Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

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

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

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

General Fiction

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

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign house guest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

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

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty.

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

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

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

December Reads

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Here’s what I finished in December!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (***) – Beautifully written and so disturbing to me. I have intense feelings on all the questions and ideas this book raises. I can’t wait to go through this with my teen and discuss. I will say having learned a little about Mary Shelley beforehand helped me approach this book. I’m glad I didn’t go into it completely blind about the author’s background.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Very fun!!! It took me a bit to get into it, but then I really enjoyed it. Wizard Howl shows up in a hilarious disguise in this unique adventure. In some ways, I liked this one better then Howl’s Moving Castle.

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Amazing and very weird. I’m going to be thinking on this one for awhile! This was a modern retelling of a few myths/ancient stories all melded together. This definitely isn’t for everyone, but I found it interesting.

The Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber (****) – This one took me a long time, but full of gems one comes to expect by a friend like Gladys. A sad overtone to some of this title as her longtime friend, Jill dies, and she flounders about a bit. Her dogs are a big part of her life, which sometimes seems out of proportion to reality. But I suspect it’s just me, as I have many children to care for, so the excessive care of dogs seems overwhelming to me. Ha! A few of my favorite quotes from this one:

“Perhaps maturity is realizing this childish self but not letting it dominate situations. Or perhaps it lies in accepting life as it is without rebellion…There is only today and what we make of it. We may still be happy, in one sense of the word, but we do not look for perfection ever after. The other side of this coin, is that we value more what happiness we may have instead of dreaming ahead for the ultimate.” p. 216

“But since we have just so much time allotted us, some of it should be spent in reflecting, and some in pursuits which have nothing to do with our daily lives, such as enriching our spirits with music, nourishing our minds with literature, enlarging our horizons by looking at great paintings. Because life isn’t a business, it is a precious gift.” p. 200

“Faith runs like a golden thread through our lives.” p. 204

I love how the Stillmeadow books are set up by months. Ideally, I’d love to read these and recommend taking these titles over a year, a month at a time. I have a new-to-me one for 2020!

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Acts, and Romans.

{What a great year of reading! I have many half finished and unfinished reads, but overall, really enjoyed my pages this year. Having a new baby this year definitely slowed me down a bit, which is a good thing, I think, and I did read a lot of middle grade which is my favorite for relaxing.  I completed quite a few on this list of books on my shelf I was hoping to get to, but not all of them. I will hopefully be back NEXT week with my plan for 2020! I have some ideas to streamline my reading and to help me with my toppling TBR.}

How was your reading year?

~

November Reads

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This is what I finished in November from my reading stack…did you read anything great?

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Adoring the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson (***) – My favorite part of this was how well Mr. Peterson conveyed the sheer insecurity and terror an artist can feel about their work. And how it’s tied to our personhood. I also loved the pops of humor. Overall, a quick, inspiring read. I enjoyed this author’s middle grade fantasy series, The Wingfeather Saga.

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R Tolkien (*****) – I read and perused this from library! Definitely want to add it to our Christmas collection. The time Mr.Tolkien spent and the faithfulness of these is an inspiration to me as a mother. Just so lovely!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (**) – 2.5 – 3 stars – This is a magic realism fiction title from the author of The Night Circus. If you like the idea of Alice & Wonderland for adults, you may? like this one.  I have a LONG review here, if you are interested.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Psalms, started Proverbs, and reading Acts

Happy Reading!

~

 

October Reads

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This is what I finished reading in October! I definitely start reading my favorite genre when our homeschool begins, because it’s so fun and it tends to be lighter for my tired brain! Middle Grade! ❤ How ’bout you? What do you read when you are mentally tired? Do you enjoy Middle Grade? 🙂

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (****) – This was a lovely account of a young girl growing up in the aftermath of desegregation in the 60’s/70’s. Things are not easy and Woodson does an amazing job sharing her life through a collection of chronological, non-rhyming poems. I really loved this more than I thought I would.  I found her feelings as a young girl and creative rang true. She didn’t sugarcoat what she was feeling. It made me think and feel.

Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders (**) – DNF – 2.5 stars for what I did read. There were SO many little lines of beauty in this book. Unfortunately, the author’s gorgeous writing was lost in his harsh, preachy tone. Even though, he and I may not agree on some of his blanket judgments, I was willing to hear him out and appreciate his perspective as a writer living and working in the Midwest USA. However, the deeper I got into the book, the more I found he whined, blamed, and contradicted himself. I haven’t read a book recently where I’ve loved the WAY the writer writes simultaneously being super irritated by some of what he was writing. It’s a very strange feeling. He needs balance and clarity to this message. He comes across hypocritical because he’s calling for change and willingness to work with others while clearly very prejudiced against views that aren’t his own or down-grading into stereotyping. Disappointing.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (*****) – My daughter had read this and thought it was “meh” and I had set it aside due to her recommendation. I was looking for something light and picked it up. I really loved Barnhill’s writing and this was a creative MG fantasy read. A mysterious, dark tradition hovers over a little village. The youngest baby of the village must be left in the woods to appease the evil witch.  But things are not what they seem and the evil may be nearer than they think! The ending was a bit convoluted and rushed, but overall, I really loved this because it was so beautifully written, maybe not so much for the plot.

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) – This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

The Crooked Sixpence by  Jennifer Bell (****) – Another fun Middle Grade fantasy about two children who find out a secret about their family after their beloved grandmother falls ill. They are Uncommoners who can use everyday objects magically! Magic rolling pin, anyone? I tried the second in this series and wasn’t able to finish it before it was due back to the library, so maybe this first book was enough for me. But I may return to this series!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (***) – I loved how the author KNEW children and how they act and behave. It was so realistic. I loved the relationship of the family and siblings with the neighbors. Just so lovely. The plot was a little thin, but overall, this was really sweet.

Studying to Be Quiet: One Hundred Days of Keeping by Laurie Bestvater (****) – I knew this author from another book of hers on Charlotte Mason journals, so I bought it without really knowing what it was. I received it and opened it thinking that it was just a book of favorite quotes of hers. Then I read the foreword/preface/afterword in one sitting. Wow! A lovely invitation to quiet ourselves in a journaling practice for 100 days. While I didn’t do it perfectly, it ended up being a lovely way of working through my last months of pregnancy and my post-partum haze. I actually journaled RIGHT in this book, using the wide, white margin for my own quotes, thoughts, and meditations. I recommend!

Sarah’s Unicorn by Bruce and Katherine Coville (*****) – This was a lovely picture book I read after I picked it up from a thrift store for my 7 yo because I recognized the author. A young girl finds her beloved aunt under a spell, changing her into a nasty witch who treats her cruelly. She finds solace and animal friends in the woods, leading to a chance for revenge. Will she take it?

Goody Hall by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Another Middle Grade read that I really enjoyed! Swoon! Natalie Babbitt hasn’t disappointed me so far! Willet Goody is getting a new tutor and his name is Hercules Feltwright, who’s former occupation may have been an actor. Somethings not right at Goody Hall and Willet and Hercules are determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. (FYI: there is a seance in this title, which may be frightening to some children.)

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (****) – This slightly frightening title is the folktale of the creepy Baba Yaga, creatively reimagined by Anderson. My favorite part of this story was the walking house and it’s protective feelings towards it’s inhabitants. An interesting, darker tale of friendship, coming of age, and loyalty.

The Holy Bible (*****)- enjoying Psalms and John

What a lovely month of children’s literature! 🙂

~

 

 

September Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

August Reads

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Here’s what I finished reading and fed on in August. What fed your mind last month? Anything tasty?

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – I loved the creepy atmosphere of this dual-timeline story, although maybe a bit too many scary stereotypical themes in one book. Ghosts, asylums, cemeteries, and murders, etc. The character genealogies were a bit hard to follow through the two story lines. Overall, this was a page-turner, and I enjoyed it.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

Celtic Daily Prayer by Northumbria Community (****) – The daily devotions in the second half of this book are full of little gems. I’ve been dipping in and out of this book for a couple of years. It’s time to set aside for others, but I really, really love this and will return to it. It is definitely a book you just keep reading bits and pieces of, not meant to be read straight through, a beautiful one for picking up and using in your prayer and devotional life.

