Monday Book Review: An Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl

Today I am so excited to talk with you about the next book from Leslea Wahl. Leslea and I met online through the Catholic Writers Guild, and then this past summer we got to meet in person when we met up in Rome for dinner!


I knew from reading Leslea’s first book The Perfect Blindside that we would be kindred spirits. Her main character in that book employs the same sort of “Jesus, please help me not to make a fool of myself today” kind of prayers that I’ve been wont to make. 🙂

Anyway, today I get to tell you about her next book, which releases tomorrow!

Monday Book Review: An Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl. Check out this YA book with romance, mystery, and adventure!Title: An Unexpected Role

Author: Leslea Wahl

Genre: contemporary romance with a little mystery

Age group: young adult

Synopsis: High school student and theater geek Josie just wanted to enjoy the perfect summer before becoming an upperclassman. She dreamed of afternoons at the pool and weekends at the lake. But just as the school year is ending, her mother’s latest young adult novel releases, and everyone at school seems to have read it and believes that the terribly embarrassing moments that happen to the main character are based on things that actually happened to Josie. She becomes the target of ridicule at school and is teased mercilessly.

To get away from it all, Josie leaves her Minnesota hometown to spend the summer with her artsy Aunt Lily who lives in a small beach town in South Carolina. Unfortunately, one of the “tier one” baseball superstar athletes from Josie’s school is playing for a baseball team in South Carolina for the summer, and he’s staying in the same beach town. Josie knows he’ll remind her of all the ridicule back at home and make her summer miserable. Not to mention, she’s got her eye on a hot young Latino boy who’s working at the beach town so he can send money back home to his family in the Dominican Repulbic, and baseball star Ryan seems to keep getting in the way.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s been a string of robberies in the small town that no one is able to explain. Josie wants to stop the crime spree and have a little summer romance, but first she’ll have to discover who she really is.

How could I not enjoy this book with all its baseball and musical theater references? Anyone who’s read Angelhood would have no problem imagining Leslea’s main character Josie and my main character Nanette getting along really well!

What I really liked about this book was Leslea’s ability to bring up topics like caring for immigrants and refugees, respect for veterans, and a teen’s struggle to find herself amidst the bullying climate of high school–all without coming across as preachy or didactic. She easily weaves these topics into a tale that teens can enjoy from Josie’s attempts to find romance to her efforts to discover what’s really going on in this small island beach town.

Told with humor and heart, An Unexpected Role is a tale for any teen who enjoys a book with a little romance, mystery, and adventure!

Want a chance to win books for teens and tweens? Sign up for my Insiders Club by clicking here. Once a month, I’ll mail you updates on giveaways from me and my author friends as well as the inside scoop on my writing and some fun recipes I like to share!


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FREE workshop on writing for children

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be part of a panel of authors presenting a FREE workshop on writing for young readers on Sunday, October 23.

FREE writing workshop! Come hear five mystery writers talk about writing for children

Registration and parking are all free. Just sign up here.

Here are the rest of the details:

Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., Concordia University Chicago, Christopher Center Room 200, River Forest, IL
Expect some treats and tricks—writing tricks, that is—as five Chicago-area mystery authors discuss writing and publishing stories for young readers in an event co-hosted by the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and Concordia University Chicago’s Center for Literacy. The event is free and open to writers and readers of all ages. Free parking is available in Lot 1, at the corner of Augusta and Monroe.

“Tricks (and Treats) for Writing for Young Readers” will feature Kate Hannigan, author of The Detective’s Assistant, winner of the 2016 Golden Kite Award for best middle-grade novel from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; Keir Graff, executive editor of Booklist publications and author of two middle grade books, The Other Felix and, coming soon, The Matchstick Castle; Michelle Falkoff, author of the young adult titles Pushing Perfect and Playlist for the Dead; A.J. Cattapan, author of the middle grade adventure Seven Riddles to Nowhere; and Natasha Tarpley, author of the best-selling picture book, I Love My Hair! and the forthcoming middle grade mystery The Harlem Charade and the co-founder of Voonderbar!, a multicultural children’s book publisher.

