book reviews

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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That’s it for December! 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!

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On Putting Aside the Flat Earth Novel

CAUTION: FRANK, MATURE DISCUSSION AHEAD

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Image by skeeze via Pixabay

People. Between my lectio divina and my lectio ficta*, I think I’ve stumbled upon one humongous reason why Catholic fiction is not flying off the shelves.  Let me see if I can put it into words.

This should be good, since, admittedly, I’ve put precious little into words of late. So, by “should be good,” I mean, “might be pretty bad.”

I used to finish every book I picked up.  It seemed good form.  Funny how having kids forces one to become picky with how one spends every blessed drop of time.  Hence why, as I admitted during last June’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk , I’ve returned Kristin Lavransdatter, Anna Karenina, and not to leave the boys out, those krazy Karamazov kids back to the library unfinished.  Now, I adore Hugo and Dickens, so you can’t say that I balk at thick books just by virtue of their thickness.  Once kids came along, however, if I don’t care deeply about your story within the first chapter, I’m probably going to put it down.

I picked up a book** recently that I gave more than that first chapter, because it was a fun concept.  I put it down around a third of the way through.  Why? Because it was written in a world that totally ignores a dimension of the human experience that I know exists because I have willingly experienced it–but is considered cumbersome to the current culture at large… so cumbersome that most people either act like it doesn’t exist or they don’t even know it’s there.  

I’ve been struggling to come up with an adequate metaphor.  Let’s try this: it’s like someone wrote a book in which we don’t ever need to breathe. I’m not talking about an author keeping out descriptions of breathing because they have no bearing on the story. No.  But imagine an author writes a space opera in which humans go zipping from planet to planet with no actual life support system.  Human characters just go swimming through the vacuum of space, no protection from radiation, no oxygen, no water source, no, um, waste disposal…

Most readers would be all like, “You’re kidding, right? Reality isn’t like that.” We can only suspend our disbelief so far before the story becomes untenable…

… unless, that is, the reader has already written off the necessity of life support before picking up the novel. 

Time to drop the metaphor. In the novel I put down, there was a lot of sex.

“ERIN!” you gasp.  “YOU SCREAMING HYPOCRITE! WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN READING!?!?”

Chill, mes amis.  There literally was nothing graphic in there, which is why I got as far as that first third in the first place. Anyway. By “sex,” I mean there were a lot of genital relationships of various types alluded to on every page.  All operated on the assumption that there is a complete lack of any transcendent dimension applicable in those relationships.  There was only a historic past for these characters and a panting present.  There was no future. There was no eternity.

Now, either you know exactly what I’m talking about or you think I’m rattling off nonsense.

For those of you who know what I mean, you know there’s certain entertainment that just leaves you a teeny bit empty inside, even if you found it, well, entertaining:

  • the show that displays violence like it’s no big deal, completely ignoring how murder shatters the murderer’s soul
  • the movie that tries to tell you that a violent sexual relationship never destroys the characters’ trust in each other, the world and themselves, because, hey, there’s no magic wand like “consent,” and there are no such things as regrets when you’ve waved said magic wand
  • the song that sings the praises of date rape and ignores our current reality of sexual harassment

If you’re in the “Erin is rattling off nonsense again” camp… dude, I have no idea how to reach you.  Seriously, I don’t.  If I knew, I’d have tried it by now.  If you are convinced that the most transcendent thing about utilizing your genitals for your well-deserved pleasure is the c-word (which is “consent,” in case you thought it was something else)… what can I say?

If you’ve already written off the need for life support simply because you’ve never been in space, how can I convince you that that vacuum will kill you, whether you acknowledge it or not?  And why would you want to read any books that tell you, “Hey, you know, if you don’t acknowledge biological reality, you’re probably going to die?”

I mean, who wants to pay cash money for that kind of downer?

Of course, I kind of like you and don’t want you to die.  Still my not wanting you to die has nothing to do with your consent, so you can write that off, too, cantcha?

If you’re in the latter camp… I love you, but I gotta be honest.  You look like flat earthers. You look like science deniers.

Today’s lectio divina for me was the short reading in Lauds.  In it, we’re charged to tell prisoners to escape prison, to tell those in darkness to step into the light.  So.  Latter camp?  You consented to your prison? You asked to be in darkness? I don’t care.  Come out.  Get light. There.  My work here is done. For now.

Speaking of which, there might be some reality I’m missing.  Maybe I should give Tolstoy another chance.

If you want to give some reality a chance that you’ve previously been shy of considering…

Catholic Reads: reviewed Catholic books to be had on the cheap

The Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

Virtue Works Media: Books, movies, etc., all rated for their virtue nutritional content

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body

If I haven’t listed it here, Carolyn has at her place, so go to there.

