Author: Erin McCole Cupp

Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. In December 2020, look for her next book: The Broken Grown-Ups Guide to Joyful Family Life (Our Sunday Visitor), a book about parenting spirituality for survivors of family abuse and dysfunction. Find out more at erinmccolecupp.com .

7QT for Catholic Trauma Survivors 10Jul2020

Here’s me, doing my bit to participate weekly in Kelly’s Seven Quick Takes over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

So here’s this week’s list of…

This Week’s Resources for Catholic Trauma Survivors

Takes best described as quick, and seven of them.

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  1. “Lambeth Child Abuse Survivor Gave Away Compensation “To Give Back the Smiles Taken From Me.” Catholic is our name, and redemptive suffering is our game, but it’s a game we can share with others by other names. Of course, I say that without knowing whether or not the subject of the article is Catholic or not, but whatever faith she practices, she is giving her abuse settlement AWAY to help others.
  2. From Catholic in Recovery, “Encountering Mary’s Motherly Love in Eucharistic Adoration.” Written by a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and recovering addict, this one’s an article on how Mary’s motherly love reaches us no matter how badly we’ve been bruised, whether by others’ or our own choices.
  3. This Sunday’s gospel journaling page for trauma survivors will come out in a few hours, so please sign up here to get yours free through the end of November, 20202.
  4. I also invite you to join in some discussion over on my Broken Grown-up Nation Facebook page.
  5. This week was the Feast of St. Maria Goretti. Here’s a long but good post on “What They Died For,” talking about all the false narratives spun in the popular imagination about why Maria and any number of other virgin martyrs died–and why they actually offered their lives (hint: it’s not for the god of marriage).
  6. Oldie but goodie: St. Maria Goretti and Why We Need Strong Girl Stories.
  7. Finally, OSV was kind enough to run my article on how St. Maria Goretti handled the hardship of missing the sacraments, much like we have been asked to do over these past pandemic months.

How are you holding up these days in your healing journey? It’s been tough here. Let me know how I may pray for you? Meanwhile, make sure you give Kelly & the SQT crew a look see.

7 Quick Takes for Catholic Trauma Survivors

Here’s me, doing my bit to participate weekly in Kelly’s Seven Quick Takes over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

So here’s this week’s list of…

More Resources for Catholic Trauma Survivors

There is a LOT of stuff out there for survivors of clerical abuse. That’s a good thing. Just because the abuse you experienced and still suffer from was different from mine doesn’t mean you’re less deserving of help and healing!

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  1. But statistically there are more survivors of family abuse than survivors of abuse by Catholic priests.
  2. That means we are in a unique position to learn from, support, and pray for each other.
  3. We also walk through the same shadows and suffer many of the same health impairments as we live our adult lives.
  4. There’s a recent study that shows that Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides better PTSD outcomes for survivors of child sexual abuse, so that’s good news, I hope.
  5. There’s also another wonderful bit on attachment and addiction over at Catholic in Recovery (whom I LOVE).
  6. If you are a trauma survivor of any kind but don’t have much personal experience with being on the crap end of racism (::raises hand::), here’s an article that offers a unique opportunity to method act your way into some empathy for the descendants of enslaved Americans: “What PTSD Tells Us About the History of Slavery.” Your experience might be limited by the color of your skin, but your empathy is only limited by your imagination and your humility.
  7. Finally, here’s a video by Joe Sciambra interviewing Dan Burke about spiritual warfare and childhood trauma. Dan even touches on this week’s gospel’s message, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” #timely

Bonus #8 in progress: I’ve started creating a series of Sunday gospel reflection journal pages for trauma survivors. If you would like to join the beta testing team for those and receive free journaling pages next week through Advent 2020, please sign up here.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to find a single resource for Catholic survivors of family-of-origin based child abuse, sexual or otherwise. That can’t mean that this site is it. Can it? If it is, I feel incredibly unqualified to tackle the task of helping us find each other in communion with Christ’s Body on earth. If you know of some other resource, would you mind commenting with it below?

How are you holding up these days in your healing journey? It’s been tough here. Let me know how I may pray for you? Meanwhile, make sure you give Kelly & the SQT crew a look see.

Seven Quick Takes for Trauma Healing

Hello, there, folks. Long time, no blog. Now that it’s summer and I’m gearing up for edits with Our Sunday Visitor on The Broken Grown-up’s Guide to Joyful Family Life, I’m hoping to get a little more work done in terms of service to fellow Catholics (and, hey, even you non-Catholics) who are working on trauma survivorship.

To that end, it’s my goal (and we know how that goes) to participate weekly in Kelly’s Seven Quick Takes over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

So here’s my first attempt at sharing seven resources for Catholics recovering from trauma.

Resources for Catholic Trauma Survivors

  1. The Face of Mercy is a new Catholic mental health resource worth checking out. They’re about to launch a class on Catholic ministry in a post-COVID world–worth checking out.
  2. Through Lesley Lynch’s fiction I became a fan of the concept of Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice goes beyond punishment for abusers into amends made to survivors. Here’s an article that shows RJ at work here in the USA.
  3. If you haven’t already, do subscribe to Saint Dymphna’s Playbook, Catholic Mental Health podcast by LMFT and Catholic Hipster, Tommy Tighe.
  4. Since a LOT of us are survivors of families impacted by narcissistic abuse, you might find Dr. Ramani’s videos on narcissism as helpful as I have. Here’s one on The Shame People Feel When They Come From Narcissistic Families.
  5. As many trauma survivors have self-medicated (ineffectively, of course) through addiction, allow me to recommend Catholic in Recovery, where the Twelve Steps and the Sacraments meet in a nice, cozy home complete with virtual holy water fonts right now. You might especially like The Body Keeps the Score: Real Recovery Includes Emotional Healing.
  6. Did you know that there’s this Catholic spiritual ministry to sexual assault survivors? I didn’t. It’s called RISE.
  7. Lastly, Integrity Restored was kind enough to let me blog for them in preparation of the Feast of St. Maria Goretti on July 6. So here’s my article with them, Porn, Addiction, and the Redemption of Alessandro Serenelli.

Bonus #8 in progress: I’m working on creating a series of Sunday gospel reflection journal pages for trauma survivors. If you would like to join the beta testing team for those and receive free journaling pages next week through Advent 2020, please sign up for my newsletter. For doing so, you’ll also get a free copy of Get Moving With St. Dominic’s 9 Ways of Prayer.

eBook: Get Moving With the Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic
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How are you holding up these days in your healing journey? It’s been tough here. Let me know how I may pray for you? Meanwhile, make sure you give Kelly & the SQT crew a look see.

Open Book: Book Recs for February 2020

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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I skipped last month, and I’m late for this month, which pretty much sums up my life in many ways: plenty off-kilter, but filling things in just enough to keep going. Just enough.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

try_softer_3dTry Softer by Aundi Kolber is a gentle, faith-friendly synthesis of a number of different approaches to healing from both “Big-T Trauma” (physical, sexual, verbal, & emotional abuse, neglect) as well as “little-t trauma” (experiencing a family environment where your needs for attachment simply were not consistently met). Kolber covers how the brain handles Trauma/trauma, how to approach healing from a place of peace rather than “pushing through” or “white-knuckling it.” She covers boundaries, approaching openness without destroying the self, balancing vulnerability and self-preservation… so much good in this book for ANYBODY facing any emotional disconnect.

I know I need a reread. I had been trying to start an online, real time, videoconferenced book club to go through Try Softer together during Lent. I thought it would help me and give me a place to form community with others in processing through the exercises at the end of each chapter. However, the lack of response to that has given me an opportunity to reexamine my own desire to connect with people, how my own weak boundaries make it easier to share with others but harder to form relationships that are mutual rather than connective… anyway. Lots of stuff. So, no book club, but LOTS of praise for this book. I’d give a sixth star if Amazon would let me. Get your copy, and get to know Aundi.
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How many chances do you give someone to change for the better? That’s the question asked in Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischoff, first in a series (new, I think?) focusing on the Norgaard family, immigrants from Norway. Aven, a workhouse orphan, is very suddenly widowed by her alcoholic husband, and she accepts an offer to come take care of her late husband’s cousins… only to find out that these cousins aren’t children in need of minding–at least, not in age–but are three full-grown men. While that might seem comical at first glance, Aven finds herself unable to avoid confronting the pain her husband’s death left with her, especially in the Norgaard middle son, Thorvald–who has been soothing his isolation as a deaf man by drowning himself in the family’s cider business, and I don’t just mean in the workings and accounting.

