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.

~

Back Here Again

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I flicked on the faucet, filling my coffee pot. There at the bottom of the sink, a common cricket surprised me, a delightful friend to great the wee hours of the morn with. A weariness stole over me, yet I felt good about the fact that it was Friday and we’d made it. A full week of back to (home)school and it was lovely. Yes, of course, a favorite coffee mug was broken, paint got on the kitchen table, laundry did not get done, wrongs to wrangle and mend, and there were a few tears shed (not just by me, either).  But oh, the joy of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry read, intriguing mix of Greek myth, Christianity, and her ironic, heart-wrenching thankfulness for the coming freedom of the American colonies. My unkempt hair falling in my face (I desperately need a hair cut), while talking over philosophy (Ourselves by Charlotte Mason) with my two older boys about our dual selves and one of them comparing it to that cartoonish picture of the devil and angel on our shoulders, lends a sobering blend of joy and holy seriousness to what I get to do as a homeschooling mother. Silence and contemplation over mysterious bits from George MacDonald in his At the Back of North Wind. In our afternoon free time, my 12 yo son and I have been enjoying reading and discussing Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I had planned on a shift into our autumn menu, chili, chicken noodle soup, and roasted veggies with sausage. I’ve had to scramble a bit as the temperatures tricked us by dropping and then sultry sunshine slipping back in. We made due and sometimes soup was sipped to the hum of the air conditioner. This seems to be the year of Wisconsin (and England!) geography trails and deeper digging into science, but with glorious LIVING, breathing books at the helm. The early morning math figuring together, each child rotating to me for help, has worked wonderful this first week, it’s amazing the things we talk about as we fill up with ideas.  We had a long ramble on our beautiful gravel road, the dog gamboling ahead of us, darting in and out of the neighbor’s corn, the butterflies following us. “The butterflies are my friends,” the sweet, sensitive 5 yo tells me. Common Buckeye, Red Admiral, Sulfurs, and Monarch are still swishing lightly through these last dog days of September summer. Can you believe that Monday is the official first day of autumn? My sleep deprivation has reached new heights, a darling, chunky almost 5 month old baby boy smiles at me, making it worth it, but not any less hard. I was able grab a few secret moments to dip into this strangely imaginative book about writing and run away to Italy for a bit in Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April. Paint brushes dipped into watercolors remind me of the Staghorn Sumac tips now, brilliantly red-tipped. A few Christmas gifts have begun to get a jump start, and the oven is being used for more bread and cookies. Our favorite Elevenses snack began again, a giant bowl of popcorn and mugs of hot chocolate (yes, even with the heat! Old habits die hard.), hymns and folk-songs playing. It brings back so many memories of the countless pages read, conversations, and the life lived, learned, deep love planted around this old, hand-me-down table. The seasons ebb and flow, like one of those time-lapse videos, in my head.  It’s so good to be back here again.

~

Few things that blessed me this first back to school week:

Each day the world is born anew

For him who takes it rightly…

Rightly? that’s simply!- ’tis to see

Some Substance casts these shadows

which we call Life and History…

Simply? That’s nobly! – ’tis to know

That God may still be met with, –

Nor groweth old, nor doth bestow

These senses fine, this brain aglow,

To grovel and forget with!

 

Lowell, The Cloud of Witness, p. 380

 

Psalm 23 (emphasis mine) NASB

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

~

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

~

 

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. ❤

~

 

 

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.

~

 

 

 

 

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

~

 

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!

~

 

 

January Reads

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I can’t believe it, but I believe this is my THIRD year through with monthly book lists! Fun stuff! You can read my other years under the Year In Books category in my topic cloud, if interested. I love nosing around in other’s book lists. So, I did very well this month on working on my 2019 – 30 books that I want to finish or read from my shelf. I got many started and finished a few! 🙂 Exciting stuff! I also bought NO new books for myself, except I accidentally bought a couple of Kindle books, forgetting my pledge not to buy books, probably because I don’t really LOVE digital books, therefore, mentally don’t count them as books, if you can follow that logic. LOL! 😉 Without further adieu, here is my first reading pile of the year…

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler (****) – This is sort of a cheat book, because I was almost finished with this in December of last year. This is a beautiful cooking memoir unlike anything I’ve read in that genre so far. Adler writes BEAUTIFULLY and helps you see how each simple, delicious meal can be the basis for your next one. The water you just cooked your vegetables in, can be the start of the soup for dinner. I really, really enjoyed this and found her recipes simple and for the most part just so nice for a normal, home cook. I was encouraged and inspired by her.

