April Reads

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(poem in photo by Mary Oliver)

Better late than never. Here is what I finished last month, waiting for my baby. He was eight days “overdue”.  What have you enjoyed reading recently?

The Mad Farmer Poems by Wendell Berry (*****) – I loved this short collection of poems. I especially loved “Satisfactions of a Mad Farmer”. I used it in my nature journal for my spring and summer sketches.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Writer and a Mother by Lisa Garrigues (*****) – beautiful exercises and essays on writing and motherhood. I hope to go through this again and do some of them. The beginning part is for very new writers, but it gets deeper in the second half.

Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher (***) – Confession time: I have never eaten oysters. Ha. This book did nothing to induce me to either. My husband tried them in P.E.I, Canada as well as mussels and he enjoyed them. This was lovely writing, but I just feel grossed out by oysters. I know it’s unfair judgment since I’ve never eaten any!

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty. I really enjoyed this children’s classic.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Luke and some of John

~

 

Why write?

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“Let your white page be ground, my print be seed, 

Growing to golden ears, that faith and hope shall feed.”

~ George MacDonald

 

Why write? Or pursue any other creative endeavor? I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading a lovely book called Writing Motherhood: Tapping into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer by Lisa Garrigues. The author really is making my brain whirl with ways we can write from our everyday lives. While she specifically is focusing on mothers, I have found so many tidbits, quotes, and little ideas for general writing, especially as I get deeper into the book. As I thought of this question above, at first, I panicked. I felt a huge need to write beautifully about this and automatically felt this need to justify creativity. However, once I calmed down a bit, I realized, in my heart of hearts I knew why I write. So, here’s a small list that I’m thinking on and refining in my heart:

  1. I’m an Image Bearer of my Creator God, who loves me – my creativity is a small glimmer of His beauty and character. Of course, it’s not perfect like Him, but if it can reflect even a minuscule piece of Him, it’s worth it. I offer it back to Him as an act of worship, as something I love-to, have-to, and want-to do.
  2. I write to force myself to slow down and humbly notice the small beauty of life. Ultimately, this helps me cultivate gratitude. I mainly write with paper and ink, initially when working on a project. You have to go slow at that inky speed. It’s been a wonderful practice for me.
  3. I write to prayerfully encourage and inspire others in the same upward, outward direction. I want to bring our physical realities a little higher up till they touch the spiritual realm. Yes, we live here in this fallen world, but we are sojourners on a land not our own. I want to be deeply aware of this, but also realizing if we look closely enough we can find glimpses of our real life beyond piercing through here…

Have you thought through why you write or pursue your creative bent? I’m sure my reasons will shift a bit in different seasons, but this is a start.

~

 

 

March Reads

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{a nature journal entry from January- the children and I enjoy doing these together!}

Hello Book Friends! What did you end up reading in March? This is what I finished in March, busy month, I’m slowing down physically, as I’m due with another child soon. I started many fantastic books and hopefully, I’ll be able to finish some of those.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson (****) – I love digging into the minds of authors and this book was wonderful for that. This is a collection of essays on life, reading, and writing by the author of the delightful Bridge to Terabithia, among many other things. I had to read it slowly, but it was fantastic and I jotted down many quotes in my commonplace.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Matthew, Mark, a little bit of the Psalms. So lovely to just keep rereading over Jesus’ life. I’m really blessed by this practice!

~

 

 

February Reads

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Here’s what I finished in February! I’m getting it up a bit late, but that’s ok. How was your reading month in February?

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (*****) – This is probably one of my favorite books on the care and love of children. If you are a parent, educator, or just want to bless the children you come in contact with, please, please read it. You will be so encouraged! This is a reread and I was just as blessed as the first few times I’ve read it.

Re-Creations by Grace Livingston Hill (***) – My oldest daughter and I really enjoyed this book! Hill is definitely VERY predictable inspirational Christian romance and her endings we almost always predict, but the sentiments in this title were heart-warming and inspiring. A college girl is called home before graduating to find her family has scrimped and sacrificed for her education. She makes the choice to step out of her disappointment and selfishness and turns things around in the home and family by careful love and attention. This title is VERY inspiring for home-makers and creatives.

