Gather Round {June 23rd}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Previous fly on the wall moments:  😉  check out past installments here. 

Domesticity ~ My sister-in-law gave me a delicious baked mac ‘n cheese recipe, which was met with rave reviews. It’s been rainy and cool, after a few scorching days, and I love the sweet, mistiness, so this was a perfect treat for lunch. I think I could serve it for dinner, also, by adding a large salad or other side. My friend gave me some chicken curry seasonings packets that she picked up from an Indian grocery, so I hope to try those soon. Bananas are plentiful around here, so due to the cooler weather, I’ve been able to make banana bread more often. My children are in rapturous delight about that development. I’ve been looking for a cross-over back apron pattern, preferably free, as I feel in the mood to sew up a new apron, and possibly start on gifts. We have the two last birthdays of the eight we have here at Hearth Ridge, so I’ve been thinking about surprises for those.

Education ~  We are finished up with just about everything EXCEPT two Plutarch lessons. We will finish those next week as soon as our Texas family visitors leave to travel onto more family. There are some other things I’d like to do before we begin again in September, so we just do them here and there, throughout the summer holiday. I’d love to take an home education online course sometime, but still trying to figure out how that would work to carve out an hour weekly HERE, due to the noise levels. I am all registered for a Charlotte Mason home education retreat in the fall and I’m highly anticipating that, although I don’t want to wish away the summer breezes too soon.

Writing ~  I’ve been working on a few things for the local journal and I’m working on a poem for a dear heart who asked me to write one for her. I have one or two essays noodling around in my brain for the blog. One poem and piece I still have out on submission and am waiting to here if anything comes from them. I’m thinking on how to breathe a breath of fresh air into this online space and it’s been exciting to think about ideas. What do you like to read here? My fiction characters are chattering away at me, whispering crazy things, and delightfully hanging about, but I haven’t done much with them beyond just talking to them here and there. And that’s ok. Seasons.

Reading ~ I have ever so many lovely titles sitting here, all raising their hands, shouting, “Pick me, pick me!” and so I plug ever onward through my To Be Read Never Ending Pile. It’s so delightfully pudgy and I just could faint from all the wonderful stories and goodness that there is in there. I’ve been revisiting my favorite author EVER, Maud Montgomery, often, and I have some old favorites that I’m just dipping into here and there. For instance, I’m almost through Goudge’s lovely Pilgrim’s Inn for the third ? time. Swoon. I’m excited to keep plugging away at my various choices for the Back to Classics readers group I signed up for…I plan to take Les Miserables on my vacation later this summer and give it a little more TLC. So, I will continue to wade in deeper and deeper, pushing aside the beautiful waves of pages and wonder. Come save me if I start drowning, will you please?

Sillies & Sundries ~  I just loved this podcast about Favourite Romantic Couples in Fiction, a perfect listen, from my favoUrite British podcast ladies, Miranda and Sophie.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

Anne of Green Gables: Chapters 17 & 18

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{continuing my S-L-O-W as molasses rereading of this favorite}

In Chapter 17, we find Anne still reeling over her forbidden friendship with Diana. They secretly meet and Diana shares that her mother will not forgive Anne for setting Diana drunk. 😉 Marilla is her funny self, not sharing too much sympathy for Anne’s outrageous sorrow over this injustice.

“I don’t think there is much fear of your dying of grief as long as you can talk, Anne,” said Marilla unsympathetically.  p. 113

She decides to go back to school (I forgot that she wasn’t going? I don’t remember why. Maybe just the sadness over the lost friendship? They let you out of school for that?) and bury her sorrows in study. Everyone is glad that she is back, she is a lively and imaginative addition to the otherwise boring school day.  She is very much rebuffing any overtures of friendship on Gilbert’s part, even an glorious apple left for her. Diana and her pass a few secretive notes, basically saying Diana is not allowed to talk or play with her at all.

Anne throws herself passionately into her studies trying to beat Gilbert at everything.

“She was as intense in her hatreds as in her loves.”

Geometry and Anne do not mix at all and she is in “the depths of despair” over it.

Chapter 18 finds Marilla off to see the Canadian Premier with Rachel Lynde, so Anne and Matthew are taking care of Green Gables.

A humorous and heartwarming conversation in the cheerful kitchen happens between them and as they are chatting, Diana bursts in, hysterically crying about Minnie Mae being ill.

Anne is as cool as a cucumber, bragging a bit about her knowledge of croup, believing now that she knows why she had to deal with Mrs. Hammond’s three sets of twins. For this moment of glory alone, it was all worth it.

