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!

4th Sunday in Advent 🎄♥️🎄

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

In every gladness, LORD, Thou art

The deeper Joy behind.

~George MacDonald

p. 29, The Cloud of Witness

(emphasis mine)

{Take Joy home. Considering the words from J. Ingelow in the above photograph and Mr. MacDonald’s line, also. Just perfection for contemplation while gazing at Azarian’s lovely woodcut. Christmas blessings to you all!}

Monday Ponderings {December 13th}

THE night

Wanes into morning, and the dawning light

Broadens, and all shadows fade and shift!

I follow, follow, – sure to meet the sun,

And confident that what the future yields

Will be the Right,-unless myself be wrong.

Longfellow, The Cloud of Witness, p. 22

3rd Sunday in Advent

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

…Heaven within the reed

Lists for the flute-note; in the folded seed

It sees the bud, and in the Will the Deed…

~D. Greenwell

How shall we judge their present, we who have never seen

That which is past forever, and that which might have been?

Measuring by ourselves, unwise indeed we are!

Measuring what we know by what we can hardly see.

~F.R. Havergal

Be not proud of well-doing;

for the judgment of God is far different

from the judgement of men, and that

often offendeth, Him which pleaseth them. 

~Thomas A Kempis

God judges by a light Which baffles mortal sight;

And the useless – seeing man the crown hath won

In His vast world above, –

A world of broader love, –

God hath some grand employment for His Son.

~Fabor

all partial or full selections above from The Cloud of Witness, p. 20

Monday Ponderings {December 6th}

But two ways are offered to our will – Toil with rare triumph, Ease with safe disgrace: – Nor deem that acts heroic wait on chance! The man’s whole life precludes the single deed That shall decide if his inheritance Be with the sifted few of matchless breed, Or with the unmotivated herd that only sleep and feed.

~ Lowell, p.36, The Cloud of Witness, emphasis mine

2nd Sunday in Advent

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian {previously published post from December 2019}

Continuing my Advent musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

Earth breaks up, time drops away,

In flows heaven with its new day

Of endless life, when He who trod,

Very Man and very God,

This earth in weakness, shame

and pain,

Dying the death whose signs

remain

Up yonder on the accursed tree, –

Shall come again, no more to be

Of captivity the thrall,

But the one God, All in All,

King of Kings and Lord of lords:

As His servant John received the words,

“I died, and live for evermore.”

~ Browning, p. 9

The Cloud of Witness

Happy Birthday to Maud Montgomery, My Marvelous Muse

Lake of Shining Waters ❤

{Happy Birthday, Lucy Maud Montgomery! Original poem from 2017 after my dream trip to Prince Edward Island with my husband in celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary}

Prince Edward Island to Hearth Ridge Farm: A Tension

Here home again, bittersweet world of words.

Red-stained, Isle of blue-green,

Sail waiting to be unfurled.

Glints of gold on glass, mind’s-eye scene,

path of sunlight to horizon, quiet ease.

The din of loved ones, drowning

sea’s strong murmur. But I’ve a new lease, a fervor.

Responsibilities crashing loudly, crowning,

but a secret seeps from my

lapping lips, whispering of far-flung beauty sounding.

Out comes dunes, out comes brilliant sky,

Out comes red earth, surf, and seagull cry.

The thick worlds collide, my heart’s

isle and soul’s farm become intertwined.

Fingers stroke cheeks, sand grains left behind.

My breath is salty, pungent as I kiss

their darling, dirty faces, fists. The fields of corn,

waves of the sea, something missing and found in me.

Beacons, buoys, blueness, quintessential coastal horns,

sea in my lungs, earth in my throat,

compost of being, soul sea-soaked.

Farm’s beauty full width and breadth, feasting on, seeing

It’s flesh alive because of Island wind,

that died a death sown deep in me.

This old dirt-made woman, new from sweet saltiness of sea.

~A.M. Pine

Other posts I’ve written on Maud here and here if you are interested! ~

Who is your forever muse? I have many, but Maud will always be my favorite inspiration!

Monday Ponderings {November 29th}

“Killing Me Softly with His Song” – my favorite version is by Roberta Flack ♥️♥️♥️

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams; —
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

~ Arthur O’Shaughnessy, from Ode, here is the full poem and it’s just so lovely.

♥️I’ve been musing on how art begets art. It’s like really and truly being SEEN by someone and seeing a bit of them, too, connection that knows no boundaries, an amazing gift, when my heart beats with a story, art, music, or a film. ♥️ How about you? What do feel when something someone created reaches out to you?

Azarian Advent

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These posts were originally published in December 2019 and I recently remembered this lovely book and just had to pull it off my shelf. It was a few moments of pure peace as I perused it. Reposting to share a bit of the joy again. Advent begins today! ♥️🎄

The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian.

It may be in the evening,

When the work of the day is done,

And you have time to sit in the twilight,

And watch the sinking sun,

While the long bright day dies slowly

Over the sea,

And the hour grows quiet and holy

With thoughts of ME:

While you hear the village children

passing along the street –

Among those thronging footsteps

May come the sound of my feet

Therefore I tell you, Watch!

By the light of the evening star

When the moon is growing dusky

As the clouds afar,

Let the door be on the latch

In your home,

For it may be through the gloaming

I will come.

~B.M. , p. 4

The Cloud of Witness

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{Join me this month in quiet contemplation and prayer on our Savior’s coming…}

~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 ♥️