#OpenBook: July 2017 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:


things we knewThe Things We Knew by Catherine West. When I reached the last page of this book, I found it very hard to leave this family of characters behind. Catherine West has created a wonderful group of flawed-but-working-on-it characters, most from one family, and all of whom have been wounded by a family tragedy that no one quite understands. Lynette, the youngest and most wounded, holds the key to everyone’s healing, including her own–but it’s been used to lock up the traumatic memories of what a middle-schooler once witnessed. Addiction and dementia in some characters add to the challenges this family faces. I read this book because Carolyn recommended it! It’s definitely the best novel I’ve read this month.

murphys luckMurphy’s Luck by Benjamin Laskin. A very different romance–quirky, captivating and a terrific story. Murphy Drummer has the worst luck. Everything falls down around him, though he manages to escape unscathed. After he’s kicked out of school, his grandfather keeps him at home, where he tries out every hobby under the son while managing never to leave the house. Murphy manages to make a name and a nice living for himself as a blogger. Once his grandfather dies and he does leave, a chance encounter with a woman who always seems to land on her feet raises the possibility that Murphy’s luck just might change.

cub creekCub Creek by Grace Greene. This novel paints a disturbing picture in a beautiful setting. Libbie is running from a tragic past, but her impulsive purchase of a home in the middle of nowhere turns eerie quickly when she feels like she’s being watched and has flashbacks to some of the horrors in her formative years. Her relocation isn’t enough to keep tragedy from following where she goes. There’s hints at some sort of mental illness on top of Libbie’s abusive family background.

loves highwayLove’s Highway by Jane Lebak. This novella is part of the “First Street Church Kindle Worlds” series by over a dozen different authors. I’m a fan of Jane’s work so I read hers first. Casey, a young woman on the run, shows up in Sweet Grove and lets her guard down immediately when she sees someone abandoning a litter of puppies. She can’t help but be captivated by the community there, especially Peter, who’s willing to put off his own future in order to see his brilliant sister through veterinary school. Casey is challenged to learn her own lessons in sacrifice and trust. This story stands alone, but you’ll want to read more about the town–and I do hope Jane will be writing more about these characters!

loves prophetLove’s Prophet by Melissa Storm. A sweet love story that continues the “First Street Church” small-town romance series. Widower Liam has shut himself off from the world, including his young daughter, who’s on a mission to carry out her mother’s dying wish: to complete the family once again. Molly Sue has her heart set on Jennifer, an old friend of her mom’s; will old memories get in the way of new romance?



spokesSpokes by Deanna K. Klingel. Two homeschooled teens team up to train for a triathlon after a tragic hit-and-run claims the life of Kelsey’s mom. With the help of friars from a nearby monastery, Kelsey and Brendon set out to solve the mystery that has police stymied while each of them works through emotional journeys through grief. Recommended for readers in middle school and up.

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!

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz


#OpenBook: March 2017 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:


Rightfully Ours coverRightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk. In this refreshing YA romance, readers have the chance to get into the head of the romantic hero. Paul lives in the Muellers’ guesthouse during his father’s deployment. He and Rachel, his landlords’ daughter, find their friendship turning into something deeper; while they struggle against temptation and Rachel’s dad’s opposition to their relationship, they discover historic artifacts buried beneath Rachel’s flower garden. I found Paul to be a more likable character than Rachel, perhaps because she is a few years younger than he and a little more immature. Full review coming Friday! (ARC)

upsie daisyUpsie-Daisy: The Adventures of Lee and Bucky Book 999 by Jane Lebak. I’m a big fan of the Lee and Bucky adventures, and this prequel did not disappoint! The story introduces Lee, a clever mechanic who loves her job but can’t bring herself to tell anyone where she works–and whose mother writes resignation letters and mails them to Lee’s boss. You’ll also meet Bucky, Lee’s guardian angel who likes listening to Fleetwood Mac, is quick with the witty banter, and is all about seeing to the state of Lee’s soul. Lebak creates terrific characters and puts them in interesting situations.