Maud Montgomery’s nature descriptions shine here again:

“The night was clear and frosty, all ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope; big stars were shining over the silent fields; here and there the dark pointed firs stood up with snow powdering their branches and the wind whistling through them. Anne thought it was truly delightful to go skimming through all this mystery and loveliness with your bosom friend who had been so long estranged.” p.142

Anne does help Minnie Mae and Matthew brings the doctor, who congratulates her on her quick thinking and for saving Minnie’s life.

Marilla comes back and in her cool, calm way shows Anne her pride in what she did by serving up a delicious meal, with the added treat of blue plum preserve. She calmly holds back that Mrs. Barry had been there, gushing in thankfulness and contrition. Anne finished the day in a rapture, as she is invited to dinner with the Barry family.

 

Here is a podcast on Women’s Friendships in Story and it has an interesting look at Anne and Diana’s friendship! I highly recommend it!

~

 

 

Monday Ponderings {June 4th}

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The Holy Midnight

Ah, holy midnight of the soul,

When stars alone are high;

When winds are resting at their goal,

And sea-waves only sigh!

 

Ambition faints from out the will;

Asleep sad longing lies;

All hope of good, all fear of ill,

All need of action dies;

 

Because God is, and claims the life

He kindled in thy brain;

And thou in him, rapt far from strife,

Diest and liv’st again.

 

~ George MacDonald

~

 

May Reads

The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baumillustrated by W. W. Denslow and originally published by George M. Hill Company, Chicago (1900)

“I have always thought myself very big and terrible; yet such small things as flowers came near to killing me, and such small animals as mice have saved my life.” ~Cowardly Lion

 

 

 

How was your reading month? I got some good ones finished and I’ve started many titles that promise to be lovely. My stack is heavy on non-fiction right now for June, which is very unusual for me. I’m trying to find more fiction in the fantasy genre that is based more in myth, legends, and folklore. Please share if you have any good titles that fall in the description. Here’s what I read in May:

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp (****) I read this for my Back to Classics by a Woman Author category. I found it heart-warming and pretty funny at times. I especially loved Mrs. Trapp’s hilarious explanation on their attempts at learning English and also the lengths she would go to hide her pregnancies.  I was amazed at the Trapp family’s resourcefulness and determination. It dragged just a bit for me, but overall, a good story. By the way, the movie is only slightly inspired by the real Trapp family’s life, very little of it is true.

The Alliance by Jolina Petershiem (****) Amish/Mennonite dystopian, anyone? Ha. I’ve read my fair share of Amish inspirational novels in life, so I was bit skeptical about this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. The characters were interesting and multi-faceted and it had intriguing premise.  If something big happened to our power grid or our society’s basic structure (that heavily relies on technology and electricity), who would be more adapted to handle that type of world? This title didn’t shy away from the dark side to people when faced with desperate situations and it didn’t have pat answers or solutions for tough things. This is a page turner with well-drawn relationships, fast paced action, and hard questions.  Older teens and up as it has violence and other disturbing images.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint (***) – I really enjoyed this story, well-written, good characters, and beautiful settings, urban Canada into an Otherworld. I love Mr. de Lint’s ability to create intriguing, mysterious settings, memorable characters, and amazing creatures. He did extremely well with creep. I want to give this five stars as it was close to perfection in what I love about the fantasy genre. My only hesitation has to do with my Christian faith as this is heavy on occultism in a way that really is hard to reconcile. I also really disliked heavy swearing. I can usually read something that isn’t to my taste and just throw out anything I don’t agree with, but I can’t recommend this book without reservation.

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals
by Dinah Fried (****) – This was a lot of fun. A combination of photo art and sentiments by Fried about memories of food in fiction she has read. I really enjoyed this and also found some new books and authors to check out. This was short and sweet, a nice break from all my long books and huge stacks. I heard about this book on a lovely podcast called Tea & Tattle.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling (***) – This was a beautifully written book about Maggie Black, a writer, who inherits her mentor’s home in Arizona. She finds herself drawn to and inspired by the harsh, yet beautiful landscape around her. A mystery surrounds the death of the poet who’s home she now calls her own. Heavy on spirit-ism, Native Peoples religious beliefs, and occultism, so I recommend with reservation.