And, of course, there’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk, starting again in February 2018.

Speaking of which, Happy New Year!


*That’s supposed to be Latin for “fiction reading,” as opposed to lectio divina being “divine reading.” I am not a Latin scholar, however, so… you know.  It’s probably wrong.

**In compliance with this blog’s review policy, since I can’t give this book at least four stars, I’m not going to name it.  SO QUIT ASKING!

What I’ve Been Reading [Open Book December 2017]

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

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Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

The aforementioned Carolyn also joins me and Rebecca Willen every month for Sabbath Rest Book Talk, which will return Sunday, February 4, 2018!

Keep an eye out here for the reading selections for next year, and if you want quarterly reminders of what we’re reading, please subscribe to my newsletter.  That free book on Dominican prayer is coming.  I promise.  For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Plus, click here to check out our NEW GOODREADS FEATURE! It’s a list! On Goodreads! Vote for books we’ve already featured and add any books you think we should discuss in the future!

Okay, finally, all that’s done.  Here’s what I’ve been reading (or hearing).  It’s a lot, so don’t expect lengthy descriptions.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogThe Three Musketeers tells the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman, D’Artagnan and his three friends from the regiment of the King’s Musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of Cardinal Richelieu, and the honour of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth century France are vividly played out in the background. But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal’s spy, Milady, one of literature’s most memorable female villains, and Dumas employs all his fast-paced narrative skills to bring this enthralling novel to a breathtakingly gripping and dramatic conclusion.

Got this from the library as a summer road trip listen. Loved it.  Humor.  Adventure. Romance.  Tragedy.  Justice.  What’s not to love? Warning: our heroes are not exactly saints. Everybody’s got a mistress. Revenge sullies justice.  And so and so.  4.5/5

Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, translated by Seamus Heaney

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogComposed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf ?is the elegiac narrative of the Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel’s mother. Drawn to what he has called the “four-squareness of the utterance” in ?Beowulf ?and its immense emotional credibility Seamus Heaney gives the great epic convincing reality

But how to visualize the poet’s story has always been a challenge for modern-day readers. In Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, John D. Niles, a specialist in Old English literature, provides visual counterparts to Heaney’s remarkable translation. More than one hundred full-page illustrations―Viking warships, chain mail, lyres, spearheads, even a reconstruction of the Great Hall―make visible Beowulf’s world and the elemental themes of his story: death, divine power, horror, heroism, disgrace, devotion, and fame. This mysterious world is now transformed into one of material splendor as readers view its elegant goblets, dragon images, and finely crafted gold jewelry against the backdrop of the Danish landscape of its origins.

Our homeschool is doing Story of Civilization, Volume 2: The Medieval World this year, so for literary study, I’m keeping us in that era.  Because I was a lazy teen, I could have taken AP English but opted instead for Track 1, so I wouldn’t have to read stuff like Beowulf.  Well, Teen Erin, that was a stupid choice.  Middle Aged Erin is love, love, loving Beowulf.  This illustrated edition is especially delightful; it’s like an archaeology magazine with a freaky storybook inside. Let it be known, however, that I’m the weird sort who prefers the Silmarilion to The Lord of the Rings, so take my feedback in that context.

What’s more is my 7 year-old struggling reader is digging Beowulf, too.  We got the audiobook out of the library (a little gruesome, of course, but she survived), we did the Rosemary Sutcliff version for readaloud, and she took this graphic novel out of the library at least two times and read it independently.  5/5.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, narrated by Stephen Crossly

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogBy 1792, the idealism of the French Revolution has degenerated into a Reign of Terror. Ruthless mobs rule the streets of Paris, and each day, hundreds of royalists are sacrificed to the guillotine, with hundreds more condemned to follow. Their only hope lies in rescue by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the daring leader of an English faction that spirits aristocrats across the Channel to safety. This historical adventure tale first appeared in 1905, but its irresistible blend of romance, intrigue, and suspense renders it timeless. Readers thrill to the gallantry of the Pimpernel, whose nom de guerre derives from the wildflower he employs as a calling card. A scourge to the French authorities, the Pimpernel is the darling of the people — particularly Marguerite Blakeney, who scorns her foppish husband, Sir Percy, as ardently as she admires the Pimpernel. The basis of a classic film, this ever-popular story has recently been adapted as a musical, to the delight of Broadway audiences.

