Standing Strong, by Theresa Linden

The tagline for Standing Strong—Theresa Linden’s most daring novel—reads: “Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.” Most young adult novels ignore the spiritual life, some ridicule it, or replace it with fantasy. Standing Strong embraces spirituality—with a strong Franciscan flavor—as God shapes the lives of Jarret and Keefe West, and brings peace to their family.

Readers of the first three West Brothers novels know Jarret as narcissistic, manipulative, and cruel—a teen just waiting for karma to catch up with him. His favorite targets include his twin, Keefe, an unwilling accomplice, and their younger brother, Roland—Jarret’s frequent victim.

 

Rather than karma or Satan, it is mercy that catches Jarret. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Jarret resets his priorities, sincerely attempting to amend his life. He admits his mistakes and avoids the people, places, and circumstances associated with his earlier misdeeds. He shows genuine compassion to his family, friends, and even his enemies. Unfortunately, he grows overconfident, and the lure of his deeply ingrained habits and the expectations of his classmates impede his spiritual progress. He finds himself rejected; crying out, “God, why do you make this so hard?”

 

Keefe, Jarret’s perennial foil is so used to deferring to his brother, their father, and anyone who challenges him that he stalls on his journey to the religious life—mired in self-doubt, and his fear of wrath, ridicule, and rejection. Can he make the leap of faith, faith in himself and his calling, despite the apparent obstacles and contradictory signs? Can he embrace the scandal of Jesus?

 

The author devises an elaborate series of subplots that pit Mr. West, Roland, and his friends, Channel—Jarret’s voluptuous girlfriend—, and strangers along the road who deflect the West twins from their holy trek.

 

Standing Strong appeals to a wide audience, especially troubled high school students and those contemplating the religious life. Theresa Linden’s research into adolescent psychology and the life, legends, and spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi erects a sturdy framework through which she threads her themes.

 

The author shared the pre-publication copy of Standing Strong that enabled this review. I thank her and applaud her creative spirit.

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Battle for His Soul, by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden completes her West Brothers’ trilogy with a look behind the facade known as Jarret West. He bullied his youngest brother as recounted in Ronald West, Loner and abused his relationship with Zoe and Caitlyn in Life Changing Love. This capstone volume reveals that Jarret’s fate depends on the outcome of a cosmic battle between Angels and Devils.

His victims might say that Jarret deserves whatever punishment befalls him, but they would miss the point that even a narcissistic, amoral manipulator like Jarret is deemed loveable by God.  Throughout Jarret’s life, his guardian angel, Ellechial has stood by him as Jarret’s personal demon Deth-kye, feeds Jarret’s vanity and passions, leading him to a violent showdown on Earth and an express ride to hell.

Jarret does little to avoid his self-inflicted fate. Despite his obnoxious behavior to countless schoolmates and his brothers, they form a prayer group. They pray before the Blessed Sacrament unaware that their prayers arm the Angels. The young prayer partners facilitate the angel’s access to Jarret’s conscience and enable them to warn Jarret of his danger.

The trilogy’s climax unfolds on an archeological expedition to the American West. Although he continues to mistreat his brother Roland, it is this younger brother who has a chance to save Jarret’s life, scare some sense into him, and sharpen his conscience.

Nevertheless, any strength gained by Ellechial is countered by, Deth-kye’s stirring of Jarret’s emotions, vices, and memories. Roland and his friends pray for and attempt to set Jarret straight during the final scene of the battle for Jarret’s soul?

It helps the reader to walk in Jarret’s shoes during his time of trial, especially at the conclusion of this Year of Mercy.

As a member of the Catholic Writers Guild’ Fiction Critique Group, I have worked with Theresa Linden as she brought A Battle for His Soul to press.

Fight for Liberty, by Theresa Linden

 

Fight for Liberty, Book Three in the Liberty trilogy, climbs to a dazzling climax, filled with plot shifts that will tantalize adult, juvenile and young adult readers.

In Book One, Chasing Liberty, an inner voice she calls “My Friend” directs nineteen-year-old Liberty 554-062466-84 of Aldonia to the realization that there is more to existence than a life totally dominated by the Regimen Custodia Terra. With the assistance of Dedrick, a member of the Mosheh, the underground insurgent leadership, she escapes to a remote sylvan colony but not to a life of contentment, as she knows her friends remain trapped in Aldonia.