Sitting by My Laughing Fire by Ruth Bell Graham (*****) – This was a reread for me, simple, beautiful, thoughtful poetry by the mother of five and wife to Billy Graham. Soothing and challenging, I really enjoy pulling this title out occasionally.

The Life Around Us: Selected Poems on Nature (****) and Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov – Levertov is a beautiful poet, I must have been in the mood for poetry this month, because I’ve read a lot! The Life Around Us  was good, a tad preachy about protecting the earth…I love poems that make us appreciate the beauty of nature and encourage stewardship, but ones that kind of beat us over the head about pollution aren’t always my favorite. For the most part, they were beautiful and interesting. I loved Breathing the Water, just gorgeous.

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman (***) – 2.5 -This is the fifth in a fantasy series about a magic library with a side of dragons and fairies. This title was just ok, entertaining, but I wouldn’t say stunning or anything. I keep reading and hoping they will get better! HA! Librarian Spy Irene is caught in the middle of talks between the dragons and fairies, when a murder takes place! Suspicions fly through the air and threaten the peace treaty.

Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – This was a lovely Christmas gift and wow, so encouraging and inspiring! Mrs. Andreola is one of the people that has constantly blessed and encouraged me in my Christian faith, mothering, and home educating path. She writes with a sweet, encouraging spirit, and you come away refreshed and your heart’s burdens lightened. This book speaks to the mother and/or home maker, gently showing us how to live life to our fullest, filling ourselves, so we can spill out and share encouragement, servant-hood, and love to others. It is a balanced look at a well-rounded home maker’s life. I found this lovely and I’m sure I will reread this book often and it already is treasured. Highly recommend!

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello (***) – I’ve been following Giorello’s Raleigh Harmon detective series for years and this new one was an interesting and well thought out. The mystery is set around a Native American man’s murder and investigation on a reservation. Creepy and with a good twist at the end. The romance was a bit cheesy, but overall this was a interesting murder mystery.

The Wonderful O by James Thurber (*****) – I love children’s literature, especially older titles, and this one was wonderful. Intriguing and fascinating idea of the island of Ooroo and what would happen if the letter O was banished. My oldest and I both read it and talked about it a lot. My middle son then picked it up too and we all had some very interesting discussions about letters, the importance of language, and evil people controlling others through manipulation and censorship.

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaimen (***) – 2.5ish – Again, hyped on Instagram, not that great. Ha! 😉 A very basic call to creativity and freedom of speech mixed with political correctness of today. This was a short, illustrated book and the black-line type drawings were intriguing. I don’t know if this is really worth reading.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) – I’m STILL thinking on this BEAUTIFUL title. This follows Virgil Wander after a freak accident leaves him without some of his memory. He sort of feels like a different person, a new person. I think there are a lot of underling themes in this story, and Enger is AMAZING at drawing out and making fascinating characters. Rune and Virgil are my favorite and their friendship and stumbling through their troubles together is so intriguing and interesting. The towns people and the intricacies of kite building and flying and old reel movie theaters was so wonderful…Enger lending a transcendence to the ordinary and commonplace. The first 3/4ths of this book were amazing to me, for some reason, some of the ending was too neat, or dissatisfying to me, but I can’t place my finger on why. Maybe it was just because it was over! Thank you, Mr. Enger, for your books…they sort of feel like they are about nothing, but in the end, maybe they are about everything. One walks away with more questions than answers, and yet that feels ok and like someone else out there understands.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger (*****) – after reading, Virgil Wander, I had a major book hangover, but then remembered I had this other Enger on my shelf. Yay! I had hesitated on this one after reading Peace Like a River, because of mixed reviews out there. Wow. That was foolish. I found this just lovely and fascinating. I was drawn into Mr. Enger’s characters and the beauty one slowly found and considered as you followed their own life questions. Enger’s plots are interesting and slow moving, yet they really step aside and allow for his character’s to deeply shine through. Monte Beckett is a struggling one-hit wonder author who is floundering around. He ends up on the run with a fugitive from the law! An unbalanced ex-Pinkerton is on their trail and this guy is a piece of work. I loved how Beckett’s heart gradually grew and turned toward home and how the letting go of the tightly clenched thought of what his life was suppose to be, unwound his words. Wow. Again, so many interesting thoughts and questions after reading.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) – my oldest told me I HAD to read this, but that it was very sad! So, I read it and oh wow. I loved it. It did make me cry though! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

