Novels in which the hero or heroine are battling an addiction are not typically easy reads. Both My Unexpected Hope and Blue Columbine are childhood sweetheart/second chance romances that make your heart hurt in the best ways as the characters fight to break the bonds of addiction (alcohol in Blue Columbine and alcohol and illegal drugs in My Unexpected Hope). The Things We Knew includes a large cast, several of whom are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Gray Carlisle is the character to watch, as he struggles to get clean for the sake of himself and those he loves.
The Grace Crasher includes a minor character addicted to alcohol, but the heroine in this hilarious novel is addicted to love. (Say that out loud without singing the refrain of the Robert Palmer song. I dare you.) Hip and funny, yet serious when it needs to be, The Grace Crasher tackles the “less popular” addictive behaviors, such as those involving serial crushes and (in another minor character) overeating. Continue reading →
Last Labor Day weekend, we gave family camping another shot. After several years’ hiatus allowing our babies and toddlers to grow into preschoolers, the six of us tent camped for a weekend. You can read about our adventures with pit toilets and fish pedicures here, but all in all, it was well worth it.
This year, we chose better when it came to the facilities, more memories were made, more lessons learned.
The “Facilities” and Site Location Make a Difference
We went from putrid pit toilets and no showers last year to pristine bathrooms and showers this year. What a difference it makes! My camping bathroom standards aren’t ridiculously high. We are in the outdoors after all, and I expect a certain number of moths, spiders, and other creepy crawlies to make their way inside. But these bathrooms had next to none! My only quibble is the fact that no paper towels were available, only weak hand driers. (But that also probably contributed to the cleanliness factor.)
While this site was another previously-unseen walk-in, its steep incline from parking spot to tent site amounted to a matter of yards. No excruciating, back-breaking treks up and down with gear or to the potty. Speaking of the potty . . .
As the author of Catholic fiction for teens and young adults, I find myself in a constant battle of the wills. There’s this desire to delight the reader with an entertaining and relatable story, while still remaining focused on pleasing God and sharing His Word. Some may not think this much of a challenge, but when you reflect on the world we live in, as well as what passes for entertainment these days, hardly a fraction of it would be considered godly. In fact, entertainment is so focused on stories that do everything but promote God’s word, or worse, indulge in ideas that are contrary to God’s word.
Welcome to the July 2017 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!
I had long been looking forward to reading a trio of contemporary Christian romances for which I received ARCs. (Those are Advance Review Copies, for the uninitiated.) First up was The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo. Her writing gets better with every book (and I know she wrote this one years ago, but the rewrite benefited from the skills she’s acquired over the years). I’m just going to admit it: Maybe it’s leftover teenage fangirling over Duran Duran et al, but I’m still a sucker for a rock star romance. This one isn’t all crushes, butterflies in the stomach, and glamour. This one is grief, regret, and making peace with the hands life deals you. I loved it.
The second ARC was by another of my favorite contemporary romance authors, Tammy L. Gray. My Unexpected Hope is technically not the second in a series, but it builds on her previous novel, My Hope Next Door. Back-to-back with The Whys Have It, it was another heavy-hearted romance, if there is such a thing. The main characters are grieving their divorce and trying their best to move past messed-up childhoods, a dysfunctional relationship, and addiction to make a new start. I especially loved the unexpected twist the ending took.
Last up was Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh, the first novel by her that I’ve read. After The Whys Have It and My Unexpected Hope, the lighter mood of Just Look Up was welcome. And while it’s a lighter romance, it’s filled with good, important stuff about worrying less about what we do and concentrating more on who we are. If you’re driven to distraction or just plain driven, this book is for you.
I topped the romances with a short, nonfiction, self-help book by 10 Minute Novelists foundress Katharine Grubb. When the Timer Dings: Organizing Your Life to Make The Most of 10 Minute Increments is a quick read, but you’d benefit by taking some time to answer the thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter, which will help you see where and how you may improve your approach to organizing your time. I don’t do chapter-end questions, but I still got something out of the book. On, to tackle our clutter!
My son has completed one of the three books that are part of his summer reading assignment. He selected Animal Farm by George Orwell from one of the lists provided. After hearing him talk about it, I’m eager to read this classic that I somehow missed along the way, especially since he left me with this remark: “I’ve never been so moved reading a book.”
This morning, while waiting for his sister to finish up with lunchtime book club at the library (Chewsy Readers), he grabbed a pick-your-own ending book from the shelf. We hadn’t made it home from the library before he’d reached a dead-end in Can You Survive in a Dystopia? by Anthony Wacholtz. As I type, however, I spy him going back in and reading through to other possible endings.
Meanwhile, his sister was discussing the book she’d been reading over her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Late one night last week, she couldn’t fall asleep and, horror of horrors, there was no new Trixie Belden book on hand. I suggested she take a book from her brother’s shelf, and now she’s hooked on the series beginning with The Strange Case of Origami Yodaby Tom Angleberger. I’m sure I’ll be finding a slew of paper puppets around the house again, including Han Foldo.
My little kids have a bad habit of asking “Can I have a book?” at the library and then grabbing random books from the shelf that may or may not be of interest to them. This week, I selected Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems, sure that they’d love it, and they did. I love the illustrated expression on the father as he drags his boneless toddler home in mid-tantrum. Ah, so familiar.
I rolled my eyes after first skimming The Tree That Would Not Dieby Ellen Levine. Really? Who would poison an old tree? But then, sure enough, a note in the back of the book explained how a nearly 500-year-old tree, the “Treaty Oak” of Austin, Texas was poisoned in 1989. The picture book broadly traces 400+ years of Austin history in this tale. (By the way,the Treaty Oak still stands.)
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When we moved into our first (and current) home eighteen years ago, our neighbors were an elderly couple. She’d been widowed twice. Him, once. She baked pies from the cherries grown on their tree. He told stories of his Merchant Marine days in WWII. They spent evenings sitting in the shade of two giant maple trees. When it snowed, the previous owner of our home often came with his snow blower. When he didn’t, we shoveled out the shared mailbox area in front of our homes. Continue reading →
The lyrics reflect back on childhood when Christmas included writing out a wish list and sending it to Santa Claus. As children, we hope for the magical appearance of presents underneath the tree on Christmas morning. However, as we grow up, our Christmas wishes change. We realize that we care less about material goods, and we begin hoping for less tangible gifts like peace, joy, friendship, and healing.
Last week, that song came to mind as I was sitting in the Adoration chapel at my church. My children were completing their week of Vacation Bible School, and I was closing out my own “Grown-up VBS.” Continue reading →
I thought life would slow down a bit once school ended. How wrong I was! After a month filled with baseball and softball games, Boy Scout meetings, talent show rehearsals, a ballet recital, field trips, eighth grade graduation, and many other activities and events that I’ve already forgotten, I was sure life would return to a manageable pace.