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Book Trailer for Seven Riddles to Nowhere

I’ve finally put together a book trailer for Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

Feel free to let me know what you think and to share it with others you think might be interested!

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Middle Grade, Mysteries, Reading, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Signing Party September 10


Book Signing TeaLula 3

Come join us this Saturday at my favorite tea shop! I’ll be signing copies of all my books. You can purchase them there or bring copies you bought online!

If you’ve never been to downtown Park Ridge, IL, it’s a charming area, and this tea shop is my absolute favorite! It’s a “must visit” whenever my tea-loving sister-in-law is in town.

Take advantage of the lovely Farmer’s Market going on at the same time!

We’ll have copies of both Seven Riddles to Nowhere and Angelhood for purchase.










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Goodreads Giveaway of Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!

I’m giving away two signed copies of Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Seven Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan

Seven Riddles to Nowhere

by A.J. Cattapan

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Can’t wait until the giveaway?

Purchase Seven Riddles to Nowhere right now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s also available on Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo!

Here’s what people are already saying about

Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

“With a fast-paced story and compelling characters, A.J. Cattapan’s Seven Riddles to Nowhere inspires young readers not only to spend time reading, but also to believe in their own ability to make a difference in this world. Highly recommended for middle schoolers, and the grown ups who love them!”

-Lisa M. Hendey, author of the Chime Travelers series

“A.J. Cattapan has a knack for getting into the hearts and minds of middle-schoolers. Kids will be hooked from the first page (and parents tempted to read over their shoulders) as they follow an intrepid troop of friends on a quest to save their school. Seven Riddles to Nowhere has it all—action, cryptic clues, unique settings, and a hero every kid can root for.”

-Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Waters series

“Seven Riddles to Nowhere is a blast, taking the reader on an exciting tour of Chicago streets and churches, while 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.”

-Theresa Linden, author of Roland West, Loner

“A fun and informative mystery for Catholic middle-schoolers or anyone who has eyed a Catholic church or cathedral and wondered about the meaning in its structural details and symbols.”

-Cynthia T. Toney, author of the Bird Face series

“Seven Riddles to Nowhere will keep teens turning pages, even while they gain an appreciation for Church history, its rich symbolism, and the universality of the faith. Parents, beware! Your kids will want to stay up late finishing this book – and you might, too!”

-Stephanie Engelman, author of A Single Bead





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Happy Book Release Day!

Today is the official release day of

Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both selling the paperback version at a 32% discount right now. I don’t know how long this sale price will last, but I recommend you grab it while you can!

7 Riddles Sale prices launch


Also don’t forget about the party we’re having on Facebook tonight! So many great giveaways!

7 Riddles Launch Ad


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Monday Book Review: Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean by Britt Leigh

I won this book in a giveaway and was happy to do so since it’s from one of my fellow authors from the Books for Catholic Teens Facebook group.

Monday Book Review: Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean by Britt LeighTitle: Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean

Author: Britt Leigh

Genre: contemporary romance

Age category: young adult (but on the young end, really more upper middle grade in terms of voice)

Synopsis: (from back cover) “Gloria Jean wants her first kiss more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Parents, friends, the sex ed teacher at school, and her Confirmation class catechists: everyone has opinions about what a fourteen-year-old girl should–and shouldn’t–do. Even Gloria’s own body adds to the confusion with troubles of its own. In a world of mixed messages, Gloria Jean wonders how she can find a way to listen to her own heart, and how she’s supposed to follow the rules if she isn’t even sure what they are.”

The book opens with eighth grader Gloria Jean going on her first movie date with a boy–although she swears to her mom it’s really just boys and girls hanging out as friends since her two female friends are also bringing guys as well. Secretly, Gloria Jean is hoping this date will end with her first kiss, but part way through the movie, she experiences “the Troubles” and needs to run to the bathroom. It takes her a long time to come back to her movie seat, and the “mood” is ruined by then.