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie, & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen (****) – I enjoyed this short, inspiring book on writing and exploring the fantasy genre. There was one chapter I warmly disagreed with, but it wasn’t anything horrible, it was just a preference of mine. Over all, I really enjoyed this.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (****) – This is one I’ve wanted to read for a long time and a few online friends read it in the month of May and discussed it here. I found it sad and multi-layered. After reading his The Buried Giant, I feel like I walked away from both of these, with more questions then answers. Stevens is a faithful butler who is out on a long-over due holiday, thinking back over his long career and who he is as a person. Thought-provoking. I’m sure I will get more out of this on subsequent readings.

The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening by Billy Collins (****) – I immensely enjoyed these two books of poetry. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed. 

The Holy Bible (*****) – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

On Fairy Tales and Fantasy

Wodwo or Wild Man of the Woods by Martin Schongauer 15th century engraving

Wodwo or “Wild Man of the Forest” by Martin Schongauer, 15th Century Engraving

“What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air?”

(beginning of the haunting poem “Wodwo” by Ted Hughes)

     What inspires and moves you? What makes you feel most alive? For me, I find inspiration in all of life, in the little details of the salad my daughter and I are tossing, or even in the way the light shines on our book shelves. I find beauty in my faith, in nature, and mostly, dear literature. My favorite fiction being fairy tales and fantasy. Something about these stories, echoes the faith I have that this world is not my real home. There is something waiting that is better and perfect. Now for clarity, I’m referring to older fairy tales, folktales, and the writings of fantasy giants like J.R.R. Tolkien and his buddy, Mr. Lewis. While fantasy, and all the sub-genres, are more readily available these days, and in some ways a bit more accepted as literature, I’m afraid I haven’t found much that I love and find value in, as I have from the classics. There seems to be a key ingredient missing in most modern fantasy, but what that is, I’m not sure I can pinpoint one main thing. I’ve been thinking about another small funny thing about my love of the fantastical. It has mainly been cultivated in my young adult and not-so-young adult years. That’s right. I’ve grown to love fairy tales and fantasy as an adult.  What may seem like a waste of time and an odd choice for an adult to be reading, has, in reality, been water to the parched soil of my imagination. Recently, I pulled off the shelf one of my most favorite books on family culture and home education, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasures With Books by Annis Duff. This book was published in 1944, but I find much of it strangely relevant for my life today. While Duff and I differ in our beliefs, I can pull out so many gems of glorious beauty.

In Chapter Fourteen, Mrs. Duff lays out a defense for fairy tales, and I found it fascinating. She is referring to the idea that many look upon the ideas in fairy tales or fantasy with what Anatole France described as, “looking upon the imagination with mistrust.”

Children do not as a rule make this mistake; they are not so rigidly habituated to the distinctions that grown-ups make between what is probable and possible and what is inconceivable and contrary to reason.  They still possess the faculty of imagination that makes room for miracles, perhaps because the marvelous novelty of the world and of living has not yet worn off. The trouble with grown-ups is that they take things too seriously. Where children read fairy tales-and they do read them-just for fun, grown-ups often tend to theorize about ethical, social and cultural values until all the juice is squeezed out.

I just love that last line. “Until all the juice is squeezed out”, indeed. As an adult, working backward through the mystery of fairy tales and fantasy, I’m finding a world in which I can make sense of life. I can untangle just a small fraction of the ugliness of reality in this world and partake of beauty not of this world. It makes sense to some inner sensibility in me as a part of the wonderful creation of God. It’s the stark, brutal, horrible world with its insane pace, unreasonable standards, and true falsity that seems strange to me.

Duff goes on to say the importance of truths about darkness seen at a slant in fairy tale:

It is not a particularly healthy thing for children to read about killing. Killing is not a healthy business. But it goes on just the same, and I think that reading about the matter-of-fact way that people have of disposing of their adversaries in fairy tales has perhaps helped to “condition” my daughter to withstand the shock of hearing and reading about the impassioned massacre that men indulge in nowadays. Children, after all, are a part of this world, and however little we and they like some aspects of it, it will not help to draw the veil over the unpleasant things. I know that with my own daughter there is no danger of developing a calloused point of view. Accepting a situation that you cannot do anything about for the moment is quite a different thing from absolving yourself of responsibility for the future, and it is possible that the knowledge that men from time immemorial have killed each other may be the basis of a practical method of discovering how to stop it. 

Fairy tales teach us about ourselves and others:

My impression is that people in fairy tales behave pretty much as people do in real life. Some live by high principles, some are given over to evil ways; some are kindly in disposition, others practice meanness and persecution. Some go adventuring, some stay at home…And in fairy tales each type, with the action that represents it, is brought to life objectively, emphatically and consistently. Fairy tales do not “condone” behavior that is contrary to ethical principle. They simple recognize the fact that it occurs.

