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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 February 2024 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


Gone with the WindI've read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell several times, but it’s been decades since the last re-read. I’ve been eager to read it again to see how it holds up now that I’m older and an author. So far, I’m still loving Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize winner and marveling at how faithful the movie adaption is to many details. It’s been a rather slow read so far only because it’s long and I’m reading a paperback. Without a decent booklight, a lot of my reading time is lost (since I read ebooks at my younger children’s bedsides at night).


Seasons SchemingsKatie Bailey was a new-to-me author, and Season’s Schemings was an enjoyable rom-com featuring the marriage of convenience trope. I’m partial to ice hockey, so this made the story appealing. After being dumped by her longtime boyfriend on national television, Maddie Grainger goes to work for an NHL team. During a drunken night in Las Vegas, she marries the hockey team’s star, Seb Slater. Seb will be the new man she can rub in her ex’s face at her family’s Christmas gathering, and she is his means of staying in the country when his work visa expires. This is a secular market rom-com and includes a little more innuendo than I’m accustomed to reading lately, but it’s a closed-door romance that didn’t offend.


Christmas in Mistletoe SquareI wrapped up my Christmas reading early in 2024 with Christmas in Mistletoe Square, a collection of Christmas novellas by contemporary Christian authors. Each story is tied to the same town, so the same shops and people re-surface in each story. This was a strong, consistent collection with stories by Pepper Basham, Cara Putnam, Teresa Tysinger, and Janine Rosche. Basham’s was my favorite, but they were each enjoyable.


Mistletoe and MurderAfter several Christmas seasons, I also finally finished Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection. This package included ten full-length novellas, and the quality was very uneven. There were a few gems, but others were either only okay or disappointing. Not bad for a 99-cent e-book set. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available as a set any longer.


Beautiful EucharistOur parish offered copies of Beautiful Eucharist, edited by Matthew Kelly, this Christmas season. It is a short collection of pieces (some original, some adapted) reflecting on the Eucharist. Authors run the gamut from Catholic Mom foundress Lisa A. Hendey to Venerable Fulton Sheen. The essays are short and meaningful with suggestions for further reading and are perfect for contemplating either in front of the Blessed Sacrament or on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


Jedi EclipseMy son is back at college and continuing to work his way through various Star Wars novels, mainly in The New Jedi Order series. Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse by James Luceno continues the saga of the New Republic battling the Yuuzhan Vong warriors. Leia Organa Solo, estranged from her husband, Han, is helping to evacuate refugees from various planets while her brother, Luke Skywalker, is holding together the Jedi Knights. My son gives it 3.5 stars, saying, “not Luceno’s best work but not his worst.”


Courtship of Princess LeiaNot part of the same series, but including crossover characters, The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton includes a love triangle involving Leia, Han, and the “dashing and wealthy” Prince Isolder. My son enjoyed the book’s humorous moments, though some of Han Solo’s actions (such as kidnapping Leia) seemed out of character. The book also provided backstory on the Nightsisters, who have become more prominent in recent Disney Star Wars offerings, albeit as even more creepy and occult characters.


A Managers Guide to Using the ForceFor a class on leadership, he also read a book by his instructor, Michael J. Urick, entitled A Manager’s Guide to Using the Force: Leadership Lessons from a Galaxy Far Far Away. The book is an attempt to explore effective leadership practices through pop culture, specifically the Star Wars universe.


Jedi EclipseThe Book of Lost Tales, Part One by J.R.R. Tolkein details the history of writing Middle-Earth, which is, as I understand it, earlier versions of The Silmarillion. Despite it being interesting, my son found this a difficult book to get through.


The Most Dangerous Game (1)Finally, he gave five stars to a short story by Richard Connell, “The Most Dangerous Game.” In this story, according to the description, “a big-game hunter from New York ... becomes shipwrecked on an isolated island in the Caribbean and is hunted by a Russian aristocrat.” Read on the recommendation of a friend, this story is one of the best short stories he’s listened to. It includes a nice twist, unique characters, and is well-written overall.


Going DeeperMy high school daughter quickly read Going Deeper: A Reasoned Exploration of God and Truth by Leo Severino. The book provides a logical, systematic approach that demonstrates how faith and reason go hand in hand and helped satisfy some of her philosophical questions. I read the book in 2018 and described it as “Perfect for those who can't reconcile faith and reason, are intellectually curious (and honest), doubters, seekers, or those who defend the faith.”


Dantes InfernoFor a class, she is also reading parts of Dante’s Inferno. They’ve only just begun but have already watched a Word on Fire video by Bishop Barron explaining how the entire tale is about man’s spiritual journey. This is a classic I should return to someday as I think I also read only excerpts in high school.


Saint Magnus the VikingMy middle school daughter loved Susan Peek’s Saint Magnus: The Last Viking. She thought the writing was really engaging and recommended it to her older sister, so long as she wouldn’t mind the bloody scenes. (Magnus was martyred and this is, after all, a Viking tale.) The novel centers around the conflict between Magnus Erlendson, a pious, heroic prince, and his cousin Hakon, who’s been banished from their kingdom.


Number the StarsWith her class, my daughter is also reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. A description of the Newbery Award winner: “Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are ‘relocated,’ Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life.”


RabbitAlso, Rabbit: A Practical Guide to Caring for Your Rabbitby David Taylor didn’t leave her hands for days. I was peppered regularly with facts about breeds and the care and feeding of rabbits along with the at least thrice-daily plea, “I want a rabbit.” This is what happens when you spend time at the Farm Show amongst rabbit breeders.


Mission Libertad-1My youngest son is reading Lizette M. Lantingua’s Mission Libertad with his fifth-grade class. I covered that book (again) last year, when his sister read it, but it’s worth repeating that as an adult, I learned more about what communism looked like on a daily basis from this book than any other source. It’s a great mystery for young readers that includes the history of 1970s communist Cuba and the lived faith of Cuban Catholics.


War StoriesFinally, my son picked up War Stories by Gordon Korman from the Catholic Schools Week book fair, and he’s really enjoying it so far. Since both his grandfathers served in World War II, it’s taken on a special interest for him. Trevor loves playing war-based video games, but he learns about the complex nature of war from his great-grandfather Jacob, who helped to liberate a French village in World War II.




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Copyright 2024 Carolyn Astfalk
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