The Writing Life

Open Book: Book Recs September 2021

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup, shared also at Catholic Mom!


This Month’s Covers

Love & Responsibility John Paul II: A Simplified Version by Monsignor Vincent M. Walsh

From Amazon:

This project has been Approved by the Vatican Secretary of the State. In his brilliance, Pope writes in a style which is difficult for the average reader. Therefore the goal of A Simplified Version is to allow the brilliance of the Pope’s thoughts to be grasped by a wider audience. All of the words, thoughts and reasoning processes in this book are the Pope’s. Nothing has been watered down. Therefore the reader will see the beauty of his ideas and the clear flow of his reasoning.

My Thoughts:

I love JPII. I have found him difficult to read. Even this simplified version had some jumbly bits, but all in all, it was way easier to finish than the original Love & Responsibility without losing its authenticity. 5/5

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park

From Amazon: In a riveting narrative set in fifteenth-century Korea, two brothers discover a shared passion for kites. Kee-sup can craft a kite unequaled in strength and beauty, but his younger brother, Young-sup, can fly a kite as if he controlled the wind itself. Their combined skills attract the notice of Korea’s young king, who chooses Young-sup to fly the royal kite in the New Year kite-flying competition–an honor that is also an awesome responsibility. Although tradition decrees, and the boys’ father insists, that the older brother represent the family, both brothers know that this time the family’s honor is best left in Young-sup’s hands. This touching and suspenseful story, filled with the authentic detail and flavor of traditional Korean kite fighting, brings a remarkable setting vividly to life.. 

My thoughts: Got this from the library to pre-read for my 11yo, as we’re doing a quick dip into Asian history before we fully open up our ancient Western history study for this school year. It was a very sweet read that I enjoyed, with believable characters in an emotionally challenging situation, playing family honor versus duty to king and country, not to mention the youthful quest to become master of one’s emotional landscape. It’s a very easy read, however, and (seriously not bragging here) the reader in question just started Lord of the Rings, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to entice her to pick this up. 5/5

Falling for Your Madness by Katharine Grubb

From Amazon: Eccentric literature professor David approaches Laura for a counter-cultural, rule-filled relationship filled with poetry, flowers and bottom-less cups of tea. He makes it very clear to her that they are just friends. If she wants to be more — if she wants to be sweethearts — then she is the only one that can move them forward. Laura is smitten by his humor, his charm, and his English accent (which turns out to be fake). In his company, she has never felt more beautiful or ladylike. David tells Laura that the reason he has these rules is because he is bound by the laws of chivalry, both body and soul. Then Laura finds out the real reason, one that’s ancient, filled with legend and magic. Yet Laura has complete control of this madman. Should she release him or tell him she wants more? Is he eccentric or just mad? Falling For Your Madness is not just a romantic comedy, but it also asks the question, who has the most power in a relationship? The lady? Or the gentleman?

My thoughts: I have had this on my TBR pile for so long that it’s embarrassing (so writer friends who’ve given me books to review in the past five or so years? It’s not you. It’s me.) Anyway, this was a fun, sweet read with a romance that makes the reader ask all the best questions about relationships. I do have qualms with how David never quite learns to use his rules as tools rather than being ruled by them (and more details than that would be spoilers), which would have made the relationship more satisfying for me, but as wish-fulfillment stories go, this one’s pretty fulfilling. 4/5 stars


Kristin Lavransdatter : Reader, I gave up. Seeing her make the emotionally intoxicated decisions she was making at Nonnesetter… it was like watching a slug pour salt on itself. It’s okay to have boundaries, even in highly acclaimed Catholic fiction.

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

Open Book: Book Recs August 2021

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup, shared also at Catholic Mom!


This Month’s Covers

Never Enough: the Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction by Judith Grisel

From Amazon: Judith Grisel was a daily drug user and college dropout when she began to consider that her addiction might have a cure, one that she herself could perhaps discover by studying the brain. Now, after 25 years as a neuroscientist, she shares what she and other scientists have learned about addiction, enriched by captivating glimpses of her personal journey. 

My thoughts: amazing look at the process of addiction from all angles, intellectual/clinical and personal/visceral. Grisel reintroduced me to tachyphylaxis and opponent-process theory , both of which explain so much of how our God-designed minds operate in this fallen world. It’s amazing.  (library book)

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox, illustrated by Marla Frazee

From Amazon: Harriet doesn’t mean to be pesky. Sometimes she just is. And her mother doesn’t mean to lose her temper. Sometimes she just does. But Harriet and her mother know that even when they do things they wish they hadn’t, they still love each other very much.

My thoughts: This was a very sweet look at how children and the adults they become are never perfect, never have it all together, and sometimes things just happen in spite of all our efforts to keep them from happening. The only thing we can do is love each other through our mistakes. 

