Favorite Reads {2nd Quarter 2022} 📚🌿📚

Half a year of joys and sorrows. ♥️🌿♥️ How can it be? So blessed to have words to help us through, help us understand, and give us a gateway to journey through life with compassion. What were your favorite reads the past few months?

~☀️April💦~ I had a wonderful reading month with quite a few mysteries, including two Agatha Christies, but the books the stood out were my reread of Christy by Catherine Marshall and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Honorable mention was a reread of A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Christy was such a masterful look at female friendships, our influence and impact as women, and what it means to have a selfless faith. Mr. Dickens didn’t disappoint with his gorgeous cast of characters in Our Mutual Friend, and I was so pleased to immerse myself in the world of an exploration on wealth and what true richness is. I read this with a local friend and some Booktube friends, which made the experience so much richer. I hope to watch the BBC adaptation later this year. These two books fulfill two of the prompts for the Back to Classics challenge. My reread of Mr. Vanauken’s memoir sharing his love story, coming to faith, Oxford, thoughts on beauty, and his friendship with C.S. Lewis was powerful and asked a lot of important questions.

Reginald Wilfer is a name with a rather grand sound…the existing R.Wilfer was a poor clerk. So poor a clerk, though having a limited salary and an unlimited family, that he had never yet attained the modest object of his ambition: which was, to wear a complete new suit of clothes, hat and boots included, at one time.

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

🌸May🌿~ another WONDERFUL reading month, mostly thanks to Kate Howe’s Booktube, who’s cozy, comfort recommendations are spot on! I loved continuing to read through the Betsy Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace , reading two more. I loved Betsy In Spite of Herself, as Betsy had to learn important lessons about being herself and not trying to be what she thought others wanted. I loved Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, a short story collection that was heartwarming and thoughtful. I finished up David Copperfield by Dickens with our homeschool group and wow. So good! I loved Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. The nature writing, details, and domesticity was just so uplifting. An adventurous tale set in Cornwall, In the Roar of the Sea, by S. Baring Gould, had some lovely characters and the descriptions of the Cornish coast were sublime. A nonfiction that I really enjoyed was The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Details by Paula Byrne. The most moving read and surprising was a children’s book, Skellig by David Almond. A haunting story of a young boy coming to terms with his move to a fixer upper, an ill infant sister, a new neighborhood friend, and a mysterious creature tying them all together.

“Fear is the original sin,” wrote John Foster. “Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something. It is a cold slimy serpent coiling about you. It is horrible to live with fear; and it is of all things degrading.”

L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle

🌤June🌺~ Another AMAZING reading month! My 1st quarter reading wasn’t the greatest, but the 2nd quarter made up for it! A favorite reread of the month was The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, so inspiring and heartwarming. Second chances and asks the question if you only had a short time left, how would you live? I’ve reread this book countless times and it’s one of my very favorite Montgomery books. I read a wonderful dystopian, fantasy on my daughter’s recommendation, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed the light hearted, deceptively deeper YA Pride & Prejudice retelling Pudge & Prejudice by A. J. Pittman. If you like coming of age, 80’s/90’s high school setting, and quirky characters, you will enjoy this! That House That is Our Own by O. Douglas was a lovely domestic, female friendship focus with light romance set between London and Scotland. I also adored the gorgeous writing in The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay. It follows a widower and his two children in the English countryside leading up to WWI. McKay does a wonderful job thinking and speaking like a child would. My favorite of June, however, after all that goodness, was The Magic Summer by Noel Streitfeild. This strange, quirky story shares how a family of four children has to spend the summer in Ireland with their eccentric aunt. The courage and fortitude they learn is inspiring. Aunt Dymphna may be a bit TOO hands-off, but she doesn’t speak down to the children and trusts them. I really enjoyed this story. I’ve enjoyed two Streitfeild books now and I can’t wait to read more!

It was all over – the goodbys, the present-giving (except Aunt Dymphna’s present) – and everybody seemed sorry to see them go. “But I think this place is like sand,” said Penny. “You are there when you’re there, but when we’ve gone it’s like the sea going out – all the marks which were us won’t show any more.” Robin did not like that. “Not my marks won’t. They remember me forever.” Naomi agreed with him.

Noel Streitfeild, The Magic Summer

I excited for a whole new bunch of months filled with space for reading! What are you especially excited for? I’m looking forward to #janeaustenjuly on Booktube and elsewhere. A month long Read-along centered on all things Miss Austen related! 🌸🌺🌸 Happy Reading! Love, Amy

Favorite Reads {1st Quarter 2022} 📚🌿📚

What’s up, Doc? Can you tell what my children have watching lately? 🐰 I thought it would be easier and fun to just highlight my favorite reads this year in a quarterly fashion. 🌿📚🌿

…January favorites…

I had some BEAUTIFUL reads in January. Surprising reads, too, as Out of Silent Planet was a reread and was so much better this time around. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was a semi-autobiographical, heart wrenching look at a Soviet work-camp. The Scent of a Water was a favorite, so introspective and lovely. About an older woman starting afresh and the things she learns from the journals of her relative, her new neighbors, and nature. Wives and Daughters just a pure character dive into depth and insight, people to root for and love. Gaskell is SO accessible and lovely. You don’t have to work hard to be rewarded.

February brought the the lovely read of Emily of Deep Valley, a book that’s been on my TBR list for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. A coming of age story with so much to learn for this almost 42 yo! My reread of Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch was just perfect. My favorite memoir from her! I really enjoyed finding the work of Austin Kleon, his encouragement on creativity really resonating with me.

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.