We’ll be reading this one for SRBT next year, so I wanted to get a jump on it.  I am so glad I did. Listen to November’s SRBT and you’ll find out why Marguerite SanJust and her adventure to save her beloved Scarlet Pimpernel were the reason we had to postpone that ‘cast for a week and why I had to spend 20 minutes pushing a grocery cart around a dark parking lot in the pouring rain.  If Amazon/Goodreads had a 6th star, TSP would get it.  6/5

Julia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable

Online Bookseller Blurb:

Julia's Gifts by Ellen Gable (WWI Clean Romance--Great War, Great Love)As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will Julia’s naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

WWI has the best fashions.  Right, not the noblest though I could’ve voiced about The Great War.  Anyway, Ellen Gable has a new series of sweet romances set in this era, and Julia’s Gifts is the first.  If you’re looking for a clean read with a darling, heartlifting ending, this would be for you.  Look for more installments in this series coming through, each a standalone but of the same period and flavor of romance.  I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.  4/5

The Grace Crasher by Mara Faro

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogArmed with a floral-print Bible cover, Julia must pretend to be “born again” for her Christian housemates–cute EMT Mark and his church-lady mom. Their place is walking distance (cough, stalking distance) from Dylan, her latest musician crush.
Mark knows she’s faking her faith. But he needs someone like her to crash his dull routine. So he protects her secret and brings her to his Evangelical church. Hiding her Catholic past, she bumbles her way through hand-raising worship. Other times she sneaks into Mass. Meanwhile, Mark explains how to be “saved.” (Sure, she needs saving–from her alcoholic dad, her copier-jamming job, and Mark’s suspicious mom.) But does he just want to save her? Or date her?
Then Dylan sings her a song at open mic. Suddenly she’s torn between two guys, flubbing her way through three different churches, and completely confused about life. Will it all crash down around her, or will she crash straight into grace?

Would you like to pick up what looks like a big bag of pink cotton candy only to have that fluffy confection plunge a knife into your heart and twist it around multiple times, leaving you wrung out on all the best, deepest, most bittersweet emotions? If you’re anything like me, then your answer is, “Yes!” In that case, The Grace Crasher will be your kind of novel. In this debut, Faro delivers unexpected depth and heartrending drama. Julia’s path is a relatable one, and in her flaws and the flaws of the characters around her, we see ourselves and our own brokenness with delightful clarity. This is at its heart a story of the lies we tell ourselves and each other–and of the Truth that pursues us in spite of it all. I’m a believer in The Grace Crasher! 6/5

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogIt’s the year 2045, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

A rip-roaring adventure that reminded me of plowing through Snow Crash and Neuromancer while riding the train to work back-in-the-day and getting ticked off when the train had to pull into the station and I had to stop reading.  To call this one a page turner would be a gross understatement.  Be warned: this book is not for the reader without a well-formed conscience; there’s a bit too much secular preaching for my taste, not the least being the main character’s treatise on how much technological progress must needs rely on the rich value of masturbation.  But if you already know that our bodies mean something–which, funny enough, is what Ready Player One starts showing and proving on its very last page, for those who have eyes to see–you’ll be okay with this book.  I got my copy from the library (which made the world’s best librarian ask, “You haven’t read this yet?!?!”) 4.5/5

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogIn DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories-from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air-and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.

A convincing manual for why and how you should reduce distractions in your life (ahem, social media addiction) in order to pursue a more peaceful, fruitful, productive life.  I borrowed a copy from the library and then asked for (and received) a copy for my birthday, I loved it that much and know I’ll need to return to it regularly. 5/5

Caveats:

  • The testimonies and lives are overwhelmingly those of men or, infrequently, of women who are not working from home with the children (and their incessant interruptions) present, awake, and in need of tending through the majority of the day.  Those of us who are in the Deep [House]Work category will need to take his suggestions and modify them to be reasonable for our current state in life.
  • While Newport does bring in psychology and even some very even-handed, secular-friendly spirituality (including a mention of The Intellectual Life by Fr. Sertillanges, OP), the perspective is slanted towards making your life more productive in a secular sense.  Proceed accordingly.  Don’t turn this into a bible for the worship of Productivity.

The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher

From Online Bookseller’s Blurb:

Benedict Option…Rod Dreher argues that the way forward is actu­ally the way back—all the way to St. Benedict of Nur­sia. This sixth-century monk, horrified by the moral chaos following Rome’s fall, retreated to the forest and created a new way of life for Christians. He built enduring communities based on principles of order, hospitality, stability, and prayer. His spiritual centers of hope were strongholds of light throughout the Dark Ages, and saved not just Christianity but Western civilization.

