Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Open Book for March 2023


Welcome to  #OpenBook. I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the books. Thanks for stopping by!

2/1/23 The Merchant's Curse - Antony Barone Kolenc - This is the fourth book in a middle-grade Catholic series, The Harwood Mysteries, set in 12th century England and featuring the main character Xan. The whole series has been excellent. In this installment, Xan is working as a merchant's apprentice with his uncle and must figure out whether a witch has cursed his uncle's partner. It also discusses the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. 

2/4/23 The Clown of God - Tomie dePaola - Last month, I read The Worlds of Tomie dePaola which inspired me to request some of his books out of the library. This is a lovely picture book about a juggle who ultimately comes to learn about Jesus and shares his gift of juggling with Him and Mary. 

2/4/23 The Quilt Story - Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola - Tomie dePaola did the illustrations for this charming multi-generational story about a quilt. I love quilts! How could I resist?


2/4/23 The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor - Amy Alznauer - Yes, I was on a picture book kick! Truly, I love picture books and miss the days when my kids were small and I got to read lots of them. I saw this one and was intrigued. I am not a fan of Flannery O'Connor's writing which is almost heretical in Catholic fiction circles, however several years ago I read her prayer journal, and I gained a great deal of respect for her as a person. This oversized picture book features large, colorful illustrations and provides children with a short biography of her life which has her love of birds as a connecting thread. 


2/4/23 The Soul After Death - Fr. Seraphim Rose - I've always been interested in near-death experiences and what they tell us about life after death. I was looking for a different title when I saw this in the library catalog and thought it might be interesting. This book was written in 1980. Fr. Seraphim Rose was a Russian Orthodox priest who was writing in response to the great interest in near-death experiences of that time. He wanted to emphasize how these teachings do not offer a clear picture of what heaven or hell are truly like. This book is from the Orthodox perspective, which does have much in common with Roman Catholic thought, although the writer does not hide his disdain for Catholics and Protestants. In Orthodox thought, there is no purgatory, but they believe that souls can be rescued from hell through prayer (especially the sacrifice of the Mass) prior to the last judgment, so I would say that is somewhat similar. In many ways, this was a terrifying book. What I would encourage as the takeaways is that hell is a horrible place (I mean, we knew that, but it is good to have the reminder), and that it is incredibly important to pray for the dead, especially the first three days after death. In addition, requesting Masses for souls is extremely important. If you haven't done this for your deceased loved ones, do it now! My personal favorite place to request Masses because I can do it online is The Divine Mercy Shrine.

2/5/23 The Art of Reading: An Illustrated History of Books in Print - Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro - I didn't really read this book too much. I mostly looked at the pictures and read the captions on those. It is a book about paintings that feature people reading. There is no great order to the images and it all felt a bit disjointed, but I like looking at paintings and I like books, so it was enjoyable.

2/5/23 The New Design Rules - Emily Henderson - I saw this one on the "New" shelf at the library and picked it up. I don't have any major design projects planned for this year, but I still like looking at home design and decorating books. This one featured lots of good ideas for various budgets from simple upgrades to major re-dos. It had many lovely photographs. 

2/11/23 The Art Lesson - Tomie dePaola - This is a sweet semi-autobiographical picture book about a little boy who wants to be an artist. 

2/11/23 A Flag for Juneteenth - Kim Taylor - Despite being a history major in college, I had never heard about Juneteenth until 2020. This picture book offers children an introduction to this historical event, seen through the eyes of a little girl. The illustrations are all quilted which gives it a unique touch.

2/12/23 The Story of Love - Beth Wiseman - This is the second book in the Amish Bookstore series. I read the first book, The Bookseller's Promise, last year and enjoyed it, so I was eager to read this installment. This book actually focuses on an English couple - the woman is working for her Amish friends, managing their bookstore, and the man grew up Amish and is now working as police officer. But when he is forced to shoot someone, he starts reevaluating all the decisions he has made. It also features some suspense. It was some pleasant leisure reading!

2/15/23 When Tomorrow Came - Hannah Linder - This is a Gothic romance set in the early 1800s. Two siblings were abandoned by their father as children and their lives took radically different paths. When their father reappears in the early adulthood, at first it seems to be an answer to prayer, but not all is as it seems. (Read for a book review publication)


2/17/23 Mary's Life Journey and Her Amazing Yes - Denise Mercado - Mercado looks at what both canonical and non-canonical writings tell us about Mary's life. She also explores Mary's life through the mysteries of the Rosary (not only the ones in the Dominican Rosary that most of us are familiar with but also other versions of the Rosary). She uses the Ignatian approach of putting herself in the scenes of the mysteries. The meditations on the Passion of Our Lord are particularly poignant.

