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!

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! 📖♥️🖊📚

Favorite Reads {2nd Quarter 2022} 📚🌿📚

Half a year of joys and sorrows. ♥️🌿♥️ How can it be? So blessed to have words to help us through, help us understand, and give us a gateway to journey through life with compassion. What were your favorite reads the past few months?

~☀️April💦~ I had a wonderful reading month with quite a few mysteries, including two Agatha Christies, but the books the stood out were my reread of Christy by Catherine Marshall and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Honorable mention was a reread of A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Christy was such a masterful look at female friendships, our influence and impact as women, and what it means to have a selfless faith. Mr. Dickens didn’t disappoint with his gorgeous cast of characters in Our Mutual Friend, and I was so pleased to immerse myself in the world of an exploration on wealth and what true richness is. I read this with a local friend and some Booktube friends, which made the experience so much richer. I hope to watch the BBC adaptation later this year. These two books fulfill two of the prompts for the Back to Classics challenge. My reread of Mr. Vanauken’s memoir sharing his love story, coming to faith, Oxford, thoughts on beauty, and his friendship with C.S. Lewis was powerful and asked a lot of important questions.

Reginald Wilfer is a name with a rather grand sound…the existing R.Wilfer was a poor clerk. So poor a clerk, though having a limited salary and an unlimited family, that he had never yet attained the modest object of his ambition: which was, to wear a complete new suit of clothes, hat and boots included, at one time.

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

🌸May🌿~ another WONDERFUL reading month, mostly thanks to Kate Howe’s Booktube, who’s cozy, comfort recommendations are spot on! I loved continuing to read through the Betsy Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace , reading two more. I loved Betsy In Spite of Herself, as Betsy had to learn important lessons about being herself and not trying to be what she thought others wanted. I loved Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, a short story collection that was heartwarming and thoughtful. I finished up David Copperfield by Dickens with our homeschool group and wow. So good! I loved Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. The nature writing, details, and domesticity was just so uplifting. An adventurous tale set in Cornwall, In the Roar of the Sea, by S. Baring Gould, had some lovely characters and the descriptions of the Cornish coast were sublime. A nonfiction that I really enjoyed was The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Details by Paula Byrne. The most moving read and surprising was a children’s book, Skellig by David Almond. A haunting story of a young boy coming to terms with his move to a fixer upper, an ill infant sister, a new neighborhood friend, and a mysterious creature tying them all together.

“Fear is the original sin,” wrote John Foster. “Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something. It is a cold slimy serpent coiling about you. It is horrible to live with fear; and it is of all things degrading.”

L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle

🌤June🌺~ Another AMAZING reading month! My 1st quarter reading wasn’t the greatest, but the 2nd quarter made up for it! A favorite reread of the month was The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, so inspiring and heartwarming. Second chances and asks the question if you only had a short time left, how would you live? I’ve reread this book countless times and it’s one of my very favorite Montgomery books. I read a wonderful dystopian, fantasy on my daughter’s recommendation, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed the light hearted, deceptively deeper YA Pride & Prejudice retelling Pudge & Prejudice by A. J. Pittman. If you like coming of age, 80’s/90’s high school setting, and quirky characters, you will enjoy this! That House That is Our Own by O. Douglas was a lovely domestic, female friendship focus with light romance set between London and Scotland. I also adored the gorgeous writing in The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay. It follows a widower and his two children in the English countryside leading up to WWI. McKay does a wonderful job thinking and speaking like a child would. My favorite of June, however, after all that goodness, was The Magic Summer by Noel Streitfeild. This strange, quirky story shares how a family of four children has to spend the summer in Ireland with their eccentric aunt. The courage and fortitude they learn is inspiring. Aunt Dymphna may be a bit TOO hands-off, but she doesn’t speak down to the children and trusts them. I really enjoyed this story. I’ve enjoyed two Streitfeild books now and I can’t wait to read more!

It was all over – the goodbys, the present-giving (except Aunt Dymphna’s present) – and everybody seemed sorry to see them go. “But I think this place is like sand,” said Penny. “You are there when you’re there, but when we’ve gone it’s like the sea going out – all the marks which were us won’t show any more.” Robin did not like that. “Not my marks won’t. They remember me forever.” Naomi agreed with him.

Noel Streitfeild, The Magic Summer

I excited for a whole new bunch of months filled with space for reading! What are you especially excited for? I’m looking forward to #janeaustenjuly on Booktube and elsewhere. A month long Read-along centered on all things Miss Austen related! 🌸🌺🌸 Happy Reading! Love, Amy

Back to Classics 2022 Ideas 📚♥️🌿✨

My Reading Journal ♥️♥️♥️

Hello All! Booktube has got my head spinning about reading plans and lists. I’m definitely a mood reader, but it’s fun to challenge myself a bit with some specific books or categories 🐈 . However, all of these reading lists are just for fun. If I don’t meet them, I’m totally fine. I’m definitely someone who’s ok with abandoning a plan. 🤪 Karen at Books and Chocolate blog has been doing this challenge for awhile and I’m excited to challenge myself with some books from my shelves. I’ve tentatively penciled them into my reading journal above. Some of these also fulfill Chantel’s Read My Bookshelf Challenge, too. Here’s my list!

1. A 19th Century Classic ~ The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy {changing to Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens}

2. A 20th Century Classic ~ Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (reread) {changing to Christy by Catherine Marshall- reread}

3. A Classic by a Woman ~ The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

4. A Classic in Translation ~ Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

5. A Classic by BIPOC Author ~ Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano

6. Mystery, Detective, Crime Classic ~ My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

7. A Classic Short Story Collection ~ 40 Short Stories of Anton Chekhov {changing to The Short Story: 25 Masterpieces edited by Ellen C. Wynn}

8. A Pre-1800 Classic ~ Cymbeline ~ by William Shakespeare

9. A Non-fiction Classic ~ Walden by Thoreau {changing to A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopoldo -reread}

10. Classic on Your TBR the Longest ~ TBD but probably a Charles Dickens or Larkrise to Candleford

11. A Classic Set in a Place I’d like to Visit ~ Romola by George Eliot {Florence, Italy}

12. Wild Card Classic ~ Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky

Some of my selections! 😍😳😄😂 And a few possible alternates -the Larkrise trilogy I may have had on my shelves longer than all my Dickens. This is VERY ambitious for me, but hey, as long as I keep it fun and DNF things if it gets stressful, it’ll be fine. I will be marking up/tagging each book and adding a quote or two to my reading journal. Have you read any of these? Any good ones? Duds? I’m mostly apprehensive about Wharton as she is depressing! Ha! 😜😅♥️ Happy Reading!