Today, a new form of barbarism reigns. Many believers are blind to it, and their churches are too weak to resist. Politics offers little help in this spiritual crisis. What is needed is the Benedict Option, a strategy that draws on the authority of Scripture and the wisdom of the ancient church. The goal: to embrace exile from mainstream culture and construct a resilient counterculture.

The Benedict Option is both manifesto and rallying cry for Christians who, if they are not to be conquered, must learn how to fight on culture war battlefields like none the West has seen for fifteen hundred years. It’s for all mere Chris­tians—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox—who can read the signs of the times. Neither false optimism nor fatalistic despair will do. Only faith, hope, and love, embodied in a renewed church, can sustain believers in the dark age that has overtaken us. These are the days for building strong arks for the long journey across a sea of night.

Yes, the widely celebrated instruction manual on how to build an ark for you and your children to face the coming tsunami that will wipe out Christian culture in the so-called West.  Yes, the tsunami is coming, but this manual will build you an ark full of holes.  What do you actually do with your children once you’ve holed them in up in your small, rural manufacturing community where prices are low and somehow magically going to stay that way?  Benedict Option claims to take the long view, but it rings more like a short-to-mid-range view that has called upon limited resources: can we learn nothing from our African and Asian siblings in the faith who’ve maintained their churches in the face of far deeper persecution than we’ve faced of late?  There’s gotta be a better way.  I borrowed this book from the library.  3/5

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

Online Bookseller Blurb:

FunnyInFarsiFunny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas, and later lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.

In a series of deftly drawn scenes, we watch the family grapple with American English (hot dogs and hush puppies?—a complete mystery), American traditions (Thanksgiving turkey?—an even greater mystery, since it tastes like nothing), and American culture (Firoozeh’s parents laugh uproariously at Bob Hope on television, although they don’t get the jokes even when she translates them into Farsi).

Above all, this is an unforgettable story of identity, discovery, and the power of family love. It is a book that will leave us all laughing—without an accent.

A memoir made up of a series of essays on growing up in America as an Iranian immigrant.  Full of giggles and tender sentiment by turns.  Balances a wry eye with a compassionate view–always the best kind of balance, if you ask me.  I’d feel comfortable letting junior highers and up read this.  Borrowed from the library.  5/5

Finding Patience: The Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity by Virginia Lieto

Online Bookseller Blurb:

An Open Book: Book Reviews through December 2017 at Erin McCole Cupp's blogFor children, waiting for anything seems endless! Faith Livingstone would agree, having just moved to a new town and about to enter a new school. Faith wants so badly to make new friends. She wants to feel like she belongs in her new surroundings. It all can’t happen fast enough for Faith! Journey with Faith as she struggles to make new friends; yet, learns the value of the virtue of patience in the process.

Sweet little story book for the child in your life who may be facing a new situation and having to make new friends…and learning patience in the process.  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  4/5

Cinder Alia by Karen Ullo

Online Bookseller Blurb:

CINDER ALLIA by Karen Ullo: Cinder Allia has spent eight years living under her stepmother’s brutal thumb, wrongly punished for having caused her mother’s death. She lives for the day when the prince will grant her justice; but her fairy godmother shatters her hope with the news that the prince has died in battle...Cinder Allia has spent eight years living under her stepmother’s brutal thumb, wrongly punished for having caused her mother’s death. She lives for the day when the prince will grant her justice; but her fairy godmother shatters her hope with the news that the prince has died in battle. Allia escapes in search of her own happy ending, but her journey draws her into the turbulent waters of war and politics in a kingdom where the prince’s death has left chaos and division.

Cinder Allia turns a traditional fairy tale upside down and weaves it into an epic filled with espionage, treason, magic, and romance. What happens when the damsel in distress must save not only herself, but her kingdom? What price is she willing to pay for justice? And can a woman who has lost her prince ever find true love?

Surrounded by a cast that includes gallant knights, turncoat revolutionaries, a crippled prince who lives in hiding, a priest who is also a spy, and the man whose love Allia longs for most—her father—Cinder Allia is an unforgettable story about hope, courage, and the healing power of pain.

The fairy tale retold in a way you’ve never imagined, with more medieval zombies than fairy dust, more angst than froth. Nonstop action, rich detail, twists and turns to keep you guessing up until the very end.  Highly recommended.  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  5/5

 

What’s your #OpenBook?

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

 

 

Sabbath Rest Book Talk/Open Book [August 2017]

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

an-open-book

The aforementioned Carolyn also joins me and Rebecca Willen every month for Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

Our selections for August were:

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction Is Good For You! Join us for August 2017, and we'll talk about how these books show us what we humans can learn about growing up.

