An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

The Whys Have ItI 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.

My Unexpected HopeThe 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.

Just Look UpLast 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.

When the Timer DingsI 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!

Animal FarmMy 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.”

Can You Survive in a DystopiaThis 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.

The Strange Case of Origami YodaMeanwhile, 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 Yoda by Tom Angleberger. I’m sure I’ll be finding a slew of paper puppets around the house again, including Han Foldo.

Knuffle BunnyMy 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.

The Tree That Would Not DieI rolled my eyes after first skimming The Tree That Would Not Die by 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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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

My family is in a bit of a reading slump. Blame it on the busyness of May: baseball, softball, Boy Scouts, field trips, graduations, and so on and so forth. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? When I asked my husband what he’s been reading, his pathetic response was, “Reading is hopeless.” As you can see, life is taking a toll on our reading time.

A Monster CallsDespite the craziness and a long-lingering case of laryngitis, I’ve been plowing through my reading list. This week, I’m reading two selections for Erin McCole Cupps Sabbath Rest Book Talk. Each month, Erin hosts me and Rebecca Willen as we talk about books pertaining to a pre-selected theme. June’s theme is suffering, and, as always, we’ll be discussing  a children’s book, a Young Adult selection, and an adult novel. I’m currently reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which was recently made into a major motion picture (which I have not seen). I’m barely into it, but I’m glad that I borrowed the hardcover from the library rather than reading it on a device so that I can enjoy the illustrations by Jim Kay. I also know this story of a child’s grief is a tear-jerker, so I’m going in prepared, tissues at the ready.

The MoviegoerOnce I finish A Monster Calls, it’s on to The Moveigoer by Walker Percy (a National Book  Award winner). I’m thrilled with this selection since Percy has long been on my to-be -read list yet I’ve never managed to read one his books. The description says, “ Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic. ” I can’t wait to dig into this one, which I’m reading on a new-to-me app, Hoopla.

War HorseMy son exceeded his eighth grade 30-Book Challenge by completing War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. When I think War Horse, I can only recall watching the movie in the hospital on an iPad mini with my husband while I was in labor with our youngest son. So, yeah, I don’t really recall much about the story.

Assassins CreedMy newly-minted grade school graduate is also finally reading our Christmas gift to him, Assassin’s Creed: A Walk Through History (1189-1868). He’s not allowed to play the game, but he’s watched his dad play through some scenes. I think the historic aspects of these games can be a great tool for teaching history. He confessed he’s learned more about the Third Crusade from this book than he learned in class.

Mystery in ArizonaAfter completing the entire Little House on the Prairies series, my daughter returned to Trixie Belden. She’s reading the sixth book in the series, Mystery in Arizona, by Julie Campbell. (She’s slumping a bit in the reading department lately too.) I get regular updates on Trixie’s friends, including the number of millionaire pals she has. Must be nice.

ChameleonsMy youngest children are still enjoying books they selected at the library’s story time.  My son picked out one of the most beautiful animal books I’ve seen: Chameleons (Amazing Animals) by Valerie Bodden. Based on the stunning, detailed photographs and accompanying text in this book, I’m eager to see other books in the Amazing Animal Series.

My Mama SaysWe’re also reading My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things by Judith Viorst. My goodness, that’s a long title! It’s a cute story of a very fallible momma’s reassurances that there are no zombies, ghosts, vampires, etc. How can a kid trust a woman who makes so many mistakes, like bringing home the wrong ice cream flavor or telling a kid to wear his rain boots when it doesn’t rain? Well, sometimes those mommas get things right too.

