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

~

 

 

 

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.

~

British Educator, Miss Charlotte Mason {English Memories}

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{St. Mary’s, Ambleside, Cumbria, England and my sister}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Charlotte Mason, a British educational reformer. As I’m in the throes of planning our new learning year, and just reading and researching, I got to thinking how very grateful I am to have found her philosophy. The impact her teachings has profoundly changed me and my life in all areas. It’s been two YEARS now, since I made my wonderful trip to see where she lived and worked, and I’ve yet to share how much it touched me. She has complimented and enhanced my faith in so many small ways and I was trying to put my finger on the why. I think that it has to do with the emphasis on people and relationship. Children are born persons, after all. Mothers and fathers are persons, too. I’m just barely grasping a small fraction of the importance of this and how Jesus really loved and cared for people.

{inside of St. Mary’s – and my dear mother}

I’ve been rereading favorite posts on Nancy and Karen’s blogs, as well as dipping into Karen’s book A Charlotte Mason Companion (a yearly summer reread!)and Charlotte’s own books, specifically Home Education, as I’m in a book group reading this together. What richness! This gift of a feast of ideas, which culminates in a love of God and others. Sigh. It’s not easy though, its not quick, there are no formulas, it really is a gentle sowing of the seed and trusting by faith, that richness is going to spring forth.

I so enjoyed strolling through some of the places Miss Mason lived and worked, visiting her grave. It was easy to see why the Lake District made such an impression on her, just the beauty and freedom of spirit, must have dove-tailed into her thoughts on the realness of this life and education. Life found in the little corners of the every day moments. Life found in the hard moments and good moments of family and friendships, and the lives we touch through beautiful books, art, and music.

{Archives of student work at the Armitt Museum and other items- a treasure trove of inspiration!}

Life is a balance between duty and pleasure, why not blend them both, with the cultivation of habits and careful attention, yet an openness and beauty of being unique people with unique gifts and bents, dipping our toes into many interesting pools of life?

{Ambleside Bridge House}

I guess I’ve been just trying to refresh my heart again about the deep emphasis on relationship. All of life really is a careful, thoughtful stitching pieces of our human relationships, our relationship with God, and all of the world around us. A delightful building of the quilt of life. Its hard, but it’s beautiful. It’s not hurried, it’s a slow flowing and filtering through each day, moment by moment. It really is revolutionary and counter-cultural. Charlotte Mason’s thoughts continue to help me in a small way with understanding the essence of relationship. When things are out of sync here, after reflection and prayer, it is usually that I have a rift in one of my many relationships.  I’m prayerfully considering again, a time of refreshing and reordering of my affections. On God and on people. Truly, the things that matter.

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{Scale Howe – Miss Mason’s teacher training school – now part of the University of Cumbria}

My sister and I were so touched by this quote in one of the students notebooks at the Armitt Museum. I still think about it often ~

 

The Heavens are calling you and whirl around you,

Displaying to you their eternal beauties;

Yet still your eye is looking at the ground.

~ Dante

Why indeed am I still ‘looking at the ground’ when there is so much more? A beautiful quote to meditate on and consider as I realign myself and refocus on what it means to have this privilege and a responsibility to be alive. I am so grateful.

~

Gather Round {May 19th}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

I skipped the May 5th Gather Round, but it couldn’t be helped.  Check out previous editions if you are interested in catching up round here.

Domesticity ~ Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and I had a lot of fun cooking meat and potatoes in different forms! Ha. It’s true. He loves plain, farm fare. The children helped me set the table nicely and we got a lot of farm/yard work done, as it was a gorgeous day. My seedlings are actually doing well. Just need to weed a bit more and transplant them out doors. I probably need some wood chips to help me keep the weeds down. I’m hoping to go to a nearby Amish greenhouse for a few flowers for my deck and maybe a couple perennials to plant, crossing fingers that one day Hearth Ridge will have a bower of flowers. I’m especially keen to plant peonies and lilacs. They might take a few years to really show up or bloom, but that’s alright. The anticipation will be worth it.

Education ~  We are continuing on for a few more weeks, working on finishing up our Civil War studies. We’ve been reading a few wonderful, thoughtful books together about Prudence Crandall, Abe Lincoln, and others.  My oldest has read Gone With the Wind and is finishing up Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  She also has read about Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee. It’s been a fascinating term, history wise. We will be getting into the World Wars in the autumn.  We have quite a few loose ends to tie up before we break for the summer.

Writing ~ I’m working on a poem about time and another essay piece I plan on submitting soon to a online journal. I’m hoping another poem I wrote will be included in a collection of local stories and poetry. I’m slowly moving forward on my fiction piece. I am basically character building and world building, muddling through the first draft with no clue what I’m doing. BUT I’m having fun, even though it’s extremely hard to craft. I was digging around online and found a lovely writer’s blog that I am inspired by deeply. I especially have been enjoying her essays on the Creative Process. Her photographs and collections of illustrations are beautiful. One thing that I find, is that I don’t write as much for here currently because all my brain power is turned to my other projects. I still LOVE writing here, my little home, so there’s that tension. However, all of life is a tension and a dance, right?

