June Reads

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Hello, friends! Here is what I finished in June! A month of light, fluffy reading while I nursed my baby.

Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst (****) – I found this at my local library while looking for something light to read. I was intrigued by a mystery series set in Wisconsin!  Ernst is a historian and that’s what makes her stories shine. This first one is set at Old World Wisconsin, a living history museum. The mystery was a little too easy to figure out, but I found it overall interesting. I then ended up getting four more of these out of the ten in the series, accidentally reading them out of order. The story line got a bit redundant and I did read them more for the history of my home state. The light romance was ok, but the main protagonist, Chloe’s excessive preachy tone about feminism got annoying and the characters values were questionable. I’d say this first one is the best and the other four were just 2-3 star reads. I probably won’t finish the series.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (***) – Another I pulled off the shelves of my local library. This is the first book in a series that the Jason Bourne spy movies are based on. It was just ok, again a good light, fast paced read for nursing sessions. I won’t be reading anymore in this series, though. One was enough. 😉

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

Fuel by Naomi Shihab Nye (****) – an interesting collection of very observant poems by a Palestinian American poet. I enjoyed these for the most part, a few being very vague or politicized.

The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon (****) – This book took me TWO YEARS to finish. It’s a collection of lovely short stories for children and I found it quietly lovely. Beautiful sentiments and subtle lessons throughout the many stories. To be honest, though, my most favorite part of the book was the afterword where another author shares about a visit to Farjeon’s home and an interview with her.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (****) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (*****) by J.K. Rowling – I finally finished up my HP rereads and these are my favorites of the series. Definitely darker and disturbing, but full of redemption and love shown by Harry, his friends, and associates. I don’t think these books are of the same literary merit of the great classics, but the unique storyline and redemptive themes are fascinating.

In the Region of the Summer Stars (***) and In the Land of the Everliving (****) by Stephen R. Lawhead – I purchased these first two books in Lawhead’s new series for my oldest as a gift and she asked me to read them with her. The first was just ok and I was hesitant about the second but I found it much more fast-paced and intriguing! These stories are based in Eirlandia ( supposedly early Ireland, I believe) and a savage tribe is ravaging the land. Conor is the eldest son of a Celtic king, but a birthmark on his face casts a superstitious shadow over him, denying him claim to the throne. Conor finds himself in a strange position, trying to prove himself and unite the fighting clans against their common enemy. Fairies and strange beast-like enemies will make this an intriguing read for fantasy fans.

The Box of Delights: When the Wolves were Running by John Masefield (****) -A few years ago, I read the first, The Midnight Folk, in this series, and I loved it SO very much. I finally got around to reading the second. This was such a weird book! It’s Christmas and a mysterious traveling magician is making the rounds in the neighborhood. Kay Harker is entrusted with a strange little box the magician gives to him for protection and it turns out to be a magical time machine! Kay finds himself in the middle of a dangerous game of keep away from a whole gang of villainous henchmen.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Mark, Luke, and John. Beginning the Gospels again.

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Reflecting

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I have so much to do today but little energy with which to do it. I’ve been struggling with a bit of insomnia and it hangs heavy on my back like buckets of water swinging from a yoke. Our last holiday gathering of the year is tomorrow, so you know that fudge I’m to bring and the other dessert, as well as gifts to wrap and odds and ends of traveling? They are all sort of heaped in a mental pile by the door, beckoning. My husband is off to work early, with promises of getting a new cellphone for me. I’m leaving Apple behind, one lonely bite in its forlorn side. I’m the only lone Apple customer in my family and for ease, I’m switching. I’m hoping I just get a simple layout with a good camera.

We’ve already visited with an uncle who happened by, swiped clean the breakfast table of its bagel remnants and granola bits, and I enjoyed a strange, but entertaining story, wearily sinking into the quilts and comfort of my bed. Our school holiday ends on Monday, and I think all of us had a wonderful, for-the-most-part, restful time this year, for which I’m truly thankful. I think fondly of the stories, Advent readings, and poem we enjoyed. We had a little advent calendar from the grocery store, the children taking turns, finding darling chocolate shapes within. We also shared Tasha Tudor’s Advent calendar in her A Book of Christmas and were thoroughly charmed by the darling pictures she painted. The children enjoyed frosting and decorating cookies for various parties and it worked well to do it slowly and in a couple of days. I loved keeping the rush as low as possible, so we could hear the seasonal hush. We enjoyed feasting together as a family, red candles lit, and just more games, movies, and laughter. Oh and the Christmas music. James Galloway and Bing Crosby being favorites. Even chores weren’t the same, with a pine scent lingering in the air, and cinnamon rolls after coming in after feeding animals.

The beauty of the season is definitely still hanging about and it’s really only the 11th day of Christmas. I held out for as long as I could on getting a Christmas tree and I’m so glad I did! We found an off-the-beaten track Christmas tree farm and they had some left just for us to choose from. It was a lovely time, excitement high because it was so close to Christmas and the sparkle of it all hadn’t worn off yet. We were given fresh-popped popcorn and hot chocolate, and my husband and oldest son ratchet-strapped the tree tightly to the top of the mini-van. We may have seemed behind or late, but truly getting the tree later in December has made it all the more special now. It’s standing tall and beautiful right now…most of it’s needles soft and scent fresh.

I think the most special thing has been the few meaningful conversations I have had with a few children or over an Advent reading. We didn’t do all that I wanted, but what we did read and talk about really was special. The children really stepped into their own spirit of gift-giving this year, making or using their own money to buy others things. I didn’t do or make them do that at all, but it was its own special gift to me. The sun is glaring against the piles of snow, and I’m so grateful for its blinding brightness. Carries one through the immense, long gray days of this time of year, does it not? Even our New Year’s Eve ended in a special way, all of us home, singing and sipping sparkling Apple Cider at midnight! We’ve never done that before and it was special. Sigh and back to the present, I hope to make some turkey and veggie soup later, Thanksgiving Tom still giving a month later, and some of the children may go to a homeschool gym night with my father-in-law. Oh, but wait, it’s actually lunch time and I haven’t yet put anything on the table! Time to stop typing and heat up some leftovers for lunch, maybe with a side of piping hot grilled cheese.

I’m so thankful for another year of celebrating the Savior’s birth and for the small moments that make His love truly tangible. Off to fix lunch!

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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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Monday Ponderings {Christmas Eve}

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O Thou,

Whose stillness drowns

earth’s total noise –

its grating sounds:

progress,

traffic,

voice;

flutterings

of my frustration,

mutterings,

agitation;

the screaming silences

without,

within;

the din

of questions clamoring

for their “why?”

and “how?”

now!

the rumblings

of man’s discontent,

erupting hate,

violence;

war’s distant thunder

rolling near,

and everywhere

the cries

of fear

that paralyzes

as it grips….

and near at hand

a faucet drips.

O Thou,

Whose stillness drowns

earth’s total noise,

only in Thee

is stillness found

And I

rejoice.

 

~Ruth Bell Graham

Sitting by my Laughing Fire , p. 66

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669, Simeon’s Song of Praise

 

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Monday Ponderings {December 17th}

Elsa Beskow -sled, children, tree

A child’s wisdom include incredible curiosity, which denotes his essential humility. While adults sometimes hesitate to say “I don’t know” for fear they will be thought ignorant or stupid, a little child has no such silly inhibitions. Without a false sense of shame he pours forth his questions -“Why?” “What for?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” Before their minds become biased by adults, children are open-minded, welcoming all truth concerning the world around them…Children know how to derive happiness from little things. They delight in little sparks of gladness and do not demand that every hour be flooded with unremitting pleasantness. This is wisdom of a high order, and the lesson is one of the best gifts children offer the world.

~Harold Kohn, Small Wonders, p.76-77

*Painting by Elsa Beskow and all rights reserved to artist.

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Snowy {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #6

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{a gorgeous restored church on Prince Edward Island, Canada}

 

51. lamp-lit dinner of buttery pancakes shared with two children who were at home with me last night. We listened to soft music as the flame flickered. So peaceful!

52. the sound of potatoes being grated. Juicy and a pleasant scraping. Hash browns for my husband! Opening deer hunting and an empty fridge had me scrambling to find some things for hungry bellies. The hunters seem to appreciate the few eggs, random turkey sausage (found deep in freezer),  and hastily-made hash browns.

53. the sizzle of oil and smell of crispy potato.

54. the soft, top outline of snow on some forgotten laundry on line.

