Autumn 2017 – Our Favorite Books for Children & Young Adults

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This may seem like a massive list for just a few months of the year! We do enjoy our books, that’s for sure. However, remember there are eight people (well, my 3 year old didn’t say much) weighing in on their favorites for RIGHT now. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with autumn, just what each person is enjoying personally, some from our learning and others just for extra fun during this season. I tried to take photos of all the suggestions from my family for this list, but that didn’t work out (alas, real life), but I did some. I also added an age range, but honestly, we all love most of these. Hope you enjoy this list!

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay – Hilarious adventures of three friends who have a magical pudding that never runs out! Two nasty puddin’ thieves are after their treat. Wonderful rhymes and songs! (All ages! Australian Classic.)

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton – This is the first in a series and my 5 year old and I are very much enjoying this! Our copy has full page, lovely, colorful illustrations. This is the story of three children that find a magic tree that takes them to faraway, crazy, lands. They meet a host of fun friends, and some creatures they wish they HADN’T met! (10 and under)

 

 

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – a favorite reread here all around. (All ages!)

The Twenty- One Balloons by William Pène du Bois – the incredible story of a retired Professor who decides to take a balloon trip, ending up crashing on an island full of surprises. (All ages!)

American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg – this is well-loved favorite, especially the part about Paul Bunyan. (10 and younger)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer – We are really just in the beginning of this book, but my 12 year old and I are really enjoying it. It is sobering, yet heart-warming. We have really interesting discussion after reading. I’m editing just a wee touch as I read this out loud, but over all a engrossing story of a young man growing up in Malawi. (12 and older)

The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith – (*whispering* I find this series little simple and redundant.) My children, however, especially my boys, find the idea of warrior rabbits, fantastic! This is a prequel, I believe, to The Green Ember.  A certain boy is even getting a t-shirt from this series for Christmas. (10 and under)

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Knee-Knock Rise by Natalie Babbitt – My 8 year old and I are reading this together and so far it is a mysterious, interesting story about a boy Egan who travels to visit relatives. Everyone in the village lives in terror a menacing noise up the mountain, is Egan curious and brave enough to find out what’s up there? (10 and under)

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace – this is the fourth in this series and I’m looking foward to reading this with my 8 year old daughter. We’ve been slowly savoring these. Adventures of two friends and their families in a Midwestern town. She picked this before we’d even read it, because she really loves these! I’m going to hold off on the last four in the series as those are when Betsy and Tacy are older. We’ll pick up on those later. (10 and under)

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – This was a sad, yet mystical story about a little girl and her parents during the Great Depression. A neighbor shares the story of a secret river full of fish, sending Calpurnia on an adventure to help her family and friends. We have the version with Leonard Weisgard’s illustrations and I think that adds a lot to this. (10 and under)

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The Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte M. Yonge – A collection of stories of bravery and true courage. You won’t find any sports “heroes” in this book! Highly moving and challenging. My daughter and I have wonderful discussions on this title. Older language, just FYI. (12 and up)

The Story of John J. Audubon by Joan Howard – This is an interesting biography or historical fiction? (I can never tell), about Audubon. My daughter and I are really enjoying talking about it. ( 8 and up)

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney – Interesting science behind clouds told in engaging way with folk lore, stories, and myths behind clouds. Good for discussions with older students, some adult- type topics in it, just FYI. (12 and up)

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Half Magic by Edward Eager – Three children find a magic pebble that gives you HALF of what you wish for…so be careful! This leads to hilarious situations! The children love this book. (All ages!)

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – This is our summer read aloud that we didn’t finish and we are still very much enjoying it. Fantastic examples of what hard work and ingenuity can do. Great examples of a loving family environment. I think some of the situations in the story are a bit TOO convenient, but I didn’t mention that to the children, and they love the exotic animals, interesting houses, and adventures the Robinson family are having! Older language, just FYI. (All ages!)

