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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Deadly Proof Blog Tour

Deadly Proof

by Rachel Dylan

Deadly Proof

About the book:

Riveting New Series Offers Legal Suspense with a Romantic Twist

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits. 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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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

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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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!

Relevant Fiction Reviews: High School Theater

Relevant Fiction Reviews

I was a behind the scenes gal when it came to high school theater, but I still have many happy memories tied to our musical productions. As a proud member of the stage crew for four years, I was able to identify with the closeness and camaraderie that comes from putting on a show together.

The following are three excellent YA novels that stand on their own merit, but have something just a little extra special if you are or were a high school theater geek. Continue reading