The Holy Bible (always 5 stars 😉 ) – Matthew, Mark

 

A fantastic reading month for me! So much goodness! What did you read this month? Have you read any of Leif Enger’s 3 books? 🙂

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Favorite Reads of 2018

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Happy 9th Day of Christmas, friends! Below is the list of books that touched me deeply this year. I separated them in categories, so you can skim to something that may interest you! I found this year that books that challenged or shocked me were some of my favorites. I really found myself gravitating toward books that I had an intense emotional response with or a line or thought or idea that has stuck with me throughout the year, but weren’t necessarily pretty or comfortable reads. I read through the New Testament and Psalms a couple of times and a few other books of the Old Testament and really enjoyed the slow, savoring pace. I’ve only included my favorite favorites, if you know what I mean, because I read so many lovely books including home education titles, writing books, and more.

Favorite Book of the Year:

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it.  I’m not sure why this book so profoundly made an impression on me. I think in some ways it has to do with the fact that I feel SO much compassion for the mother and her girls (not to mention the Congolese) and feel like this is just so preventable. And yet, unfortunately, all to often, some of the elements of this story ring true in organized religion. This fictional story 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 Kingslover 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 too 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.

Other Hard but Favorites of the Year: 

East of Eden by John Stienbeck (****) – Wow! The writing in this book was amazing and my first Steinbeck. The nature descriptions are wonderful and I enjoyed his rich prose and insightful, detailed observations. It started off very dark and depressing as we are introduced to Cathy, later known as Kate. She is one of most disturbing people I’ve read about in literature in a long time! Towards the end, I feel like I was able to feel a twinge of compassion (maybe) towards her or at least a teeny bit of understanding. As we went along, I started to see some of the “retelling of the Genesis story/Cain and Abel” feeling, as our characters battle the internal good and evil in their lives and with their families. This follows two generations of two families and weaves in and out in a beautiful way as they struggle to survive their parents and as parents, their upbringing, and finding their purpose in life. They battle the question of is our tendency towards good or evil inherited or a choice? The weight of this question is felt heavily in each person’s life.  I felt like I got to know the characters deeply and that many of their questions were universal. I loved Lee, the Cantonese servant, and eventually friend and caretaker to Adam. I loved, loved Samuel, the dreamy, distracted friend of Lee and Adam. I realize this is a crazy, all over the place review, but it’s hard to describe. Beautiful, recommend with caveat that it does have a lot of darkness: prostitution, language, and suicide.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (****) – Fascinating and intriguing look life after an epidemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? It isn’t because it’s told through the voice of a troupe of actors who travel around giving Shakespearean plays. Sobering and beautiful, sad yet strangely hopeful, I enjoyed the creative way St. John Mandel wrote this, wrapping up many veins well at the end.

Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald (*****) -I absolutely love Mr. MacDonald’s belief on who God is as our loving Father. There are a few things that are vague and a few things I may argue and not agree with him on, but overall, I was so encouraged and challenged by this wonderful book. It took me a very long time to read, because I wanted to go slow and it’s not something you can read quickly. This is set up with three part chapters: his poetry, commentary, and a section from his fiction – all tied together with a topic for the chapter.

 The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) –  Interesting, dark story about the English Civil War and the wrestling with good and evil in all of our lives. How the love of God and others trumps darkness. Fascinating look at Royalists, Puritans, class divisions, and the Romani peoples. Gardens and herbs are prominent in this book which was beautiful and piqued my interest in it all the more. This took me a LONG time to get into, you have to be very patient with Goudge, but she will reward you many times over, if you hang on.

Books that Built my Faith:

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.

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) -this was a reread for me, in anticipation of reading Enger’s two other books soon and I gobbled it up in a few days. I loved this so much and was just drawn again in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein and questions posed throughout. Highly recommend!