C.S. Lewis

March brought the beginning of a huge reading slump, but I did manage to enjoy the adult historical fiction, The Morning Gift, by Eva Ibbotson, a new to me author whom I’m enjoying. This was about an girl trapped in Nazi-occupied Vienna and it was different, well done, and I really enjoyed it.

Me attempting to break out of reading slump! 🤪 Do you do this? Try chapters of many different things to see if anything grabs you? 🌿📚🌿 Did you read anything lovely the first few months of 2022? I’d love to hear! How do you break reading slumps? What books are you anticipating soon? 😄🌿♥️May your books be long & delicious, your coffees hot, and your days sunshiny!

Love, Amy ♥️🌿

Monday Ponderings {January 24th}

“Most of us tend to belittle all suffering except our own,” said Mary. “ I think it’s fear. We don’t want to come too near in case we’re sucked in and have to share it.”

Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water

January Hope : Green Growing Things, Light Chasing, and Books are Most Definitely Friends

The early morning tickle of light burns pink and delightful over the snow and cuts through the intense cold. I’ve been snuggling into warm sweaters {sometimes, two at a time!}, jackets, and soothing stories. Early mornings, especially, have been for putzing around, fiddling with my coffee, rearranging books, obsessively checking my paperwhites to see if they are blooming, trying to suck any bit of hope into my spirit from green things. And let’s talk of light chasing. I often find a patch of sun and close my eyes as I stand in its comforting square. Or gaze at the flicker of candlelight, or hold my hands to the wood burner’s glow. Light around corners, light from the heavens, crystal shards through the sharp refrigerator nights, my breath puffing a halo around me. My rereading of Elizabeth Goudge stories is going to be one of endless delight and delicious mind sustenance. I can tell already and I’ve barely dipped into her massive pile of beautiful words. Yes, I’ve slowly begin rereading her and searching for those I don’t yet have in my collection. The crockpot has been bubbling nonstop {my Instapot, too, albeit something seems to be amiss with the cover! 😦 } with chicken taco soup and chilis. Big fluffy socks, moccasin slippers, peppermint mint tea, and finishing off the coffee with a hint of Christmas scent, along with the children’s copious amounts of hot chocolates with a large side of books have been the order of our days.

We finally packed dear ‘ole man Christmas away, wistfully, and full of gratitude for the cheer, remembrance, and sparkle he brings to winter. Back to Miss Goudge, The Scent of Water, brought me through a tough week mentally, mid January, and Snow & Rose, added a sprinkle of whimsy, too. Although, I’m jealous of those that read Emily Winfield Martin’s sweet book for the first time, the little surprises weren’t there on my second read. Wives & Daughters is bringing me so many friends I wish to know and others I’d not care to be around, looking at you Hyacinth Clare *glares*. Poor Mr. Gibson and Molly!

Taking my tea with me to the post! Sending penpal letters and cards is really a delight!

The class system in Elizabeth Gaskell’s story is so unfathomable to me in my independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps 21st American mentality. How women had to move about to be proper is fascinating and sobering. But for all its flaws, this Victorian novel is showing the love of one’s family, connections, and it can’t help but pull you in. Gaskell’s characters are so intriguing, mirror-like for ones soul. Molly Gibson’s too accommodating nature, a peace lover at all costs, even to the determent of herself and those she loves is a bit to close to home for comfort. I wonder if she’s an Enneagram 9? HA! 😉 Mr. Gibson’s deep, interesting character, but his extreme resistance to showing his true feelings reminding me a little of Elinor Dashwood. He keeps his regrets, mistakes, and joys close to his heart. Roger Hamley’s open, curious, kindhearted character falling for beauty without the careful observation that he gives his scientific life, Osborne and Squire Hamley. The Hamley family being probably my favorite friends to follow from Wives & Daughters. The 1999 tv mini series has actually been pretty true to the book! Yes, I watched before reading. I can’t wait to tackle the rest of Gaskell’s novels that I’ve yet to read, as North & South, Ruth, and Wives & Daughters, haven’t disappointed. I know just which one to pull into my lap next as I already have it on my shelves. Mary Barton is waiting and beckoning to me from my TBR pile of possibilities for this year.

My heart is anticipating and super excited to join a book challenge on Instagram/Booktube next month called FebRegency. We will be reading Regency plays, poetry, nonfic, and Regency novels mentioned in Jane Austen’s work. I actually want to reread Mansfield Park, dip my toes in William Wordsworth and William Blake’s poetry, try a Richard Sheridan play, read a few diary entries by Dorothy Wordsworth, and maybe a novelist that inspired Jane Austen, Maria Edgeworth, or Fanny Burnley. The cold, hard Kindle is coming through for me, due to a lot of these things above being free or inexpensive. ❤ So exciting! But, I’m choosing to curb the expectation a bit and S-L-O-W-L-Y enjoy the ten remaining days of January.

If all else fails and my heart needs a little lighter fare, but no less deep, the kindly post brought a volume containing the richness that is Professor Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham with lovely illustrations by Pauline Baynes of Narnia fame.

