An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the January 2018 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!

Star Spangled BannerAfter a recent overnight trip to Washington, DC with our family, my husband picked up Star Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem by Marc Ferris. His interest was piqued by our visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key is on display. Not as moving as the display at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, but close. We’re looking forward to learning more about our anthem’s history.

Christmas at CarntonOn the way to and from Washington, DC, I listened to Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander. I loved this historical Christian romance set during the Civil War in Tennessee.  The narration was extremely well done, in my opinion, and I was immediately drawn into this story of a pregnant widow in dire financial straits and an injured Confederate sharp shooter. Easily the best Christmas book I’ve read/listened to this season.

Charming the TroublemakerWhile waiting for hotel staff to resolve our overflowing toilet issue in the hotel room, I was able to finish Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham. I enjoyed this second book in the Mitchell’s Crossroads series set in Appalachia (Virginia, to be specific) much more than the first. Both main characters, brokenhearted but independent Rainey and lonely, charming Alex are likable, but Alex’s originality steals the show. Light humor and gentle faith themes make this “kissing book” a fun, easy read.

Life Changing Love CoverFor Christmas, we gave our oldest son Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden, the second in the West Brothers series of Catholic teen fiction by Theresa Linden. He received Roland West, Loner for Christmas last year, and eagerly dug into this book during his Christmas break. While clumsy redhead Caitlyn graces the cover, Roland and his brothers are front and center in this book, and it’s equally enjoyable for boys and girls.

MythologyHis only homework during the Christmas break is to begin reading Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton. Somehow I missed reading something this comprehensive despite majoring in Classics in college. I love that my son enjoys these classic myths.

Indian CaptiveAt the recommendation of Franciscan Mom, my fourth-grader is enjoying books by Lois Lenski. She zipped through Strawberry Girl, and is currently reading Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison.  This Newbery Award-winner recounts the true story of a young girl captured and raised among the Seneca Indians. My daughter is captivated.

The Other Side of FreedomThe other book open next to “her” side of the loveseat is a Christmas gift: The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia T. Toney. She’s told me twice so far what a good book it is.  On a southern strawberry farm in 1925, young Sal and his Italian immigrant family must discern when to be silent and when to speak up in defense of his father as they become embroiled in a case of bootlegging and police corruption.

Christmas with Morris and BorisMy new reader borrowed Christmas with Morris and Boris by Bernard Wiseman from the school library. We have a collection of Morris the Moose stories that all of my children have loved. Listening to a beginning reader can be tedious, and the humor of Morris makes the task more pleasant.

Henry and MudgeI’ve also introduced her to Henry and Mudge through Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps by Cynthia Rylant. This series about a boy and his HUGE (but not Clifford-sized) dog is also fun for new readers and their families. I love Cynthia Rylant’s writing for children.

The Monks Daily BreadMy youngest child received a copy of The Monks’ Daily Bread by Sylvia Dorham. This simple rhyming book, delightfully illustrated, follows the monks through their daily routine when the cupboards are bare, and they must rely on God’s providence for their dinner. A great read-aloud book that children will long remember and treasure.

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Author Interview with A.K. Frailey

Melchior: Vengeance Is Mine is a sweeping saga that shows the generational effects of our choices. The tapestry of interwoven characters was rich and well done, in my opinion. I’ve seen written that during the development of the novel, your husband passed away. How was the novel’s development affected by your grief, and how did that grief affect the novel?

MelchiorWriting has always been a bit if an escape from reality and yet an opportunity to look at life—my life as well as life in general—from a fresh angle. John suffered the effects of Leukemia for four years before he passed away, so my writing during those years shadowed that reality. Many questions arose while I watched the man I loved suffer and die. At the same time, God’s grace remained tangible and held me together far better than I realized during the ordeal. The dual reality of grief and comfort, testing and surrender, informed the complexities of the novel. I realized I could no longer simply tell a “story.”  Rather, I reflected through character, plot, and setting something of life’s mystery, which pointed to something beyond me as a writer and humanity as a whole. That is the core of Melchior’s journey—to realize that he didn’t have to understand God or even himself; he simply needed to allow God to grow inside him no matter what was happening around him. Continue reading

Doing the Most With and For the Least This Christmas

I considered whether this post didn’t belong in November, the month in which Catholics traditionally remember the poor souls in Purgatory. Is a reflection on conversion, sacrifice, and the last things too melancholy for the pre-Christmas season?

