Dear Diary, {Summertime Thankfulness}

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Our summer-soaked lives are humming along, not unlike the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of yesterday, yesteryear. It hovered over the Day Lilies, right at eye level with my perch on my my porch swing. I sat silently drinking in the flash of green, flip of red, as this whirring wisp sipped the sweet nectar. We’ve had an usually mild summer, with the humidity staying south on it’s own vacation, perhaps. We’ve been swimming, mowing, ignoring weeds, and having bonfires with family. We’ve enjoyed reading aloud The Swiss Family Robinson together, hours of building with little plastic bits of the rainbow, baking, and riding bikes. Stories being acted out in the midst of chores, neighbors organic cows are here for a visit with a field of ours, so their own home can rest and grow a bit. Hours of dealing with fencing for that visit.  Roofs being fixed, Amish metal guy certainly must be delighted with us. Wood being fashioned into bows, arrows, and swords mixed with duct tape, paper bags, and moms expensive washi tape, whenever the regular tape gives out. Beef hot dogs and S’mores staples, crock-pot chicken BBQ, ice cream, and watermelon on an endless rotation. Summer days, sigh, sunlit and golden. The dirt and sweat are canceled out by the cerulean sky and marshmallow clouds. Rain and then cool sunshine-y days are a perfect recipe for lush green, trees, grass, and life everywhere.  We’ve seen family and friends, summer bringing parties, outings, camping, cabins, and reunions, so many it reminds me of the stars piercing the night sky. Speaking of the night, words cannot begin to capture what it is like here, deep into the country. I don’t have the camera equipment or where-with-all to begin to hope to ever capture it’s still, silent presence. Where the earth and sky meet is hard to discern, an endless expanse too immense for my stumbling words. Nature is an extension of our home and family, long walks along the wild-flower strewn roadways, my prayer room, the little streams and rivulets, my music. Drumbeats of rain, and melodies of the wind, this summer sits like a gracious gift in my mind. The stories I’ve personally read, longer expanses for reading given during these warm, sweet months, meld together with moments of relationship with my family and glorious Creation, a nod to my loving Creator. The words from Isaiah, The Holy Bible, poetry from Edward Thomas, a beautiful story of bravery, love, and children from Nevil Shute in the Pied Piper, all bring a richness and relief, a feeding of soul, to each day. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned my love affair with my huge clothesline. The lines of beautiful clean linens and towels whipped in the wind are a sort of art to me.  Our black cat running between them, his tail curling, his playful batting at them. They represent something to me. That immense beauty can be found in the small dailies of life. This is just the beginning of gratitude for this summer for me. The glimpses of precious people in my life. My oldest daughter curled on her bed working through book series, flashes of my own self, reminiscent of summers spent the same special way. My  oldest son and middle daughter faithfully tending their garden and chickens, fights and friendly discussions inevitably growing out of these projects, pecking away at frustrations and learning to love. My littlest, a pure delight to us all, his humorous actions, love of his books, blanket with bears, and glasses of milk. His early morning wanderings into my husband and I’s bed, kicking us, snuggling, and stealing my pillow. All the requests to guzzle my coffee (really creamer with a dash of coffee) and, “Please mom, it’s been way too long since you’ve made tea” reminders. My gigantic baskets of Amish-grown flowers on the deck, faithfully watered, and tended, so many lovely conversations around these blooming gifts with each of my children, and that midnight swing with my husband, the pepper-y smell of the geraniums, a special favorite of mine. We, of course, have seen our share of disagreements, spills, messes, and frustrations. The washer is leaking, we run out of gas, we snap at each other, we scrape our knees, we get stung by bumblebees. That’s life. But by turning the eyes of our hearts up in gratitude to all of the fireflies sparkling, the cake-candles blown out, wisps of smoke lingering, and the hands clasped together around the dinner table, we can rest.

We can rest in the love of our glorious God, we can rest in this moment, right now, and be glad.  I’m still holding on to summer, it’s not over yet, and I’m truly grateful.

~

July Reads

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The Yellow Books by Vincent Van Gogh

So, how was your reading month? One of my favorite things about summer is more free time to be between the pages of a good book! Please share a favorite title you’ve read recently in the comments.