Let’s read that again, because I love it so much.

Fairy tales do not “condone” behavior that is contrary to ethical principle. They simple recognize the fact that it occurs.

Duff goes on to talk about how the characters presented in fairy tales often give her daughter something to draw on, saying so-and-so is like a certain character, for good or for evil. This helps us to turn from that which we dislike and see as wrong and turn toward the good, beautiful, and true. Fantasy generally doesn’t tell us wrong from right, but shows us both sides, leaving us to choose, an important part of life.

Here she discusses, specifically the fairy tales of Hans Andersen, and I think it’s worth thinking about:

… the great beauty and enduring value of Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales is that they show life as it is, birth at the beginning and death at the end, and a whimsical mixture of laughter and tears in between. I do not understand why it should be thought right or necessary to shield a child from the knowledge that death is the inevitable, the logical, the adventurous end to living…This idea must grow by slow and comfortable degrees, and I know of few things that show the way more simple and sweetly than Hans Anderson’s stories. He does not twist things away from their natural direction in order to bring about a happy ending, and I think that children feel the dignity and tranquility of his rounded episodes. Tragedy, in Andersen’s tales, is never shocking; he is gentle and patient in teaching children that life does not always have a happy face, and his sense of proportion is so delicate that he never overburdens his readers with sadness. The persuasive feeling of quiet confidence and conviction of the rightness of things as they happen flows steadily through Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and I know it is helping out daughter to form her philosophy of acceptance of the naturalness and inevitability of death and sorrow. 

Not all fairy tales and fantasy are created equal, as I touched on earlier, especially, unfortunately, the modern genre. However, even in the classics, my children and I have found stories that were too grim for us. Ironically, some of these were from Grimm’s fairy tales. Some of it might find its origins in myth and folktale that is contrary to our faith. Yet, beauty can be found everywhere. I might argue that true beauty is all from the same Source, no matter the conduit that it comes through. We use discernment, but we also don’t live by fear. All of it, everything we partake of, we hold lightly, snapping up the good, and setting aside what doesn’t resonate with us. As Duff says, the ideas in literature “must grow by slow and comfortable degrees”, and I can’t agree more.

What are you inspired by? Do you enjoy fairy tales and the fantasy genres in literature?

~

April Reads

Vilma Reading on a sofa_ by Frantisek Tavik Simon (Czech 1877-1942)

“Vilma Reading on a sofa” by Frantisek Tavik Simon (Czech 1877-1942)

I was able to read some lighter fiction this month and finish some of the ones I’ve been dipping into for awhile now. The weather is turning glorious, so one must push oneself off of one’s backside and out of doors. 😉 I’m still plugging away at my selections for the Back to Classics reading community, but haven’t finished any more of them. I’ve been dipping into more Children’s and YA literature and I always fall back in love with it. Recently, I finally read a Moomin tale and found in charming. Do you enjoy Children’s or YA for yourself? WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE SUBJECTED TO A VERY TALL PILE OF BOOKS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (***) – I tend to rate books immediately upon completion very emotionally. I initially rated this a bit higher, but bumped it down a bit after I thought on it awhile. I’m not sure why I do this. This was silly and eye-rolling fun. I enjoyed the creativity of this story very much! It had a predictable plot, swearing, wonderfully wonky puns, and some ridiculous cliches, but the truth is, I just want to escape through a Prose Portal and visit with Jane and Mr. Rochester. The End.

Wodwo by Ted Hughes (****) – This is a collection of poems, short stories, and one play. It was weirdly wonderful. Hughes use of words is beautiful and he paints beautiful word pictures. I didn’t always understand the themes or subject of the pieces, but overall, I was enchanted by his word wizardry. My favorite poem of all, and one I’m super inspired by, is the title poem, “Wodwo”. I actually heard of this mythical creature from Robert MacFarlane’s Instagram account and googled the term. I was intrigued and chased it down, finding this book by Hughes.

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver (***) – There were parts of this that just made my soul sing. I especially loved the opening essay, “Upstream”, and there were words and thoughts and phrases that were just so beautiful. The rest was just ok and a bit strange and rambly. I really should reread and jot down words and phrases for future contemplation.

Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason (***) – This was an inspirational thriller with a side of mystery and romance. This title was intriguing and fast paced. I suspect that there are many others in this series or previous books that introduced the family of law enforcement officials, because I felt a little confused about details about the main characters, like it was assumed I knew about them a bit already. Over all, very well done, the villain/mystery was well-hidden and the romance not too bad on the cheese-o-meter.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – This has taken me months to get through because it was heart-wrenching in many ways. Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it. This is an achingly beautiful account of The Belgian Congo and a family torn up by Pharisaical religiosity, racism, sexism, and as many other “isms” that Kingsolver could think of and fit into this book. This is the first book that made me cry in a long time and I will never forget it. Even though I strongly believe the author made sweeping, prejudiced (ironically, the very thing she eloquently rails about in this book) blanket judgments of things she abhors (or at least seems to based on this novel), there is SO much to appreciate about this and pull away from it. Highly recommend if you can read it with a grain of salt and a willingness to look at yourself, shaking off deeply ingrained things that aren’t right.

Hourglass: Time, Memory, and Marriage by Dani Shapiro (*****) – If you remember last month, I finished another of this author’s titles, Still Life: Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life, and thought to try another soon. This was a short and easy stroll. Just subtle and lovely look at how fast time flies and longevity in marriage (ironically, this is the author’s third marriage, BUT I want to believe the best about people, right?! Marriage is hard, but that’s what can make it good). It was poignant and it made me think.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (**) – This was another Instagram FAIL. I was so disappointed after a promising beginning. Longer review here if you are interested, but slight spoiler alerts.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (*****) – SLIGHT SPOILER! The daily workings of a telecommunications company may not sound fascinating, but oh wow, they are when you have Willis writing about them. The new craze is a medical implant supposedly to increase your emotional connection to your partner. Briddley, a young employee, is thrilled and astonished by the attention lavished on her by one of her bosses Trent, and now he wants to get this implant with her! The weird tech department guy won’t stop warning her about the dangers of this procedure, and her big crazy Irish family won’t leave her alone.  Continued review here!

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende (***) – (GRAPHIC CONTENT IN THIS BOOK – READ COMPLETE REVIEW BEFORE READING!) I have a bit of a book “hangover” from this title. Brutal and honest look at life during the colonization of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and the Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) by the French and Spanish. This follows the life of a young slave Tete and her masters and the people she encounters in her life from her mother’s origins in Africa, enslaved to Haiti, ending up in Louisiana. It touches on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the Haitian Revolution.  Continued review here! 

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a beautifully written inspirational historic romance. Three different women’s stories carefully woven through the generations of the countryside of France. It takes you through the French Revolution, WWII, and modern day with ease and fluidity. The romance was SO well done, tasteful and slow, I’m so happy to find an Christian author like this. I can’t wait to read more from Cambron. This title reminded me a bit of Kate Morton’s style. The ONE thing I didn’t like was there were a few “neat” bows-tied up, but I’ll forgive it, because I really enjoyed it.

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises from Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (*****) – I think that title says it all. No need for a review. Ha. This was simple, straightforward, and I loved learning about what it takes to craft fiction. Wowsers. Go shake an author’s hand, will you, please? This is a great resource, wonderful for revisiting parts over and over again, and I’m sure I will, as I continue to learn and grow.

Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson (*****) – This was absolutely charming story of a little family of critters searching for their loved ones and forever home. They meet a whole bunch of fascinating friends on their journey. Gorgeous, whimsical illustrations with just the right amount of creep.  I want to move into Moominvalley with them!

Yonder by Margaret Bell Houston (*****) – My dear friend gave me a copy of this book this past weekend and I gobbled it up. Written BEAUTIFULLY and with such a wonderful blend of mystery, romance, and creepiness. A young woman Olive lives through a horrible tragedy and needs to begin again. She ends up as a companion to a young woman suffering from acute mental illness brought on by a sudden horrific event in her life. She lives in a castle on an island in the Florida keys filled with old, hidden memories, creepy handicap sister, and old, withered father. A mysterious servant Ezra is always in the shadows, as Olive tries to help the beautiful Zoé, the atmosphere and place creeps into her being. Olive finds herself healing and growing through the most unlikely friendships. This is full of lovely atmospheric bits, delicious haunts, and old pirate ghosts floating through the halls. I could feel the salt spray on my face and taste it all. I dug around a bit I found out the author is the granddaughter of Sam Houston, of Houston, Texas fame. Interesting!

The Holy Bible (*****) – working slowly through Proverbs, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John.

~

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, dear Elizabeth Goudge!

