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.)

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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)

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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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Monday Ponderings {Memorial Day 2017}

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All old farms, I imagine, have some such rustic flavor in their walls; country dwellers will recognize what I mean. A hundred and fifty years of barrelled apples, of vegetables stored in a field-stone cellar, of potatoes in the last of spring, of earth somewhere and never very far, of old and enduring wood and wood-smoke, too, and perhaps the faintest touch of mould from things stored long, long ago in a bin – all these and heaven knows what other farmhouse ghosts were unmistakably present in the neat room with its lamps and books. The cold and humid night had stirred the house as well as ourselves: it had its own rustic memories.

Northern Farm: A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm 

Henry Beston

p. 70

(I can just feel and smell what the author is saying here, can’t you?! Hearth Ridge isn’t nearly as old as our former home, yet it has a touch of this mystery to it, and it’s one of the many things I love about old country buildings and rural living.  The history of so many lives is carried right on through the warp & woof of the buildings. That’s also why I love England. You just tangibly FEEL the history. Sigh. So beautiful!)

Amy Carmichael

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“TEACH ME TO DO THY WILL”

Psalm 143:10

NEARLY 400 years ago Vaughan wrote:

“I would I were some bird or star

Fluttering in woods or lifted far

Above this inn

And road of sin.

Then either star or bird should be

Shining or singing still to Thee.”

But he had to live the common life in a difficult world, and so have we. I have often noticed that just when we feel most like saying, “I would I were”, our God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, meets us with some plain command which pulls us up sharply, and makes us face this eternal truth: We are not here to wish to be somewhere or something we are not, but to do the thing that pleases Him exactly where we are, and as we are.

So out “I would I were” becomes Cause me to hear…; cause me to know…; teach me to do Thy will. And should the heart within us fear as we face that way again, instantly the blessed word revives us, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee”. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

Psalm 143:10. Isa. 41:10. Phil. 2.13.

Thou Givest, They Gather

Amy Carmichael

p. 87

bold emphasis mine

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Monday Ponderings {May 22nd}

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Could mere loving be a life’s work?

 

The Dean’s Watch

Elizabeth Goudge

p. 122

(I can’t tell you how much this line impacted me this weekend. The surrounding passage is beautiful. This book is lovely, but it would have been worth reading for just that one line. Praying and pondering over this thought.)

Anne of Green Gables: Chapter 11

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Continuing our reading…

“Well, how do you like them?” said Marilla. 🙂 … “I’ll imagine that I like them.” said Anne soberly. p. 78

I loved this chapter about Anne’s new dresses made by Marilla and her first experience at church. I noticed a lot of beautiful words in this chapter, of course, L.M. Montgomery always uses lots of flowery words. That’s why I love her so much. I don’t think modern literature can even come close to this kind of language anymore, maybe due to time constraints and readers not really talking this way or reading these types of books. I suppose in some ways, it comes down to a matter of taste. I absolutely love Montgomery’s effusive style. Here are some of the words and phrases I loved from Chapter 11:

snuffy – serviceable – sateen – pampering vanity – frills – furbelows – skimpy wincey things  -so much gratefuller – puffed sleeves – thrill – disconsolately – fidget – irreproachably – arrayed – skimpiness – contrived – a golden frenzy of wind-stirred buttercups and a glory of wild roses – promptly – liberally – garlanded – a heavy wreath – daunted – lonesome – splendid – queer – horrid – rebukingly – melancholy – tragical – snappy

Quotes: “But I’d rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself, ” persisted Anne mournfully. p.79

“I said a little prayer myself, though. There was a long row of white birches hanging over the lake and the sunshine fell down through them, ‘way, ‘way down, deep into the water. Oh, Marilla, it was like a beautiful dream! It gave me a thrill and I just said, ‘Thank you for it,God,’ two or three times.” p.81

Marilla felt helplessly that all this should be sternly reproved, but she was hampered by the undeniable fact that some of the things Anne had said, especially about the minister’s sermons and Mr.Bell’s prayers, were what she herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret, unuttered, critical thoughts had suddenly take visible and accusing shape and form in the person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity. p. 83

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April Reads

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Silence by  Shusako Endo – (*****) This was an interesting and challenging book. The descriptions and writing style were beautiful. It made me think deeply. That is why I rated it so highly. However, I didn’t really love this book. I have a longer review on Goodreads, if you are interested.