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

psalter for couplesDespite the many times over the past decades that my husband and I have been reminded couples should pray together, we’ve been horrible about doing it. As in, we almost never pray alone together. Meal time, yes. Bedtime with the kids, yes. But outside of attending Mass together, no routine prayer. To remedy that, when buying a wedding gift for my son’s teacher, I bought an additional copy of A  Psalter for Couples by Pierre-Marie Dumont. (Happy 20th Anniversary! To: Us, From: Us.) There are some recommendations in the back of the book for establishing weekly prayer time together that I will read more carefully, but for now, we’re selecting a psalm to read together each night after all of the kids go to bed. It’s a beautiful hardback book with gold trim and red ribbons. It makes a lovely gift (even if it’s to yourself).

AaroI’ve been working my way through Dana Pratola’s Descended Series using my free monthly loan from the Kindle Lending Library via Amazon Prime. Last week, I read Aaro (Descended Book #3). As the series progresses, more of the nature of the brotherhood of Jett, Sebastian, and now, Aaro, is divulged. Their supernatural abilities suggest a quasi-angelic nature, which I expect will be more fully revealed in the final book as the prophecy regarding these men, all dedicated to defending and protecting women (and extraordinarily good-looking, to boot) is realized. FYI – The books are tagged as “not your mother’s Christian fiction,” and they are not. Particularly in this third book, there’s quite a bit of sexual tension and sensuality.

True to YouAs soon as I finish a couple of advance copies of forthcoming books from friends, I’m looking forward to diving into Becky Wade’s new novel, the first in the Bradford Sisters series, True to You. You can get a jumpstart on the new characters by downloading (for FREE!) the prequel novella, Then Came You. I’m eager to participate in the Facebook Release Party for True to You tomorrow night, May 4, at 8 p.m. EDT and then host a spot on the book’s blog tour later this month!

outsidersNow that my oldest son has finished reading The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton with his eighth grade class, I’m ready to re-watch the movie with him. I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that there was a time circa 1984 when I could recite the movie dialogue pretty much line for  line. I may also have had pictures of the cast members taped to my bedroom walls. I knew the book inside and out, too.

White FangThe other book he’s finishing is White Fang by Jack London. When I asked what his favorite part of  the book was, I got a smart aleck answer regarding White Fang ripping something or someone apart, so I’m just going to spare you recounting those details. I’ve never read Jack London’s books, and my son really enjoyed both White Fang and Call of the Wild, which I’ve been trying to sneak in between other books.

Trixie Belden Glen RoadMy third grader is back into the Trixie Belden series since I supplemented the library’s collection by buying her a used copy of a book the library doesn’t carry. She’s reading Trixie Belden #5 The Mystery off Glen Road as well as 7 Riddles to Nowh7 Riddles to Nowhereere by A.J. Cattapan. I think of 7 Riddles to Nowhere as sort of a National Treasure for kids. So far, she’s only asked me about a single character in the book, one whose inclusion is maybe my favorite thing about this novel – Old Man Englebert. Having been a bit awed by people who had electronic voice boxes when I was a kid, Kam’s  (the protagonist, who suffers from selective mutism) horror/fascination with Old Man Englebert was among my favorite parts of the story.

Harry MaclaryThe little kids are back in story time at our local library, so we’ve been reading a couple of their selections. I really enjoy reading aloud Hairy Maclary’s Bone by Lynley Dodd. I’m partial to rhyming books, as is my little girl. This is a fun story of a dog who manages to outwit a group of other dogs coveting his delicious butcher’s bone. The varied dogs in the illustrations as well as the predicaments that prevent them from stealing Hairy’s bone are fun to look at.

Squirrel ParkMy cynical self is less thrilled with Squirrel Park by Lisa Campbell Ernst. A kid and his squirrel friend must prevent the boy’s overbearing father from creating a dull park and removing their beloved tree. When it looks like the mean dad is going to get his way, the squirrel resorts to ecoterrorism and gnaws his tools. Whatever. The kids will like the pictures, and who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful park with a big, old tree? I’m just a wee bit tired of the evil capitalist/anti-nature trope. (Even the School Library Journal called it “a bit heavy-handed.”)