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Can I introduce you to a dear friend of mine? Elizabeth Goudge. A gorgeous writer who has touched me profoundly. She is in my top five favorite authors.  Someone who you cannot read quickly, you must simmer and savor. Today I celebrate her birthday and like to think of her with a glimpse of the English countryside outside her window, pen scratching the paper, sipping tea, creating unforgettable stories for us to enjoy. They are sweeping, deep, with many layers, and you can reread them over and over and take away something entirely new each time. My favorites are A City of Bells, A Dean’s Watch, and A Pilgrim’s Inn (formally, Herb of Grace, which I like better). Have you read any of her books? Join me today in remembering Miss Goudge! Many happy returns!

~

February Reads

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Happy March 1st! My area still has a bit of winter left, but March always brings a gentle promise of the green to come. February was a busier month for me, so I didn’t finish as much. I think I have heavier books on my stack genre and topic wise. What did you finish? I’d love to hear!

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman (***) – This is the fourth book in The Invisible Library series.  I’m a speculative genre fan and I’ve just recently learned that there is a lot that falls under this heading, depending on who you ask. Sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, magic realism, and so on. I love the fantastical world Cogman has created with the Librarian’s and library being a portal to other worlds to collect rare books to keep the worlds “in balance”. The dragons and fae are intriguing and mysterious. This title was slower, more conversation between Irene, Kai, and Evariste, another Librarian. A dragon throne comes up empty after a mysterious murder and dragon factions are wanting to fill the coveted position. Irene must keep neutral while searching for a rogue Librarian who may have crossed professional lines. Irene is finding neutrality increasingly hard with her assistant Kai, as he is a dragon himself. Vale, the mysterious human police detective wasn’t really in this title, which was strange, as he has played big roles in the previous other three titles. The romantic tension between Kai and Irene, picked up, especially in Irene’s head. Cogman did a really good job of that tension, although it’s been dragging along in the same fashion and I’m sick of the snide “get you into bed comments” from Kai. Overall, I found this to be an entertaining, fun read. I think there is to be a fifth book in this series and I’m looking forward to seeing how Cogman ties everything up. Are you a speculative fiction reader? I know it might seem odd since I write memoir and poetry mostly here, but in fiction I like strange escapism generally.

Stillmeadow Sampler by Gladys Taber (*****) – This title I’ve been reading for about a year and a half. She split this memoir into four parts following the seasons and I read it slowly, making myself read only in what season I currently was in. So with a few months of setting it aside, it took me awhile. Gladys did not disappoint. I found this last bit of reading through the winter chapters of life on her Stillmeadow farm, housework, neighbors, reflections on nature to be charming, meditative, and just beautiful. Taber is one of my five favorite all time writers. I’m still chuckling to myself, because she is pretty much the POLAR OPPOSITE of the above fiction title I read.

The Market Square by Miss Read (*****) – Another of my favorite genres is British family-ish type fiction. Miss Read is the master of beautiful settings and lovely characters that you come to love and care about. Sometimes not much happens, but you still keep reading anyway. This title was a bit different from her Thrush Green and Fairacre series in that it was a bit more sad and darker than those. Two friends grow up together and their families are inseparable until a change in the economy forces a wedge. Misunderstandings, class, race, morality, the World Wars, all test the true friendship between these two men as their lives move on. This was slow start for me and it took me awhile to get into it, but once I did, I loved it. So much to think on and consider and I won’t forget this story! I think this might be a series, but I haven’t checked into it yet.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart (***) – I have mixed feelings about this title. Jake Palmer has it all on the surface, until a freak accident, leaves him burned from the waist down. His wife leaves him and he has to face his demons. Through a series of events, he ends up follow a legend about a portal that will heal and give you your wildest dreams. I found this title intriguing, the writing beautiful, and it did make me think. However, there was just something about it that struck me weird or forced. This was written for the Christian market and it made me think sort of a retelling of Jacob wrestling with God mixed with a magic realism approach.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (*****) – I absolutely loved this book about a bus ride between Heaven and Hell and the conversations between “Ghosts” and “Beings”. I found it just lovely and amusing that George MacDonald was Mr. Lewis’s Being. The theology and thoughts were thought-provoking, challenging, and absolutely beautiful.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and continuing to dip in and out of the Psalms.

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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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The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, and More Favorites from my 2017 Reading Year ~

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Reading is a vast ocean of beauty, ugliness, and everything in-between. Ideas swish and swirl, changing the shape of our hearts, giving us compassion and understanding, softening our rocky edges. We are continually filled and emptied as we read. A humility, a refreshment, and a cleansing.

