architecture and artwork.

I found myself unable to put the book down as it neared its conclusion. Kam is an incredibly lovable character, and I enjoyed rooting him and his friends on as they strove to win the contest against all odds. There were beautiful lessons in church doctrine and history delicately interwoven into the tale, with the sound message that, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart lie.”

While Seven Riddles to Nowhere is a middle grade novel, I’d recommend it to any child ages 10 and older, and even a younger precocious reader. Every school library should keep this book on their shelves, especially those at Catholic schools. It would also be an excellent addition to school curricula, as an aid to teach tolerance, generosity, courage, and the universality of the Church.

Seven Riddles to Nowheres official release date is August 31, and author AJ Cattapan is holding  a Facebook launch party to celebrate. She’s giving away lots of wonderful prizes, including a signed copy of my book, A Single Bead, with a rosary blessed by the pope, an Amazon gift card, and more. Follow this link to join the party and have a chance at winning. Please tell her that Stephanie Engelman sent you!

I received an advance copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.

**This post contains affiliate links. If you follow the links, and add the book or anything else to your cart, you’ll pay the exact same price but I’ll get a tiny little commission. It’s a great way to support your favorite bloggers… Thank you!!!

Book Review: The Perfect Blindside

If you’re sad to see the end of the summer Olympics, The Perfect Blindside, a young adult novel by Leslea Wahl, is a great way to recapture some of the excitement, while also preparing for the winter Olympics, coming in just two short years.

This sweet fictional romance features Olympic silver medalist Jake, who has recently moved to the town of Silver Springs, Colorado, and is firmly confident that he is way too good for the little town or anyone in it. In other words, fame has gone to this kid’s head, and he’s become the cocky athlete we see all too often when watching sports coverage of, say, idiotic stunts pulled in gas stations by swimmers in Rio.

Jake is a jerk, but I liked him because he is, indeed, very real. We have all known a kid like this: too big for his britches and pushing people away at every turn, all the while feeling secretly lonely and isolated.

Seemingly the polar opposite of Jake, Sophie is a high school junior who loves her little home town. She’s pretty much a goody-two-shoes, and, while  the rest of the teenagers in town are fawning allover the new arrived Olympian, she takes an instant dislike to Jake and his cocky attitude.

Jake’s world begins to fall apart when he’s framed for drug possession, and Sophie realizes that perhaps she’s been a wee bit judgmental. Ultimately, she is able to use her knowledge and love of Silver Springs to help Jake uncover the mystery behind the old abandoned mine, thereby clearing his name, all while romance blossoms between the two teenagers.

I would recommend The Perfect Blindside for tweens and teens. Both my ten-year-old daughter, and my twelve-year-old son read and enjoyed it, and since my son isn’t a big reader, that’s quite a complement to author Leslea Wahl!

The Perfect Blindside is offered by my very favorite publisher, Pauline Books and Media, under their Pauline Teen imprint.  While the characters are Catholic, the message is universal and will appeal to all Christian teens. The Christian message is understated enough that teens who don’t identify strongly as Christians will enjoy the book as well. I highly recommend adding it to your family library!

I was provided a copy of The Perfect Blindside by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on a link, and add anything to your cart, I’ll receive a tiny percentage, but you’ll pay the same amount! It’s a great way to show your support for your favorite bloggers. 🙂 

 

The Story Behind the Story

A Single Bead

Today’s the big day… I finally get to share the cover of my book, A Single Bead, with my friends and readers! I hope you love it! Most of all, I hope you’ll read it, and tell your friends about it!

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find the link to go to my Facebook author page, view the cover, and enter to win one of three books that my publisher, Pauline Books and Media, is generously giving away. First, though, here’s the story of how the story of A Single Bead came to fruition.

Just over two years ago, I thought I knew what God wanted me to do with my life. I recognized two special talents I had been blessed with – writing and speaking. I also had developed a deep love and appreciation for God’s Word, and for Christ’s Church. I saw a scarcity of Bible studies written for Catholic women, by Catholic women, and I wanted to fill that gap.

There’s one thing about Catholic Bible studies, though. The authors always have letters behind their names. So I thought I’d better figure out how to get a theology degree. I quickly realized that was going to cost a fair penny, and I knew that I would have to find a way to pay for it without tapping into our already tapped out finances.

I had written a children’s book on the Rosary, but never found a publisher. So, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could get that published and make a little money to at least help pay for a theology degree. I went to the website for one Catholic publisher – Pauline Books and Media – and saw that they were seeking Catholic young adult fiction. That struck a chord. But it was utterly ridiculous. I was going to write life-changing Bible studies, not frivolous fiction!

So, I laughed (literally, out loud) and said, “Well, God, if you want me to write young adult fiction, you’re going to have to give me the idea. Because I sure as heck don’t have one!”

And, though I didn’t hear him at the time, God laughed back.

A week or so later I got a tweet from @Catholici_T: “@afewbeadsshort, but have you ever pondered the power of just a single bead of the Rosary?”