Starling and Swift Christian Cozy Mysteries by Mary Jane Hathaway (M.J. Mandrake) (***) – I read a few of these on my Kindle and found them unique and light mysteries. The protagonist is Kitty Swift, a Cruise ship interpreter for the deaf, and her guide dog, Chica. Kitty and Chica end up helping solve various murders as they cruise around. The  quirkiness of the characters was just what I needed when tired. Plots are formulaic, but the mystery aspect was intriguing. I loved the traveling to exotic locations with her as a Cruise ship employee.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (****) – Rereading these and enjoyed this one a lot, albeit this one has a heavy, underlining tension. Harry’s teen angst and frustrations are really showing up now and Umbridge is SO conniving and the situation with her seems hopeless. Reminds me of how politicians etc use their power for their bias even though they say they are doing it for the good of the whole. Hmmm…sounds familiar. The power of the media is a very interesting topic brought up in this title as well. All relevant for today.

The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was also on my list of things I wanted to finish from my shelf. It took me a long time to read this delightful tale of a lovely bunch of friends and their summer adventures. Hilarious, sweet, and sobering at times, I really loved this and feel like Maud out did herself with this one. I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Golden Road.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (****) –  4.5 -I really enjoyed this book and felt so much horror over the abuse of Ada and Jamie. The author did an amazing job conveying the effects of the mother’s lack of love and ignorance. This story surrounds the evacuation of British children from London.  The one teeny quibble I have with this book, is that there seems to be a pervasive trend to hint at or include modern adult issues into MG/YA, which I absolutely don’t agree with in children’s literature. Let children and young adults have a childhood! There is going to be plenty of time for them to face adult realities and choices.

The Poems of Gerald Manley Hopkins by Gerald Manley Hopkins (****) -The end of this title has fragments of unfinished or incomplete poems, poems in Welsh and Latin, I believe, and a huge section of editor’s notes. I found this part a bit tedious and skimmed it, but overall I really enjoyed Hopkins poetry. Some of his are just SO beautiful that I had to think on them for awhile. Also one I wanted to read this year from the LIST.

Ruth Bell Graham’s Collected Poems by Ruth Bell Graham (***) – I really love Sitting by my Laughing Fire poetry collection by Mrs. Graham, so I chose this off my shelf as something I wanted to read. Very good and encouraging, but I still love the other title better. Poetry really has been life-giving to me this winter and in the current season I’m in. My favorites of this collection were nature-inspired or centered around mothering.

The Winter Witch by Katherine Arden (***) – This was the conclusion to a trilogy and in some respects was the best of the three books. The setting/atmosphere, the intriguing questions raised about Christianity and Paganism, and the continued character development were well-done. I can’t put my finger on it, but the blending of “good and evil” were hard for me to muddle through in this title. You know how literature brings us “good” and “bad” witches, wizards, etc, and the blurring of those lines in this book were difficult for me. I need some hope and some true good (not perfection, necessarily, but goodness) to hold onto and I didn’t find one character that fit that for me. The ending had some good points, but at the same time Vasya now is somehow in “bed” with two opposing demons (quite literally with one – eww) and her family is a bit torn apart. I just felt like the resolution over the war and some of the physical battles in Moscow were wrapped up coherently, but the spiritual realm battles were muddled and not as well-done. But possibly the author wanted that way, kind of not wanting to answer questions, but leaving it for us to decide. Probably the most intriguing, but dark character in this whole series was the creepy priest and in this third title, there was an interesting twist to his story. Overall, the atmosphere of this series was beautiful, but I’ve still mixed feelings about the story. It gives me a bit of an uncomfortable feeling, which isn’t always a bad thing, but this wasn’t like a challenging, uncomfortable feeling.

White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver (*****) – Beautiful collection of poetry, simple, sweet, centering on nature. I really enjoyed this!

The Holy Bible (*****) – Luke, John (My plan is to be reading through the Gospels over and over this year, and so this was my first time through and it was lovely. Back to Matthew now!)

 

~

 

 

 

Greetings, March…

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{old photo of summer travels – following the light. I’m working hard to enjoy these last moments of the white, brilliant, winter-y beauty, but highly anticipating spring. We’ve had an intense winter season here in Wisconsin, but spring is just around the corner!}

“Before they knew it, spring had arrived. Aunt Green took them into the wood to pick pussy willow and flowers.” – Elsa Beskow, Peter and Lotta’s Christmas

“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only—spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.”
― Willa Cather, My Ántonia

I must have flowers, always, always. – Monet

The earth has music for those who listen. – Unknown

“Listen to the trees talking in their sleep,’ she whispered, as he lifted her to the ground. ‘What nice dreams they must have!” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.