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. I also listened to a few episodes in a series of podcast discussions on this book, which I found interesting.

Poetry:

Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael (*****) – This took me all year to read. It is a collection of all of Miss Carmichael’s poetry gathered from throughout her other writings. This is one of my favorite books of the year, as I found her simple, sweet poems of nature observations and the character of God to be so challenging and inspiring to my faith. Some of the poetry is very basic, but you hear her heart through it and some lines are just like arrows to your heart. I highly recommend this book.

Billy Collin’s poetry (****) – I read many collections of his poetry and I don’t know if there was one that was my favorite although The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening  I immensely enjoyed. 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.  I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous, down-to-earth poet.

Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I would give this six stars if I could. Just lovely, haunting poetry, exploring the beauty of life, nature, and faith in an approachable, gorgeous, lyrical way. I’m on my third reread of it, it’s not long, it’s so life-giving and wonder-provoking. Carroll is my favorite modern poet and you can visit her here and read some of her words.

On the Lighter Side: 

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.

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

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!

The Anatole Trilogy by Nancy Willard (*****) – These three short fantasy adventure stories follow a young boy and were just wonderful. I was looking for a middle grade read and happen to have book #2 of this series on my shelf. I quickly got the other two and thoroughly enjoyed them, the last being my favorite. I love Willard’s ability to keep things grounded in the reality of a young child’s mind, yet make completely absurd and fantastical things and happenings seem everyday and normal. I loved this little escape and the quests Anatole found himself on with the help of many magical creatures and new friends. You can tell Willard understands young children, which I love so much.

 

 

{For major bookish browsing, check out my Year in Books category!}

Otherwise, you can just go to my past years favorite lists! 🙂 I can’t believe I’ve made these lists for three years now already. Time flies when you’re reading.

Favorites from 2017

Favorites from 2016

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November Reads

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{This is a BEAUTIFUL winter read and a family favorite}

Happy December and St. Nicholas Day ~ How was your reading month in November? Mine was a bit quiet as the busyness of the holidays ramp up for our family. Here is what I finished!

Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael (*****) – This took me all year to read. It is a collection of all of Miss Carmichael’s poetry gathered from throughout her other writings. This is one of my favorite books of the year, as I found her simple, sweet poems of nature observations and the character of God to be so challenging and inspiring to my faith. Some of the poetry is very basic, but you hear her heart through it and some lines are just like arrows to your heart. I highly recommend this book.

Severed Veil: Tales of Death and Dreams by Bethany A. Jennings (*****) – I became aware of Jennings through a writing group on Facebook and I’m so glad I did. This collection of short stories and poems were haunting and unique. I found a few of the stories really made me think and the poetry was raw and honest. I can’t wait to read more from this author and hope to buy a physical copy (I purchased a Kindle version) for my oldest daughter soon.

Hood by Stephen Lawhead (***) – This was a twist on the classic Robin Hood tale set on the border of England and Wales. I really enjoyed this for the most part, but found it very internal and slow. It wasn’t what I expected in a Hood retelling. One would think action and adventure, but this focused on his internal progression and how he became who he was to become. Overall, I did really like this, I just think I was surprised. The writing is superb and the gorgeous setting, intriguing characters (I especially loved an old woman character who helps Robin), and Welsh vein throughout were lovely. There are two more in the series which I haven’t decided if I want to tackle yet.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (****) – We were REALLY sick earlier in November and this was perfect read while stuck in bed. I found this title very intriguing, especially how not all people are as they seem. I loved the idea that we need to look for good in others.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (***) – The magic of this book is the ATMOSPHERE. Morton is a master of that! The gorgeous details that she packs into this book – clocks, maps, lost jewels, creepy mansions, nature, ancient journals, photographs, nature and so on to forever! I was enchanted by the inspiration I felt she perhaps took from a juxtaposition of Little Princess and The Secret Garden. The problem for me was that there were WAY TOO many characters spread out through time. I felt dissatisfied by the incompleteness of the many character’s stories. The main modern character of Elodie, the archivialist, was my favorite and in the middle of the book, we sort of lose her to many other characters. I was intrigued by the clockmaker’s daughter, but as the story progresses, I felt like her voice changed. She did go through horrible life circumstances, but it felt jarring to me. Overall, this was an interesting, twisty, mysterious read, but maybe a bit TOO jumbled for me to love.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

