featured image

Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.

Welcome to the July 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.

Click to tweet:
What are you (or your family) reading this month? Share in the #AnOpenBook linkup #catholicmom

American MarxismMy husband has been doing a bit more work travel again, and that means time for listening to books. Luckily, he travels alone since most of the books he listens to relate to either politics or religion. He’s been listening to Mark Levin’s American Marxism, which explains Marxist ideology and names those elements present in American culture today. I find Levin’s voice rather dull, so I was glad to know that he’s not the primary narrator for this book.


Morning by MorningMorning by Morning by Jennifer Rodewald is the penultimate book in the extensive Murphy Brothers series. This is the second book devoted to Connor, whose first book ended well but with his wife in precarious health. This book revisits Connor and his son, still grieving the loss of Sadie, but pairs them with divorced mom Jade, trying to make a new start apart from her borderline abusive husband. Both Connor and Jade have good reasons to avoid letting the other into their life, yet it seems God has other plans for their healing. This author never fears digging into all the hard emotions her characters experience, and it pays off here.


Riverbend GapThe cover of this book makes me eager to take a trek on the Appalachian Trail! Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter starts with Katie’s car hanging over a cliff, which is where she meets and makes an instant connection with the local deputy, Cooper. Turns out, Cooper is brother to her new boyfriend. Uh-oh. Cooper and Katie want to do the right thing. They try to do the right thing. But there’s an imprudent slip, and it has big ramifications.


Turn to MeTurn to Me by Becky Wade is the final book in her novels about the Miracle Five, a loose association of friends who miraculously survived an earthquake while on a mission trip in middle school. Luke, fresh out of prison, is the bad boy of the bunch, bound by a promise to a fellow inmate to keep an eye on his daughter. Finley is Luke’s polar opposite, a sunny hippie-chick running a dog shelter. Luke’s painfully honest thoughts about Finley’s lifestyle are humorous as he little by little lets down his guard enough to admit his feelings for Finley. The writing style put me off this book a bit, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped.


MollyI was in the mood for something light and easy, and Sarah Monzon’s Molly fit the bill. After being fired from a Montessori school for her bluntness with the children, Molly accepts a nanny position for one of those students. Ben, widowed dad to said student, needs help in caring for his adorable daughter due to the heavy demands of being a medical resident. This story rolls along easily between two likeable characters. You know how it’ll end, but the way there is so enjoyable.


The Great Date ExperimentI can’t remember the last time I dragged my Kindle all over the house, using every spare second to read a book, but The Great Date Experiment by Ashley Mays had me tapping through the pages at a rapid pace. This YA rom-com is fun and funny. Egan did something stupid and hurt his best friend Callie in their freshman year of high school. But a couple of years have passed, he’s sorry, and he’s devised a way to resume their friendship. He’ll take Callie on a series of dates that he’ll record and post online to beat his brother in contest of who can get 1,000 views first. Of course, more than friendship is rekindled between Egan and Callie, but this whole online thing is a problem. Viewers are mean, and it looks like Egan cares more about amassing viewers than he does about Callie. There’s a lovely message in there. This quickly became one of my favorite Christian YA books.


Loving GabrielLoving Gabriel by T.M. Gaouette was a re-read of sorts for me. I’d read an early version of the book that differed slightly from the final product. This novel ends the Faith & Kung Fu series and focuses on the romance between former pop starlet Tanner Rose and pious Kung Fu teacher Gabriel. This is great for helping teens think about relationships and marriage. There’s also an element of suspense in this book that raises the stakes for the young couple.


Miracle at the MissionI read Miracle at the Mission by Joseph Lewis in advance of its blog tour, which I participated in. Joe and Pete, high school friends, head to California where they’ll meet up with Pete’s Marine brother Luke and attend a ceremony at the Catholic missions. The president of the United States will be there too. And some Russian bad guys and their unwitting accomplices are up to no good. The author includes a lot of California natural and religious history with a lot of good information about St. Junipero Serra. It’s a nice mix of adventure, suspense, friendship, and faith.


Rule of TwoGuest description by my college son, whom I’ve now decided shall write all of my book blurbs: A thousand years before the rise of Emperor Palpatine, Dessel stands on the precipice of power. But as he becomes Bane of the Sith, will he be strong enough to learn from the long-forgotten teachings of the ancient Sith and claim the title of Dark Lord of the Sith, or will his abusive past and the Brotherhood of Darkness rise up to swallow him? Only one thing is certain, the future of the Jedi and Sith rests in Banes hands. Dynasty of EvilThis is the essence of the Darth Bane Trilogy (Star Wars) by Drew Karpyshyn, of which my son read Rule of Two and Dynasty of Evil in June. He described some interesting moral dilemmas in these books, such as a clingy crustacean that strengthens and protects the Sith but also poisons its host if removed. And the Sith path to succession, which involves the apprentice defeating his master.



The Power of Myth

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell is a series of interviews with Bill Moyer regarding themes and symbols that cross time, cultures, and religions. Campbell heavily influenced Star Wars creator George Lucas, among others, which is what drew my son to this book, which he purchased for a couple of quarters at our parish’s flea market.


A Kind of ParadiseMy almost-high school daughter requested A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan from our library based on the An Open Book recommendation by Barb Szyszkiewicz and is glad she did! Jamie made a big mistake and must spend her summer vacation volunteering at the library. My daughter loved the themes of forgiving yourself and turning the page as well as the many literary references—especially to Jane Eyre.


A New Auntie_s FearA New Auntie’s Fear by Angela Lano is a very simply illustrated book for young children that could help initiate conversations about physical disabilities, especially cerebral palsy. It’s clearly written and can help build empathy in children by showing the fears and challenges of those who look and behave differently than they do.


My three youngest kids are either re-reading favorites or books their siblings read that have already been shared in An Open Book, so they have little to report this month. There are, however, some children’s books I had the opportunity to review.


Imaginative Rosary BookWhat I love most about the Ascension Press book Pray and Think Imaginative Rosary Book by Candace Camling is how it teaches children how to mediate on the mysteries of the Rosary. Any number of books explain how to use rosary beads, recite prayers, or even focus on related images—including this one, but not how to meditate. Using a simple illustration for each mystery, it helps children focus on a specific part of the image (i.e., a dove, lilies, the Blessed Mother) and think about each, its connotations, and its symbolism with questions to prompt deeper thought. I found it helpful even as an adult.


The Gospels for Young CatholicsThe Gospels for Young Catholics from Pflaum Publishing is another book I may snatch from my kids’ bookshelf. After some introductory information, the book presents each of the Gospels using the Good News translation. While not my preferred study translation for adults, it seems easy to read for children. What I especially love about this book is its presentation. Yes, it’s colorful, organized, and well-illustrated. But it’s eminently useful. It presents the familiar Gospel stories referenced by page and chapter and verse but also a summary, reflection, and prayer. It even tells you when you’ll hear the Gospel at Mass. It also lays out several easy plans for reading the Gospels according to liturgical season or as part of a 40-day plan. Did I mention I’m going to steal this book from my children? It also includes a Gospel timeline, maps, and information about prayers, sacraments, the Mass, and lectio divina.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Want more details on An Open Book?

You can also sign up for An Open Book reminder email, which goes out one week before the link-up.



Copyright 2022 Carolyn Astfalk
Images: Canva
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author.