-JANE AUSTEN, Mansfield Park

~

January Reads

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I can’t believe it, but I believe this is my THIRD year through with monthly book lists! Fun stuff! You can read my other years under the Year In Books category in my topic cloud, if interested. I love nosing around in other’s book lists. So, I did very well this month on working on my 2019 – 30 books that I want to finish or read from my shelf. I got many started and finished a few! 🙂 Exciting stuff! I also bought NO new books for myself, except I accidentally bought a couple of Kindle books, forgetting my pledge not to buy books, probably because I don’t really LOVE digital books, therefore, mentally don’t count them as books, if you can follow that logic. LOL! 😉 Without further adieu, here is my first reading pile of the year…

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler (****) – This is sort of a cheat book, because I was almost finished with this in December of last year. This is a beautiful cooking memoir unlike anything I’ve read in that genre so far. Adler writes BEAUTIFULLY and helps you see how each simple, delicious meal can be the basis for your next one. The water you just cooked your vegetables in, can be the start of the soup for dinner. I really, really enjoyed this and found her recipes simple and for the most part just so nice for a normal, home cook. I was encouraged and inspired by her.

Sitting by My Laughing Fire by Ruth Bell Graham (*****) – This was a reread for me, simple, beautiful, thoughtful poetry by the mother of five and wife to Billy Graham. Soothing and challenging, I really enjoy pulling this title out occasionally.

The Life Around Us: Selected Poems on Nature (****) and Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov – Levertov is a beautiful poet, I must have been in the mood for poetry this month, because I’ve read a lot! The Life Around Us  was good, a tad preachy about protecting the earth…I love poems that make us appreciate the beauty of nature and encourage stewardship, but ones that kind of beat us over the head about pollution aren’t always my favorite. For the most part, they were beautiful and interesting. I loved Breathing the Water, just gorgeous.

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman (***) – 2.5 -This is the fifth in a fantasy series about a magic library with a side of dragons and fairies. This title was just ok, entertaining, but I wouldn’t say stunning or anything. I keep reading and hoping they will get better! HA! Librarian Spy Irene is caught in the middle of talks between the dragons and fairies, when a murder takes place! Suspicions fly through the air and threaten the peace treaty.

Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – This was a lovely Christmas gift and wow, so encouraging and inspiring! Mrs. Andreola is one of the people that has constantly blessed and encouraged me in my Christian faith, mothering, and home educating path. She writes with a sweet, encouraging spirit, and you come away refreshed and your heart’s burdens lightened. This book speaks to the mother and/or home maker, gently showing us how to live life to our fullest, filling ourselves, so we can spill out and share encouragement, servant-hood, and love to others. It is a balanced look at a well-rounded home maker’s life. I found this lovely and I’m sure I will reread this book often and it already is treasured. Highly recommend!

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello (***) – I’ve been following Giorello’s Raleigh Harmon detective series for years and this new one was an interesting and well thought out. The mystery is set around a Native American man’s murder and investigation on a reservation. Creepy and with a good twist at the end. The romance was a bit cheesy, but overall this was a interesting murder mystery.

The Wonderful O by James Thurber (*****) – I love children’s literature, especially older titles, and this one was wonderful. Intriguing and fascinating idea of the island of Ooroo and what would happen if the letter O was banished. My oldest and I both read it and talked about it a lot. My middle son then picked it up too and we all had some very interesting discussions about letters, the importance of language, and evil people controlling others through manipulation and censorship.