Eventually, Gloria Jean learns that the “troubles” she’s been plagued with is actual celiac disease. She can’t have any gluten, and when she does it wrecks havoc with her digestive system, making her feel absolutely miserable, and it could have serious consequences later in life. This means she can’t receive Communion, which makes participating in her Confirmation retreat and regular Sunday Mass a matter of utter social awkwardness for Gloria Jean. Every young teen and preteen just wants to fit in, and Gloria Jean is standing out like a sore thumb when she can only receive from the chalice.

If you heard me on the Jennifer Fulwiler show last week, we were talking about good books for Catholic kids, some overtly Christian and others not. As you can probably guess, this book is very overtly Catholic. It’s essentially Theology of the Body told in novel form. Her Confirmation classes are set up in direct contrast to her sex ed classes at her public middle school. At times, some teens may feel this book gets a bit preachy.

However, if you’re a parent of a preteen who doesn’t know how to get started talking about your values with regard to sex, this book may be a good place to break into that conversation. Or if you’re a parent of a child with celiac disease, this book might make them feel less alone.



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Facebook Launch Party for Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

It is now less than a month until the release of my middle grade mystery Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

Where has all the time gone?

Like I did with Angelhood, there will be a launch party on Facebook with lots of fun giveaways! You might win a copy of Seven Riddles to Nowhere, Angelhood, book marks, pens, or one of many other children’s books (from picture books up to young adult books) that my writing friends have generously donated.

So if you’re on Facebook, come join us here on Wednesday, August 31, from 7-9 p.m. Central Time.

7 Riddles Facebook party header

Posted in Angelhood, Giveaway, Middle Grade, Mysteries, Reading, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, Writing, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Studiare Days 20 & 21

I’ve been home for over 24 hours now, so I guess I’m finally rested enough to write this blog post!

Friday was my last day in Rome, and as is typical for me, I tried to cram a lot in. It’s as if I just can’t drink in enough Rome to last me until my next trip.

My final classes in the morning went well. People ask me if I’m fluent in Italian yet. Oh brother, not at all! I’m pretty good at “restaurant Italian,” and I can buy stamps and groceries in Italian. In fact, the day before, I was buying a super cheap lunch at the local Pam grocery story (yes, that’s the actual name of the store), and the girl in front of me was buying a sandwich and a dessert. The clerk behind the counter asked if she wanted the “menu.” (That’s what we would call a “value meal.”) The girl had no idea that the clerk was trying to tell her she could get a free drink with her sandwich and fruit. I had figured it out based on the Italian sign hanging in the store.

“Parli italiano?” asked the clerk.

The girl just looked at her. So I tried English. “You get a free drink,” I said to the girl and held up my beverage.

The girl looked at me.

“It’s free,” I repeated. “You get a free drink when you buy the sandwich and the dessert. Do you want the free drink?”

Finally, the girl seemed to understand what we were saying, but she just shook her head and said, “No, I have aqua.”

Oh well. The clerk behind the counter thanked me, and then when it came time for my transaction, she talked to me in Italian. Hooray! My words in English didn’t trick her into thinking I didn’t understand Italian!

Still . . . despite my little victories, I still struggle a lot with spoken Italian. It’s like my brain is on slow translation speed. I need a moment to separate the sounds into syllables and then figure out which syllables go together into words, and then finally translate the words into English ones!

When class ended at 2:00 in the afternoon, I headed over to St. Peter’s Square. I had some postcards to mail to fans who follow me on Instagram (What?!? You’re not follow me on Instagram yet? For heaven’s sake, why not?).

Then I hopped on the Metro line A and went to visit Santa Maria Maggiore. I hadn’t been to this basilica in two years, and there’s another holy door there. There are four holy doors open in Rome this year for the Year of Mercy. I’d already been through the St. Peter’s holy door, and I wanted to get at least one more in.


