May Reads {Part 2}

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As promised, here is the second half of my May finished reads. Whew! Maybe I need to do something other than read? 😉 Here is Part 1 if you missed it and are interested!

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – I loved this Middle Grade/YA book even though I didn’t understand all of it and I suspect its based on some Welsh mythology that I’m not very familiar with. Totally had a book hangover with this one. Time travel, magic, and heroic children saving the world! Yay! Just perfect! Unbelievably, she had a character named Maxwell Hyde and I have a character named that in my children’s story I’m working on. So I’ll probably change his name, but it was so, so cool that I had a moment of the same creative brain as dear Diana Wynne Jones. This is one I may reread from time to time, so fantastically weird and creative.

Iron-Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill (****) – I mentioned reading another of Barnhill’s books here and being a bit disappointed, but still wanting to tackle her backlist. This was a lovely story about a princess and an insidious, ancient evil creeping about the castle. It used mirrors and a flattering tongue of lies to get free of its jail and rule the worlds. With the help of friends and a dragon, Princess Violet overcomes the control this evil god has on her and saves her people. The only part I didn’t love was when Nymbus had control of Violet and I had no one character to really root for, except maybe the dragon. Overall, I loved this story!

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (*****) – This was a recommendation from Mr. Blackwell and I was highly anticipating it! It didn’t disappoint. The perfect combination of beautifully, unique metaphor and a lovely story. A young girl grows up in a lovely and unconventional childhood with an eccentric bachelor. She was rescued from a ship wreck and begins a lifelong search for her mother, following the cello music that seems to connect them. A band of street children who live on the rooftops of Paris join her search. Lovely!

Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn (*****) – Just so encouraging! The fictionalized tale of a Swedish minister’s family from the mother’s point of view. A family of 8 children and the inspiring and heartwarming happenings as they immigrate to America. I got this recommendation from Karen Andreola’s book Mother Culture, I believe.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin (*****) – I have been wanting to read this one for awhile and I finally did!  Lovely, mysterious retelling and intermingling of well-loved fairy tales. The illustrations are simple and sweet. The home-y-ness is so lovely. The animals, woods, and their home were stuff dreams are made of and the surprise ending was delightful.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (****) – an interesting mash up adventure of a boy named Odd and how he helps Odin, Loki, and Thor get back Asgard from a Frost Giant.

Digital Minialism by Cal Newport (*****) – This was an EXCELLENT book and just what I needed to read at the present. Mr. Newport raises so many questions to ask oneself about the quality of life we want to live and what role social media does or does not play into our answers. Timely and so important!

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson (*****) – I adored this book! It was full of mystery, nature, and folklore, and the House with the Chicken Legs returns to help them with transportation (from Anderson’s previous story)! The food/home-y-ness, working together with the animals, and the legends tied into Yanka’s story and her map was so well done. The half bear/human element of this story may feel a little strange, but it was interesting and I loved the Lime Tree aspect of the story. I liked that Yanka’s adopted mama made her a lovely skirt stitched with stories on it. There were so many little details to delight and I enjoyed this book immensely.

May was such a fun, light month of reading! ~

 

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?

~

 

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!

~

 

Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

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!

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

Letters of a Women Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (*****) – A friend recommended this to me and I’m so glad! This is hilarious and super inspring. I listened to it on Librivox and was so charmed by her hard-working spirit, love of nature, and resilience. Eye-opening, turn of the century real letters between two women. My children enjoyed listening to some of it as well. Page turner! Just FYI: racial slurs and some scary/intense situations.

General Fiction

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one. I then watched the movie and really, really enjoyed it.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“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 house guest, 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

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

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.

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.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

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.

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

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.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (****) – I did it! I finished this massive classic. I read some and listened to the rest on Librivox while waiting on my baby and then during the long nursing sessions. It took me a long time to get into this, but then I really started to appreciate it. The different characters and marriages in and around the town of Middlemarch were very interesting to me. My favorite character (s) was (were) Mr. Garth and possibly Dorothea Brooke. There are many deep, wonderful lines that I’d love to go back through and copy down in my commonplace. My brain was sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

August Reads

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Here’s what I finished reading and fed on in August. What fed your mind last month? Anything tasty?

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – I loved the creepy atmosphere of this dual-timeline story, although maybe a bit too many scary stereotypical themes in one book. Ghosts, asylums, cemeteries, and murders, etc. The character genealogies were a bit hard to follow through the two story lines. Overall, this was a page-turner, and I enjoyed it.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

Celtic Daily Prayer by Northumbria Community (****) – The daily devotions in the second half of this book are full of little gems. I’ve been dipping in and out of this book for a couple of years. It’s time to set aside for others, but I really, really love this and will return to it. It is definitely a book you just keep reading bits and pieces of, not meant to be read straight through, a beautiful one for picking up and using in your prayer and devotional life.

Sailing to Cythera: And Other Anatole Stories by Nancy Willard (****) – This was a reread for me in one afternoon. Anatole’s quirky grandmother’s house full of treasures turns into magical adventure. Very fun and so unbelievably real feeling despite being amazingly imaginative.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate -Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (****) – A whole different way of looking at trees! Wohlleben anthropomorphizes trees in an intriguing and engaging way, bringing to life what is going on inside the bark and beneath the earth. Occasionally, this book seemed a “little” over-the-top and redundant, but over all, I really enjoyed it and I feel it will further enhance my love and enjoyment of these beautiful parts of our natural world. May have my oldest read it as a nature/science title for school.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (****) – This is not my usual fare and I’m so glad I tried this title. I have never read a book on habits that was such a page turner! I finished this pretty quickly and walked away with some lovely ideas and helpful tips. I tend to be all or nothing, also known as impatient (ha!), so I needed to force myself to just take a few things to try right away, instead of making myself crazy with too much, and just quitting because of being overwhelmed.  If that makes sense. I love how he breaks down everything to identity and it’s the inner changes that matter more than an outer veneer. He really emphasizes that it’s the small changes made consistently throughout our lives that we need to focus on, not the big goal that we want to achieve. Focusing on writing a little bit everyday instead of writing a novel. The goals will take care of themselves if we stay focused on the little daily habits. I also loved the idea of hooking a new habit with an already existing thing you do in your life. That’s helpful to me. I commonplaced pages of quotes from this one and will be revisiting them often! I’m slowly narrowing down some areas in my life that need habit cultivation and it’s been eye-opening and refreshing to start small and manageable. I recommend this book and am so glad I heard of it from a friend and mentor, Nancy.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I finally finished my reread of this again. I started blogging through this favorite eons 😉 ago and never finished that. For that, I’m sorry, reading in the midst of life is often like that. But oh, my heart. Such a lovely visit with Anne, Marilla, and Matthew. Sigh.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie (***) – I forgot that I read this already! Ha. This was encouraging and a lovely reminder. I especially loved her admonishment to be present in each thing you’re doing, sort of debunking the idea that multitasking is good.

House of Secrets by Chris Columbus (**) – This COULD have been a fun concept, but so dark and grotesque. I found it disturbing, especially for children. I was so disappointed, because the description of this one and the others in the series sounded exciting and mysterious.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Mark and Luke

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July Reads

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Hello, Friends ~ a list of what I finished last month! How was your July reading stack? 🙂 I had some lovely reading…

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (*****) – My friend mentioned she was reading this with her children this summer and I just had to reread it too after hearing the beautiful things she was taking away. It did not disappoint. Such a simple story, but so very deep beneath the surface. I saved a few commonplace quotes for contemplation and I underlined my poor book excessively!

The Little Grey Men: A Story for the Young at Heart by B.B. (*****) – I just adore this book about the adventures of three gnomes in the gorgeously-described countryside of Britain. They in fact, could be the last gnomes left in the whole of Britain. They are searching for their brother who left to seek the source of Folly Stream that they reside near. Along the way they meet many friends and have an amazing discovery of a lovely ship to further aid them in their search. One caveat, there is one sort of strange section, just FYI, if you read with children, a giant is killed by the pagan god Pan.

The Left-Handed Story: Writing and the Writer’s Life by Nancy Willard (****) – I really enjoy Nancy Willard’s writing for children and this was an inspiring bunch of vignettes about the writing life.