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaimen (***) – 2.5ish – Again, hyped on Instagram, not that great. Ha! 😉 A very basic call to creativity and freedom of speech mixed with political correctness of today. This was a short, illustrated book and the black-line type drawings were intriguing. I don’t know if this is really worth reading.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) – I’m STILL thinking on this BEAUTIFUL title. This follows Virgil Wander after a freak accident leaves him without some of his memory. He sort of feels like a different person, a new person. I think there are a lot of underling themes in this story, and Enger is AMAZING at drawing out and making fascinating characters. Rune and Virgil are my favorite and their friendship and stumbling through their troubles together is so intriguing and interesting. The towns people and the intricacies of kite building and flying and old reel movie theaters was so wonderful…Enger lending a transcendence to the ordinary and commonplace. The first 3/4ths of this book were amazing to me, for some reason, some of the ending was too neat, or dissatisfying to me, but I can’t place my finger on why. Maybe it was just because it was over! Thank you, Mr. Enger, for your books…they sort of feel like they are about nothing, but in the end, maybe they are about everything. One walks away with more questions than answers, and yet that feels ok and like someone else out there understands.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger (*****) – after reading, Virgil Wander, I had a major book hangover, but then remembered I had this other Enger on my shelf. Yay! I had hesitated on this one after reading Peace Like a River, because of mixed reviews out there. Wow. That was foolish. I found this just lovely and fascinating. I was drawn into Mr. Enger’s characters and the beauty one slowly found and considered as you followed their own life questions. Enger’s plots are interesting and slow moving, yet they really step aside and allow for his character’s to deeply shine through. Monte Beckett is a struggling one-hit wonder author who is floundering around. He ends up on the run with a fugitive from the law! An unbalanced ex-Pinkerton is on their trail and this guy is a piece of work. I loved how Beckett’s heart gradually grew and turned toward home and how the letting go of the tightly clenched thought of what his life was suppose to be, unwound his words. Wow. Again, so many interesting thoughts and questions after reading.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) – my oldest told me I HAD to read this, but that it was very sad! So, I read it and oh wow. I loved it. It did make me cry though! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

The Holy Bible (always 5 stars 😉 ) – Matthew, Mark

 

A fantastic reading month for me! So much goodness! What did you read this month? Have you read any of Leif Enger’s 3 books? 🙂

~

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {February 4th}

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Trials assume a very different aspect when looked down upon from above, than when viewed from their own level. What seems like an impassable wall on its own level becomes an insignificant line to the eyes that see it from the top of a mountain; and the snares and sorrows that assume such immense proportion while we look at them on the earthly plane become insignificant little motes in the sunshine when the soul has mounted on wings to the heavenly places above them.

~Hannah Whitall Smith

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

p. 169

~

Treasure Trove

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The little bell clangs against the dirty door as we enter in. The smell is strong, old, memories, and mildew, all tinged with coffee. A cheery modern tune contrasts with the feeling of years that hits me as I enter this thrift shop. I step up to the shelves, pulling off a piece of someone’s life, digging through their forgotten favorite flannels, tea cups that lips touched, and fingering old castoff letters from loved ones. Light filters through the dust as I move a box to take a closer look at an old, wooden highchair, the same light reaches through the multi-colored beads, shining broaches, and giant pendants swaying from their hook, perhaps lightly with the music. There is a bit of magic in these places.

The friendly chatter of other seekers and the workers reaches my ears through the little cramped, jam packed isles of boots, porcelain figurines, and utensils. The light is hauntingly dark in some corners full of obsolete appliances and old cutting boards and glaringly fluorescent in others, illuminating garish orange pans and faded paintings with broken frames. To the eyes willing to see this place is full of buried treasure. I carefully sift through the piles of lacy, hand-embroidered linens and marvel at the loving care of their creators. The kaleidoscope of color and dusty beauty, the air of sharing of lives through time cocoons me.

This is reminiscent of what I am privileged to do each day, entering one of these treasure troves with my children. We spread out the past by shaking out our English geography book, map, and digging into Shakepeare’s Henry V,  peering at stone castles online. Bright eyes search, dig down through the piles of stories, and beauty, no one knowing what treasure each person is mining, thrifting forever. The lives of others turned and pages savored that tie us to others long ago. Not unlike that old pitcher with a little crack that I admire on a crooked shelf. The music, meals, and art share permeate, send a shard into our hearts, flow in and out of our conversation, touching a cord. It reminds me of the knitted or crocheted items piled in second hand shops. Why are they called second-hand anyway? Truly these well-loved objects are often of higher quality and their beauty is in the knowledge of the love and care that went into creating them. Yes, we do have the grime and filth to scrub away in life and on our treasures, but that’s half the excitement of the hunt, being able to see through grit to the shine and heart of something.