Here’s what I read or at least finished this month:

Emily’s Quest by L.M.Montgomery (****) –  the conclusion to this lovely trilogy about Emily Starr, an orphaned girl, now a young woman, pursuing her dream to become a writer. My favorite was definitely the second in the series, and this one felt a little slow and repetitive to me, talking a lot about her current beaus and the ups/downs of friendship, rejections on her writing, and loneliness. Overall, a satisfying ending to Emily’s story and I will definitely be rereading these at some point. They are probably close to some of my favorite Montgomery titles after the Anne Series.  My oldest daughter is now enjoying them.

Images of Rose by Anna Gilbert (***) – 3.5 – I felt a bit like Catherine Norland as I read this and constantly kept thinking of Northanger Abbey. About half way through this title, I realized that it was indeed a gothic romance. I picked this book up at a used book sale because the cover drew my eye. Unfamiliar with the author, I dove in, and wow, Gilbert is a BEAUTIFUL writer. The sense of place (England!), nature, the characters, are just so lovely. The plot was a bit cheesy and far-fetched, however, although, I didn’t catch the biggest clue to the mysterious, psychological things going on till the last part, which also commends the author. Overall, I loved reading this just for the cadence, flow, and loveliness of the writing, but the plot was definitely creepy and hard to swallow. Another plus, the romance was done SO well, something you felt, rather than were told, and the attraction between characters was shown through little things, thoughts, expressions, versus so many modern takes on romance were it is written purely as an uncontrolled physical attraction. I *might* check out another of this author’s titles just to see if there are better plots.

The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (****) –  Wow. Hardy is definitely not cheery reading, but somehow you forgive him because of beauty of his writing. I love the title, it means more than what’s on the surface, of course. Mr. Henchard is a character you find yourself alternating between frustration, dislike and pity. I found it fascinating that someone who seemed to have good morals at the core, often went astray by not controlling his explosive emotions and rash, head-long decisions. A sobering lesson. I was surprised by how much I was rooting for Elizabeth-Jane and Mr. Farfrae early on, but as Donald rose in prominence in the town, I began to dislike him for some reason, although he certainly didn’t do anything really to deserve that. Maybe I just felt rather like rooting for the underdog, whoever that may be at the moment. I never could like Lucetta, though, she seemed devious and manipulative to me, right from the get go. Overall, the beauty of the Hardy’s natural descriptions, sense of really being there in, Casterbridge, and how I came to care for the characters made this a wonderful read, one I will be thinking on for awhile. The thoughts of second-chances, forgiveness, and regrets are worth things to meditate upon.

PS – a book nerd note, I found this at a used book sale in a plain, sort of ugly teal-ish colored PB, Rinehart Edition. It had a LOVELY feel to the cover…this is in rough shape, but it was so smooth, pliable, and the pages thick and full of character. It was part of the joy of reading this…I know, I’m weird.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (***) – 3.5 stars because Christie is has a beautiful style as a writer. This Hecule Poirot mystery wasn’t my favorite, seemed a bit predictable. 

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver (****) – Beautiful nature poetry done in the stark, jarring, gorgeous way that only Oliver can do.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: His Life by Catherine O. Peare (*****) – A middle-school level biography written in a lovely, engaging style. I will be using some of the stories for my poetry lessons in our Charlotte Mason community. A lovely gal at the Living Education Retreat, that I attended this summer, recommended this. I hope to check out more of Peare’s titles in the future.

Charlotte Mason and the Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield (*****) – I so enjoyed this collection of essays that further helped illuminate and illustrate Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition. I especially enjoyed the color prints of the fresco and Ruskin’s thoughts on them in such a nice convenient form.

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard (***) – This was written BEAUTIFULLY, which I would expect from Dillard. The beginning part about the Maytree’s romance and marriage was lovely, but unfortunately, the jarring twist in the middle left a bad taste in my mouth. The ending was just strange, and I was sorry that such descriptive, honest writing had to be used with a sad, weird story.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (***) –  a middle -grade fantasy. My oldest and I both read this and discussed it. It was very creepy, despite that we liked it, and we’re glad for the redemptive ending. Still shuddering and shivering a bit, though.

The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Test for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith (*****) – I loved this kind of shocking, and brutally honest look at writing. She really rips to shreds a lot of stereotypical ideas floating around about memoir, specifically.