Madame Chic Series by Jennifer L. Scott (****) – An Instagram friend recommended Jennifer’s Youtube channel to me and it was just the right thing for me at the right time. She is so challenging and encouraging to me as a homemaker and woman. I’m in a bit of slump coming off of pregnancy and just the post-partum season. So I checked out her trilogy of books from the library. Mrs. Scott lived in Paris for 6 months while in college, learning many helpful and inspiring things from her host family and specifically, her host mother, whom she has dubbed Madame Chic. I found her books a lovely extension of her Youtube channel. My favorite was Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. I ended up skimming the other two in the series, as I felt some of it was a bit redundant or common sense to me, but I really am loving her vlogs when I get a chance to watch them. This one recently was so soothing to me for some reason. 

Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) Beautiful! Honest & real! I love that Goudge doesn’t shy away from problems that can happen in marriage. I really enjoyed this book and I feel like I can’t do it justice in a review. Here is a review that I loved! I had this book on my list for the year, so that is nice to scratch it off.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (***) – This was a well-written fantasy spinoff of Rumpelstiltskin with some twists. It was interesting, but I really couldn’t love any of the characters, even though they were well-written, I can’t put my finger on it, maybe just never really felt like there was a truly GOOD or noble person in the bunch. I’m not talking perfection, just goodness. That made me feel distant from the story like I was craving someone to root for. Overall, very creative!

The Holy Bible (*****) – I read Matthew and dove in Mark a bit. I’m constantly amazed at Jesus’ compassion. ❤

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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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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

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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!

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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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September Reads

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I was able to finish up quite a few things on my stack this past month, as well as read a few light reads. I tend to grab those types of things when our school year is going, because I’m reading so many rich things with my children. How was your September reading month?

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (*****) – I reread this for my Back to Classic Books, Reread a favorite classic catagory.  This is my first reread of this book in many years. I loved it much more than I remembered liking it before! Being able to hear and read the thoughts and feelings of Fanny was enlightening and so gratifying. The Crawfords made my skin crawl ;), and I found myself thinking about Mrs. Norris, the extreme busy-body and cruel aunt a lot also. I also felt myself grow in compassion for Sir Thomas due to his lump of a wife, Lady Bertram, who cared more for her pug than any person. Her extreme self-centeredness irritated me so much for some reason. The depth of the characters, beauty, and honesty about human nature was refreshing and delightful. I felt like banging Edmund on the head more than once for his blindness about Miss Crawford, but then again, I knew what a stupor one can be in when infatuated by an idea of someone.

The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – A new Goudge for me and it was just lovely. This story centers around three interconnected groups of people, a vicar and his wife and their troubled relationship, their children and the terrible private school they attend, and the vicar’s Aunt struggling to survive at the big, decrepit family mansion. The characters were deep and well-drawn. The redemption and love woven throughout this story was fantastic. The lovely nature, animals, and Goudge’s treatment of children were just lovely. Another favorite Goudge for me!

The Stillmeadow Album by Gladys Taber (****) – A friend surprised me with this in the post! This was like having Gladys give you a tour of her beloved farm, Stillmeadow. I really enjoyed this, even though the photos were in black & white.

My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber (****) – Later in life, Gladys moved to Stillcove, her little cottage in Cape Cod. I found the same charm in sharing a bit of her daily life. I did find myself missing Stillmeadow, though, so this wasn’t my favorite. I think Jill’s (her close friend) death and her older age made this have a bit of a melancholy tone to it as well.

A Change and A Parting: My Story of Amana by Barbara Selzar Yambura (****) – I picked this up at a yard sale this summer for .50 cents. It wasn’t a fast page turner. It was the memoir of a woman growing up in the original Amana colonies. I found it very interesting to learn more about their beliefs and how they lived in a complete communal society. The harshness and absolute rules were astounding to me. The fear surrounding this sort of religious life was intense.

Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson (****) – I loved Clarkson’s emphasis on women and the pure treasure reading is for our emotional, physical, and mental well-being. I think what I most took away from this book was more for me as a mother. That the little seeds we are sowing everyday of beauty and good literature are crucial. Even if we don’t see the harvest or we don’t see anything “measurable” EVER, we still keep faithfully sowing into our children and those around us by faith. If you are a bibliophile, the book lists and sentiments may be a bit of a review for you (also there are A LOT of heavy theological books recommended), but keep reading, because there are little gems interspersed throughout that will encourage you and spur you deeper into your shelves, reading community, and sharing all the wonder and beauty found in books.

The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter (****) – I found the recommendation for this in the above Book Girl! This is a massive three book story about 12th century England and Wales. Tensions are high at the Welsh border and this follows the life of a master carver, his intrigues, loyalties, and love. I love the depth of character and seeing the good and bad sides of both the protagonist and antagonist. They are not one dimensional! This is a beautiful story, a page turner, and I really enjoyed it. This would be a perfect winter read!

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins (****) – another collection of poems by this humorous American poet. I enjoyed it!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (****) – I thought it was a time for a reread of these. I enjoyed this one more this second time around. Without giving too much away, I especially loved the ending when Harry is able to crack Dumbledore’s riddle with the mirror, showing his pure heart and motives.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (*****) – I loved this imaginative story of English children in a beautiful mansion, scary wolf-filled countryside, and nasty woman who sends the girls to an orphanage. I read this one afternoon after school was done and it was just a perfect escape. I saw there are more in the series and I hope to read those as well.

Greenwitch and The Grey King by Susan Cooper (****) – These are books 3 and 4 in The Dark is Rising Series, which I’ve been rereading. This is an intense, but wonderful series based on English and Welsh legends, and I really enjoy it. Do you notice a pattern here this month? I tend to gravitate toward children’s literature when I need a mental break. There are so many wonderful children’s classics out there and so little time.

The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron (***) – This is the second book I’ve read by this author and over all, I’ve enjoyed her. I was intrigued by the Ringling circus plot and English connection. Overall, a bit of a predictable story.

A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson – I grabbed this off my local library shelf and it was disappointing to me. I knew what I was getting though ;), but was desperate for a light read. While the story was predictable, the stilted-seeming conversation really bugged me the most. I know I probably seem SO snobbish and I hate to criticize writers, but I have to be honest! I’m pretty sure that Peterson has many fans, but I just need to try to stay away from most inspirational romance from now on.

The Holy Bible (*****) – second half of Psalms, Acts

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Autumn Equinox on Saturday and other ramblings…

Rain is falling, concentric splatters on the puddles in my driveway. My mind is all-a-swirl as we are finishing up our second week of home education here at Hearth Ridge Farm. Yesterday afternoon, I snuggled down and read the book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, and was thoroughly delighted. Just what I needed at the moment. An escape to England, mysterious wolves, big, beautiful houses with hidden passageways, and endearing children to cheer along the way. The beauty of story. It made me think about the piles of scribbles I have laying all about my house, the discarded ideas, the dusty laptop. The brilliant purple morning glories are dripping wet, a fog and wetness hanging around these last few days. I can’t resist admiring the way their beauty and green tendrils sneak in and out, through and under, a lovely vein of happiness through the outside of my deck. How story and beauty keep us moving forward, their beauty splashing against the gray of dishes, discouragement, and ugly despair of our world. The poem, The Chairs That No One Sits In, a gentle, almost silent-sort-of plea for that elusive something that we often forget, that we drown by the incessant Sirens of our day. The cooling down the past couple of days, the the red tinges peeping out, my daughter exclaiming with delight over the leaves “following” our vehicle, the tinkling, crunching noise and movement swirling up around us, so very beautiful. Autumn is our guest arriving Saturday, and I’m warming up to its cool promise of sweaters and more afternoon teas. I was delighted as I drove through the changing countryside on Tuesday, listening to two kindred-spirit creatives talk on mystery, writing, and just general lovely bookishness. I notice another flower friend, my poor geranium is still hanging on, by the way, a mystery and delight to me, because it is long overdue for a re-potting and often gets neglected. Again, that splash of something that cuts through the piles and dust and smells of life. Reality doesn’t change, but I can make one step forward, parting the waters, one more song to carry me on my way, one more beautiful image, word, and thought that brings me and those around me hope.

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