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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 January 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

I didn’t hit my Goodreads reading goal for 2023, despite finishing strong. I may have to downgrade my goal for 2024, but these are the books that ended our year in reading.

Like a Winter SnowI’ll read Christmasy books well into January. Sticking with the liturgical season and all. Like a Winter Snow by Lindsay Harrel is a sweet romance Christmas novella with a heroine who is so invested in helping to care for her mother that she's assumed way more responsibility for her welfare than is reasonable. A Christmas getaway to England for her friend's wedding gives her (eventually) the perspective she needs when she meets a handsome Englishman.


A Paper Snowflake ChristmasA Paper Snowflake Christmas by Maddie Evans includes all the Christmas trappings you expect - snowy weather, a cute kid, some family drama, and, of course, a sweet romance. I didn't feel the chemistry between the main characters, but I liked the (former) troublemaker hero, Devlin, who has taken responsibility for the child his sister abandoned, and Marlie, the origami-making young woman at the center of the story.


A Fowl ChristmasI re-read two exquisite corpses created by Catholic Teen Books authors in preparation for their eBook publication. “A Fowl Christmas,” written in 2021, focuses on teenage Derrick, whose mom’s stranded out of town and whose dad injured his leg. The family Christmas feast is in jeopardy, but with the help of his brother, Blake; his friend, Grace; and a bargain involving some chickens and the old ladies down the street, maybe Derrick can still pull off this holiday meal.


nullIn “A Saint Nicholas Eve Carol,” written in 2022, Ebby's been paired with Bear, a kid with Down's Syndrome, for the Saint Nicholas Eve Confirmation retreat. One minute she's scheming how to ditch Bear and the next she and her friend Pastelle are transported into a twisted version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Will Ebby let Bear take the fall for her friends' mischief, or will Ebby stand up for him once she realizes there's a lot more to Bear than she realized?


5 Minute Prayers Around the Advent WreathIn case you’re tucking away ideas for next Advent, we found 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath by Lisa M. Hendey to be a great addition to our Advent traditions. Five minutes proved to be the perfect amount of time for our busy family to focus on the season together before bedtime prayers. Each day includes some scripture, a short reflection, and—our favorite part—an opportunity to reflect on in which people or events throughout the day we'd encountered Christ. This allowed us to think of the kindnesses done to each of us by family members, friends, teachers, and even strangers.


Called By NameIn 2022, I made it through more than ten months with the WINE devotional Called by Name: 365 Daily Devotions for Catholic Women, edited by Kelly M. Wahlquist. In 2023, I picked up where I’d left off. Like any such collection, there is a wide variety of contributors, and some passages resonate more than others. Overall, there were many salient points and Scripture-focused meditations that helped slow me down so I could ponder what God might be trying to communicate to me in the midst of my busy life.


A New Years KissA New Year’s Kiss, a short romance collection by nine authors, is one of the most consistent of such collections I’ve read. Each short includes—you guessed it!—a New Year’s Eve kiss. I’d already enjoyed longer works by about half of the authors, but I am glad I’ve been introduced to the remainder of the authors, whose stories I loved too. Prompted by individual authors’ newsletters, I downloaded a copy for free, which the authors have referred to as a limited-time offer, so maybe this will be available for retail sale soon.


Campaigns of the Norman ConquestMy college son was all about books this Christmas, and he’s already finished one of the books we gave him. He thoroughly enjoyed Osprey Essential Histories #12: Campaigns of the Norman Conquest by Matthew Bennett, one of many books recommended to him by his Medieval Warfare instructor. He called it “a very accessible and comprehensive review of the Norman Conquest, definitely not a bad place to start for anyone interested in Medieval history.” He found the illustrations and graphics included very helpful to his understanding.


Beren and LuthienHe also added another Tolkien book to his growing collection, Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien. According to the description, “The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien.” Christopher Tolkien presents the legend in his father’s words, along with passages of later text that illustrate how the narrative changed.


Saint JoanMy high-school daughter has been reading the play Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. This 1923 play dramatizes the French saint’s life using records from her trial. Since the only thing I could draw from my daughter’s over-taxed brain was that “she liked it,” I refer to what I wrote when her older brother read the same play. Unhappy with the way Saint Joan of Arc had been portrayed, Shaw sought to write a play that showed the saint in a more realistic light—proud, naïve, and foolhardy. With this play, Shaw is said to have reached the height of his fame as a dramatist.


Murder at Penwood Manor-1For Christmas, she received Murder at Penwood Manor, the fifth book in the Harwood Mysteries series by Antony B. Kolenc. I covered this book here recently, saying “In the latest installment, Xan, Lucy, and Christina must uncover the killer of a much-hated blacksmith. The obvious suspect is Laurence, returned from the Crusades and plagued by demons. But what of his love, Muriel? And his brother, Rolfe? And the wicked Trapper? The spiritual theme in this story is a timely and often-overlooked vice: envy.” My daughter’s frequent comment while reading is, “I really don’t like Christina.” #TeamLucy


Treachery and TruthMy middle-school daughter has become an avid reader. Before Christmas, she read Treachery and Truth by Katy Huth Jones, a favorite of her older siblings. She appreciated that this true tale of Good King Wenceslas included a lot of historical information but in an interesting novel. The story of the 10th century saint is told from the perspective of his faithful servant, Poidevin.


A Single BeadA Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman included a lot of what my daughter described as ordinary events but presented in a way that was enlightening. I think what she’s getting at is that the story of a teenage girl collecting the scattered rosary beads of her deceased grandmother deftly demonstrates the power of prayer and the presence of God in the most mundane of circumstances, if we have eyes to see.


The Relic of Perilous FallsFor Christmas, my daughter received a copy of The Relic of Perilous Falls (Will Wilder #1) by Raymond Arroyo. Will Wilder is a 12-year-old boy who alone can see the evil creatures endangering his town. It’s up to him to stop them. My daughter appreciated the lessons the reader can take away from the story, including those about temptation. As a fan of the original Percy Jackson series, I thought she’d like this one.


My youngest son is in the midst of starting some new books, so he gets a pass this month.


Twas the Day Before Christmas in Bethlehem TownThis Christmas picture book inspired by the traditional 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is great for reading aloud. Its familiarity and rhythm are comforting, and the illustrations are engaging. Twas the Day Before Christmas in Bethlehem Town by Leslie Bond Diggins makes a great Christmas gift or addition to the family library to be re-read each Christmas.


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Copyright 2024 Carolyn Astfalk
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