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett (****) – Helpful and informative! I really loved the conversational, relational style of this. I didn’t use any of the exercises, those seem a little contrived to me, but she really was encouraging and this is one I’d like to own.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (*****) – I absolutely loved this book, I cried at times. This follows the life of Ally, a sixth-grader, who has dyslexia, and doesn’t know it. The author clearly shares some of her own life experiences through the thoughts and feelings of this young girl who believes she is stupid. It shares how one person valuing another as a person can change the course of their whole life.

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan (****) – Wow! This book was crazy, upside down, and inside out, but totally tugged at my heart strings. I came to care about many of the characters living in the Gray House even the hard-to-love ones. That is the prevailing feeling I have walking away from this book, a deep sense of compassion, and a feeling of seeing myself in many of the feelings, thoughts, and frustrations of these very real feeling people. Without this fabulous book club: Silvia Cachia, I would have been lost much of the time, ha! This book was very challenging for me, I think one of the first of it’s sort for me to read. I’m not even sure what to classify this as? Maybe dystopian magical realism? Is that even a thing? I just made that up. This was a BEAUTIFUL translation, flowed so well, and the depth of each person you got to know was wonderful. Overall, I’m glad I read this, I probably will never understand all that I just read, but I was fascinated by this world and these people Petrosyan shared with us.

You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith (**) – review here.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews

 

~

 

 

Folk Call the Road Lonely

IMG_4340Folk call the road lonely, because there is not human traffic and human stirring. Because I have walked it so many times and seen such a tumult of life there, it seems to me one of the most populous highways of my acquaintance. I have walked it in ecstasy, and in joy it is beloved. Every pine tree, every gallberry bush, every passion vine, every joree rustling in the underbrush, is vibrant. I have walked it in trouble, and the wind in the trees beside me is easing. I have walked it in despair, and the red of the sunset is my own blood dissolving into the night’s darkness. For all such things were on earth before us and will survive after us, and it is given to us to join ourselves with them and be comforted.

-Marjorie Kinnen Rawlings

Cross Creek

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July Remembrance: Schwan’s and Lucy Maude Montgomery

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The big yellow Schwan’s truck screeches to a rolling stop, reversing.  Easing his way, dust motes shifting, sun-glare, he backs, gravel crunching under rubber. “I saw all these kids and I knew you needed ice cream,” he grins, a glint flashing from his eye, pen pulled from his uniform pocket.  Grimy, expectant faces look from his to mine, marbles forgotten in the circle, some jingling in pockets. “I guess we’ll take a box of these little ice cream cup thingys.” I reluctantly say, pressured, silently admiring his strategy. And so begins the summer calendar, fortnight chunks, kid-measured by the sound of this man’s truck.  Little, concentric bits of confetti’d summer, if you will.

Not unlike my children, I measure the calendar this way, but by a different delicacy, “Oh, yeah, I read Persuasion that month, had kind of an Austen-sort of feeling, needed a second chance on life.”  Or, “I read all of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence during that season, and then climbed out of my dark, depressed hole.” Come to think of it, my debut as a mother centered on vague memories of upheaval and L.M.Montgomery. Brand-spanking, newly married, I lowered my rotund, unemployed self onto our couch, baby kicking. My first home, its 750 square feet, a few spindly, half-dead plants, $50 of photo frames, even had its own laundry in the bathroom. I loved every inch of that place. Joining my friends, Marilla, Matthew, Anne, Diana, and Gilbert, we traveled to a small island in Canada. I sipped and drank, the beautiful prose, bordering on poetry, Montgomery poured out, Kleenex and chocolates never far away. It’s no wonder I gained 50 pounds that pregnancy. Last page closed, I knew I’d never forget this summer love. A romance birthed in the magic of Prince Edward Island, the humanity of these people, and the hope found in a vivacious red-headed orphan.  Not long after, July humidity hazy, bloody, crying, vernix- covered, she came, my womb-emptied at 7:13 A.M. I remember the time so vividly because it matched her weight perfectly. My very own little Anne with an E, of course. Montgomery knew what I needed that particular summer; those robust, warm, spicy, delicious morsels, summer now forever reminding me of her. Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, and recently, Emily of New Moon, might as well be flavors of my favorite ice creams, so sweetly and satisfyingly have they fed me.

