Something Old, Something New… {Saturday, February 27th}

Illustration by Pauline Banes

Something Old ~ Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and listen to this delicious, fascinating, and ridiculous interview by one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury. Grab a pencil and paper because his ideas on creativity and life are so interesting to think about.

Something New ~ I received this lovely mug from my husband for Valentine’s Day{read: I picked it out and told him 😉 that I wanted it} and it’s making me smile. A bit of a backstory with it. My husband used to work in a field where he had the title of Captain and we happen to have seven children. And of course, I love me some Maria and Captain von Trapp. Perfection! I *adore* many of the items in the A Fine Quotation Etsy Shop, so I highly recommend.

Something Borrowed ~ I am still thinking on and reeling from some beautiful thoughts in this book I borrowed from a friend. I highly recommend it. It really gets you thinking on community in ANY sphere of life, but especially creative endeavors.

Something Blue ~

The moon has been glorious that past few days and this blue, purple sky is giving me all the feels. I think I will listen to Miles a bit today!

And a Sixpence in Her Shoe ~

A golden, faith tidbit for considering as you walk into your weekend:

“Life is a leaf of paper white

Where on each one of us may write

His word or two, and

then comes the night.”

~James Russell Lowell

~Favorite Reads of 2020 and Reading Ideas for 2021 ~

New year, new books ~ fresh, white dusting of pages. 🙂 Firstly, I want to share my favorites of 2020! I’m not including my short reviews as I reviewed everything I read monthly. These are all 4/5 star reads for me! I have categorized them so you can zoom on through to what may interest you. Secondly, I will lay out a few ideas I have for my reading year in 2021. Here is what I wanted to do with my reading in 2020 and all in all, I did do much I what I had wanted to! I wanted to focus on classics, poetry, middle grade, and non-fiction.

~Classic Favorites of 2020~

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

One of Ours by Willa Cather

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Holy Bible 😉

~Poetry Favorites of 2020~

The Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard

Jane Kenyon poetry

~Non-Fiction/Memoir Favorites of 2020~

Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. Nouwen

Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books by Clare Pollard

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori

Heidi’s Alp: One Family’s Search for Storybook Europe by Christina Hardyment

Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carlson

Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free by Susan Pierce Thompson

~Middle Grade Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury {very strange, but probably my overall favorite book of the year! Strange year, strange favorite. 😉 }

~Adult Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

~Books about Writing/Creativity Favorites of 2020~

War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon

Tree & Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien (read this collection twice!)

~Lucy Maud Montgomery Favorites of 2020~

Anne’s House of Dreams (reread)

Anne of Ingleside (reread)

The Blue Castle (reread)

Christmas with Anne

~Reading Ideas for 2021~

I’d love to keep the same categories from last year (Memoir/Non-fiction, Middle Grade, Classics, Poetry) , but in Non-Fiction, I’d like to try to read a few Biographies. I’m very interesting in Lighthouses and Lighthouse Keepers currently, do you know of any good ones in this area? I’m eyeing one about the Stevenson family, but we will see, as that leads into the next part of my challenge. READ MY SHELVES. I’m blessed to have a large home library and want to do a better job reading what I have! It’s SO hard for me not to buy new books or check books out from the library. But I’d love to grow in this area. The next thing I’d love to do which started unconsciously in 2020, is reread or read Lucy Maud Montgomery more. She really was a boon to me, a sweet delight, and I haven’t read all of her extensive list yet. She is after all my favorite author! Also I love rereading all my favorites from her…the Anne books, Emily, and The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill, so on so forth. So, I declare a Maud Montgomery Category!

A big change that I’m going to make is that I won’t be doing monthly recaps/reviews of what I’m reading here. I may just list them, include them in a different post, or I’m not sure yet. I will do a Yearly Favorites post, though!

Happy New Year of Reading! Any thing you are looking forward to reading this year?

