22 Favorite Reads from 2022

2022 was SUCH a great reading year for me! I learned more about what I really love, what encourages me, inspires, and challenges. I’m hoping to bring my insights into my 2023 reading and have an thoughtful and nourishing year. In no particular order here are my favorites in small snippets!

1. High Rising by Angela Thirkell ~ English humor, a widowed author and her young son embroiled in village life.

2. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson ~ orphan Maia travels to live with distant relatives on the Amazon. Brazil, found family, nature, and a wonderful governess, Miss Minton!

3. Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink ~ Professor Ridgeway is heading to France with his authoress wife and three children. In the same vein as the first book, they have heartwarming family adventures.

4. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot ~ a lovely, humorous memoir on a Yorkshire Dale veterinarian’s adventures.

5. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson ~ a quiet, introspective look at the relationship of a grandmother & granddaughter and the natural world.A gentle look at youth and aging.

6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith ~ a coming-of-age story with an eccentric, surprisingly human bunch of characters. A peek at a writer’s soul in Cassandra.

7. All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner ~ gentle historical fiction set around Vietnam War and one family’s love and lessons in a small Midwest town.

8. Skellig by David Almond ~ grief, fear, and new beginnings through the eyes of a young boy as he befriends an angelic being.

9. Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace ~ a coming-of-age story with a deep theme of sacrifice and selflessness. Young girl changes the lives of those around her in a meaningful way, gifting herself beauty in the process.

10. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens ~ lovely, deep characters ! So many favorites, Mrs. Boffin, Mr. Wilfer, and Bella – John Harmon was so interesting. The antagonist, Bradley Headstone reminds me of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. May be my current favorite Dickens!

11. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn ~ sobering look at one day in a Soviet work camp. I read this in January and STILL think about it!

12. Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell {reread} ~ such a lovely, introspective look at a widower doctor and his daughter and the surrounding village. Mr. Gibson’s remarriage brings about change and growth.

13. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge {reread} ~ a second chance for a single older woman as she inherits her aunts cottage and memories in the countryside.

14. Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch {reread} ~ Susan’s thoughts and dreams as she begins again after a hard divorce. Domestic and creative, so inspiring!

15. Christy by Catherine Marshall {reread} ~ a young girl travels to teach in the Smokey Mountains, growing in faith and love. The strong female friendships in this story touched me deeply. This was probably my favorite of the year.

16. The Magic Summer by Noel Streitfeild ~ four children have to stay in remote Scotland with their great aunt. They learn resourcefulness and cooperation toward each other.

17. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery {reread} ~ lovely second chance of life story. There is SO much to love about this. Parts are a little far fetched, but Valancy’s story is so inspiring!

18. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange ~ Henrietta’s care and concern for her ill mother and her baby sister are so inspiring. I love that nature and books help in this slightly scary tale of courage.

19. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen {reread} ~ I found the antagonists in this book to be SUCH amazing character studies. Mrs. Norris in particular, her sly, manipulative ways, so disturbing. This book is a lesson in what NOT to be.

20. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell ~ Murder, selfishness, growth, classism, forgiveness, redemption, and so much more made this an amazing read. So many great characters, Job & Margaret Leigh, Jem Wilson, and the Sturgis couple…Alice & Will…all stand out to me!

21. The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon {audio book – performed by Richard Armitage} ~ this was a charming, heartfelt story about a selfish grandfather estranged from his daughter and grandchildren. It hit me just at the right moment and Armitage was an AMAZING reader.

22. Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson ~ a lovely Christian nonfiction that touched me deeply. About knowing you are loved by God and living content in whatever season you find yourself.

Have you read any of these? What were your favorite reads of last year? 😍♥️🌿📚

Monday Ponderings {January 23rd}

…Oh, it is well to waken with the woods

And feel, as those who wait with God alone,

The forest’s heart in these rare solitudes

Beating against our own.