Dear Summer, Schwan’s, and Lucy Maude, you are very welcome here. Well, maybe not the Schwan’s guy, my wallet and waist-line doth protest. Time measured in ice cream and literature are wonderful things.

~

 

 

Anne of Green Gables: Chapter 12

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Continuing our reading…

 

Chapter 12

I just loved so much when Marilla finds out about the flowers on Anne’s hat.

“Marilla was not to be drawn from the safe concrete into dubious paths of the abstract.” p.84 🙂

Marilla wishes Anne would behave like “other little girls and not make yourself ridiculous”.  I love Anne’s originality, don’t try to reform her in everything, Marilla! Of course, Anne’s a little rough around the edges and learns and grows with Marilla’s guidance. I think the biggest thing for me to think on as a mother is how Anne’s sweet, imaginative spirit actually really softens and benefits Marilla. Oh that I may humble myself and become like a child!

Anne is so terrified and excited about meeting her potential bosom friend, Diana Barry.

I love this part, where she is answering Mrs. Barry’s inquiry,

“I am well in body although considerable rumpled up in spirit, thank you, ma’am,” said Anne gravely. Then aside to Marilla in an audible whisper, “There wasn’t anything startling in that, was there, Marilla?” p. 86

Mrs. Barry, there is no such thing as reading too much! Well, ok, I guess it’s good for Diana to go out into the garden for a break with Anne.

The Barry’s garden…wow! “The Barry garden was a bowery wilderness of flowers which would have delighted Anne’s heart at any time less fraught with destiny. It was encircled by huge old willows and tall firs, beneath which flourished flowers that loved the shade. Prim, right-angled paths, neatly bordered with clamshells, intersected it like moist red ribbons and in the beds between old-fashioned flowers ran riot. There were rosy bleeding-hearts and great splendid crimson peonies; white, fragrant narcissi and thorny, sweet Scotch roses; pink and blue and white columbines and lilac-tinted Bouncing Bets; clumps of southernwood and ribbon grass and mint; purple Adam-and-Eve, daffodils, and masses of sweet clover white and its delicate, fragrant, feathery sprays; scarlet lightning that shot its fiery lances over prim white musk-flowers; a garden it was where sunshine lingered and bees hummed, and winds, beguiled into loitering, purred and rustled.” p. 87 (that last line, my emphasis – swoon!)

This is how I imagine the garden!

Jessie Wilcox Smith -Cottage Garden Illustration

Jessie Wilcox Smith

I chuckled and Diana’s shock over Anne asking her to swear to be her friend for ever and ever!

“There really is another (kind of swearing). Oh it isn’t wicked at all. It’s just means vowing and promising solemnly.” p.87

I love that Anne wanted to do the vow over running water, but in lieu of that, she just imagines the path is running water. Sigh, what would we do without imagination? Not make any vows, I guess.

I love “as long as the sun and moon shall endure.”

“Well, did you find Diana a kindred spirt?” asked Marilla as they went up through the garden of Green Gables. “Oh,yes,” sighed Anne, blissfully unconscious of any sarcasm on Marilla’s part. p. 88

The place names! I love them, Lucy! You are just SO good at them. Dyrad’s Bubble. Orchard Slope. Green Gables.

Matthew brings Anne chocolates much to Marilla’s chagrin, but she wants to save some for Diana.

I love this last bit,

“Dear me, it’s only three weeks since she came, and it seems as if she’d been here always. I can’t imagine the place without her. Now, don’t be looking I-told-you-so, Matthew. That’s bad enough in a woman, but it isn’t to be endured in a man. I’m perfectly willing to own up that I’m glad I consented to keep the child and that I’m getting fond of her, but don’t you rub it in, Matthew Cuthbert.” p. 89

~

June Reads

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{Gulf of Mexico – February 2017 – Books, sand, sun, and little driftwood boat from my boy.}

What did you read for June? I’d love to hear.

 

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) –

“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transformed to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I adored this title. Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. I feel such a kinship to her thoughts and feelings on nature, people, and how so much beauty is running a constant thread through her mind and heart, just begging to get out and be shared with those around her. This one was my favorite between the first two and I’ve begun the third. I read somewhere that there are elements of autobiography in the Emily stories of Lucy Maud’s life.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (*****) – This was a reread and if possible, I enjoyed it even more than the other times I’ve read it. It is SO quietly humorous and full of scathing criticisms that sneak up. I laughed so much while reading this, Miss Austen, you were brilliant.

