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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 July 2023 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


Blink and Well Miss ItI’ve enjoyed some additional reading time since the school year wrapped up. First up was Ginny Kochis’s debut YA novel, Blink and We’ll Miss It. From the cover to the content, this is a perfectly summery read for teens and adults. Set in the Outer Banks on the Atlantic Coast, it reminded me a lot of T.I. Lowe's Under the Magnolias, another novel featuring a Southern female teen protagonist trying to hold everything together in the wake of a parent's ongoing manic episodes (with the help of a handsome, loyal, compassionate boy who loves her). 


Tangled VioetsTangled Violets: A Novel of Redemption by Denise-Marie Martin demonstrates the boundless mercy of God. To greater and lesser degrees, we make messes of our lives by sinning. And sinning some more. The sins in Tangled Violets are egregious but have the intended effect of showing the reader that no one is beyond redemption. 

From early childhood, Liz struggles to connect with her adoptive mother. As an adult, she makes serial connections with husband after husband after husband. Reunions with her birth parents do little to mend the hole in her heart. In fact, they eventually break her heart open, making her ready to accept God's forgiveness and grace. A bit women’s fiction, a bit family saga, and another part conversion story, this gritty (but never graphic) novel was hard for me to put down. 

Memory LaneI’ve long enjoyed Becky Wade’s books, but her most recent series mostly left me cold. There's lots I loved about Memory Lane in the new Sons of Scandal series though, including the coastal Maine setting, the straightforwardness of the characters, their determination and courage, and the message that God is with us, especially in the hard times (even if we don't recognize Him there). Memory Lane flowed so smoothly in pacing and narrative that I happily whipped through it, eager for more. 


Holy Habits from the Sacred HeartHoly Habits from the Sacred Heart: Ten Ways to Build Stronger, More Loving Relationships by Emily Jaminet includes ten chapters, each short enough to digest in one session, centered on a particular virtue (prudence, temperance, etc.). Using testimonies, personal experience, and drawing deeply on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the author creates a compelling case for this beautiful devotion given to us via St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. 

Emily Jaminet shares how devotion to the Sacred Heart can be applied in your life—to bring peace to your home, fight addictions, forgive offenses, and more. This was the perfect choice for June reading (the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart) and preparation for our home enthronement. 


Farmer BoyIf you’re hungry, you may want to set aside Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The descriptions of food! Oh my goodness. So many and so delicious sounding. This is one of the few books in the Little House series I hadn’t read as a child, and I promised my daughter years ago that I’d read it after she’d enjoyed it so much. Well, I finally got to it. There’s little to the over-arching plot, but I learned so much about 19th-century New York farm life. I admire the Wilders’ independence, ingenuity, and work ethic.  


My kids are generally readers, but the incentives provided by the local library’s summer reading program have pushed them into high gear. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve all discovered some books they love. 


OnslaughtMy college-age son read in two veins in June: Tolkien and Star Wars. Starting with Star Wars, he read Star Wars Dark Tide 1 and 2: Onslaught and Ruin, both by Michael A. Stackpole. These novels are no longer part of the Star Wars canon, thanks to Disney. The New Jedi Order series are now “legends.” They chronicle the continued invasion by life from beyond the galaxy, explore Jedi philosophy, and provide more detail about the Yuuzhan Vong warriors, who form a shaky alliance to help fight remnants of the Empire. 


The Rise of Darth VaderDark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno takes place earlier in the Star Wars universe. My son really enjoyed this book, which he said was like reading one of the movies (which would be after Episode 3). The story is written not only from Vader’s perspective but others as well, so it’s not all-villain all the time. My son says this is a good introductory book to Star Wars novels and ties well with Darth Plagueis (see below). 


The Fall of ArthurBack to Tolkien. The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien is mostly commentary on the Arthurian legend. My son said it would be of more interest/use to someone more familiar with that legend. He wished he’d known to read the appendix first since is explains a lot about the poetry – the meter and alliterative poetry used in Old English and Old Norse. The book also shows the Arthurian legend’s influence on The Lord of the Rings. 


Unfinished TalesUnfinished Tales: The Lost Lore of Númenor and Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien is, as you’d expect, unfinished. The first part is more or less from The Silmarillion. There is also a shortened version of Children of Húrin, both of which my son read last month. Christopher Tolkien edited these stories from his father’s archives, covering the first, second, and third ages of Middle-earth. 


Bridge to Terabithia-1My high school-age daughter finished two very long books in a series we already covered here and has recently begun reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (a book her sister read recently). In sum, fifth-graders Jess and Leslie spend their time in the woods, creating an enchanting land—Terabithia. Tragedy strikes, and Jess must deal with his grief. My daughter and her best friend are reading this as part of their summer book club and then watching the movie adaption. 


The Hobbit Graphic NovelMy younger daughter read The Hobbit (Graphic Novel): An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic adapted by Charles Dixon. My daughter really liked the illustrations. Her brother had read some of The Hobbit to her previously, so she had some familiarity with it. It makes the book more enjoyable and accessible to its audience. (The illustrations are based on the book descriptions, not the movie adaption.) 


The City of EmberFor her school summer reading project, my daughter, who will be entering middle school, had a list of books from which to choose. She selected The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Ember is an underground refuge for humans, but now the lights in the city are dimming, threatening total darkness. Lina and her friend Doon have a secret message, and they race to figure out its meaning and save the world from darkness. My daughter thought the book was okay, not a favorite. 


HatchetHatchet by Gary Paulsen was recommended to my daughter by her sister, who loved it when she read it several years ago. This Newbery Award winner follows 13-year-old Brian Robeson, who survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness and then must survive the elements. His only tool? A hatchet. 


Darth PlagueisStar Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno was a recommendation from her older brother. I thought this book might be a little beyond her reading level, and she did have to ask me for some definitions, but otherwise, she read through the book quickly. Darth Plagueis was Darth Sidious’s (the Emperor Palpatine’s) master, and this book details their “grand plan” to dominate the galaxy and their fractious relationship. 


See You Later GladiatorMy 10-year-old son dove into reading this month, and while I don’t mind him reading some simple illustrated books (calling them graphic novels would be a stretch), I’ve been glad to see him reading some books that are more of a challenge. He started with books his older brother once enjoyed. First up was the beloved Time Warp Trio. In See You Later, Gladiator by Jon Scieszka, the three time-traveling friends visit ancient Rome. (The Amazon link takes you to a graphic novel version of the story. My sons read the novel, which currently has limited availability.) 


Menace from the DeepNext, he read the first three books in the Killer Species series: Menace from the Deep, Feeding Frenzy, and Out for Blood. The premise for the books is the same. A scientist creates a hybrid animal predator to root out an invasive and aggressive species. For example, the pteragator is designed to rid the Everglades of anacondas. There is a series-long thread in which the boy protagonists must uncover the true identity of the villain, Dr. Catalyst. My son has one remaining book to read in the series. 


Light of the SaintsI recently reviewed a copy of Light of the Saints: A Shine the Light Book That Reveals the Miracles of the Saints by Cory Heimann from Word on Fire Spark. My kids were first introduced to shine-a-light books through Usborne, and we spent so many evenings lying across my bed with a flashlight enjoying them. This book introduces faith to the fun with rhyming prose and an introduction to each saint. 



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Copyright 2023 Carolyn Astfalk
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