Sailing to Cythera: And Other Anatole Stories by Nancy Willard (****) – This was a reread for me in one afternoon. Anatole’s quirky grandmother’s house full of treasures turns into magical adventure. Very fun and so unbelievably real feeling despite being amazingly imaginative.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate -Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (****) – A whole different way of looking at trees! Wohlleben anthropomorphizes trees in an intriguing and engaging way, bringing to life what is going on inside the bark and beneath the earth. Occasionally, this book seemed a “little” over-the-top and redundant, but over all, I really enjoyed it and I feel it will further enhance my love and enjoyment of these beautiful parts of our natural world. May have my oldest read it as a nature/science title for school.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (****) – This is not my usual fare and I’m so glad I tried this title. I have never read a book on habits that was such a page turner! I finished this pretty quickly and walked away with some lovely ideas and helpful tips. I tend to be all or nothing, also known as impatient (ha!), so I needed to force myself to just take a few things to try right away, instead of making myself crazy with too much, and just quitting because of being overwhelmed.  If that makes sense. I love how he breaks down everything to identity and it’s the inner changes that matter more than an outer veneer. He really emphasizes that it’s the small changes made consistently throughout our lives that we need to focus on, not the big goal that we want to achieve. Focusing on writing a little bit everyday instead of writing a novel. The goals will take care of themselves if we stay focused on the little daily habits. I also loved the idea of hooking a new habit with an already existing thing you do in your life. That’s helpful to me. I commonplaced pages of quotes from this one and will be revisiting them often! I’m slowly narrowing down some areas in my life that need habit cultivation and it’s been eye-opening and refreshing to start small and manageable. I recommend this book and am so glad I heard of it from a friend and mentor, Nancy.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I finally finished my reread of this again. I started blogging through this favorite eons 😉 ago and never finished that. For that, I’m sorry, reading in the midst of life is often like that. But oh, my heart. Such a lovely visit with Anne, Marilla, and Matthew. Sigh.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie (***) – I forgot that I read this already! Ha. This was encouraging and a lovely reminder. I especially loved her admonishment to be present in each thing you’re doing, sort of debunking the idea that multitasking is good.

House of Secrets by Chris Columbus (**) – This COULD have been a fun concept, but so dark and grotesque. I found it disturbing, especially for children. I was so disappointed, because the description of this one and the others in the series sounded exciting and mysterious.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Mark and Luke

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July Reads

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Hello, Friends ~ a list of what I finished last month! How was your July reading stack? 🙂 I had some lovely reading…

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (*****) – My friend mentioned she was reading this with her children this summer and I just had to reread it too after hearing the beautiful things she was taking away. It did not disappoint. Such a simple story, but so very deep beneath the surface. I saved a few commonplace quotes for contemplation and I underlined my poor book excessively!

The Little Grey Men: A Story for the Young at Heart by B.B. (*****) – I just adore this book about the adventures of three gnomes in the gorgeously-described countryside of Britain. They in fact, could be the last gnomes left in the whole of Britain. They are searching for their brother who left to seek the source of Folly Stream that they reside near. Along the way they meet many friends and have an amazing discovery of a lovely ship to further aid them in their search. One caveat, there is one sort of strange section, just FYI, if you read with children, a giant is killed by the pagan god Pan.

The Left-Handed Story: Writing and the Writer’s Life by Nancy Willard (****) – I really enjoy Nancy Willard’s writing for children and this was an inspiring bunch of vignettes about the writing life.

Madame Chic Series by Jennifer L. Scott (****) – An Instagram friend recommended Jennifer’s Youtube channel to me and it was just the right thing for me at the right time. She is so challenging and encouraging to me as a homemaker and woman. I’m in a bit of slump coming off of pregnancy and just the post-partum season. So I checked out her trilogy of books from the library. Mrs. Scott lived in Paris for 6 months while in college, learning many helpful and inspiring things from her host family and specifically, her host mother, whom she has dubbed Madame Chic. I found her books a lovely extension of her Youtube channel. My favorite was Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. I ended up skimming the other two in the series, as I felt some of it was a bit redundant or common sense to me, but I really am loving her vlogs when I get a chance to watch them. This one recently was so soothing to me for some reason. 

Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) Beautiful! Honest & real! I love that Goudge doesn’t shy away from problems that can happen in marriage. I really enjoyed this book and I feel like I can’t do it justice in a review. Here is a review that I loved! I had this book on my list for the year, so that is nice to scratch it off.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (***) – This was a well-written fantasy spinoff of Rumpelstiltskin with some twists. It was interesting, but I really couldn’t love any of the characters, even though they were well-written, I can’t put my finger on it, maybe just never really felt like there was a truly GOOD or noble person in the bunch. I’m not talking perfection, just goodness. That made me feel distant from the story like I was craving someone to root for. Overall, very creative!

The Holy Bible (*****) – I read Matthew and dove in Mark a bit. I’m constantly amazed at Jesus’ compassion. ❤

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June Reads

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Hello, friends! Here is what I finished in June! A month of light, fluffy reading while I nursed my baby.

Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst (****) – I found this at my local library while looking for something light to read. I was intrigued by a mystery series set in Wisconsin!  Ernst is a historian and that’s what makes her stories shine. This first one is set at Old World Wisconsin, a living history museum. The mystery was a little too easy to figure out, but I found it overall interesting. I then ended up getting four more of these out of the ten in the series, accidentally reading them out of order. The story line got a bit redundant and I did read them more for the history of my home state. The light romance was ok, but the main protagonist, Chloe’s excessive preachy tone about feminism got annoying and the characters values were questionable. I’d say this first one is the best and the other four were just 2-3 star reads. I probably won’t finish the series.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (***) – Another I pulled off the shelves of my local library. This is the first book in a series that the Jason Bourne spy movies are based on. It was just ok, again a good light, fast paced read for nursing sessions. I won’t be reading anymore in this series, though. One was enough. 😉

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

Fuel by Naomi Shihab Nye (****) – an interesting collection of very observant poems by a Palestinian American poet. I enjoyed these for the most part, a few being very vague or politicized.

The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon (****) – This book took me TWO YEARS to finish. It’s a collection of lovely short stories for children and I found it quietly lovely. Beautiful sentiments and subtle lessons throughout the many stories. To be honest, though, my most favorite part of the book was the afterword where another author shares about a visit to Farjeon’s home and an interview with her.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (****) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (*****) by J.K. Rowling – I finally finished up my HP rereads and these are my favorites of the series. Definitely darker and disturbing, but full of redemption and love shown by Harry, his friends, and associates. I don’t think these books are of the same literary merit of the great classics, but the unique storyline and redemptive themes are fascinating.

In the Region of the Summer Stars (***) and In the Land of the Everliving (****) by Stephen R. Lawhead – I purchased these first two books in Lawhead’s new series for my oldest as a gift and she asked me to read them with her. The first was just ok and I was hesitant about the second but I found it much more fast-paced and intriguing! These stories are based in Eirlandia ( supposedly early Ireland, I believe) and a savage tribe is ravaging the land. Conor is the eldest son of a Celtic king, but a birthmark on his face casts a superstitious shadow over him, denying him claim to the throne. Conor finds himself in a strange position, trying to prove himself and unite the fighting clans against their common enemy. Fairies and strange beast-like enemies will make this an intriguing read for fantasy fans.

The Box of Delights: When the Wolves were Running by John Masefield (****) -A few years ago, I read the first, The Midnight Folk, in this series, and I loved it SO very much. I finally got around to reading the second. This was such a weird book! It’s Christmas and a mysterious traveling magician is making the rounds in the neighborhood. Kay Harker is entrusted with a strange little box the magician gives to him for protection and it turns out to be a magical time machine! Kay finds himself in the middle of a dangerous game of keep away from a whole gang of villainous henchmen.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Mark, Luke, and John. Beginning the Gospels again.

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May Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April Reads

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(poem in photo by Mary Oliver)

Better late than never. Here is what I finished last month, waiting for my baby. He was eight days “overdue”.  What have you enjoyed reading recently?

The Mad Farmer Poems by Wendell Berry (*****) – I loved this short collection of poems. I especially loved “Satisfactions of a Mad Farmer”. I used it in my nature journal for my spring and summer sketches.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Writer and a Mother by Lisa Garrigues (*****) – beautiful exercises and essays on writing and motherhood. I hope to go through this again and do some of them. The beginning part is for very new writers, but it gets deeper in the second half.

Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher (***) – Confession time: I have never eaten oysters. Ha. This book did nothing to induce me to either. My husband tried them in P.E.I, Canada as well as mussels and he enjoyed them. This was lovely writing, but I just feel grossed out by oysters. I know it’s unfair judgment since I’ve never eaten any!

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty. I really enjoyed this children’s classic.

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

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March Reads

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{a nature journal entry from January- the children and I enjoy doing these together!}

Hello Book Friends! What did you end up reading in March? This is what I finished in March, busy month, I’m slowing down physically, as I’m due with another child soon. I started many fantastic books and hopefully, I’ll be able to finish some of those.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson (****) – I love digging into the minds of authors and this book was wonderful for that. This is a collection of essays on life, reading, and writing by the author of the delightful Bridge to Terabithia, among many other things. I had to read it slowly, but it was fantastic and I jotted down many quotes in my commonplace.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Matthew, Mark, a little bit of the Psalms. So lovely to just keep rereading over Jesus’ life. I’m really blessed by this practice!

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February Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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