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards – yes, by THAT Julie Andrews. This started off slow for us, and some children were very frustrated and emotions ran high about certain parts of this book, that they actually wanted to quit! However, I pressed on with this one, because I had peeked ahead, and now they can’t get enough of it. Hopefully, they will enjoy the ending. (All ages!)

Honorable mention, not pictured:

The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody – this is the 7th book in the Ralph Moody Series which my husband has been reading in the evenings to the children. We love this rough and tumble true story of Ralph’s life.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – my oldest wanted me to include this series. We both enjoy fantasy and she read this series this autumn after it was recommended to her.

We read many picture books and my youngest has favorite board books, but I can’t get my head wrapped around our favorites in those areas right at the moment. I’ll let you know if any jump out at me.

Happy Reading! Please share if you have any favorites from these genres in the past few months!

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October Reads

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Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 {Google}

The weather is turning into a perfect blend of cold, misty, grayness. Perfect for reading, that is. Curling up with the hot coffee, quilts, and taking a deep sniff of those old books off of ones shelves is just about perfection here on earth, don’t you agree? I wanted to clear up something that came up on last month’s post. These posts list the books I’ve FINISHED that month. Maybe my title is a bit misleading, but many of these books I may have been reading for months, but I finished them up in the month I list them. I also had a request for listing the children/YA books we read here. I think I will try to do that quarterly. So be looking for an autumn children’s/YA book round up soon. Maybe later today if I can squeeze it in!

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper (*****) – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Those fictional journeys often speak into our reality. She is mainly speaking of this in regards to writing, fantasy, imagination, and especially the openness and wonder in children. I loved many of the ideas that I pulled from this reinforce Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on how young children need broad exposure to rich ideas from imaginative worlds, nature, myths, and legends. Although she is talking mainly from her perspective, there is so much in these essays that can span many experiences and situations. I really, really enjoyed this.

The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing  Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time by Sally Clarkson (*****) – As always, encouraging, idealistic, and something to aim towards. Clarkson’s books always make me so thankful for my life as a wife and mother. I know that some find Mrs. Clarkson a bit too idealistic, but I read once a quote somewhere on the topic of writing, “Don’t look at a wonderful writer and think that you will never be able to write like them, instead look at them and think I want to write like that.” I’m probably misquoting that and I don’t know who originally said it, but I take it as aim high, live your life to the fullest. Clarkson is that catalyst for me as a mother and friend, especially. I love her thoughts on hospitality and all the recipes in this book look simple, doable comfort food. I love her Scriptures and encouragement for my faith. She calls us high, yet shows us grace for weary times. I love her compassion towards times when things are chaotic and hard. I felt this strongly especially in this title and I loved her thoughts on young adult/adult children as I’m just entering that season. Overall, another favorite from Sally. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe (***) – Basic, yet beautiful ideas about how to use journals as an important part of learning. This book is really nice if you need some fresh inspiration for nature, science, or common place journals.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt (****) – First of all, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. Really enjoyed this!

Anna Akhmatova (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) by Anna Akmatova (****) – The notes at the end of this collection saved me a bit as I confess extreme ignorance about Russian history. I loved Akhmatova’s use of words, though. Sigh. Even though I didn’t always completely follow what subject she was touching on, I still loved her raw depth of emotion and the cadence. Some of her originality was probably lost in translation, but overall I just loved these.

The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead (*****) – This is the second in the Song of Albion series that my oldest and I started last month. Wow. This one was even better than the first. The two time-traveling Oxford post graduate students are now fully apart of the Celtic world of Albion, which is thrown into civil unrest at the murder of their king, Meldryn Mawr. Lewis or Llew, as he is now known by, finds himself in an important position, with insane odds stacked against him, that could affect the future of Albion.  I loved Tegid, the Bard character’s perspective, which this story is told mainly through. This is definitely for older young adults as it is very violent.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This was a comforting reread, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. Three children are visiting their mysterious Uncle Merry Lyon, in a dusty old house on the Cornish coast. After finding an hidden entrance to an attic full of junk, a old map is discovered, and that’s the beginning of a dangerous, creepy, mission to find a missing grail. King Arthur, England, and scary evil henchman. Yes, thank you very much, Susan Cooper. Middle school on up!

Songs from the Slums by Toyohiko Kagawa (***) – Heart-wrenching poems from a Japanese minister who chose to live and work among the extreme poor of Japan’s slums.

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard J. Foster (****) – 3.5 I believe the author is from a Quaker background and I found his outlook interesting.  I loved the first 3/4ths of this book, so much to think on and pray about. The emphasis really being getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto the Lord. The last fourth of the book was interesting, a kind of “Christian socialism” promoted. Some of it was good and it had elements of truth, but a bit formulaic and the author seemed a bit more “preachy”. Overall, an interesting read, full of food for thought.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John (I honestly read John again at the same time I was in Ezekiel, as it is such a heavy book)

Care to share what you read this month?

~

 

 

September Reads

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The Lady and the Unicorn: À mon seul désir 

How was your reading month in September? I finished a few things and started a few others. With our home learning beginning, I definitely slowed down (for me, anyway) as my brain power lowers a wee bit after spending each day in lovely books with my children. I really have too many books (is there such a thing?) going currently, which sometimes makes me uninspired to pick up anything. I need to cull my stack a bit. Someone asked me recently how I read so much. Well, I rarely watch any t.v. or movies, not that I don’t like them, it’s just I want to read, write, or be on social media instead. I read fast, sometimes too fast. I also read while doing other things, riding in a car with my hubby or I even read while cooking, which I don’t recommend. Ha.

L’Abri by Edith Schaeffer (****) – This followed a portion of theologians Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s lives as they begin their ministry of hospitality and outreach to searching individuals in the Swiss Alps. I found this inspiring and challenging. I especially loved how hospitality, simple, yet delicious meals, and just opening ones door, played a vital role in helping so many people. Food and conversation around a table has so much power.  I found it interesting to get a glimpse of the Schaeffer’s children’s lives and how they prayed in their financial support. I loved the sketched map at the beginning of this book, so charming.  The stories were just a wee bit redundant by the end of the book, but overall my faith was challenged in a timeless way and I know I won’t forget the beauty I pulled away from this title.

“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare (***) – This is one that I’ve been reading for awhile as we completed this last year with our Charlotte Mason Community. I didn’t love this one as much as some of the others we have done. The tricks seemed a bit too cruel, for some reason I felt bad for Malvolio especially even though he was such a silly person, and I couldn’t like Olivia very much. Overall, the language was so beautiful and the turns of phrase so interesting. Maybe I was just sick of the “twin” vein since we had completed “A Comedy of Errors right before. My children loved this play very much, so it was just me that thought it was “meh”. One thing I loved from our group was that my friend wore yellow tights with cross-garters for our class! That was such a fun touch.

Twelve Moons by Mary Oliver (****) – A beautiful collection of her poetry. I especially loved the second half of this book.

Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane (****) – 3.5 stars – This was a light, interesting historical fiction based on some true events and people in Maud’s life. A YA look at teenage Montgomery’s angst and loneliness. The grit and determination that drove L.M. Montgomery to pursue her dream of writing. I enjoyed this, although occasionally there did seem to be “fact dumps” in the middle of the narrative.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (*****) – This is the first Agatha Christie that I have TRULY loved! I think it’s because I don’t really love Hercule Poirot that much (and I’ve only read his titles, if I’m remembering correctly), but I didn’t realize that was the problem till I read this one. This is hilarious in a dry way, I loved the main character Anne, lots of twists and turns, but definitely more tongue and cheek than super creepy. Light romance, history, travel, and suspense. What a fun read!