Close-shut behind us are the gates of care,

Divinity enfolds us, prone to bless,

And our souls kneel. Night in the wilderness

Is one great prayer.

excerpt from “Midnight in Camp” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Monday Ponderings {January 16th}

O God, along with sunny days, life brings its nights of ills…and if fearlessly I face these nights, my soul in rapture thrills…

Each time I face life’s disciplines, unbowed and unafraid…then deep within this heart of mine new courage is displayed…

When disappointments come my way, don’t let me run and hide…for if I stand with head erect, then courage will abide…

It’s not what happens to me, God, but what I do with it…that helps determine whether I shall fall or rise a bit.

“Don’t Let Me Run and Hide” by George Bilby Walker, The Quiet Time: A Collection of Prayer-Poems, p.20

Favorite Reads {4th Quarter 2022} 🐈❄️☕️🫖📚📬

Currently, dipping into a lot of Christian non-fiction…

Hello, friends! Hope this bookish update finds you well. We’ve had a bout of illness in our family, but thankfully, we’ve been able to cuddle up and hunker down a bit. I had a great 2022 4th reading quarter, starting in October with a readalong on Booktube called Victober. It’s focusing on reading Victorian literature and I so enjoyed the relationship between the father and daughter and the internal workings of the Church of England in The Warden by Anthony Trollope. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell was a lovely group of characters trying to make their way as mill workers and masters in the harsh industrial climate of north England. A murder and false accusations bring the class tensions to the forefront. Gaskell is quickly becoming a favorite author! I extended my Victorian reading into November where I read Man & Wife by Wilkie Collins, a sensationalist novel with murder and bittersweet moments. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the characters and story as I haven’t finished any other Collins book.

Poetry ♥️

November brought a fantasy duo-logy with hints of the 12 Dancing Princesses, sparkling intrigue, Arabian nights, pirates, and fairyland. I wasn’t sure I would like Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier, but I really did! Being pulled away into these worlds was fascinating and I loved the character growth. These were intense, but YA so not as dark as her adult fiction. Marillier is a beautiful writer. I also reread a favorite fantasy A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos with an online friend and this political thriller in a fantastical world was so fun to return too! I really enjoy Ophelia, the main protagonist and her animated scarf. She is betrothed to a stranger and on her way to his polar land and there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of this political matchup. I rounded out the month with sweet classic children’s stories, Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. These both were so lovely and heartwarming. Brink sends a family of five on a research trip to France and they have so many delightful adventures. Ibbotson wrote the Amazon River area so beautifully and her nature writing really brought the story to life.

December’s reading was wonderful with the British family story, High Rising by Angela Thirkell making me laugh. An widowed author and her son and village’s highjinks. I also loved listening to The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, read and performed by Richard Armitage while I held a sick little boy. It was heartwarming and inspiring. Braddon is a new-to-me Victorian author and I can’t wait to try more of her. I read a novella?/ short story by Emily Hayse called Yours, Constance, and I’m still thinking on this one. The setting was a glittery 1920’s party scene. We are in the head of Constance, a wealthy, cynical young woman who has recently lost her sister. The glitz and the glam don’t fool her, but something strange is happening in the crowd she runs with. This has a supernatural element and is very fast paced, but you quickly grow to appreciate Constance and understand the internal tensions she’s going through. Last but not least, I picked up the nonfiction Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson and wow. This packed a powerful punch about how to live loved and to embrace all the seasons of our life in a meaningful way. These were my favorites from the fourth quarter of the year, what were yours? I’ll be back soon hopefully with my favorites of 2022!

||on my mind||

•flamboyant feet•carhartt clavicles•winged words•living loved•grave gratefulness•pilgrimage path•long lingering•dirt death•soul soup•nourishing newness•single step•ugliness underneath•deep drought•creator’s creation•ravenous ravens•sojourner’s song•brewed breath•crushed comfort•yeasty yearning•hearth hopes•flowers first•purifying poetry•charcoal clinging•silhouetted self•death depth•wayfaring woman•soaked seed•milled manure•winnowed wine•loamy light•cruciform crush•affection advent• “speaking silence”*•indigo image•skeletal skies•seafarer’s seasons•pride pestle•ground grain•peeled pear•juiced joy•

