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Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.

Welcome to the April 2023 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler's Heart AND Catholicmom.com.

An Open Book is all about what my family is reading this month, from the adults down to the little kids.

Share what you're reading by linking up your blog post below. Simply write about what you're reading. You can make it personal or, as I do, extend it to the whole family. Your post can be as simple as a few lines about the book or as in-depth as a 700-word review. That's entirely up to you. You can even forego writing all together and record a video or simply post cover photos.

No blog? No problem. Please share what you're reading in the comments.

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What are you (or your family) reading this month? Share in the #AnOpenBook linkup #CatholicMom

Progress in my Goodreads 2023 Reading Challenge has been abysmal! I’ve been trying to get back in the game these last couple of weeks, zipping through some books I’d been wanting to pick up. First, I needed a book to listen to on my way to pick my son up from college. Sadly, as I think I’ve lamented here before, I no longer have access to Hoopla Digital through our libraries. That was my go-to source for borrowing audiobooks. Luckily, we’ve got a free Audible trial going, and I was able to find a Jody Hedlund book to listen to for free.  

Almost a BrideAlmost a Bride is the fourth book in The Brideships series. I previously listened to books 1 and 2. In this installment, Kate, who arrived in British Columbia on a bride ship, has not quite made it to the altar. She gets close and then gets cold feet, likely due to memories of her mother’s heartbreak after her father abandoned the family. When she encounters Zeke, a childhood friend of her brother’s, who has become a wealthy goldmine owner, she’s quickly enamored, as is he. Trouble is, Zeke’s stopped practicing his faith. Even so, the two are continually thrust together (funny how that happens), and they’ve both got some work to do in healing their pasts if they want to have a future together. Author Jody Hedlund has become a prodigious author, and I think the results are well-written books that hit all the marks for the genre but don’t have the depth I typically enjoy, especially in historical fiction. Still, I appreciate knowing what I’m getting, and Almost a Bride fit the bill for making my travels a little more interesting. 


Perfect After AllClean, contemporary rom-coms and their illustrated covers are everywhere, and I’ve been enjoying ones by some of my favorite authors. Perfect After All by Cece Louise is second in a series, and I enjoyed it more than the first. I’m partial to long-suffering unrequited love (I guess from prior experience), and Rob and Kelsey really delivered on that one. Rob has loved his best friend’s sister Kelsey for years, always relegated to the friend zone while Kelsey maintains a relationship with her awful on-again, off-again boyfriend. But now that Kelsey and Rob are working together and Kelsey may finally be done with that wretched boyfriend, there could be a chance for these two to make a go of it. These characters were adorable, and it was a fun story. Sometimes the nice guys do get the girl. 


First to FallIn the same genre, I’ve been reading Jenny B. Jones’s First to Fall. This is also second in a series, though I haven’t read the first book. Still, there are familiar characters here from some of Jones’s other series set in fictional Sugar Creek, Arkansas. First to Fall is an enemies-to-lovers story with a marriage of convenience that begins with the couple being drugged in Vegas. Roofies aside, this is a Hallmark-esque story given new life by Jones’s smart, wry wit; some of the best-written banter you’ll find; zany minor characters, and beaucoup chemistry. I’m not quite sure if I like the zany minor characters, but they do make me grin, and Jenny B. Jones is at the top of her game here. 


Shooting at Heavens GateI’m about a third of the way through Kaye Park Hinckley’s Shooting at Heaven’s Gate, now oddly timed with the recent school shooting in Nashville. The story traces a seemingly unrelated cast of characters that I assume will cross paths at the book’s climax. So far, it has been a thorough introduction to the various players with deep dives into their personal histories and present predicaments as radically secular professor Malcolm J. Hawkins grooms disaffected Edmund to, I presume, perpetrate a crime. 


The Screwtape LettersI recommend to my fifteen-year-old daughter that she read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis this Lent. When she mentioned it to her English teacher, he loaned her a personal copy. With all her homework, she hasn’t made too much progress, but she has a plan for reading the remainder of the book and is thoroughly enjoying the insights gained by reading this classic series of letters from Screwtape, an assistant to Satan, to young demon Wormwood as he tempts his “patient.” This one is worth my re-reading it. Maybe it’s time we buy our own copy. 


MedeaMy daughter’s class is in the midst of reading Greek tragedies, most recently Agamemnon by Aeschylus and Medea by Euripides. Medea is probably more widely familiar, as it regards Jason the Argonaut, who won the golden fleece with the help of Medea. Jason abandons Medea, and she is out for revenge. I’m grateful my children study these classics, even when it reminds me of how my own education is lacking. 


A Wrinkle in TimeMy eleven-year-old daughter recently read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I was curious what she’d think of it since I read this much-loved book as an adult and gave it two stars. I didn’t even bother to review it; I disliked it that much. (I know I’m in the minority.) My daughter gave it three stars for her book report, so she liked it better than I did. If you’re not familiar, here’s the description: “A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract [a wrinkle in time] problem.” 


Bridge to TerabithiaBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is another classic (Newbery winner) my daughter recently read. I’ve not read this one, but I did see the movie adaption many years ago. Fifth graders Jess and Leslie spend their time in the woods, creating an enchanting land—Terabithia. Tragedy strikes, and Jess must deal with his grief. 


Jabba the PuppetI’ve included the Origami Yoda series in An Open Book three times already, so I’ll wrap it up with The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger as my youngest child makes his way through the series. This typically results in my finding all sorts of oddly folded scraps of paper vaguely resembling Star Wars characters lying about the house. In this fourth book in the series, the kids at McQuarrie Middle School are bored by the FunTime Education System meant to raise their test scores. With Origami Yoda’s help, the kids form an Alliance to fight back. 


I Survived Hurricane KatrinaThe most recent installment of the I Survived series on my fourth grader’s reading pile is I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis. I guess 2005 is history now, though it seems so recent to me. Barry and his family try to evacuate New Orleans, but they’re forced to stay put when his little sister gets very sick. Things aren’t too bad—until the levees break and the floodwaters sweep Barry away. 


The Pursuit of the Pilfered CheeseThe Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese by Haley Stewart is a fun read-aloud for children. I appreciate the hardcover, larger size of this book over a paperback, which makes it perfect for sitting with children alongside you. The format makes it easier for children to enjoy the bright, engaging illustrations by Betsy Wallin. It should be easy for kids to get lost in the exciting world of the mouse students of Saint Wulfhilda’s School, who live beneath the home of G.K. Chesterton. The adventure and mystery—a prize cheese goes missing! —are fun and capture the imagination. 


The First NotesI borrowed The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re, Mi by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton (Andrews’s daughter) at the recommendation of another An Open Book post. (I can’t recall which, so if it was yours—thank you!) I have fond memories of my mother teaching me the simple song many years ago and then me singing it to my own children as well. This picture books tells of an Italian monk named Guido who eventually created the musical scale using do, re, mi. Even as an adult, I loved this book and learning about the development of musical notation. A great resource for music education! 


Jesus in SpaceJesus in Space: A True Story That’s Out of This World by Cecilia Cicone is a melding of faith and science, and I love that it subtly demonstrates through lived example that faith and science are compatible, the wonder of the created world lending itself to belief in an omnipotent Creator. It tells the story of Astronaut Tom Jones, who, along with his crewmates, took the Eucharist into space on the shuttle Endeavor. It’s science, history, and religion all tied into one—a great vehicle for interesting children in any or all of these subjects. 




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Copyright 2023 Carolyn Astfalk
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