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

Let’s dive right in, shall we? Here’s what we’ve been reading. What are YOU reading this month?

Show Us the FatherAt this point, I’m ready to blindfold my husband as he walks by the book rack in the narthex of our church. He’s added many books to our collection by buying them from that kiosk. At least they all seem to be good books, including the most recent he purchased: Show Us the Father: 7 Secrets to Be a Father on Earth Like the Father in Heaven by Devin Schadt. My husband’s not too far into it yet, but he read several passages aloud to me last week, including the author’s home improvement woes, which seemed to mirror ours.

The Hesitant HeiressCarrie Schmidt, my favorite book blogger and the wit and wisdom behind Reading Is My Superpower, recently gushed about the hero in a historical romance by Dawn Crandall. I think this swoony hero is three to four books into The Everstone Chronicles, so I’ve started at the beginning with The Hesitant Heiress. This story, written in first person and hinging on perception and misperception, would appeal to Jane Austen fans. I think fans of Julie Klassen’s historical romance would enjoy it as well, although the book takes place in New England as opposed to “old” England. I’ll be working my way through the remainder of the series. The publisher, Whitaker House, was new to me, and I was surprised to discover that it’s located outside of my hometown, Pittsburgh.

Turning In CirclesI’m set to begin Michelle Buckman’s newest release, Turning In Circles, due out from Vinspire Publishing at the end of the month. I’ve only read the front matter so far, but the endorsements from Dolly Parton and Earl Hammer, Jr., author of Spencer’s Mountain, the book on which The Waltons was based, really caught my eye. Michelle’s writing has a wonderful Southern sensibility, and I thoroughly enjoyed her novel Rachel’s Contrition, which is being serialized at Aleteia.org during Lent.

Con AcademyMy eighth grader finished Con Academy by Joe Schreiber. He’s been a fan of Joe Schreiber’s since a local author event that he and I both participated in last year. I think Mr. Schreiber’s table in the corner had the most foot traffic since it was piled high with his Star Wars books. I read Con Academy before my son, and I loved the author’s voice from the get-go: his smart, economical style hooked me, and my son and I agreed that this high school con man story is a fast, fun read.

Saint MagnusYesterday, I cued up the Kindle app on the iPad mini and handed it to my son to divert him from the video game console. He’s started reading Saint Magnus, The Last Viking by Susan Peek. I’m anxious to hear what he thinks about this one. I read it a couple of years ago, I think, and purposefully waited to give it to him. While not explicitly or grossly violent, there is warfare, and I think he’s now mature enough to enjoy this inspiring story.

Charlotte's WebI was thrilled to see my third grader tear through Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. I had read the story aloud to her older brother, but, sadly, hadn’t read it  with her. She had her nose buried in it for a few days. Now, I have to make a point of watching one of the movie adaptions with her. The book provided her with a short respite from the Little House on the Prairies series, but she quickly resumed reading By the Shores of Silver By the Shores of Silver LakeLake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the only book in the series that I owned as a child and therefore read several times. My daughter nearly squealed with delight when near the end of the book she reported the Laura had spotted Almanzo. (Her brother has taken to calling her a “farmie,” due to her Almanzo Wilder fangirling.)

The Carrot SeedMy husband ordered The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss for a couple of bucks. It’s a very simple book, but the little kids enjoyed the lesson in faith and persistence demonstrated by a little boy waiting for his carrot to grow from seed. I think the minimalist illustrations by Crockett Johnson appeal to them as well since they are big fans of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Give a Pig a PancakeThe kids often bring me books in the If You Give A [fill in the blank] series. Currently, we’ve been reading If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff. My little ones love these books and their illustrations. They are fun books, but I often find myself stifling thoughts of what a cash cow the premise has become and how easy they are to satirize. Still, delightful illustrations by Felicia Bond keep me from tiring of the series.

Finally, if you like chatting about books, Erin McCole Cupp hosts a monthly Sabbath Rest Book Talk. I recently joined her, along with Rebecca Willen, to discuss books that include themes of self-sacrifice.  Take a look!Sabbath Rest Book Talk

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

I know all the months roll by quickly, but really, February’s short. Add to that the fact that this bizarro “winter” has delivered only about four inches of sticking snow to our Pennsylvania home (here and gone), and I’m really not sure what month it is. The trusty calendar, however, says March 1, so it’s time to break open our books and see where we’re at!

The Complete Beer CourseIt’s been a few months since my husband has read a beer book, right? I can post another, can’t I? He’s currently working his way through The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes by Joshua M. Bernstein. This book has sent him scurrying to bottle shops in three counties seeking the beers needed for the course. Completion of the course will, I assume, elevate him to heretofore unknown levels of beer snobbery knowledge. Because there is a list of beers to procure, one thing that my husband said would be a helpful companion to the book is a checklist of some sort available in an app or a .pdf file. Lugging an oversize hardcover book to the bar would certainly be cumbersome. (If I were the author, this is an extra I’d offer as an incentive for signing up for my newsletter.) This would make an excellent gift for the beer lover in your life.

Still Life

I zipped through the second book in the Chesapeake Valor Series, Still Life by Dani Pettrey. There’s A LOT going on in this book – multiple crimes, several romances, and series-long arcs. The author handles it well, in my opinion, making this book stronger and better than the first book in the series, Cold Shot. I also enjoy that this series takes place relatively close to my home. While the first book included scenes from one of my favorite haunts, Gettysburg National Military Park, this one centers in and around Baltimore. I’m looking forward to more in the series.

An Unexpected RoleAn Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl is a much simpler story than Still Life, but like her first novel, The Perfect Blindside, an ideal book for teens. It only took me several pages to adapt to the first person, present tense point of view, which works well for the main character, Josie. Sixteen-year-old Josie makes a summer escape to the beach, fleeing the petty meanness of the high school scene. Hoping to rediscover herself and enjoy a summer romance in the process, she’s disappointed to find Ryan, a boy from her school, on the same South Carolina island. Not everything or everyone is as they seem, however, and with a little mystery culminating in peril for both Ryan and Josie, she realizes what’s important, who she really is, and the value of authentic relationships. Recommended especially for musical theater buffs.

Game OnMy eighth grader just finished up last month’s read (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) and is ready to pick out something new. In the meantime, he’s been reading Game On!: All the Best Games: Awesome Facts and Coolest Secrets. (What’s with the two colon titles this month?) Not exactly a literary classic, but he enjoys these types of books. He appreciates the gaming tips and the ease of picking the book up when he has a few minutes to read here and there.

Key to the TreasureMy daughter checked out Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish from her school library. Apparently, the school’s collection is from another era, with cringe-worthy covers that even my nine-year-old is embarrassed to be seen with. (I may have ruined her – or given her a discerning eye –  by sharing some truly awful book covers with her.) Thankfully, the content between the covers is good. I hadn’t realized that the Amelia Bedelia author wrote chapter books as well.

We let our kids pick out one book each at the Scholastic Book Fair during Catholic Schools Week. There is, however, a price limit on their purchases, so I helped my little girl find The Great Shelby HolmesThe Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg, which seemed to suit both her interests and our price cap. The title character is a play on Sherlock Holmes. She started it right away, declared it good, then promptly misplaced it for weeks. Sort of. She re-discovered it right where she left it, so, I don’t know. Kids.

