#OpenBook: February 2019 Reads

open book logo
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:

Fiction

emily goneEmily, Gone by Bette Lee Crosby. A crime of opportunity: a grieving, unhinged young woman breaks into a home looking for food — and comes out with a 6-month-old baby she’s convinced is her own stillborn child. While her boyfriend agonizes over how to get the baby girl back to her parents, Vicki settles right in as a mom. Meanwhile Rachel finds it impossible to get over the loss of her baby. There are plenty of wonderful small-town characters, and this story of grief, resilience, and healing is compelling and well written. This book should come with a warning label: Don’t start reading this unless you can commit to the whole novel immediately! (Netgalley; expected April 30, 2019)

eleanor oliphantEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This book’s cover blurbs call it “incredibly funny” and “hilarious” — I would never apply those adjectives to this book. Eleanor has lived through a harrowing childhood, which the reader learns about bit by bit as Eleanor navigates a new-to-her experience: friendship and an ill-targeted crush. Her lack of social skills and her survival strategy (a rigidly regimented life) lead to some painfully-comic moments but this book is hardly a laugh. Eleanor’s life is changed when she and a coworker stop to aid an injured man on the street, and you can’t help but cheer for her as she navigates new relationships and situations.

one thing i knowOne Thing I Know by Kara Isaac. A fun read with believable characters. Rachel is the ghostwriter behind a successful relationship coach, and her whole corpus of advice is based on trust, mostly stemming from problems with her father. Radio host Lucas has a host of trust issues thanks to his own dad’s actions, and is tempted by an opportunity to expose Rachel’s secret, but the two start to fall for each other, and that’s where it gets really complicated. I can’t help but be impressed by Isaac’s ability to write for an American audience, as she is a New Zealander.

attachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell. Is there a different word for an epistolary novel written in emails? This brilliant story is half-told via an email exchange between two young journalists, with the other half, in typical narrative style, about the IT guy tasked with reading emails that don’t pass the company’s filter. Lincoln finds himself fascinated by these young women, developing a crush on one of them even as she crushes on him after seeing him in the break room and around town. A fun and believable story with plenty of near-misses to keep it moving, and well-developed characters you can’t help but care about. Don’t miss this one!

just let goJust Let Go by Courtney Walsh. Quinn buys the flower shop her mother abandoned when she left her marriage and family during Quinn’s childhood. Driven to prepare the shop for opening and to create a floral display that will catch the eye of her mother, now a judge of a prestigious contest for floral artists, Quinn feels she has no room in her life for Grady, a bad-boy skier whose rage after losing an important competition lands him in trouble with the law in Quinn’s small town. But for his community service, he’s tasked with helping Quinn at the shop. Predictable, but enjoyable. Second in a series, though that’s not indicated on the cover; I recommend reading Just Look Up first, if only to get a better sense of the setting and the back story of other characters.

her hope discovered

 Her Hope Discovered (Welcome to Ruby #1) by Cynthia Herron. Sweet debut novel on the theme of second chances. An odd supernatural element doesn’t seem to quite fit in a Christian novel, and there were more than a few “do people really talk like that?” moments, but I enjoyed the story of a young female exec who abandoned her career to relocate in a small town, only to meet the widower with two young children whose deceased wife grew up in the house Charla just bought. There’s a second novel coming in the series, and I will look for it.

season of romanceSeason of Romance: Faith-filled, sweet, heartwarming, clean small-town novella (Rios Azules Romances: the Macalisters Book 1) by Alexa Verde. This is a longer version of “Love’s Ransom,” a First Street Church novella. It’s still a novella (its title is almost as long as the book!), and I didn’t see too much that I hadn’t found in the first book, though the plot seemed to be stronger this time around. A good, and fairly realistic, peek into what it’s like to live with a child who has diabetes. Paramedic Melinda has Type 1 diabetes, and she falls for the uncle of the little boy next door, a child who also has Type 1 and whose father was recently killed in an accident.

YA/Children’s

miscalculations of lightning girlThe Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty. Compelling middle-grade novel about a 7th-grader with amazing math abilities. In school for the first time in years, she struggles to find a way to fit in, even hiding her abilities. But she can’t hide a few OCD tendencies, and kids can be cruel. A required small-group service project has unexpected results. Great twist at the end. Highly recommended.

promises to theresaPromises to Theresa by Marianne Komek. What looks like a typical high-school overachiever’s tendency to take on too many activities turns out to be a sign of bipolar disorder, and Theresa Jarewski feels like nothing will be normal again. This novel unmasks the struggles of a bipolar teen, explores her crisis of faith, and celebrates friends strong enough to stick together in tough times. (ARC provided by the author)