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? 🙂

November Reads

This is what I finished reading last month! I had a good month of writing on my Middle Grade story and a Christmas flash fiction piece for my local writing group, so didn’t read as much. How ’bout you? Anything great you read in November? 🙂

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (*****) – A fast-paced Middle Grade/YA story of a young magician, Nathaniel, and the crazy adventures that happen in London and a parallel universe when he summons an ancient djinn, Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is an AMAZING character, so real and so interesting. I love that Stroud made the weak side of magic evident. Magic always has a cost. This was such a fun read. There are more to the series, but I’ll see if I get to them, maybe in deep winter.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (*****+++)- So, so creepy, but an amazing look at growing older, living in the present, life and death, not fearing death, laughing in the face of fear and evil, enjoying life now, not giving place to fear, acknowledging that fear is real, but choosing joy and finding a way to keep laughing through the horrors of life. I absolutely love the boys Jim and Will and their relationship with Will’s dad, Charles Halloway. I love how Charles has an epiphany and how they work together to beat evil. The lessons in humility at the end are sobering. How temptations and lusts can take us over and how WE can become the next form evil if we let them win. Wowsers. This is a beautiful book if you can stomach the strangeness. Possibly my favorite of the year.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (****) – cute satire about a family of four children, ripping on the tropes of orphans, families etc that appear in children’s classic literature. I loved the Nanny in it and felt super bad for the little sister Jane. Very clever!

Hope in the Age of Addition by Chip Dodd (***) – I read this book with my health accountability group and it was sobering and encouraging. Our world is FULL of suffering people, addicts in one form or another, including me. I’ve found so much hope and freedom this year with my sugar/food addiction through Bright Line Eating. This was a supplemental read and I loved discussing it with my friends.

Morningstar by Joan Aiken (***) – I love Joan Aiken’s books for children, so I was intrigued by this adult title that I found while thrifting. I loved the first part of this book about a mysterious, wealthy family that all is not as it seems under the surface. The characters were well-drawn and the narrator Pandora (!) was deep and interesting. It got a bit sordid and depressing for my tastes, but was a sobering look at absent parents.

Journey by Patricia MacLachlan (****) – Another wonderful children’s author that I found on a thrift shelf. This was a lovely, touching story on grief, family, and abandonment using photography as the lens 😉 to see under the outer layer of anger and bitterness of families dealing with loss. It was beautiful written, short, and amazing use of metaphor.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews

December Reads {and my Back to Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-Up}

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Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Here’s what I finished up in December (I tried to get titles done that I’d been reading awhile, since I had a bit more time over our holiday) and about my Back to Classics 2018 Challenge!

Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (****) – I finished up this book for the category of  A Classic with a Color in the Title for my Back to Classics Challenge. This book was so very weird, beautiful, unmatched,  with a magical use of words, sentences, almost a prose poetry! A slow read for me, because I had to process each story or wade through the themes. Time, age, technology, natural resources, space, family, and so much more. I got bogged down a bit in his school-boy fascination with the space race and rockets which came through strongly in many of the stories. I’m too young? or something to appreciate that particular fascination maybe. The stories on the surface seem so far fetched, yet underneath there are beautiful layers to peel back and think on. I really love Bradbury!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (****) – 3.5 stars -I barely finished this as my 7th title of the 12 for my Back to Classics Challenge. It fulfilled the category of A Classic in Translation. I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked it for it’s creepy, psychological feel, the atmosphere of it, but I feel a bit confused on some of the “supernatural” seeming elements of the story after finding out more about who the Opera Ghost was at the end. I’d love to see this on stage someday, though. My older daughter and I have been talking about it a lot as I slowly read it and then she gobbled it up and really liked it. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was how slowly I read it?

Poems, 1965-1975 by Seamus Heaney (***) – This is a collection of four of his poetry books and the first three were enjoyable, but I was so bogged down and confused in the last book, North. The language, metaphors, etc, were all “Greek” to me, for some reason. Ha. Not sure what happened, but I like to be able to take SOMETHING away, even if I don’t understand completely and I was having a hard time doing that.