No David Both books I’ve been reading to my little kids are short on words and big on illustrations. When I had my first child, I’ll admit that I didn’t really get these types of books. It’s not that I didn’t see the appeal of the illustrations. It’s just that books, in my mind, required words. Lots of words. Rhyming words are especially nice in kids’ books. It took a while for me to warm up to the idea of playing with the inflections in the few words I was given as a narrator and lingering over illustrations, studying them, finding interesting aspects, and asking questions. (I also discovered these are great books to “read” when you can barely hold your head up or your eyes open, for whatever reason. It’s a lot easier to get through one of these at two o’clock in the morning with a child who is sick or cannot sleep than a chapter book. Trust me on this one.) George ShrinksWe are currently savoring No, David! by David Shannon, a Caldecott Honor book. I’d heard of this book many times, so when my son snatched it from the take-home table after story time at the library, I was pleased. The other book we’ve been re-reading is George Shrinks by William Joyce, first published in 1985. (Apparently it became a Canadian/Chinese animated series in the early 2000s. Missed that.) To my mind, 1985 isn’t long ago, yet I enjoy noticing the out-of-date details in the illustrations, such as corded phones and two-prong electrical outlets. Ah, the good old days.

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

Somehow it’s February already, and we haven’t had much winter weather in south-central Pennsylvania. My kids are getting antsy for a good snowfall, yet it’s been warm enough to fool our peonies into peeking above the ground. Snow or not, it’s a good season to sit down and savor a good book!

Over 40I recently woke to the audiobook version of Over 40 and You’re Hired by Robin Ryan. My husband checked it out of the library and streamed it from his phone while he was getting ready for work. He’s previously read some or all of the paperback version (when he was a little closer to forty). After a few minutes, I thought that being that I’m on the other side of forty as well, once I returned from dropping the kids at preschool, I should promptly dig my own grave with my withered hands and crawl in. Apparently many of us old folks lack savvy and enthusiasm (read: we don’t give a rat’s patooty anymore), and it keeps us from getting hired. Kidding aside, there are some solid tips here. My husband isn’t job searching, but sales is an uncertain industry, and he likes to keep his resume and skills relevant. So, kudos to him for still caring, what with one foot in the grave and all. If you’re over the hill forty and in the job market, you may want to give this one a look or listen.

the rose and the swordI have a bunch of books competing for my attention atop the to-be-read pile. In addition to some review copies, I’m trying to work through the books on my NetGalley shelf as well as complete requirements for my public library’s winter reading program. First up is The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney. Here are a couple of lines from an Amazon review: “The Rose And The Sword exemplifies the Catholic life journey of Rebecca Veritas, written in a uniquely touching, humorous and compelling style. The protagonist’s strong character is portrayed in her ability to persevere, when emotionally and physically challenged, through her belief in prayer and devotion to her Catholic faith.” sweetest rainNext, in an effort to whittle down the NetGalley books, I’ll be reading The Sweetest Rain by Myra Johnson, the third of three Franciscan Media romances I’ll have read this year. I’ve read several positive reviews of The Sweetest Rain by trusted reviewer friends, so I’m confident I’ll enjoy this story set in 1930s Arkansas.

Sherlock HolmesMy son has been busy with Boy Scouts, midterms, and his National History Day project, so I’ve not seen him reading much lately. He’s read more than twenty of the thirty books he’s required to read this school year, but at this point he’s choosing books from categories he’s less than enthusiastic about, such as poetry. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is his mystery selection.  (True confession: I’ve never read Sherlock Holmes.)

HeidiMy daughter turned nine several days ago, and she received four books as gifts. I snagged a discounted copy of one of my childhood favorites, Heidi by Joanna Spyri, at the local Scholastic Books warehouse before Christmas. (The cover pictured is from the version I bought, but the link is to the public domain (FREE!) Kindle version.) I remember re-reading a well-worn paperback of this book, and I’m anxious to read aloud the lovely illustrated version that we got her. Mystery at MidnightShe also received the next three books in the Chime Travelers series by Lisa Hendey: The Whisper in the Ruins, The Mystery at Midnight, and The Strangers at the Manger. She loved the first two books in the series, which is a sort of Magic Tree House meets Lives of the Saints, and I’m sure she’ll zip through these as well.

