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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Saturday ~ {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #2

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WHO is the honest man?

He that doth still and strongly good pursue, –

To GOD, his Neighbour, and himself most true;

Whom neither force nor fawning can

Unpin, or wrench from giving all their Due…

Who rides his sure and even trot,

While the world now rides by, now lags behind;..

A being brought into a sum,

What Place or Person calls for,-he doth pay…

Who, when he is to treat

With sick folks, women, those whom passions sway,-

Allows for that, and keeps his constant way:

Whom others’ faults do no defeat;

But though men fail him, yet his part doth play!

Whom nothing can procure,

When the wide world runs bias from his will,

To wreathe his limbs, and share, not mend the ill.

This is the marksman, safe and sure,

Who still is right, and prays to be so still.

~Herbert

The Cloud of Witness, p. 454

 

I thinking on that poem this morning and here are some things I’m thankful for right now!

11. little board bridge children made across trench husband is working on. Then offering to hold my hand across.

12. light swaying of clothing on the clothesline.

13. new-to-us table lamps adding so much warm glow to our living room.

14.  a whole day ahead, no major responsibilities, ripe in possibilities.

15. my son’s little overalls.

16. Scripture that promises that God will be strong in my weaknesses.

17. creamy chocolate milk.

18. Voxer, a walkie talkie type app, so I can chat away with my friends.

19. a couple of Christmas surprises I have on the way. I always feel better if I don’t wait till the last minute.

20. first lines in a new book, the anticipation of what is to come.

 

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Monday Ponderings {October 15th}

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Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting, He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5-6, NASB

 

{Happy Monday! Just keep sowing, sowing, sowing. Your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Our hard life of laboring here on earth may not seem to have a tangible harvest, but we can trust by faith, that it will sprout beauty untold.  We had the first dusting of snow last night here at Hearth Ridge Farm and it’s beautiful!}

August Reads

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Welcome, September! Happy Reading, Friends! How do your pages turn? 🙂 Here is what I finished in August ~

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (***) – This was for my Back to Classics Challenge in the Classic Crime Story, fiction or non-fiction category.  I found this story so irritating for some reason! I usually enjoy Christie and it was weird how frustrating I found this…it was just maddening how everyone kept getting killed! HA. 😉 I did not figure out the murderer, yet I had my suspicions, and I suppose the ending was interesting, but overall, this one was not my favorite. I think this is one that you just have to try, because it could be my personal tastes/not the right time, not an actual bad story.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (*****) – I’m continuing my current obsession with Collins poetry and this one didn’t disappoint. However, it is a collection of poems from all his stand-alone poetry titles, which I didn’t realize. So, I got some repeat poems, but I didn’t mind. I also read Ballistics (*****), which was a beautiful collection of poems by Mr. Collins that I haven’t read before.

Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola (*****) – This is an annual summer reread for me, and I think it’s the 5th time I’ve gone through it. I’m always so encouraged and inspired as we head into our learning year. Mrs. Andreola is wonderful at gentle encouragement and heart-warming antidotes to everyday worries about parenting, home educating, and understanding the CM philosophy in small, practical ways.  Highly Recommend!

The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery – This is billed as the 9th novel in the Anne of Green Gables Series,  but I don’t know how to rate this! I really liked it, especially the poetry, which is funny, because Montgomery’s poetry can be a bit cheesy. These poems seemed more real and had a depth of feeling to them. This collection is dark, sad, and morbid. The short stories deal with a lot of heartache and despair and knowing now more about Maud’s life and marriage, they are probably a bit more honest that a lot of her work. If you don’t want to know the real Maud, and just want to remember her via Anne Shirley, I’d suggest not reading these. This book itself has a storied and unclear history and I found it fascinating that it may have been suppressed or heavily edited originally. I’m repeating myself here, but if you are a die hard Montgomery fan and know her true history, you will love this, but if you prefer to just stay in Green Gables, I wouldn’t read this one.

The Holy Bible (*****) – first half of Psalms, Luke, and John

 

 

 

July Reads

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Hello, Dear Readers,

It’s time for last months reading recap!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (****) – This is one of my Back to Classics picks for the year in the Author that’s New to Me category.  Wow! This was an amazing book 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 more 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 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.

Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching by Richele Baburina (****) – This is a reference book for how Charlotte Mason approached maths and her words gathered together on mathematics and laid out in a very helpful way. I skimmed some of this, but found it very interesting and plan on referencing it in the future.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889 – 1910 by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I absolutely loved this look into Maud’s life as a young teenage girl, growing into a young engaged woman. The angst, temptations, and frustrations of the growing years were the same as many of us go through, but this was unique peek into a woman’s life at the turn of the century. Maud’s life with her grandparents was very rigid, so it was fascinating to see how she escaped into books and nature. I don’t care what Maud said, her own personality comes through in Anne and her other characters SO much! 😉 I can’t wait to read the next of these! I think there are five of them.

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a page turner! Mysterious, full of awesome creep, and I loved the Edgar Allen Poe vein throughout. I also loved the newspaper setting in Libby’s world and coffee shop in Annalise’s life. I felt very interested and connected to both Libby and Annalise, both in their respective mysteries and time periods. The growing affection between Libby and (well, I won’t spoil it) was done well, not too cheesy, but slower and more natural.

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.

Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance by Iris Graville (*****) – I picked this up off my non-fiction library new shelf and I’m so glad I did. This is the memoir of a full-time nurse, who is burned out, and knows she and her family need a change from their fast paced lives. They end up moving to a small village in Washington State, North Cascades. They really begin living pretty primitively and work hard at odd jobs in the tourist season. Through it all, Graville journals, hikes, and just really searches her heart about what is important. I appreciated that her and her husband had a normal, yet good marriage. The only thing I didn’t like was once in awhile it felt a teeny bit whiny and I’m not a Quaker, so some of that was vague to me, but over all really enjoyed this story about her life and family.

The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them edited by Antonia Fraser and Victoria Gray (*****) –  That title says it all! Ha. It was just lovely (for the most part) essays from writers on their lives and reading. I read this pretty slow, but really enjoyed it. At the end of each chapter, each writer shares a list of a few favorites. I was surprised how many lists had Alice in Wonderland on their lists! I think it’s time for a reread.  🙂

Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin (***) – I really enjoy the first half of this book, just about fantasy writing and the importance of imagination. The second half was forwards she wrote for her books and she gets more defensive of some of her gender neutral writings etc. I found it to get a bit too whiny and possibly preachy?

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young (*****) – I read this on a road trip and was positively charmed by the recipes and memoir reflections of Miss Young’s life. One of reading and and feasting created to compliment her favorite stories. Many of the recipes were drool worthy and weren’t TOO difficult (except for a few) for the average home cook. Just LOVELY.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy  for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher (***) – I found the beginning of this book absolutely fascinating as Dreher gives us a snapshot of how Christianity has fallen apart through the ages and a view of it in the United States. Not super in depth, but accessible to the normal reader, I appreciated this part a lot. I found some of his ideas very idealistic, yet I loved his hopeful tone and encouragement about cultivating community. I was a bit skeptical because I don’t love a lot of what you might label as “Christian self-help etc” type books, but overall, I liked this one.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (*****) – I just loved this collection of poems, revisited ones from Picnic, Lightening and The Art of Drowning, both which I read earlier this year. His poems are so REAL and concrete and so very universal. You feel like what he just shared happened yesterday to you. Yet, he surprises you, too, by his close, minute observations. I really am enjoying Mr. Collins.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Psalms, digging into Proverbs, and read Matthew and Mark.

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May Reads

The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Ponderings {Born for Another World}

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All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on this earth. For those who say such things make it clear, that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11: 13-16, NASB, bold emphasis mine.

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April Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March Reads

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April is here, spring is not. However, who’s complaining when we have loads of coffee and stacks of books? Here is what I finished in March. How about you? What did you finish?

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks (****) – This was a unique, quirky mystery with plenty of suspense. I did not figure out the creep before the end. Bravo. It was written well and the characters were drawn wonderfully! The snake handling church plot was slightly hard to swallow, but in the end, it overall worked. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods by Julie Zicklefoose (*****) This was a delightful memoir mixed with gorgeous nature paintings. Ziclefoose’s attention to detail in her paintings and writing captured the beauty of the birds and natural world around her. I really enjoyed this and found it soothing.

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead (****) – This is the first in a fantasy series called Bright Empires and Lawhead doesn’t disappoint. This took me a little while to get into, but then I was hooked. The premise is that there are ley lines all over the world that lead to alternate realities and time travel. Kit Livingston’s great-grandfather shows up in London one day, shocking Kit out of his regular life, sharing secrets, mysterious maps tattooed on skin,  and multi-layered universes.

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.

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro (*****) – this was a beautiful collection of essays, memoir-style about Shapiro’s life and process as a writer. She has such a beautiful way of looking at life with a slant, of appreciating the beauty, but still understanding the reality. Many times, I was nodding, and felt like I had found a sister with regards to understanding the mental battle writers are always facing. I really loved this one. Highly recommend.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie (***) – I found these six interconnected mysteries to be interesting and the perfect light read. Sidney Chambers is a priest with the Church of England and finds himself constantly intertwined with local crime solving. My favorite thing about this book was Sidney himself. He is constantly struggling with the tension between his duties to God and his parish and his strange ability to help the police solve crimes. His love of poetry, jazz, and biking and the gorgeous descriptions of England make these a delightful read. One story was a bit more disturbing as it involves a woman’s kidnapping by a twisted man, but for the most part these were intriguing. Not grisly or super in-depth crimes, definitely more inner character driven type writing. I enjoyed these very much and hope to read more.

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers (***) – this was a sweet story of redemption for two people, one a single mother and the other a tortured artist with a dark past. I really enjoyed Roman, the artist’s, character.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and finished Psalms.

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Good Morning, February.

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The sun is shining. The fire is hot. The door opens with ease. The blue sky spills down into the dankness. The cellar door clanks back and forth, back and forth, my friend wind waving well wishes.  But it cannot block out the fluffy bits of fullness floating through the firmament. I turned the calendar page. A new month, a brilliant blue moon to love. A clean slate, chalk-dust free, full of promise.  The books are opened, tattered bookmarks and all, candle wicks blackened from light and heat, mugs with rings around them, grounds in the bottom. The ice is still here, the ice is still everywhere, but the sun glints off of it, a jewel shining in my heart. February, welcome.

Meditating on grace and truth:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

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