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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 May 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

Converts and KingdomsI haven’t seen my husband picking up many books lately, but he’s apt to snag titles from the kiosk in the narthex of our church, and that’s where he got Converts and Kingdoms by Diane Moczar. It’s an accessible look at the bond between the Catholic Church and Western civilization over the centuries that examines the Church’s survival amidst the various forces and factions that have opposed it through the ages.  


My Phony ValentineI wrapped up my string of contemporary rom-coms by reading Courtney Walsh’s My Phony Valentine. Having grown up an ice hockey fan in Pittsburgh during the pinnacle of Mario Lemieux's career, I have a soft spot for professional hockey players. I was predisposed to like Dallas Burke, the considerate and misunderstood hero of My Phony Valentine. Dallas enters a contractual fake relationship with small-town chef Poppy Hart, an earnest, guileless woman who can't help falling for Dallas from the start. 
Through their arrangement, Poppy gains exposure for her business and Dallas's bad boy image gets an update. But these two have more in common than they expected, both having lived with the consequences of bad decisions and people's unjust judgments. (I collected my recent rom-com reviews in a Relevant Fiction Reviews post.) 


The Words We LostI’m nearing the conclusion of The Words We Lost by Nicole Deese, the first book in the Fog Harbor series. The novel captures the melancholy seaside mood and setting so very well. Told in the present with flashbacks of sorts from a decade ago, it’s the story of three friends – Cece, her cousin Joel, and Ingrid. At the outset, we learn Cece, a wildly successful fantasy author whose career she owes to Ingrid, has died. Ingrid and Joel, once on a sure and steady path to marriage, are estranged; Ingrid’s publishing career is endangered; and Cece’s final manuscript is missing. The author holds onto each of their secrets through much of the book, keeping the reader guessing as to exactly what family secrets drove Joel and Ingrid apart. 


Code Name EdelweissFive stars to Stephanie Landsem’s Code Name Edelweiss! It’s an engrossing personal story based on fascinating history that works as a cautionary tale for 21st-century Americans. What happens when good people choose comfort and an insular way of life in the face of threats to life and liberty? 
Liesel, a 1930s German-American woman with responsibility for her two young children, mother, and brother is forced to confront the evil in her midst when she loses her job at MGM Studios. She reluctantly comes under the employ of a Jewish spymaster and is tasked with infiltrating the Nazi efforts in Los Angeles. 


The Burning of Bridget ClearyMy oldest son read The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story by Angela Bourke. In late 19th-century Ireland, a young wife disappeared from her home. Claims she’d been taken by faeries were proved false when her badly burned body turned up. Her family was blamed, and the case created a media frenzy. The case became politicized during the ongoing tensions over Home Rule, playing up fears regarding Irish peasants. 


Wolf HallBased on the recommendation of a singing tour guide in Dublin (shout out to Sean!), my college student is also reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Set in 1520s England, the novel concerns King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. It’s a winner of the Man Booker Prize, but it looks like there are mixed reviews and a TV adaption thrown into the mix. Since high school, British history has often made my eyes glaze over. (Sorry!) I’ll need to check back with my son for his opinion. 


The OdysseyI’m not sure how a lover of the classics has gone this long without reading Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, but my son is finally reading it as part of his coursework. I think everyone is familiar with it, but if not, it details Odysseus’s ten-year journey home to Ithaca following the Trojan War. As the description says, “at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance.” I’ve read it at least twice, but it’s been so long, I really need to re-read it. 


Julius CaesarMy high-school freshman is about to read her first Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar. I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare, but not this play, which is odd considering that I was a Classics major. Set in Rome, 44 B.C., senators plot to assassinate the emperor.   


The Lightning ThiefMy fifth-grade daughter floundered around a bit looking for a book, setting aside the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time. She likes action, and she’d not yet read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which her older siblings loved. So for several days now, she’s been lost in The Lightning Thief and spouting facts about Greek and Roman gods while we walk the dog each evening. Mythological gods and monsters meet the 21st century in this wildly popular novel for children. 


The Trumpet of the SwanShe’s also begun reading The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. We own a copy of the book, and I’ve long been familiar with the title, but in reading the description, I discovered I’ve never read it. (Unless I’ve completely and totally forgotten it, which is just scary.) Louis, a trumpeter swan, cannot trumpet and therefore cannot win the love of the beautiful swan Serena. His father steals him a brass trumpet, and I have to ask my daughter what happens next! 


Game OverFinally, my daughter is also reading Game Over by M.C. Ross. Kara, whose mother has gone missing, is trapped inside a virtual reality system, HIVE. The book centers around the attempts of she and her friends to escape the simulator. 


Falling UpMy youngest child has been reading some Shel Silverstein with his class, including The Giving Tree and Falling Up. I’d never heard of Silverstein until my children began reading his poems and stories in school, so I can’t say much about his work. I’m glad that my children are encouraged to read poetry and enjoy it. I hope they’ll have more appreciation for it than I do (though I have a few favorites).  


Louies LentI know Lent is over, but it’s still worth sharing Louie’s Lent by Claudia Cangilla McAdam. What “to do” for Lent is a perennial challenge for Catholic children, and this picture book helps them to envision creative ways to embrace the hallmarks of Lent. If your kids are habitually giving up chocolate or video games, this will give them some fresh ideas to consider in living Lent well. 


How Our Family Prays Each DaySimilarly, How Our Family Prays Each Day: A Read-Aloud Story for Catholic Families by Gregory K. Popcak includes many ways Catholic families can make prayer a seamless part of their ordinary days. Lest kids think prayer must be long, formal, and regimented, this colorful book shows readers how to naturally  incorporate the simple act of lifting our thoughts to God into our routine. Morning prayer, grace before meals, praying when an ambulance siren is heard, and bedtime are all represented along with other opportunities. 


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Copyright 2023 Carolyn Astfalk
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