I had a wonderful year of reading, I’m so grateful for the beauty of being at home with my children, all reading together, and the time I’m given to share with many great minds through the pages of books. I tried my best to narrow my list down to those that I really stood out to me and that I’m still thinking about, forgive me for so many. I didn’t include The Holy Bible, books read with my children, Charlotte Mason educational volumes, and so many others, you can look under Year in Books, if you enjoy digging through book lists as much as I do.  I broke it into categories so you can skim to those you might be interested in.

Favorite Book of the Year:

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“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transported to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Writing/Author Memoir:

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper  – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Continued here.

Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo,NY, WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. Continued here.

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury –  I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year, instead of writing, imagine that. Ha. Sad truth. This was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive, I think is my word for him. I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words. Long live logophiles.

Memoir:

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane – This is such a hard book to describe. I loved it! About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. Continued here. 

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through all of Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connecting with the people who lived and died here. Continued here.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (poetry-memoir mix) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Visit her here.

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The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – I just loved, loved this! The author’s conversations with herself and stream of consciousness type writing. It was all so real. I could picture myself saying and thinking some of the exact same things. The beginning is a bit slow, but then the beautiful last half as she goes through IVF and adopting from China. Wow. One of my favorite memoirs in a long time. 

O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare by Niall Williams and Christine Breen  – This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. Continued here. 

Education & Parenting:

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (YA fiction, but falls under this heading for me as it was about dyslexia) – I absolutely loved this book, I cried at times. This follows the life of Ally, a sixth-grader, who has dyslexia, and doesn’t know it. The author clearly shares some of her own life experiences through the thoughts and feelings of this young girl who believes she is stupid. It shares how one person valuing another as a person can change the course of their whole life.

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Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield – I so enjoyed this collection of essays that further helped illuminate and illustrate Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition. I especially enjoyed the color prints of the fresco and Ruskin’s thoughts on them in such a nice convenient form.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt – Firstly, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. I really enjoyed this memoir!

Fiction:

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute – This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. My second favorite book of the year!

A Far Country  by Nevil Shute – Beautiful!  I really enjoy Mr. Shute!

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – his book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood. I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Wow. Hardy is definitely not cheery reading, but somehow you forgive him because of beauty of his writing. I love the title, it means more than what’s on the surface, of course. Mr. Henchard is a character you find yourself alternating between frustration, dislike and pity. Continued here

Buried Giant by  Kazuo Ishiguro – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into it. For me this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. Continued here.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – I adored this title. (It ended up being my favorite of the trilogy.) Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. Continued here.

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Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. Continued here. 

Difficult Books that I’m Glad I Read:

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan – Wow! This book was the longest I read this year. It was crazy, upside down, and inside out, but totally tugged at my heart strings. I came to care about many of the characters living in the Gray House even the hard-to-love ones. Continued here.

Silence by Shusaku Endo – I’m STILL thinking about this title.  I don’t think I totally understood it for some reason. 

 

Children’s Classics I Read to Myself:

Dobry by Monica Shannon – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. Continued here.

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. Continued here.

Alright, regrettably, one has to stop SOMEWHERE. Ha. There are many others I read this year that I thoroughly enjoyed, including many rereads of favorites, but I think these are the ones that I keep thinking about.  If you made it this far through my list, bravo! A couple of goals I have for the new year are to read these 12 books on this list, read more modern books, especially memoir, and work on quality choices and finishing things. How ’bout you? What was your favorite read from 2017 and what do you want to read more of next year?

And if this isn’t enough reading goodness for you, here is a lovely bookish place to visit.

Here’s to a new year of great books!

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December Reads

 

Happy Fourth Day of Christmas! We are getting snow currently, a beautiful curtain of white, and my feeders are full and hopping with feathered friends. We are finishing up some last minute gifts for our final Christmas gatherings of the year coming up this weekend, sipping hot drinks, and watching Narnia movies. Sigh. I thought I would share what I finished reading in December a few days early so I can work on one of my beloved posts, my favorite books of the year.

1. Many a Green Isle by Agnes Sligh Turnbull (*****) – I just loved the main character so much. Gavin McAllister is an English professor at a small town college and has a beautiful home with his wife and four children. Life is going smoothly, maybe too smoothly. A series of serious and life-altering events happen, shaking him to the core and challenging his old-fashioned values. This is set in small town America before the Vietnam War, the relationships between the characters are deep, meaningful, and beautiful. I came to care about these people and couldn’t put this book down. I found this book so refreshing in it’s tackling of hard issues with love and grace. Perhaps a bit too idyllic or sweet for some, I LOVED this look at a strong man who cares for his family and his neighbors with all of his being. Internally and privately, he deals with his thoughts, frustrations, and own faults, yet makes choices based on love. There are definitely some bows tied neatly in this story, and maybe some convenient answers, but my heart said, “YES” to the beauty of character throughout. Now to live this way myself. I also read The King’s Orchard by Turnbull way back in January and loved it so much, you can read my review here.