Refuge on Crescent HillEnchanted Isle, and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor  by Melanie Dobson (***) – about 2.5 stars between the first two of them.  I heard about Refuge on Crescent Hill as something that was “good Christian fiction” and the story was mysterious and interesting. I felt like the sense of place and the depth of characters were a TEENY bit flat and I still want to know how to write clean fiction with elements of faith without being preachy. Unfortunately, Enchanted IsleI disliked immensely. I felt like this was very slow, plot-line very unbelievable (an old amusement park in The Lake District?), full of cliches and little bits of British culture dropped in to make it seem authentic. The descriptions of the nature were beautiful. Then, because I’m ever an optimist, I tried a third title from this author. I was pleasantly surprised by Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. I’d probably give it a solid 3.5 stars and it reminded me a small way of Kate Morton. Teen pregnancy, a special needs little girl, family secrets, and a cottage and a manor in England. The characters were flawed, yet there was a redemptive vein through it all, the story was interesting, and a lot of surprising twists and turns. The flashbacks and journal entries slowly came together at the end of the story. The slight romance was tasteful. The overall tone was sad, yet hopeful. This was clean in the sense that it wasn’t graphic, but not preachy and included dark, hard choices. The sense of place was well done, not overwhelming, but yet you felt immersed in this world. I enjoyed this.  So surprising and interesting to see three novels from the same author in this way.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley  (*****)- This is the third in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, surrounding a lonely, slightly disturb, morbid yet genius 11 year old with a knack for solving mysteries and love of chemistry. I loved this! An attack on a Gypsy woman stirs up the town and brings to light a mystery surrounding a missing child, stolen antiques, and Flavia’s concern over her father hiding their money troubles. The depth of the main characters in these books is amazing and fascinating as Flavia’s relationship with her father, dead mother, and sisters unfolds just a little bit more. I love the glint in the police Inspector’s eye also regarding Flavia’s detective abilities. Highly recommend!

Collected Poems by Edward Thomas (***)- An English poet and naturalist, I found these haunting and sad. Some of them were a bit convoluted, but I appreciated them. Thomas seems a bit lost all the time, searching for something. I loved his close attention to the natural world, his love of the English countryside, but I often wanted to reach out and offer him some hope.

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (*****)- This was a reread and I loved it probably more than the first time I read it. I really noticed a difference between Pride & Prejudice, which I’ve also reread this year, and this in the writing style. S&S is much deeper, richer, and meatier, if you will. The tone is a lot more serious and it touches on some tough issues. I found myself really admiring Elinor and Colonel Brandon as characters. Marianne is harder for me to like, although I wonder if I am more like her in the way I’m too quick to show my emotions. Highly recommend.

The Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead (****) – This fantasy follows two Oxford graduate students who chase a crazy tabloid story to Scotland. This is a weekend diversion intending on checking the fantastic claims of this paper, seeing if they have any merit. Lewis is a bland, laid back American who is skeptical, yet curious. Simon is a wealthy, English, spoiled kid who thinks it’s great fun to drag his roomie on wild goose chases. Something is suspicious about the whole trip to Lewis and before he knows it, Simon is missing and he is in a web of Celtic history, myths, legend, cairns that open doorways to the past. My oldest, Annie, and I found this first in the series fascinating and really enjoyed it.

Thou Givest, They Gather by Amy Carmichael (*****) – I’ve been reading this devotional on and off for a year or so. This is a collection of unrelated devotional pieces that didn’t make it into Carmichael’s other devotionals. Gathered together these are piercing and soul-searching bits to challenge and encourage deeply. I highly recommend.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Esther, Job, Isaiah, 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Revelation

Happy Reading!

~

 

 

 

August Reads

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the Forest by Carl Larsson – 1881

What is on your reading stack?