Having such an eclectic selection, such a surprising, joyful array to pick from – why would anyone choose the cookie-cutter and sterile? If they are able, why wouldn’t anyone choose the richness and thick, juicy bits of dreams to choose from? All of our senses engaged, our minds swirling with color, traditions, handmade, and slow made. These are mellowed through time. The rainbow afghan, vintage books inscribed by a loving grandmother to grandchild, the in-depth biography, interesting math pattern, and sweet, soft poem. All of this digging, dropping the wooden bucket into the well of robust life, looms large – we are gifted many interests, thoughts, ideas, and bits that spill up and over. They carry us through life and become a gift we can give.

We feel inspired with this special something tucked under our arm and carried out into the world. Our thrifting and learning together collide in an awareness of others past, present, and gives us hope and light in the dark future. It births in us a humility and greatness of soul touching the past, being here and now, and our fragrance flowing into the future to come. We identify with those who used the kerosene lantern with it’s brilliant light lit, we create music to be shared because we know how much the music lifted us, we curl up in a blanket and commiserate with those pioneers who built this life one back-breaking freezing moment at a time. These dusty places and this piled shelves are really museums of life and beauty for the taking. Taste and see. Eat and be filled. Treasure awaiting, dormant and expectant. All we have to do is reach out and partake. A gift to fill and to be spilled.

~

Monday Ponderings {January 28th}

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“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign houseguest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

{emphasis mine}

~

In Which I Talk More About Books {surprise, surprise} aka My Reading Plan for 2019 ~

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I will eventually get back to writing here, hopefully, at Hearth Ridge Reflections. I miss just talking of our days and the beauty found in the little moments of life.  I will stop just blathering constantly about books and quotes. 😉 Well, maybe not. Ha. Anyway, I decided to make my own bookish challenge for myself this year. In previous years, I’ve enjoyed the Back to Classics challenge, but I decided to take a break from that. I have so many books that I’ve read a little in or have been meaning to get to at some point. I think that I’m finally ready to challenge myself with a book list. I tend to be an “emotional” reader, choosing based on how I feel, so it will be interesting to see how I do with a predetermined list. I gave myself a pretty broad range of things to choose from except I noticed there isn’t any fantasy and not a lot of modern titles. I’m sure I’ll pick some of those up from my shelf or the public library. I list these here just to nudge myself in a couple of ways: 1. read my own shelf. I’m blessed with a nice sized home library after collecting at charity shops, yard sales, used book stores, and online over the years. I have not read all of them. Ha. 2. finish things you begin. If I don’t finish all of these, or if I read other books, that’s just fine, I just want to give these a bit more priority in my 2019 reading time.

  1. Middlemarch by George Elliot
  2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  3. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dilliard
  4. Home Education by Charlotte Mason (trying to make this an annual reread)
  5. Hints on Child-Training by  H. Clay Trumbull
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen (reread)
  7. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (reread)
  8. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge (reread)
  9. Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge
  10. Make-Believe by Elizabeth Goudge
  11. Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber
  12. Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
  13. Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery
  14. Gerald Manley Hopkin’s poetry book
  15. Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge
  16. The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith
  17. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
  18. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
  19. Springtime in Britian by Edwin Way Teale
  20. On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior
  21. The Tapestry by Edith Schaeffer
  22. Larkrise to Candleford Trilogy by Emma Thompson
  23. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (reread)
  24. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
  25. The Art of Eating omnibus by M.F.K. Fisher
  26. Babette’s Feast and Other Stories by Isak Dinesan
  27. A Walk Around the Lakes by Hunter Davies
  28. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  29. Three Squares by Abigail Carroll
  30. Ruth Bell Graham’s Collected Poems

I own all of these books with the exception of Island Magic by Goudge, a poetry book by Hopkin’s, and Virgil Wander by Enger. I will be getting them through the library, as part of my personal challenge is to stop buying personal books for myself for a bit. I still will purchased gifts or books for my children’s education, but for me, I’m pulling on the reins. I’m still going to keep track of what I read here at the end of each month and again, I hope to give these priority. Many of these, I’m well into already, or at least started. I noticed that I have some thicker non-fiction, but a good selection of beautiful, old fiction as well. I also included all five of my favorite authors! Can you guess who they are? 😉 What do you think? Is this doable for this year? What are your reading goals?

Happy 10th Day of Christmas and Happy Reading!

~

 

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

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December Reads {and my Back to Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-Up}

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Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Here’s what I finished up in December (I tried to get titles done that I’d been reading awhile, since I had a bit more time over our holiday) and about my Back to Classics 2018 Challenge!

Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (****) – I finished up this book for the category of  A Classic with a Color in the Title for my Back to Classics Challenge. This book was so very weird, beautiful, unmatched,  with a magical use of words, sentences, almost a prose poetry! A slow read for me, because I had to process each story or wade through the themes. Time, age, technology, natural resources, space, family, and so much more. I got bogged down a bit in his school-boy fascination with the space race and rockets which came through strongly in many of the stories. I’m too young? or something to appreciate that particular fascination maybe. The stories on the surface seem so far fetched, yet underneath there are beautiful layers to peel back and think on. I really love Bradbury!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (****) – 3.5 stars -I barely finished this as my 7th title of the 12 for my Back to Classics Challenge. It fulfilled the category of A Classic in Translation. I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked it for it’s creepy, psychological feel, the atmosphere of it, but I feel a bit confused on some of the “supernatural” seeming elements of the story after finding out more about who the Opera Ghost was at the end. I’d love to see this on stage someday, though. My older daughter and I have been talking about it a lot as I slowly read it and then she gobbled it up and really liked it. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was how slowly I read it?

Poems, 1965-1975 by Seamus Heaney (***) – This is a collection of four of his poetry books and the first three were enjoyable, but I was so bogged down and confused in the last book, North. The language, metaphors, etc, were all “Greek” to me, for some reason. Ha. Not sure what happened, but I like to be able to take SOMETHING away, even if I don’t understand completely and I was having a hard time doing that.

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken (****) – The third book in The Wolves Chronicles and it was so strange and enchanting. Dido Twite, a brave little girl, who we are introduced to in the earlier two books, finds herself stranded on a whaling ship and falls into some crazy adventures, including stopping a plot to shoot a cannon ball from Nantucket to London! Ha. Very humorous, imaginative, and fun!

Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue by David J. Bobb (***) – I started this as a read for a home educating retreat this past fall and found it interesting. I especially loved the chapters on Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglas. This was a little slow moving for me, but I’m glad I finished it.

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”. 😉

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) – another reread for me, as I plan on reading Enger’s other two titles next year. I loved this so much and was just drawn in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein throughout. Highly recommend!

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (****) – This memoir I saw recommended somewhere and I gobbled it up in ONE day on our Christmas holidays. Kristin travels to the country to interview a farmer and basically ends up never leaving. Very gorgeous writing, inspiring, and truly shows the amount of work farmers do. The nitty-gritty, bloody, filthy details of truly growing your own food and living off the land isn’t sugar-coated. I suspect the author and I differ on our views of love and marriage, but I found this very real and somehow touching. It definitely was inspiring.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – I’ve been through this first volume a few times over the past years home educating my children. I so enjoyed going through it with my book group and gleaned again so many beautiful things.

A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell (****) – I really enjoy Mrs. Graham’s poetry and found that I had this biography of her life on my shelf. It was so interesting to read about her life as a child in China, where her parents served as medical missionaries and growing up to marry Billy Graham. I mostly, though, appreciate her as a mother, homemaker, writer, and appreciator of the small details of life. So interesting!

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich (****) – I love Aldrich’s richly layered stories, A White Bird Flying, Lantern in Her Hand, etc. and so I was thrilled to see this selection of Christmas stories by her. Some are taken from her novels, some are just stand alone short stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of precious nostalgia, beautiful sentiments, and her word-smith beauty is just lovely. The stories may be a bit extra sweet, but it was a perfect read for December. I even read a bit to my children and they loved it.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – This took me all year to reread for maybe the 5th time? Yes, I love this book so much. I walk away with new lines and thoughts of beauty every time. This is the second book in a trilogy, but I’ve only read one and three once, this one is so lovely, and has the power to stand alone. I talk a bit more about it here and chat about Goudge, also, who is one of my top favorite authors.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (****) – This tome I actually finished in November, but forgot to mention it! I think this book starts making the HP series better…the first few books are good, but the last few shine. They become darker and more complex, but so do the interesting things they address. This was an entertaining read for my days of illness in November.

{Whew! So that wraps up a wonderful year of reading! I have one more bookish post I’m working on related to my 2018 reading and that’s my favorites from the year.  I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I also have made my own personal challenge for next years reading and my daughter is joining me. Can’t wait to talk about it more! How was your year? Do you have a favorite list? Please share you list or a link to yours! I’d love to read it!}

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