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas – (****) I loved these! A bit creepy, mysterious, and romantic. Short tales and legends with Scottish charm. Children would love these as much as I did!

The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove -(**)   Last month, I talked about the first two in this YA series. I was looking forward to this last title in the trilogy. Unfortunately, I was so disappointed!  I liked that questions where answered that had been asked earlier in the series and there were some delightful moments, but overall, this got a bit preachy for me on social issues (ie. war etc) and I thought it got a little weirder with the fortune teller and the grove of memories was too vague. Bummer.

Stillmeadow Daybook by Gladys Taber – (*****) I often read Gladys’ seasonal memoirs to coincide with the current month or season I am in. So it takes me awhile to get through her books. However, that is not a problem, as she never fails to delight! I was so enchanted and once again I found myself slowing down to notice little things about my daily homemaking, my family, and the nature around us. This is one of the three Taber titles I own, so I’m glad to read more of my delicious library shelf titles.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – (***) I loved Margaret Lea and the beginning part of this book…I wanted to just follow her around and hear more about her life and dig around her and her father’s bookshop together. Yes, I’m THAT boring. I did not like so much the mystery or Vita Winter’s life. Maybe I’m too hopelessly romantic or something or too unrealistic. Miss Winter’s life was SO dark and hopeless and I was just like, “What about you Margaret?” Also I did not like the switching of perspective between Margaret, Vita, and the character’s in Vita’s story…I got confused…a few times I skimmed over parts. The writing of this book was BEAUTIFUL, Setterfield is a fantastic writer, I just wasn’t loving the grim, darkness of the horrible life lived by “Vita Winter” and her family. I did appreciate Margaret’s sorrow over her family secret etc, but the tie in with Vita’s was strange to me and felt forced, dark, and hopeless. I don’t like hopeless fiction. The ending felt sad too, and again hand me an ice cream and a fuzzy puppy, I’m not that great with sad endings. Overall, I was drawn in and this was well-written, it’s probably just my taste.

A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge – (*****) I’ve read this title many times, so a reread for me. There is something about Jocelyn trying to find his way through his darkness and despair that just grips me. The beauty of words, the house & bookshop, the beautiful cathedral town in England, the family relationships Jocelyn fosters (especially with his Grandfather), and the mystery surrounding Ferranti, a reclusive man, draw you in. I love that Ferranti’s writings and the bookshop full of beautiful books are the bases for Jocelyn’s journey towards healing. Highly recommend.

Suncatchers by Jamie Langston Turner – (***) This book is VERY slow reading because of the heavy character driven descriptive style. However, I love Turner’s way of writing about someone outside of the Christian faith looking into it. This had a simple plot, and you spent an huge amount of time inside the main character Perry’s mind and what he was thinking about all the people who were around him. I enjoyed it, but it did not move you along, you were standing still, listening into conversations and thoughts. S – L – O – W. I appreciate Turner’s writing style and think it is beautiful and thoughtful. So far, my favorite title of this author’s is Winter Birds.

Judges, Ruth, Acts: The Holy Bible (*****)

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Springtime Thoughts from Harold E. Kohn

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There exists a real temptation to be academic concerning nature, to spend one’s nature study hours among heavy natural history textbooks and journals, seeking what the most authoritative scientists have to say about those problems. But if that is done, one misses the most important aspect of nature study – the exposure of one’s eyes to beauty, the inhaling of evergreen-scented air, the feel of rough bark under one’s finger tips and the softness of a pine-needle-carpeted forest aisle under food and the soft caress of a lake breeze across one’s face. The well-balanced student of nature is one who recognizes the problems of his field of interest and works towards their solution, but in the meantime he experiences nature directly, living it, breathing it, rejoicing in it.

This balance between recognizing the problems of life and exploring its joys is a secret of achieving happiness. If we do not weigh the problems at all we become jittery activists or empty-headed sentimentalists, and if we consider only the problems we become burdened by discouragement and pessimism. The most satisfying attitude is to face the problem of a situation realistically while wringing from it the most possible good.

