On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

#OpenBook: May 2023 Reads

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

nullDusk Shall Weep by Kelsey Gietl (Larksong Legacy, book 2). This novel centers on Coraline Shea, a recent widow who faces an even more difficult life than she already has, due to the degenerative eye disease that’s robbing her of her vision. Coraline hatches a plan to trap Jamison Lark into marriage, but doesn’t count on the discovery of a special ability she seems to possess: one that could put the entire settlement of Larksong in danger. You definitely should read the first in the series before this one. It’s not a standalone (which is not a slam on the novel in any way, more of a PSA for readers).


In Pieces by Rhonda OrtizIn Pieces by Rhonda Ortiz (reread). Read my full review of this novel, and then go get yourself a copy—Rhonda has a sequel coming out in mid-August, and you need to read this novel before you read the next book. Readers will cheer for the strong female characters and the smitten, determined hero who battle rigid social expectations and a villain you’ll love to hate. An “oh, no, he didn’t!” King David-style conflict, a Custom-House mystery, some PTSD, and even a little espionage make In Pieces a novel you won’t be able to put down. I think I’ve read it four times already.


Adrift by Rhonda Ortiz (cover coming soon!). Picking up right where In Pieces leaves off, Adrift chronicles Molly and Josiah’s complicated search for a church for their wedding, Josiah’s venture into work on land, and some fascinating surprises in the lives of their friends. Some of the secondary characters in this book deserve their own novels! The espionage that figured into the plot of In Pieces is a major plot point, with two characters traveling to Philadelphia—as the yellow fever pandemic begins. A good deal of the novel’s action takes place in Philadelphia and centers on the lives, work, and social standing of biracial characters. (Advance review copy provided by the publisher; book releases August 15. But I will definitely order a copy for myself.)


nullThe Best Summer of Our Lives by Rachel Hauck is an enjoyable clean romance centering on four friends, all strong personalities, and the summer after they graduated from high school in 1977. There’s a split-time component that looks at their lives 20 years later, and how the events of that fateful summer shaped the women they became. As the summer progresses, secrets are revealed that change the relationship between these lifelong best friends, and readers get a good sense of the emotions each young woman experiences as she keeps and then reveals her own secrets while dealing with the revelations of the secrets her friends have kept. Terrific friendship story! A fun touch: each chapter title is the title or central lyric of a song from the era, which made for a great playlist. (Advance review copy provided by the publisher. This book releases June 27 and is available for preorder.)


nullNow That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins. Nora’s boyfriend, an ER doctor, seems to only be interested in her when she’s in need of help. But she discovers he’s been cheating right after she was hit by a delivery truck … so she returns to recuperate at her childhood home on a remote Maine island, a place she left right after high school without looking back. Going home is complicated, and so is facing the small-town drama she ran away from years ago. I couldn’t put this book down—the characters were fascinating.


nullThe Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson. Maggie arrives in a town that’s built on the reputation of its most famous former resident, ready to fill in at the bookstore for her friend during a maternity leave. But she discovers that the restrictions on what the store can sell are endangering its future, so she finds a creative way to stock books the local readers want—and to host events that bring customers into the store. Her eventual success leads to the possible closure of many businesses in town and the loss of her friend’s livelihood. Maggie is a wonderful character, and this was a charming read.


nullThe Sweet Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Cape Cod Creamery Book 1). Dawn’s fiancé dumps her shortly before the wedding but insists she go to Cape Cod with a friend for the (nonrefundable) honeymoon trip. She brings along her recently widowed mom, who’s creative but flighty, and who buys a fire-damaged ice-cream shop in the historical district on a whim, then depends on Dawn to handle all the logistics. There’s a romance for one character—one I didn’t see coming—and a hint at something for another character in the next book. I enjoyed the small-town setting and the interesting side characters.


nullMercy’s Power: Inspiration to Serve the Gospel of Life by Maria V. Gallagher. Discover your path to living the Gospel of Life. In Mercy’s Power, Maria Gallagher offers a prayer-fueled new perspective on advocacy for life from conception until natural death. A must-read for pro-life advocates, from the mother sharing ultrasound pictures with her older children to the Rosary-praying witness outside abortion clinics and the neighbor who runs errands and shares tea with the senior citizen down the block. Learn how everyone’s advocacy is essential to the culture of life. I had the honor of being asked to endorse this book, and I plan to recommend it widely.


Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. 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.

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

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 CatholicMom.com!

Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz

4 thoughts on “#OpenBook: May 2023 Reads

    • As you can tell, I’m a big fan of “In Pieces.” If you read it, stop by again and tell me what you think!

  1. I’ll be re-reading In Pieces soon for the upcoming Catholics Read Book Club, which I’m hosting on July 20!

    I’d like to read Kelsey Gietl’s books. Is this series a good place to start?

    Also need to read Maria Gallagher’s new book!

    Thanks for linking to An Open Book!

    • This series is the first I’d read of Kelsey Gietl’s; the book I list her is #2 in the series and it’s not a standalone. The first one spins off a story from the book of Tobit. Definitely recommend!

Leave a Reply