2. The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton (***) I found this Christian fiction title interesting and well-written. It was, however, a predictable look at early American revolutionary times in New England.

3. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (****) – 3.5 stars. I loved the pace of this book (calm and meandering) and it’s Austen-drenched dialogue – the mental illness seemed a little far-fetched and the romance had some cheesy-ness . I loved the engineering aspect and the protagonist’s relationship with her father. Overall, a fun read if you like fan fiction-ish stuff.

4. Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates (*****) – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo, NY, then WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. This follows her determination and grit to go out on her own when the pressure was super heavy from her family and naysayers not to follow her dream of writing. It goes on sharing about her long and sort of strange relationship with her future husband, Bill. Her loneliness at times and her love of animals helping assuage some of that loneliness. Her extensive travels and meeting so many interesting people. Her long standing friendship and working partnership with illustrator Nora Unwin was so heart-warming and fascinating. Her love of England and her experience of living there with Bill up until WWII. Bill’s blindness enters at the end, which can be read about more in depth in another of her fascinating books called The Lighted Heart. I found her search for her faith interesting and at times sad. Her persistence and dogged determination as she kept on writing and submitting through every rejection. I highly recommended this collection of diary entries!

5. The Midnight Folk by John Masefied (*****) – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. This story follows the little boy Kay searching for a lost treasure rumored to be about and all the magical creatures that appear at night also in search of the treasure. This has a way about it that actually might make it a *wee* bit hard to read aloud, one has to pay close attention, but those that do are richly rewarded by lovely details. I can’t wait to read the second soon.

6. Dobry by Monica Shannon (*****) – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. They bake and farm for a living, yet Dobry has an artist’s eye and a bent for noticing beauty in the ordinary. This book is very slow moving (which I loved, but some might dislike), following the agricultural seasons, traditions, a mix of religious, folk lore, and beliefs drive the whole community. There is very little plot to this book, just a general look at their day to day lives, and a gradual realization the Dobry is meant to be an artist. I loved it. Very unique, sparse-like illustrations.

7. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (****) 3.5 stars – This is a modern title that I picked up after a lot of buzz.  Longer review here.

8. Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury (*****) – I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year and this was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive is my word for him, I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words.

9. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) This was a reread for me and I loved it more if possible. I found so many beautiful quotes and poems to put down in my commonplace. So many things can be applied to this journey of life and battle between good and evil. I’m especially drawn this time to Aragorn’s character and also, as always, Gandalf. I also paid very close attention to the map of Middle Earth and am starting to get more of a picture in my mind of these unforgettable character’s travels.

The Holy Bible (*****) –  Mark, Luke, and John, and some of Psalms

If you want to look through my monthly books posts, take a peek at my Year in Books! I will be back soon with my Best of 2017!

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My Classic Book Selections

Back to the Classics 2018

Yesterday, I mentioned a rewarding goal of reading 12 classics next year. I’ve made my tentative list, following Karen’s categories outlined at her blog, whilst digging through my shelves. You can click on the photo above for more particulars. I’m excited about this list and looking forward to the challenge. I know I’ll read other stuff also, but will need to begin a few of these right away to give myself enough time to digest and savor. Mostly, Les Misérables because of the sheer size of it. I’m not very good at finishing long novels and this one is immense. I’m really anticipating it , as I’ve long desired to experience this classic. My copy of Larkrise to Candleford is huge also, because it’s really three books in one, but I’m going to attempt the whole thing. Without further ado, here is my 2018 goal:

19th Century Classic – Adam Bede by George Elliot*

20th Century Classic –  Larkrise to Candleford: A Trilogy by Flora Thompson*

A Classic by a Woman Author – The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp*

A Classic in Translation – The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

A Children’s Classic – The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf* 

A Classic Crime Story, fiction or non-fiction – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie*

A Classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction – Seven League Boots by Richard Halliburton*

A Classic with a single-word title – Mother by Kathleen Norris*

A classic with a color in the title – The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury

A classic by an author that’s new to you – East of Eden by John Steinbeck*

A classic that scares you – Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Re-read a favorite classic – Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien* and/or Mansfield Park by Jane Austen*

 

*Asterisk denotes those that I already have on my shelf.

Have you read any of these? Which of these intrigues you?

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