Some of my inspiration:

RM’s song “Wildflower”*, the ritual and smell of grinding coffee, reading Joy Clarkson’s Aggressively Happy, watching a murder of crows in a stubbled corn field, reading Live No Lies by John Mark Comer, the new year approaching, and rereading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.

Joy Journal {December 28th}

•wee flicker of little candle ‘Christmas at the Burrow’• the warmth and deepness of freshly ground and French-pressed black coffee in Christmas mug•the glimmer of light off the gingerbread men salt & pepper shaker•little, snowy glass cottage trinket•reading Beauty Chasers with Annie, chapter by chapter, discussion•Sophie racing around the house, her orange-y tail twitch, her sweet whiskers, her ‘cat-ti-tude’•the glow of the old-fashioned Christmas tree lights • Ella’s Christmas spirit and excitement• a juicy, sweet pineapple• Gideon’s love of baths•Schielch animal dioramas everywhere• a friend talking books with me• zoom reading nights with online kindred spirits •Peanuts postage stamps from dad•rubbing coconut oil into little chapped hand•dipping deliciously into aggressively happy by Joy Marie Clarkson•finding swirls, sparkles, and wind sighs in the coldest time of the year•

The work of humanity is to see one another safely home. ♥️

Penelope Wilcock

Advent Ramblings & Rumination ♥️🎄♥️

I confess that I’ve had to internally fight to keep my heart calm ♥️ and in the moment this Advent season. This past year has been a good struggle for me. This coming to the end of my strength, coming to the end of self, I find of course, Jesus calmly standing beside me, loving me. ♥️♥️♥️ I picked the words “anticipation & expectation” for 2022 and wow 😯 that didn’t play out how I thought it would. 😎😂 But slowly reflecting in this Advent season, I’m seeing what a gift this year has been. I didn’t realize that what I was anticipating and expecting was something very different than what needed working, kneading in, and cutting away from my heart. 🥹♥️ God is SO faithful.

How are you? How are you holding up? What are some things you’ve been thinking on, learning from 2022? ♥️ I still not perfectly clear on what I’m to pull away from my struggles this year, but some things have bubbled to the surface and I’m slowly working on acknowledging them, trying to reorder affections that are wonky, and really focus on what is important in my life. I’m praying about my words for 2023 and what things I need to focus on through good habits, focused attention, and quiet listening. Listening to the still, small voice of Jesus and deep, attentive listening to the people in my life. And listening to the whisper of words on the wind, wrangling them into inky encouragement on paper.

My personality and lifestyle needs a healthy balance of habits & structure with a good dose of freedom and openness. It makes for an uniquely delicate dance, keeping a rhythm flowing, yet being open to being human, room for life, creativity, and laughter. Do you struggle finding the right pace for the journey of life, too? Praying for clarity and for faithfulness as we cross over into the new year.

May you have a blessed last few Advent moments and a wonderful Christmastime! 🎄 May God give you fresh vision as you look to the new year! Happiest Christmas! ♥️♥️♥️ Love, Amy

Writer’s Web: Catching Inspiration from Women Writer’s of Charming Family-ish Fiction 🕯📖📜🖊♥️

Betsy and Tacy’s replica bench from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy Series. Mankato, MN ♥️📖

I’ve been thinking about the stories that inspire me and of course, the writer’s behind those stories. I was so excited to recently visit Mankato, Minnesota (Deep Valley in the stories!) and stop at many of the places mentioned in Maud Hart Lovelace’s semi-autobiographical series of children’s stories. Oh, the delicious delight and wonder of seeing the places Betsy (Maud) and her friend Tacy (Frances) haunted and thinking on how Maud captured the specific, odd, charming details that make her stories ring true. It made me think of all the other authors that write these types of stories and how much they inspire me!