Night-Light for BunnyOne of our favorite bedtime stories was lost but has been found! Languishing in a box of books, I rediscovered A Night-Light for Bunny by Geoffrey Hayes. My husband picked up the discounted hardcover somewhere in his travels when our oldest was very little. It’s become a family favorite with its warm, cozy illustrations of the bunnies, their home, and their neighborhood. In searching Amazon, I discovered that there was a glow-in-the-dark version of the book, which makes sense based on the warm glow of various lights (street lights, moonlight, lightning bugs, etc.) pictured. I can’t find our particular edition (pictured here) available on Amazon. Saint ValentineIn an effort to explain a little bit of the history of Valentine’s Day to the little kids, I checked out Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda from our library. I’ve read this to the older kids. It’s not particularly Catholic, but apparently there is a dearth of children’s books about Saint Valentine. (Attention, Catholic children’s authors!)

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

As of this writing, I’m trying to hit my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal, and I’m only a book away! I think I’ll make it. As the new year begins, I’m looking forward to reading some paperbacks that have been piled around the house and some NetGalley review copies that  have been burning up my Kindle. Now, on to January’s books.

Resisting HappinessAn anonymous parishioner provided each family in our church with a copy of Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly for Christmas. This one was already on my husband’s book pile. I read Matthew Kelly’s Rhythm of Life many years ago, but haven’t gotten around to any of his books since. My 13-year-old has been watching Kelly’s Decision Point Confirmation Program video series with his classmates at school, and while I think he’s a bit weary of the “be the best version of yourself” mantra, we’re still going to give this book a go.

Unearthing ChristmasBecause it’s still Christmas, I’m reading Unearthing Christmas by Anthea T. Piscarik. I’ve sold books alongside Anthea at several diocesan women’s conferences, so it’s about time I got around to reading her book! So far, I’m enjoying the back and forth between Christmas 1955 and 2015. I think the characters will soon be descending into a bomb shelter, which should make things interesting. VanishedI’m also about to begin the final ebook in the Memories of Jane E, Friendless Orphan series: Vanished by Erin McCole Cupp. I’ve loved this series so far, and once it’s done, I’m probably going to be re-reading the classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte with a small group of friends online. I have to say again how much I love the covers of these ebooks!

Treachery and TruthTimed perfectly to the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26), my son just completed Treachery and Truth: A Story of Sinners, Servants, and Saints, the true story of Good King Wenceslaus, by Katy Huth Jones. When I won a paperback copy of the book, I knew my son would be all over this since “Good King Wenceslas” has always been his favorite carol. I’d catch him singing it at random times throughout the year. (It didn’t hurt that the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special included its own adaption of the song by Buford and Baljeet.) AhsokaRealizing he’d not had enough forethought to ask for the new Star Wars book Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston for Christmas, my son brought me cash to order it for him on Amazon Prime since Ahsoka Tano has always been one of  his favorite characters. (I suspect he may have had a crush on her years ago, but this kid is really tight-lipped about that sort of thing.) This book is geared right at his age level (grade 7 and up) and has good reviews. I may read this one myself.

Farmer BoyMy third grader continues to read the Little House series. She’s currently enjoying Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of the few books in the series I haven’t read. It apparently has a lot to do with that team of calves on the front cover that seem to keep Almanzo out of school. SounderI’ve also begun reading Sounder by William H. Armstrong aloud to her and whomever else cares to listen. I read it several times in elementary school but can’t recall much beyond it being a sad dog story somewhat like Old Yeller (which I read to my kids a couple of years ago). It’s also a Newbery Medal winner. These books have helped fill my daughter’s reading BINGO card over Christmas break, and in order to cross off another block, she read an entire book of classic fairy tales.