Our reading together and nature gratitude continues in our homeschool with our first ever phenology wheel nature journaling project for the year and interesting dips and conversations surrounding The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Yearling and White Fang have been spotted curled up with various children and Rosemary Sutcliff’s illustrated-by-Alan-Lee versions of The Illiad and The Odyssey are well loved. We keep stumbling forward through the mysterious, beautiful, and maddening world of maths, spelling, the frightening current news, topping it all off with a generous dollop of poetry and music. I’ve been enjoying listening to Spiers & Boden, The Hobbit Soundtrack, Enya, Louis Armstrong, Studio Ghibli Soundtracks, and BTS Kpop. How’s that for eclectic? But the good Lord’s earth is a veritable feast of delights for the taking. I for one want to fight back against the ice, darkness, and cold of this world with a tenacity that rages against it all with a whisper of gratitude, open-handed humility, and a shard of Beauty and Truth – He is strength to the poor, strength to the needy in their distress, a refuge from the storm, and shade from the heat {paraphrasing a tender morsel from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 25}. I see Jesus as my lighthouse, stalwart and aflame in this black, inkiness that enshrouds earth. I grab ahold of a beam of the light, drink it down, eat it up, and try to let it shine out, so others can join me along the murky path. Shine on, friends, keep drinking in, soaking in His beauty so we can spill a little out, a drip, a dribble of Hope. We need Hope. Hope on. ~

Back to Classics 2022 Ideas 📚♥️🌿✨

My Reading Journal ♥️♥️♥️

Hello All! Booktube has got my head spinning about reading plans and lists. I’m definitely a mood reader, but it’s fun to challenge myself a bit with some specific books or categories 🐈 . However, all of these reading lists are just for fun. If I don’t meet them, I’m totally fine. I’m definitely someone who’s ok with abandoning a plan. 🤪 Karen at Books and Chocolate blog has been doing this challenge for awhile and I’m excited to challenge myself with some books from my shelves. I’ve tentatively penciled them into my reading journal above. Some of these also fulfill Chantel’s Read My Bookshelf Challenge, too. Here’s my list!

1. A 19th Century Classic ~ The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy {changing to Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens}

2. A 20th Century Classic ~ Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (reread) {changing to Christy by Catherine Marshall- reread}

3. A Classic by a Woman ~ The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

4. A Classic in Translation ~ Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

5. A Classic by BIPOC Author ~ Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano

6. Mystery, Detective, Crime Classic ~ My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

7. A Classic Short Story Collection ~ 40 Short Stories of Anton Chekhov {changing to The Short Story: 25 Masterpieces edited by Ellen C. Wynn}

8. A Pre-1800 Classic ~ Cymbeline ~ by William Shakespeare

9. A Non-fiction Classic ~ Walden by Thoreau {changing to A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopoldo -reread}

10. Classic on Your TBR the Longest ~ TBD but probably a Charles Dickens or Larkrise to Candleford

11. A Classic Set in a Place I’d like to Visit ~ Romola by George Eliot {Florence, Italy}

12. Wild Card Classic ~ Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky

Some of my selections! 😍😳😄😂 And a few possible alternates -the Larkrise trilogy I may have had on my shelves longer than all my Dickens. This is VERY ambitious for me, but hey, as long as I keep it fun and DNF things if it gets stressful, it’ll be fine. I will be marking up/tagging each book and adding a quote or two to my reading journal. Have you read any of these? Any good ones? Duds? I’m mostly apprehensive about Wharton as she is depressing! Ha! 😜😅♥️ Happy Reading!

Favorite Reads of 2021 ♥️🌿{Massive List: You’ve Been Warned}

Remembering our daily autumn tramps in a little woods on our property…♥️♥️♥️

Dear Fellow Page Turners and Word Drinkers 😄, it’s that time of the year to think about all the wonderful books I’ve read this past year and take on the impossible task of narrowing down my favs {failed miserably at the narrowing down part. Ha! }. 2021 was a FANTASTIC reading year for me! I was thrilled to read so many great books. Here is my post from my 2020 favorite reads and my categories that I wanted to focus on in 2021. I touched all of my categories EXCEPT I didn’t really finish any biographies. Once again, I listed categories below to help you, if you’d prefer to scroll to your favorite genre, instead of reading through my massive list. 😏♥️ I left Goodreads this year in spring with no regrets and have plans for a pretty analog reading journal, continuing what I started this year, because I loved it so much. I’m truly a paper gal. I blame Booktube, especially Chantel 😂😍, for so many great books! I read a lot more mystery this year and surprisingly, historical fiction. Curl up with your favorite hot drink and a pen and paper because happy toppling 2022 TBR, my friends! 😂😎♥️

Favorite Book of the Year 2021~

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly -5 stars!!!! This was just so lovely! A middle grade story about a little girl being shuffled around in the foster care system and an artist who is slowly declining due to Alzheimer’s disease. Deeper themes about belonging and being seen. This book just made me FEEL. It was so, so sad and lovely and REAL.

Poetry ~

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry – 5 stars! Some of Berry’s poetry is a little inaccessible to me unless I am in a certain mood with lots of patience. NOT THIS COLLECTION. This book and the Holy Bible got me through 2021, sane-ish. 😉 Ha!

Hilltop Verses and Prayers by Ralph Spaulding Cushman – 5 stars These are lovely, intimate poems, prayers, and Scriptures. I gave this as a gift recently. There is a second book also which I’m slowly savoring.

The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris – 5 stars, breathtaking watercolor illustrations and gorgeous wordsmithing from MacFarlane. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Nonfiction/Memoir-

Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlov Glyer – 5 stars! This was just SO inspiring about how community is so important in our creative pursuits and in life. I was so inspired by this book, so two writing friends and I have started checking in on Voxer and spurring each other on. I’ve been also getting into more bookish community on Booktube. ❤

Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach – 5 stars! Fascinating and super lovely look at one man’s attempt at “practicing the presence of God” moment by moment in his daily life. Mr. Laubach was a literacy advocate in the Philippines and other countries.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May – 4.5 stars This book articulated how I feel so very often! It was a beautifully written memoir of the author’s pressing INTO the dark times in her life instead of fighting them. This wasn’t from a Christian perspective, but it was so inspiring, reassuring, and I felt “seen”.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson – 5 stars! A mind-blowing book about personal responsibility. Even if you don’t agree with everything from Peterson, don’t miss this amazing book. Philosophy, religion, psychology, and so much more!

