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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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

Hauntings Possessions and ExorcismsWhen I saw a book recommendation by our friend and author Mike Aqulilina, well-known for his expertise in patristics, I knew it was something my husband would enjoy. We were able to borrow a copy of Hauntings, Possessions, and Exorcisms by Adam Blai from the Kindle  Owners’ Lending Library with our Amazon Prime subscription. (It’s a little confusing in that there are two editions of the book with the words of the title transposed. I’m guessing (hoping) that the content is roughly the same though.

DistortionI’ve been listening to the audiobook of Distortion (Moonlighter Series Book 2) by Terri Blackstock. I borrowed this one from Hoopla Digital (which is about a million times easier to use than Overdrive). Like the first book in the series, this is a fast-paced, multi-layer mystery involving a family with more than its share of murders. The victim in Distortion turns out not to be so much a victim, but rather an ostensibly respectable surgeon and father who led a double life. This series is categorized as  Christian fiction, but that aspect of the story is fairly insignificant.

Just MaybeAfter finishing and loving Begin Again, I’m eager to begin reading an advance copy of Just Maybe (Home in You Book 3) by Crystal Walton. She writes clean, contemporary romances that I believe get better with each book. The series traces an interconnected group of friends tied to New York City, but set in various American locales including the Adirondacks and Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.

Inferno SquadMy son waited weeks for a copy of Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (Star Wars) by Christie Golden to become available from the local library. While watching The Star Wars Show, he noted the Janina Avankar, the voice actress who plays Iden Versio, recommended reading Inferno Squad before the Battlefront II video game launches this fall. Reviews look good, and he’s enjoying the book.

I Survived the Shark AttackMy daughter’s fourth grade class will be reading books from the I Survived Series this year. They started with I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 (I Survived #2) by Lauren Tarshis and Scott Dawson. Did you know the shark attacks took place in a creek, not the ocean? These attacks were said to have been the inspiration for Jaws, but Peter Benchley has denied that claim. The class has since begun reading I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001 (I Survived #6), also by Lauren Tarshis.

Early ThunderWhile still zipping through the Childhood of Famous Americans Series (Amelia Earhart: Young Aviator is  her latest selection), my daughter also checked out Early Thunder by Jean Fritz from the school library. I’m sure the early colonial setting appealed to her. She’s only read a couple of chapters, and seems to enjoy it, but I noticed the Amazon reviews are, uh, not so great. So, we’ll see what she thinks as she gets farther into the story.

Stray DogI brought out some picture books that I’d enjoyed with my older kids but which had been packed in boxes for lack of space. I remember not really “getting” The Stray Dog by Marc Simont, a Caldecott Award Medalist, when I first read it. Too many illustrations without text for my taste. But, it’s since grown on me, and the kids enjoy it as well. I could just see the wheels turning in their heads as we read it, wishing that we would come across a lovable, adoptable stray.

How I Became a PirateHow I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon is the perfect choice for Talk Like a Pirate Day. I can’t read this one in a  normal voice. Just can’t. It’s a fun story with bright, colorful illustrations of a boy’s pirate adventure – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

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

Hungry SoulsI’ve been swapping chapters for critique with author Theresa Linden, and she mentioned the research book she had read in relation to her work in progress. It sounded like something right up my husband’s alley, so I quickly looked it up and mentioned it to him. Only to find out that he’d purchased it last year! Its mention was enough for him to locate the unread book and crack it open. It is Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory by Gerard J.M. van der Aardweg. The book recounts stories of “Church-verified accounts of earthly visitations from the dead in Purgatory.” Sounds creepy.

Land of My DreamsEach month, I borrow a book from the Kindle Lending Library, a perk of our Amazon Prime account. This month, I downloaded Land of My Dreams by Norma Gail, an author I’d come across on social media. I’m only a third of the way through the book and enjoying the Scotland setting and the characters. While it’s free of typos and grammatical errors, I’m struggling a bit with my internal editor when it comes to dialogue and several other issues. I’m only a third of the way through though and intend to stick it out.

Dying for CompassionNext on my list to read is Dying for Compassion by Barbara Golder, the second in the Lady Doc Murders Series. The first in the series, Dying for Revenge, is excellent! I’ve been looking forward to this one, which is set in both Telluride, Colorado and Ireland, but somehow it keeps getting bumped back on the pile. No longer. I will begin this book next!

Weird Al: The BookDuring one of our many early August library trips, my son picked up Weird Al: The Book by Nathan Rabin. It’s an oversized hardcover book with lots of color photos tracing the singer’s life from childhood throughout his career of popular parodies. My son inherited his love of Weird Al from me and his Uncle Pete. I’ve seen Weird Al in concert at least four times, the most recent being last September, which was my son’s first concert. Highly entertaining show, and a very interesting personality.

Star Wars: TarkinAs a reward for completing the library summer reading program, my newly-minted high school freshman also grabbed a paperback copy of Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno. Like his father, this kid never tires of Star Wars. Tarkin is set between Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As the title suggests, the novel is about Imperial bad guy Grand Moff Tarkin.

Attack at Pearl HarborMy daughter spent most of the summer either tending to Monarch caterpillars or buried in a book. One by one, she’s ticking off the books in the Childhood of Famous Americans series, most recently reading about Sacagawea, George Washington, and Theodore Roosevelt. She’s currently finishing  Liberty Letters: Attack at Pearl Harbor by Nancy LeSourd. The Good MasterShe has also been reading one of our selections for September’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk: The Good Master by Kate Seredy. I’ll be reading this Newbery Award winner as well. It is a historical novel set in  Hungary, and all my daughter has said thus far is how much she dislikes the character Kate.

Muncha, Muncha, MunchaI brought out  one of our all-time favorites for the little kids: Muncha, Muncha, Muncha by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas. I love reading the book aloud! Mr. MacGregor plants a garden, only to be continually outwitted by three hungry bunnies. It has the perfect amount of repetition and onomatopoeia. The illustrations are among my favorites too. I love the puff-tail rabbits!

BeginningsWe also read Beginnings written by Lori Ann Watson, illustrated by Shennen Bersani. This is a simple yet lyrical book about God’s loving creation of the natural world culminating in His loving each precious child into being, cared for and nurtured by the family. It makes a beautiful addition to a child’s collection of picture books.

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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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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!