May Reads

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I can’t believe May is spent. Time for a favorite chat of mine. BOOKS! So, what have you been reading? I’ve been faithfully listening to my favorite podcast “What Should I Read Next?” and actually picked up some modern titles from her recommendations. I don’t usually read a lot of modern stuff, frankly, because I love older books so much, dislike dark, modern topics, and really there is only so much time in the day. I tend to want happier fiction and a lot fiction written today seems depressing.  A lot of my fiction reading is for inspiration and a rest for my brain, so I don’t read too many heavy topics unless I want to challenge myself. I guess I’m that way with memoir, really all non-fiction too, although I’m more able to read a darker story if it’s true. How about you? Do you like light fiction? Or do you prefer heavier topics? What are your favorite genres?

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The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett (****) – I really enjoyed this. England, King Arthur and the Holy Grail legend, cathedrals and all the beauty that comes along with them, loads of book talk, relics, dusty libraries with ancient manuscripts, an older, bookish professor, a well-read, spunky American, questions about faith, delicious food, cottages, fantastic, mysterious secrets, history, light, sweet romance, digging through ancient ruins, secret codes, and most of all, did I mention England? Enough geeky stuff to be interesting, but not too much to become boring. This would be a great summer vacation title.

I also read Lovett’s First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Books, and Jane Austen (**) – I was so disappointed after the Grail title. I did not like the main character, Sophie, at all. She’s a liar, thief, and horrible judge of character. She uses people for her own purposes. I really loved the story in time with Austen and Rev. Mansfield, but the modern flash forward story I disliked so much. Adult content in this title.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (***) – I enjoyed the plot of this book very much. Samantha Whipple is a distant descendant of the Brontë family and is rumored to have inherited important artifacts that literary historians would love to get their hands on, not to mention that people are speculating about the value of such objects. She is a student at Oxford and I enjoyed Samantha’s weird bookish, anti-social character very much (not all homeschoolers are weird, in fact I find them fascinating, so that was a bit stereotypical). I was glad to see inside her brain, although at times she was a little irritating. I loved all the geeky book info and the deep delving into Brontë history and lore. I like the dark, mysterious feel to all of it, although at times I didn’t feel that I had ENOUGH description or sense of place, if that makes sense. I thought the romance was a bit cliché and cheesy, professor and student, but perhaps Lowell was trying for some Brontë symbolism. Mr. Rochester and Jane? I was very pleased that the romance was more about how they got along, yes, there was tension, but it was more their common interests that drew them together. I liked the mystery surrounding the professor and his father! The mysterious clues regarding her inheritance left by Samantha’s late father were a bit confusing and could have been clearer, more jarring and exciting. They were a bit of a let down. Overall, this was entertaining, bookish, fan fiction-ish read and I liked it.

By Heart: A Mother’s Story of Children and Learning at Home by Kathleen Melin (***) –  I loved this memoir for many reasons, number one being the author’s gorgeous writing style. This is most definitely dated, home schooling was a newer, braver option for educating one’s children, but I found her feelings and questions to be still relevant today. The second reason I enjoyed this book was a completely different perspective for me. She is politically and religiously the opposite in many ways than myself, yet I appreciated her thoughts and challenges as she pulled her children out of public school and started home educating them. I loved her insider look at religious home educators and it was challenging to me as I thought of how I may be true to my faith, yet not in a harsh, unloving way. The beginning of the book felt a little more preachy and slow than the end. The last chapters were gorgeous as she shared her feelings, the struggles between her and her husband choosing this lifestyle, her challenges and thoughts on women in the home, career goals, etc. I enjoyed her insights into each of her children and how nature touched her in a profound way. It always is interesting to me how one can just be so moved by creation, yet not acknowledge a Creator. And although, I didn’t always agree with some of her conclusions to problems that they faced, I loved hearing her thoughts and musings. This was a simple book, but just a lovely encouragement on home educating and looking at your children and husband as individual people.

Garden’s of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening by Vivian Swift (****) – Swift’s gorgeous watercolors make this book a delight. She travels to nine various lesser known gardens around the world, commenting on them, sharing their history, and ruminating on life as she spends time in each garden.

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning: A Story for Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – this was a reread and I love it’s simplicity, peacefulness, and idealism. I love the challenge it presents to aim high in our relationships and life. This is a fictional story set in the 1930’s about a family applying the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy to their lives.  My favorite thing about this sweet title is that life and learning are authentic. They learn and live in an intricate weaving and life is not divided into perfect compartments which rings true to me. Our home educating life is very like that, it has an ebb and flow, and so I appreciate this story because of that aspect.

The Moon Stands Still by Sibella Giorello (***) – fun, light detective mystery. Giorello is a good writer, here is a longer review if you are interested.

The Pelican Bride by Beth White (**) – review here.

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson (***) – entertaining, modern plot, I liked hearing the struggles with PTSD and alcoholism in the main characters, but the romance was a bit hard to swallow.

Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, finished Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians: The Holy Bible (*****)

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17 thoughts on “May Reads

  1. I also don’t like a lot of modern books. Postmodern titles are dark and difficult in general, depressing even. And then, there’s a lot of fluff and light reads, and while I don’t judge those who like it, it’s not my piece of cake, :). I also rather read old books. I don’t mind serious or heavy topics in those older books. I’m usually drawn to the classics, or books that challenge me, but I think the challenges are what distract me and I enjoy them. If I read something more contemporary, it’s probably non fiction. Like you, I don’t mind those hard topics in non fiction. When I read Nothing to Envy, it surprised me by how beautiful and poetic it was, even though it was talking about a very difficult and ugly reality.
    The variety affords me the needed distraction, and, in the overall, the challenges also are a rest for my brain.
    Favorite genres… this is not a genre, but I love Spanish literature from the 1500-1600 hundreds, and 1800-1900 hundreds too.
    I’m fascinated by your love of gardening and travelogue books. I like some travelogue books too.

