Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.
Welcome to the June 2021 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.
Now that summer is here, my husband is making good use of our smoker. One of the cookbooks we turn to most often is Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. We’ve bookmarked recipes for salmon, coleslaw, and barbecue sauces, and I haven’t even skimmed the surface. In addition to sauces, side dishes, and breads, it includes salads and relishes, desserts, and drinks. I’m eying the Texas Peach Cobbler for when local peaches come in season.
My husband is finally working outside of the home again and that means he’s listening to audiobooks again too. He’d wanted to begin The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration by Paul Kengor on a family trip, but it proved too creepy for the kids. He was drawn to it by Michael Knowles’ introduction (see below). His observation at only a quarter of the way through is that his family thought little of hotheaded Marx. Oddly, his son even referred to him as “my demon.”
While driving, my husband’s also begun listening to Michael Knowles’ Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds. He really enjoys his podcast as he considers Knowles articulate, thoughtful, and very knowledgeable about Catholicism. This new release examines political correctness, free speech, and the First Amendment in the context of contemporary American culture.
I started my summer reading with a historical romantic escape by Mimi Matthews. Gentleman Jim draws not only on the conventions of a traditional romance but alludes to the classic The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas and a book I’m not familiar with, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. For its part, Gentleman Jim revisits the forbidden youthful romance of a wealthy squire’s daughter, Margaret Honeywell, and Nicholas Seaton, her lowly-born love. Enter Viscount St. Clare, who bears a strong resemblance to Nicholas, and, well, you have to read it to find out.
Only Time Will Tell by Amy Matayo is the second book in her Charles & Company Romance series. This series is light on the romance and focused more on the conflict created by couples whose main obstacle is getting “home” from whatever unfamiliar life they find themselves in. These are fun summer reads with light Dickensian themes.
My friend Erin McCole Cupp’s nonfiction debut from Our Sunday Visitor proves she’s a versatile talent. All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family is a gift to parents burdened by the dysfunction and abuse of their childhoods. It’s a wonderful synthesis of inspiration, wisdom (both secular and capital-S Wisdom), and practical suggestions for moms and dads who want to be better and do better than their parents did. It’s organized around the Beatitudes and steeped in Scripture.
I think after catching a couple of episodes of Miss Scarlet and the Duke that his sister and I were watching, my oldest son decided to return to Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Vol. 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They share a similar style of deductive mystery-solving. In picking up this book again, he had a particular mystery in mind: “The Final Problem,” which introduces Professor James Moriarty, whom Holmes describes as the “Napoleon of Crime.”
My oldest daughter read a book we initially rejected in audiobook format due to the poor quality of the narration: The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson. This book precedes another we’d read in this historical romance series that alludes to various fairy tales. This story is a little Robin Hood, a little Swan Lake and is aimed at young adults.
The Haunted Cathedral by Antony B. Kolenc is the second book in the Harwood Mysteries series, and my daughter liked this one almost as much as the first. (Many like this book even better.) Orphan Xan, in the care of Benedictine monks, is drawn to the spirt that haunts Lincoln Cathedral. Can it reconnect him with his dead parents? (No worries about anything too spooky or occult here as this is solid Catholic fiction.)
I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner has most recently been keeping my teen parked on the couch with her nose in the book. I first read this first book in the Catholic dystopian series about seven years ago, and I’m eager to see what my daughter thinks of it. She has more knowledge of the English martyrs that inspire Margo’s story than I did, and I expect she’ll get even more out of it for that reason. It has about everything you could love — adventure, high-stakes drama, romance, and faith.
I’ve been somewhat careless about reading to my youngest children at bedtime, especially as the pandemic and homeschool year wore on. But, we’re back to our nighttime reading routine. We’ve pulled out a few favorites, like Who Pooped in the Park?: Shenandoah National Park: Scat and Tracks for Kids by Gary Robson. I’ve read this book dozens of times to all four kids, but still enjoy it (despite the focus on feces). The story is simple, but there’s lots for kids to learn about identifying common park animals from the things they leave behind.
My youngest’s love of spending every cent to pass through his hands inspired a trip to the attic to retrieve our set of financial guru Dave Ramsey’s picture books (Life Lessons with Junior). Careless at the Carnival: Junior Discovers Spending was a particular favorite after our visit to the local firemen’s carnival. (We probably should’ve re-read it beforehand.) While the stories aren’t instant classics, the kids find them humorous, and the eighteen-year-old can attest to their memorability. The lessons they share about working, saving, spending, and sharing are simple and solid.
The two youngest kids have also been reading Plants vs. Zombies Volume 15: Better Homes and Guardens (that’s not a typo) by Paul Tobin. (Yes, we started at volume 15.) They seem to enjoy re-reading this graphic novel aloud to one another, and we’ve requested more books in the series from the library. I’d rather see them reading about plants and zombies than begging to play the games.
Copyright 2021 Carolyn Astfalk
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