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken (****) – The third book in The Wolves Chronicles and it was so strange and enchanting. Dido Twite, a brave little girl, who we are introduced to in the earlier two books, finds herself stranded on a whaling ship and falls into some crazy adventures, including stopping a plot to shoot a cannon ball from Nantucket to London! Ha. Very humorous, imaginative, and fun!

Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue by David J. Bobb (***) – I started this as a read for a home educating retreat this past fall and found it interesting. I especially loved the chapters on Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglas. This was a little slow moving for me, but I’m glad I finished it.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (*****) -This was a reread for me and I loved it more than the first time. Jane lives with her mother and wealthy grandmother in a colorless and harsh environment. She doesn’t know what happened to her father, being led to believe he died. One day,  a letter arrives from him, asking for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Little do they know how much this will change all of their lives. This possibly has a too-sweet ending, but I adore the hope and beauty that this story holds, it’s one of my absolute favorites from Maud. I love how happiness is found in the simple act of loving and serving.  This is in fact why I call myself “Amy of Hearth Ridge”. 😉

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) – another reread for me, as I plan on reading Enger’s other two titles next year. I loved this so much and was just drawn in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein throughout. Highly recommend!

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (****) – This memoir I saw recommended somewhere and I gobbled it up in ONE day on our Christmas holidays. Kristin travels to the country to interview a farmer and basically ends up never leaving. Very gorgeous writing, inspiring, and truly shows the amount of work farmers do. The nitty-gritty, bloody, filthy details of truly growing your own food and living off the land isn’t sugar-coated. I suspect the author and I differ on our views of love and marriage, but I found this very real and somehow touching. It definitely was inspiring.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – I’ve been through this first volume a few times over the past years home educating my children. I so enjoyed going through it with my book group and gleaned again so many beautiful things.

A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell (****) – I really enjoy Mrs. Graham’s poetry and found that I had this biography of her life on my shelf. It was so interesting to read about her life as a child in China, where her parents served as medical missionaries and growing up to marry Billy Graham. I mostly, though, appreciate her as a mother, homemaker, writer, and appreciator of the small details of life. So interesting!

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich (****) – I love Aldrich’s richly layered stories, A White Bird Flying, Lantern in Her Hand, etc. and so I was thrilled to see this selection of Christmas stories by her. Some are taken from her novels, some are just stand alone short stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of precious nostalgia, beautiful sentiments, and her word-smith beauty is just lovely. The stories may be a bit extra sweet, but it was a perfect read for December. I even read a bit to my children and they loved it.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – This took me all year to reread for maybe the 5th time? Yes, I love this book so much. I walk away with new lines and thoughts of beauty every time. This is the second book in a trilogy, but I’ve only read one and three once, this one is so lovely, and has the power to stand alone. I talk a bit more about it here and chat about Goudge, also, who is one of my top favorite authors.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (****) – This tome I actually finished in November, but forgot to mention it! I think this book starts making the HP series better…the first few books are good, but the last few shine. They become darker and more complex, but so do the interesting things they address. This was an entertaining read for my days of illness in November.

{Whew! So that wraps up a wonderful year of reading! I have one more bookish post I’m working on related to my 2018 reading and that’s my favorites from the year.  I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I also have made my own personal challenge for next years reading and my daughter is joining me. Can’t wait to talk about it more! How was your year? Do you have a favorite list? Please share you list or a link to yours! I’d love to read it!}

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January Reads

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February is here. This is what I finished in January! How about you?

Mother by Kathleen Norris (***) – I read this title for my Back to Classics Challenge in the category of Classic with a Single Word Title.   The sentiment expressed in this book about the importance of mothers in the lives of their children was beautiful.  I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet family life. I value and believe this to be true and am blessed to be able to stay at home with my children. The message even brought tears to my eyes and was inspiring as a mother. I’m pretty old-fashioned and enjoy traditional family values.