This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson 4.5 stars – this one was ALMOST my favorite of the year. I loved that I finally found a book that questions the scary idea that God is the creator of sin and horror in the world. This book is so beautiful in an unique way – the non-chronological time line in this memoir was my only complaint as sometimes we jumped about a bit, but I loved how Sarah shared her struggles with mental illness and her questions and deep things she was contemplating.

Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal – 4.5 stars, despite a few theological differences, this book was such a blessing to my prayer and gratitude life practices. Beautiful thoughts, quotes, Scripture, and glorious poetry on how really seeing and practicing gratitude ultimately turns our heart towards God. Highly recommend.

The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi – 5 star read for me! I was so surprised by this as I don’t really like these types of books usually. I felt so freed and like I can tailor my home in the way that fits me. And yet, she does challenge and give tools on how to run what works and is important for you. I can’t wait to read her Kitchen Lazy Genius title next year, as I need major help in the kitchen. HA!

Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Greg Boyd – 5 stars, fantastic look at keeping God’s love in mind in the moment you are currently in! This book was life changing for me and so helpful about my thought life.

Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael – 5 stars, one of the most convicting, beautiful reads for my faith and my job as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. So beautiful! A bit rambly, but I took down pages of quotes that challenged me and inspired me in my Christian faith.

Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp – 5 stars, just lovely, intimate memoir with reflections on nature, life, with the author’s faith woven throughout.

Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller – 4 stars – such an interesting book and I especially found the chapters on guilt/worry/anxiety so helpful. I loved that this was from a Christian perspective and included a lot of Scripture.

Middle Grade & YA Fiction ~

Fog Magic by Julia Sauer – 5 stars, a short, haunting portal magic MG fantasy that I really enjoyed. The setting was LOVELY.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt – 5 stars. WOW! Jane Eyre thread throughout, the Vietnam War, domestic abuse, and poignant observations on a young boy’s life. Schmidt did NOT disappoint in this companion to The Wednesday Wars.

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – 5 stars! I LOVED this first in a fantasy/dragon series, but heard the second is not great, and the third never came out. So I just stopped here! If you like classic feel fantasy, this one was great.

Heart of Red, Blood of Blue by Rebecca Belliston – 5 stars! I heard about this one on Oceana’s Booktube channel and my oldest daughter and I loved it. Medieval-adventure-romance done SO well with great twists. Heads up, I did try a couple other of Belliston’s titles later and they weren’t for me, but this one was wonderful!

The Recorder by Cathy McCrumb – 5 stars! This is the first in a Sci-Fi Series called The Consortium. This was one of my anticipated reads from 2021 and it didn’t disappoint. So fascinating and I loved the characters! We follow a Recorder, a person raised from childhood to record history and observe life, or is she? She is thrown into a mission with a great bunch of characters and questions are asked about who she really is? Space, giant bugs, octopus-like robots and more.

Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer – 4 stars, I read all? of Meyer’s novels in 2021 and I really enjoyed this one. In the beginning, I found the story of the ancient gods on the side was more interesting to me than the main story. However, the last quarter of the book picked up, blending present and past well. I loved Wen, the shape shifting, and the cooperation between the two main characters. The whale was so clever, lots of strange, magical, unique details that made me feel. I loved the secret library/mansion/sea/cottage setting. Meyer is SO good at setting. I loved that Talia didn’t compromise her beliefs. Overall, a bit stream-of-conscious-along-for-the-ride type read, but so atmospheric, clean, and intriguing!

The Rivers Lead Home & Other Stories by Emily Hayse – 5 stars, haunting, sparse, adventure short stories that really inspired me. I really enjoy this Indie author!

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – 5 stars, this YA historical fiction was full of intrigue, mystery, and light romance. I gave this as a Christmas gift to my 12 yo!

Of Salt & Shore by Annet Schaap – 5 stars, loved this story! I really grew to care for Lampie, the sweet lighthouse keeper’s daughter and the sad hardships she faced. This has a Beauty & the Beast, Little Mermaid, Jane Eyre, Secret Garden mashup vibe to it! A bit dark and creepy, definitely for older middle grade or YA.

The Brave by James Bird – 4.5 stars. I adored this book and loved the main character Collin. I loved the First Nation/Indigenous, magical realism bent to it which was so well done. I loved the creative and real feeling way this talked about disability, disease, and death. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this book for Middle Grade readers, however, as it included too many adult sexual type comments/situations and I don’t like that in books geared for 8-12 yos. I will be thinking about this one for awhile.

The Mirror Visitor Series by Christelle Dabos – 4 star series! This is a grand, magical, unique, mirror-traveling political type fantasy. It has an extremely slow-burn romance and huge cast of such FASCINATING characters. Pretty long, but it was a page turner for me! This was recently translated from French and I really loved this one. Overall, pretty clean, probably older YA/Adult.

The Breadwinner Series Books 1 & 2 by Deborah Ellis 5 stars – first two books in a heart-wrenching series about a family in war-torn Afghanistan. This is a MG series, but I’d definitely read it with my children or give it to older kids as it touches on sobering topics. I’m taking a break before reading the last two books as they are heavy. I noticed that there is a an animated movie that I want to check out.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier – 5 star book! Oh my. SO sweet, creative, magical, and heart-wreching about the loss of a parent, belonging, friends, and so much more. I really loved learning more about children as chimney sweeps.

Incarceron & Sapphique by Catherine Fisher – 5 stars duology! Fantasy story about a fascinating living prison and finding the key to it! Creepy and mysterious. Wonderful, intriguing characters, great twists, and very clean. Great YA reads!