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    1. Dearest Silvia, thank you for sharing! You are such heroine of mine in the heavier fiction and classics, believe me. I love reading your thoughts and reviews, because I learn so much. I think I COULD change my habits from fluff to better fiction, but it is a two-fold problem on my part. Just not wanting to challenge my tired brain (I know deeper fiction is invigorating too many!) and secondly, I think I just have a bad habit of reading TOO fast. You really have to discipline yourself to slow down with well-written, in-depth fiction, and I’m still working on that habit. Just not gobbling up “junk”, so to speak. I love how we are all different, yet have a bond through books. I loved how you shared that more “difficult” books are a rest and relaxation to you. I find that so fascinating! That is so neat about the Spanish literature timeframe being your favorite genre. I think mine is currently agricultural, back-to-the-land, home-y type memoirs. ❤

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      1. Amy! You are my heroine too. You love the beautiful memoirs, like Gladys Tabor, and this, agricultural, back-to-the-land, home-y type memoirs. ❤
        I also mourn the fact I’m not capable to savor those reads as you do, and I love reading your quotes, and thoughts inspired by those books. You also re-read a lot, and I love what you did with Anne of Green Gables. Isn’t that funny how I look up to you too and admire what you do so well, that which I have not been able to achieve for myself yet, ha ha ha.

        You are so right in that we are so different. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with reading some light books fast to decompress. (I do watch TV to decompress, the same you say you read “junk” -although, Amy, I wouldn’t call that junk, it’s just light, and put in the whole scope of your reading life, it makes for a nice variety.

        The fluff and light reads are, to me, in the category of TV watching. We all need some of it.
        I don’t think it’s bad at all. I don’t believe we should force ourselves to read anything. I just think it’s fun to challenge ourselves and try new things, but this has to be our own journey and at our own pace (we should not feel obliged to change who we are, but inspired to grow, and I do get very inspired by reading about what you read!)

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  2. I enjoyed reading about your preferences. If I had a few minutes to spare, I’d read older novels or fluff for relaxation. Lately I’ve raced the clock to get through responding to blog comments before I turn into a pumpkin. Late at night I can type faster than I can think, but that hasn’t solved my problem. I can’t fathom how you squeeze so much into one day.

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    1. Anne, thank you for your kind comments. I actually don’t do it all, I just pick a few things and try to do those semi-well…reading is my feast for my soul and without it I would be dry and have nothing to give. So, I prioritize it. 🙂

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  3. I always enjoy reading about your reading life, Amy. You’ve inspired me to read more nature writing. I am very slowly reading John Muir’s The Story of My Boyhood and Youth as a read-aloud, and we are all loving it. As for “heavy” or “light” reading, I am not sure those are useful distinctions. I am trying to think of what will feed my soul. Recently I have been gobbling books again, and adding too many to my want to read stack. I am at a point where I need to think more carefully of what is actually going to benefit me, because time is not going to permit me to read a great deal of what I would like. So what will actually help me to become the person I was created to be? Those are the books I want to read.

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    1. Sherry, I really love that way of looking at our reading choices. What is the best for me at this time? I totally agree and thank you for helping me clarify what I’m always trying to articulate. I’m not sure where I picked up a sort of “guilt” about what I’m reading either, I think one needs to be wise, but guilt about it is a waste of time. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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      1. I know… i picked up a sort of ‘guilt’ too, and a sense of not being ‘adequate’ in my readings. As far as I’m concerned, in all these years I’ve known you, I see a wise and vibrant woman in you, who wants to follow the Lord, and who has a beautiful and inspiring reading life!

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      2. Thanks, Silvia. Guilt is easy to fall into in SO many things and I’m really working hard to reject guilt. Conviction can be from the Lord, but unreasonable choking guilt isn’t from Him and ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉 😀

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  4. That’s beautiful, Amy… reading is my feast for my soul. Ditto.

    And Sherry, I love what you wrote too about thinking carefully what’s going to benefit us and help us become the person we are created to be. (As for me too, the tendency is to gobble up and pile up books I want to read as well). I am a tidal reader, I have high tide times, but I need to follow up with low tide times, that’s when I stop and ponder.

    I also agree, the heavy or light is tricky. I understand the labels, but they exist by themselves and in relation to us (what’s not that ‘heavy’ for me maybe very heavy for another reader). All I know it’s that I can differentiate in my reads some that are more intense or demand more from me, and others who help me declutter my mind while still giving me something. I try to make them ‘count’ somehow.

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  5. I love reading what you’re reading! And I love that even though we differ in our reading lives, we tend to cross over here and there. 🙂 Opposites attract and all that.

    I can’t WAIT to read The Madwomen Upstairs! (can you believe I haven’t started it yet? #friendfail) It’s so much easier to read books on my kindle these days, what with all the reading in bed because BREASTFEEDING. ;o)

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  6. What a thoughtful post! I loved your review of The Lost Book of the Grail – I just finished it, and also much, much preferred it to First Impressions. I read a ton of contemporary fiction, but The Lost Book of the Grail was such a fun mix of old and new. And sigh – old, dusty libraries and English cathedrals!

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