Favorite Reads of 2021 ♥️🌿{Massive List: You’ve Been Warned}

Remembering our daily autumn tramps in a little woods on our property…♥️♥️♥️

Dear Fellow Page Turners and Word Drinkers 😄, it’s that time of the year to think about all the wonderful books I’ve read this past year and take on the impossible task of narrowing down my favs {failed miserably at the narrowing down part. Ha! }. 2021 was a FANTASTIC reading year for me! I was thrilled to read so many great books. Here is my post from my 2020 favorite reads and my categories that I wanted to focus on in 2021. I touched all of my categories EXCEPT I didn’t really finish any biographies. Once again, I listed categories below to help you, if you’d prefer to scroll to your favorite genre, instead of reading through my massive list. 😏♥️ I left Goodreads this year in spring with no regrets and have plans for a pretty analog reading journal, continuing what I started this year, because I loved it so much. I’m truly a paper gal. I blame Booktube, especially Chantel 😂😍, for so many great books! I read a lot more mystery this year and surprisingly, historical fiction. Curl up with your favorite hot drink and a pen and paper because happy toppling 2022 TBR, my friends! 😂😎♥️

Favorite Book of the Year 2021~

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly -5 stars!!!! This was just so lovely! A middle grade story about a little girl being shuffled around in the foster care system and an artist who is slowly declining due to Alzheimer’s disease. Deeper themes about belonging and being seen. This book just made me FEEL. It was so, so sad and lovely and REAL.

Poetry ~

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry – 5 stars! Some of Berry’s poetry is a little inaccessible to me unless I am in a certain mood with lots of patience. NOT THIS COLLECTION. This book and the Holy Bible got me through 2021, sane-ish. 😉 Ha!

Hilltop Verses and Prayers by Ralph Spaulding Cushman – 5 stars These are lovely, intimate poems, prayers, and Scriptures. I gave this as a gift recently. There is a second book also which I’m slowly savoring.

The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris – 5 stars, breathtaking watercolor illustrations and gorgeous wordsmithing from MacFarlane. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Nonfiction/Memoir-

Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlov Glyer – 5 stars! This was just SO inspiring about how community is so important in our creative pursuits and in life. I was so inspired by this book, so two writing friends and I have started checking in on Voxer and spurring each other on. I’ve been also getting into more bookish community on Booktube. ❤

Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach – 5 stars! Fascinating and super lovely look at one man’s attempt at “practicing the presence of God” moment by moment in his daily life. Mr. Laubach was a literacy advocate in the Philippines and other countries.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May – 4.5 stars This book articulated how I feel so very often! It was a beautifully written memoir of the author’s pressing INTO the dark times in her life instead of fighting them. This wasn’t from a Christian perspective, but it was so inspiring, reassuring, and I felt “seen”.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson – 5 stars! A mind-blowing book about personal responsibility. Even if you don’t agree with everything from Peterson, don’t miss this amazing book. Philosophy, religion, psychology, and so much more!

This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson 4.5 stars – this one was ALMOST my favorite of the year. I loved that I finally found a book that questions the scary idea that God is the creator of sin and horror in the world. This book is so beautiful in an unique way – the non-chronological time line in this memoir was my only complaint as sometimes we jumped about a bit, but I loved how Sarah shared her struggles with mental illness and her questions and deep things she was contemplating.

Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal – 4.5 stars, despite a few theological differences, this book was such a blessing to my prayer and gratitude life practices. Beautiful thoughts, quotes, Scripture, and glorious poetry on how really seeing and practicing gratitude ultimately turns our heart towards God. Highly recommend.

The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi – 5 star read for me! I was so surprised by this as I don’t really like these types of books usually. I felt so freed and like I can tailor my home in the way that fits me. And yet, she does challenge and give tools on how to run what works and is important for you. I can’t wait to read her Kitchen Lazy Genius title next year, as I need major help in the kitchen. HA!

Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Greg Boyd – 5 stars, fantastic look at keeping God’s love in mind in the moment you are currently in! This book was life changing for me and so helpful about my thought life.

Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael – 5 stars, one of the most convicting, beautiful reads for my faith and my job as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. So beautiful! A bit rambly, but I took down pages of quotes that challenged me and inspired me in my Christian faith.

Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp – 5 stars, just lovely, intimate memoir with reflections on nature, life, with the author’s faith woven throughout.

Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller – 4 stars – such an interesting book and I especially found the chapters on guilt/worry/anxiety so helpful. I loved that this was from a Christian perspective and included a lot of Scripture.

Middle Grade & YA Fiction ~

Fog Magic by Julia Sauer – 5 stars, a short, haunting portal magic MG fantasy that I really enjoyed. The setting was LOVELY.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt – 5 stars. WOW! Jane Eyre thread throughout, the Vietnam War, domestic abuse, and poignant observations on a young boy’s life. Schmidt did NOT disappoint in this companion to The Wednesday Wars.

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – 5 stars! I LOVED this first in a fantasy/dragon series, but heard the second is not great, and the third never came out. So I just stopped here! If you like classic feel fantasy, this one was great.