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud – 4.5 stars, SUCH A CREATIVE idea! Ghost hunting children who have an agency to take care of those pesky haunted houses. A little dark, but I enjoyed this first one.

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard – 4 star creative read of a girl who can harness the power of the sun! If you like elemental magic in fantasy stories, this one was great, and clean. The romance was a tiny bit cheesy, but overall this was great. I loved that it was a stand alone, so that we got all the great action and story in one go!

Adult Fiction ~

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka – 5 stars, disturbing historical fiction about the horrors surrounding a Japanese American mother and her children trying to psychologically and physically survive relocation to American interment camp during WWII. The writing was SO beautiful, sparse, sad, and so wonderfully expressed. The mental hoops that they had to jump through were so disturbing and how others ignored/excused mistreatment of a whole group of fellow human beings was so sobering and thought-provoking.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King – 4 stars – The first and third books in a LONG series surrounding “retired” Sherlock Holmes and his new sidekick, Mary Russell. I’ve read 4? in this series and there are some preachy/weird themes and I disliked the second book so much, but the writing is SUPERB and the idea so creative. I’m going to continue reading!

The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow – 5 stars, beautiful and sympathetic look at what happened to Mary Bennett. A MUST READ FOR JANE AUSTEN FANS!

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G. K. Chesterton – 5 stars, unique and interesting mysteries solved by a quiet, observant priest. I was very pleasantly surprised by these!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford – 4.5 stars, another super interesting historical fiction inspired by a true story. An abandoned hotel basement full of Japanese American belongings found some decades later reveals the stories of so many lives disrupted due to the interment camps. Disturbing and so interesting, told through the eyes of a father and son relationship. Highly recommend!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – 4 stars, another historical fiction for me! Wow! A disturbing, intense look at 4 evacuees from war torn Germany/Poland/Lithuanian who were headed to be taken on the ill-fated “rescue” boats. The horrors of war and ethnic cleansing atrocities were up and in your face. Trigger warning on this one, so scary, but SO well done. This was my first Sepetys and it won’t be my last.

The Secret of the Chimneys by Agatha Christie 5 stars – LOVED this stand alone from The Queen of Mystery. I’m finding her single stories without Poirot or Marple are some of my favorites. So hilarious!

The London House by Katherine Reay – 5 stars – I am not a huge historical fiction reader and especially not of WWII time period, but I ended up reading so many this year. Ha! However, I have enjoyed Reay’s books in the past, so I gave this one a try. It was AMAZING. I loved the story being told through letters, diaries, and memories. I found the history about dress designers, the Nazis, and Salvador Dali to be fascinating!

L.M. Montgomery ~

Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea – 4 stars for me. A lot of Montgomery’s stories are so sweet with happy endings, but these were grittier and dark. I really enjoyed them.

Emily Climbs x2 {reread} – 5 stars The second in the Emily Starr series and my favorite! So lovely about family, writing life tension, creativity, all with Montgomery’s swoon-worthy nature writing. One small thing that’s weird is an older male friend of Emily’s is a bit creepy, but I can forgive it, because the rest is lovely.

Jane of Lantern Hill {reread} – 5 stars! My handle Amy of Hearth Ridge is inspired by this book! I read this first after a hard pregnancy and a touch of PPD and it blessed my socks off. How simple loving and having someone to care for can be the most important thing to your life. How serving and giving end up blessing YOU in return.

After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed – 3.5 stars, short stories of “second chances” or “time past” – it had a slow start, but I appreciated the latter stories.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Volume 2 – 4 stars The first volume of Montgomery’s journals touched on her girlhood and this one gave such an interesting and dark perspective of a Canadian woman during WWI. Highly recommend!

Whew! 😅♥️ Of course, I read the Holy Bible and so enjoyed especially going through the New Testament, John in particular. Hopefully, you got a good recommendation or three that you anticipate! I’ll be back soon with my reading ideas for 2022!

Bookish Chat

Hello everyone! Hope you are keeping warm and are enjoying the Advent season. I’m currently sipping Bigelow’s Wild Blueberry with Açaí tea and it’s delicious.

I felt like chatting books today, so here I am! I’m slowly working on a list of my favorite 2021 books I’ve read to share at the end of December, so be looking for that soon. I’ve been mainly thinking about next years reading. I left Goodreads earlier this year and just use a beautiful journal to record my reading {also save them on Instagram which has been fun} and I love the analog sooo much better. Besides my Bible & devotional type books, I’m very much a mood/feelings reader. That’s also why I reread so much! I want to experience the same vibes of a favorite book all over again. It’s wonderful, comfortable, and I love the anticipation of knowing what’s in store. Are you a rereader? Each year, I don’t plan out my TBR list in advance except super loosely or have categories etc. I do sometimes join challenges, but use them for the categories more than timeframes or prizes. With that said, I’m joining a challenge through my favorite book tuber, Chantel Reads All Day. Follow that link to find out the details and get the printable if you so choose to join. Here’s my choices, so far, I may be switching this up!

Since taking this photo, I switched The Broken Way to December, took out 12 Rules for Life, and changed January to Out of the Silent Planet, which is also a reread. I’m needing help with the prompt for August. Can you help with a title that I may have on my extensive home shelf library? 😂 I have Farewell to Arms which I’ve never read, but not sure if I’ll like that? You can use the public library, but I’m trying to use books I own. Doesn’t this sound fun? 🥰♥️ Some of my children are joining me, too! I would love to hear what your plans are for reading next year or any books you are really looking forward to reading! 📚📚📚

🥰♥️

~Advent & Christmas Reads 2021~

These are the books I’ve chosen off my shelves to use for my personal reading during Advent this year. Have you read any of these?♥️
These are the books I’ll be dipping into together with my family! ♥️🎄
Each of my children will have an individual book or two to read during December and January. ❄️❄️❄️

Hello, Friends ~ I have books on the brain after watching some of Miranda’s lovely YouTube vlogs yesterday! These are my choices for this year along with a lovely, gigantic pile of Christmas picture books. I’m not letting my children start looking at them till November 28th 🙃😅 when Advent officially starts. Anticipation & expectation. Are you doing anything special to mark the Advent season? Meanwhile, for those of you that celebrate, Happiest American Thanksgiving 🦃🍂🍁 to you!

