Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Angsty Romances

I’m linking to Top 5 Wednesday (#T5W) on Goodreads to share five of my favorite angsty romances. So that we’re all on the same page here, let’s define the term:

adj.: describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters.

Angsty Romances

  1. My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade I’m really trying to figure out how to fit a re-read of this book into my schedule. As a grieving widow, Matt Jarreau is the depressed, broody hero who needs the determined Kate Donovan to draw him out.
  2. The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp Have you noticed how often I mention this series? It’s because it’s that good. My intention is to wear you down until you just buy it already. And I’m pretty sure you can’t find a more brooding hero than Mr. Thorne. (This is, after all, based on Jane Eyre.)
  3. This Dread Road by Olivia Folmar Ard The mood of this book isn’t dark, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the anger, grief, and bitterness that have a way or weaving themselves into life and relationships, even marriage.
  4. Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald The author did a masterful job with an alcoholic hero, Andrew Harris. The result is an intense, moving – angsty – romance that ultimately is filled with hope.
  5. Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter Riley Callahan is returning home from active duty in Afghanistan as an amputee. He endures the assistance of Paige, his best friend, who has relegated him to the friend zone. A recipe for some angsty, heart-tugging romance.

What are your favorite angsty romances?


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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

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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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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.

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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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Relevant Fiction Reviews: Best YA Books of 2016

Relevant Fiction Reviews

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve collected reviews of the best Young Adult (YA) fiction I’ve read over the past year. Some of these titles are Christian fiction, some secular, but all are “clean” and appropriate for teens. (And for the enjoyment of old fogeys like me too.)

I did not include The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer here only because that series isn’t in need of more visibility. It’s an excellent series that fans of Star Wars or classic fairy tales will particularly enjoy. Fast-paced and tightly-written, there’s enough adventure, humor, scifi, and romance to please almost any reader.

At the end of this post, you’ll find some other YA favorites of 2016, including other books written by the authors featured below. (I stuck with one book featured per author.)

If you’re looking for more great books for teens, sign up for the B4CT (Books for Catholic Teens) newsletter! Continue reading

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