2/19/23 The Handy Little Guide to Liturgy of the Hours - Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS - Have you ever wanted to learn more about The Liturgy of the Hours? This quick guide provides the essential information about its history and how it is prayed. It inspired me to start doing the Liturgy of the Hours for Night Prayer for Lent.


2/19/22 Stories Behind the Stories - Danielle Higley - I absolutely loved this book that shares the true stories behind some famous works of children's literature such as Charlotte's Web, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Curious George, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and many more. It was fascinating! 


2/25/23 Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art - Barbara Elleman - Virginia Lee Burton is best known as the writer and illustrator of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House. This book offered an interesting look at her life and work. 

2/26/23 Just Jerry - Jerry Pinkney - Continuing my theme of reading books about children's book illustrators, I read this autobiography by Jerry Pinkney. He shares his story of growing up Black in Philadelphia in the late 1940s, struggling with dyslexia but finding refuge in his drawing, and how he came to make a career of his art.

Since spring of 2019, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). 

2/15/23 Annals - Tacitus - Tacitus tells of Roman history from AD 14 - 68. Tacitus is a good writer and historian. I'm just not that interested in Roman history. One thing I found interesting was that he mentioned the death of Christ when he was talking about the Christian persecution under Nero. I also enjoyed that I had taken out a 1921 version of this book from the library and it had a wonderful old book smell!

My twelve-year-old daughter and I read the following books this month:



2/14/23 Treasures of the Twelve - Cindy Lin - This was the second and final book in a series my daughter and I started last month. Here's the Amazon description:

When Usagi first met the fabled Heirs of the Twelve, she had just one goal: saving her sister, Uma.

But despite increasing her zodiac powers by becoming the new Rabbit Warrior Heir, Usagi’s attempts to rescue Uma have failed. Soon Usagi and the Heirs realize that to truly free those they love from the Dragonlord, they must take on a dangerous task: finding the ancient treasures of The Twelve.

Hidden away by the last zodiac warriors, these treasures have miraculous powers. Their wielder can create massive sandstorms, bring the clouds down to earth to enshroud everyone nearby in a thick fog, or even grant any wish they desire—for a brief time.

Usagi and the Heirs must journey farther than they ever have before and take on the riddles and obstacles that await them on their hunt for the ancient relics.

But will they find them in time to save Uma?

2-22-23 The Circus of Stolen Dreams - Lorelei Savaryn - Savaryn is a fellow writer on and I saw this story mentioned in her bio. My daughter and I both really enjoyed this suspense-filled fantasy about a young girl transported into a land of dreams to forget the pain of her family life, where she can have any thing she wishes for, but all is not what it seems.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Monday, February 20, 2023

Learn About The Liturgy of the Hours


Have you ever wondered about the Liturgy of the Hours? As embarrassing as it is to admit, my knowledge of this prayer form was minimal. I knew that it was a prayer that priests, deacons, and vowed religious were obligated to pray, that lay people could take part, that it involved praying at various set times of the day, and that there was a (very confusing) book with multiple ribbons that you could use to follow along.

Thankfully, Barb Szyszkiewicz, OSF wrote The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours for clueless people like me who want to learn more. The beauty of this “Handy Little Guide” series is that the books are small and short. They provide a quick overview of a topic, highlighting the key points.

Szyszkiewicz discusses how the Liturgy of the Hours came to be; what types of Scripture and prayers are included; how the breviary (that book with ribbons) is arranged – it turns out there are actually two versions of the breviary, a one-volume and a four-volume edition; and the times of day for prayer. She also discusses the pros and cons of using an app to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

As it turns out, my mother had given me her copy of the one-volume breviary last year. It has been sitting on my shelf ever since. I figured that was a prayer form for a different season of my life, requiring a commitment to praying at various times of the day that I could not do at this moment. However, Szyszkiewicz suggested starting with just Night Prayer since it is the shortest. With Lent right around the corner, I decided that was a discipline I could undertake for the season. After all, additional prayer is one of the three pillars of Lent. So, I took out the breviary and tried to figure it out. In the interest of full disclosure, I was not able to do this. While Szyszkiewicz isn’t a big proponent of app usage, I am going that route. I downloaded a free Divine Office app that I will start using Ash Wednesday evening.

If you are interested in learning more about the Liturgy of the Hours, I highly recommend The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. It provides the essential information for you to decide whether this is a form of prayer you want to add to your life. At the very least, you will have a much better understanding of what others are talking about when they mention this form of prayer!

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Open Book for February 2023


Welcome to  #OpenBook. I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the books. Thanks for stopping by!

