September Reads

Hello and Happy-Last-Week of October, friends!

I’m trying to catch up and wanted to share what I read last month!

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was actually at the tail end of August, because I was desperate for something other than the disappointing things I had been reading. It’s definitely predictable, but so cozy. I’ve reread this multiple times and I’m always in love with The Blue Castle by the lake. Swoon. The question about how I would live my life, if I only had a short time to live, always strikes me deeply. I love the friends to love story angle too, instead of all the instant romance stories out there. Have you read this Montgomery? Any other Blue Castle fans out there? If you could have ANY “blue castle” what would it be? I actually think the way Valancy’s is described is pretty close to my own dream.

At Mrs. Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress!) (*****) – I’ve wanted to read one of Taylor’s stories ever since I saw Jane Brocket’s recommendation of her in The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Wow. Subtle and uber perceptive look at human personality and character underneath layers of gorgeous domesticity and descriptive settings. The little boy and his mother’s bookish connection was lovely. This definitely had a darker but honest feeling to it. It felt so realistically human by everything not being perfectly happy. No formulaic tropes here. I loved the Bronte influence and thread throughout – at first, I wondered where this was going with the main protagonist, Julia, but then the tension eased for me a bit as I realized there wasn’t really going to be much of a “plot” or a lot of movement. It was more about seeing human nature in the little moments of life. I want to read this again soon and jot down some quotes and I very much hope to read more of her in the future.

The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blackmore (**) – Ugh. I found this book to be full of cheesy puns and Blackmore’s twisting of beloved stories to be super irritating to me. Ha! I was so disappointed. I looooove books about books and this one looked even MORE promising because of her book choices being ones that I love. I did enjoy the peek into the author’s lives and some of the things that Blakemore felt about her favorite stories, but this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (And Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller (****) –

“…my faith in art had never faltered. Culture could come in many forms, high, low or somewhere in-between: Mozart, The Muppet Show, Ian McEwan. Very little of it was truly great and much of it would always be bad, but all of it was necessary to live, to be alive, to frame the endless days and make sense of them.” ♡ Andy Miller ♡

I felt like I could really understand Mr. Miller’s need to read and I could appreciate all that he was searching for in the pockets of time as he read between “real” life. His collection of quotes and thoughts on these books, humanity, writing, life and his sarcasm and humor made this a delicious read, albeit some of the British cultural references fell flat for me just cause I’m American. Ha! I also enjoyed that he is a fellow rereader. Good to know we don’t always have to be reading the “new” thing out there, because there is so many old things to read and revisit. I’ve challenged myself in the past couple of years to read widely and a bit deeper, not always reaching for fluff. Such an interesting and delightful bookish memoir!

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (***) –

“Cousin Geillis must have seen it, and understood how, along with everything else, it would help to develop the strong sense of property that I had, the two-way need of belonging, and the almost fierce sense of responsibility that went with it. Thornyhold, with all it contained, would be safe with me.” Mary Stewart

Thornyhold was a cozy, domestic type mystery with a witchy spin to it. It kind of reminds me of a Goudge in setting style without dear Goudge’s amazing multiple layers, deepness, and spirituality 😂😏🤷‍♀️. So not like Goudge, maybe. 😋 Very enjoyable!

The Door on Half-Bald Hill by Helena Sorenson (***.5) –
How do we ask the right questions? The Door on Half-Bald Hill took me a bit to get into and wrap my mind around, but slowly it crept it’s way into my heart. In an ancient Celtic world, told from the young Bard, Idris’ perspective, the tension of his desire to encourage his village with a new Story, Vision…or the Word, in the face of a creeping, bitter poison deep in the land is extraordinary high. As the village healer turns dark, mysterious, and closed off and the village Druid desperately clinging to old ways that aren’t speaking to him, Idris increasingly finds the villagers looking to him for answers. This story made me look a bit deeper and ask questions about life, love, and sacrifice. 

The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart (*****) – After reading Thornyhold by Stewart a friend mentioned her Merlin Trilogy being her best work, so I just devoured the first two. It is AMAZING. If you like Arthur/Merlin legend stories, please check these out. I hope to read the last this winter. I also learned there is a fourth book connected to this trilogy too!

