Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.
Welcome to the June 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.
John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews is an intriguing gender-swap take on the Charlotte Bronte classic, Jane Eyre. John Eyre, a teacher leaving behind a past marred by the death of his friend Helen, arrives to instruct Mrs. Bertha Rochester’s wards at Thornfield Hall. He’s instrumental in restoring the boys’ health from a weakened state, though they do not speak. Mrs. Rochester’s husband, whom we meet in letters Mrs. Rochester exchanged with her friend Miss Ingram, is not so much ill as, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Let’s say his malady is not a mental illness but a literary-style curse. While the twists the author introduces are interesting, the book is missing the chemistry of Matthews’ other novels and even of the original classic. I also think the switch in the main characters’ genders weakens their roles, but I’m less than two-thirds of the way through the book, and I may still be swayed. It’s not at all a bad book; as a reboot, it invites comparison.
The third installment of Georgiana Daniels’ KC Crumb Mystery, A Crumby Way to Die, brings KC’s man-bun wearing ex-boyfriend James into the plot as KC and her eccentric pals work to solve another case. There’s been a shish kebab stabbing at the bed and breakfast, and KC and her two canine pals are back to sleuthing. James’ presence has put KC at odds with love interest Officer Antonio Hansom, and she needs to exonerate James and send him packing so she and Antonio can resume their almost-romance. An entertaining cozy mystery!
For his birthday, my college son received the Darth Bane Trilogy (Star Wars) by Drew Karpyshyr. My son prefers to pretend these books are still part of the Star Wars canon and not expunged from the record by Disney. The first book, which he’s begun reading, is Path of Destruction. This series centers on the evil Sith, and it begins by relating Dessel’s transformation from a miner hiding amidst the Sith army to an acolyte in the Sith academy.
In eighth grade, my daughter’s class read Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen. The story is set in late-19th century Lithuania, during Russian occupation. When Audra’s parents are captured and sent to Siberia, she becomes part of an underground network of book smugglers. While her classmates enjoyed this book because of its intrigue, she disliked it. For one, she was frustrated by the main character’s propensity for changing her mind. Too “flippity-floppity,” she says. She also thought too much emphasis was placed on the necessity of books for preserving the Lithuanians’ heritage.
My daughter was inspired by Helen Keller: From Darkness to Light by Tanya Savory. In fourth grade, I studied Annie Sullivan, Keller’s teacher, for a student game show, and I used to know quite a bit about their story. For my daughter, this book served as a good introduction to Keller’s life as a blind, deaf, and mute person. Her only disappointment came at the end when she learned that Keller, Sullivan, and Sullivan’s husband were all socialists and birth control advocates.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie fit a need for the eighth-grade reading challenge wrapping up along with the school year. My daughter loved this mystery, the first she’s read by Agatha Christie. She enjoyed the twists and the detailed clues, which reminded her of the Edgar Allan Poe stories she read in the fall. She wanted so much to talk about the book with me, but I’m making her wait until I read it as well.
A couple of years back, this same daughter was out measuring the girth of our maple trees to see if they were mature enough for tapping. They were not, but it did not surprise me when she picked up Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky. This informational book explains the history and practice of creating maple syrup as well as the differences between the various grades through the Lacey family’s sugaring experience. I also learned the origin of the expression “sugar bush,” which my mother said frequently.
My younger daughter has been consulting Amphibian, a DK Eyewitness Book by Dr. Barry Clarke. We love these DK books for their colorful photographs and interesting details. As you might guess, this one looks at both familiar and unfamiliar amphibians with details about their anatomy, behavior, and environment. Flipping through the book makes me want to take the kids to a pond with a bucket, where we can gather some tadpoles, something I loved doing as a kid.
My youngest son has been reading 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher by Lee Wardlaw. Steve Wyatt is a brilliant inventor. So intelligent, in fact, that he can be promoted to high school. In order to avoid skipping ahead, Steve sets out to cause so much trouble he can’t advance. Looks like a fast-paced and funny story for kids.
To Serve and Protect by Catholic Mom contributor Leslea Wahl is an adorable story about a family pet who steps into the role of protector while Dad is deployed. The text is simple enough for the youngest children, and the illustrations, including the dog (Siena), are adorable. Follow Siena as she does her best to guard the family from perceived threats. A great story for military families, but any child will enjoy it. (Though if they don’t have a family pet, it may leave them begging for a dog!)
I had heard of Saint Zita, but I didn’t know a thing about her until I read A Miracle in the Kitchen: A Legend about Saint Zita by Pamela Love. This story from Pauline Books & Media emphasizes the ordinary way in which a woman attained sainthood: working hard to serve others, even doing menial tasks, and by being a compassionate friend and caring for the sick. What will jump out at young readers is the miracle in which an angel appears and bakes bread for Zita’s employer in her stead and how that miracle led others to faith.
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Copyright 2022 Carolyn Astfalk
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