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (*****) –  4.5 stars. I was extremely intrigued by the beautiful, minute, yet deep observations on nature and life. They were subtle, and I almost want to go back through this book and try to jot them all down for rainy day reviewing. The story was one of the exhausting, messy life it really is to make it as a scientist- weird, quirky, and a bit nuts. Besides the excessive use of the “F” word, this crazy, beautifully written memoir, was so interesting and inspiring no matter what line of work you are in. The vague, strange undefined friendship with Bill, her lab partner, was a bit hard to read and maddeningly endearing at the same time. The author ranted a bit too much about how bad she was treated as a woman in a science field, other than those few things, I really enjoyed it and now want to go plant a tree.

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (*****)-  This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. One of my favorite books of the year so far!

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (****) – My sister recommended this to me and it was a sweet, yet sad story of a little girl who was captured by a Kiowa Indian tribe and it now being returned to her relatives many years later. Old Caption Kidd is commissioned with this task, and he funds their long journey by reading the news for .10 cents a person as they slowly trek across frontier Texas. This is a sobering read and brings to light the brutality of our country in those wild west days. Gun battles, primitive living, dangerous elements, and fiery political arguments following them as they fight to stay alive. The care and love that grow between the little girl and Kidd, who she begins to fondly refer to as Opa, is so heartwarming and I found this to be such a rewarding historical fiction, as I believe it’s based on some true facts.

Waking the Gods by Sylvian Neuvel – (***) 3.5 – fun, sci-fi with a creepy side to it. Written in an unique way through interviews, media reports, etc. This is a sequel to Sleeping Giants, which I read at the beginning of this year. If you are into alien invasion stories, these books are for you. I think there might be a third in the series coming as well.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – (****) I love the humanity of this book, Robinson’s writing humming with reality and depth of soul, these are real people to me. I found the questions of Reverend John Ames, his doubts, fears, and thoughts to be universal in their simplicity and complexity. I loved how the love for his wife and child were strongly FELT, even as he told. I enjoyed the town of Gilead, it’s smallness, again the feeling that it could have been me living here at that time in history.I enjoyed the generational lines to this book, the looking back and forward, deeply into the lives of these people, particularly the three ministers, grandfather, father, and son. Robinson definitely has strong views of her own, I feel like those come through in her writing, even though she tries to put “always questioning” spin on them. Her writing is just exquisite and the beauty is in it’s plain, straight-forward way of flowing. It took me awhile to read this, I hesitate to say this, since so many love it, and the Pulitzer Prize and all, but occasionally, I felt like it was trying to be beautiful, especially in the beginning, I struggled to fully get into it…, but when I hit 1/2 way, maybe even 3/4 of the way, I really started to appreciate it and see its richness. Lovely and I look forward to reading more of this author.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (*****) –  this book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Go here to read some beautiful poetry.   

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (****) – Slight spoiler here, just FYI! This is a beautifully written story, touching a point in history (immigration of Spanish/Portuguese Jews to London due to the Inquisition, following through to the ravages of the plague on London) and historical characters that I knew nothing about. I’m still in awe over Kadish’s writing. Antique documents found in an old house, dusty caches of inked treasures drew me in. I don’t always love stories that jump from the past to the future and back again, but this was done well. So much rich detail, characters, and well-developed sense of place. Ester’s deep internal ramblings, along with Helen’s regret, and Aaron’s search all tie together well, occasionally some of their inner musings got a little muddled, but over all, interwoven so well. This felt slightly dark, chilly, and sad in so many ways, just all these people living in terrible fear, and the horror of persecution for beliefs. Little shafts of light shone through the darkness though and I appreciated those, because otherwise this would have been pretty heavy. The tension over the documents of antiquity found and studied by competing departments of the university was intriguing and kept me on my toes, I actually felt my fist clenching a bit as I read.