The Holy Bible (*****)- Acts, Romans, and 1 Corinthians

Gratitude & Glories {4th week of August}

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This week I’m thankful for…

~a few days at the cozy cabin, beating the surprise heat wave ~ gorgeous drive and rereading The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery ~ baby’s happiness to be out of the van and running up and down the hall, his short, stubby legs tooling around ~ children building in the sand, burying one another, and swimming ~ napping ~ dropping off Amos and some children for a tubing run, driving in silence to the pick up point, gorgeous sun and quiet, riverside ~ seeing a Kingfisher twice! ~ bonfire smell and crackle ~ delicious peaches with my breakfast ~ rainy, but cool, romance-tinged air in-between rain showers ~ canoeing on a lovely little lake…so peaceful ~ wooden bridges and pines ~ glass-like lakes reflecting the sky and treeline~ green everywhere ~ lilypads ~ oldest son dragging us through a shallow connecting inlet, laughs all around ~

 

~ hard days that drive us to our knees, humbling this mama ~ catching up on piles, so satisfying ~ new Christmas book arriving in the post, can’t wait to share it with the children ~ early morning prayer and reflection time ~ commonplacing quotes that I’ve read for further reflection and meditation ~ picking a bouquet of flowers and weeds for the table with my Ben ~ a library poetry book and CD listened to over and over again, delighting us all ~ library pickup again, checking out The Mouse Mansion yet again and may need to make our own mouse house, a good autumn/winter project possibly ~ Ella, Phoebe, Benjamin, and Gideon helping me make homemade pizza and zucchini pizza, candle lit, and little hands shredding cheese so chubby and sweet ~ my husband’s invitation to go out and watch the lightening with him, he knows I love the wild and windy approaching of a storm, just what I needed to blow away a case of cobwebbys! ~ last dates to local drive-in cafe before it closes for the season, love their coleslaw~

 

~a morning thunderstorm welcoming Friday in ~ some older children not going to work and helping me purge, rearrange, and spruce up our homeschool supply closet, living room, and library a bit ~ encouraging vlogs and little tidbits I’m reading here and there, preparing my heart and mind for school beginning next week ~ the way the wind whipped my sunflowers and the apples in the orchard, the black willows gorgeous in the sunlight ~ cooler weather rolling in today ~ Ella and Phoebe getting to spend time with a beloved grandma and friends, swimming and playing games ~ haircuts for three of my boys, so good to see their eyes again 😛 ~ Louis Armstrong and blog perusing ~ and look at this lovely mug on sale! ~ continued regular afternoon tea set up by my Ella ~ barn swallows still swishing and swooping my spirit up, up, and up ~ goldenrod bouquets on my book table ~

How was your week? I’ll leave you with this lovely quote that I jotted down in my commonplace journal ~

“As August comes to her slow and dreaming end, the air has a special smell, the smell of ripening, the smell of drying hay, the smell of the piney woods in the cool of the evening. The strange rusty smell of marigolds and the prickling odor of zinnias, and so exciting to breathe it all in! I do not, ever, like ends. I like beginnings and rich plump middles, but ends are always sad. Of all the ends in this old unquiet world, though, the end of summer is one of the best. For the first small throb of color in the swamp maples in September is a fine thing to behold. And the first nip of the air on a golden morning is heavenly to feel after the languor of summer’s heat.”

~ Gladys Taber

Gratitude & Glories: {2nd week of August}

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This week I’m thankful for…

~Sunday, early morn quiet, coffee, moon and stars, sure and steady, prayer, Bible & books ~ is it a boat or bowl? from a curved leaf conversation with Benjamin ~ rereading prayer journal entries, Jesus’ faithfulness~ 5 year journal, loving it ~ swallows and finches roosting in our ash tree in the evening before dusk, chirping and chattering and then going silent for the night ~ early morning chirping again, greeting the dawn ~ house wren pair ~ fog, sunrise, Queen Anne’s Lace ~ online Zoom picture study of Brueghel’s,  “The Preaching of St. John the Baptist” and discussion after it~