Love, Amy ♥️

Gratitude & Glories {September 2021} Happy Autumn ~

I am wholly willing to be here between the bright silent thousands of stars and the life of the grass pouring out of the ground. ~from “On the Hill Late at Night” by Wendell Berry

Warmest and brightest autumn greetings, dear hearts ~

The colors of autumn are heart-achingly beautiful here and I can’t help but snuggle down into them and my current favorite poetry collection, The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. This book and the Scriptures of The Holy Bible have been such a comfort and guiding light to me this past month. A month of homeschooling is now finished and I’m able to know what needs tweaking a little.

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Looking out my Window…

I sink into goldenness…corn, beans, and other crops waiting to be harvested and the edges of leaves & grasses, deliciously dipped in color. The green is still here, but now more as a frame for the glorious autumnal painted splendor. Just unbelievably beautiful this time of year here in the northern Midwest US.

Continuing with my autumn comfort-type reads sharing! Any type of seasonal memoir is SO wonderful this time of year. I pulled a few off my shelves here!

I’m Thinking… about a lot, but especially the books The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi (honestly, a huge surprise to me!) and Boundaries for Your Soul by Cook & Miller. Both are really helping me work through guilt/anxiety and also figure out some things about myself in a healthier way.

I’m Thankful for… my family pitching in a lot lately as I’ve battled head colds etc this past month. I’ve recently realized how thankful I am for my 2 yo, as he’s teaching me so much, brings so much joy, and is keeping me on my knees. Nature’s bounty and ironically, I’m so thankful for my gratitude journal to remind me of how much good there is even in the darkest days.

HP can be such a comfort read if you enjoy the hero journey story with intriguing characters//The Enchanted April is so subtle, but a wonderful read about four women on a journey figuratively and literally//Over Sea, Under Stone is a Welsh-mythology type good & evil tale that I really enjoy//

One of My Favorite Things… there’s never just ONE! 😉 Vanilla Almond tea, my red & black checked flannel, my thrifted jean jacket, and our public library. Original Irish Spring soap takes me back to my grandma’s bathroom instantly and lately, I’ve loved just being surrounded by its lovely scent.

I’m Wearing... my sweater stash is slowly resurrecting albeit we had a warm spell this last week. It’s been so nice to throw on jeans, a tshirt, and grab a cardigan. I’m bringing out my favorite 3/4 length sleeve sweater that I got last year thrifting, too. It’s blue and pink strip and I love it. So nice to meet old friends again, isn’t it?

Jane of Lantern Hill has such a special place in my heart ~ I read it after the birth of my 5th child and it meant the world to me in ways I can’t explain, in fact, my handle on IG is a nod to this book…Amy of Hearth Ridge//The Magic Apple Tree is another of those seasonal comfort books//The Little White Horse by Goudge is just so lovely and strange in a magical way, it’s time for a reread soon for me//

I’m Creating.. not much currently, a few nature journal entries, penpal letters, and we started our terms handcraft of Faux Stained Glass.

I’m WatchingVictober Booktubers, Hallmark Mysteries -when I can find them on youtube-specifically Hannah Swenson, and Hungarian Rhapsodies #2 performances.

Oh my heart ~ I adore The Blue Castle, asks such a good question, how would you live if you had a short time to left?// The Hearth & Home book is a traditional country cookbook, but the last half is my favorite, thoughts on life and what’s truly important. A great book to pull out as the year wanes//Magician’s Nephew is my favorite of Lewis’ Narnia books and I found this unique cover last summer//

I’m Reading… the sci-fi YA Incarceron and two memoirs I’m really enjoying currently are Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey by James rebanks and The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland by Rory Stewart. I’m slowly rereading Fellowship of the Ring, too, and boy, was it time. We all need a little J.R.R.T!

I’m Listeningthis song popped on my Spotify and it’s not that I love it or anything, but boy, it brought me back to highschool. 🙂 I’ve been gravitating to old favorite instrumental tracks on youtube: Scottish, Moonlight on Sea, and Wind.

Seasons of a Mother’s Heart is my favorite of Mrs. Clarkson’s books, as it rescued me as a young mother//The Lighted Heart -memoir about Elizabeth Yates and her husband’s gradual blindness – so inspiring and heart-wrenching//The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith – a hard hitting book on writing from life, I drag this out occasionally for wonderful inspiration//

I’m Hoping… go on a belated anniversary trip with my husband to an art museum, nature trails, and a flea market for Christmas gift shopping.

In the Garden… it’s pretty much morning glories rioting and choking everything, saggy sunflower offerings for the birdie friends, and a few happy zinnias. We so enjoyed the last of the watermelons and I need to clean things out.

Karen Andreola’s lovely stories about a family’s life and homeschool adventures are just the perfect heart-warming type reads for autumn//Spanning Time is another from Elizabeth Yates that I like to dip into//

I’m Learning …to be gentle with the parts of myself I struggle with especially fear/anxiety/guilt. Acknowledging them, but not letting them overwhelm me. Bringing them to Jesus and being ok that they are there, yet not whipping myself over the head with feelings of failure because I can’t rid myself of them completely.