Heart of Red, Blood of Blue by Rebecca Belliston – 5 stars! I heard about this one on Oceana’s Booktube channel and my oldest daughter and I loved it. Medieval-adventure-romance done SO well with great twists. Heads up, I did try a couple other of Belliston’s titles later and they weren’t for me, but this one was wonderful!

The Recorder by Cathy McCrumb – 5 stars! This is the first in a Sci-Fi Series called The Consortium. This was one of my anticipated reads from 2021 and it didn’t disappoint. So fascinating and I loved the characters! We follow a Recorder, a person raised from childhood to record history and observe life, or is she? She is thrown into a mission with a great bunch of characters and questions are asked about who she really is? Space, giant bugs, octopus-like robots and more.

Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer – 4 stars, I read all? of Meyer’s novels in 2021 and I really enjoyed this one. In the beginning, I found the story of the ancient gods on the side was more interesting to me than the main story. However, the last quarter of the book picked up, blending present and past well. I loved Wen, the shape shifting, and the cooperation between the two main characters. The whale was so clever, lots of strange, magical, unique details that made me feel. I loved the secret library/mansion/sea/cottage setting. Meyer is SO good at setting. I loved that Talia didn’t compromise her beliefs. Overall, a bit stream-of-conscious-along-for-the-ride type read, but so atmospheric, clean, and intriguing!

The Rivers Lead Home & Other Stories by Emily Hayse – 5 stars, haunting, sparse, adventure short stories that really inspired me. I really enjoy this Indie author!

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – 5 stars, this YA historical fiction was full of intrigue, mystery, and light romance. I gave this as a Christmas gift to my 12 yo!

Of Salt & Shore by Annet Schaap – 5 stars, loved this story! I really grew to care for Lampie, the sweet lighthouse keeper’s daughter and the sad hardships she faced. This has a Beauty & the Beast, Little Mermaid, Jane Eyre, Secret Garden mashup vibe to it! A bit dark and creepy, definitely for older middle grade or YA.

The Brave by James Bird – 4.5 stars. I adored this book and loved the main character Collin. I loved the First Nation/Indigenous, magical realism bent to it which was so well done. I loved the creative and real feeling way this talked about disability, disease, and death. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this book for Middle Grade readers, however, as it included too many adult sexual type comments/situations and I don’t like that in books geared for 8-12 yos. I will be thinking about this one for awhile.

The Mirror Visitor Series by Christelle Dabos – 4 star series! This is a grand, magical, unique, mirror-traveling political type fantasy. It has an extremely slow-burn romance and huge cast of such FASCINATING characters. Pretty long, but it was a page turner for me! This was recently translated from French and I really loved this one. Overall, pretty clean, probably older YA/Adult.

The Breadwinner Series Books 1 & 2 by Deborah Ellis 5 stars – first two books in a heart-wrenching series about a family in war-torn Afghanistan. This is a MG series, but I’d definitely read it with my children or give it to older kids as it touches on sobering topics. I’m taking a break before reading the last two books as they are heavy. I noticed that there is a an animated movie that I want to check out.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier – 5 star book! Oh my. SO sweet, creative, magical, and heart-wreching about the loss of a parent, belonging, friends, and so much more. I really loved learning more about children as chimney sweeps.

Incarceron & Sapphique by Catherine Fisher – 5 stars duology! Fantasy story about a fascinating living prison and finding the key to it! Creepy and mysterious. Wonderful, intriguing characters, great twists, and very clean. Great YA reads!

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud – 4.5 stars, SUCH A CREATIVE idea! Ghost hunting children who have an agency to take care of those pesky haunted houses. A little dark, but I enjoyed this first one.

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard – 4 star creative read of a girl who can harness the power of the sun! If you like elemental magic in fantasy stories, this one was great, and clean. The romance was a tiny bit cheesy, but overall this was great. I loved that it was a stand alone, so that we got all the great action and story in one go!

Adult Fiction ~

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka – 5 stars, disturbing historical fiction about the horrors surrounding a Japanese American mother and her children trying to psychologically and physically survive relocation to American interment camp during WWII. The writing was SO beautiful, sparse, sad, and so wonderfully expressed. The mental hoops that they had to jump through were so disturbing and how others ignored/excused mistreatment of a whole group of fellow human beings was so sobering and thought-provoking.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King – 4 stars – The first and third books in a LONG series surrounding “retired” Sherlock Holmes and his new sidekick, Mary Russell. I’ve read 4? in this series and there are some preachy/weird themes and I disliked the second book so much, but the writing is SUPERB and the idea so creative. I’m going to continue reading!

The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow – 5 stars, beautiful and sympathetic look at what happened to Mary Bennett. A MUST READ FOR JANE AUSTEN FANS!