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~cuddling with 1 year old at 1:00 am as he plays with my face and eyelashes, his wide Precious-Moment-like eyes looking at me sweetly ~ explosion of Morning Glories on deck railing, never failing to encourage me, my own private little Anne-Blythe-Idlewild, if you will ~ listening to my sweet 11 yo on library pick up date and snuggling later with her on deck as we watch the stars ~ my husband getting out the telescope and telling me about how he and some children looked at the night sky and sketched some of what the saw ~ impromptu lunch picnic under the Honey Locust of delish chicken, zucchini, and brown rice stir fry ~ decaf cuppa of vanilla hazelnut in the afternoon ~ washing my face with rosemary lavender bar soap, so refreshing ~ looking at old Taproot magazines outdoors for crafting inspiration with my middle and little children ~ Christmas handmade planning beginnings, better start now, or they won’t get done ~ Queen Anne’s lace added to my nature journal ~

 

 

~delicious bits of atmospheric Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase (not one I’d 100% recommend, FYI), happily searching for the elusive type of read I love ~ the glow-y hour of the evening, looking silently at the chickens, baby boy and I ~ a friend recommending this podcast on addiction, sparking a lot of ideas and offering hope ~ pursuing some lovely domestic type books, especially my favorite one for creating inspiration ~ atmospheric soundtracks on Youtube ~ dragging out sewing machines with my middle and littles ~

 

 

~ working on organizing sewing/crafting items ~ little doll aprons ~ Noah passing written driver’s exam ~ school planning, almost done – surely have way too much on list, but will have to run it for awhile to see what needs tweaking ~ writing a long letter to a pen-pal ~ beautiful countryside passing by as I helped my husband move farm equipment around ~reading in car while waiting for boys to finish lawn mowing job, sipping coffee from ball jar ~ baking gingerbread biscuits (we felt in an autumn-ish mood) with Ella, Phoebe, and Ben for tea time and the freezer, used up a can of black treacle I had in cupboard ~ now I have the beautiful tin to find English Ivy to put in! ~ watching Miss Potter with kids that night and bringing out our collection of Beatrix Potter books to ooh and ahh over, the Hill Top photos in the movie bringing back my trip there in 2016, swoon ~

 

 

 ~ swooning over Lore Pemberton’s art, I was given a piece of her work for Mother’s Day this year and it’s just one of my favorite things EVER ~ concert done by the middles and littles for my husband and I, so wonderfully sweet and screechy at the same time 😉 ~ missing my older boys who are camping and oldest daughter who’s working and hanging with friends, but trying to let go and begin embracing different seasons ~ got a wonderful, awful idea about how to incorporate my love of writing and creating into one, can’t wait to get started ~ gorgeous thunderstorm last night ~

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~Exhausting, but GLORIOUS week in the Lord. So, so grateful! ~ How was yours?

“Stand in the ways and see,

And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,

And walk in it.

Then you will find rest for your souls.”

~ Book of Jeremiah

 

June Reads

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It’s July already. Wow. Here is what I read in June. A busier month for us and after my book hangover from all my fun May reads, it was a bit quieter.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (****) – slightly snobby-ish 😉 reflections on books and the book life – I especially loved how much her and her parents and sister lived a life of books. I loved her reflections on used books. Big head nod and kinship to the importance of reading in her life and there is a nice list of OTHER books about books in the back, if you can follow that. 😉

Romanov by Nadine Brandes (***) – a unique YA retelling of the historical Russian story of the infamous tsar’s abdication and lockdown of the their family mixed with fantastical magic. This was creative and full of lovely details with a good plot. I loved the spell ink/magic aspect of this version. I especially loved the mysterious magician and would have loved more of him. I couldn’t really see in my mind’s eye the characters or settings very well, which frustrated me at times. I felt a teeny bit dissatisfied with ending, but overall, this was solidly entertaining and a page turning story. I would love to try some of this author’s other YA stories.

Kindling by Nevil Shute (***) – This was about a wealthy businessman who life is a lonely, workaholic blur. His marriage is dissolving and his health terrible. He ends up finding himself getting an emergency surgery in a small, economically depressed coastal village. As he recovers, he befriends many of the locals and imagines how he could bring capital to the area to revitalize the place. He starts to care for the people and wants to infuse life into the area. He ends up helping in ways that trickle down, but aren’t entirely legal. He pays heavily in the process, but the act of selflessness restores his peace and health. This has some very outdated/potentially offensive themes and probably is too simplistic in many ways, but there’s no denying that it was inspirational.

Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – this was a reread for me. One of my favorites of the whole series. The big Blythe family of children is just a joy and Anne and Gilbert’s marriage is lovely and sweet. The domesticity and nature sentiments are just so beautiful.

The Soul’s Habitation by Grethen Hayward Sousa (****) – strange, very specific and introspective poetry collection. Sousa is a master at unique metaphor and very specific details that still lend to an uncanny universal appeal or meaning to her words. I especially loved any and all poems on aging, contemplating life after death, or on growing older. Some favorites, “Fishing For More Than Bait,” “Bathing Elsa,” “The Taming of Time,” “and others.

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori (****) – I found this a fascinating look at trees around the world. This included extensive beautiful illustrations. I loved the folktales and lore surrounding the trees. Just so interesting. This would be a lovely gift for a nature lover in your life. Highly recommend!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (*****) – a lovely overview of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. I’ve reread this gem many times and I just am always so encouraged.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Exodus, into Leviticus. Finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and am about half way into Isaiah. Also reading through the Gospel of John.

What did you read last month? Anything that jumped out to you? Any July reads you are loving?

~

 

May Reads (Part 1)

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Hello Friends! How do your pages turn? 🙂 May was a fun month of reading for me and I finished a lot. Not sure if I hit all my monthly category goals, but I enjoyed so much of what I read. In other news, I’ve decided to leave Goodreads. It was beginning to be too much for me, albeit, I enjoyed some of the bookish friendships over there. Soooo, I am now analog for my book recording and reviews (well, besides here on the blog). It’s fun! Next year, I may get one of these for my recording my reading.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (****) – The imagery in this novel was what I found fascinating and beautiful! The Thames river, flowing water, folk lore, and everything surrounding those things were written in such a lovely way. One might even say water was an important character of this story. There were some beautiful introspective lines and some fascinating, well-drawn characters. The story itself was strange, yet brilliantly done. The main story line is surrounding the supposed reappearance of a missing girl and the tension surrounding this was too high for too long for me. Often I felt unsatisfied and anxious, especially when I got bogged down in the draggy middle. There are many story lines and thankfully, they FINALLY converge in the end of the book. I’d say overall, I liked this one better than The Thirteenth Tale, but more for the gorgeousness of the writing than the story. This strikes me a little bit horror, creepy, and with sexual themes (not my usually cup of tea), but overall, I still did really like it. It’s one of those books you will be thinking about for awhile. If you want a long, immersive read with a darker, thought-provoking feel to it, you may like this one.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was a reread for me and I just loved it all over again. Anne and Gilbert are married and setting up their first home. They meet and grow to love their neighbors, Captain Jim, a lovely, old sailor who is the lighthouse keeper, Cornelia, the local busy body, man-hater ;), and Leslie, the mysterious, sad beauty who lives close by. I just love Anne’s garden, house, and the beach. Anne and Gilbert share a heart-wrenching loss and it’s so lovely to share in this intimate beginning part of their lives together. I loved Captain Jim’s book being written and published as well.

The Story Peddler by Lyndsay A. Franklin (*****) – I loved this Middle Grade/YA fantasy story. It was very creative. A young story teller creates living rainbow story threads out of her hands that end in a piece of art for keeping. She ends up in a plot to help free her kingdom from the tyrant ruling and finds a deep secrets about herself. I may read the other two in this series.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (****) – my older four children and I finished this play and we really enjoyed listening to the Archangel audio version of it. We found this intriguing and inspiring. It has piqued our interest in history surrounding these events. I want to revisit my Folger copy and jot down some quotes in my commonplace. We also enjoyed this movie of it here, FYI – preview before showing to younger children. (I’ve decided to start adding in a few favorites I’ve read with my children, occasionally here! I was inspired by Kortney!)

Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins (*****) – This has a 1990’s feel to it ;), but I loved it! It is lovely for any Avonlea die-hard fan. Recipes, facts, crafts, and sweet illustrations all about Anne and Green Gables. I plan to make an apron from a pattern in this book.

Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – This was my second time through this book and I really slowed down and enjoyed it. I jotted down many quotes and recommendations to follow up on. You can get it here, if you are looking for Christian mothering or home educating inspiration! Mrs. Andreola is lovely, wise, and gentle.

Stories of America, Volume 2 from Simply Charlotte Mason– we all really enjoyed these short chapters on American history up to “the war on terriosm” and the beginning of technology age. I started in the World Wars section and read to the end. I will return to this when we come back through history at the story of the Oregon Trail. This book was a little dated at the end, but I might check into Volume 1 for our history readings in autumn.

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (**) – this is SUCH a hard collection of short stories to review! It is grotesque and vile in some ways, especially some of the stories with their sexual, dark overtones. The writing though is AMAZINGLY magical and the creativity is astounding. This MUST be YA or Adult because it has horror themes in it. I picked this up because I loved Barnhill’s writing style in The Girl Who Drank the Moon which was a Middle Grade, so I was sort of shocked and surprised by these stories.  My favorites stories in the collection were “The Dead Boy’s Last Poem”, “Elegy to Gabrielle”, and “The Unlicensed Magician”. This deserves a closer look for me, I think, just to continue to learn the craft of superb writing. However, I can’t recommend it at all ESPECIALLY  not for children and I probably will only reread my favorites above. I can’t wait to read more of Barnhill’s backlist, however.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (*****) – WOW. This is an A-mazing book for creatives, especially writers, but for everyone. Basically: Do the Work. The End. I think this is my favorite writing book so far and I’ve read many. Highly recommend!

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by Rowling (*****) – A reread for me! I loved when Firenze rescues Harry in the Forest and I love how the three friends help each other to get through the “maze” and the creepy Voldemort (oops…He Who Shall Not Be Named) connection to Quirrell is definitely shiver inducing.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Psalms and started Proverbs and read Genesis and some of Exodus. I love Genesis so much!

{I’m going to stop there and do a Part 2 of May 2020 Reads! Ha! I read SO many Middle Grade books this month, it was a pure delight, but LONG to put in one post. I’ll be back.}

What did you read last month that you loved?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing so fast

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“They were all growing so fast. In just a few short years they would be all young men and women…youth tiptoe…expectant…a-star with its sweet wild dreams…little ships sailing out of safe harbour to unknown ports. The boys would go away to their life work and the girls…ah, the mist-veiled forms of beautiful brides might be seen coming down the old stairs at Ingleside. But they would be still hers for a few years yet…hers to love and guide…to sing the songs that so many mothers had sung. Hers…and Gilbert’s.”

Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery

{Sigh. Thinking on seasons as a mother today. Hope your June has been as lovely and dreamy as mine. I hope to be back soon with my May Reads list. Hope your Thursday is sunshine-y, with blue skies, and wistful winds blowing through your curtains!}

 

~

September Reads

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This is what I finished last month from my lovely books stack. Anything sound interesting? What did you finish reading?

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (*****) – this was a reread from my master list for the year and it was better than the first time. I, especially love the “Inner Ring” essay, but there are so many nuggets sprinkled throughout this collection of talks. This took me a LONG time to reread, but it was so worth it.

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

The Golden Journey by Agnes Sligh Turnbull (***) – This follows the life of a wealthy father who manipulates his crippled daughter’s life out of genuine, but misplaced love for her. I found this one at a used library sale and was very excited, as I’ve enjoyed Turnbull’s fiction before. 3.5 stars because of the predictability of the plot. However, I really enjoyed how much Turnbull highlights the importance of character in this story. Engagingly written and definitely inspiring, albeit a little too good to be true, I enjoyed it immensely. 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – This book is a timeless classic on the educating and parenting of young children and a foundational book in our home. I’ve been hoping to reread it annually and I did this year to my great delight and blessing. It just keeps on giving.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – 3.5 stars for this creative and interesting children’s middle grade fantasy book. I became interested in this after watching a movie by the same name. This is the first in the series and I look forward to reading the other two. Sophie is the responsible oldest and finds herself on the wrong side of the Wicked Witch of the Waste. In her quest to right the wrongs, she encounters the Wizard Howl and friends, leading to all sorts of adventures. This was a little bit convoluted at times, especially toward the end, but overall, I really enjoyed this. So imaginative! The enjoyable movie definitely deviates a bit and adds an anti-war message that’s not at all present in the book.