55. slowly attempting to paint the constellation Orion in my nature journal. It looks primitive, but I’m glad to capture the moments I’ve spent gazing at this imposing fellow in the sky.

56. fascinating essay here and quotes here on Myth & Moor, probably one of my favorite blogs. I suspect that the author and I are kindred spirits, hopefully, we could be friends even though we may differ in many of our core beliefs.

57.  reading The Little Engine That Could over and over to my littlest as he just discovered it on our library shelf. I never realized until now that it’s sort of a retelling of the Good Samaritan.

58. Black-Capped Chickadees and a Male Cardinal at my feeders! We don’t have a lot of trees and I’ve really missed the variety of birds that we had at our former home.

59. pretty Christmas wrapping paper that I ordered. I usually wrap all my gifts in one print, the monochromatic scheme looks so pretty under the tree and frankly, it’s just easier.

60. I got a few things scribbled last night in my journal. Some writing actually down in ink and not floating around in my stuffed, spilling-over brain! I’ve really struggled with making the time, because it feels like I need so much mental space, of which I have zero right now. I’m finding I’m going to have to fit it in the margins of life or it won’t happen at all. How wonderful it is to just get down one page of words captured for just a little while.

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Saturday ~ {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #2

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WHO is the honest man?

He that doth still and strongly good pursue, –

To GOD, his Neighbour, and himself most true;

Whom neither force nor fawning can

Unpin, or wrench from giving all their Due…

Who rides his sure and even trot,

While the world now rides by, now lags behind;..

A being brought into a sum,

What Place or Person calls for,-he doth pay…

Who, when he is to treat

With sick folks, women, those whom passions sway,-

Allows for that, and keeps his constant way:

Whom others’ faults do no defeat;

But though men fail him, yet his part doth play!

Whom nothing can procure,

When the wide world runs bias from his will,

To wreathe his limbs, and share, not mend the ill.

This is the marksman, safe and sure,

Who still is right, and prays to be so still.

~Herbert

The Cloud of Witness, p. 454

 

I thinking on that poem this morning and here are some things I’m thankful for right now!

11. little board bridge children made across trench husband is working on. Then offering to hold my hand across.

12. light swaying of clothing on the clothesline.

13. new-to-us table lamps adding so much warm glow to our living room.

14.  a whole day ahead, no major responsibilities, ripe in possibilities.

15. my son’s little overalls.

16. Scripture that promises that God will be strong in my weaknesses.

17. creamy chocolate milk.

18. Voxer, a walkie talkie type app, so I can chat away with my friends.

19. a couple of Christmas surprises I have on the way. I always feel better if I don’t wait till the last minute.

20. first lines in a new book, the anticipation of what is to come.

 

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Welcome, November ~ {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #1

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Hello, welcome to my second annual gratitude list here at Hearth Ridge Reflections. I hope to make a list, culminating at the American celebration of Thanksgiving, of things that I am noticing and grateful about in my life. Please join me on your own blog or jot it down in your journal, I find it such an amazing practice of reordering ones focus. I find this time of year, no matter how hard I try, becomes a haze of busyness and materialism. This little project helps me to take a moment away from all of that.  I miss it around here, yet I’ve been given a lovely, wild bunch of children whom I’ve chosen to home educate and that takes precedence. How are you all, dear friends? I hope this post finds you well. Yes, I do call you friends, even though most of us have never met. I appreciate you reading here, sharing your thoughts, and I pray that you walk away with a bit more hope and delight in your back pocket then when you arrived. Here is what I’m thankful for today:

  1. Searching the shelves for our Thanksgiving books and refilling our book basket.
  2. The delight on my daughter’s face when she realized she got a letter in the post.
  3. The smell of peppermint tea.
  4. Stepping out onto our deck, escaping a boiling hot kitchen, into a cool, dark, and star-drenched sky. I grabbed our constellation chart and spent a few lovely moments.
  5. Planning a pineapple-glazed ham for our first holiday gathering coming up, anticipating family enjoying it.
  6. The rotation of children and myself in rocker set near wood pellet stove. Little toes and fingers warmed. Conversation around the warmth. Books read, snuggles.
  7. Little heads stuffed into warm, colorful hats.
  8. That autumn smell. A soupy mixture of wood smoke, earth, rotting, wet leaves, and a closing down of the year.
  9. Unexpected inspiration in a magazine about how important the intangible moments are during the holidays, beautiful, wise, and a blessing.
  10. Precious sleep, when I’ve been not sleeping well.

