Relevant Fiction Reviews: American Colonial Period

Relevant Fiction Reviews

I’ve always had an affection for American history, but as I’ve matured, I’ve grown to love it. (Don’t talk to me about European history. Kings, queens, blah, blah. It causes my eyes to roll to the back of my head.) The colonial era has long been my favorite, and I’d love to visit some of the historical locations so important to our nation’s founding.  Until then, I can read about them! Continue reading

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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Sabbath Rest Book Talk: March 2017 (Theme: Justice)

Sabbath Rest Book TalkLast night I had the opportunity to join in author Erin McCole Cupp’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk. Erin has been producing these short fiction talks built around a specific theme for several months, but this is the first group edition in which she was joined by the lovely Rebecca Willen and me!

Here are the featured books that we discussed:

SRBT March 2017

Continue reading

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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Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Get You Out of A Slump

In this season between Christmas and the arrival of Spring, it’s easy to fall into slumps of all sorts. I’m linking to Top 5 Wednesday (#T5W) on Goodreads to share five books to get you out of a slump. My intention was to do a short video, but it’s been a long day. It’s late. And I’m just not up for the demands of video. So, a blog post it is. All of these books are highly recommended whether you’re slumping or not.

Out of Slump Collage Continue reading