In Sons, Bischoff gives us a story of redemption in a place where all our senses tell us there could be none. Highly recommended. Recommended by Carolyn, our Open Book host. A1PlaceHolder

 

A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book: Book Recs for December 2019

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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I realize everyone else is doing Christmas book recommendations, but here I am, being the rebel! Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

TheHidingPlaceCoverYeah, I’m just now reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the author’s family was involved in the Dutch resistance during WWII and was the hub of hiding places and other survival-related services for their Jewish neighbors as well as others who needed protection from the invading Nazis, such as young men who were in danger of being conscripted for munitions labor. Eventually Corrie and her family were captured, imprisoned, and Corrie and her sister Betsie were shipped off to Ravensbruck, where Betsie succumbed to illness at the cruel treatment. Throughout, ten Boom delivers an indefatigable message of hope in the darkest of the dark places, not just physically but within the human heart.  I had a hard time getting through Eli Weisel’s Night (and still haven’t finished it), but now that I’ve been dosed with the hope and love of the ten Boom family, I think I could retackle Weisel. A1PlaceHolder

 

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The Bride Ships, Book 1: A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund: if you’re looking for a bittersweet romance that’s honest about harsh circumstances but delivers hope and joy along with the heartbreak, A Reluctant Bride might be a good fit for you. Mercy Wilkins is forced out of her home in the London slums and the only baggage she can afford to bring along is her fear of marriage, after the miserable example her parents and others set for her. When she accidentally catches the eye and heart of the ship’s doctor, she has to face her fears and the deepest desires of her heart. Recommended by Carolyn, our Open Book host. A1PlaceHolder

 

GileadCover.jpgRhonda Franklin Ortiz recommended Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. So far, it’s oddly reminiscent of Black Bottle Man without the creepy supernatural factor (so far). It has more of a literary bent than the stuff I’ve been reading lately, which has been good for my mind, frankly. Not that leisure reading is bad, but leisure reading with some complexity to it is good as well. Just a different kind of good. Fathers. Sons. Struggle. Tough farmland with tougher farmers. That’s what I’m getting so far, and I want more. A1PlaceHolder

ParacordCover.jpgFrom the sublime to the ridiculous, Second Shift of Kid and I are working our way through Paracords! by Todd Mikkelsen. I keep trying and utterly failing to do our homeschool Charlotte Mason-style, but the failure comes from having kids who just hate transitions, which makes the whole “many short lessons throughout the day” thing just blow up in my face with alarming consistency. Anyhoo, I have been wanting to add more handicrafts into our day to improve coordination, and I figured paracord might be easier for clumsy hands (ahem, including mine) to manage. I wasn’t wrong! We were able to make a Solomon bar bracelet yesterday and are now planning to make red-and-green collars for our dogs for Christmas. Whee!A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book: Book Recs for November 2019

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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I am so excited that I have the time to participate in Open Book not one but two months in a row! Having the time to blog is elusive these days, but I’m in a quieter season for the moment, so I’m making hay while the sun shines!

I’ve even had some time to chip away at the beloved fiction section of the TBR pile.

BlackBottleManThe Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell is wonderfully, WONDERFULLY WEIRD!  It has been a long time since I’ve read something this kind of weird–creepy, honest, detailed, believable! There’s so much to love in The Black Bottle Man, whether it’s the heartbreak of the story of a long and very drawn-out battle for good over the forces of evil, the delicate failings and impossible triumphs of the characters, and the proof of the power of symbolic thinking. Russel’s eye for language and imagery is an excellent sauce to the meat of the storytelling. HIGHLY recommended! (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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SecretsSecrets: Visible & Invisible gives readers a taste of the work of several Catholic YA authors. There really is something for everyone in this anthology, and it does well what anthologies do best: give readers an opportunity to expand their options and get out of reading ruts, such as, “I only read books by Author So-and-so.” The other thing Secrets does well is show examples of relatable characters facing their own options to face the truth or keep hiding, a choice that teen readers must face every day. It’s a quick read for the reluctant reader but also series of thrill rides for the book-devourer. I am looking forward to the next anthology in the series! (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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EllasPromiseEllen Gable has her third installment out in her series, Great War, Great Love. This latest is my favorite out of all three: Ella’s Promise. A sweet romance where the main character seeks to live truthfully in a world where everyone has something to hide, Ella’s Promise delivers thrills and satisfaction. I loved the tension and the pacing, not to mention how the characters captured my heart. (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)A1PlaceHolder