One of these lovely kindred souls being Carol Ryrie Brink, an American author, with lovely family stories that warm my heart, so far my favorite being Winter Cottage, a story set in the Great Depression era in Wisconsin, a widower and his children making the best of very hard circumstances. Family Grandstand being a cherished read aloud in our family of an university professor, writer mother, and three kids in a rambling house with a turret and all their adventures. I’ve finally began the sequel, Family Sabbatical with some Booktube friends and the first chapter was SO delightful. Brink, of course, is most famous for her story inspired by her grandmother’s life, Caddie Woodlawn.

An English author that I’ve recently been stalking and been so inspired by is Noel Streitfeild. I first heard of her from one of my favorite films “You’ve Got Mail” in which Kathleen Kelly talks about “the shoe books”. Come to think of it now, Kathleen also talks of Betsy Tacy books in her bookshop and sells some to Joe Fox’s aunt! 😉😄♥️ Streitfeild is wonderful at putting children and families into unique, slightly strange settings and situations. I absolutely was riveted by her story The Magic Summer, about children dumped on an eccentric aunt in the barren Scottish? countryside. Family Shoes (The Bell Family) was delightful as the children tried to help their poor vicar father and mother with money in hilarious ways. There are so many more to explore and I’m currently loving Apple Bough (Traveling Shoes).

Elizabeth Enright is one that I started reading with my older children years ago with her delightful book The Saturdays, but I was reintroduced to her this past summer by my favorite Booktuber, Kate Howe, who also revived my interest in Maud Hart Lovelace. I adored Gone-Away Lake and can’t wait to read the sequel. The nature writing interwoven into this book won my heart.

And of course, one cannot talk about inspiration without mentioning my lovely and favorite Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. The magic of nature, the spiritual edge hovering over life, and quirky characters are just a few reasons I love this writer SO much. Yes, her stories can be a bit formulaic, but oh, the delicious details she packs into them. The Anne series, The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill, and Emily Climbs are my favorites at the moment, maybe if all time? I was so blessed to travel to P.E.I. for my 15th anniversary with my husband to soak up some island inspiration.

Laura Ingalls Wilder also comes to mind. I’m currently rereading through her famous series with my younger children and Almanzo’s story in Farmer Boy is just as compelling as it was the first time I read it. The hard, brutal life that early Americans lived is so inspiring for our modern lives. The family dynamics are so intriguing to us. I still want to retrace the Ingall’s path out west which we did as a smaller family years ago. We loved especially wading in Plum Creek. 🥰🌿

Gothic-y-feeling, trickling waterfall near Maud Hart Lovelace’s home.

No list of inspiring women writer’s would be complete with another favorite, the English writer, Elizabeth Goudge. Her magical writing in legend and lore of place, her deep, interesting, nuanced characters, her pulling back the veil between spiritual and reality, make her SO beloved. She definitely is a bit more of a dense writer, you have to work hard at her stories, especially beginnings, but persevere, because oh my, you will be richly rewarded. I’ve read most of her backlist, currently my favorites are A City of Bells, Pilgrim’s Inn, Dean’s Watch, and maybe Gentian Hill is creeping up there, too. Her children’s story, Little White Horse is delightful, too.

Train station where Betsy (Maud) traveled to Milwaukee to see her friend!

And of course, Miss Jane Austen, is a must have for this list. Her books are such an interesting study of character and the inner works of Regency era English families. Romance takes over the films, but the books are something else entirely. My favorites are Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. Although, I reread Mansfield Park this summer and so enjoyed it!