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Monday Ponderings {November 26th}

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“Nobody can know the full consequences of their actions and history is full of small acts that changed the world in surprising ways.” ~Rebecca Solnit

{Originally, I saw this on Myth & Moor blog and I’m thinking on it this week. It can be applied to so many areas of our lives. The antithesis of the whole idea of “go big, or go home.” I love the quiet, humility of this and how we all have an opportunity to love on others without having it to be something seen by the public eye. Yes, it’s harder and usually unappreciated, but that’s alright. It still matters. Remembering the beginning of the verse, Zechariah 4:10, not to despise the day of small things.}

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October Reads

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I’m finally getting a chance to get this down, readers!  I have almost all children’s and YA on my list! Ha! It was fun reading month. Anything good that you finished up in October?

The Way to Write for Children: An Introduction to the Craft of Writing Children’s Literature by Joan Aiken (****) – I found this short book very helpful and encouraging for writers. The title sort of says it all, I think! A big thing I walked away with is that with YA story telling you get more into the feelings and internal struggles of your characters were as with writing for children, it’s more at face value. Children are so open and don’t spend a ton of time musing over things they say and decisions they make. A lot of food for thought.

The Anatole Trilogy by Nancy Willard (*****) – These three short fantasy adventure stories follow a young boy and were just wonderful. I was looking for a middle grade read and happen to have book #2 of this series on my shelf. I quickly got the other two and thoroughly enjoyed them, the last being my favorite. I love Willard’s ability to keep things grounded in the reality of a young child’s mind, yet make completely absurd and fantastical things and happenings seem everyday and normal. I loved this little escape and the quests Anatole found himself on with the help of many magical creatures and new friends. You can tell Willard understands young children, which I love so much.

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (***) and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (*****) by Syrie James – I found these perfect light reads for bibliophiles and lovers of these two authors. I especially enjoyed the one surrounding Charlotte Brontë’s life. The author did extensive research, using as much historically accurate information, mixing it superbly with her imagination, to create a lovely story.  I probably won’t read anything else from this author (mainstream romance!), but these two stories were fun, clean, and very interesting.

Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken (*****) – If you recall, last month I read the first in this series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and if it all possible, I loved this one even more! Simon, a wonderful character we were introduced to in the first book, is in London, and is looking for his missing friend, when he stumbles upon a plot to overthrow James III! He meets a little firecracker of a girl, lonely daughter of his evil landlords, and the fun ensues. Filled with hot air balloons, tunnels, spies, intrigues, secrets hidden in old, dirty paintings,and wonderful characters, this was a lovely read.

Whispers of Mirrowen Trilogy by Jeff Wheeler (***) – My daughter recommended these books to me, so I took her advice. Definitely page turners, these follow an unique group of people (almost like a fellowship), as they help the enigmatic Tyrus attempt to battle the plagues that have ravished their kingdom and those around them. Unbeknownst to each of them, Tyrus picked them for their different abilities and powers as he alone knows the dangers that lurk in the Scourgelands. Filled with dryads, grand worlds/kingdoms/races, fireblood powers, rings & knives with sinister secrets. Overall, I like these, even if you did have to stretch your imagination a bit and they were a bit dark at times. My favorite was the last book, Poisonwell.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (***) – I enjoyed visiting again with Harry as he begins his second year at Hogwarts. Dobby is super irritating to me, for some reason. Ha! Is that bad that I don’t like him? Lockhart is a funny, pompous, wind-bag of a character, and I just love Mrs. Weasley and her howlers. I found the diary of Tom Riddle part very intriguing ,very creepy, and perfect bit to the story. Maybe because I love diaries/journals so much.

Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland (****) – This follows a young man whos dreams aren’t like everyone else. He wakes up in a new world while he’s asleep in modern USA. And when he sleeps in Lael, he back on Earth.  He is one of the Gifted in the Kingdom of Lael and has a huge task on his shoulders as an invading army bears down on them. He also brought evil back with him and now has to correct his mistake. This was fast-paced, interesting, and unique. It has a great twist ending as well! I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Romans, I & 2 Corinthians

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