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G. K. Chesterton – 5 stars, unique and interesting mysteries solved by a quiet, observant priest. I was very pleasantly surprised by these!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford – 4.5 stars, another super interesting historical fiction inspired by a true story. An abandoned hotel basement full of Japanese American belongings found some decades later reveals the stories of so many lives disrupted due to the interment camps. Disturbing and so interesting, told through the eyes of a father and son relationship. Highly recommend!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – 4 stars, another historical fiction for me! Wow! A disturbing, intense look at 4 evacuees from war torn Germany/Poland/Lithuanian who were headed to be taken on the ill-fated “rescue” boats. The horrors of war and ethnic cleansing atrocities were up and in your face. Trigger warning on this one, so scary, but SO well done. This was my first Sepetys and it won’t be my last.

The Secret of the Chimneys by Agatha Christie 5 stars – LOVED this stand alone from The Queen of Mystery. I’m finding her single stories without Poirot or Marple are some of my favorites. So hilarious!

The London House by Katherine Reay – 5 stars – I am not a huge historical fiction reader and especially not of WWII time period, but I ended up reading so many this year. Ha! However, I have enjoyed Reay’s books in the past, so I gave this one a try. It was AMAZING. I loved the story being told through letters, diaries, and memories. I found the history about dress designers, the Nazis, and Salvador Dali to be fascinating!

L.M. Montgomery ~

Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea – 4 stars for me. A lot of Montgomery’s stories are so sweet with happy endings, but these were grittier and dark. I really enjoyed them.

Emily Climbs x2 {reread} – 5 stars The second in the Emily Starr series and my favorite! So lovely about family, writing life tension, creativity, all with Montgomery’s swoon-worthy nature writing. One small thing that’s weird is an older male friend of Emily’s is a bit creepy, but I can forgive it, because the rest is lovely.

Jane of Lantern Hill {reread} – 5 stars! My handle Amy of Hearth Ridge is inspired by this book! I read this first after a hard pregnancy and a touch of PPD and it blessed my socks off. How simple loving and having someone to care for can be the most important thing to your life. How serving and giving end up blessing YOU in return.

After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed – 3.5 stars, short stories of “second chances” or “time past” – it had a slow start, but I appreciated the latter stories.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Volume 2 – 4 stars The first volume of Montgomery’s journals touched on her girlhood and this one gave such an interesting and dark perspective of a Canadian woman during WWI. Highly recommend!

Whew! 😅♥️ Of course, I read the Holy Bible and so enjoyed especially going through the New Testament, John in particular. Hopefully, you got a good recommendation or three that you anticipate! I’ll be back soon with my reading ideas for 2022!

Gratitude & Glories: Mid~year Reading Favorites, Bookishness, and Other Ramblings

“One can pour something divine into every situation.”

Frank C. Laubach

Hello Dear Hearts,

Happy Saturday to you! I decided to do a little different post this month for my Gratitude & Glories post – combining a multitude of lovely things, The Simple Woman’s Daybook, with the things I’ve read so far this year that are sticking with me like molasses. I may touch on what I’m currently reading and other little rambling tidbits, but I want to stay close to the wonderful words that have been gifted to me through these past few months.

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Looking out my window ~ I’ve been basking in the glorious wind-waving landscape and warmth on my face. Part of my enjoyment is the words that whisper right alongside as I contemplate the expansiveness that warm weather brings. It’s truly a seasonal addition to one’s homeplace. My friend Heather lent me the lovely book The Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp and I’ve been just diving into it in small dips because I don’t want it to end. This is my first by him and it won’t be my last! Do you enjoy naturalist type memoirs? One of my favorite genres. Another book that I’ve had to really focus on, but finding rewarding if I’m patient is Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal.

I am Thinking and I am Thankful ~ I’m in love with Hollyhocks and am constantly staring at them and so thankful for them. A little watering and extra TLC in the beginning and the second year they come all friendly-like in their glory. I’ve been thinking a lot about many things, but mostly about stillness and faithfulness and love. I recently finished Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael. One of the most beautiful, convicting reads for my faith and my mission as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. It’s a bit ramble-ly, but richly rewarding if you put a little fortitude and focus into it. I took pages of quotes into my Commonplace. Along the same vein, I finished Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach and it was wonderful and unique and so thought-provoking. Living moment by moment, habitually turning one’s thoughts and heart to the Lord. June is my birthday month and I received This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Break into our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson and I’m only a few chapters in and I am LOVING it. I may purchase a few copies as Christmas gifts for dear women that I love.

One of my Favorite things, what I’m Wearing, and Creating ~ I reread Wendell Berry’s The Mad Farmer Poems this month and man, I love them SO much. I highly recommend them! I’m looking for a copy to purchase soon. They are a favorite. I’ve been loving skirts and dresses and I can’t tell you the satisfaction I get from the wind whipping them about my ankles as I walk barefoot or with my lovely, new sandals to get the post. I inked some words last week on my fiction and I finally organized a whole mess of notes and things for the fiction projects I’m working on. I know deeply that I just need to write and I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s book Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life and it’s telling me the same thing. I still slowly working on here and there my prereading and nature journal and that is bringing me lots of joy.