Holy Door at Santa Maria Maggiore

The church was very crowded. With World Youth Day coming up in Poland, a lot of youth groups were stopping in Rome first, so I saw two youth groups holding Mass in the side chapels at Santa Maria Maggiore.

A youth group at the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica.

A youth group at the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica.

Then I walked over to Santa Maria in Via because I promised an Italian classmate that I’d do so. Along the way, God sent me this little surprise . . . a church dedicated to guardian angels! Pretty cool for this author of a guardian angel story.

"Angelo Custode" means "Guardian Angel" in Italian. :)

“Angelo Custode” means “Guardian Angel” in Italian. 🙂

Then I booked it down to Trastevere. I hadn’t yet visited the Basilica of St. Cecilia, and I couldn’t image a trip to Rome without stopping in to see one of my all time favorite saints. St. Cecilia was actually my mom’s favorite saint, and my very first published article was on St. Cecilia. Plus, on the previous Saturday, I’d just seen the actual spot she had originally been buried in in the catacombs, so now everything had come full circle to me.

My only slight problem with stopping by St. Cecilia is that I was also on my way to another church in Rome. You may remember that my Loyola classmates and I had been introduced to a man named Paolo from the Community di Sant’Egidio. They pray together every night at Santa Maria in Trastevere at 8:30 p.m., and I had even gone back there on Wednesday to pray with them a second time.

Well, on Friday night, I was invited to pray with their seniors group at 5:30 in a small church just around the corner from Santa Maria.

I was running short on time to visit St. Cecilia before that, so I’m sure I must have made a little bit of a scene in the church. I dashed through the courtyard that leads to the church, in my head I heard the words, “Sono qui, Santa Cecilia! Sono qui!” (“I am here, St. Cecilia. I am here!”) as if for some reason she needed me to announce my arrival. But it was a happy announcement, a joyful proclamation of thanksgiving that I had indeed made it back to her on this trip to Rome.

I composed myself–a.k.a. slowed down–as I entered the church, but I knew I couldn’t stay long, so I walked straight down the center aisle, threw myself onto a kneeler in front of the altar, said a quick prayer, and dashed right back down the aisle. I can only imagine what the other people praying the church must have thought. Man, that girl must have had an urgent request! Or She looked pretty happy. Maybe she was just offering a quick thank you?!

Back on the cobbled streets of Trastevere, I dashed through narrow streets to get to St. Calisto where I was supposed to meet Paolo. I arrived at 5:32 and heard music already playing in the church.

I stepped inside and was immediately greeted by a friendly Italian woman about my height. “Are you Paolo’s friend?”


She lead me toward the front of the church and headed me a prayer book and a song sheet. There were maybe 20 people in the pews and about eight members of Community at the altar leading the prayers, my friend Paolo among them.

The prayer service was very similar to the other two I had attended. There was lots of singing, a litany of saints, a Scripture reading, and a reflection by one of the Community members. The main difference between this prayer service and the previous two was that most of the people in the pews were seniors (anziani in italiano).

San Calisto

San Calisto

Afterward, I was invited to join them for fellowship (and ice cream sandwiches) at a local community center. We sat in folding chairs (or wheelchairs) in a circle and talked. I found out that the woman who greeted me at the door of the church was Paolo’s wife. I also got to meet his parents and several of the senior members of the community.

Paolo kept introducing me as his “amica americana” because he said I looked too Italian, and everyone would just think I was his Italian friend instead of his American friend. Ha! I consider this a high compliment to be mistaken as a real Italian woman!

It was wonderful to talk with them and learn more about the Community and what they do. There is already a Community di Sant’Egidio at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and there may be one in Chicago before too long! I will keep in touch with Paolo to find out more.