Thoughts Afield

Harold E. Kohn

pg 22-23

(emphasis mine)

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Anne of Green Gables: Chapter 10

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Anne is stubbornly refusing to apologize for The Incident with Rachel Lynde and Matthew slinks up to Anne’s room and encourages her to just smooth it over because Marilla is an awful stubborn woman. 🙂

I think it’s so funny how Marilla is worried about how happy Anne is acting.

“This was no meek penitent such as it behooved her to take into the presence of the offended Mrs. Lynde.” pg 73

In some ways, Anne’s apology is sneaky and a bit manipulative. I never looked at it that way before, maybe it’s the mother coming out in me. I actually felt a bit of sympathy and compassion for Mrs. Lynde, as she is simple and straight-forward. She shows kindness to Anne in sending her out to the garden and giving her some of her June lilies.

I love this part as Marilla and Anne are walking home.

“Anne said no more until they turned into their own lane. A little gypsy wind came down it to meet them, laden with the spicy perfume of young dew-wet ferns. Far up in the shadows a cheerful light gleamed out through the trees from the kitchen at Green Gables. Anne suddenly came close to Marilla and slipped her hand into the older woman’s hard palm.”

and this:

“Something warm and pleasant welled up in Marilla’s heart at the touch of that thin little hand in her own – a throb of the maternity she had missed, perhaps. Its very unaccustomedness and sweetness disturbed her. ”

pg 76

Anne:

“But I’m going to imagine that I’m the wind that is blowing up there in those tree tops. When I get tired of the trees I’ll imagine I’m gently waving down here in the ferns – and then I’ll fly over to Mrs. Lynde’s garden and set the flowers dancing – and then I’ll go with one great swoop over the clover field – and then I’ll blow over the Lake of Shining Waters and ripple it all up into little sparkling waves. Oh, there’s so much scope for the imagination in a wind! So I’ll not talk any more just now, Marilla.”

“Thanks be to goodness for that, ” breathed Marilla in devout relief. 🙂

 

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March Reads

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A lovely online friend of mine was talking about her new plan for a rating system. I like it, however I haven’t figured out how to make the cool stars she has for her ratings, so I’m going to follow her system, but still use asterisks.  I will put a brief snippet after each title.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (****) This book was very sad in some ways, exploring the depths of an adult woman coming out of the foster care system. Victoria is a young, aimless, and I just can feel her loneliness. The one thing she has is her knowledge and love of flowers, specifically the Victorian lore of what certain flowers convey and the messages they send. I wouldn’t say I loved this book, but I give it a high rating for making me think and for the characters feeling real.

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler (***) I probably give this book a 2 1/2 stars. I moved last summer to a large Amish area. I’ve always been interested in the Amish culture, but now being closer and getting to know them, I’ve grown in my desire to understand their beliefs.  Mr. Wagler conveyed the amount of fear one raised in the Amish Church has about leaving and I found his insights interesting.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking (***) The only reason I give this 3 stars is that some of it was sweet. However, this did not in anyway live up to the crazy hype it has here in America. Sheesh. I was expecting something earth-shattering the way everyone is going on about it! I should have known better.  A lot of it was just basic commonsense, a whole book about enjoying your sweaters, coffees, and friendship. Ha. I got this Hygge thing. 😉

Water from My Heart by Charles Martin – (*****) I really, really loved the theme of redemption in this title. Charlie Finn has an extremely rough life, but he has brains, which he uses as a high-end drug smuggler. Through a series of events, he ends up in Central America where consequences of his choices catch up to him. I love Martin’s characters, they feel real to me, at times the plot felt a *little* predictable, but overall, this story really touched me.

Every Riven Thing: Poems by Christian Wiman – (***) These poems were dark, depressing, and had some language in them. However, I appreciated that I could feel the author through them, his anguish and questions.

Le Road Trip: A Traveler’s Journal of Love and France by Vivian Swift – (***) This was a fun read, I felt the need for a little French culture after having stopped in Paris for a short visit last year. It reminds me in a way of Susan Branch, but with a harsher edge of sarcasm. I like Branch much better. The little sketches and Swift’s journal of the the French country side were interesting, descriptions of food yummy. I felt like she put quite a bit of French in her text, and while I love a little, I don’t speak it, so sometimes that was a little off-putting in an English book for some reason?

