April Reads

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{early morning favorites: sunrise and The Cloud of Witness devotional}

Hello, Bibliophiles. Happy May 1st! I finished MANY reads this past month and wowsers, my brain is spinning from all the goodness in here. How ’bout you? Did you finish anything noteworthy? I’d really love to hear! The next best thing to reading books is talking about reading books. *wink, wink* I also realized that I read from ALL of my categories in my challenge to myself this year, although the one I’m counting as memoir is more of an autobiography. I really do love those genres of books.

Tree and Leaf: Includes Mythopoeia and The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) – This was small collection of an essay, a short story, and two poems and it was AMAZING, but unfortunately, I’m not going to succinctly be able to explain why. Ha. These great, learned writers do that to me. Make me all tongue-tied and starry-eyed. My imagination soars up and away and I’m gone. I seriously had a book-hangover from this one. The first essay “On Fairy Stories” was one of the reasons I wanted to read this book, as an artist friend on Instagram had referenced it. It was amazing and just such an encouragement to me as a writer, mother, and really as a Christian, too. I found it so beautiful, I had to reread lines, pause, and go back. I took time to read his extensive footnotes which were all at the end of the essay due to space. The short story, “Leaf by Niggle” was vague, beautiful, and so inspiring. Perhaps a wee bit autobiographical of Tolkien’s life. I didn’t understand it all and perhaps it had a thread of his Catholic faith that was beyond me, but it was all just so lovely. The poems were so fascinating too. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are looking for creative inspiration.

The Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge (****) – I found this autobiography just a beautiful look at Miss Goudge’s life and you could see how so many of the lovely details in her stories came out of experiences and places in her real life. I gobbled this book up in a couple of days. So fascinating! And of course, England comes alive through her eyes.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (*****) This was the March pick for my Instagram Classics read-along and I listened to it while I washed dishes. I finished it a little late, but I really enjoyed the story of Miss Grey’s life as a governess and this was just a sweet and sobering look of the life of the hardships, yet little joys that Agnes found. This was slow, yet interesting. After digging around, I may have already read this one, but had forgotten! Ha. So, I wouldn’t say it’s RIVETING, but I definitely look on it fondly. It was happier than some of the reads we’ve done this year.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This is ageless adventure story surrounding three children and their mysterious Uncle Merriman Lyon on the coast of Cornwall. They must decipher a mysterious, ancient map and find a priceless treasure before the Dark does! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? That’s because it IS! I reread this book often. Highly recommend!

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (****) – This was my first Wharton and wow, it was amazingly written. I loved immersing myself in the Golden Age of New York and the wealthy families and intrigues. I found Wharton’s characters so interesting and this was funny and thoughtful at the same time. It was a teeny bit repetitive as Newland Archer agonized over his life, decisions, and keeping up an outward adherence to what was the norm for his class and culture while internally and morally battling his choices. I really want to read more Wharton now.

The Voice of Many Waters: A Sacred Anthology for Today complied by Kay Snodgrass (*****) – This was a beautiful collection of poems that I had found for .25 cents at a thrift store earlier this year. I’m so glad I picked it up and I will be thumbing through it again. I found a couple new-to-me poets also.

From Room to Room by Jane Kenyon (*****) – Poetry has really been feeding me lately and this sparse, gorgeous collection was no exception. Deceptively simple, layers underneath. ❤

The Dalemark Quartet, Volume 1: Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – I needed a new series from Diana and this was fun! 3 stars for the first book – Cart and Cwidder and 5 stars for the second book – Drowned Ammet. Both of these books are set in Dalemark and are loosely related.

The Ravenwood Saga by Morgan L. Busse (****) –  I got this series via Kindle as the first was free with my Prime account. This was well-written, intriguing fantasy about a young woman’s coming into her inherited secret power that she doesn’t fully understand. To her horror and revulsion, all isn’t as it seems. The country is divided into different Houses each with different gifts and House of Ravenwood’s gift has take a sinister twist over the centuries. An outside threat could draw the Houses together in defense of their land or will it drive them apart? My oldest daughter and I enjoyed this series!

Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. M. Nouwen (*****) – This was a BEAUTIFUL look at Jesus and what we can draw from His life example during the Lent and Easter season. I really loved this!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Beautiful and haunting lines creep up on you in this interesting, ageless story of a fountain of youth. I’d like to reread it at sometime and jot the lines down soon. The story definitely makes you think, but my favorite is Babbitt’s lyrical writing. Just lovely. I grabbed this off my shelf one afternoon when I was looking for something different to read.

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Heartbreaking and beautifully written – a darker story from what usually came from Goudge’s pen. She definitely wanted to put a kinder spin on Lucy Walter’s life than history. I found it extremely sad at the end and it made want to hug my babies tighter. I really loved it and gobbled it up in a few days.

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon (*****) – This was a lovely and thoughtful collection of essays by the poet Jane Kenyon. I touched on it a little here, if you’d like to read more. I’m stalking Kenyon’s work currently. Extremely inspiring for fueling creativity!

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (*****) – Oh, my goodness. This was so simple, yet so complex. Layers of beauty in this simple, intimate look at the lives, loves, and natural beauty of Maine. Even though this is fictional, it felt living and truly heart-felt. Jewett breathed life into these people and this place. You could really tell she KNEW this region and deeply loved it. This is probably so slow moving to some (not much of a plot), but I found it so very lovely. I think the older version has illustrations, but mine did not, which was a bummer. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl (***) – We’ve been trying to read more Dahl here and I grabbed this off the shelf and enjoyed it one afternoon after we had finished school. So creative and I really loved the illustrations. Probably not my favorite of his, but lovely all the same.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (*****) – I struggled with this a bit at first, but then I read some reviews on Goodreads that made me want to hold on and I’m so glad I did. This ended up being a beautiful, reflective read for me. I copied down some passages into my Commonplace Journal also for further reflection. This is a time period I really know nothing about, the United States in 1930’s and we follow a young woman, Janie, as she walks through three different marriages and the tensions of race in a post-Civil War America. Definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and the different characters were done so well in this book.

Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken (****) – I really enjoy Joan Aiken’s fanfic based off of characters and situations from Jane Austen’s novels. This follows mainly Anne de Bourgh and Maria Lucas. Light and fun!

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (****) – This is a beautifully written historical fiction story and I was transported to 17th century Quebec in a lovely story full of domesticity, children, faith, and wonder. It was a slower read for me and in fact, I started this in February and finished it today! Ha. I really love Cather’s writing, though, so it was worth it.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I’ve been slowly working through Psalms and finished 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Wow. I made a dent in my TBR stack this month. Ha. I guess Covid is good for something. 😉 There were SO many  lovely finishes this month, but I’d have to say Tree and Leaf and  The Country of the Pointed Firs were my favorites. How ’bout you?

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Love which rode into town

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Oh, to be able to capture all the magic and mystery and enchantment I felt and heard in the air yesterday. Just like a shaft of sunlight cutting through the dust motes suspended in the air or wrapping itself in steam rising from hot coffee, this elusive fairy dust is on the wind. It is stuck in my throat, threatening to choke with riotous delight. Who knows how the Spirit moves, in the flutter and quick head-tilts of the birds chipping and pecking at or underneath the feeder. The bread crumbs I scattered or seeds in their little beaks…or the joy of the steady drip, drip of rain flowing over the edge of the roof, all a spring ode to time marching on. The smell of brownies coming hot and slightly gooey out of the oven, mixed by a new boy baker, his finger chocolate-dipped as he licks the edges of the bowl and boyhood. This approaching Good Friday shrouded in isolation and fear and maybe not unlike a tiny fraction of the absolute loneliness felt by a Son from His Father’s avoidance. A plague settled on Him so grim and so contagious, a scapegoat was exposed for us all – this Resurrection posture needed more than ever by us as we live a really quite simple death of convenience, wealth, and relationship. Disease and death don’t have the final say on this short pilgrimage here. We are one step closer to being with the Love which rode into town on a donkey. The swirl of story, faith, belief, and a little magic, and swish of light breaking through the rain drops lingering and trailing down my window. Light has a new meaning when we glance and rustle around in it this coming weekend. A reflection catching my eye in the murky dish water, the flicker from the candle, glint off my ring, light that promises to cut through, to tear the thick veil from top to bottom, to restore to us the beauty and mystery of a Love so beautiful death can’t bury it. The rough stone, vines crawling, draping over it, a bird alighting on the gritty surface – an empty place so we may be clean, free, and live gloriously up into all He has given us by giving it all. This beauty is here for the taking, to be snatched out of the swirling air, waiting with arms open wide.

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March Reads

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{A bit of spring Tasha Tudor Cheer}

How are you all holding up? Our day-to-day life here hasn’t changed all that much, but of course we miss family, friends, and activities. I was in a bit of a reading slump in February due to traveling (seems a lifetime ago!), but I was able to finish a lot of things this past month and I was happy to touch all of my 2020 categories.

Carbonel: The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh (*****) – I believe I actually finished this in February but forgot to mention it! I really enjoyed this cute Middle Grade story about a little girl who buys a retiring witch’s broom and cat, resulting in many adventures. It had all the lovely bits a children’s book should have and most older British children’s books do so well…mysterious old houses, lovely market places, delicious food, and home-i-ness. All the relationships in this book were done so well, too…not perfect, but loving. This was just a delight to read. There are at least two more in this series, so if I can get my hands on them, eventually I’d like to read them! 

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer (**) – I was looking for a light Jane Austen-ish type read and usually Heyer is good for this, but this one was repetitive and the secondary main character was super annoying. I’d recommend staying away from this one. Ha!

Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King (****) – This is a memoir of sorts, full of thoughtful insights about the idea of living God’s love out in our everyday moments. This book was written from a Catholic perspective, but as a Protestant, I still was able to glean some challenging and beautiful ideas from King. A good book leading up to Easter.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (***) and Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (****) by Jessica Townsend – I found these two Middle Grade books in the Nevermoor Series a lot of fantastical fun. Morrigan Crow has been born under a curse and won’t live to see her eleventh year of life. A mysterious man, Jupiter North turns up, telling her that that is not true, that she has been chosen to participate in a contest to win a place in the elusive Wundrous Society. The first one was a little confusing on the characters and we didn’t get to know them better until the second book. If you can just read for sheer fun, not expecting anything deep, then these might be a light diversion for you.

Echo Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – This is a time-split suspense story following an unsolved murder in a small town post WWII. A creepy dollhouse aids in the solving of the crime, which I thought was intriguing and I was surprised by who committed the murder. Otherwise, I didn’t love the 1940’s story line and in the modern story line, the main protagonist, Aggie, was so hysterical, that I found it hard to like her.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (***) – This has taken me FOREVER to finish and I finally was able to skim through the last bit. This memoir centers around a journalist who spends time living and following the lives of a bookseller and his family living in Kabul. I loved getting to know the various family members and learning more about a part of the world I’m unfamiliar with, however, sometimes it was hard to know how Seierstad was able to be privy to so much of the internal thoughts and feelings of the family. There is definitely a note of sorrow running through this and again I felt a bit torn to whether this was legitimately from the family or an outsider looking into a culture completely unlike her own. It was well written, though, and overall I did enjoy it.

The Youngest Miss Ward by Joan Aiken (*****) – If you love Jane Austen fan fiction, you may enjoy this one! As long as you remember, Aiken is not Austen. This story follows Harriet Ward, the supposed much younger sister of Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park. She is sent away to live with relatives as she’s deemed in the way and an irritation to all in her home, except her dying mother. This has a surprising twist to it and I found it to be pretty deep and well written. Or maybe I’m just a Joan Aiken fan from her children’s books. Perfect, light read!

No Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin (*****) – I picked this Tennessean’s poetry up on our trip south in February and wasn’t disappointed. These were beautiful and otherworldly. Highly recommend!

Castle on the Rise by Kristi Cambron (***) – This is a three way time split inspirational historical romance. Cambron does a wonderful job with making you feel like you are in Ireland. I loved the natural and setting descriptions. There is a depth of details to Cambron’s stories and I appreciate that…not as surface-y. I knew nothing about Ireland’s history presented in this story and it was a fascinating look at their 1916 uprising against England.  I think she did a wonderful job with character development, for the most part. The romance in the modern time period felt a bit fast and throughout the book felt a bit meh or cliche-ish, but overall, I enjoyed these three women’s connected history.

A Finder’s Magic by Philippa Pearce (***) – I grabbed this off of my book shelf one afternoon as I really enjoyed Tom’s Midnight Garden, last year. This one was overly simplistic, but I really loved the illustrations by Helen Craig. A boy looses his dog mysteriously and a magical old man comes to help find him.