After that, I had plans to meet up with a classmate from Scuola Leonardo for dinner, but I had a little time first, and I had some prayer intentions left to pray, so I decided to find this church Paolo had pointed out to me. On the way there, I passed another church. I didn’t see a name outside, so I headed it to see what church it was. Turns out it is the church of Santa Dorotea (St. Dorothy). This struck me as the perfect place to say my remaining prayer intentions. You see, my Aunt Dorothy past away last year while I was in Rome. My mom and she were close, and my mom passed away just a few months later.

Santa Dorotea

Santa Dorotea

I felt a great sense of comfort in this church, like my mom and Aunt Dorothy were praying with me, so later, I let everyone know that if they sent me a special prayer intention that I’m sure they can count on my mom and Aunt Dorothy praying for them, too.

I did eventually make it to that other church (San Pietro in Montorio), which was way up on a hill, but there was a Mass going on, and I had little time to admire it before heading back to the historic center to meet my Scuola Leonardo classmate for dinner. She’s a middle school teacher from New York who has spent time living in Italy. Like me, she sees Italy as a second home, so we were rather kindred spirits. I had also received a text message from one of my Loyola classmates who had just returned back to Rome after visiting other Italian cities with her husband and mom.  So all five of us (three of us teachers!) had a wonderful dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants in Rome, Monte Vecchio.

After dinner, I took a brief last stroll past St. Peter’s. Unfortunately, they’ve taken to kind of blocking it off at night, so I couldn’t sit around the obelisk. I just said a quick prayer of thanks for another wonderful trip to Rome and headed back to the apartment to pack.

The next morning turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I was scheduled for an 11:20 a.m. flight, but when I woke up in the morning, I found out my flight was delayed  . . . 10 hours!

My Italian landlady couldn’t believe it. She turned on the Italian news. There had been talks of strikes at the airports, buses, and trains, and sure enough, they talked about it on the news that morning, but they said the flights were all “regolare.” So why was my plane so late?

I had already missed the 8:00 a.m. shuttle bus I was supposed to take to the airport, but my ticket was good all day, so I headed out on the 9:25 bus. By 10:15, I was at the airport and standing in line at the counter.

To make a long story slightly shorter, I found out the pilot had called in sick. They were flying in a new one, but by regulation, they had to let him rest before flying us back for 9 hours.

The airline compensated us by sending us to the very nice Hilton airport at the hotel. We got free lunch, free rooms, and free dinner. I got to take a two-hour nap and a shower. It was heavenly!

The flight left at 9:05 p.m, which meant I didn’t land in Chicago until after midnight, but at least I wasn’t like many of the other passengers who had missed connecting flights or trains and were going to have to spend a night in a hotel in Chicago.

Well, I’m home and fairly well rested, which is good because tomorrow the Catholic Writers Guild Conference starts, and I’m a presenter.

On to the next adventure!

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Studiare Day 19

This will probably be my last blog post until after I get home. Friday night I’ll be busy packing for my Saturday flight, so I don’t think I’ll have time to blog.

After today’s classes, I decided to head to the Keats-Shelley Museum near the Spanish Steps. If you followed my blog two years ago, you may remember me visiting the graces of Keats and Shelley here in Rome.


The bedroom Keats died in


Keats moved to Rome after getting tuberculosis. He knew another British winter would kill him, so he came to Rome with a friend and they found an apartment above the Spanish Steps. Keats lived only a few more months and then was buried in the only non-Catholic cemetery in town. He had visited the cemetery ahead of time and said he liked it because daisies, his favorite flowers, grew abundantly there.

Keats spent a good amount of his last days looking at the Spanish Steps from this window in his bedroom.

Keats spent a good amount of his last days looking at the Spanish Steps from this window in his bedroom.

In the early evening, I headed back to school for an extra lesson on pronunciation. Then I ate some gelato, walked some more, ate some pizza, did a little bit more grocery shopping (yogurt and fruit) for my last two mornings, and headed home to do my homework.

Can’t believe the time here always goes so fast! There are definitely things I miss about home, but I’m also trying to soak up as much Rome as I can before heading home.

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