I responded something along the lines of, “How true! I think I’ll write a blog post on that!”

But two hours later, the realization struck: It wasn’t a blog post. It was the title of a book, and the answer to a prayer.

One moment, I had nothing. The next, I knew that I was meant to write a story about a teenage girl who had lost her grandmother in a plane crash. At the memorial a year later, the girl finds a bead from her grandmother’s personalized rosary, but it’s not just any bead. It’s the bead bearing the girl’s initials. She would set out to find more beads, and there would be miracles and mystical events surrounding the beads that she found.

At the time, that was it. I knew there had to be a conflict, but I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. But, God had given me a start, and I was going to run with it.

Thanks to a writer friend (romance author, Kyra Jacobs), I knew that NaNoWriMo was coming up. NaNoWriMo is a friendly competition in celebration of November, National Novel Writer’s Month, in which authors challenge themselves – and each other – to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. Anyone and everyone who reaches 50,000 words “wins”. I knew myself well enough to know that this sort of “all or none” approach was a good one for me. And so, the same day that I received that tweet, I resolved to write a novel in November. A novel about a teenage girl and a single bead. God would provide the rest.

And, indeed, He did. Somehow, I found the time, and, somehow, every time I sat down to write I actually had something to write. By the end of the first 30 days, I had just over 50,000 words. I finished the book on my birthday, which also happens to be the Feast of St. Stephen, AKA the day after Christmas. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever received.

I edited it, and then sent it to a couple of friends for thoughts and suggestions. My sister was afraid to read it because she didn’t want to have to tell me that it was awful. But, when she finally buckled down and read it over spring break, she texted me with the news. She loved it. In fact, it was one of the best books she’d read in a long time.

A little more editing, and I submitted it to two publishers, one of whom was that same publisher that originally inspired my wry prayer to God: Pauline Books and Media. A month later, they let me know they were considering it. And, on October 7th – the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – they contacted me to let me know they wanted to publish it.

When I meditate on the Transfiguration, I often think about how Peter volunteered to make tents to house Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. But, tent making wasn’t what Christ wanted him to do. Similarly, I was all set to write Bible studies, but that wasn’t what God wanted me to do. At that moment, at least, He wanted me to write fiction for teens.

Ready to see the Cover?

Something Other Than God – A Book Review

Thanks for stopping by to read my first ever book review!  I’m so excited to share my thoughts on this great book.  Enjoy the review… and grab a copy of the book for yourself when you’re done! 🙂 The review does include affiliate links.  Thanks for your support!

You may be familiar with Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog, Conversion Diary.  I adore her self-deprecating sense of humor, and was thrilled when I was finally able to read her memoire, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.

The book is the story of Jennifer’s Fulwiler’s journey toward Christ.  Having grown up with a strongly atheist dad and a mother who didn’t discuss religious beliefs, Jennifer followed in her father’s footsteps.  As a tender fifth grader, placed under duress by a rabidly Christian camp counselor, Jennifer assigned a label to herself: atheist.  For the next several years, she endured the pain of being ostracized from her Texas school’s social scene because she hadn’t been “saved” and “born again,” and wouldn’t participate in their Bible studies.

Jennifer learned from her father that “[b]elief in gods and angels and stuff like that is a comfort to some people,” but clearly not for her.  She ascribed to a scientific world view, devoid of any divine hand or direction. The first notch in the armor of this “logical” thinking appeared when Jennifer was only eleven years old, searching for fossils with her dad.  Upon finding an ammonite embedded within the rock wall, Jennifer was faced with the brevity of her human life and the fact that, according to her belief structure, her “fate was no different” than that of the ammonite.  In ten million years, she would not exist, not even in the fossilized form of the ancient mollusk she had found.

After this dose of “reality”, Jennifer was filled with a desolation which was only relieved by fleeting moments of happiness, and Jennifer spent the next decade desperately trying to capture those elusive moments of joy.  It was only after the birth of her first son left her in a deep depression, filled with the sure knowledge that her child’s fate was no different than her own – a finite life on earth, followed by an empty void of nothingness – that Jennifer began to question her views on divinity.  Surely atheism could not explain the love she felt for her husband and son.  “There was more to human life than the atoms that made up our bodies – I was sure of it.”

Initially filled with questions and doubts, Jennifer methodically sought out answers, and shares this process with her readers in this humorous and endearing memoire.  With her husband, Joe, Jennifer traced the roots of Christianity to find where Truth really lies, including an excellent exploration of her last hold-out on joining the Catholic Church, her battle to maintain her pro-choice views.

For those of you familiar with Scott Hahn, I have referred to Something Other Than God as “the new Rome Sweet Home, for “real” people.  While being extremely informative, the book is also entertaining, and a delightful read.  I would recommend this to any non-Christian seeking to understand Christianity, any Christian seeking to understand Catholicism, and any Catholic seeking to better understand their own faith.