Wednesday, November 1, 2023

An Open Book: October 2023 Reads

Happy All Saints Day! On this beautiful solemnity, I'm linking up with An Open Book to discuss the books that accompanied me in October. I read a lot of fiction with a little bit of nonfiction sprinkled in the mix. Let's dive in! 

Arabella and the Battle of Venus, by David D. Levine

Arabella discovers that her beloved fiancĂ© is a prisoner on Venus, so she concocts a plan to go rescue him. She winds up becoming embroiled in the ongoing war between Britain and France, and also is torn between her loyalty and love for her fiancĂ© as well as a rather roguish captain. I didn't like this book quite as well as Arabella of Mars, and honestly didn't care for the romantic tension plotline, but this was still a very enjoyable story, and the ending was satisfying!  

More All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor

(I thought I had already reviewed this one, but if not-here we go!) Ella, her younger sisters and baby brother return in this second book that follows a Jewish family in early 20th century New York City. The girls experience the ups and downs of life, from dealing with moral struggles and growing up to celebrating holidays like Yom Kippur and watching Uncle Hyman fall in love. This is a fun, beautiful book, and my seven-year-old and I enjoyed racing to see who could finish it first :) 

Smoke and Shadow, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru 

In this continuation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender saga, Zuko and his family return to the Fire National Capitol, to discover that a group of people want to overthrow him and place Ozai back on the throne. In the midst of this tension, small children begin disappearing in the night as they are seized by mysterious figures that look like spirits. Together, Aang and Zuko work to uncover this mystery and bring peace to the city. I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit darker than the others that came before it, and the story was fantastic. 

Suki Alone, by Faith Erin Hicks, Peter Wartman, and Adele Matera

This small graphic novel takes place during the Avatar: The Last Airbender show, and it follows Suki during her time alone at the Boiling Rock. This short story mostly follows Suki's struggle against loneliness as she experiences a loss of community in prison, and how she pushes through her circumstances. The story was interesting, but a lesbian couple enters the story (which I hadn't been expecting, since the Avatar show doesn't include that type of content), and it was pretty unnecessary to the plotline. This was a fun quick read, but it's not one I feel like picking up again (the graphic novels are way better!)

Passprt to Heaven, by Micah Wilder

Micah Wilder was the perfect image of being a zealous LDS teenager. He was passionate about his spiritual journey and yearned to convert others to what he believed was the true church. However, when he was on his two-year LDS mission after high school, Wilder encountered Jesus Christ in a whole new way...and wound up becoming a Protestant. In this memoir, Wilder shares his intense spiritual journey. Although I don't share all of his conclusions, I greatly admire his courage and his witness, and he has a lot of beautiful reflections in here! 

Arabella the Traitor of Mars, by David Levine

Just when Arabella and her husband slow down and celebrate England's victory over Napoleon, a new problem arises: the Crown asks Captain Singh to lead the charge in conquering Mars and bringing it fully into England's empire. Angry that her beloved Mars is being targeted by England, Arabella takes matters into her own hands to fight for her people. This conclusion of the Arabella trilogy was fascinating and fun to read, and most of the threads were tied up in a pretty satisfactory manner. I was annoyed at Arabella's brief infidelity to her husband; things never got physical and weren't dwelled upon too much, but it bugs me when stories always seem to revert to that conflict when there's a married couple involved. Overall though, this was a pretty fun installment, and I really enjoyed reading this trilogy! 


North and South, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

Not to be confused with Gaskell's novel, this North and South is a continuation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels. This volume follows Sokka and Katara as they return to their beloved South Pole--only to discover that it looks completely different than before they left. There are strong tensions between those who want things in the south to be how they were "in the good old days" and those who desire expansion and industry. Caught up in the discord, Sokka and Katara try to focus on their love for their dad and finding peace in uncertain times. 

All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, by Sydney Taylor

Although this is the fourth book in the series, it actually takes place shortly after the first one. The girls enjoy spending time with each other and caring for their baby brother (and coming up with money-making schemes) and celebrating their Jewish faith. A big plot point in this book surrounds Guido, an Italian boy who lives in poverty with his very ill mother. The girls are exposed to the harsher side of life as their family finds ways to help Guido and his mother. Even with the hard moments, though, the girls are full of a zest for life and gracious generosity, making this another delightful book to read. 

The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestian Monasticism Under the Christian Empire, by Derwas Chitty

This introduction to Christian monasticism by an Anglican priest took me a long time to get through, but I'm so glad I read it! I've read that it is basically a classic and authority on the topic, and I can see why. It covers the development of Christian monasticism from its earliest days until around the sixth century. This book is an academic survey, so it is not a devotional work and it has a lot of names and places, so I definitely got a little bit lost at times. But, it really opened my eyes to just how diverse and varied the growth of monasticism was, and it provides a great historical context to another book I've started about the desert fathers. 

REREAD: Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle

Each time I picked up this book, I came away edified and inspired as I read L'Engle's thoughts on being a Christian artist. I definitely do not share all of her religious beliefs (her glowing comments about a priest who changed the baptismal formula make me cringe), but there were a lot of good, beautiful, and wise things she says in here. 

Thanks so much for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments!


  1. I'm reading my first Madeleine L'Engle book right now! A Wrinkle in Time.

    My Well Read Mom group read Dracula this past month. At first I hated it-- way too evil for me...I'm not a fan of that kind of fiction because spiritual warfar is all too real and I don't like making it entertainment....however, the second half of the book was excellent! I'm looking forward to the discussion with my group!

    1. That's really interesting you are reading A Wrinkle in Time! I've never read it, but especially as I reread Walking on Water, I was starting to wonder if I should pick up Wrinkle. What do you think of it? I've heard so many rave reviews, but I've also read a couple reviews along the lines of "C.S. Lewis did this kind of thing better." So, I'm very conflicted, and would love to hear your thoughts.

      Wow! I haven't done WRM in a long time, so I am very out of the loop when it comes to their reading list-but I definitely wasn't expecting to hear that WRM was doing Dracula! I'm glad that you liked the second half. I reread that book every couple years (sometimes every year)-it definitely gets pretty horrifying, but there's so much good stuff in there. I hope you enjoy your discussion! Also, if you or anyone in your WRM group is looking to read more Dracula-inspired stuff after this, I really loved A Bloody Habit by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson. It features a delightful Dominican friar :)
      (her companion book, Brother Wolf-which is about Franciscan friars and werewolves-is pretty good too, but I like A Bloody Habit better)

  2. The Sydney Taylor books sound so sweet! I'm going to look those up. I wonder if I would like L'Engle's nonfiction more than I liked A Wrinkle in Time. It was not my cup of tea. Thanks for linking to An Open Book!

    1. I hope you enjoy the Sydney Taylor books! They are lovely. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Wrinkle! It's good to hear from someone who didn't fall in love with it.