#OpenBook: January 2019 Reads

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The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. I didn’t get a lot of reading done in January because I let one giant nonfiction book (see below) occupy most of my reading time.

Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:


just look upJust Look Up by Courtney Walsh. In a novel that’s an indictment of a high-powered workaholic lifestyle, Courtney Walsh tells the story of Lane, an interior designer who’s on the verge of making it big in the big city after running away from the betrayals she felt in her family and hometown. Called home when her brother is involved in a serious accident, Lane is forced to examine her personal and professional priorities. A good story, and I liked the setting of Lane’s hometown.

loves choiceLove’s Choice by Liwen Y. Ho (First Street Church Romances. A sweet story about a young pregnant woman who’s kicked out by her abusive boyfriend and returns home, only to run into the high-school boyfriend who still carries a torch for her. He’s a little TOO perfect, and the religious part felt forced (do people really talk like that?) but it’s a hopeful read just the same.

mistletoe kissMistletoe Kiss by Andrea Boyd. Friends since childhood, Rae and Chase kiss under the mistletoe at an amusement park’s attempt to break a world record. Then they both discover that maybe they don’t want to be just friends – but neither of them knows how to take the next step. Cute Christmas story.


i am god's storyteller coverI Am God’s Storyteller by Lisa M. Hendey. This picture book is a celebration of each child’s — each person’s — God-given creativity and an encouragement to use that creativity to share the Good News with others. The writing is almost lyrical in its cadence and lends itself wonderfully to a read-aloud. And the illustrations by Eric Carlson are fun and inviting, yet not garish. Read my full review. (ARC received from the publisher).


prairie fires

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. A well-researched tome (500 pages BEFORE the footnotes) covering the time before Laura’s birth to present day, but not without considerable political bias. The author’s tone indicates scorn or resentment toward Rose’s political leanings. It doesn’t seem like the author likes or admires Laura. While hagiography isn’t necessary, neither is the almost gleeful digging into the Ingalls and Wilder families’ dirt. Normally I don’t cover books in this space if I wouldn’t give them at least 3 stars out of 5, but I’m making an exception because I grew up a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the children’s books for what they are: one person’s memoirs written as fiction for a young audience.

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 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

#OpenBook: July 2016 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:


pickup notesPickup Notes by Jane Lebak. This story will rid you of any idea that string quartets are boring. The novel centers on the violist in a NYC-based quartet; Joey struggles against toxic family circumstances, a night job collecting tolls at a Brooklyn tunnel, and her own doubts about everything from her music to her ability to be a friend. Mix in an intriguing romantic situation, some well-placed snark and three more musicians and you have a recipe for a winner of a story. I had a hard time putting this novel down–and I didn’t want it to end.

they almost always come homeThey Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti. This was a harrowing tale about a woman in a difficult marriage whose husband leaves for a 2-week fishing trip in northern Canada and does not return. Overcoming her anger at him for getting out before she could is her true concern for his safety. She organizes a search party with her best friend and her father-in-law. While only her father-in-law has wilderness experience, the three journey to retrace her husband’s steps in the hope of finding answers.

seven riddles to nowhereSeven Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan. Perfect for middle-schoolers, this novel centers on a cyber-scavenger hunt reminiscent of “The Westing Game” but with higher stakes–the survival of a beloved school. Kam and his friends are challenged by bullies as they make their way through unfamiliar neighborhoods, seeking clues in churches and racing against time to win an inheritance. This was an advance reader copy–the book will be released by the end of August and I can’t recommend it enough. Make a note to check Amazon for this one later in the month, and visit author A.J. Cattapan’s Facebook page to sign up for the release party!

in this house of bredeIn This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this, but I needed a retreat in the form of a novel that would draw me in with its overwhelming peace–and this was just the thing. This book is a masterpiece.


pope francis takes the busPope Francis Takes the Bus by Rosario Carello. What’s Pope Francis really like? You’ve heard bits and pieces in news stories about him paying his own hotel bill, riding the bus around Buenos Aires and forgoing a plush Papal apartment in favor of a life in community. Italian journalist Rosario Carello has put together eighty vignettes from the life of Pope Francis in a book that will help readers get to know the Pope.
My full review is here.


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

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!

open book new logo


Summer Reading

My kids have Summer Reading assignments–and now, so do I.

Mine doesn’t come with a test at the end, or a book report to write, or a poster to draw. It does, however, come with the promise of an intriguing online discussion.

That’s because my Summer Reading is coming from the brand-new Lawn Chair Catechism series at Catholicmom.com.

We’re reading Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples:  The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.

Learn how you can read along, or even join the discussion without reading the book. (Try THAT with your traditional Summer Reading assignment!) The series starts tomorrow, but you can still order the book at a deep discount–with free shipping–through June 6.

Find out more!

Summer Reading

Boy, it would be cool to have nothing at all to do all summer long but read.  I’d go for that in a heartbeat.  I have been reading (every chance I get) and I’ve jumped back on the Goodreads bandwagon to track my books.

Two of my kids have summer-reading assignments.  Middle Sister’s school has a “One Book, One School” policy where students, faculty and staff all read the same book for the summer.  This year it’s The Hunger Games.  While at first I thought the school was selling out by choosing a popular book like that, I’ve changed my tune; I read the book (and the rest of the series) and there is a LOT in there that high-school students can discuss and analyze–and not just in English class.

Little Brother is required to read two books.  One, A Dog’s Life, is required, and he has a generous list of others from which he must choose one more.  He’s worked his way through most of that list (Encyclopedia Brown, anything from Dan Gutman’s “Baseball Card” series, and a few others) but he steadfastly refuses to touch one of the books:  Charlotte’s Web.

I’d almost let him take a pass on that if he’d said that it’s a girls’ book.  But he has not used that as an excuse.  “It’s too big” doesn’t fly with me, since last summer he read all the Harry Potter books.  Then he tried, “It’s a children’s book!”

“Yes, and you’re a children,” I retorted, using grammatical incorrectness to make a point.

Since he’s in the middle of A Dog’s Life, I asked him how that one was going.  He said that so far it’s a sad story, and launched into a long tale about dogs being left by the side of the road by “one of the wives in the couple,” which led Big Brother to muse that this is really a book about Mormons.

When In Doubt, Make It Up

My Kindle was on the table, in screen-saver mode.  Many of the screen-saver images feature famous authors.

“Anne Ghoul-berg!”  Little Brother exclaimed when he saw the picture on the screen.

“Who?”  I said, picking up the Kindle.  “This is Agatha Christie.”

“Oh!  I thought it was Anne Ghoul-berg,” he explained.

“Who’s Anne Ghoul-berg?  Where did you hear of her?”

“In my mind,” he replied proudly (I should have known).

I switched on the Kindle and resumed reading my book.  After a few quiet moments, Little Brother inquired, “Is there an Anne Ghoul-berg?”

Poetry Fan?

This morning I came upon a quote from one of my very favorite poems.  Despite the fact that I was an English major in college and grad school, I’ve never been a poetry reader.  Yet again and again, I’ve run into two or three poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and that makes me realize that there can be magic in poetry.

Here’s Pied Beauty:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;         5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:         10
                  Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918

Maybe the rest of the time I’ve just been reading the wrong poets.