In the Kitchen … we made applesauce and bread now that it’s cooling down a bit. Still doing a lot of stir fries with brown rice, veggies, and a bit of meat. We were able to buy a lot of inexpensive cheese from a bulk Amish store and so we’ve been doing a lot of homemade pizza, too.

To be honest, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s books stray VERY far from my faith beliefs, but I find quotes and a few lovely tidbits in them. I found these inexpensively while thrifting and enjoy the way they are laid our seasonally by months or days//This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson is one of my favorite books of this year, how our God is ALL good and He’s here WITH us in the darkness and suffering of the world.//

In the Homeschool Room… I’m not going to lie. It’s been exhausting and intense, BUT in a good way. We’ve been getting outdoors on nature walks a lot (in fact, I have a case of poison ivy to prove it! 😦 ), enjoying Liszt music, Vachel Lindsay’s unique, but surprisingly layered poetry, David Copperfield, so, so many interesting discussions about all the books, singing “This Land is Your Land”, and enjoying Rembrandt’s work. It’s an amazing privilege to get to do this life with my children.

Shared Quote…

What is love demanding of me right now? That is all that matters.

Bishop Robert Barron via Instagram

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading, ‘may the stars shine upon the end of your road’ {from Gildor, in Fellowship of the Ring} as you travel through glorious October. ❤ Love, Amy

Monday Ponderings ~ on an Illuminated Conscience {September 20th}

Continuing to share favorite comfort reads ❤ //Susan Branch’s A Fine Romance is just swooooony. A memoir/art/photo journey of her trip to England//Another visit to Stillmeadow through Glady Taber’s eyes//and one of the Anne series, Anne of Ingleside, we get a glimpse of Anne as a mother//

…if we mean to live in the wide world of thought and action, our first care must be to get, by slow degrees, the power of forming just opinions. How are we to get such power? In the first place, we must observe and think for ourselves, not ‘cute’ and clever thoughts about our neighbours’ doings, discovering a low motive here, a sharp practice there: persons who allow themselves in this habit of mind lose the power of interpreting life by the aid of an illuminated conscience. But, if we observe with gentle, large, and humble thoughts, we shall find much to instruct and improve us in the life of every family. We shall see good in the action of statesmen, at home and abroad; wisdom in the attitudes of nations. But most of us have little chance of seeing men and things on a wide scale, and our way to an instructed conscience is to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. We must read novels, history, poetry, and whatever falls under the head of literature, not for our own ‘culture.’ Some of us begin to dislike the word ‘culture,’ and the idea of a ‘cultivated’ person; any effort which has self as an end is poor and narrow. But there is a better reason for an intimacy with literature as extensive and profound as we can secure. Herein we shall find the reflections of wise men upon the art of living, whether put in the way of record, fable, or precept, and this is the chief art for us all to attain.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 4, p. 70 {emphasis mine}
Winter Cottage is a heart-warming story set during The Great Depression era in Wisconsin//The Midnight Folk is a creepy good/evil tale in which a young boy has an scary adventures to help others – perfect autumn read//Anne’s House of Dreams is more deliciousness from Montgomery about Anne & Gilbert’s early life//

May you have a lovely coffee and time to spill your heart soon. Wishing you all the best this Monday~ Amy

Gratitude & Glories {August 2021} Ramblings & Reflections

{100 Days of Gratitude Journaling} ❤ I’m so enjoying this meditative practice.
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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Hello Lovely Friends,

Warmest Greetings to September ~I’ve been slowly attempting to just stop with the {home} school prep. At some point, you have to just run with it and tweak as you go, right? I haven’t been reading as much, in sort of a period where I’m just dipping in and out of things and dreaming a bit. Honestly, I’m approaching this year of {home} school with a healthy dose of respect and finding myself on shaky knees of prayer. Summer loveliness hasn’t quite faded away yet, but my heart is turning slowly towards the anticipation of the richness of autumn and all it brings. I’ve been thinking and meditating much on the turning of the seasons, literally, but also more so figuratively. It’s got me pulling books off my shelves that lend to that lingering feeling of change in the air. So many books evoke feelings of excitement and delight as one burrows in or bursts out depending on our seasons or circumstances. I thought it would be fun to intersperse and share some favorites from my home library throughout this post and for the next while as whim and spirit moves.

Gladys Taber’s seasonal memoirs always evoke coziness – it’s forever nice to visit Stillmeadow // Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge is like a lovely, worn quilt – it’s the 2nd in a trilogy, but I read it by-its-lonesome all the time//Landmarks is a word lovers paradise and MacFarlane is so haunting and descriptive//

Looking out my window...has got me swooning with soft, dreamy purple sun rises and the rich, gold-drenched sunsets. We’ve had some scorching days and some severe thunderstorms, but for the most part, WONDER-filled weather.

I’m thinking…about habits and the idea that how you spend your days is how you spend your life, Annie Dilliard, thankyouverymuch. See below for full quote.

Wind in the Willows ~ does one have to say anything?//Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison ~ a beautiful memoir for those with little children//Rainbow Valley, sigh. Almost anything by L.M. Montgomery has that magical seasonal inside & out journey feel to it. This one is the adventures of Gil and Anne’s six young children//

I’m thankful for… my new art & idea journal and for all my books and for Jesus loving me at my lowest, my family bearing with me, for lovely writing ideas swirling and spinning, themes and threads, and how life-giving journaling has been for me, as of late. My trip to Minnesota to meet up with my health support ladies for prayer and relaxation was a God-send.