AllInGoodTimeAll In Good Time rocketed to the top of my TBR pile, and it did not disappoint. Carolyn Astfalk‘s latest became my new favorite of hers, and it took less than 24 hours for that to happen! The mounting suspense matched the perfectly paced romantic tension. I’m looking forward to another day soon when I can read it again. A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book:October 2019

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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RoyalDiariesIsabel-resizeIt’s the start of a new school year, and for history, we are doing Story of Civilization, Volume III: The Making of the Modern World from TAN books. So far, I have to say SOCvIII it’s not as robust in activities as was SOCvI (the ancient world up through the Christianizing of the Roman Empire). However, it’ll do, and as before, I’m using this year’s history to assign literary study. My 4th grade daughter is thrilled that this means we will be reading a lot of Royal Diaries series. We started with Isabel: Jewel of Castilla–Spain, 1466. It was okay. Not our favorite, but it was a great introduction to book reporting on main characters versus minor ones, as well as setting.

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MarianConsecrationForChildren-resizeWe also are working our way through re-upping our Marian Consecration. 4th grader received this book for a First Eucharist gift, and we did the consecration that year for the Feast of the Immaculate Heart… which is great, but it’s also a moveable feast, so I lost track of when it was this year, and we didn’t renew in time. For good or ill, I’ve moved our consecration date to Our Lady of the Rosary, which I can put in my calendar as ALWAYS being on October 7.

As for this Marian Consecration for Children by Carrie Gress, it was great for a second grader. Gress uses stories from children’s literature to illustrate virtues and our relationship with God and Mary. That said, I think 4th grade is getting a little too old, and I will probably look for a new book for next year.

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Trying to read ahead for appropriateness, I picked up Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. This is the story of a young girl who lives on a well-to-do ranch in Mexico during the Great Depression. It’s billed as a reverse-Cinderella story, and it delivers. I know it sounds corny, but through her reversal of fortune, Esperanza really does learn the true meaning of worth and value. I’d say a third-grader with good reading comprehension could tackle this. There’s ample opportunity for discussion on classism, racism, prejudice, the Dirty Thirties, and even where our food comes from and who gets it to us. There is some death in the story, but there’s nothing graphic/nightmare-inducing.

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MyQueenMyMother-resize  ForgivingMother-resizeI’ve also read both My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena as well as Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace. These are great books for those of us working on healing the oft-neglected mother wound. My Queen approaches Mary as someone with power to influence even temporal events, living among us still, especially among the poor and needy. Forgiving Mother shows us Mary’s role as ideal mother, someone who hurts with us and for us when the people who are supposed to love us most fail us.

Keep your eyes peeled over at Catholic Mom for a book club on My Queen, My Mother, starting October 5.

A1PlaceHolderABoundHeart-resizeAnd as I wait for my edits on Broken Grown-up’s Guide to come back to me, and since we are in a slower season for the Shakespeare play I direct each year… I have time for leisure reading! So I scrolled through Carolyn Astfalk’s previous months of Open Book, and I thought I’d start with this one: A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz. I really wanted something light and sweet, given how heavy my real life has been of late, and A Bound Heart does not disappoint.  It is quite slow to get started, so much that I almost gave up, but I hung in there, and I’m enjoying it.

A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Book Update, and Heavengers, Assemble!

Hey, there! Long time, no blog! What do you think of the new look around here?

We have a title! Coming in Fall 2020 from Our Sunday Visitor Books is my next project, The Broken Grown-Up’s Guide to Joyful Family Life. This is designed to be a pocket guide to how the Greatest Commandment and the Beatitudes are God’s special healing tools to those of us who’ve survived family abuse and dysfunction.

And old friends of the now-archived Sabbath Rest Book Talk will be almost as delighted as I was to hear that our very own Rebecca Willen will be my editor on this project! I shrieked so loudly when I got this news that my dogs started barking. Then again, they’re terriers, so they bark at falling leaves and the gentle shifting of the earth’s crust…

Fall of 2020 might sound like a long time to you. Having launched books before, I knoooooooowwww painfully well that time is going to fly, and a year from now, a year won’t seem like enough. One thing I need to do is start lining up some speaking gigs. So, like, if you want, um, an articulate speaker on the subject of healing, hope, and forgiveness, think of me?

Speaking of Speaking, I did make it, if only for one morning, to the Catholic Writers Guild Live/Catholic Marketing Network Trade show in August. I made it to the annual Catholic Mom Contributors’ Breakfast, and it is such a treat to see all these good friends I’ve made over the years, not to mention to put faces and actual audible voices with the names of other writers I’ve followed for ages but hadn’t yet had a chance to meet.