With that said and keeping in mind that this was originally published in 1911, I found this book to be too saccharine. It definitely painted a women’s life as being the best ONLY one way and not the other. But of course, I’m not going to get up in arms about modern issues on a vintage book. I hate reviews like that. (Continued here.)

The Wild-Bird Child: A Life of Amy Carmichael by Derick Bingham (*****) –  Amy Carmichael is one of my heroines of the Christian faith, her poetry, writing, and life’s work, encouraging and inspiring me. I really enjoyed this unique look at this Irish missionary.  Mr. Bingham created an unique take on her life, beginning each chapter, with a bit of what was going on in the world at the time. I love the first hand letters, personal stories, and information from diaries that the author had access to while writing this book. I found this much more interesting than A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (****) – Guy Montag’s life and world give one so much to think on! The thought of books being illegal and a life totally dictated and controlled by popular culture and the powers-to-be, so to speak. I recently just read a short story called “The Murderer” by Bradbury in his collection, The Golden Apples of the Sun, and it was so fantastic and tied into Fahrenheit a bit. I think I’ve heard SO much about this book from SO many people I was expecting something earth-shattering. For me, it was a subtle, yet powerful read and I really enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away for some reason. Dandelion Wine was more shocking to me creativity-wise.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (***) –This was my first Woolf. I really enjoyed her stream-of-consciousness type conversational style. She is humorous and interesting. In this collection (or expansion of one?) of essays, she brings up many interesting questions about women and creativity. I didn’t really feel like she came to any conclusions or definite answers to her concerns, but I felt like more like I was listening to a friend, talking over tea, chatting about her concerns and passions. Occasionally, her writing made me feel out of breath and she definitely repeated herself a lot, but I appreciated her general message, her nature descriptions, and her admiration for Jane Austen was evident, which is a plus in my book. Overall, I’m glad I read this. 

My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family, and Faith by Ramona Richards (***) – I was given this as a gift by a dear person and found it sweet and heartwarming. The author looks back over her grandmother’s and mother’s lives, walking through many of the beautiful quilts they collected and made. The memories and history were fascinating and the gorgeous color photos added a lot. The only thing I didn’t like was it was a bit redundant, which added unnecessary length.

A Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (***) – (spoiler alert!) 3.5 stars, this is a sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale which I read at the end of last year. I liked this title much better than the first in some ways, yet I skimmed a lot, especially in the beginning. I found the writing and the atmosphere of this book to be wonderfully beautiful and engaging. I love the natural elements interwoven into the story, talking with horses, water, fire, the trees etc. I loved that there were less characters, so you felt like you got to know them a bit deeper and weren’t jumping around trying to keep people, demons, and gods straight. I loved learning more about Vasilisa’s brother Sasha who is now an older, wiser, if not unconventional (violent? kind of hard to swallow) monk. The creepy monk from the first book is touched on and eww, still as horrifying as before. (Continued here – again spoiler alerts!)

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver (****) – Oliver doesn’t disappoint, her beautiful words inspire. The technical part of this book was a little harder for me to dig through, but if you are patient she has gems waiting for you. The honesty about how much revision goes into good writing was sobering and a relief in some ways. She doesn’t just sit down and write these gorgeous things instantaneously, huh? 😉

Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Major (*****) This is the continuing story of Katie Davis, a missionary to Uganda. This focuses on one of her adoptive daughter’s birth mother returning to reclaim her child. What I appreciated about this book was the fact that she doesn’t seem to blame God for all the heartache all around her. I’m not a big fan of the popular thought now that everything is always God’s will, including all the horrific evil in this world.  I believe that this terrible world, demonic forces, and evil choices of humans have way more to do with suffering. Katie really comes to the conclusion that no matter how her circumstances look, God is WITH her and is suffering alongside her, loving her and those all around her.

The Holy Bible (*****) – John, Acts, Romans, and dipping in and out of Psalms

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