In Book Two, Testing Liberty, the heroine infiltrates back into Aldonia to rescue her friends and imprisoned colony members, including all of their children, and to undermine the Regimen. She is captured and subjected to Reeducation, a form of video-game brainwashing. Like MacGyver, Liberty becomes more dangerous to the Regimen in captivity than on the loose.

In Fight for Liberty, the now tougher, more accomplished heroine comes into her own as a role model, especially for girls and women, following that inner voice calling them to greatness:

My Friend had never spoken to me as directly as he had these past several weeks. Since Reeducation, He led me to believe I would be instrumental in changing Aldonia, gave me hope that freedom would win out against the all-controlling government, the Regimen Custodia Terra. They controlled every facet of life from population numbers and education to ideologies and individual vocations. Considering all life of equal value, regardless of species, but humans akin to parasites, they had corralled people into cities and forbade entry into the Fully Protected Nature Preserves. We needed to bring them down.

The final push against the Regimen Custodia Terra begins, but instead of an orderly, focused attack against Aldonia, within its electrified fence Liberty, the remnant of the colonists from the Nature Preserves, and their superiors in the Mosheh face a tangle of conflicts.

Liberty’s love interest, Dedrick, doesn’t want her to commit to the Mosheh or participate in the upcoming attacks. The Torva, wild men—a cross between an outlaw biker gang and a Viking raiding party—will join the fray, but they won’t take orders from the Mosheh. They are more interested in owning the young women in the Regimen’s “breeding facility” than in freeing the people of Aldonia.

Previously captured colonial children have escaped from Regimen schools, but they have come under the influence of Guy, a one-armed shadow figure who will follow his own, separate agenda during the upcoming conflict.

Mosheh infiltrators of the Unity Troopers, the army of the Regimen, have found Trooper membership attractive. Silver, the mercenary, has tracked Derek into the Mosheh’s tunnel network. The Regimen would reward her for sharing this information. As dangerous as ever, Dr. Supero has become unpredictable after the treatment of his brain tumor. As the Mosheh subterfuge and subversion begins, no one is sure that their alliance will hold or that the good guys have accounted for all of the Regimen’s resources.

In Fight for Liberty, Theresa Linden has penned her most dramatic and suspenseful dystopian novel yet. The ending is anything but predictable. Although she resolves the many story lines at the end, the reader’s attachment to the characters sparks a hope that a sequel waits in the wings.

It is not necessary to read the series in order, but Liberty fans might prefer to watch the action build to a climax through the earlier volumes.

 

 

 

Life-Changing Love, by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden weaves three story lines throughout this second volume of her West Brothers trilogy. At the conclusion of volume one—Roland West, Loner—Roland finds a measure of happiness with his new friends, especially Caitlyn. He and she enjoy hanging out without the pressures of a “relationship.” When Roland tells Caitlyn that he’s not ready to be her boyfriend, Caitlyn thinks that his feelings for her have cooled. Can Ronald and Caitlyn find what they have lost?

Caitlyn’s friend, Zoe, the most popular girl at school, begins to show Caitlyn “how to become popular.” To demonstrate, Zoe attracts the attention of Jarret, Roland’s brother. She sees Jarret as handsome, confident and hot.  The real Jarret lives to dominate and control everyone in his life. Can Zoe find happiness with Jarret or has she stepped into emotional quicksand?

Because Jarret had made Roland’s life miserable, as a punishment, their father takes Jarret’s twin, Keefe, to Italy, instead of his other sons. Once out of Jarret’s reach, Keefe’s worldview amplifies. Can Keefe become his own person and find life-changing love?

Of all of Theresa Linden’s characters, Jarret West represents the ultimate Machiavellian as he schemes to bend the lives of Roland, Caitlyn, Keefe and especially Zoe so that he gets what he wants, regardless of the cost or damage. Jarret is an “evil genius” with an innate ability to interpret behaviors and engineer emotional responses that favor his devious ploys. Can love change the direction of Jarret’s life?

Caitlyn shows tremendous depth and strength, especially when Jarret attempts to manipulate and embarrass her. She comes to know her parents and the reasons for their concerns and the limitations they place on her.