The Way of Perfection by Teresa of Avila

From Christian Book Distributors: Although Teresa of Avila lived five centuries ago, her superbly inspiring classic on the practice of prayer is as fresh and meaningful today as it was when she first wrote it. Teresa’s strong desire throughout is to lead readers into a deeper and prevailing life of prayer. She begins with a treatment of the three essentials of the prayer-filled life—fraternal love, detachment from created things, and authentic humility. Building on that foundation, she then teaches on the cherished practices of prayer and contemplation. Finally, she provides a detailed and moving discourse on the Lord’s Prayer. Experience the fervent devotion of St. Teresa, and allow her to help you explore the rewarding discipline of contemplative prayer. 

My thoughts: Still working on it, but I just adore St. Teresa already. She’s so straightforward and downright salty sometimes that I can’t help but hang on her every word. I’m not a big underliner-in-books, but this is making me break my rule.  (Disclaimer: skipped the Rohr-ward) 

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

From Amazon: (Winner of a Newbery Honor, an exciting ancient Egyptian mystery) Ranofer wants only one thing in the world: to be a master goldsmith like his beloved father was. But how can he when he is all but imprisoned by his evil half brother, Gebu? Ranofer knows the only way he can escape Gebu’s abuse is by changing his destiny. But can a poor boy with no skills survive on the cutthroat streets of ancient Thebes? Then Ranofer finds a priceless golden goblet in Gebu’s room and he knows his luck−and his destiny−are about to change.

My thoughts: We are doing ancient history with Story of Civilization, Volume I this year for sixth grade, and I try to assign literary study that matches our history work as much as possible. The Golden Goblet is a well-told mystery story with a sympathetic, imperfect but integrity-driven main character. It’s boy-heavy, but I think my girl-reader will survive.


Kristin Lavransdatter (still haven’t finished it–I’m honestly not sure I’ve made any progress since last month’s Open Book)

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

Open Book: Book Recs for July 2021

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup, shared also at Catholic Mom!


Carolyn Astfalk joins up with Catholic Mom to present An Open Book linkup every first Wednesday of the month! You should join us! Here’s what I have been reading:

Handy Little Guide to Prayer by Barb Szyszkiewicz

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need things that I already “know” to be restated in clear, straightforward language so that I can approach them with new eyes and less baggage. The Handy Little Guide to Prayer provides just that. It’s the kind of book I would recommend to anyone at any level of prayer life. Whether you’re enthusiastically looking for a new way to express your growth in faith, experiencing a spiritual dry spell after years of prayer practice, or just curious about new ways to add prayer to your life, this handy little guide may be just the boost you need. 5/5

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Encounters With Addiction by Gabor Mate


Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

Moving story about all the ways grief hits us. Not a romance. Very honest. 5/5 

Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

If your thoughts run your life and boss you around, read this book. Practice these tools of “taking your thoughts captive to Christ,” and you will be set free. That’s pretty much it. 5/5

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Still reading. It may take a while. This is my second try, and I’m farther in this time. That’s what having kids not in diapers will do to one’s attention span. ?/5

Master Harold… and the Boys by Athol Fugard

A play from South Africa that I think I was supposed to have read in my days as a BA Theatre major before I switched to the BFA program with more art creation and less play reading (that’s not why I switched–I like reading plays). Great structure, great lessons on the widespread destructive power of racism–culturally-enforced narcissim of any kind, really. Warning: if Steve Rogers were reading it (or watching it at the theatre), he’d say, “Language.” 4.5/5

And now go link up with Carolyn Astfalk & Catholic Mom!

Open Book: Book Recs for June 2021

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup, shared also at Catholic Mom!



Yes, it seems redundant to say that I’ve had a rough year, since, really, who hasn’t? But I’m going to come out here with a chunk of self-compassion over how little reading, especially fiction reading, I’ve done over the past two years. Carolyn and I, and a whole bunch of fiction writers I know through the Catholic Writers Guild, have often bemoaned the greater cultural problem as follows:

Why do people read so much more non-fiction than fiction? 

I never understood it. Non-fiction was so dry, so unimaginative, and held none of the escape that Tolkien holds not as sickness but as duty. Why would people read non-fiction, even exclusively? Especially exclusively? 

And then I found myself working more psychological trauma than I’d ever imagined would be mine to work. 

What that trauma is/was is or perhaps may be for another time (more work to do on that before I can really synthesize it into something worth sharing with others). What I did learn, sort of, that I feel like I can share here is not so much of something I learned as something I’m wondering:

Our culture is so traumatizing in its dismissal of the beloved imperfection of the human person that we don’t see ourselves as soldiers under duty to King and country to escape but rather as rats in a maze that we must solve or else starve for lack of cheese. 

