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.

 

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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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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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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January & February Reads

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What did you read these past couple of months? I’d love to hear! January was spent finishing up books from last year, which if they were more than half done, I didn’t include in this list. I ended up with a lot of fantasy and YA titles these first few months of 2017. How do you read? A few books at a time? One book, start to finish? I like to dip in and out of a HUGE stack, which I have going and changing all the time. I linked to reviews if I did them and I put an asterisk if recommended and/or a note on the title. 🙂

 

The Best Man by Grace Livingston Hill

The Far Country by Nevil Shute *** (Highly recommend.)

Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and J.K. Rowling

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel*(Interesting sci-fi/dystopian read with food for thought.)

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan* (England and books. Sigh. Unfortunately, ruined by unnecessary heavy adult content. Grr.)

The Mountain Between Us by  Charles Martin*

The Lake House by Kate Morton*

A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin*** (Highly recommend.)

The King’s Orchard by Agnes Sligh Turnbull*** (Highly recommend. Historical biography following the life of James O’Hara. This is set in Pittsburgh, PA area around French and Indian Wars into the American Revolution.)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Carl Sandburg, Voice of the People by Ruth Franchere*

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp*

Until Winter Comes by Mary Jane Hathaway

Amberwell by D.E. Stevenson* (Lovely historical fiction set in England around WWII.)

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Matthew, Mark in The NKJV Holy Bible*** (Honestly, Leviticus is a hard read. 🙂 )

 

 

 

Happy Reading!

 

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The Far Country by Nevil Shute – A Book Review

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{Book cover: Goodreads}

The Far Country by Nevil Shute – Jennifer Morton is a young office clerk in depressing post-war London. It’s 1950 and the future looks grim. She ends up rushing to her ill Grandmother’s side, only to find that she is dying of cold and malnutrition because her pride wouldn’t allow her to let anyone know that her widow’s pension was taken away.

The grandmother, Ethel, had years before, given her love and support to Jack and Jane Dorman’s marriage, even though he was considered unsuitable for Jane. The Dorman’s have by sweat, blood, and tears created a good life for themselves in Australia as sheep farmers. They began to worry about Ethel, reading between the lines of her letters. They end up sending her a large sum of money, but it’s a little too late. Before Ethel’s death she signs the money over to Jennifer.

On the advice of her parents, Jennifer decides to visit her distant relatives the Dorman’s using some of this money meant for Ethel. She is amazed and blown away with the stark beauty and all what she deems as luxuries that she finds in Australia. Simple things like cream, meat and clothing items which were extremely scarce and unheard of in England.

Jennifer begins to love the area surrounding the Dorman’s farm and appreciates so many things. She meets so many interesting people including a Czech doctor who works in the lumber camps. After a freak accident, she assists him in an emergency surgeries to help injured lumbermen. History, adventure and sweet love continue through this story, with a light mystery bringing up the end.

This might sound like it’s confusing and jumps around too much, but it is beautiful. I found the history fascinating. Mr.Shute touches on the socialist government in England at the time which is interesting. I really enjoyed this title. I own this book, one step toward reading more of my shelf in 2017.

I also enjoy A Town Like Alice by this author. Have you ever read any Nevil Shute? What did you think?

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