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

#OpenBook: August 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. We went on vacation during August, so I had plenty of time to savor some good novels!


pretty-lies-other-storiesPretty Lies and Other Stories by Olivia Folmar Ard. Short stories and poetry, all first-person and nearly all anonymous. Ard’s short fiction is very short indeed–the longest selections are a few pages long, but she wastes no words in telling very detailed slice-of-life tales.


anne-green-gables-collectionAnne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. Not just for middle-schoolers; I found more to like in Marilla this time around. When I was a tween/teen, she was the villain in the novels! Anne is captivating and wise beyond her years. The second book is less compelling than the first, but still worthwhile. I wasn’t motivated to read more in the series, though.

saving-abbySaving Abby by Steena Holmes. Steena Holmes gets you hooked on a character and then turns your expectations and emotions inside-out in this novel about a husband and wife who want nothing more than to become parents. A devastating diagnosis threatens the life of both the unborn baby and the mother-to-be.

everything-we-keepEverything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale. She should be dressed in a bridal gown instead of attending her fiance’s funeral. Aimee never saw the body, either. So when a psychic approaches her after the service with claims that her fiance is still alive, she HAS to follow up. This is a novel of grief, the power of love, and letting go.

pug-listThe Pug List by Alison Hodgson. Read after I heard part of an author interview on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show (Sirius/XM’s The Catholic Channel.) I just didn’t know what to make of this book sometimes. I’m aware that it was written after the trauma of a house fire (everyone was fine, but the home was a total loss) and the family was at loose ends as a result, but sometimes I felt that the emotion, expressed after the fact, seemed forced and overpowered the story the author was trying to tell.

unexpected-everythingThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. YA novel about a politician’s daughter who loses an internship after her father’s political fall from grace. A dog-walking job introduces her to a young novelist and forces her to consider what really matters in terms of relationships and honesty. Good story of resilience and friendship.

life-listThe Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman. Brett’s mother is a high-powered cosmetics executive. After her death, 34-year-old Brett receives her life-goal list–written when she was only 14. Brett has 12 months to achieve those goals in order to receive her inheritance. An enjoyable, if predictable, read. There really weren’t too many plot twists, but I did like the characters and wanted to see how it all turned out.

recipe-by-candace-calvertThe Recipe by Candace Calvert. Short, sweet romance about a young woman seeking her way in the world, aided by a little blackmail, a stroke victim, an organic farmstand and a well-intentioned grandson. Good story with great characters!


WLA-PWorks of Love are Works of Peace by Michael Collopy. While biographies are a wonderful way to get to know a person, they don’t always tell the whole story. Photographer Michael Collopy proves that images can say much more than words in this newly-reissued photobook from Ignatius Press, which documents the work of St. Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity. Originally published in 1996, the large-format book has been updated with an appendix containing the contents of the Missionaries of Charity daily prayer book as well as a most personal and profound letter on the interior life written by Mother Teresa during Holy Week of 1993 and addressed to her entire order. Described by the publisher as an “illustrated prayer book,” this book is an extended photo essay that brings home the radical life of service modeled by Blessed Mother Teresa and the Sisters. Full review here.

marys-wayMary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God by Judy Klein. This is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. Judy Klein shares her own heartbreaks as a mother, tracing her journey as a parent and a Catholic. But this book is more than a memoir: it’s a call to a very specific kind of prayer by mothers for their own children. Full review here.

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

I received review copies of both nonfiction books from the publishers in exchange for my honest review. I purchased all the fiction books myself or borrowed them from the library. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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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Monday Recap: September 5, 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces, from book reviews and Tech Talk (will I ever get to Inbox Zero?) to recipes and back-to-school tips from none other than Ramona’s mom!

At CatholicMom.com

Image via Pixabay (2009), CC0 Public Domain


Tech Talk: Is Inbox Zero a Pipe Dream? I fight an ongoing battle with my inbox. Are you working on controlling your email? Find out what works for a detail-oriented thinker.

“Beverly Cleary Fandom” by Multnomah County Library (2014) via Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0


Mrs. Quimby’s 6 Best Back-to-School Tips (Plus One from Me). I loved reading Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” series as a child. Turns out, these books are chock-full of sound parenting advice.


Book Notes: Works of Love are Works of Peace. My review of the newly-reissued photobook about Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Works of Love are Works of Peace. This book will challenge and change the way you serve.


Book Notes: “Mary’s Way” Encourages Praying Moms. Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. I reviewed this new book by CatholicMom.com contributor Judy Klein.

At Catholic Underground

A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Catholic Underground picked up my review of Stephanie Engelman’s A Single Bead. Thanks for hosting me!

At Cook and Count

I haven’t made too many new dishes this summer, so there’s just one recipe this time!

shrimp fra diavolo for 2Shrimp Fra Diavolo for Two

At Dynamic Women of Faith

CM Prayer Companion cover art

Book Review: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. The book is out now, so be sure to order your copy today! Want an autographed copy? Leave a comment or email me for details.

Monday recap 2016 edition

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Mary’s Way” by Judy Klein

Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. Judy Klein shares her own heartbreaks as a mother, tracing her journey as a parent and a Catholic. But this book is more than a memoir: it’s a call to a very specific kind of prayer by mothers for their own children.

Judy Klein is careful not to make empty prosperity-gospel-style promises about what will happen if you pray for your child. While acknowledging that miracles can happen, Klein notes that when our prayers of petition seemingly go unanswered,

…God invites us to learn the power of prayerful surrender. It’s a prayer that can bring real peace, and it often brings us to deeper conversion and inner transformation. It sometimes takes many hard lessons and countless wrestling matches with God to learn to surrender, and it’s something we must practice as we go. But surrendering prayer is worth leaning into and learning well because, in the end, learning to yield to God and say yes to him in whatever life brings changes us. (p. 3)


The beauty of Mary’s Way is that, more than anything else, it’s about the heart of the mother as she learns to give up control. We all want to control how things will turn out for our children, and despite tiger-mom and helicopter-mom strategies, we can’t guarantee optimal results by our own prayer, word or action. Instead, Klein urges readers to follow Mary’s example of faith.

Mary’s most exquisite blessing was not that she was given a “pass” on suffering but that she was permitted to participate in the Cross in a most profound and intimate manner. She found the greatest blessing precisely by uniting her deepest agony–watching her son die upon the Cross–to her Son’s own sacrificial offering, cooperating freely with salvific grace in bringing about the redemption of souls. We are invited to do the same whenever the Cross presents itself in our lives, turning our pain into a source of sanctification for ourselves and for others. (p. 8)

Judy Klein guides mothers toward surrender by sharing her own story, offering questions to ponder, and including prayers at the end of each chapter that speak to the heart of what mothers face as they learn to follow Mary’s example.

In this book, readers will learn of the beauty of endurance, how embracing the Cross can grace us with strength we cannot imagine, and how true friends support each other through trials.

You do not need to be a parent in the throes of suffering to benefit from this book. But if you are, or know someone who is, this book will be balm for the suffering soul.

Mary’s Way is a CatholicMom.com book published by Ave Maria Press.

Buy this book through my Amazon link and support FranciscanMom.com with your purchase! I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher through Netgalley.com, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review. Opinions expressed are my own.

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Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS