August Reads

Carl_Larsson_-_Little_Red_Riding_Hood_1881

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

~

 

 

Advertisements

July Reads

the-yellow-books-vincent-van-gogh

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

 

~

 

 

June Reads

IMG_2068

{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

IMG_3692

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

Gentian Hill

Elizabeth Goudge

p.208

(emphasis mine)

~

May Reads

IMG_2872

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

 

 

April Reads

IMG_2587

 

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 (*****)

~

March Reads

IMG_2499

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?

~

 

 

 

 

January & February Reads

img_1565

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!

 

~

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Favorite Reads

_mg_6887

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?

~

2016 Favorite Reads: Elementary/Preschool

4215691

The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem – We all love this book, really good for any age. My 7 yo and I will “ooo and ahh” over the gorgeous illustrations and gently told stories. Such scope for imagination in this delightful collection.

438310

My Naughty Little Sister Storybook by Dorothy Edwards – These are told from the perspective of an older sister and the adventures and trouble of her little sister. Delightfully British turns of phrase, darling illustrations by Shirley Hughes, and gentle, humorous reminders of life lessons. Highly recommend.

21897313

Read-Aloud Rhymes For the Very Young Selected by Jack Prelutsky – This is absolutely charming. A collection of poems and sayings with delightful illustrations by Marc Brown. My 4 yo and I just love reading these together and can get lost in the illustrations. Highly recommend.

3088024

Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa – Charming counting book with the wonderful Fujikawa illustrations. My 2 yo’s favorite board book right now!

1344940

On Market Street by Arnold Lobel – This is an unique alphabet book with hours of interest logged in our home. The delightful pictures depict a person dressed with something corresponding with a letter of the alphabet. One of our best loved books!

56471

The Quilt Maker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau – Another well-loved favorite here. Hours of intricate illustrations to pour over. Magical, sweet story with lovely message.

These are just a few of the many books that I could have included here. I tried share the ones that are currently being loved.

{book covers from Goodreads}

Any favorites in this genre that you’d share? I’d love to hear.

~

2016 Favorite Reads for Young Adults & Middle School

9780375855825_p0_v1_s192x300

The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley – this series has been a huge hit with my 13 yo. It follows the life and adventures of a young boy and a wild black stallion. Highly recommend.

2020259

Rascal by Sterling North – my 11 yo and I have been enjoying this book immensely. Humorous, adventurous,  crazy, and nature-orientated. We love the unique relationship between Sterling and his father. Of course, Rascal the Raccoon, is very entertaining himself. Highly recommend.

172734

DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul – these are my 13 yo’s favorite fantasy series this year. Allegorical, mystical, and adventurous. I’ve been reading these with her and they are light, fun reads.

41nqmd5tskl-_sx298_bo1204203200_

Silent Storm by Marion Marsh Brown – This lovely historical fiction title is a favorite with all ages here. It follows the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. We love that it gives us Annie’s perspective. Highly recommend.

1076924

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – a historical novel about a young girl coming to the colonies. She is having a hard time being accepted by her new family and misunderstandings and confusion abound in this Puritan world.

51afdb0nb-l-_sy346_

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher – I just finished reading this to my 9 yo and it was just as good, if not better, than the first time when I read it to my oldest. It follows the life of a young girl who is being raised by her cloying, fearful aunt. Circumstances change and she is sent to live with the dreaded Putney cousins, who love and live a bit differently. This is a delightful tale that I love to read as a mother, because I learn so much about parenting. It can feel like a book more for girls, but it’s not. My 9 yo boy said it was his favorite book this year. Don’t miss this one. Highly recommend.

Honorable Mention:

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – Ever wonder where the Wardrobe came from? Or the Lamp Post? Or how Narnia came to be? My 9 yo and I are so enjoying revisiting the first story in The Chronicles of Narnia tales. We love hearing about the creation of Narnia and all the interesting bits that make this series unforgettable.

These are just some of the few that jumped out to me, that my older and middle children have really enjoyed this year. I will be back soon with ones for younger children and myself!

Please share your favorites in these age groups for this year!

{Book covers from Goodreads}

~

2016 Favorite Family Read Alouds

826095

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen – beautiful, haunting book about a family working through the father’s PTSD. The family is drawn toward a remote, inherited cabin, the natural, seasonal rhythms, maple sugaring process, and neighbors surrounding them in beauty, love, and light. Highly recommend.

1127828

Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – this is a delightful story of a boy and a swan without a voice. Hilarious, sweet, and subtle nature lessons woven throughout. We love this title!

1657050

Family Grandstand by Carol Ryrie Brink – we finished this book earlier this year and can’t recommend it enough. Lovely story of a family living near the father’s job at a college, a writer for mother ;), and an interesting neighbor hood of friends and adventures.

Honorable mention is the Ralph Moody Series, which we’ve been slowly working through!

What are your favorite family read-aloud titles this year?

{book covers from Goodreads}

~