December Reads

Happy New Year, friends! Another year of books, stories, and beauty! Here’s what I read in December. I’ll be back soon to do my big favorites wrap up for the year and my ideas for my 2021 reading!

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (***) – This was a creepy, sobering, dsytopian-ish, sci-fi story that I saw recommended on BookTube. Peter is an English pastor who is chosen to travel light years away to reach out to the alien natives whose former pastor is missing. Earth begins to collapse and Peter and his wife Bea are only thinly connected by a primitive email system. The Book of Strange New Things is the Bible which the alien race seem to love. I’m not sure what to think exactly about this one, but it was a weird look at missionary work through the eyes of the alien race and those not of faith. Also as Earth is collapsing, the work on the planet seems fruitful and like Peter is making headway. I feel there were major underlying themes in this book and I may have missed something. I am still thinking about it. This left me a little uneasy and it wasn’t a fav. The idea and writing were well done, otherwise this is a 2.5 stars for me.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (****) – This was something I was waiting on to read in October, but didn’t get it until November and finished in December. This was an amazing look at facing fear, Halloween, life & death, different cultures, and friendship. Very creepy, not for everyone, but just so amazing in it’s own eerie way. We aren’t big on Halloween here, but I love Bradbury’s writing style, soooo….

Mistborn (#1 in a Series) by Brandon Sanderson (***.5) – This was my first Sanderson and I can see why fantasy/sci-fi fans rave about him. I thought his magic system was unique and interesting. I loved the character Saazed, in a mentor-type role, and I found the villian, the Lord Ruler, and his henchmen, the Inquistors fascinating. The main two characters were a little annoying to me, but I will try the other two in the series.

Fierce Bad Rabbits by Clare Pollard (****) – Non-fiction about the history of children’s picture books. I really, really enjoyed this bookish memoir. I especially loved her reflections on memories with her father. I bought this as a Christmas gift!

Alyesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (***) – This was light, fun modern Muslim-spin retelling of Pride & Prejudice. My daughter and I enjoyed it!

The Last Atlantean by Emily Hayse (***.5) – this was written BEAUTIFULLY. An unique reimagining of the legend of Atlantis. I found the beginning part, a lighthouse on the coast of Maine, to be my favorite of the whole story. Hayse really has a way with descriptions. The middle slowed quite a bit down for me, but I enjoyed the ending and this was very different and creative from what I’ve read recently. I’m going to try more of this author’s work.

In the Salt March by Nancy Willard (*****)- gorgeous, haunting poetry. Highly recommend!

Across the MilesPoems of Fantasy, Faith, & Fun by Annie Douglass Lima (***) – lovely, introspective, traditional rhyming poetry.

When the Heart Sings by Vesper Stamper (*****) – Heart-wrenching, unique look at the death camps of the Holocaust, through the eyes of a teen girl and survivor. Very neat illustrations!

Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton (****) – I was pleasantly surprised by this retelling. Very unique with Polish royalty and New York City during WWII playing into this. It was very fun and intriguing!

Christmas with Anne by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – a lovely collection of short stories with two from the Anne books and other random heart-warming seasonal stories.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (*****) – I did it. 806 pages. It took me a few months. The last 50 pages were my favorites. This was an amazing book. How our uninformed consciences or out of order affections can lead to terrible consequences or despair. How jealousy and guilt can tear us apart. Marriage. Questions about what is life really about and death. About faith and God. Motherhood’s {how did Tostoy write this so well?} questions and worries. I really felt most of all for Dolly and I loved getting an insider look into Levin’s thoughts, doubts, and life. Levin was my favorite because he came across so human and real. The characters were amazingly drawn here, albeit the names/titles a bit confusing. I loved Tolstoy’s writing and the picture he painted especially of the Russian countryside and domestic beauty. Much of the Russian history, I’m woefully ignorant about and that was the only thing slightly difficult about this. Otherwise, it was surprisingly readable. This is my first Russian classic and I really enjoyed it. What a way to wrap up a great reading year.

The Holy Bible (*****) – James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, Jude, Revelation, and got a good start into Isaiah.

Happy 8th Day of Christmas, friends! What are you reading? 🙂

A Bit ‘O Joy: Two Poetry Books for your Kind Consideration

What is bringing you joy currently? There are so many things that ring joy to me if I take the time to peel back the layers and peer in the cracks. One joy that has filled me consistently over my adult years has been poetry. Today, I’d like to highlight two poetry books that I’ve really enjoyed.

Across the Miles: Poems of Fantasy, Faith, & Fun by Annie Douglass Lima – I just finished this delightful and sweet collection of poems this week. Annie graciously gifted me the ebook of this lovely traditional rhyming poetry which brings to mind memories of growing up, imagination, the journey of Christian faith, and adds a delicious soaking in her glorious nature poems. I found myself especially drawn to her nature descriptions and delighted in the immersive feelings she gave me in the poems like “Grand”, bringing me back to a trip I took with my husband and new baby to the Grand Canyon, “God’s Metronome”, taking me to the edge of the ocean, and the haunting, lovely “The Bloodstained Moon.” I loved her deep honesty in “Ashes”, in which she shares of how she says goodbye to someone through memories put to flame. I shared a lovely Christmas themed poem, “Two Kings” with my children this week as part of our Advent readings. There are so many others I really enjoyed, “Song of the Star”, “In the Forest”, and “The Campfire” were lovely. My favorite probably though were her lovely ones on writing and especially “Poetry Graveyard.” Where does our writing go when it just dies? Annie made this collection very accessible with her poems grouped topically and also with little descriptions of her inspiration for a poem or defining an obscure poetry form. I found that extremely helpful. I plan on using these lovely poems with my children in our home school. Check out the link to this book and make a connection with Annie below!

NEW poetry book: Across the Miles

Connect with Annie: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com/

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard – Ever since I was introduced to Willard through her Anatole stories I was intrigued. My children and I have since read and loved many of her picture books and this was my first of her many poetry collections. Through modern verse, Willard’s metaphors and beauty are subtle and strange at first and she brings things to life through her use of specifics with a twist. However, if you sit a bit with her pieces you began to see and feel truly how many layers you cut sink your heart into. She is AMAZING at looking at the most simple commonplace things in a new way. I highly recommend checking into this short volume and I can’t wait to read more of hers.

How faithfully grass holds the shape of the sea it loves…

That line is from her title poem and it just thrills me…

Have you read anything by Annie Douglass Lima or Nancy Willard? These books would make lovely Christmas gifts! Any poets that you have been loving lately? What is bring you a bit of joy?

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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