Adult Book: Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

YA Book: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Children’s/Readaloud: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

And here’s what we had to say about them:

And big congrats to Lisa Hendey, who won the signed paperback copy of Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb!

Plus, click here to check out our

NEW GOODREADS FEATURE!

It’s a list! On Goodreads! Vote for books we’ve already featured and add any books you think we should discuss in the future!

Remember, all SRBTs here on out, I’ll continue announcing the book selections and focus ahead of time, so you can read along and join the discussion a little more easily and thoughtfully. Voila, for September:

OpalsJubileeCover GoodMasterCover AnneGreenGablesCover

Adult Book: Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch

YA Book: The Good Master by Kate Seredy

Children’s/Readaloud: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR AN OPAL’S JUBILEE GIVEAWAY:

deets on the way.  

That’s it for August! While we’re here, gentle reminder: To keep on top of each month’s SRBT selections, do sign up for my monthly newsletter. For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

What’s your #OpenBook?

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction is Good for You! Join us for a monthly video exchange on how fiction makes us more human.

#OpenBook and Sabbath Rest Book Talk!

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

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In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone.  In addition to reviewing books for #OpenBook, I’ve started a monthly event on Facebook Live over at my author page.  It’s called Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and in it I’ll talk about a few of the books I’ve read in the past month in terms of how they, as fiction, help us grow in humanity.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

For the August episode of SRBT, for the the thumbnaily-thing below to watch the video on YouTube:

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction is Good for You! Join Author Erin McCole Cupp for a monthly interactive event where we'll discuss all the ways fiction builds up our humanity.

And here are links to the books discussed in August’s episode, focusing on EMPATHY:

LunarChronicles

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

 

Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean

 

RolandWestLoner

Roland West: Loner by Theresa Linden

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

WWRW: The Grace of Yes by Lisa Hendey

It’s time for What We’re Reading Wednesday, occasionally hosted by Jessica over at Housewifespice.  Even if she’s not hosting right now, go on over there and give her blog a cuddle.

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This week it’s all about saying, “YES!”

In The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living, Lisa Hendey gives us a firm but gentle walk down a path out of the fear and selfishness that tends to be the natural human state into a way of living that is made larger and more free by all the ways we can give, and in giving see ourselves as the gifts we are. Each chapter includes a down-to-earth, pointed-to-heaven reflection from Lisa, a set of thought-provoking questions on the virtue being discussed, and prayer. Few writers have the gift of being able to give us a kick in the pants without it hurting like the dickens. Lisa Hendey is one of those who has this gift. If you’d like such a kick in the pants and have others getting kicked along with you (that sounds much worse than it sounded in my head), I also encourage you to participate in the CatholicMom.com Grace of Yes book club going on right now.  Say “yes” to The Grace of Yes!

Giveaways, Book Club, and more like “Wow Card Wednesday!”

Hey, Tomato Pie Peeps! This is going to be a fly-by. Things to do, people to see, breakfasts to cook, etc.

  1. Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet has one part of an interview with little ol’ me, not to mention a giveaway of an ebook (Kindle, I believe) of Don’t You Forget About Me. BTW, this part of the interview reveals how the story came together, how endometriosis of all things played a part, and… outtakes. Books have outtakes. Oh yes they do. Cristina is a hilarious, warm and full of fresh ideas, so go check out this fresh, young lay Dominican.
  2. Tiffany at Life of a Catholic Librarian has another part of that interview and is giving away a hard copy of DYFAM. This part of the interview tackles the value of a Best Good Friend, how to write a mystery if you don’t really read them, and the question everybody seems to want to ask but is afraid to: Is Cate really just Erin with a different name? If I have learned one thing from homeschooling, it is the value of a good librarian–her value is above rubies, above curriculum catalogs. Go visit Tiffany, a lay Dominican Middle Eastern dancer. Yes, you can be both.
  3. WOW! We are getting in some fabulous flashes for Wildcard Wednesday. In case you missed it, WCW is a monthly fiction improv, and this month’s is an audition for an upcoming short story anthology from Full Quiver Publishing. It’ll take 10 minutes to write, maybe 5 to post/link, and you could get discovered. Oh, and the linkup doesn’t even close until September 6 at 1am. Q: What’s to lose? A: NOTHING!

And now I’m leaving you with my tall glass of cold, bubbly coffee.

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THANK YOU!

Last week’s free Kindle promotion of Don’t You Forget About Me  was exhausting… but, I believe, productive!

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It would have been even more exhausting and far less productive if I hadn’t received the generous help of many, many folks online.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of those people.

If I’ve forgotten you, comment below, remonstrating me for my rude ignorance and including the link to how you helped a writer out.  I’ll gladly make amends.