Emil in the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren (***) – This follows the story of a mischievous little boy, Emil and his adventures and again it’s the illustrations here that REALLY shine. Bjorn Berg’s delightful black & white inked detailed drawings of the farm, nature, and children are just scrumptious. Lindgren is known for her Pippi Longstocking adventures, also.  I may read this one with my younger children as it has some funny moments!

Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (*****) – This was our February classics read along pick over at Instagram and I finished it up on the last day of March. The second half of this book picked up for me and was glad as the beginning slogged a bit. This book follows the lives of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, siblings living in a mill, near the River Floss. Misfortune and intrigue follow them, as their father looses the mill to creditors, and this book had a sad overtone to it. I felt like the main things I walked away with was how parents shape their children in so many ways, how important love and affection are in family relationships, and how a weak will may seem like not that big of a deal in a child, yet can turn out to be our greatest handicaps as adults.  I found the family feeling of responsibility interesting in this story. I found this story so much easier to engage with then Middlemarch.

Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. I’ve also been reading in Psalms and meditating on the I AM statements in John.

 

My favorites from this month were: Shirt of Flame, The Youngest Miss Ward, Mill on the Floss, and No Other Kind of World: Poems ~ how about you? Did you read, listen to, or watch anything exceptionally great? I’d love to hear!

~

 

Practice resurrection.

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Marguerite Gachet In The Garden, Vincent van Gogh (1890)

I’m listening to music and tackling a mountain of dishes this afternoon. Practicing resurrection is on my heart and mind, my dear friends. What did Wendell Berry, mean exactly by that, I wonder? In his stirring poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”,  I believe he alludes to creation that isn’t seen or measured or counted, weighting the “finished” product, place, person, or piece of art. We sing, speak, scribble, and send it off into the world without any glorious measurement of what has been done. I’ve been thinking about this as we all adjust to a slower paced world for the moment. Who am I? What is my worth? In Berry’s words, I find hope and slowly began to contemplate the coming celebration of the ultimate Resurrection. I find a tangible something that I can hold onto, even though I don’t fully understand, it flashes out as a filigree of truth and beauty swirling and spinning around me in a warm bath of light. I’m already known and am already of immeasurable worth. And so are you. You are still right now. You are at home in more ways then one. Be still and listen for the still small voice. “Do something that doesn’t compute,” and Berry’s call to “plant sequoias” rings loud and tall in my ears as a mother. It isn’t guaranteed that I will live to see the length, height, and breadth of my children’s days, yet I set in that seedling and I walk away knowing that I practiced resurrection. This isn’t something you have to do, necessarily. There are myriads of things we are told to do right now, this in Someone you find rest. A spiritual awareness of God in us, the Hope of Glory. An attitude of resurrection, that life abundant has been already given to us, we have no shadow of fear. Increase my resurrection faith, Lord! Resurrection looks like breathing in deep gratitude for the Heavenly bits here on earth. Loving deeply, living laughter, asking forgiveness, these create newness to replace the deaths. A cycle of regeneration, all things being made new. Yes, even my heart attitude and posture. The best thing about the resurrection life is that it multiplies. Truly a gift that keeps giving. And yes, tangible things like baking bread, scrubbing all these dastardly dishes, and looking deep into a love ones eyes can be part of resurrection resuscitation. An invitation to others to join into our resurrection practices, our giving of ourselves, their receiving becomes part of that cycle. Our words, our love, and our daily lives will be resurrection testimonies or most likely hidden, intimate resurrection worship for our Lord . Even if no one cares or notices, we keep at whispered prayers of our heart. Whether I live or die from a virus, I am the Lord’s precious child. I can practice right now, in these soap-sud-drenched life moments the beauty of being a creation of the resurrected Jesus. A masterpiece created to worship Him.

“My faith and my art coexist. Neither is in a closet. Everything I write is autobiographical. Even writing a recipe or directions from the airport reveal something of who I am. My faith is not unconsciously authobiographical. It is yoked to purpose, and for me that is God’s purpose for all of us on earth or anywhere else in creation we may turn up. I never ask: What is life for? The life I live is a constant answer. What I do is in the interests of others. Nobody writes, paints, sews, saws, chisels, or takes photographs twenty-four hours a day. But in all we do, we reflect our purpose – our faith, our reason for being.” –                             

Mary Duckert, p. 50, Voice of Many Waters (emphasis mine)

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus

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