1/7/23 A Quilt for Christmas - Melody Carlson - I'm a fan of Carlson's Christmas stories. This one came in after Christmas on my library holds list, but it was still the Christmas season! In any case, there is no bad time to read a Christmas book. With quilting being one of my favorite activities, how could I resist this story about an unlikely group of women who work together to create a Christmas quilt for a woman in need of some hope and encouragement.  
1/9/23 Threads of Hope - Leslie Gould - I enjoyed this dual timeline Amish story with one story taking place during WWI and the other in 2019. The World War I story features a young Amish man (not yet baptized) who goes off to war and the young woman at home who loves him. The modern story features a young Amish woman who feels trapped with her dying mother and high-functioning autistic brother. Her life gets upended by the Englisch woman and her young daughter who live next door and become an integral part of her life. (Read for a book review publication)

1/15/23 Visual Thinking - Temple Grandin - Dr. Temple Grandin is a well-known autism advocate. I've  read other books by her and I was eager to read this book because I am always interested in neuroscience, brain differences, and educational topics. This book covers all three. Dr. Grandin discusses the gifts of people who think in pictures and patterns rather than words. As a verbal thinker (I am a writer, after all), this is fascinating to me, especially since all three of my children fall in this category. She also explores the minds of geniuses. Dr. Grandin makes some valuable statements about how today's education system fails visual thinkers to the detriment of our future. Anyone interested in education should be aware of these concerns. There was also a discussion of animal brains, which not necessarily relevant to the main topic, was interesting. 


1/15/23 Christmas Roses - Amanda Cabot - One last Christmas book for the season. I don't even recall where I saw this one listed (It is from 2012), but the title appealed to me and I requested it from the library. Set in 1882 Wyoming, it was a sweet Christmas romance about a widow and an itinerant carpenter. It was a light, easy short novel, great for a brief burst of escapism. 



1/19/23 Loving Lydia - Susan Pope Sloan - This is an enjoyable Civil War romance between a millworker taken prisoner by Union forces and a Confederate soldier out to avenge his wife's murder. They'll both have to make peace with the past before they can move forward to their future. (Read for a book review publication)

1/20/23 The Diary of Saint Gemma- St. Gemma Galgani - One of the wonderful things about the Catholic Church is that there are so many saints to look up to, to emulate, and to be spiritual friends with. Not every saint is going to speak to every person. I wanted so much to love this book and make a new spiritual friend, but I just can't relate to St. Gemma. She was a mystic who lived from 1878-1903. During the course of her short life, she experienced visions of Mary and Jesus as well as her guardian angel. She also experienced the stigmata. She was often ill and in great pain. Under the order of her spiritual director, she wrote her autobiography and kept a diary of her experiences. Now, she is obviously a saint, but God works differently with different souls. Jesus and Mary in her visions were sometimes angry and punished her for seemingly small things, withdrawing their presence and their love. If Jesus and Mary were angry with her, I can only imagine how they feel about me! St. Gemma did remind me of valuable truths, namely to seek consolation only in Jesus and not in worldly things and to pray and sacrifice for the souls in purgatory. So, I will donate this book to my parish library where hopefully it will bless and speak more to someone else! 

1/20/23 Let Go of Your Fear - Gary Zimak - I've been worried about so many things lately that I decided to pull this book out of my to-be-read pile (where it has been sitting for a year). I'm glad I did. Zimak offers meaningful reflections on the two stories of the apostles being caught in storms in the Gospels. If you are caught in one of life's storms, or just worried in general, I highly recommend this book.


1/21/23 Handcrafted Journals, Albums, Scrapbooks, and More - Marie Browning - I was browsing through the library and this book caught my eye. My daughter is learning bookbinding in her homeschool co-op and I wanted to learn more about it. This book features some lovely images and good how-to instructions. I don't think I will be pursuing this art form any time soon, but it was interesting to look at and I learned more about what my daughter is doing in class. 

1/22/23 Thimbleberries Classic Country - Lynette Jensen - This was another book I picked up browsing in the library. I was looking for some eye candy to relax with and this fit the bill. I enjoyed looking at the pictures!


1/22/23 The Worlds of Tomie dePaola - Barbara Elleman - Like many moms, I read some of Tomie dePaola's books to my children when they were young, but I really didn't know much about him. This book offers a wonderful overview of his life and work. It is the perfect combination of text and image, with many depictions of his illustrations and his non-book art. I especially enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at the development of his book Quiet. Reading book prompted me to request some of his books that I have not read from the library. If you have any interest in Tomie dePaola or children's book publishing, I highly recommend this book!

1/28/23 Windswept Way - Irene Hannon - If you enjoy Christian romance, I highly recommend the Hope Harbor series from Irene Hannon. This newest book is #9 in the series, but you don't need to have read the others to appreciate this tale of a young women who uses her inheritance to help renovate an old home in conjunction with the eccentric older woman who lives there to open it as an event venue. In the process, she'll fall for a wounded ex-soldier who now works as a gardener. (Read for a book review publication)


1/29/23 Quiet - Tomie dePaola - This is a lovely picture book to share with children about the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the beautiful world around you.

