An Open Book: April 2023

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. It’s been a minute since I’ve participated! Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:


nullYesterday’s Tides by Roseanna M. White. A World War II novel set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, with a little touch of espionage—plus a split-time plot that takes place in England during the Great War. There’s an offshore U-boat, a mysterious intruder, an injured English guest at a family inn who’s supposed to be tracking a German spy, and a beautiful young innkeeper who clearly has secrets of her own to hide. So good! I loved that characters from some of White’s other novels make brief appearances here; that was a fun little touch.


nullThe Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. I think I saw this reviewed in a newspaper; it’s definitely not my usual genre, but the premise grabbed me: a writing professor learns that a promising but annoying student has died, and after no posthumous publications are made, uses a writing sample from that student’s college days as the basis for his own bestselling novel. Then he begins receiving anonymous messages: “You are a thief.” The suspense was incredible, and I kept changing my mind about who the mysterious note-sender could be. Warning: language, and some rather nasty (unnecessary) digs at Christianity, the pro-life movement, and crisis pregnancy centers.


Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem. In this suspense-packed novel based on a true story, a group of amateur spies works to take down the Nazis who are infiltrating Hollywood during the 1930s. Leisl Weiss, a single mother supporting two children, her ne’er-do-well brother and stubborn mother, was fired without cause by the Jewish studio owners. She is recruited to work as a spy to help undermine the Nazis by infiltrating one of their organizations, at the cost of her longtime friendship with a Jewish neighbor. Interestingly, some of the spies who worked together were unknown even to each other. Highly recommended!


nullFinding Home by Irene Hannon. A sweet story of a romance between a construction supervisor and a single mom whose middle-school son has ventured onto the construction site too often for the supervisor’s liking. Both Scott and Cindy face professional challenges, and Scott has an elderly, ailing grandmother on his mind as well. Lovely setting and interesting characters. This book is the second in a series, but I haven’t yet read the first one (I will, though) and there was no problem jumping right in.


nullMemory Lane by Becky Wade. One trauma survivor helps another when reclusive artist Remy spots an apparent shipwreck victim in the sea outside her home on a remote Maine island. After she rescues him, she discovers that her mysterious guest (who acts like an aristocrat) can’t remember anything, including his name. Finding out his true identity, and how he came to be on a life raft in the Atlantic, puts the two on a dangerous path.


nullMy Phony Valentine by Courtney Walsh. This book was worth it just for the opening scene, in which Poppy sees an old nemesis in a coffee shop and pretends to be in a romantic relationship with the handsome, athletic man behind her in line—and he goes along with it. Poppy is trying to save her ego and her failing restaurant, and Dallas is a hockey pro whose public reputation does not at all reflect the real man. The banter between these two characters was terrific.


(From the “judging a book by its cover” department: what do you think of these illustrated covers on sweet romances? Normally I read them on Kindle anyway, so I don’t really see them as I go, but I’m not sure I like the whole faceless-character vibe that seems to be in cover-art fashion right now. The comments are open, so go ahead and weigh in!)



nullThe Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda van Stockum. After The Plot, I needed a literary palate cleanser, and Catholic Mom writer Katie Fitzgerald recommended this one in an article I was editing. I’m not above picking up a children’s book when I need a reading break after something very intense. This is a really sweet story—just right for independent readers who are on the younger side of middle grade, or perfect for a family or classroom read-aloud. Like Katie, I loved that the mom in the story isn’t shown as the perfect stay-at-home wartime mom with dresses and pearls and everything going right without a hitch; she’s overwhelmed by her circumstances but digs deep to be resilient and resourceful. And Joan, the older daughter, is both responsible and vulnerable—very much like her mother.



nullFrom Prodigal to Priest: A Journey Home to Family, Faith, and the Father’s Embrace by Fr. Goyo Hidalgo (Ave Maria Press). A touching story of a man’s path away from the Church, and then back into it after a moment of awakening while watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on TV. Throughout the book, you’ll see how Fr. Goyo’s mother’s love and prayers were the key to his journey. This memoir is both a quick read and a book I wanted to linger over. I read the whole thing on a cross-country flight, but have found myself going back to it, mostly to savor the “Prayers of a Prodigal” that end each chapter. Many of those would make beautiful songs, which makes sense, since Fr. Goyo is a singer-songwriter in addition to serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a social media evangelist (follow @frgoyo). Review copy received from publisher.


nullGlorifying Christ: The Life of Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I. by Michael Heinlein (OSV). I’m not done reading this biography yet, but it’s a fascinating story of a cardinal who lived and served during my lifetime (Cardinal George passed away in 2015). Stricken with polio during eighth grade, Francis George almost saw his dream of becoming a priest melt away when the Archdiocese of Chicago rejected his application to the seminary because of his physical disabilities. Yet George’s resilience and his academic abilities helped him to successfully pursue ordination with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate just as Vatican II began. This biography recounts the challenges George faced as a cleric in the post-Vatican II era and his eventual return to Chicago as its archbishop. This book is both a biography of an interesting priest of our era and a portrait of the Church during this time. Review copy received from publisher.



Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Thank you!

Where noted, books are review copies. If that is not indicated, I either purchased the book myself or borrowed it from the library.

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at!

Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image copyright Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “An Open Book: April 2023

  1. Code Name Edelweiss sounds fascinating and I bet I would really enjoy it-I’m adding it to my list! Thanks for the reviews!
    Also, I think your mention of cover art is really interesting. I don’t really read romances, so perhaps I’m not the best judge. But, when it comes to literature, I’m not the biggest fan of everyone jumping into a trend “because it sells.” It’s a business, so I understand that if someone sees a type of book cover doing well, that person or company would want to imitate it. However, I vastly prefer when companies find ways to be creative and original instead of simply jumping into whatever trend “everyone else is doing.” (Chrism Press is the publishing house that comes to mind when I think of a creative, original company that isn’t just following trends)

  2. Carolyn was asking a similar question in her post, regarding the same genre. I read more romance than I used to, because at this point in my life my fiction reading is definitely relaxation reading. I don’t have the energy at the end of a day of reading other people’s nonfiction for any kind of demanding fiction! But yeah. The trend sells, so they do it; it’s going to get dated fast, and it definitely shows that there’s a copycat thing going on. Chrism definitely fits the creative and original category–and I do read their stuff, even if it does demand more from me as a reader than a fluff romance. Because their stuff is worth it.

  3. It’s definitely true that style of cover has become a trend. I’m a fan of the genre and enjoy relaxing with a rom-com, what my family affectionately refers to as “cheese.” I had to look back at the romances I read this month to see if any fit that cover trend. They did not, although one did have an illustrated cover. It’s a trend that will fizzle out, but it’s one of those genre expectations things. People see a cover that looks like something they have read and enjoyed so they pick it up in a bookstore or online. All things considered, they aren’t my favorite, but I think they are fairly innocuous. I certainly prefer them over the cover style of bodice-rippers! LOL

  4. Well, yes, definitely preferable to covers with heavy bosoms and shiny pecs exposed. I generally dislike seeing faces on covers, so you’d think I’d like these illustrated ones, but I don’t. The lack of illustrated face is just … odd to me. And I also have a knee-jerk reaction to things that are too popular. (It’s a flaw of mine.) That said, I do like silhouettes, which naturally do not have faces. I’ve already got two covers with them and one is being re-done that way, more like my original vision for that cover.

    The premise of The Plot is interesting! I can see why you picked it up. Cardinal George – I had no idea he had polio. Huh.

    Thanks for linking up this month!

    • Yes–I definitely think it’s the missing face that gets me. There’s a trend about this in Catholic art too. It’s not my taste.

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