What Is It by Lynda Barry (****) – 3.5 stars for this wildly imaginative mixture of memoir, diary, sketchbook, and writing instruction combination. I found this a lovely look at how creativity works and flows from the mind of this mixed media and craft artist, Lynda Barry. This book is actual scans of her amazing sketchbooks and hodgepodge scrapbooks all the while telling the story of her childhood and her growth as an artist. Very interesting!

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

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson (****) – I just love the whimsical and nonsensical nature of the Moomins. I’ve accidentally read these out of order, but no matter, I’m always charmed and delighted by these creatures and their little adventures. A flood separates Moominmamma and Moominpapa from Moomintroll and friends and they have all sorts of adventures (including a theater debut!) while trying to find each other again.

Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – These were completely predictable and totally charming. I love writing real snail mail letters, so I loved this collection of short stories that Montgomery wrote for newspapers and magazines.

The Holy Bible (*****) – John and beginning to dive into Psalms. I’ve been reading through the four Gospels over and over this year, but felt I needed to dig into Psalms for the rest of the year.

~

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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May Reads

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Here’s what I finished in May! Running a month behind, folks. I’ve been busy snuggling my darling little baby. I had a memoir heavy month!

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

The Other Side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn (*****) – A gentle, delightful memoir of a rural English school inspector. I absolutely loved his humorous insight and descriptions of the English countryside. However, the most delicious part of this was the darling and fascinating conversations he had with the children in the schools he visits. He really captured how delightful children are if we just listen to them. I found out this is a series! Can’t wait to read more about Mr. Phinn’s adventures.

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

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I needed something light and sweet and this reread was just as wonderful the second time around! I read this one afternoon when my baby was sleeping and it was just what I needed. An “old-maid” is diagnosed with a life-altering illness and believes she has a short time to live. She throws caution to the wind, breaking away from her controlling relatives to take risks. Never in her wildest imagination could she have guessed what would happen.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (***) – I enjoyed this light fiction centered around three women who are connected to one bookshop. Reay did a wonderful job of making these characters real and interesting. I especially loved Janet, imperfect and struggling with her divorce. I loved all the book references and the atmosphere of the shop.

The Enchanted Isle by D.E. Stevenson (***) – This was a sweet story about a burned out headmistress of a girl’s boarding school, Charlotte Fairlie,who visits a gorgeous Scottish island. I really loved the young girl that befriends Miss Fairlie, leading to love and adventures.

Shepherdess of Elk River Valley by Margaret Duncan Brown (****) – This title is amazingly similar in topic to Letters of a Woman Homesteader, and yet it has it’s own flair and uniqueness. In Stewart’s book, Elinore has many children and responsibilities to others, whereas Margaret is alone most of the time, alone with her mountains of backbreaking work, books, and her own thoughts. I found Margaret’s thoughts & quotes on her extensive reading, intriguing and unique. She does a good job of sharing the hardships of shepherding in the harsh Colorado climate.

West Wind by Mary Oliver (*****) – Beautiful poems that came at a perfect time for me.

The Holy Bible (*****) –  finished John, starting back through the Gospels, Matthew,  some of Mark

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February Reads

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Here’s what I finished in February! I’m getting it up a bit late, but that’s ok. How was your reading month in February?

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (*****) – This is probably one of my favorite books on the care and love of children. If you are a parent, educator, or just want to bless the children you come in contact with, please, please read it. You will be so encouraged! This is a reread and I was just as blessed as the first few times I’ve read it.

Re-Creations by Grace Livingston Hill (***) – My oldest daughter and I really enjoyed this book! Hill is definitely VERY predictable inspirational Christian romance and her endings we almost always predict, but the sentiments in this title were heart-warming and inspiring. A college girl is called home before graduating to find her family has scrimped and sacrificed for her education. She makes the choice to step out of her disappointment and selfishness and turns things around in the home and family by careful love and attention. This title is VERY inspiring for home-makers and creatives.

Starling and Swift Christian Cozy Mysteries by Mary Jane Hathaway (M.J. Mandrake) (***) – I read a few of these on my Kindle and found them unique and light mysteries. The protagonist is Kitty Swift, a Cruise ship interpreter for the deaf, and her guide dog, Chica. Kitty and Chica end up helping solve various murders as they cruise around. The  quirkiness of the characters was just what I needed when tired. Plots are formulaic, but the mystery aspect was intriguing. I loved the traveling to exotic locations with her as a Cruise ship employee.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (****) – Rereading these and enjoyed this one a lot, albeit this one has a heavy, underlining tension. Harry’s teen angst and frustrations are really showing up now and Umbridge is SO conniving and the situation with her seems hopeless. Reminds me of how politicians etc use their power for their bias even though they say they are doing it for the good of the whole. Hmmm…sounds familiar. The power of the media is a very interesting topic brought up in this title as well. All relevant for today.