It’s just a thought I’m still working with, but it certainly rings true as I look over my reading list from the past two years or so and see its utter dearth of fiction. Well, maybe not utter. Anyway, I feel like I’m starting to come out of the maze just a wee ratty bit and am eyeing all the unread fiction that has accumulated over the past 24 months. I’m hoping to share more in Open Book in the coming months. Here’s hoping. 

Meanwhile, here’s what I have been reading:

Simple Mercies

Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfilment by Lara Patangan.

What a remarkable journey through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy we have in Simple Mercies. In a world where we feel constant pressure to do more and be more, Lara Patangan offers readers an opportunity to let the to-do list carve instead a space in the heart, where we can encounter the all-forgiving love of Christ in the everyday. The author spent a year celebrating the works of mercy and shares the fruits of her contemplation in this engaging work that one moment will have you laughing and the next will touch your heart with empathy for those we serve—and, just as importantly, for the person you see in the mirror. If you’re looking for a brief but uplifting read that will help you reframe your daily drudgery and find opportunities for greater spiritual joy, Simple Mercies would be a great fit. 5/5

I am grateful to have received an advance copy of Simple Mercies from the publisher.


Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This may be the only fiction I finished reading over the past year. I’d never read it before, and as I was preparing for my January surgery that little did I know was to become a January and a March surgery, I wanted something I wouldn’t have to think hard about how I was going to leave it a review, whose feelings I would hurt if I never got to that review (thoughts that go through an overfunctioning author’s mind when picking up her friends’ books), and so on. We had this in an anthology in the house, so I picked it up.

Oh, Sydney Carton. This was another experience like my first time reading Jane Eyre: I hadn’t read much about what I was about to read, so the big twist really got me and got me good, like took my breath away got me good. 5/5 A1PlaceHolder

Positive Intelligence

Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours by Shirzad Chamine.

Wow. WOW! This (non-fiction) book has changed my life by helping me to change my mind. In PI, Chamine synthesizes neuroscience, trauma recovery, emotional intelligence studies, and so much more, offering the reader tools to help us identify and derail our self-sabotaging patterns so that we can live more creative, joyful lives. Chamine tells his own story of how he thought his harsh inner critic was helping him succeed when all it was doing was ruining his relationships and his professional life. He then goes on to offer a model of looking at our thought patterns, identifying our typical “Saboteurs” (control, distraction, hypervigilance, etc.), disabling said Saboteurs, and then strengthening our mind to listen to our wiser self (which he calls our “Sage”). Full of practical tools you don’t need a ton of money or a ton of time (or a long-term therapist) to use, PI has been one of the most positive books I’ve read and has helped me make the most positive changes in my interior life as well as my relationships. 6/5 (seriously) A1PlaceHolder

Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Ecco. I haven’t finished it yet, but imagine Brother Sherlock Aquinas has come to a medieval monastery with the job of discovering why one of the brothers was discovered dead at the bottom of a ravine. I’m afraid it’s smarter than I am right now (I blame trauma brain), but I do find myself interested in reading more.  (TBD/5)

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

Open Book: Book Recs for August 2020

I’m nose-deep in edits on Broken Grown-ups Guide to Joyful Family Life, but we have had two beach days, which means two beach reads.

One Last Thing by Rebecca St. James & Nancy Rue

Tara Faulkner and Seth Grissom grew up next door to each other in Savannah’s historic district. Their parents are best friends. They finish each other’s sentences all the time. Their fairy-tale wedding is a foregone conclusion . . . until Tara discovers another side to Seth three weeks before the wedding. Reality has crashed in on Tara’s fairy tale—but hope will lead her to a future she couldn’t have planned for herself.

This one is an emotional suspense that will have you laughing, crying, screaming and cheering. I read this in one day, much as I did with All In Good Time. Similar themes. A clean read but for grown-ups only.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

When the Great Depression takes almost everything they own, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed forests of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy, even for Ellie, as her family struggles with the aftermath of an accident that has left her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie.
Determined to help her father, Ellie will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal and, with them, a fresh chance at happiness.
Echo Mountain is celebration of finding your own path and becoming your truest self. Lauren Wolk, the Newbery Honor– and Scott O’Dell Award–winning author of Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea weaves a stunning tale of resilience, persistence, and friendship across three generations of families, set against the rough and ragged beauty of the mountain they all call home.

Loved it. Good, solid YA, clean and challenging.

What are you reading these days? Don’t forget to link up with An Open Book.

Open Book: Book Recs for February 2020

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



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.


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!



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



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!



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.)


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.)



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!


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.


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.



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.


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!

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!


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.


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

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