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden (****) – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connected with the people who lived and died here. I loved how this title opened up as Marsden was working on restoring an old home for his wife and children. This title was very specific to this area and I really loved the map in the front of the book and would refer to it often! Even though this was intellectually a bit heavy at times, Marsden is such a beautiful writer and I felt often transported to the various areas he was visiting by his love of the natural world and his close observations. He often chatted with various local connections and I felt like I was getting to know these people with him over tea and cake.

The only hard thing for me in this title was occasionally I got bogged down by all the terms of geological formations/landscape and place names. However, I really loved the definitions and translations that Marsden would give about Gaelic or Welsh words and the meanings behind them, overall he did a good job of sharing, stopping just at the point of getting a bit heavy/tedious. I’m very glad I stuck with this lovely travel, homey-ish memoir. I enjoyed it very much.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. I am just so blessed, inspired, and swept away after reading Goudge titles. I can’t tell you how much they make me hope again and want to love the people in my life deeper. She is so good at transporting you to the place and gently leading you into, through, and with the characters to profound spiritual truths. She isn’t afraid of stretching your imagination, following through generations, using visions, and sometimes bordering on spiritual mysticism. I love Goudge’s quirks and weird, magical bits for the most part though because the depth of everything all tied together creates such a sense of being right THERE.  Doctor Crane is my absolutely favorite character in this book! Old Sol is lovely too…and the main star of the book Stella Sprigg is so interesting too…sigh. Does it have to be over?

Boxers & Saints  by Gene Luen Yang (two separate titles)  (****) –  These graphic novels were recommended to me after I read Silence by Shusako Endo. These portrayed the Chinese Boxers and the Christian converts perspectives. My children and I found these so interesting, enlightening, and challenging. We liked the legends and myths of their Chinese heritage mixed in with the historical story. Violence and a little language.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac (***) – 2.5 stars – The plot was interesting concept, the idea of seeing the internal workings of a mega church intrigued me. First, I feel a bit sick of stereotypical views of PK’s (preacher’s kids), so Josh’s secret was predictable, and the romance was meh – again mainly physical-attraction based vs. character, what was with him always loving seeing Paige disheveled? Maybe a subtle dig at pressure in church leadership to be “perfect”? Second, at times I felt breathless, like the writing was rushed? or just flowed without taking a breath? It made me tired.

 The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Kings, Proverbs, Galatians, Ephesians.

 

What Readers Wear

My frame wears its carbs, irritatingly. My mouth wears its feelings, unfortunately.  My thoughts wear their reading, hopefully.  Ideas, places, people, shock, beauty, disbelief mingle throughout our daily conversation.  The ink on countless pages have grown, shaped, given, asked, answered, and switched on the light. Now, a home library and a half later, a shoe-full of children and I, enter these worlds together, adventuring and stretching. Prayerfully, our wearing the stories of others will overflow true beauty, compassion, thankfulness, and understanding.  My heart wears an ache of gratitude.

~

Monday Ponderings {June 26}

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Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. ‘Dear, dear Norland!’ said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there, ‘when shall I cease to regret you?  – when learn to feel at home elsewhere? – O happy house! Could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more! – and you, ye well-known trees! – but you will continue the same – No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer! – No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade!  – But who will remain to enjoy you?’ – Marianne Dashwood

Sense & Sensibility

Jane Austen

p. 17

(I can identify with these sentiments so much, especially since our move last year. A place, a home, a particular moment means so much to you, and when you leave it or are far removed by time and memory, you grieve. I love this so much as I contemplate the importance of sense of place, an extension of belonging.)

~

Supreme Beauty

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There was a leap of joy in him, like a flame lighting up in a dark lantern. At that moment he believed it was worth it. This moment of supreme beauty was worth all the wretchedness of the journey. It was always worth it. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It was the central truth of existence, and all men knew it, though they might not know that they knew it. Each man followed his own star through so much pain because he knew it, and at journey’s end all the innumerable lights would glow into one.

Gentian Hill

Elizabeth Goudge

p.208

(emphasis mine)

~

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?

~

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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