I am Watching, Reading, and Listening ~ I watched my two birthday gifts with some of my children, my favorite version of Little Women (I did not care for the new one 😦 ) and Whispers of the Heart, about creativity. I’m slowly reading Jordan B. Peterson’s book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and I like it more than the first, if that’s possible. So thought-provoking! I may not see eye-to-eye on him with everything, but I love how he makes me think. I’m almost half way through Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens and slowly moving forward with my oldest two on Great Expectations. Next up will be David Copperfield. I was so happy to find thrifting a book I’ve been wanting to read called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and it opened out so well and interesting. I’ve been loving receiving handwritten magazine from a lovely friend in Tennessee about mothering and life and bookishness. It’s a highlight to my month. I’ve been listening mainly to Japanese Instrumental Music and Native Flutes and they have been so peaceful and lovely, paring so well with the weather and languid days of summer.

I’m Hoping, In the Garden, and I’m Learning ~ I’m hoping to find a delightfully deep and detailed fiction read yet this summer. Any suggestions? I like a bit of romance, domesticity, details, spiritual themes, family, mystery, and nature, and I prefer clean, which takes out a lot of modern titles. I’ve tried quite a few and haven’t found any that I REALLY love yet this year. And I’ve read a lot! Surprisingly, this has been, so far, the year of good non-fiction for me. The garden is producing little surprises here and there and I’m especially excited for the sunflowers and other small things. Days of small things are big, indeed. I was excited to see a Raven recently when my husband and I traveled to a funeral (yes, sort of deliciously creepy, I know) because I haven’t ever identified one near our home. We have American Crows, but not Ravens regularly. I’m still learning to continually reorder my affections back into the proper order of Truth & Love. Habits and rhythms that keep me sane and focused help my scatterbrained self. It’s hard, but so worth it. I’m rereading Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free by Susan Pierce Thompson with friends and it’s so interesting and helpful. I’m loving Zechariah and Romans right now in The Holy Bible.

For the eternal substance of a thing never lies in the thing itself, but in the quality of our reaction towards it.

Amy Carmichael

Monday Ponderings {Happy June 1st}

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{Drops of dew, nature’s jewels and pools of light}

 

Reflecting on mothering and domestic artistry a bit this morning…

“Now you are deep in what seems to me a peculiarly selfless service. The spiritual training of children must be that. You work for the years you will not see. You work for the Invisible all the time, but you work for the Eternal. So it is all worthwhile.”

~Amy Carmichael

“Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times a Day.”

{The context of this was cooking meals. What a perspective shift! I may place this above my stove.}

~ Ruth Bell Graham

“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

~William Morris

{I believe these quotes came from the lovely book Mother Culture by Karen Andreola. I just finished my second reread through it and these were some encouraging things I jotted down.}

~

 

Favorite Reads of 2018

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Happy 9th Day of Christmas, friends! Below is the list of books that touched me deeply this year. I separated them in categories, so you can skim to something that may interest you! I found this year that books that challenged or shocked me were some of my favorites. I really found myself gravitating toward books that I had an intense emotional response with or a line or thought or idea that has stuck with me throughout the year, but weren’t necessarily pretty or comfortable reads. I read through the New Testament and Psalms a couple of times and a few other books of the Old Testament and really enjoyed the slow, savoring pace. I’ve only included my favorite favorites, if you know what I mean, because I read so many lovely books including home education titles, writing books, and more.

Favorite Book of the Year:

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it.  I’m not sure why this book so profoundly made an impression on me. I think in some ways it has to do with the fact that I feel SO much compassion for the mother and her girls (not to mention the Congolese) and feel like this is just so preventable. And yet, unfortunately, all to often, some of the elements of this story ring true in organized religion. This fictional story is an achingly beautiful account of The Belgian Congo and a family torn up by Pharisaical religiosity, racism, sexism, and as many other “isms” that Kingslover could think of and fit into this book. This is the first book that made me cry in a long time and I will never forget it. Even though I strongly believe the author made sweeping, prejudiced (ironically, the very thing she eloquently rails about in this book) blanket judgments of things she abhors (or at least seems too based on this novel), there is SO much to appreciate about this and pull away from it. Highly recommend if you can read it with a grain of salt and a willingness to look at yourself, shaking off deeply ingrained things that aren’t right.

Other Hard but Favorites of the Year: 

East of Eden by John Stienbeck (****) – Wow! The writing in this book was amazing and my first Steinbeck. The nature descriptions are wonderful and I enjoyed his rich prose and insightful, detailed observations. It started off very dark and depressing as we are introduced to Cathy, later known as Kate. She is one of most disturbing people I’ve read about in literature in a long time! Towards the end, I feel like I was able to feel a twinge of compassion (maybe) towards her or at least a teeny bit of understanding. As we went along, I started to see some of the “retelling of the Genesis story/Cain and Abel” feeling, as our characters battle the internal good and evil in their lives and with their families. This follows two generations of two families and weaves in and out in a beautiful way as they struggle to survive their parents and as parents, their upbringing, and finding their purpose in life. They battle the question of is our tendency towards good or evil inherited or a choice? The weight of this question is felt heavily in each person’s life.  I felt like I got to know the characters deeply and that many of their questions were universal. I loved Lee, the Cantonese servant, and eventually friend and caretaker to Adam. I loved, loved Samuel, the dreamy, distracted friend of Lee and Adam. I realize this is a crazy, all over the place review, but it’s hard to describe. Beautiful, recommend with caveat that it does have a lot of darkness: prostitution, language, and suicide.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (****) – Fascinating and intriguing look life after an epidemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? It isn’t because it’s told through the voice of a troupe of actors who travel around giving Shakespearean plays. Sobering and beautiful, sad yet strangely hopeful, I enjoyed the creative way St. John Mandel wrote this, wrapping up many veins well at the end.

Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald (*****) -I absolutely love Mr. MacDonald’s belief on who God is as our loving Father. There are a few things that are vague and a few things I may argue and not agree with him on, but overall, I was so encouraged and challenged by this wonderful book. It took me a very long time to read, because I wanted to go slow and it’s not something you can read quickly. This is set up with three part chapters: his poetry, commentary, and a section from his fiction – all tied together with a topic for the chapter.

 The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) –  Interesting, dark story about the English Civil War and the wrestling with good and evil in all of our lives. How the love of God and others trumps darkness. Fascinating look at Royalists, Puritans, class divisions, and the Romani peoples. Gardens and herbs are prominent in this book which was beautiful and piqued my interest in it all the more. This took me a LONG time to get into, you have to be very patient with Goudge, but she will reward you many times over, if you hang on.

Books that Built my Faith:

The Wild-Bird Child: A Life of Amy Carmichael by Derick Bingham (*****) –  Amy Carmichael is one of my heroines of the Christian faith, her poetry, writing, and life’s work, encouraging and inspiring me. I really enjoyed this unique look at this Irish missionary.  Mr. Bingham created an unique take on her life, beginning each chapter, with a bit of what was going on in the world at the time. I love the first hand letters, personal stories, and information from diaries that the author had access to while writing this book. I found this much more interesting than A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot.

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) -this was a reread for me, in anticipation of reading Enger’s two other books soon and I gobbled it up in a few days. I loved this so much and was just drawn again in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein and questions posed throughout. Highly recommend!

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (*****) – I absolutely loved this book about a bus ride between Heaven and Hell and the conversations between “Ghosts” and “Beings”. I found it just lovely and amusing that George MacDonald was Mr. Lewis’s Being. The theology and thoughts were thought-provoking, challenging, and absolutely beautiful. I also listened to a few episodes in a series of podcast discussions on this book, which I found interesting.

Poetry:

Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael (*****) – This took me all year to read. It is a collection of all of Miss Carmichael’s poetry gathered from throughout her other writings. This is one of my favorite books of the year, as I found her simple, sweet poems of nature observations and the character of God to be so challenging and inspiring to my faith. Some of the poetry is very basic, but you hear her heart through it and some lines are just like arrows to your heart. I highly recommend this book.

Billy Collin’s poetry (****) – I read many collections of his poetry and I don’t know if there was one that was my favorite although The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening  I immensely enjoyed. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous, down-to-earth poet.

Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I would give this six stars if I could. Just lovely, haunting poetry, exploring the beauty of life, nature, and faith in an approachable, gorgeous, lyrical way. I’m on my third reread of it, it’s not long, it’s so life-giving and wonder-provoking. Carroll is my favorite modern poet and you can visit her here and read some of her words.

On the Lighter Side: 

The Market Square by Miss Read (*****) – Another of my favorite genres is British family-ish type fiction. Miss Read is the master of beautiful settings and lovely characters that you come to love and care about. Sometimes not much happens, but you still keep reading anyway. This title was a bit different from her Thrush Green and Fairacre series in that it was a bit more sad and darker than those. Two friends grow up together and their families are inseparable until a change in the economy forces a wedge. Misunderstandings, class, race, morality, the World Wars, all test the true friendship between these two men as their lives move on. This was slow start for me and it took me awhile to get into it, but once I did, I loved it. So much to think on and consider and I won’t forget this story! I think this might be a series, but I haven’t checked into it yet.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (*****) -This was a reread for me and I loved it more than the first time. Jane lives with her mother and wealthy grandmother in a colorless and harsh environment. She doesn’t know what happened to her father, being led to believe he died. One day,  a letter arrives from him, asking for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Little do they know how much this will change all of their lives. This possibly has a too-sweet ending, but I adore the hope and beauty that this story holds, it’s one of my absolute favorites from Maud. I love how happiness is found in the simple act of loving and serving.  This is in fact why I call myself “Amy of Hearth Ridge”. 😉

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (*****) – SLIGHT SPOILER! The daily workings of a telecommunications company may not sound fascinating, but oh wow, they are when you have Willis writing about them. The new craze is a medical implant supposedly to increase your emotional connection to your partner. Briddley, a young employee, is thrilled and astonished by the attention lavished on her by one of her bosses Trent, and now he wants to get this implant with her! The weird tech department guy won’t stop warning her about the dangers of this procedure, and her big crazy Irish family won’t leave her alone.  Continued review here!