Nonfiction

holy hacksHoly Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven by Patti Maguire Armstrong. Packed with hundreds of do-able ways to grow in holiness, this book is filled with tips, but it’s not simply bullet point after bullet point. Sections of tips are interspersed with introductions of the people whose tips are offered here, explanations of virtue, and information about Catholic practices, which makes for fascinating reading. While it’s fine to read Holy Hacks from start to finish, you might get more out of it if you start at chapter 1, then skip around to the sections you feel you most need at the moment. Like your favorite cookbook, this handbook should be easy to reach when you need it for quick reference. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher.)

live today wellLive Today Well: St. Francis de Sales’s Simple Approach to Holiness by Fr. Thomas Dailey, OSFS. This introduction to the writing of St. Francis de Sales synthesized many books and letters into one volume. The book emphasizes the Salesian traditions of using attention and intention to focus on the spiritual, even while we do the most mundane of tasks. St. Francis de Sales emphasizes that holiness is not connected to our state in life, and that everyone can pursue holiness. As intentional living is such a trendy phrase right now, it’s good to unite it with its spiritual origin and seek to intentionally live in a way that brings us ever closer to Christ. I’m interested in reading the primary sources upon which this book is based. (I’m also wondering about that apostrophe-s in the subtitle … )

day the world came to townThe Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede. A very uplifting account of something we didn’t know was happening at the time (because we were too consumed, being close to New York, with the Twin Towers part of the 9/11 attack): the story of several communities in a remote area of Newfoundland who played a unique role in helping stranded travelers immediately after the attack. I’d recommend this to high-school students learning about the events of that day. The book left me wanting to go to Newfoundland and personally thank the people and organizations who dropped everything, raided their own linen closets, and offered amazing hospitality to people who just wanted to go home.


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

Advertisements

50+ Better Things to Read #ShowUsYourList

In the name of accentuating the positive and coming up with solutions instead of just complaining about problems, Catholic author ErinMcCole-Cupp has proposed that people who love to read good books share their lists of works of quality fiction that celebrate truth, beauty and goodness rather than tearing down the dignity of the human person.

showusyourlistlogo

Here are 50+ WAY Better Novels:

  1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. My all-time favorite book EVER.
  2. Rachel’s Contrition by Michelle Buckman
  3. Death Panels by Michelle Buckman
  4. Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon
  5. Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby
  6. The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby
  7. Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
  8. Jubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby
  9. Previously Loved Treasures by Bette Lee Crosby
  10. What Matters Most by Bette Lee Crosby
  11. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby
  12. Wishing for Wonderful by Bette Lee Crosby
  13. Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole-Cupp
  14. Jane_E., Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole-Cupp
  15. Nest by Esther Ehrlich. YA.
  16. Greater Treasures:  A DragonEye Novella by Karina Fabian
  17. Georgios by A.K. Frailey
  18. The Scent of Lilacs by Ann Gabhart
  19. In Name Only by Ellen Gable
  20. A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable
  21. Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable
  22. Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable
  23. The Truth About the Sky by Katharine Grubb
  24. Falling for Your Madness by Katharine Grubb
  25. Genius Under Construction by Marilee Haynes. YA.
  26. Past Suspicion by Therese Heckencamp
  27. Casting the First Stone by Lisa Hess
  28. A Hunger in the Heart by Kaye Park Hinckley
  29. The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt
  30. The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab. YA.
  31. Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly
  32. Cracks in the Ice by Deanna Klingel
  33. A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Purcell Lauer
  34. The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine. YA.
  35. Hijacked by Leslie Lynch
  36. Unholy Bonds by Leslie Lynch
  37. Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch
  38. A Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch
  39. When Mike Kissed Emma by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  40. Reality Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  41. Lights, Camera, Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  42. Honestly, Ali! by Christine Marciniak. YA.
  43. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  44. Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman
  45. Finding Grace by Laura Pearl
  46. Erin’s Ring by Laura Pearl. YA.
  47. Hush Hush by Michelle Quigley
  48. O Little Town by Don Reid
  49. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  50. Best Wishes, Sister B by Fran Smith
  51. Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney. YA.
  52. Digital Me by J.M. Varner. YA.
  53. Mister Teacher Person by J.M. Varner. YA.
  54. Breathing On Her Own by Rebecca Williams Waters

I’ve read all of these books and consider them all Really GOOD Fiction. Quality fiction. Well-written fiction. Fiction you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave around your living room, read in a public place, or have your teenager pick up and read.

I’ve met the authors of some of these books. I’ve been a beta reader for some of them. I know the care they take in crafting novels that are well-written, with interesting characters and fascinating plots–novels that show respect for both the character AND the reader. Some of these are YA, but I’ve got nothing against reading good YA stuff. This list does reflect my taste (almost no no time travel, sci-fi or dystopian stuff, although I’m sure there’s plenty of those novels out there that are of good quality.)