Readers of volume one will welcome the return of Peter and Toby, the clear-sighted brothers who have Jarret’s number and give him all the grief they can.

As usual, Theresa Linden’s lively plots and palpable characters make for a compelling read. She shows imagination, intrigue, and originality in yet another novel. Volume three is on the way.

An Interview with Theresa Linden, Author of Roland West, Loner

 

https://web.mail.comcast.net/service/home/~/?auth=co&loc=en_US&id=624964&part=2

A few questions for Theresa Linden:

  1. In Roland West, Loner and several of your other books, I’ve noticed that you have developed a palate of rich characters. I’m curious as to where you come up with these ideas and how long have you been writing fiction.

 

Ideas for story lines and characters come to me from life, books, TV shows, and my imagination. My father was in the Coast Guard so we moved every few years. I’ve lived in California, Guam, Oahu, and Arizona. I’ve experienced different cultures and situations, like surviving Typhoon Pamela on Guam and seeing the sights in Hawaii. The constant change gave me the impression that life was an adventure. I’m sure it’s the same with all writers; you store up details from people you meet and places you go. And your imagination takes you farther.

I started writing in grade school with my sister. We stole characters from TV shows and movies and wrote them into adventure stories. We took turns writing chapters, ending with a cliffhanger that the other one had to write their way out of. We stopped writing together sometime in high school. At that time my father retired here in Ohio. Having lived in California, Guam, and Hawaii, I found it hard to adjust to the cold. Life got hard, and the adventure seemed to end.

At some point in my adult life, I realized how I could reclaim the adventure. I had to write! I loved my Catholic faith, so I wanted to write fun faith-filled stories for teens. Roland West, Loner was actually the first full story I wrote. That was years ago, and it’s seen many changes, including the title. The final book is much different from the original, but I hope it accomplishes my original goal: to bring to life a little of the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith and to arouse the imagination to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace.

 

  1. In Roland West, Loner Roland’s older twin brothers create a lot of conflict in this story. However, for being twins, they are nothing alike. How do you think a pair of identical twins can produce two totally different personalities?

 

I’ve always been fascinated by twins. They share a bond that is unique in sibling relationships. Identical twins have a pair of exactly the same genes, and they often have a similar upbringing, nurturing, and life experiences. So it might be natural to assume that they share personality traits. This, however, is not always the case. Even in situations where identical twins have been treated as two versions of one person, their distinct personalities emerge. This especially becomes obvious in teenage years when a person has more freedom to choose what to wear or to eat, and what to do with their time.

I think the phenomena brings to light the uniqueness of the individual that God has created. We are more than our genes and appearances. Each of us is a unique child of God. Our points of view and motivations, our choices and ways of responding to the good and bad in life are our own.

In Roland West, Loner, Jarret and Keefe are identical twins yet their personalities are vastly different. Jarret has grown into a leader, Keefe the follower. Keefe has developed a sense of right and wrong while Jarret tends to think selfishly. Their personalities complement each other to a degree. They know what the other thinks in a situation, and they rely on each other. But they both have room to grow.

 

  1. Not to give anything away, but one character seems particularly mean. What do you believe makes a person into a bully?

 

I am certainly no expert in what causes behaviors, good or bad, in a person. But a writer should do their research so they can present reasonable situations and believable characters. I think several underlying causes could result in creating a bully or a “control freak.” Perhaps a person had a difficult childhood with a controlling parent, or they experienced a deep hurt in the past that led to feelings of helplessness. Maybe they had unmet needs as a child or didn’t get the attention they wanted and so seek now make life revolve around them.

Each of the West boys experienced a significant loss in their life, during their childhood, and they’ve each handled it in their own way. This loss and their coping methods form a big part of who they are and what hurdles they need to overcome to grow in God’s grace. Mr. West has also been affected by the loss, as future stories in this series will reveal. While sufferings and tragedy affect everyone, the good news is, God can turn the loss into something wonderful if we let Him.

 

  1. This story begins early in the school year. The West boys, who have previously been tutored, must now attend public school. What are your thoughts about public education vs. home schooling and tutoring?