The Anatole Trilogy by Nancy Willard (*****) – These three short fantasy adventure stories follow a young boy and were just wonderful. I was looking for a middle grade read and happen to have book #2 of this series on my shelf. I quickly got the other two and thoroughly enjoyed them, the last being my favorite. I love Willard’s ability to keep things grounded in the reality of a young child’s mind, yet make completely absurd and fantastical things and happenings seem everyday and normal. I loved this little escape and the quests Anatole found himself on with the help of many magical creatures and new friends. You can tell Willard understands young children, which I love so much.

 

 

{For major bookish browsing, check out my Year in Books category!}

Otherwise, you can just go to my past years favorite lists! 🙂 I can’t believe I’ve made these lists for three years now already. Time flies when you’re reading.

Favorites from 2017

Favorites from 2016

~

November Reads

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{This is a BEAUTIFUL winter read and a family favorite}

Happy December and St. Nicholas Day ~ How was your reading month in November? Mine was a bit quiet as the busyness of the holidays ramp up for our family. Here is what I finished!

Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael (*****) – This took me all year to read. It is a collection of all of Miss Carmichael’s poetry gathered from throughout her other writings. This is one of my favorite books of the year, as I found her simple, sweet poems of nature observations and the character of God to be so challenging and inspiring to my faith. Some of the poetry is very basic, but you hear her heart through it and some lines are just like arrows to your heart. I highly recommend this book.

Severed Veil: Tales of Death and Dreams by Bethany A. Jennings (*****) – I became aware of Jennings through a writing group on Facebook and I’m so glad I did. This collection of short stories and poems were haunting and unique. I found a few of the stories really made me think and the poetry was raw and honest. I can’t wait to read more from this author and hope to buy a physical copy (I purchased a Kindle version) for my oldest daughter soon.

Hood by Stephen Lawhead (***) – This was a twist on the classic Robin Hood tale set on the border of England and Wales. I really enjoyed this for the most part, but found it very internal and slow. It wasn’t what I expected in a Hood retelling. One would think action and adventure, but this focused on his internal progression and how he became who he was to become. Overall, I did really like this, I just think I was surprised. The writing is superb and the gorgeous setting, intriguing characters (I especially loved an old woman character who helps Robin), and Welsh vein throughout were lovely. There are two more in the series which I haven’t decided if I want to tackle yet.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (****) – We were REALLY sick earlier in November and this was perfect read while stuck in bed. I found this title very intriguing, especially how not all people are as they seem. I loved the idea that we need to look for good in others.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (***) – The magic of this book is the ATMOSPHERE. Morton is a master of that! The gorgeous details that she packs into this book – clocks, maps, lost jewels, creepy mansions, nature, ancient journals, photographs, nature and so on to forever! I was enchanted by the inspiration I felt she perhaps took from a juxtaposition of Little Princess and The Secret Garden. The problem for me was that there were WAY TOO many characters spread out through time. I felt dissatisfied by the incompleteness of the many character’s stories. The main modern character of Elodie, the archivialist, was my favorite and in the middle of the book, we sort of lose her to many other characters. I was intrigued by the clockmaker’s daughter, but as the story progresses, I felt like her voice changed. She did go through horrible life circumstances, but it felt jarring to me. Overall, this was an interesting, twisty, mysterious read, but maybe a bit TOO jumbled for me to love.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

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Monday Ponderings {September 17th}

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Will not the End explain

The crossed endeavor, earnest purpose foiled,

The strange bewilderment of good work spoiled,

The clinging weariness, the inward strain;

Will not the End explain?

 

Meanwhile He comforteth

Them that are losing patience; ’tis His way.

But none can write the words they hear Him say,

For men to read; only they know He saith

Kind words, and comforteth.

 

Not that He doth explain

The mystery that baffleth; but a sense

Husheth the quiet heart, that far, far hence

Lieth a field set thick with golden grain,

Wetted in seedling days by many a rain;

The End – it will explain.

 

~Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes, p. 298

{Whoa. I’m holding onto this beautiful thought this week. I hope it encourages you also!  Happy Monday!}

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Handfuls of Moonbeams

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“Moonlight” by Amy Carmichael

 

Moonlight’s tranquility:

A shimm’ring ocean, like a silver band

Between the misty sky and misty land,

And dreaming mountains sweeping to the sea.

 

The forest slowly heaves

And murmurs as the low night wind awakes;

The moon rides through her filmy vapors, takes

Handfuls of moonbeams, strews them on its leaves.

 

The shining grasses light

The fells with flow’ry arrows silver tipped,

And their long spears are bright as though they dipped

In dews of silver through the silvernight.

 

Lord, when we take our part

Tomorrow in life’s duty; feel the rush

Of hurrying hours, let not their passing brush

The sense of moonlit quiet from our hearts.

