An Open Book: August 2017 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently.

Working full-time doesn’t leave me much room for pleasure reading, so my book consumption has definitely slowed. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:


maggies wayLinda Bradley, Maggie’s Way (Montana Bound Series book 1). Maggie, arguably, has it tough this summer. Her husband of 20+ years has just “come out” and divorced her, and she’s undergoing radiation for breast cancer with only her mom for support, because she won’t tell anyone else about it. And now she has a new next-door neighbor, a very needy little girl who’s been abandoned (over and over again) by her own mother, and whose father finds himself attracted to Maggie. While the main character of this novel was irritating at times, little Chloe stole my heart.

comfort of secretsChristine Nolfi, The Comfort of Secrets. Cat Mendoza wants her marketing job to work out so she can help save her small town. A new business associate, Ryan, proves to be more than a coworker–but complications from his past threaten their future. I liked how the story came full circle–and then some! This was a story and cast of characters that I had a hard time parting with; they’re still inhabiting my thoughts.

wedding miracleMelissa Storm, A Wedding Miracle. It’s no joke: a minister and a rabbi meet at the wedding of their good friends, and it soon becomes clear that they’re destined to be together. This short rom-com would make a terrific movie! It has that same “these two really do belong together” feel that you get when you watch “You’ve Got Mail.”


other side of freedomCynthia T. Toney, The Other Side of Freedom. In Prohibition-era Louisiana, Sal struggles with questions of right and wrong as an organized-crime ring forces family members into involvement with bootlegging, with heartbreaking results. Keeping the secret will keep Sal and his parents alive, but is it worth the cost of losing contact with friends and his beloved uncle? I love how the cover image focuses on the very worried eyes of the young man in this novel. Recommended for middle-school readers and young teens studying this period of American history. (ARC provided by author)


busy lives and restless soulsBusy Lives & Restless Souls. I picked up this book because I knew nothing about Ignatian spirituality and I welcomed the chance to learn something new. As a pragmatic person, I found comfort in the practical advice that I learned is a hallmark of the Ignatian way of life and which is so clearly explained by author Becky Eldredge. (ARC received from publisher) Read my full review.
101 places to pray before you die101 Places to Pray Before You Die. Since many holy sites are closing due to lack of visitors and funding, like the St. Katharine Drexel Shrine near Philadelphia, PA, this book is a well-timed reminder to take the opportunity to visit such places while the opportunity still exists. Your visit supports the efforts of those who maintain and staff these churches, shrines and other sites. (ARC received from publisher) Read my full review.
friendship projectThe Friendship Project. This new book from Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet (Ave Maria Press, 2017) inspires women to foster friendships based on holy virtues. Friends since college, Michele and Emily write from their own experience, sharing the joys of their twenty-year friendship. Each chapter features a pair of women saints who were friends, and focuses on one virtue that will help us to become better friends and deepen our spiritual friendships. (ARC received from publisher) Read my full review.


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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!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: 101 Places to Pray Before You Die

Thomas J. Craughwell’s unusual guidebook to our nation’s vast treasury of Catholic churches, shrines, retreat houses and universities helps travelers add a Catholic element to their vacations, business trips or Sunday drives. If you plan to visit a city for any reason, take a look in 101 Places to Pray Before You Die: A Roamin’ Catholic’s Guide to see if you’ll be near any of the featured locations. Visits to some of these sites may not require very much time; others (like the retreat houses) beg for longer stays.

Since many holy sites are closing due to lack of visitors and funding, like the St. Katharine Drexel Shrine near Philadelphia, PA, this book is a well-timed reminder to take the opportunity to visit such places while the opportunity still exists. Your visit supports the efforts of those who maintain and staff these churches, shrines and other sites.

101 places to pray before you die

Craughwell makes sure to note that some of the locations featured in his book are “hidden treasures”: you might not guess from a building’s plain facade that it holds a beautiful collection of statues or boasts unusual painted ceilings, for example.

The author takes a “big tent” approach with this book, making sure to include at least one site from each state plus Washington, D.C., and selecting places with connections to a variety of ethnic heritages. The destinations include universities, cathedrals, churches, retreat houses, and shrines. Many are working parishes, so you can plan your visit to include Mass, if you wish (one of the highlights of my only trip to California was the chance to attend Mass at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, so I’d always want to time a visit to a church, cathedral or shrine to include Mass)!

101 Places to Pray Before You Die also includes notations of special events or times of year when visitors might enjoy special displays, such as the collection of 76 Nativity scenes each December at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT.

Each site’s description is short (only a page or two in length) but includes website information as well as address and telephone number. I would have loved a photo from each place and a location mark on the state map illustrating each holy site. I’d hope that most readers know where the various states are, but not everyone knows the locations of cities within those states.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who travels frequently.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz