Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.
Welcome to the January 2022 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
My husband stumbled across a book I’d given him last year: Christmas Around the Fire: Stories, Essays, & Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth by Ryan N. S. Topping. In fact, he read a selected story aloud to me—as it’s meant to be!—sitting alongside a cozy fireplace, and it was like something out of a storybook. There’s something about being read to, and, as an adult, I’ve experienced entirely too little of it. (I’m used to being the reader.) This book could help create some lovely family traditions.
I read fewer Christmas books than I’d have liked this year, but one of those I did complete was Mr. Nicholas: A Magical Christmas Tale by Christopher de Vinck. The "Christmas magic" accompanies Mr. Nicholas, as you might easily guess, but the story centers on a couple at the brink of divorce and their wonderfully simple son, who has Down syndrome. Mister Rogers Neighborhood serves as a touchstone in the story, which touched this fan of the show and western Pennsylvania native.
My daughter and I resumed listening to audiobooks together, something we haven’t really done since before the pandemic. We chose Pepper Basham’s The Mistletoe Countess, which I’ve seen so many glowing reviews for. We’re less than halfway through, but it’s easy to see why readers love this forthright, authentic, and bookish heroine. This young turn-of-the-century Virginian is paired with an English lord, and there’s a murder mystery to be solved at his beloved Havensbrook Hall.
Jennifer Rodewald has reached the last brother in her Murphy Brothers Stories with Brayden in After All. Having seen what the author has done in the other stories, aptly demonstrating the power of God to change hearts and lives, it’s not hard to accept what is a somewhat difficult story in which Brayden’s motivations and behavior sometimes made me cringe. Don’t worry, it turns out well! And, I think despite running out of brothers, there’s another connected book coming in 2022.
Let It Be Me is Becky Wade’s second book in her Misty River Romance series. Her stories are easy to sail through with smooth writing and witty banter. This book pairs a genius mathematician who discovers she was switched at birth and a closed-off pediatric heart surgeon (oh, the irony). There’s a mystery to solve regarding the circumstances of Leah, the mathematician’s, birth. I’m enjoying the story although I’m having trouble connecting with the main characters, something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced with a Becky Wade book.
My oldest son is home from college and is reading his way through his dad’s Star Wars books that he discovered in the attic over Thanksgiving break. He’s a fan of these now non-canon books and how they portray Luke Skywalker (as opposed to how the character is rendered in the final big screen trilogy). Both Heir to the Empire and Dark Force Rising are part of The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn.
We gave our teen daughter a beautiful hard cover edition of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë for Christmas. We recently watched a movie adaption, and she was primed and ready to read the classic. I purchased the book, and even I didn’t realize what a keepsake it would be. Not only does it include lovely illustrations by Marjolein Bastin, but it includes treasures like a copy of Bronte’s letter to her publisher, a postcard with period fashions, an advertisement akin to what Jane placed seeking a governess position, and more. I hope my daughter enjoys the Gothic romance of a courageous, principled orphan who finds love (and a wee bit of horror) at Thornfield Hall with Edward Rochester.
Having completed Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (again), my eighth grader also chose to begin Great Expectations. Thus far, she’s taken by the size of the volume and Dickens’s propensity for lengthy descriptions. I’ve not yet read this classic, which follows orphan Pip Pirrip’s life after he receives a mysterious inheritance.
My younger daughter received Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Jon Woodcock from her older brother. She enjoys simple programming apps she uses in the STREAM lab at school, and he thought she’d take to more coding. It teaches problem solving and all that, but mostly, I think, it’s just fun. (And her brother, who’s doing college-level programming now, is happy to spur her interest in something he enjoys.)
This fourth grader has also been busy snatching paper from the printer to draw all sorts of shapes and characters, so we gave her How to Draw Cool Stuff: Holidays, Seasons and Events by Catherine V. Holmes. It seems easy to follow, and she’s been bringing me pages from her new sketchbook filled with Christmas trees, elves, and ornaments.
In school, her class completed The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which we’d read together last year. They’ve also continued to read from the I Survived Series, reading I Survived the Galveston Hurricane, 1900 by Lauren Tarshis. Eight-thousand people were killed in the Texas hurricane that took locals by surprise.
I recently edited a book in Theresa Linden’s Armor of God series, which my daughter loves. I need to get her her own copy of Boots of Peace, which follows George Pennington’s pursuit of a full set of armor. So far, he, his younger brother, and his friend Robyn have earned their Belt of Truth and Breastplate of Righteousness. With each piece earned, they learn valuable lessons about life and virtue while discovering a little more about the mysterious knights’ table they’ve discovered in the woods. This series is perfect for children in the sacramental years who are either preparing for or have recently received First Penance and First Holy Communion.
My third grader enjoyed Bots: The Most Annoying Robots in the Universe by Russ Bolts, in which some space robots are discovered. At least that’s what I absorbed from his brief description of this graphic novel about Joe and Rob, a couple of goofy robots who discover strange video cameras that fell from the sky.
All of the kids enjoyed Let’s Explore! Woodland Creatures by Claire Philip. It includes a series of woodland animals, how each is adapted to its habitat, finds food, is affected by the seasons, and more. The illustrations by Jean Claude are charming too.
Our son received The Night the Saints Saved Christmas by Gracie Jagla, and it’s such a sweet and beautiful tale of the saints in heaven working to deliver Christmas presents when St. Nick gets sick. The rhyme is fun to read, and we love picking out the saints, like St. John Paul II delivering presents on skis or Blessed Pier Giorgio scaling mountains to distribute gifts. This book would make a treasured part of a child’s Christmas library.
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Copyright 2022 Carolyn Astfalk
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About the Author
Carolyn Astfalk is a wife, mother of four young children, and a writer. Her contemporary Catholic romances are available at Amazon.com. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, a Catholic Teen Books author, and blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart. Visit CarolynAstfalk.com.