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December Reads

 

Happy Fourth Day of Christmas! We are getting snow currently, a beautiful curtain of white, and my feeders are full and hopping with feathered friends. We are finishing up some last minute gifts for our final Christmas gatherings of the year coming up this weekend, sipping hot drinks, and watching Narnia movies. Sigh. I thought I would share what I finished reading in December a few days early so I can work on one of my beloved posts, my favorite books of the year.

1. Many a Green Isle by Agnes Sligh Turnbull (*****) – I just loved the main character so much. Gavin McAllister is an English professor at a small town college and has a beautiful home with his wife and four children. Life is going smoothly, maybe too smoothly. A series of serious and life-altering events happen, shaking him to the core and challenging his old-fashioned values. This is set in small town America before the Vietnam War, the relationships between the characters are deep, meaningful, and beautiful. I came to care about these people and couldn’t put this book down. I found this book so refreshing in it’s tackling of hard issues with love and grace. Perhaps a bit too idyllic or sweet for some, I LOVED this look at a strong man who cares for his family and his neighbors with all of his being. Internally and privately, he deals with his thoughts, frustrations, and own faults, yet makes choices based on love. There are definitely some bows tied neatly in this story, and maybe some convenient answers, but my heart said, “YES” to the beauty of character throughout. Now to live this way myself. I also read The King’s Orchard by Turnbull way back in January and loved it so much, you can read my review here.

2. The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton (***) I found this Christian fiction title interesting and well-written. It was, however, a predictable look at early American revolutionary times in New England.

3. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (****) – 3.5 stars. I loved the pace of this book (calm and meandering) and it’s Austen-drenched dialogue – the mental illness seemed a little far-fetched and the romance had some cheesy-ness . I loved the engineering aspect and the protagonist’s relationship with her father. Overall, a fun read if you like fan fiction-ish stuff.

4. Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates (*****) – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo, NY, then WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. This follows her determination and grit to go out on her own when the pressure was super heavy from her family and naysayers not to follow her dream of writing. It goes on sharing about her long and sort of strange relationship with her future husband, Bill. Her loneliness at times and her love of animals helping assuage some of that loneliness. Her extensive travels and meeting so many interesting people. Her long standing friendship and working partnership with illustrator Nora Unwin was so heart-warming and fascinating. Her love of England and her experience of living there with Bill up until WWII. Bill’s blindness enters at the end, which can be read about more in depth in another of her fascinating books called The Lighted Heart. I found her search for her faith interesting and at times sad. Her persistence and dogged determination as she kept on writing and submitting through every rejection. I highly recommended this collection of diary entries!

5. The Midnight Folk by John Masefied (*****) – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. This story follows the little boy Kay searching for a lost treasure rumored to be about and all the magical creatures that appear at night also in search of the treasure. This has a way about it that actually might make it a *wee* bit hard to read aloud, one has to pay close attention, but those that do are richly rewarded by lovely details. I can’t wait to read the second soon.

6. Dobry by Monica Shannon (*****) – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. They bake and farm for a living, yet Dobry has an artist’s eye and a bent for noticing beauty in the ordinary. This book is very slow moving (which I loved, but some might dislike), following the agricultural seasons, traditions, a mix of religious, folk lore, and beliefs drive the whole community. There is very little plot to this book, just a general look at their day to day lives, and a gradual realization the Dobry is meant to be an artist. I loved it. Very unique, sparse-like illustrations.

7. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (****) 3.5 stars – This is a modern title that I picked up after a lot of buzz.  Longer review here.

8. Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury (*****) – I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year and this was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive is my word for him, I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words.

9. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) This was a reread for me and I loved it more if possible. I found so many beautiful quotes and poems to put down in my commonplace. So many things can be applied to this journey of life and battle between good and evil. I’m especially drawn this time to Aragorn’s character and also, as always, Gandalf. I also paid very close attention to the map of Middle Earth and am starting to get more of a picture in my mind of these unforgettable character’s travels.

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

If you want to look through my monthly books posts, take a peek at my Year in Books! I will be back soon with my Best of 2017!

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