 

~Mountain Breezes, p. 127

{Holding onto this today – may the sense of moonlit quiet be on my lips and still my soul!}

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Drenched

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The day is drenched in Thee:

In little, exquisite surprises

Bubbling deliciousness of Thee arises

From sudden places,

Under the common traces

Of my most lethargied and ‘customed paces.

~”His Surprises”,  Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes, p. 44

 

Yesterday was one of those actual delicious mornings, wind on the face, cool and sweet, sun-kissed, and soft. My laundry was flapping away, I sat on my deck, drinking in coffee,  bits of  the Book of Psalms and Isaiah. The newest batch of kittens, tumbled and rolled about me, my flower baskets tickled by the same wind that kissed me. My youngest was playing in the puddles, with old ice cream buckets, grass clippings, and his sister’s little pink tea kettle.

My husband and oldest daughter were off on a farm adventure, two of my daughters were with Grandma Margaret, having a grand time, evidenced by the photos I was receiving via text. So it was just myself and my three boys, reveling in the sun and  general splendor of a lovely, warm June day. These sorts of days aren’t always around. Days can be dark physically, mentally, and relationships torn. If you look hard enough, though, I believe any day can be redeemed. This just happened to be a gift day, a particularly drenched-in-beauty day. We scrambled up some of my son’s fresh eggs, and the boys, who have hollow legs, raided leftovers, also. I continued my laundry work, slowly making my way through the bedding from our Texan family visiting last week.

The act of hanging clothing on the line is so soothing to me. There is just something so satisfying about pulling the basket along after you, rough-wooden pins in hand or mouth, and slowly seeing your family’s daily life unfurl. My son’s favorite t-shirt, all the extra potty-training underwear (ha. ok, those make me grumble a bit ), table cloths, well-used for family meals, towels that dried little bodies, and swimsuits from hours of fun at the lake.

I tackled a project that had taken me three weeks to work up the nerve. It took me only about 45 minutes to complete. Isn’t that always how it is? We make things so much worse by building them up in our mind. The craft/game/supply closet was a veritable bog of random puzzle pieces, pencils, dust bunnies, leftover diapers, craft sticky letters, and flotsam and jetsam of our school year.  I can’t tell you the relief I felt, packing away the Bing Crosby Christmas cds that were still out and stacking all the toilet paper in ONE spot! It’s the little things, folks.

Later morning found me blissfully relaxing under the lone tree in our front yard, yes, admiring the clothesline’s dancing occupants, talking with Ben, as he made a grass salad, and contemplating a beautiful line from Elizabeth Goudge’s A Pilgrim’s Inn, 

When she had filled her basket with holly Jill sat down on the rock and waited happily for the twins. She did not find the waiting irksome, for she had been born one of those fortunate people who are never in a hurry and never restless. She had never felt restless in her life. In all that she did, in all that she saw, she was aware of a deep upspringing wonder, as though she did it or saw it for the first time. She was blessed with a mind neither retrospective nor anxious; the past and the future did not pull her two ways with remorse and dread, and the lovely freshness of each new-made moment was apparent to her focused vision. p. 314

What a wonderful thoughts… I desire to be constantly aware of a deep upspringing wonder. Isn’t that just such a lovely thought?  No matter how dark life gets, wonder is there, pushing at the cracks and bruises, trying to shine through. Brushing the grass from my skirt, I took this thought into the house, where I made leftovers, tuna, and salad for lunch.

The afternoon brought more freshly laundered sheets, more reading, my boys choosing to watch some LoTR movies, since their little siblings weren’t around, the scary factor is high on those. I got outdoors and took a quick walk through the countryside anticipating running to town right after to pick up my middle girls and have a coffee with my sister. It was so unbelievably gorgeous, the  birds, wind, and hot sunshine blending into a song and poem, floating on the wind, their notes following, matching the beat of my footsteps.

Grilled pork chops, deck moments gazing at the full moon, and late night banana bread baking were more frosting on the cake. What a gift, drenched with wonder. I’m saving it away to be pulled out when I need it.  ~

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Monday Ponderings {June 18th, Happy Birthday to me!}

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Our love is like a little pool; Thy love is like the sea…

~ beautiful line from an Amy Carmichael poem “Surprising Love”, p. 18, Mountain Breezes

Love is at the heart of every right way, and essential forgiveness at the heart of every true treatment of the sinner. 

~ George MacDonald, p. 307, Discovering the Character of God

Face to Face

O Love Divine, if we can see

In our beloved so dear a grace,

When Love unveils, what will it be

To see Thee face to face?

~Amy Carmichael

{The photo is from a lovely B&B my husband and I stayed at last weekend. We snuck away for a short break and it was so nice. Meditating on these today…how is your week shaping up? I’m a grand 38 today. I feel like I’m straddling the young and old fence. Ha. Three cheers for birthdays! Happy Monday from all of us here at Hearth Ridge Farm.}

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Gather Round {April 7th}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, parenting, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Domesticity ~ We home educate our children and so that means our home is pretty much a mess most of the time, because we are always here.  You should have seen the look on the electric guy’s face today when he saw all the shoes tossed about on our porch. Poor soul was confused about the sheer number, I’m sure. We are in our last and third term of the learning year, and the winter/early spring is particularly a trying time. We have pretty good systems in place, but whew, The Piles (insert scary music). My husband kindly purchased me a red Kitchen Aid mixer (squee!) and it’s been an extremely bad thing. We are baking entirely TOO much. Ha. I have a seed catalog here that I’d love to make a small order from, but my brain is trying to reconcile with the snow outside our window. I’ve been wading through clothing and trying to sort it all out, why does a eight year-old girl need seven jumpers in her drawer?

