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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 December 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.

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


A Faith Such as Heaven IntendedA Faith Such as Heaven Intended is the fifth book in Amanda Lauer’s Heaven Intended series. The story begins in Gettysburg, a place close to my heart and my home, and then moves to Washington City (Washington, DC) during the final year of the Civil War. Amidst the death and destruction of war, brainiac surgeon Ben Holt’s stalwart Catholic faith is just what it takes for determined surgical assistant Ruth Simmons to experience the forgiveness and peace that’s long eluded her. 


Not Until ChristmasI downloaded Not Until Christmas Morning by Valerie M. Bodden as a freebie for signing up for her author newsletter. This Christmas novella was just the sort of comfort read I needed after a trying few weeks. It’s a friends-to-more contemporary Christmas romance. The hero was afraid of loving after many losses and his timing with the heroine was always off. Nothing earth-shattering here, but well-written enough for me to try a novel by the author in the future. 


Allls Fair in Love and ChristmasSince I’d kicked off my Christmas reading, I went ahead and read All’s Fair in Love and Christmas by Sarah Monzon. It’s a full-length novel and another contemporary Christian Christmas romance. It has all the seasonal fun you’d expect: hot chocolate, ice skating, and Christmas decorating. Mackenzie, with her sometimes-crippling social anxiety, is a lovable heroine, and Jeremy, nice guy and office rival, is well-suited to her. 


Seasons of MemoriesSeasons of Memories by Jennifer Rodewald is a Christmas story that wraps up the nine-book Murphy Brothers series. All seven brothers make an appearance, but this story centers on their parents, Kevin and Helen. After Kevin has a heart attack in the weeks leading up to Christmas and their fortieth wedding anniversary, the couple recalls the challenges and blessings of raising a big family. From the other books in the series, you may think the Murphy parents did everything right, but Seasons of Memories gives the reader glimpses of their darkest days. It’s refreshing to read about a Christian marriage beyond the midway point instead of at the beginning. 


The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the HoursIf you’re curious about but unfamiliar with the universal prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours by Barb Szyszkiewicz is a good starting point. It’s a quick read that gives you a good overview of the prayers, the books used to pray them, and, above all, is encouraging. I’m inspired to begin with Night Prayer this Advent. 


V for VendettaAfter watching the movie, my college son read V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. He described it as “Batman if George Orwell wrote Batman.” From his review: “V is a lone vigilante working to topple a fascist British government that rose from the ashes of World War III. V for Vendetta tells a timeless tale of the struggle of government versus the people, security versus rights, tyranny versus just rule, safety versus life and liberty—a tale that never ceases to feel all too real.” 


Gods and GeneralsOver Thanksgiving break, he also began reading Gods and Generals, the first book in the Civil war trilogy. It concentrates on the lives of Generals Lee, Hancock, Jackson, and Chamberlain preceding the Battle of Gettysburg. Jeff Shaara is the author in this prequel-of sorts to the novel by his father, Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels (which I recommend). 


RebeccaMy high-school daughter binge-read most of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier so that her brother, dad, and I could watch the Alfred Hitchcock movie adaption with her. A fan of Jane Eyre, she was eager to read another Gothic romance and loved it! The novel is set mainly at Manderley, a beautiful estate along the English coast. It’s haunted, figuratively speaking, by Rebecca, the deceased wife of Maxim DeWinter. The heroine, whose name the reader never learns, comes to Manderley as the young bride of widowed Maxim, where she discovers that all is not right and there was more to Rebecca than most knew. 


Old ChristmasMy daughter has not yet begun reading Old Christmas from the Sketchbook of Washington Irving, but I wanted to share it before Christmas. She picked up this book, re-published to look like the original 18th century edition, at a library book sale. She’s eager for some classic, cozy Christmas reading. I’d nearly forgotten I listened to an audio adaption a few years back. While I enjoyed the charming vignettes, it couldn’t hold my attention. I’m curious to learn what my daughter thinks of it. 


The Westing GameMy middle-school daughter read Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, but since I’ve covered the Anne of Green Gable series pretty frequently here, I’ll skip ahead to the next book she read, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. In this mystery, sixteen unlikely people are present for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. The deceased millionaire has chosen a stranger to inherit his fortune via a game. 


Chocolate by HersheyYou can’t live where I do and not learn about Milton Hershey. My daughter recently read a short biography of the chocolatier and founder of the Milton Hershey School, Chocolate by Hershey: A Story about Milton S. Hershey by Betty Burford. This short book relates Hershey’s childhood and his rise to success via delicious milk chocolate. 


What Was Ellis IslandWhat Was Ellis Island? by Patricia Brennan Demuth is another short book from my daughter’s reading list. It appears to be part of the What was . . . ? series and includes information about Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 as well as its restoration in the 1980s. My daughter was curious enough to look up my grandfather’s records from Ellis Island (though he entered the country through the port in Philadelphia). 


Mistakes Were MadeMy youngest son loved one of his older brother’s old books, Mistakes Were Made: Timmy Failure #1 by Stephan Pastis. Timmy is an 11-year-old detective. If you remember Pearls Before Swine, the creator of that cartoon strip is the author here. It’s a humorous book aimed at middle schoolers, with lots of illustrations. 


Charlie and the Great Glass ElevatorMy fifth-grade boy has also been reading some Roald Dahl books. He read The Witches with his class, and he’s completing Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator for a book report. It’s the follow-up to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which Charlie, Willy Wonka, et al “are sent hurtling through space and time” via a giant elevator. 


New Friends Now and ForeverI recently read New Friends Now and Forever: A Story about the Holy Souls by Susan Tassone and enjoyed it so much that I featured it in its own blog post. Twins Ben and Hope befriend an elderly man in their parish, becoming his prayer pal and praying for his departed wife. Their prayers also inspire them to acts of charity. The illustrations by Yorris Handoko are bright and inviting. There is great attention to detail in every image and a Seek-and-Find adventure for children in the back matter of the book with more information on the sought images. A great addition to a family or Catholic school library. 




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Copyright 2023 Carolyn Astfalk
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