Once the breakfast was over, I had cornered desperately like a wild and hungry animal was talking casually with Marge Steinhage Fenelon of My Queen, My Mother and Forgiving Mother fame (look for reviews on both in the coming weeks). While Marge’s story and mine are not identical by any means, we have walked out of the same shadows into the exact same light. I went to her, begging for politely requesting some mentoring. Among other things, she shared about how, before she gets up to speak, she asks Jesus and Mary and a whole range of saints to be there will her. She said something along the lines of, “So I ask my saint posse to assemble—”

And I almost stopped her and asked, “Assemble…? Like… the Avengers?”

You’d be proud. I kept the nerdiness to myself at the time, but here I am, sharing it with you, because, I mean, really—you didn’t expect to keep that much nerdiness to myself, did you?

Get Moving With The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic: a quick little read to help you explore a deeper relationship with God, body and soul! 99cents on Amazon, but free to newsletter subscribers. Click for more!So after I got home from that desperate sob session casual chat, I started making a list of who’s in my saint posse, and which Avenger corresponds to that saint’s role in my life. I’m going to turn that into something fun for my newsletter subscribers soon. So do think about subscribing to the EMC Reader. If you do, you’ll get my booklet on the 9 Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic for free. Marvel movies? A free book? If that doesn’t tempt you, I don’t know what would.

Either way, who are some of your heavenly role models and intercessors? Who’s who in your posse of saint superheroes?

An Open Book: Boundaries, Classics and Dead Critters [Feb2019]

Books for high school students, wounded people, and a classic readaloud where somebody probably dies: I join  Carolyn Astfalk with Catholic Mom for a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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Turning my eye to non-fiction this month for the most part, for writing purposes. ICYM, I’m working on a book for Our Sunday Visitor. I’m writing about parenting spirituality for survivors of child abuse and family dysfunction. If this is news to you, that’s because you haven’t had the chance to subscribe to my newsletter. Oh, do, dear reader, and thus receive your free copy of Get Moving With St. Dominic’s Nine Ways of Prayer.

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BoundariesCover BoundariesInMarriage Now that I’ve done most of the heavier research for the OSV book, I’m working my way through this series: Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Not gonna lie: this series is helping me less with the book and more with my own relationships. These books are Christian in the truest sense of holding Christ’s example up for us as something to emulate in order to live peacefully with the truth.  I tend to take on more than I can handle, both professionally and personally, and either let people get away with almost-murder or cut them out entirely. These books are basically telling me things I kind of already knew, but the examples given and the scriptures backing them up make me feel like setting healthy boundaries is something I can do effectively without as much hemming and hawing as I usually do.

I hope to list these in the “Resources” section of my book. I have noble plans to “leak” a few of the books I’ve used for more specific research in the upcoming Open Book linkups, so if that sort of information is useful to you, keep an eye out here. A1PlaceHolderA1PlaceHolderSeparatePeaceOresteia School assignments over here for First Shift of Kids.  I read A Separate Peace in high school… I think. I may have “read” it, as in let the words swim before my eyes while I listened to The Cure.  All I remember is that there’s a broken bone in there, and the day after I was talking to the child reading this book about the grossness and pain and obscure dangers involved in setting broken bones 100 years ago… the kid up and breaks two bones.  They were small bones. She did not fall out of a tree to break them.

The Oresteia I did not read, even in college, even as a theatre major in college. Another win for end-of-20th-century education in America.

A1PlaceHolderYearlingCoverAnd yet another book I haven’t read: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I’ve not read the book. I’ve not seen the movie. I know there’s a deer. I’m assuming something and or someone will die, and I’ll have to read while crying, which I find embarrassing, even in front of my kid. Dear Lord, please help this sort of thing be a cherished memory to her of her softie mom’s sentimentality, and not a source of annoyance at mom’s weakness.

I picked this for our read-aloud because it’s a used book sale find, and we’ve had it sitting on the shelf unread for a couple of years. I’m up to Chapter Nine or Ten reading this aloud to Second Shift of Kid, and we’ve yet to meet the deer. That said, it’s a fun read-aloud if you like reading dialect, and in this case, I do, since I’m not reading for an audition but to just my one youngest kid who hasn’t quite reached the disdain-everything-mom-does stage–yet. It’ll come. Probably the day I have to cry-read in front of her.   A1PlaceHolder

That’s it for February! Want more details on An Open Book? You can also sign up for An Open Book reminder email, which goes out one week before the link-up. You can also check out the archives of An Open Book!