Since spring of 2019, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). 

1-9-23 On Duties by Cicero. I finished Cicero's thoughts on duties and ethics. The world would be a better place if more people followed Cicero's advice in this work. Much of it is very consistent with Christian thought. 

1/14/23 Manual by Epictetus. Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher who lived from 50-135 AD whose teachings were written down by his pupil Arrian. This is a short work, but its main focus is that we shouldn't worry about what we can't control. We have no influence over what other people say about us or do to us. We have no control over things that happen to us. We shouldn't let it bother us at all. We can only control ourselves. Focus on that. Don't be overly attached to anyone or anything because everything is transient. Don't get upset about anything. Let nothing disturb your inner tranquility. I have to say, his level of detachment was impressive!

My twelve-year-old daughter and I read the following books this month:


1/23/22 The Twelve - Cindy Lin - My daughter picked this one out of the library. This is a work of fantasy about individuals who have Zodiac and elemental powers. The main character has rabbit and wood powers. It had lots of action and good versus evil and my daughter enjoyed it. It's hard to explain, so here is the Amazon description:

Usagi can hear a squirrel’s heartbeat from a mile away, and soar over treetops in one giant leap. She was born in the year of the wood rabbit, and it’s given her extraordinary zodiac gifts.

But she can never use them, not while the mysterious, vicious Dragonlord hunts down all those in her land with zodiac powers. Instead, she must keep her abilities—and those of her rambunctious sister Uma—a secret.

After Uma is captured by the Dragonguard, Usagi can no longer ignore her powers. She must journey to Mount Jade with the fabled Heirs of the Twelve, a mystical group of warriors who once protected the land.

As new mysteries unfold, Usagi must decide who she stands with, and who she trusts, as she takes on deadly foes on her path to the elusive, dangerous Dragonlord himself.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Friday, January 27, 2023

New Catholic Teen Book! Ashes: Visible and Invisible

 Today I am thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for the new book from Catholic Teen Books: Ashes: Visible and Invisible

I'm always impressed by the way the Catholic Teen Books writers are able to put together a collection of stories around a given themes. Ashes: Visible and Invisible features the liturgical season of Lent.The authors offer enjoyable stories in a variety of genres guaranteed to appeal to a wide range of teens and adults. 

Enter to win a soft cover copy of Catholic Teen Books' Lenten Anthology, Ashes: Visible and Invisible; Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens by Katie Prejean McGrady and Tommy McGrady (Ave Maria Press); Lenten socks; handmade Rosary; and Saint John Bosco prayer card.

In Finishing the Journey, Leslea Wahl writes a contemporary tale about a teen attending a Confirmation retreat, but it is an unexpected encounter with an older man that will enliven her faith.

Cynthia Toney offers a historical story in Follow Me. Vince is trying to escape the dark elements that took his father's life. 

In Take Up Your Cross written by Marie Keiser features a young man illegally practicing the Catholic faith. Will he risk it all to share that faith?

 Carolyn Astfalk tells of a young man considering being a kidney donor in the contemporary story A Big Ask

In Lent Royal and Ancient, set in the Middle Ages, Amanda Lauer portrays a young woman struggling to forgive her mother.

Ellen Gable tells of Lexie, the oldest daughter in a growing family who deeply feels the burden of caring for her siblings when her mother must go on bed rest for her pregnancy, in No Greater Love

Corinna Turner paints a dystopian portrait of young men experiencing the protection of the Eucharist at a time when their faith is underground in A Very Jurassic Lent

In Lucy and the Forsaken Path, Antony Kolenc takes readers back to 1185. Lucy is almost 13 and determined to prove to her father that she is trustworthy.

Bread Alone by T.M. Gaouette is a contemporary tale about a young man trying to make a fresh start with the help of an unexpected friend. 

Prepare the Way by Theresa Linden is set in Biblical times and features a young man's encounter with John the Baptist. 

This post features Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Please visit the other stops on the blog tour:

Jan 25  Ellen Gable                            Plot Line and Sinker                                                    

Jan 26  Barb S.                                   Franciscan Mom

Jan 28  Carolyn Astfalk                     My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

Jan 29  Amanda Lauer                       Blog

Jan 30   Marie Keiser                         Enjoying Womanhood

Jan 31  Barb S                          

Feb 1   Corinna Turner                      Unseen Books

Feb 2   Catholic 365                          Catholic 365

Feb 3   Victoria Ryan                         Victoria Ryan Books

Feb 4   Mary Jo Thayer                     Blog

Feb 5   Theresa Linden                       Theresa Linden

Feb 6   Catholic Teen Books              Catholic Teen Books

Open Book for March 2023

  Welcome to  #OpenBook. I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on . Here's what I'...