How about you? What authors highly inspire your work? Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list for me, Bradbury, Tolkien, Lewis, and others come to mind, but one of my favorite things to read and write is family and children ! And I think these ladies get it oh, so right! Have you done literary travel? Any inspiring places you recommend or you want to visit? I’ve also been to England, but would love to go back, especially to Oxford. Please chat with me in the comments! 📖♥️🖊📚

“The desire to give”: poem & Ansel Adams intertwine…

::where does this pathway go?::

“Beauty Glut” by A.M.Pine

Beauty glut, beauty bright

maybe I’ll crack open

and my seams

will spill out

a little light

cause I can’t

hold this all

sieve myself

rend myself

funnel

channel

squeeze myself

fill up

spill out

faucet

spigot

shower

keep the beauty

flowing

conduit

current

carry

receiving

repackage & repurpose

from me to you

from you to me

from Him to us

from us to Him

blood & beauty spilled

nail holes & hoarding hurts

beauty & blood spurts

gasping

glut groaning gifts

growing gains

beauty born

give & it shall be given

“Art is both love and friendship and understanding: the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the interrelations of these.”

Ansel Adams, p.37 Ansel Adams: An Autobiography, emphasis mine

Joy Journal: November 3rd🍂

Book mail gift 💝 and breakfast ♥️🍂

📖Dear Friends,📖

What is inspiring you or bringing you joy currently? Please join me in comments, in your journal, or on your blog!

🍂I’m grateful today for…🍂

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness 🕯, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 🪔

2 Corinthians

|| searching for cemeteries || diluted sunlight, cool breezes|| another daughter enjoying Black Beauty || learning about Stalin, fascinating discussions || nature journaling paraphernalia spread out || wild flower weed bouquets || candle-lit chili suppers ||cardamon cinnamon, those words AND the new tea || new notebooks || orange-y, brown, green, and purple-y pens ||the wonderful words: russet • plum • golden • scarlet• || roar of wind through remaining leaves ||

|| chasing words || trees at local arboretum, so many varieties in one delicious spot || Joni Mitchell’s songs, art, and dipping a little into her biography || #380 of the Creative Pep Talk Podcast || Vincent’s letters to Theo || acorn tops in bottom of tote bag || box of raspberries || piece of paper birch bark || zoo ticket memories repurposed as bookmark || kitty sleeping on me, all stretched out, so warm || watching “You’ve Got Mail” with hubby, an autumn tradition || golden hue of this time of year || thrifted moccasins ||

|| perusing earrings and rings while thrifting || little animal vignettes in surprising places about home || Tombrow pens 🖊 || stickers of trees and acorns ||my little one falling asleep on me while reading the Tailor of Gloucester || every morning, his soft squishy Ezra Jack Keats poem and snuggling moment with me || Old Farmer’s Almanac tidbits || mums and fat squat pumpkins all in a row || cardigans swinging from back of all the chairs -|| new pencils, crayons, and composition notebooks ||bells ringing on church ||

What are you noticing today? I’m so grateful for the little gifts all around me! 🥹♥️

Happy November! 🥰🍂🕸🕷✨{writing/creativity challenge to myself…will you join me?}

Journals and current writing reads! ✒️📚📓📖📝

Something about a new fresh month always super excites me! This year has been a challenging year for me with my writing and creativity. I’ve had some setbacks in my health journey, bad habits creeping back in, and sleeplessness. Unfortunately, that lends to my creative pursuits being put on the back burner. I’m challenging myself here at the blog to post something three times a week for November at least, prayerfully till the end of the year. Just to get the habit rolling again!

How about you? Do you have writing or creativity goals currently? Anything you want to revive? Are you reading or practicing any habits that are helpful? I’d love to hear!

Currently reading and loving! 📖♥️ Anything feeding you?

I’m currently continuing all the autumn/ Victober reads{a Victorian literature read along during October}, and enjoying my large TBR stacks. I’ve been enjoying Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on YouTube. I’ve also been drawn to Hercule Poirot episodes. What’s currently filling your well? 😄♥️🔍