An Open Book [Dec2018]

New release in YA dystopian, plus classics, and Christmas tearjerkers abound in this month’s reads. Want more? Carolyn Astfalk with Catholic Mom has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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No Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December or January, so here’s what we’re reading chez nous.

Check out An Open Book, a monthly book review linkup I forget where I found a list of historical picture books around the Christmas theme, but Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant was on there. We got it from the library, and in spite of reading it myself ahead of time, I couldn’t get through the read-aloud process without needing to stop a few times for the lump in my throat to clear, which it never fully did. It was a good opportunity to ask my audience to take over (this is someone who says she hates reading aloud). It’s the story of a rich man who, once helped by the people of Appalachia, decides he owes them a debt, so every year, he stands on the back of a train going through the mountains and throws silver packages of gifts to the children. Little Frankie always hopes he’ll get a doctor kit, but instead he gets other toys alongside practical gifts like warm clothes. Frankie grows up and realizes that, in spite of his childhood disappointment, he, too, owes a debt. Five stars, three Kleenex to Silver Packages.A1PlaceHolderElizabethRedRoseThe Royal Diaries series has long been a favorite in our house full of girls who love history. Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor is the book the youngest just picked up, after her sisters read it several years ago. I’m hoping to get a chance to read it at some point after she’s in bed and before it has to go back to the library.  A1PlaceHolderEmmaBookCoverMiddle Dumpling is reading Emma, the only Jane Austen book I’ve never read. For some reason, this one never appealed to me (as much as I liked Clueless), but Middle Dumpling seems to be enjoying it in what little spare time she has; she’s taken on an ambitious course load and is kicking its but, if I may brag on her thusly.

I admit I’ll probably read Emma before you’ll get me to give Krisin Lavransdatter or any Russian novels another try.   I’m more of a romance and action reader than a wallower in despair.

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TheManInTheIronMaskCoverSpeaking of romance and action, Oldest Dumpling has been given a “free choice reading” assignment for school, and it looks like she went with The Man in the Iron Mask. Love Dumas.  Love love love. I’ve not read this one yet, but I’ll probably pick it up even before Emma.A1PlaceHolderRavenmasterAnd here’s a book I actually have read! I cannot recommend  The Ravenmaster: My Life With The Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife enough. Skaife has a delightful voice, and I really felt like I was sitting in the pub with him across the table from me and my kids, telling us how he became the Ravenmaster, about his life in the military, even about his childhood as a bit of a “messer.” If you’re any kind of anglophile, bird fan, history buff, you’ll be absolutely delighted ty The Ravenmaster. Best of all, if you have a reader in your family whose reading level outpaces his/her maturity, The Ravenmaster is a great fit. It’s family friendly and rich storytelling.

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I also want to give you a heads-up:

The Siege of Reginald Hill Final Front

Just in time for St. Nicholas Day, Christmas, Three Kings, Candlemas, or any other occasion on which you feel like giving gifts of Catholic-friendly fiction to your favorite teen reader, UK-author Corinna Turner has released the latest in her YA dystopian saga, the I Am Margaret Series.

This latest release, The Siege of Reginald Hill, goes like this:

An odd surge filled my heart as I looked at him, sitting there in that chair: so old; so evil; so broken; so… alone. A warmth. A caring. A… love. I loved him. Just another poor sinner who need my care…

SAFETY IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF DANGER, BUT THE PRESENCE OF GOD.

Fr Kyle Verrall is living a quiet life as a parish priest in Africa when he’s snatched from his church one night by armed assailants. He’s in big trouble—his sister’s worst enemy is hell-bent on taking revenge on the famous Margaret Verrall by killing her brother, just as slowly and horribly as he can.

What could possibly save him? The humble young priest is defenceless—or so Reginald Hill believes.

But Kyle has a powerful weapon Hill knows nothing about. And he’s not afraid to use it.

Is Reginald Hill really the hunter? Or is he the hunted?

I love what I’ve read of this series so far, but be warned: there are some graphic violence bits that aren’t suitable for younger readers. I’ve just decided to let my 14 year-olds have at it.  Perhaps the best part of this series is that there are so many books in it—more than just three, like some other, almost as good YA dystopian series I could name.  Pick a YA reader or two in your life and gift the whole stack

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