A Squirrel's TaleThe little kids are enjoying the books that we got them for Christmas. I purchased both of these at an online Usborne Books & More party hosted by a friend of mine. Usborne sells high quality books for children of all ages. My son, a big fan of Honey Bee’s Busy Day, which I linked to in September’s “An Open Book,” is enjoying A Squirre’s Tale, also by Richard Fowler. The Human BodyMy daughter snatches her dad’s flashlight for her new book, Shine-A-Light: The Human Body by Carron Brown and Rachael Saunders. This is a very cool concept – shine a light behind the page to see “inside” the illustration. Perfect for glimpsing skeletons, muscles, nerves, and unborn babies. (If you’d like to contact an Usborne representative, let me know, and I’d be happy to refer you.)

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An Open Book

 

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the December 2016 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!


Now that December has arrived, the days are shorter and, at least it seems, busier! Despite the Christmas preparations, I love spending some extra minutes reading this time of year. Not much better than a good book, a warm blanket, and a hot cup of herbal tea. I’ll spare you my envy of a roaring fireplace and simply be grateful for a warm house on a cold night.

Love-Powered ParentingMy husband’s between books, so I had to consult his to-be-read pile, and find out what he’d be reading next. Not sure if he’s trying to score brownie points, but he said he wants to read my book, Ornamental Graces, next. ‘Tis the season for Christmas romance and all. He’s also eager to read a book he bought from the rack in the narthex of our church: Love-Powered Parenting by Tom and Chaundel Holladay. It centers around six parenting principles: priorities, love, words, discipline and compassion, serving, and unselfishness. I don’t know precisely why my husband picked this up, but what family couldn’t use more love and unselfishness? Especially with us old, tired parents at the helm.

12 Days of SnowmenSandwiched between books three and four of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Cress and Winter), I snuck in two short Christmas reads. The first is 12 Days of Snowman by Sarah Monzon. I’ve yet to read her novels, which are in my to-be-read pile, but this short was enough to solidify their place there. Like one of those puffy, red- and white-striped Christmas peppermints, this story is short and sweet. It’ll dissolve quickly because at this length there’s not a whole lot of substance, but sometimes that’s what this busy Advent season requires. One Enchanted EveI followed that with Melissa Tagg’s One Enchanted Eve, which is the second in a series of Christmas romance novellas. I enjoyed One Enchanted Christmas last year, and this year’s installment didn’t disappoint. Hero Colin Renwycke is a simply a fun character, and I enjoyed revisiting his family’s Iowa farm and following his story as he grows into the man he wants to be, falling in love with uptight culinary instructor/recipe stickler Rylan. I’m already looking forward to the third book in this series, which I expect will be available this time next year.

A Christmas CarolMy eighth grader’s class is reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol together. How sad is it that I’ve never read that? Even though my husband bought me a lovely hardbound collection of Charles Dickens’ Stories for Christmas to read aloud to the children years ago. Maybe I need to pull that book off of the shelf. My son’s also reading a DK biography of Thomas Edison by Jan Adkins.I also just picked up  Michael Vey 6: Fall of Hades by Richard Paul Evans from our local library, and I’m sure he’s going to tear through that in no time.Thomas Edison bio

Little House in the Big WoodsI’m so happy to be digging out our Laura Ingalls Wilder books from the attic. My eight-year-old started reading Little House in the Big Woods after Thanksgiving. Best conversation starter in that book: how pig bladders apparently make good balloon-like toys! My daughter seems fixated on the fact that baby Carrie doesn’t have a larger part in the story and would Ma just do something with that little girl. At least her preoccupation doesn’t seem to be diminishing her enjoyment.

Skippyjon Jones Snow WhatI’m having a hard time pulling the littlest ones away from the Skippyjon Jones books. After we met the author, Judy Schachner, at our library last month, we’ve been reading Snow What nonstop. I don’t mind. It’s a fun read aloud, and the author event was quite nice. With the advent of Advent, I was able to persuade them to read The Elf on the ShelfThe Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell a few nights to help them remember the “rules” to our elf game. (By the way, the Q&A on this product is hilarious.)

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