One of my favorite things… has been listening to Studio Ghibli instrumental soundtracks – you can find them everywhere, on Youtube, Spotify…just so inspiring, cheerful, and dreamy. We’ve been working on a couple puzzles recently and just got a new one ~ Japanese Tea Garden~ {I can’t find it on Amazon anymore?} that looks lovely to tie into our upcoming Japan focus for geography and some history. I’ve been loving short walks w/my two little guys in the afternoon or picking bouquets together.

Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors ~ definitely on the weird side, but these two books, wow. Something Wicked This Way Comes was my 2020 pick for Favorite Fiction of the Year and Dandelion Wine has just a glorious coming of age/seasons of life vibe to it.//At the Back of the North Wind, I actually haven’t finished yet, but I still think about it a couple years after reading a good portion of it~ haunting and mysterious//Streams in the Desert by L.B.Cowman is a devotional that flows through my life at many different points and I love the memories and beauty of it//

I am wearing… casual has been my mainstay for the last couple of weeks, as it has been just a touch cooler – jean, black, or olive green pants, took a break from my beloved skirts. T-shirts with a cardigan or a button-down with my pearl or sand dollar earrings from the Gulf of Mexico have been my go-tos. I’ve been wearing my brown sandals nonstop. I got myself a little back to {home}school gift that I can’t wait to wear! EEEK! 🙂 I mean it had my name on it. 😉

I am creating…my art/idea journal, school plans, and slowly prepping my offerings for our Charlotte Mason community group, gathering handicraft supplies, and chemistry experiment stuff. Whew. I also have a sweet little cross stitch project I began on my trip with my friends that I’m super excited to work on. I have a short children’s story I’m working on for my online writing group next week, poetry knocking at the door of my brain, wanting OUT, and lots of words/themes/visions/ideas to put to pen.

My little reading/writing spot in my room ~ makes me happy//

I am watching…short art journal videos on Youtube, booktubers, and I’ve watched the movie Totoro a few times with my children. It’s so peaceful.

I am reading…as I said before, I’m not really reading anything super specific, more just dipping my toes into lots of things. I’m most excited about the nonfiction, Heaven’s Ditch by Jack Kelly, Toilers of the Sea (possibly?! it’s BIG) by Victor Hugo (honestly, I most drawn to this book because of the delightful woodcut art), and I’m going to keep choosing a few favorite light reads off my shelves for comfort as we begin school. Maybe Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge? or more Wendell Berry poetry which has been SO lifegiving lately. I did recently finish Agatha Christie’s The Secret of the Chimneys and it was a five-star read for me! So humorous and mysterious. Sigh.

Miss Read – English village schoolteacher, sigh//essays by the poet Jane Kenyon, fabulous and thought-provoking//and any of Leif Enger’s three novels I just want to sink into//

I’m listening... as I already mentioned Studio Ghibli and also Salt of the Sound.

I am hoping…to canoe down a local stretch of river soon with my family and also write more about journaling.

Susan Cooper’s spooky series loosely inspired by Welsh-mythology is a favorite reread//another Katrina Kenison, we are not of the same faith tradition, but I still walk away with so many lovely things from her writings//A City of Bells, probably my favorite Elizabeth Goudge, injured soldier visits his grandfather’s little town and takes over an empty bookshop with secrets ~ deliciously good//

In the garden...we’ve pulled out some sunflowers, tomatoes, zinnias, and our watermelons are coming along any day now ~grapes and apples, too.

I am learning…that I go ALOT slower these days~ I can’t read, do, or be as fast as I used to, and you know what, that’s ok. I need to eat well, nap when I can, and get outside. But I also have to work faithfully at my TO-DO list, at times it’s the best thing for me, meaningful work.

Coffee, sunlight, and plants…

In the kitchen… we’ve been making a lot of veggie, meat, and brown rice concoctions of sorts ~ I added black beans to my browned beef, too, the other night to make it stretch and it was delish.

In the homeschool room… eeek. It’s coming, my friends. Easing in next week. I need to stop by the thrift store this weekend to let the children pick out old frames for our handicraft project and we are slowly purging the homeschool/game/craft closet. It’s positively frightening…the closet, that is. Not school starting. 😉

Shared Quote:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.

Annie Dillard

Some moments from my day {month}...

My friends and I in Winona, Minnesota ~ we went to an amazing art museum, prayed & cooked together, got out in nature, and talked books to our heart’s content. It was a soul-balm.

What are some books that evoke the change of seasons, literally or figuratively for you? How are you doing? Excited for autumn or holding on just a wee bit longer to summer? 🙂

It was so nice to chat. Until next time, lots of love ~ Amy



2021 Anticipated New Fiction Release Reads

I met Cathy in a Facebook writing group and she was one of the kindest, most encouraging people I’ve met. Just always ready with an encouraging word! I can’t wait to read her debut, The Recorder!
I’ve enjoyed following Emily’s Instagram account and I LOVED reading her recent collection of short stories, The Rivers Lead Home and Other Stories, and I’m looking forward to this King Arthur/Western mashup, These War Torn Hands. I preordered this for Kindle!
I’ve enjoyed Reay’s stories over the years! I love her Jane Austen-ish retellings especially. Dear Mr. Knightly being my favorite. I’m not a HUGE historical romance reader, but I was intrigued by her The London House out this autumn, so I preordered it for Kindle.
I read the first in this series and due to Novik ending it with a HUGE cliffhanger (thanks a lot 😉 ), now I have to read this one. Ha. This is kind of a Hunger Games/Harry Potter for older teen mashup. Pretty violent, but very creative. Hopefully, this will be a good conclusion to the duology ?. I probably will get this from the library.

What books are you anticipating this year? I don’t read very much new, modern fiction releases as I’m pretty picky and just love my older stuff! So I’m crossing my fingers on these. I most nervous about The Last Graduate, hopefully it stays generally clean and has good character development.