 

Growing up, we moved a lot, so I attended various public and Catholic schools, but I always wished we were home schooled. As a child, I wanted to remain close to home, but I learned to enjoy being with children my age at school. As a pre-teen and teen, I faced bullying, peer pressure, and other issues not related to learning. It is certainly not the case for everyone, but my education suffered because of it.

 

As a mother, I love home schooling my three boys. They get to learn in a safe and comfortable environment. Yes, we sometimes keep our pajamas on all day! They also receive a full education imbued with Christian values. The teaching of the faith isn’t isolated to a particular day. It’s weaved throughout the curriculum and taught in daily life. The boys can learn at their own pace without pressure. And I get to relearn all those things I’ve forgotten from school.

If you were to ask the West boys this question, they would each give a different answer. Jarret loves attending school. He’s extremely social and confident, so this is an opportunity to make friends and feed his ego. Keefe notices the work is easier. He’s been working at his own pace all these years, so he’s a lot farther ahead than the average 10th grader. But to Roland . . . “Every day at River Run High pushed him farther into the nightmare. He had no friends. He heard his name all the time, but not from kids wanting to talk to him. They were talking about him.” No, Roland does not like public school. And I’m sure he represents a group of students that just don’t feel like they’ll ever fit in.

  1. In this story, Peter often finds the behavior of his younger autistic brother a trial. What are the benefits and challenges of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome in a child?

 

I mentioned that life has felt like an adventure. Having a son with autism has become a big part of this adventure. Unable to have children, we adopted and now have three boys (all teenagers now). We felt called to adopt special needs children but had no idea our first baby had autism. We knew something was wrong because he always seemed uncomfortable.

Most parents of special needs children can relate to our story. We raced from one specialist to the next, researched everything we could, tried diets and supplements and various therapies. And some of these things helped. Most didn’t.

The hardest part has been the self-doubt, loneliness, and feelings of failure. Other moms gave me advice, but nothing seemed to help. As a new mom, I often felt like I wasn’t doing it right, and that maybe I wasn’t cut out for motherhood. But after a while, I stopped listening to the “baby advice” and worked on trusting God with this challenge. It was then that I learned to relax and enjoy our son for who he was without expecting him to act like others. I’ve come to accept that he will always have autism—unless God wants to change that via miracle—but it’s okay. While I continue to encourage behavior that will help him in life, I no longer worry about squelching all of his unique behaviors and personality quirks. They are a wonderful part of him.

It is easy for parents of special needs children to feel alone in their journey as they try to address the unique needs of their child. But God has chosen us to be their parents. He trusts us to raise these children to know, love and serve Him in their unique way. As soon as my son could walk, he wouldn’t sit still in church until the Eucharistic payers. Then he wanted to stand on the pews and watch. I let him, even when his size and age made it seem unreasonable. He hasn’t always been able to hold his body still, but he’s always been drawn to the Mass. And now as a teenager, he is the proudest altar boy at our church. He would serve every Mass if he could. And he does a fantastic job. I know he makes Our Lord very happy. And isn’t that all we really want for our children?

 

  1. Since Roland West, Loner is the first in a series, what comes next for these characters?

 

The second book in this series picks up where this one leaves off. The focus shifts from Roland to Caitlyn. Caitlyn has a crush on someone, but her parents have just announced that they expect her to practice old-fashioned courtship! To make matters worse, she’s got competition from a cute, bubbly girl with no restrictions. We’ll still get to see what the West boys are up to, but I can’t tell you now or I’d spoil the surprise! I can tell you that the characters face questions every young person faces as they come of age. Who am I? Where am I headed? How am I going to get there? And what’s love got to do with it? Facets of Theology of the Body, especially that human love is an expression of the eternal love to which God calls us, come to life through the choices and discoveries of these teenage characters.

Feel free to ask questions about Roland West, Loner. While you’re composing a question, try your luck in a raffle for an autographed copy of the book. Click on LONER  or West and travel to the raffle site. Good luck.

Please enter the rafflecopter for your chance to win an autographed copy! Entry form on several of the blog stops.

Tuesday, Dec. 1        Don Mulcare: Peace to all who enter here!

Check out the author interview and the book cover wrap.