Reading ~ I’ve been mainly enjoying The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris and Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket. I have a huge stack of books that are essays about writing, writing fantasy, and writing for children, as well as nature lore and travelogue memoir types. I’m always way too ambitious with my reading piles. As long as I just determine not to let it me stress out, and weed it occasionally, that’s fine.

Sillies & Sundries ~  I found a fantastic lecture by author Susan Cooper that I very much enjoyed and wanted to pass it along to all of you. Brew a cup of tea and be prepared to be inspired, it’s about an hour long. Is anyone tuning into the Royal wedding today? I might peek onto social media, but for the most part, hope to read, grab a coffee with a friend, and garden with my daughter.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

Happy Birthday, dear Elizabeth Goudge!

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Can I introduce you to a dear friend of mine? Elizabeth Goudge. A gorgeous writer who has touched me profoundly. She is in my top five favorite authors.  Someone who you cannot read quickly, you must simmer and savor. Today I celebrate her birthday and like to think of her with a glimpse of the English countryside outside her window, pen scratching the paper, sipping tea, creating unforgettable stories for us to enjoy. They are sweeping, deep, with many layers, and you can reread them over and over and take away something entirely new each time. My favorites are A City of Bells, A Dean’s Watch, and A Pilgrim’s Inn (formally, Herb of Grace, which I like better). Have you read any of her books? Join me today in remembering Miss Goudge! Many happy returns!

~

Gather Round {April 7th}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, parenting, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Domesticity ~ We home educate our children and so that means our home is pretty much a mess most of the time, because we are always here.  You should have seen the look on the electric guy’s face today when he saw all the shoes tossed about on our porch. Poor soul was confused about the sheer number, I’m sure. We are in our last and third term of the learning year, and the winter/early spring is particularly a trying time. We have pretty good systems in place, but whew, The Piles (insert scary music). My husband kindly purchased me a red Kitchen Aid mixer (squee!) and it’s been an extremely bad thing. We are baking entirely TOO much. Ha. I have a seed catalog here that I’d love to make a small order from, but my brain is trying to reconcile with the snow outside our window. I’ve been wading through clothing and trying to sort it all out, why does a eight year-old girl need seven jumpers in her drawer?

Education ~ I’m barely hanging on through this last term. It has nothing to do with what we are reading or doing. I love all of that, truly. It’s just the mental weariness of me “on” all the time. All parents, regardless of whether you’re home educating or not, understand this, I think. My INFP-self is rearing its ugly head. Dear Lord, can it be summer, please? Doctor Who, will you please bring the Tardis and who, whoo, eee who me away? Can I decamp and head to a remote cabin alone for an extended holiday? Anyone? However, having done home educating for numerous years, I know that I always feel this way at this time of year, and I always live through it. A couple things we’ve been especially keen on have been, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Abraham Lincoln by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft, and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.  I’ve been thrilled by Amy Carmichael’s poetry, Edward R. Sill’s “Opportunity”, and John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”. Poetry is my jam. I’ve been excitedly looking at resources for The Odyssey and drooling over all the beautiful books on my shelves to choose from for our autumn term.

Writing ~ I found a few lovely looking online places that I’m thinking through ideas for submitting essays or poems. I’m very disorganized and am brainstorming to keep moving forward and growing. I love the creative nonfiction/memoir genre and want to grow as a poet as well. I know next to nothing about structure and the formal bits of poetry and need to just sit down, really study and practice. I’m a nervous and S-L-O-W as molasses fiction writer, but I’d love to have a rough draft done on my current idea by the end of this year. Oh my goodness. That freaks me out. Fiction has meant so much to me over the course of my relatively short life (I’m not THAT old yet, at least I tell myself that, as I pull out gray hairs), so I have a high respect for it and don’t know if I can ever really do it justice. However, I want to try. I write things that bless, encourage, and inspire ME and share them only in the hope that they just might do the same for even one other person.

Reading ~ What are you currently reading that you love? I have so many on my TBR stack, as usual, it’s toppling over. I’m never going to change, though, so I just embrace it, as long as I don’t let it stress me out. The truth is, I don’t have to read any of them, except The Holy Bible and poetry, because those things help me to breathe and not hurt people. At the moment, I’m quite fond of Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Garden with charming illustrations by Tasha Tudor. It is just so peaceful and lovely. As long as I don’t think about weeds, watering, sweaty, back-breaking labor, and my black-ish thumb.

Sillies & Sundries ~ I joined Twitter and am blindly fumbling my away around there like an idiot. I’m not even quite sure how to properly post a blog link on there. It’s been fun and whoa, there is a lot of nasty, mean-spirited rubbish on there. Yikes. I started walking in the middle of March which with all the reading, writing, and Kitchen Aid moments, is a good thing. Then a family wedding hit and the weather turned for the worst. I’m just waiting for the new snow to melt and things to warm up again. Excuses. I love doing the washing up while listening to podcasts. I’ve been listening to a lot of English shows and one Scottish show on writing. They are very fascinating and I wonder if you noticed my cheesy American attempt at using their lovely lilting turns of phrase and speech in this post. I’m such an unabashed Anglophile.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~