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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 November 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

They Call Her Dirty SallyThey Call Her Dirty Sally is far and away the most-reviewed (and I’d guess, best-selling) of Amy Matayo’s novels. I’ve loved so many of her books, and I’m so happy to see her readership broaden. Oddly though, this novel isn’t one of my favorites from her. The story is borne from a home and a woman observed in Matayo’s childhood. Those childhood musings are developed and brought to life in a story of small-town Arkansas, where a hospital fire resulted in tragic loss of life. Journalist Finn Hardwick, whose parents had ties to the town, arrives to cover the anniversary of the fire. There, he meets Billi Ellis, a motel receptionist who helps him uncover the town’s secrets and, in the process, the cause for Sally’s ostracization.

While I appreciated Sally’s story, I found the character too passive for my liking and the conclusion underwhelming. The modernish (1990s) characters, Finn and Billi, were likable but didn’t have much of a story arc.


Wild LifeReading Corinna Turner’s unSPARKed series reminds me of the Zorro chapters my dad spoke so fondly of. Not that a swashbuckling Spaniard has much to do with a dinosaur dystopia, but the episodic adventures have me coming back to see what will happen next. In Wild Life, siblings Darryl and Harry have teamed up with hunter Josh, who is keeping them hidden from the big-city bureaucrats who threaten to move them in-city for their safety since their parents are (presumably) dead. But the trio believe Darryl and Harry’s dad has been kidnapped, and with help from Father Benedict and other hunters, maybe they’ll be able rescue him. If they can keep from getting eaten.


Irish Fairy Tales 2My college junior rescued Irish Fairy Tales by Jeremiah Curtin from our attic. He really enjoyed this book, which he said is a great introduction to Irish fairy tales. As he wrote in his review, it “covers many of the important themes and tropes, such as the mischief of fairies, humans being taken/replaced by fairies, the relationship of fairy folklore with religion, etc. Curtin's work in Irish folklore would later even influence W.B. Yeats, so I suppose it has Yeats' stamp of approval too.”


AlchemistHe's also been taking advantage of Spotify Premium to listen to a lot of H.P. Lovecraft stories. They’ve been hit and miss for him, but his favorite thus far has been “The Alchemist. He says, “Cool atmosphere set in a gothic medieval castle with some mystery, intrigue, and of course unknown horrors lurking in the darkness.”


Mandy Lamb and the Full MoonMy middle school daughter recently read Corinna Turner’s Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon before Halloween. She read through this unique adventure very quickly. Mandy Lamb is a half-sheep girl, thanks to some genetic engineering. There’s a lot of depth to this exhilarating story of Mandy and her dog-like friend, James.


The Wolf the Lamb and the Hot Air BalloonMy high school daughter, seeing what her sister was reading, was reminded that she hadn’t yet read the short Mandy Lamb spin-off The Wolf, the Lamb and the Air Balloon. This quick read covers Mandy and James’s day out and serves as either a good introduction to the full-length book or a fun visit with characters the reader has already come to love.


The School for Good and EvilBack in middle school, my daughter’s friend loaned her The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, which is, apparently, already a Netflix film. My daughter quickly read this story in which two girls, Sophie and Agatha, experience a reversal of fortune. The “good” girl, Sophie, is dumped at the School for Evil, and the “bad” girl, Agatha, is send to the School for Good. It seems to be a popular fantasy series, but my daughter had little to say about it beyond that it was “okay.”


W.K. KelloggFinally, my sixth-grader read a short biography, W.K. Kellogg by Laura Hamilton Waxman. We’d watched The Food That Built America episode (Season 2, Ep. 16) that included the (very strange) Kellogg brothers, but apparently this book is about the less odd of the two brothers. Kellogg, of course, is famous for having developed the cornflake and going on to revolutionize the breakfasts of Americans.


Game Over, Pete WatsonMy youngest son discovered Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber, a book last shared in An Open Book more than seven years ago when his older brother read it. From the description (because I didn’t get one from my child): “Mega-gamer Pete Watson needs just twenty dollars more to buy the all-new Brawl-A-Thon 3000 XL. So he sells a beat-up CommandRoid 85 arcade game (containing top-secret government intel!) owned by his boring old dad (super-spy trapped inside the CommandRoid!), to an exterminator (evil mastermind bent on global destruction!!!). Pete’s gaming skills are put to the test as he fights evil villains, giant mechanical bugs, and a global cyberattack from within the CommandRoid. And tries to impress Callie Midwood with his skills, or whatever.”


PinoculaMy fifth-grader is also reading Pinocula by Obert Skye, the third book in The Creature from My Closet series. Pinocula is a lying jokester who’s a mash-up of Pinnochio and Dracula. Perfect for spooky season. My kids have enjoyed various books from this series, all light reads.


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Copyright 2023 Carolyn Astfalk
Images: Canva
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