Not all of these authors are Catholic authors. Not all of them are indie authors. But many of them are. I have read ALL of these books and am happy to recommend them far and wide. Also, this list is limited to novels. Because it’s my list, so I’m setting the parameters.

Learn more about Erin’s Show Us Your List movement! Share your list of good-quality entertainment, tag the Big Cheeses of Catholic Media, and support your positive, not-scandalous, writers.

© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.
Image credit:  Erin McCole-Cupp. Used with permission.

Read This Instead: 50 WAY Better Novels

I’m building on Erin McCole-Cupp’s challenge to Catholic media types to spend at least half the time they spend telling people why they shouldn’t go see That Movie (or read That Book) recommending positive, worthwhile entertainment in its place.

(Not that I fancy myself a Catholic media type. But I know how to tag people on Twitter, and tag I shall.)

It’s like that bit at the end of Alice’s Restaurant.

Or you may be in a similar situation, and if you’re in a situation like that, there’s only one thing you can do:

Walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in, say, “Shrink, . . . you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”, and walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person, does it, they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him.

And if two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both ******* and they won’t take either of them.

And if three people do it! Can you imagine three people walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walkin’ out? They may think it’s an Organization!

And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day . . .
Walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walkin’ out? Friends, they may think it’s a MOVEMENT, and that’s what it is: THE ALICE’S RESTAURANT ANTI-MASSACREE MOVEMENT! . . . and all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

With feelin’.

In the hopes that this becomes a Movement, I’ve gone through my Goodreads list and found you a whole bunch of Really GOOD Fiction. Quality fiction. Well-written fiction. Fiction you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave around your living room, read in a public place, or have your teenager pick up and read.

I’ve met the authors of some of these books. I’ve been a beta reader for some of them. I know the care they take in crafting novels that are well-written, with interesting characters and fascinating plots–and novels that show respect for both the character AND the reader. Some of these are YA, but I’ve got nothing against reading good YA stuff. This list does reflect my taste (almost no no time travel, sci-fi or dystopian stuff, although I’m sure there’s plenty of those novels out there that are of good quality.)

Not all of these authors are Catholic authors. Not all of them are indie authors. But many of them are. I have read ALL of these books and am happy to recommend them far and wide. Also, this list is limited to novels. Because it’s my list, so I’m setting the parameters.

tree grows in brooklyn
My very favorite book EVER. I’m on my third copy.

In no particular order of preference, except for #1. I sorted my Goodreads list by author. If you want to see what I liked about these books, you can read my reviews at Goodreads.

Here are 50 WAY Better Novels:

  1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. My all-time favorite book EVER.
  2. Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby
  3. The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby
  4. Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
  5. Jubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby
  6. Previously Loved Treasures by Bette Lee Crosby
  7. What Matters Most by Bette Lee Crosby
  8. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby
  9. Wishing for Wonderful by Bette Lee Crosby
  10. Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole-Cupp
  11. Jane_E., Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole-Cupp
  12. Nest by Esther Ehrlich. YA.
  13. Greater Treasures:  A DragonEye Novella by Karina Fabian
  14. Georgios by A.K. Frailey
  15. The Scent of Lilacs by Ann Gabhart
  16. In Name Only by Ellen Gable
  17. A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable
  18. Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable
  19. Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable
  20. The Truth About the Sky by Katharine Grubb
  21. Falling for Your Madness by Katharine Grubb
  22. Genius Under Construction by Marilee Haynes. YA.
  23. Past Suspicion by Therese Heckencamp
  24. Casting the First Stone by Lisa Hess
  25. A Hunger in the Heart by Kaye Park Hinckley
  26. The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt
  27. The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab. YA.
  28. Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly
  29. Cracks in the Ice by Deanna Klingel
  30. The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine. YA.
  31. Hijacked by Leslie Lynch
  32. Unholy Bonds by Leslie Lynch
  33. Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch
  34. A Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch
  35. When Mike Kissed Emma by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  36. Reality Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  37. Lights, Camera, Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  38. Honestly, Ali! by Christine Marciniak. YA.
  39. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  40. Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman
  41. Finding Grace by Laura Pearl
  42. Erin’s Ring by Laura Pearl. YA.
  43. Hush Hush by Michelle Quigley
  44. O Little Town by Don Reid
  45. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  46. Best Wishes, Sister B by Fran Smith
  47. Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney. YA.
  48. Digital Me by J.M. Varner. YA.
  49. Mister Teacher Person by J.M. Varner. YA.
  50. Breathing On Her Own by Rebecca Williams Waters