The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – (*****) This is one of my favorite reads of the month, maybe year, so far. I know some people don’t enjoy conversational style memoirs. In which the author talks to themselves and chats with the reader. I love them! Laskas does that in this lovely memoir and walks us through her life with her husband, their farm, animals, and neighbors. The beginning is a bit slow, but still beautiful as she is shocked and walks through a harsh, freak illness that hits her mother. The thoughts, feelings, and things she talks of sound so real and frank. The best part though, is as she shares her growing desire to be a mother, their thoughts and feelings through one round of IVF and eventual adoption from China. She writes so beautifully on the feelings, pain, and hope surrounding all of this…I just loved it. I hope to read more from this author.

The Glass Sentence and The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove (****) I know YA fantasy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. These first two titles in this trilogy were good. The first title was a bit muddled on some points, but the second I enjoyed immensely. This story centers around a cartologer/explorer Shadrack Eli and his niece Sophia. The world is a mess after the Great Disruption, in which every country/continent shifted and now are each a different time period! Sophia’s parents are explorer’s and have been missing for some time now. This has time traveling, weird creatures, and shadowy secrets. I love most of all the maps. Exotic and magical maps. So fun! My oldest and I are reading this together, so it’s fun to chat about it. For the most part, I think Grove is a good writer, which is nice to find something well-written in this genre.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser (*****) I’ve been reading this FOREVER and finally finished it. It is a wonderful, in-depth look at writing and I love how Zinsser uses real life experiences and writing that he did as a way of teaching. This book basically ripped all my writing to shreds. So, I’m starting at the beginning, and humbly trying to learn more. I’m reading two other of Zinsser’s titles currently. This was on my shelf also, so one more attempt at reading all the beautiful books I own.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (***) This book was interesting. It is about an apartment building and a few people in it. It basically had no plot, just a plodding through their lives in a gossipy way. I liked it, but I didn’t like it, if you know what I mean. It was originally written as a series of articles for a newspaper and you can see that a bit. I could not stand the main male character, Bruce, and the young lady Pat seemed so aimless and I felt a bit irritated with her. The most interesting character to me was a small boy Bertie who I wanted to snatch away from his CRAZY mother. I felt EXTREMELY bad for him.

Called to be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order by Marlene C. Miller  (***) I liked this book much better that Mr. Wagler’s, because of the interest of a non-Amish woman joining the Amish Church. There are very few people who ever do that and stay. I really liked Mrs. Miller’s testimony of the love of Christ in her life, yet it intrigues me that she then turned to the Amish. I understand that it had something to do with the acceptance she felt from them after a rough childhood herself. In some ways, I can see the draw to the Amish, but there are so many things that concern me about their beliefs. We “English” as they call all non-Amish, think their outfits, ways are quaint and charming. In reality, it is a harsh and brutal way of life. It is like living similar to the pioneers, with the cold fear of going to hell if you mess up or leave the Church. I’m way over-simplifying this, but that seems to be some of what I’ve come to understand. I really loved Mrs. Miller’s sharing of life as a mom of 10 children (with no electricity or plumbing, mind you. ACK!)

O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare by Niall Williams and Christine Breen (*****) This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. However, throughout this book, I appreciated the honesty and real feelings that Niall and Christine shared about the culture shock, loneliness, daily struggle to eek out a living on a old, run down farm and cottage. The shear difference between their lives in New York with all it’s convenience and speed versus the backbreaking labor for something as simple as heat for their cottage was astounding. The slow pace of the culture was unreal to them. Mr. Williams did a wonderful job sharing the ups/downs and real feelings. I was especially touched and sadden as they walked through the realization that they were unable to have children. I was elated to find out that there are three more books on their life at this time. I’m itching to start them.

Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Luke, John –  The Holy Bible (*****) I’m continuing my reading in my favorite Book of all times. The contrast between the Old and New is always so interesting and I just fell in love with the Book of John all over again.

What are you reading?

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