But “pre-Christmas” isn’t really a season. A marketing device maybe, but not a true season and definitely not a liturgical season. The more I thought, the more I became convinced that Advent is a perfect time to meditate on sin and conversion. Continue reading

Under the Catholic Child’s Christmas Tree: A Book-Giving Guide

Child Xmas Book GuideDuring Advent, the Christmas books are slipped off of the shelves for bedtime reading. Our hodgepodge collection includes Christian and secular Christmas stories, old and new. Some are cheap Scholastic books about characters who are little more than a cog in the marketing machine. (Those, I try to avoid.) Others are classics we relish every year.

We also give each child a book as part of their Christmas gift. As the kids grow older, the books grow longer, and I’m more frequently looking for selections from my fellow authors at Catholic Teen Books.

Here are some ideas that I hope will find a spot under the Christmas tree of a child you love. Continue reading

An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

Rise of the Fourth ReichDuring our Thanksgiving travels across Pennsylvania, my husband began listening to The Rise of the Fourth Reich: The Secret Societies That Threaten to Take Over America by Jim Marrs. I confess to only half listening in the car, but I know that the book traces the legacies of the high-ranking European Nazis who made their way to corporate America at the end of World War II.

Making RoomI just finished reading Billie Jauss’s soon-to-be-released book Making Room: Doing Less So God Can Do More (available for pre-order). I first met Billie through 10 Minute Novelists and was blessed to meet her in person a couple of years ago at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. (Her husband, Dave, is a coach.) Making Room recounts her spiritual journey from a busy life filled with her own priorities to an intentional life with God at the center. The author’s pitfalls and suggestions for overcoming them will resonate with women who want more from their relationship with Christ, but can’t seem to order their lives to make that happen.

The Christmas TrainAfter seeing approximately 1,594 previews for The Christmas Train movie on the Hallmark Channel, I stumbled across the audiobook on Hoopla. The more audiobooks I listen to, the pickier I’ve become about narration. So far, actor Tim Matheson’s narration of The Christmas Train by David Baldacci has been excellent! I’m only a few chapters in and a few anachronistic details threw me off course, but so far, so good. I’m in Christmas reading mode and looking forward to the remainder of the book.

God's FavoriteMy son read the Book of Job and God’s Favorite by Neil Simon during our Thanksgiving travels. As you might guess, since the author is Neil Simon, God’s Favorite is a  play, and it’s a modern look at Job. It’s short, and, my son said, very funny. Adding it to my to-read list.

Destination BethlehemMy fourth-grade daughter is reading a book I originally bought for her brother and read aloud. Destination Bethlehem by Shannon R. Altman and Christine M. Winkelman makes perfect Advent reading.  Two boys travel from Palestine to Bethlehem at the time of the Messiah’s birth. Its twenty-four chapters can be read one a day during the month of December in anticipation of Christmas.

Plain GirlPlain Girl by Virginia Sorensen became another Thanksgiving travel read. I guess the title should have tipped me off, but with only a desk on the cover of the library version my daughter borrowed, I didn’t realize the book was about plain folk. The premise is an Amish girl, Esther, attending a public school.

Poppleton in WinterMy kindergartener is going through easy reader books quicker than I can keep up with!  While at the library this week, I introduced her to Poppleton in Winter by Cynthia Rylant. The simple, humorous stories feature a pig (Poppleton) and his friends Cherry Sue (a llama) and Hudson (a mouse). I highly recommend Poppleton for beginning readers.

The Promise QuiltMy  youngest child brought home The Promise Quilt by Candice F. Ransom from a blanket-themed story time.  This sad, but ultimately hopeful, story centers around a Civil War era girl whose father dies in battle. The red shirt he left behind becomes the family’s means of achieving the dreams he had for them. Touching.

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THANKS FOR STOPPING BY! STAY A WHILE AND LOOK AROUND. LEAVE A COMMENT. SHARE WITH A FRIEND. IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU SEE, PLEASE SIGN UP FROM MY AUTHOR NEWSLETTER TO KEEP UP-TO-DATE ON NEW RELEASES, EXTRAS, AND HOT DEALS!