Julia’s Gifts Blog Tour

Julias Gifts Book Tour Promo-1

Learn more about the book, read my review, read an excerpt, follow the blog tour, enter the giveaway, and connect with the author.

About the Book:

As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will her naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer. Continue reading

An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the November 2017 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!

Astrophysics for People in a HurryMy husband recently finished listening to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s a short read/listen at 224 pages and under four hours. Although he described it as “a little political,” my husband said it’s a good presentation of astrophysics in layman’s terms.

Tasting BeerSince I turned him on to Hoopla Digital, he’s also listening to Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher. (First thought: Someone wrote a whole book about it?) It’s a highly rated guide and contains a bit of history as well, which I’ve heard as the Bluetooth speaker moves about the house. A good read for beer snobs aficionados.

Benedict OptionI’ve introduced 45-minute morning walks to my routine, so I’m officially aboard the audiobook train too. I listened to a book I’ve been reading about for months: The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher. (I loved his Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its  Return to Roots, which I read about a decade ago.) I’m a teensy bit more optimistic about the state of the world than Dreher, who I haven’t kept up with on social media. It’s tough to condense my full review, but I’d say the book is a good synthesis of a brief history of the West, monasticism, and authentic Christian living in the post-modern, technological age.

Shatter MeMy other current “adventure in audiobooks” is with Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, the first in The Juliette Chronicles Series. This dystopian book came highly recommended and well-reviewed. I knew going in that the writing was unconventional, but I think there needs to be a note bene stating that at the beginning of the audiobook production so that unsuspecting listeners like me don’t think there’s a glitch in the app when the sentence, “I am not insane,” is repeated about fifty times or to explain that the intermittent scratchy sound is an overstrike in the text. I’m not sure what I think of the book yet. The author uses a lot of imagery, and I’m getting weary of the metaphors, but she builds empathy very well. The stakes are getting higher and the romance is building as it goes along.

Hometown GirlLastly, I’m enjoying Courtney Walsh’s Hometown Girl. (Look at that pretty, bright cover!) The heroine, Beth Whitaker, is a well-written, very human character. I love that her flaws are not glossed over. In fact, they’re known to just about everyone. And still the silent, secretive hero, Drew Barlow, is drawn to  her.

Inherit the WindTogether with his Humanities English class, my ninth grader is reading Inherit the Wind: The Powerful Drama of the Greatest Courtroom Clash of the Century by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. I’ve heard the title so many times, but didn’t realize that (1) it is a play, and (2) it is about the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Cabin Faced WestMy fourth-grade daughter selected another book by Jean Fritz from her school library: The Cabin Faced West. She especially enjoyed that the book is set in places she’s visited, including Gettysburg and what’s presently the Monongahela area outside of Pittsburgh.

Will You Sign Here, John HancockShe still can’t get enough of the colonial era, and has also read Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? also by Jean Fritz, The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Ann McGovern , and, her favorite of the three, Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? (again) by Jean Fritz. Let’s just say my little girl is addicted to historical fiction from the Revolutionary War Era.

Autumn WalkMy youngest daughter pulled an old board book from the shelf, Autumn Walk by Ann Burg. This is one of my all-time favorites for reading to the kids since they were little babies. The illustrations are bright and cheery and meld perfectly with this fall poem.

Secret Pizza PartyBoth of my youngest enjoyed Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, also the authors of Dragons Love Tacos. I enjoyed this funny story of a thieving, pizza-craving raccoon as much as the kids. Their big sister was unimpressed. Can’t please ’em all.

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Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

Monarch Butterfly Edition

My oldest daughter has been a butterfly lover since she was a toddler, capturing and identifying butterflies long before she could read. With the addition of native plants to our yard, we’re attracting more creepy crawly creatures than ever, including the Monarch butterfly.

A large part of our summer was spent rearing butterflies from egg to butterfly. Admittedly, we got in a bit over our heads. We learned so much together – the whole family – as we marveled at these amazing little creatures and their journey.

Here, in seven pictures, is an overview of their life cycle. They’ve been gone from our yard for weeks, but almost daily I still see a Monarch flying across a road or field, headed south. Continue reading

Interview with YA Author A.J. Cattapan

Seven Riddles to Nowhere includes one of the most original, intriguing minor characters I’ve come across in a children’s book. Old Man Englebert uses an electronic voice box, something I remember quite vividly from my own childhood. Several men that inhabited the smoky fraternal clubs my dad frequented used them, and they left a lasting impression on me. What inspired the character, whose voice provides an interesting contrast to the protagonist Kam’s selective mutism?

7 Riddles to NowhereI have to admit I never thought about what an interesting contrast Old Man Engelbert’s voice box is to Kam’s selective mutism! The truth is that I just wanted to make the man seem as scary as possible, and somehow the idea of an electronic voice box popped into my head. Maybe it was all those years of watching Star Wars movies with my brothers and listening to Darth Vader’s scary voice. Continue reading

Playing by Heart Blog Tour

Playing by Heart Blog Tour

About the Book:

Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the ‘second sister’ means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father’s quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams but her sister’s very life. Continue reading

Ta’Mara Hanscom’s ‘The Pretender’ Blog Tour and Giveaway

Despite just meeting each other, Tillie and Noah’s lives have been mysteriously intertwined for many years in Ta’Mara Hanscom’s The Pretender. From the moment they met, Tillie and Noah wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, but a deliberate omission will keep them apart – and that same omission will be responsible for the escape of a murderer, and a bride’s deception.

About the book:

Set in South Dakota in 1975, where eighteen-year-olds could order beer in a bar, and loaded guns were kept under the counter.

Frankie Valli sang “My Eyes Adored You,” and American soldiers returning from Vietnam struggled with their new reality.

It’s within this tumultuous season of American history that Tillie Caselli meets Noah Hansen, and they are never the same again. Their lives were mysteriously intertwined – and had been for many years – yet they had no idea. Continue reading

The Other Side of Freedom, Cynthia Toney’s New Historical Novel

AVAILABLE TODAY!Other Side of Freedom Promo

About the Book:

When the reward is the most costly sacrifice of all . . .

In a southern U.S. farming community in 1925, thirteen-year-old Salvatore and his Italian immigrant father become involved against their will in a crime that results in the murder of an innocent man and family friend. Will Sal keep the secrets about that night as his father asks, or risk everything he and his family cherish in their new homeland, including their lives? Continue reading

Standing Strong: Going All In with the West Brothers


Couched in ordinary circumstances and ordinary characters (except that, well, they live in sort of a castle), Standing Strong deals with the most important things. We start asking ourselves the relevant questions sometime in the elementary school years: What do I want to do? What kind of person do I want to be?

And we answer them every day with our actions or inaction, our habits, our determination, and our willingness to accept who, ultimately, will rule our lives.  To whose will do we bend? Our own? Or God’s will? Continue reading