sleepingwitness.inddThe Sleeping Witness: A Father Gabriel Mystery by Fiorella deMaria. I read this fast-paced mystery in a single cozy evening. Father Gabriel and his monastic cohorts are a fascinating cast of characters, though I’d have liked more character development. Father Gabriel finds himself defending Dr. Paige, a man he admits is unlikable and who appears guilty–but the priest is convinced there’s more behind the attack on the doctor’s wife. Set in postwar England, the book touches on some harrowing consequences of the war and the secrets borne even by residents of a sleepy, remote hamlet. Read my full review. (ARC)

almost missed youAlmost Missed You by Jessica Strawser. Violet, Finn and their little boy are enjoying a beach vacation when Finn takes their son to their hotel room for a nap–but makes a clean getaway with the little boy instead. This novel turns upon things that almost didn’t happen: all those tiny incidences that, when put together, shape a life. The tale also centers on the secrets we keep–and the ones we share–and the ways in which betrayal of those secrets threatens to tear everything apart. The seeming perfection of Violet and Finn’s marriage is undone by those secrets–the kind that, the longer you keep them, ensnare you all the more. (Netgalley)

making facesMaking Faces by Amy Harmon. A complicated, and very worthwhile, story of sacrificial love. Fern is a romantic at heart–she wants to be the next bestselling author of Harlequin novels–and spends most of her time as a caring companion for her cousin Bailey, who suffers from a degenerative nerve disease and considers himself useless. Fern doesn’t think she has a chance with the handsome Ambrose, who tries to leave the pressures of competitive wrestling behind to enlist in the military with a group of his classmates. When Ambrose is the only one of the group to survive a bomb blast, the whole town is turned upside-down, and Ambrose’s disfigurement makes him believe he’s unworthy of love. Worth it for the surprise ending.

granny torelli makes soupGranny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech. Sweet novel for middle-grade readers. A grandmother teaches her granddaughter and her best friend, a boy from across the street, some life lessons while they cook pasta and soup. The children are navigating the difficult world of jealousy in friendship, and parallels to Granny Torelli’s own life help them figure out better ways of handling things.


getting past perfectGetting Past Perfect by Kate Wicker. We need to acknowledge that there’s a difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence. This book offers a great deal of encouragement to moms at all stages of mothering. Read my full review.


all inAll In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters by Pat Gohn. Readers on any stop along their faith journey can benefit from the wisdom and action steps provided here, on their way to going “all in.” Read my full review.

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


Copyight 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Half Missing

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Amber is an assistant Fire Marshall in a small town, investigating suspected arsons and running from her painful past in her spare time. Her mom, Maureen, redeemed a nightmare birth experience by becoming a licensed midwife. And one day they see a woman on the news who looks and sounds like she could be Amber’s twin.

Caught up against her will in Maureen’s search for the truth, Amber’s investigative skills serve as both a blessing and a curse. Meanwhile, one state away, Katie wonders if there’s any truth to what Maureen and Amber have come to believe: that Katie is Amber’s twin, spirited away at birth by a doctor for a black-market adoption.

With believable characters caught in an awful situation in which the truth isn’t going to set everyone free, Jane Lebak’s novel Half Missing keeps the reader in suspense until the very end. The author is a fabulous storyteller whose attention to detail left me sympathizing with quite a few characters, including Amber, Maureen, Katie and Scott, Amber’s coworker who wishes she’d notice him.

Spend a snowy afternoon reading this novel. It would make a great movie!

Buy this book through my Amazon link to support Franciscanmom.com!

The fine print: I was provided a copy of this novel, but no other compensation, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: 3 Great Christmas Reads

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Because Christmas is a season, not just a day, you don’t have to put away the Christmas novels and stories after December 25. Reading books set at Christmas is a great way to keep the season going. Here are 3 books by Catholic authors–I’ve enjoyed them all. The first two are historical fiction, the third a contemporary novella.

working motherWorking Mother by Erin McCole Cupp is a well-researched piece of short fiction in which the Holy Family, in exile in Egypt after King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, faces a crisis after Joseph is injured at work. Living hand-to-mouth in a refugee camp, Mary seizes an opportunity to help support her family while Joseph recovers from his injury. This story speaks to the devotion of the Blessed Mother for her son and for her husband. Read my full review here.


diaries of joseph and maryThe Diaries of Joseph and Mary by Dennis P. McGeehan invites the reader to journey with Mary and Joseph from their early childhoods until Jesus sets out for his baptism at the hands of his cousin. These fictional diaries allow the reader to peek into the minds and hearts of Jesus’ mother and foster father. Read my full review here.



boys upstairsThe Boys Upstairs by Jane Lebak is an uplifting Christmas tale of transformation for two brothers: a priest who’s a disabled war veteran and who takes in boys who are living on the streets and a police officer who’s seen more than his share of holiday tragedies. Their own rough start in life leads them to find ways to be strong for others in crisis.

Use my Amazon links to purchase these books and support Franciscanmom.com.