The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was also on my list of things I wanted to finish from my shelf. It took me a long time to read this delightful tale of a lovely bunch of friends and their summer adventures. Hilarious, sweet, and sobering at times, I really loved this and feel like Maud out did herself with this one. I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Golden Road.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (****) –  4.5 -I really enjoyed this book and felt so much horror over the abuse of Ada and Jamie. The author did an amazing job conveying the effects of the mother’s lack of love and ignorance. This story surrounds the evacuation of British children from London.  The one teeny quibble I have with this book, is that there seems to be a pervasive trend to hint at or include modern adult issues into MG/YA, which I absolutely don’t agree with in children’s literature. Let children and young adults have a childhood! There is going to be plenty of time for them to face adult realities and choices.

The Poems of Gerald Manley Hopkins by Gerald Manley Hopkins (****) -The end of this title has fragments of unfinished or incomplete poems, poems in Welsh and Latin, I believe, and a huge section of editor’s notes. I found this part a bit tedious and skimmed it, but overall I really enjoyed Hopkins poetry. Some of his are just SO beautiful that I had to think on them for awhile. Also one I wanted to read this year from the LIST.

Ruth Bell Graham’s Collected Poems by Ruth Bell Graham (***) – I really love Sitting by my Laughing Fire poetry collection by Mrs. Graham, so I chose this off my shelf as something I wanted to read. Very good and encouraging, but I still love the other title better. Poetry really has been life-giving to me this winter and in the current season I’m in. My favorites of this collection were nature-inspired or centered around mothering.

The Winter Witch by Katherine Arden (***) – This was the conclusion to a trilogy and in some respects was the best of the three books. The setting/atmosphere, the intriguing questions raised about Christianity and Paganism, and the continued character development were well-done. I can’t put my finger on it, but the blending of “good and evil” were hard for me to muddle through in this title. You know how literature brings us “good” and “bad” witches, wizards, etc, and the blurring of those lines in this book were difficult for me. I need some hope and some true good (not perfection, necessarily, but goodness) to hold onto and I didn’t find one character that fit that for me. The ending had some good points, but at the same time Vasya now is somehow in “bed” with two opposing demons (quite literally with one – eww) and her family is a bit torn apart. I just felt like the resolution over the war and some of the physical battles in Moscow were wrapped up coherently, but the spiritual realm battles were muddled and not as well-done. But possibly the author wanted that way, kind of not wanting to answer questions, but leaving it for us to decide. Probably the most intriguing, but dark character in this whole series was the creepy priest and in this third title, there was an interesting twist to his story. Overall, the atmosphere of this series was beautiful, but I’ve still mixed feelings about the story. It gives me a bit of an uncomfortable feeling, which isn’t always a bad thing, but this wasn’t like a challenging, uncomfortable feeling.

White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver (*****) – Beautiful collection of poetry, simple, sweet, centering on nature. I really enjoyed this!

The Holy Bible (*****) – Luke, John (My plan is to be reading through the Gospels over and over this year, and so this was my first time through and it was lovely. Back to Matthew now!)

 

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Greetings, March…

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{old photo of summer travels – following the light. I’m working hard to enjoy these last moments of the white, brilliant, winter-y beauty, but highly anticipating spring. We’ve had an intense winter season here in Wisconsin, but spring is just around the corner!}

“Before they knew it, spring had arrived. Aunt Green took them into the wood to pick pussy willow and flowers.” – Elsa Beskow, Peter and Lotta’s Christmas

“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only—spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.”
― Willa Cather, My Ántonia

I must have flowers, always, always. – Monet

The earth has music for those who listen. – Unknown

“Listen to the trees talking in their sleep,’ she whispered, as he lifted her to the ground. ‘What nice dreams they must have!” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.

-JANE AUSTEN, Mansfield Park

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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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