The ending was pretty predictable in regards to Helen, Aaron’s was not as clear, and Ester’s was a surprise. I felt saddened by the choices, viewpoints, and conclusions that the author comes to. I disliked the heavy immorality. Overall, this was an deep, fascinating read and one I will be thinking about for awhile.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin  (*****)- I loved this charming story of young Rebecca going to live with two spinster aunts who help her get an education. So sweet and I was enchanted by her and how she blessed the whole town.  I found the end of the potential romantic interest a bit jarring, weird, and unsatisfying for some reason. I saw a lot a reviews online saying that this obviously inspired Anne of Green Gables and I didn’t see that much at all! I was surprised because it seemed even to the point that people where alluding to Montgomery using a little too much inspiration, if you know what I mean. I can see similarities to Wiggin and Montgomery’s writing style and the story line of a young girl wanting to be a writer. Emily of New Moon is more similar in plot, than Anne! Anyway, this was just a pleasure to read.

Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery (***) – This is a small collection of her poetry, she was actually a very prolific poet. By her own admission, she did write poetry for the market, paying the bills, and you can see that in some of these. However, there are quite a few that were so lovely and blessed me so much. I could just breath the very things she was talking of in her poetry, while I was in P.E.I., since many are on nature.

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane (****) – This is such a hard book to describe in a good way. I loved this book. About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. The importance of recognizing and keeping places in nature alive for family, the lore, legends, and special connections the words bring to these intimate geographical parts of our world. I’d say this is part travel log, part reading log, part naturalist memoir, part logophile’s dream. This mainly focuses on England/UK, but it is worth reading no matter where you live. I definitely plan on reading more of this author’s work.

The Alpine Path: The Story of my Career by L.M. Montgomery (****) – this is a short, simple biography touching on the main points of Montgomery’s career. I found this inspiring and lovely for anyone who loves writing and words, or who is just a fan of her beautiful stories.

Jurassic Park and Lost World by Michael Crichton (***) 3.5 – I found these entertaining and just ok for a light read. Definitely violent and a bit creepy. The huge sections on evolution felt clunky and out of place in the high action plot. I felt the first was TOO fast paced, the second was a better balance of action and dialogue.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, James, 1 Peter

~

 

 

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

 

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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.

 

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

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(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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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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2016 Favorite Reads

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I like to keep track of my reading each year, through Goodreads,  journals, or lists.  I recently changed my blog home and now I’m trying to find a good place and way to record what my children and I read. I’m still working on that,  so instead of my usually massive list of what books we read, I’ve been sharing just those ones that we have loved THIS year and in this moment. It is so, so hard to narrow this list down, but I based my decision not necessarily on just the excellence of the book itself, but also on how it impacted me at the TIME that I read it. So, here is my favorite read list for 2016!

My 2016 Favorite Reads:

1. My favorite book this year! A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich – I can’t tell you how much this book meant to me…how our dreams and reality war in our affections. Laura is a deep thinking child with dreams of writing and loving on words…an elusive dream world that can’t quite be explained. It sort of feels like a white bird flying through the air. Grandmother Deal passes away and young Laura is devastated…Grandma was the only one who really seemed to understand and listen to her…she will honor her Grandmother and never forget what she gave up by living her life grasping after her grandmother’s and her own shared dream. Little does she know that Grandmother did live her dream, a dream that lives on through the generations. Laura has choices to make, stories to live.This book is written with beautiful prose and lovely nature descriptions. The author’s love of Nebraska and the plains is woven and intricate to this story. I just love the depth of the characters and how each life is so interwoven. The beauty of generations is heavily shown here…the good, the bad, and the ugly of family relationships and how they shape us.  This starts off a bit slow, but is just so, so very lovely! I HIGHLY recommend this title.

I didn’t realize that A White Bird Flying is the second in a series and I am now reading the first, A Lantern in Her Hand, which is just beautiful. I also read Mother Mason by Aldrich and was deeply moved by the beauty, hardships, and humor of motherhood shared within that title. Highly recommend this author and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

2. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery – I’m a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery and I reread this title at a particularly hard time this year and it just blessed the socks off of me . The young girl blossoming as she serves and loves her father. She doesn’t do anything spectacular except create an atmosphere of love and home to all those around her. And really maybe servant-hood IS the most spectacular thing we can do with our life. Just beautiful.

3.  This is kind of a strange thing, two beautiful titles have melded together a bit for me. The Broken Way: A Daring Path into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp and my rereading of Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard have been just so beautifully challenging and life-altering in so many ways. I’m still slowly savoring both of these, but I put them high on favorites for the year. It’s not simple to put into words, why I love these so much, but it has to do with finding freedom in just resting and trusting the Lord in the midst of our lives. That the brokenness, valleys, and heart-wrenching things are REAL life on this sin-soaked world. We can see God in those and live abundantly even when life isn’t safe or our idea of perfect. In fact, a careful reading of the Bible reveals life as, I believe, a barren desert with Jesus as our Spring of Living water. Voskamp’s writing can be a bit tricky to get into, but if you dig deep you will find lovely gems.

4. Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner – This was hard, sad, yet beautiful read. This story is told through the 80+ year old eyes of a woman looking back over her life, looking at the Christian faith as an outsider, and explaining her life, questioning death through the observing of birds, Shakespeare, and Time Life’s obituaries. Sound weird? It isn’t. It’s beautiful and thought-provoking. I’ve always read Christian fiction and it’s hard to find well-written, non-formulaic titles in this genre, but this one is excellent. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

5.  City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo Caldwell – This fiction title is  based on a true story about Mennonite missionaries to China in the early 1900’s.  Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking. I was so encouraged and challenged in my faith. I couldn’t put this down.

6. The Gown of Glory by Agnes Sligh Turnbull –  I must share this lovely fiction title with you! A young minister and his wife arrive in Ladykirk, hoping that this is just the stepping stone to their big ministry position…only to find themselves still in the same place 25 years later. David Lyall is a humble, bookish man, who hopes his gentle sermons and life of love mean something in this world.  This follows their life and family and how simple loving can impact deeply.

7. Romancing Your Child’s Heart by Monte Swan – a beautiful, insightful parenting title. Swan challenges us to look at children as whole, wonderful people deserving of the love of the Lord.

8. The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebank – an interesting memoir about real life as a shepherd in the north of England. I read this around and during my trip in The Lake District, so it came alive to me. A bit of rough language, but I really loved this honest look at shepherding.

9. Applesauce Needs Sugar by Victoria Case – This was a fantastic memoir! This follows the life of a Canadian pioneer family working hard to better themselves and put food on the table for their growing family. I found most of the stories had a subtle humor that made me chuckle out loud, namely the ways the industrious mother went about her wild plans all while convincing the father that it was his idea in the first place. 😉 This book has an interesting perspective in that it shows a strong-willed, excellent business woman in a time when women had no say, no vote, no property…nothing. I love the relationship portrayed between the parents, not perfect but choosing love…the discipline and well-oiled way the mother runs her big family of eventually 10 has me in awe.

10. The Book of Stillmeadow by Gladys Taber – no year would be complete without a little side of Taber.  If you’ve never read her,  Gladys wrote from the 1940’s onward, on the daily and seasonal happenings of her farm Stillmeadow. I know some people think she is repetitive and slow, and she probably is…but I love her writing. I think the two things that strike me the most are these: 1. she pays close attention to the small details of life and 2. she uses words in such a beautiful way. This title started off a bit slow, but as I got into it, I was just enchanted. The beauty of home, family, animals, cooking, and of nature. The glorious bits of light and beauty we see in the midst of the mundane, if we are brave enough to just stop fretting and being disgusted by it all, we will be given a beautiful gift right where we are.  I have Stillmeadow Sampler and Stillmeadow Daybook for savoring in my book stack now.

I have a few others that I could mention here, but I’m going to try to show restraint, as I really do think these are my most favorites of this year, or at least touched me the most. I would be amiss to not mention the Book of Books, The Holy Bible,…I journaled through it this year, using a wide margin NKJV Bible, with no footnotes, which was lovely. I’m planning on using a different version next year and doing it again…the richness, life, and love in the Bible are life-changing.

What were your absolute, favorite reads of this year?

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