Summer at West Castle

Summer at West Castle by Theresa Linden is available on Amazon here

Theresa Linden does it again with her latest installment of the West Brothers series, Summer at West Castle.  Since it is the middle of winter and you may be dreaming of your next beach read, let me recommend this sweet romance.

Caitlyn Summer and Jarret West are older now, in the middle of college and at loose ends. Caitlyn is the devout Catholic, a family-oriented girl and a hard worker.  Jarret is a reformed party guy who recently came back to his faith. They both struggle with their self-image, plans for the future, and discovering the will of God for their lives. 

As the new “maid of West Castle,” Caitlyn is tasked with helping Nanny recover from double hip surgery. Caitlyn plans to save up money for college and have a nice, quiet summer retreat while she works hard around the mansion. Meanwhile, Jarret wisely decides to leave a clingy girlfriend behind on the way to an archaeology dig in Pompeii. He returns home to regroup, ride his horse, and chill. Imagine his surprise to find beautiful Caitlyn in his house, living under the same roof!  

While they struggle to put aside their differences, the tragedies in Jarret’s past threaten to overwhelm any sense of peace between them. Are they meant to be together, farfetched as it sounds? Can people like Jarret truly repent and change course in a dramatic fashion? Or will rumors and gossip sink their summer, and their budding romance?

The best part of this book is the way Linden writes each chapter from the perspective of either Caitlyn or Jarret, so we can hear their thoughts and experience their feelings. Both characters struggle, and I mean really struggle with the morality of their past and present words and actions.  It makes for an entertaining romance, especially if you have read the West Brothers series in its entirety. Recommended for ages 14 and up, and it is also a fun read for adults who love fiction (yours truly!)

To find out more about Theresa Linden, check out her webpage here.

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively on Amazon

After a very long summer spent copyediting a textbook and assorted teacher manuals, and an even longer autumn with schoolkids of all ages, I am returning to book reviews at last.  I have at least 20 books on my shelves that need to be read and discussed. This book for December is my Christmas present to every reader.

Anyone else have teens that are losing their minds over covid, lockdowns, school problems, health problems, and other mental health issues? You need to read The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers. Parents of teens know how hard it is to communicate with them during the onset of puberty, and the introduction to junior high school. What worked for them as children will not work for them in this new phase of life. Well-meaning parents suddenly find themselves in shouting matches, locked out of their teen’s room, and at odds with everything from clothes to homework to dating to family outings.  It’s a hard-knock life, and parents can feel like we’re orphans living in the wasteland of our emotions. Our older teens seem to listen to anyone else but us.

If you recognize yourself here, take heart.  Dr. Gary Chapman has written many books around his concept of the five love languages, for adults, teens, and children. It may sound corny, but when you read one of his books, the common sense of it all will hit you right in the feels.  The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gifts.  We all need each of these five languages to be spoken to us, but one or two will inevitably mean more. When you speak someone’s love language, it becomes much easier to communicate with each other. 

I read Dr. Chapman’s book for adults a couple of years ago, and it completely changed how I relate to my husband.  It made our relationship better, and we were already trying to communicate important things to each other.  But sometimes you hit a brick wall and it is because you are entrenched in a certain style of thinking that the other person really cannot relate to, even if they try very hard. One example would be trying to buy a fancy, personal gift for someone who doesn’t speak that language…in other words, gifts are not that important to them.  A nice gift may be a beautiful gesture, but this person would prefer that you help them make dinner and wash the dishes afterward.  That person’s love language is Acts of Service.  Conversely, you could mop the kitchen, make dinner, take out the trash, and feed the dog for your wife, but if her love language is quality time, you need to sit down with her and focus only on her, or do an activity with her that shows that time with her is important to you.

Dr. Chapman’s books have sold millions of copies for the simple reason that he describes with clear language some universal truths in communication.  His book for parents of teenagers is essential reading. I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Everyone needs to read useful tips on how to deal with anger, how to watch out for manipulation, how to find your child’s love language which will change a bit when they are a teen, and how to communicate love effectively in different ways within each love language.  Teens can sense insincerity and hypocrisy, so part of being a better communicator is learning to empathize with them even when you have to discipline them. Letting them be part of the decision-making process, and letting them decide some of the punishments for wrongdoing can lessen the fighting. Dr. Chapman also addresses single-parent and blended families.  It is so important for parents in those families to walk beside their teens when they are going through a hard time of adjustment.   

The best parts of this book are the concrete suggestions at the end of each chapter.  Here are a few of them:

Create “traditions” with your teenager, such as eating ice cream at the same store each time or walking together at a particular park.

Offer to give your teenager a shoulder massage when they experience an especially difficult day.

Give your teenager a “song,” either one you make up or a special song you select that reminds you of them.

Talk about a goal your teenager would like to reach and verbally encourage them to explore it.

Help your teenager create flash cards for their upcoming test or quiz. Work together with your teenager until they feel confident with the material.  

There is no shame in admitting that we have no idea how to communicate with our teens, especially when they seem to change personalities overnight. However, it would be a terrible shame indeed if we could not find the tools to learn how to reach teens and love them better. Never settle for the status quo.  “Never tell me the odds!” (Han Solo) My Christmas wish for you is to be able to purchase or find a copy of The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers, and get to work immediately on your family relationships. I will be working on mine wholeheartedly in the new year. Cheers!      

The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments

The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments on Amazon

If there is one book this year that I wish I could give to EVERYBODY, this is it. Like most people, I struggle with a family member who is an alcoholic. I struggle to understand them, reach out, and have any kind of a conversation with them. They have been wounded by alcoholism and depression for more than 20 years, and our lives took radically different turns. They have also been through several different AA or AA-type programs, plus a long stint in rehab and are still drinking. 

Enter a really useful book that helped me start to understand where they are coming from and the things they have suffered. Written by an alcoholic in recovery himself, Scott Weeman gets to the heart of the struggle in each of the traditional twelve steps and links those steps to his growing faith as a Catholic. The Sacraments are the secret weapon to understanding an alcoholic. They will also help those who struggle with drinking or another addiction to get help that lasts if they want to see real change and repair relationships and get their lives back on track.

One of the truly touching moments in this book is Weeman’s description of his friendship with Dorothy, a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for 43 years to his nine months. The author and Dorothy forged an unlikely friendship, touring the country together to see more of America as she helped him work through turning his will over to God. Dorothy helped him address his self-loathing, self-pity, and need to always be in control which was hindering him in every aspect of his life.

Scott Weeman not only tells it like it is for an addict, but walks us through his thought processes and his study of the faith, which in turn led to his healing by the power of the Sacraments. Baptism helped him understand Step 3, letting God be in control of his life, and watching the miraculous events that followed. He was washed by the waters and began a new life path, leading away from alcohol and self-centeredness, and toward a future of helping others as he helped himself. 

With prayers and reflection questions at the end of each chapter, The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments is the most valuable tool I have ever read on addiction. It brings to life the whole person: mind, body, and soul because if you want to heal, you have to work on everything using small steps. Being open to the process, and open to the power of faith in action is what ultimately determines whether a person will succeed or fail. And as a wounded family member who suffers right along with the alcoholic, this book is vital to my journey as well. Scott Weeman gives us astonishing clarity with his honesty, his insight, and his deep faith. Buy this book for everyone, and pray for the alcoholic in your life. Stay close to the Sacraments, for they are the outward signs of inward grace given by God to help us fight our battles.