Wednesday, Dec. 2  Erin McCole Cupp: Faith, Fiction and Love No Matter What 

Top 10 Reasons You Will Love Catholic Teen Fiction

Amy J Cattapan, Author & Speaker, Stories with Heart & Hope 

Book Review of Roland West, Loner

Thursday, Dec. 3     Barb Grady Szyszkiewicz at CatholicMom.com

Book Review of Roland West, Loner

Friday, Dec. 4          Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur: Spiritual Woman

Book cover, blurb and review blurb

Saturday, Dec. 5      Cynthia Toney

Book cover, blurb and quote from book

Sunday, Dec. 6        Karl Bjorn Erickson, Author

Behind the Scenes and First Chapter

Monday, Dec. 7        Carolyn Astfalk, Relevant Fiction for Body & Soul

Character interview-you won’t want to miss this one!

 

Roland West, Loner, by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden excels as a storyteller. She assembles her characters from complex webs of conflict and mystery. Her penchant for plot shifts and action commands the reader’s attention. Her proclivity toward trilogies reflects her dedication to the writing craft and her desire to please her readers with a magnificent literary landscape.

Roland West, Loner, the first volume in her West Brothers trilogy, introduces the pageant’s cast. Roland, the loner has two special reasons to avoid company, his older brothers. Jarret, handsome, intelligent and powerful, but also narcissistic, manipulative and amoral. Keefe, Jarret’s twin and puppet, collaborates as Jarret bullies Roland. Jarret believes that Roland is his father’s favorite. He mercilessly schemes to destroy Roland’s reputation in their father’s eyes so that he and not Roland would accompany Mr. West on a business trip to Italy. Although adult caretakers run the West’s mansion in absence of the boys’ traveling father, Jarret controls the lives of his brothers, easily circumventing and even subverting the authority of the adults. Roland remains hopelessly trapped in the West’s castle of a house.

Roland’s freedom comes from the most unlikely of liberators. Once on the loose he hides out with a classmate, Peter Brandt, whose bedroom is so messy, he could easily conceal Roland in the clutter. Roland’s existence as a loner has not prepared him for life on the run. He’s not sure if he can trust Peter. He meets and is attracted to the red-headed, emerald-eyed Caitlyn Summer, who causes him to rethink his loner status.

The struggle rages between the dominant Jarret who will use violence, intimidation and lies to compromise his brother, and Roland, the innocent and vulnerable who hopes that their father detects Jarret’s ploys. The melee plays out to the last sentence of the novel and vibrates through the subsequent volumes of the trilogy.

Although a young-adult novel, Roland West, Loner offers a compelling read to a wide audience.

 

 

Testing Liberty, by Theresa Linden

She lies in her darkened cell, alone, cold, hungry and exhausted, awaiting the tortures of the Re-Education Facility. The Regimen Custodia Terra have Liberty 554-062466-84 of Aldonia, exactly where she wants to be. Something of a MacGyver, Liberty becomes more dangerous in captivity than on the loose—always improvising, planning and scheming. Ever elusive, Liberty frustrates the violet-eyed, narcissist Dr. Supero, the lecherous and traitorous Sid, the snooping and callous Chief Varden, the master watchdog of the Citizen’s Safety Station spy network.

In Chasing Liberty, the first volume of a trilogy, Liberty fails because of her selfish desire to save a friend bringing about the destruction of the Maxwell Colony. Its citizens, including its children are now in the clutches of the Regimen awaiting absorption. Driven to free the colonists, she raises both the admiration and suspicion of the underground, the Mosheh. Her relationship with her rescuer and love interest, Dedrick suffers as he tries curb her daring exploits. His involvement with the tribe of wild-men, the Torvah also jeopardizes his relation with Liberty. The one constant in her life remains the inner voice that Liberty calls, My Friend.

Theresa Linden drives her characters through relentless action and the contortions of unforeseen plot twists, shifting alliances, and frustrations. She tantalizes her readers as Liberty and her allies draw ever so near their goals, only to encounter more devious adversaries with cryptic agendas.

Readers of Chasing Liberty find the sequel, Testing Liberty, delightful, but tantalizing, as they anticipate the final volume in the Liberty Trilogy.

Warning: reading this novel may induce sleeplessness and an elevated heart rate.