Wednesday, June 7, 2023

An Open Book: May 2023 Reads

I hope you all are having a beautiful start to summer! With the entrance of a new month, I'm linking up with An Open Book to look back on the many books that came my way during the month of May. It was a delightful reading month, with a mixture of fiction and nonfiction that kept me edified, entertained, and engaged. It has been a wild week so far, so I'm going to keep things short and simple. Let's dive in! 

Tending the Heart of Virtue: How classic stories awaken a child's moral imagination, by Vigen Guroian

In this approachable volume, Guroian discusses classic children's stories in light of virtues they display. Rather than dissecting the stories relentlessly, he draws out a theme or two and points to how we can engage with that theme while still enjoying the story. Guroian talks about "The Snow Queen," The Velveteen Rabbit, Pinocchio, and other stories, and as I read this book, I really wanted to pick up some of the stories that I haven't read before-or have not read since I was a child! This was a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it! 

Blessed are the Nones, by Stina Kielsmeier-Cook

In this memoir, the author discusses the unpredictable journey that she began when her once-super-devout-Christian husband announced that he no longer believed in God. With gut-wrenching honesty, she talks about the struggles and joys of navigating marriage and family life, and her search for spiritual community (she unexpectedly befriends a community of Catholic religious sisters!). Although some of the views put forth in this book are not ones I endorse, I enjoyed reading this. It's always an incredible gift to learn someone else's personal story, and I am grateful that the author so vulnerably shares her journey in this book. Also, this book made me realize that I need to get better acquainted with St. Francis de Sales and his writings, and I'm excited to look into his work more. 

Where the World Ends, by Geraldine McCaughrean

This novel follows a group of boys (with a few adults) who set off from their island off the coast of Scotland to go hunt birds on the remote, brutal stacs. They are dropped off at the stacs with the promise that a boat will return to bring them home...but the boat doesn't come. So, a Lord of the Flies-type scenario ensues, as the group of hunters seeks to make a rather uninhabitable rocky outcropping a home. I really enjoyed this book-the array of characters is great, the narrative style is fantastic, and I really loved the setting (after I finished this, I began frantically hunting the internet to find information on visiting the island of St. Kilda). 

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown, by Heather B. Moore

I really enjoyed this story about Donaldina Cameron, a historical figure who saved Chinese girls and women that were being exploited and trafficked in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 1900s. Some of the prose seemed repetitive to me and I wasn't a huge fan of the writing style, but the plot gripped me, especially as it interwove Donaldina's work and the perspective of a young woman who was being forced to work as a courtesan. 

On the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (Wingfeather Saga Book 1), by Andrew Peterson

After seeing this book mentioned on numerous homeschooling blogs or online conversation threads, I finally picked it up-and I'm so glad I did! It is a silly, fun, dramatic fantasy tale that follows Janner, a twelve-year-old boy who is feeling dissatisfied with life. Routinely caring for his younger siblings as he lives in a small town (that is under the rule of the menacing Fangs of Dang) with his family, Janner longs to see the world. And one day, his life is turned upside-down as he finds himself on a dramatic, never-ending life-and-death adventure. This was a delightful book, and I'm excited to read more in the series (and it has been a fun read-aloud with my kids so far!). 

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother, by Heng Ou

Drawing from her own experience of postpartum life in America, Heng Ou discusses ancient traditions surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, and the initial postpartum phase. A number of her ancestors are practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, so her reflections mainly draw from that perspective, but she also touches on Ayurvedic medicine and Christian traditions. Interspersed with her reflections, the author includes many recipes for simple, nourishing meals. Although I don't embrace some of the traditions/philosophies/religions portrayed in this book, I really enjoyed this! I found many of the reflections insightful and worthwhile, especially considering the type of food and beverage that is consumed immediately after childbirth. I love the fact that the recipes in here are intentionally simple and can be prepped in batches, and I plan to make some of them in the coming weeks (since I'm still technically postpartum, I have a good excuse!). 

REREAD: One Beautiful Dream, by Jennifer Fulwiler

I think this was my third or fourth read-through of Fulwiler's book, and just like every other time I've read it, I laughed and cried my way through the entire thing. This memoir (about Fulwiler's experience writing her first memoir) captures the humor, hardship, and challenges of pursuing creative work in the midst of the chaos of family life, pregnancy, and small children. I always love reading this, and especially since I recently completed Draft 1 of a book, I found this inspirational and encouraging as I dive into the process of rewriting the whole thing! 

Holy Grounds, by Tim Schenck

Written by an Episcopalian pastor, this book relates the history of coffee, legends about coffee, and the author's own experience in learning about and appreciating coffee. The author has a fantastic sense of humor that dances on the page. Although the author makes a couple of digs against Catholics that I could have done without, I really enjoyed this book! It was a really fun read. 

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


  1. Tending the Heart of Virtue blends perfectly with essays my two oldest children (coincidentally) wrote last semester. They were focused on the value of childhood folk and fairy tales, and they both got at this idea of their importance in conveying virtue.

    I recommende St. Francis deSales's Introduction to the Devout Life. I need to re-read it. I remember it being so accessible and relatable for something written so long ago and so filled with wisdom.

    Thanks for linking to An Open Book!

    1. How cool that two of your children wrote on that topic! That's really beautiful.
      Thanks for hosting the linkup, I love it! And thank you for the recommendation-I read that many years ago and I keep thinking about re-reading it but continue to put it off...I guess I really need to just start it this time ;)

  2. I really should re-read One Beautiful's been 5 years and I am troubled by how the "blue flame" concept insinuates that most moms won't find their fulfillment in their vocation but need to seek outside hobbies/fulfillment/pursuits...yet my best friend (a SAHM and homeschool mom of 6) loves it and you do too, so I think I should give it another try. ;)

    I HIGHLY recommend Mothering By the Book by Jennifer Pepito....definitely a top 5 of the past year. I think you would like it. It touches on deep fears in motherhood and how reading literature aloud can help us overcome's such a unique read, though, and very hard to summarize.

    1. I'd be interested to hear what you think if you re-read One Beautiful Dream! I know sometimes, the passing of years and different life stages/circumstances can make a difference when approaching certain books, but that's certainly not always the case.

      WOW! Thank you for that recommendation-I have never heard of Mothering By the Book, but it looks and sounds amazing!!! I am adding it to my list right now.

  3. Thanks for sharing! Tending the Heart of Virtue looks interesting!

    1. I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up, Patrice! Thanks for stopping by!