Education ~ I’m barely hanging on through this last term. It has nothing to do with what we are reading or doing. I love all of that, truly. It’s just the mental weariness of me “on” all the time. All parents, regardless of whether you’re home educating or not, understand this, I think. My INFP-self is rearing its ugly head. Dear Lord, can it be summer, please? Doctor Who, will you please bring the Tardis and who, whoo, eee who me away? Can I decamp and head to a remote cabin alone for an extended holiday? Anyone? However, having done home educating for numerous years, I know that I always feel this way at this time of year, and I always live through it. A couple things we’ve been especially keen on have been, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Abraham Lincoln by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft, and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.  I’ve been thrilled by Amy Carmichael’s poetry, Edward R. Sill’s “Opportunity”, and John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”. Poetry is my jam. I’ve been excitedly looking at resources for The Odyssey and drooling over all the beautiful books on my shelves to choose from for our autumn term.

Writing ~ I found a few lovely looking online places that I’m thinking through ideas for submitting essays or poems. I’m very disorganized and am brainstorming to keep moving forward and growing. I love the creative nonfiction/memoir genre and want to grow as a poet as well. I know next to nothing about structure and the formal bits of poetry and need to just sit down, really study and practice. I’m a nervous and S-L-O-W as molasses fiction writer, but I’d love to have a rough draft done on my current idea by the end of this year. Oh my goodness. That freaks me out. Fiction has meant so much to me over the course of my relatively short life (I’m not THAT old yet, at least I tell myself that, as I pull out gray hairs), so I have a high respect for it and don’t know if I can ever really do it justice. However, I want to try. I write things that bless, encourage, and inspire ME and share them only in the hope that they just might do the same for even one other person.

Reading ~ What are you currently reading that you love? I have so many on my TBR stack, as usual, it’s toppling over. I’m never going to change, though, so I just embrace it, as long as I don’t let it stress me out. The truth is, I don’t have to read any of them, except The Holy Bible and poetry, because those things help me to breathe and not hurt people. At the moment, I’m quite fond of Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Garden with charming illustrations by Tasha Tudor. It is just so peaceful and lovely. As long as I don’t think about weeds, watering, sweaty, back-breaking labor, and my black-ish thumb.

Sillies & Sundries ~ I joined Twitter and am blindly fumbling my away around there like an idiot. I’m not even quite sure how to properly post a blog link on there. It’s been fun and whoa, there is a lot of nasty, mean-spirited rubbish on there. Yikes. I started walking in the middle of March which with all the reading, writing, and Kitchen Aid moments, is a good thing. Then a family wedding hit and the weather turned for the worst. I’m just waiting for the new snow to melt and things to warm up again. Excuses. I love doing the washing up while listening to podcasts. I’ve been listening to a lot of English shows and one Scottish show on writing. They are very fascinating and I wonder if you noticed my cheesy American attempt at using their lovely lilting turns of phrase and speech in this post. I’m such an unabashed Anglophile.

Cheerio, lovelies.

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Monday Ponderings {Abe Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12th}

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One of the greatest things in human life is the ability to make plans. Even if they never come true – the joy of anticipation is irrevocably yours. That way one can live many more than just one life.

Maria Trapp

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, p. 260

 

Writing is torn from a person, it has to be said. If you are going to say something worthwhile, you’re going to burn.

-Unknown author

from Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Ian H. Murray

 

referring to a snow storm:

…all the time there was a rustling and whispering, a sibilance of snow. The air was alive with movement, the dancing and whirling of a thousand individual flakes with a life as brief as the distance from leaden sky to frozen earth. ❤

p. 105

on feeling like one isn’t doing “enough” of __________ in life:

Warmth suddenly flooded Sep’s cold frame. A man could only do so much! He had set his hand to this particular plough and he must continue in the furrow which it made. What use was it to try to set the whole world to rights? He must travel his own insignificant path with constancy and courage. It might not lead to the heights of Olympus, but it should afford him interest, exercise and happiness as he went along. And, Sep felt sure, there would be joy at the end.

p. 206

Miss Read, both above quotes, emphasis mine

The Market Square

 

I’ve discovered my best work comes from the uncomfortable but fruitful feeling of not having a clue – of being worried, secretly afraid, even convinced that I’m on the wrong track.

Dani Shapiro

Still Writing, p. 51

 

{Happy Birthday to Abe! These are some quotes that struck me from my weekend reading. Hope they intrigue you as well. I’m mulling over them more as we start a new fresh week. Happy Monday}

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