~Favorite Reads of 2020 and Reading Ideas for 2021 ~

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

~Classic Favorites of 2020~

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

One of Ours by Willa Cather

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Holy Bible 😉

~Poetry Favorites of 2020~

The Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard

Jane Kenyon poetry

~Non-Fiction/Memoir Favorites of 2020~

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

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

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori

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

Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carlson

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

~Middle Grade Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

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

~Adult Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

~Books about Writing/Creativity Favorites of 2020~

War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon

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

~Lucy Maud Montgomery Favorites of 2020~

Anne’s House of Dreams (reread)

Anne of Ingleside (reread)

The Blue Castle (reread)

Christmas with Anne

~Reading Ideas for 2021~

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

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

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

December Reads

Happy New Year, friends! Another year of books, stories, and beauty! Here’s what I read in December. I’ll be back soon to do my big favorites wrap up for the year and my ideas for my 2021 reading!

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (***) – This was a creepy, sobering, dsytopian-ish, sci-fi story that I saw recommended on BookTube. Peter is an English pastor who is chosen to travel light years away to reach out to the alien natives whose former pastor is missing. Earth begins to collapse and Peter and his wife Bea are only thinly connected by a primitive email system. The Book of Strange New Things is the Bible which the alien race seem to love. I’m not sure what to think exactly about this one, but it was a weird look at missionary work through the eyes of the alien race and those not of faith. Also as Earth is collapsing, the work on the planet seems fruitful and like Peter is making headway. I feel there were major underlying themes in this book and I may have missed something. I am still thinking about it. This left me a little uneasy and it wasn’t a fav. The idea and writing were well done, otherwise this is a 2.5 stars for me.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (****) – This was something I was waiting on to read in October, but didn’t get it until November and finished in December. This was an amazing look at facing fear, Halloween, life & death, different cultures, and friendship. Very creepy, not for everyone, but just so amazing in it’s own eerie way. We aren’t big on Halloween here, but I love Bradbury’s writing style, soooo….

Mistborn (#1 in a Series) by Brandon Sanderson (***.5) – This was my first Sanderson and I can see why fantasy/sci-fi fans rave about him. I thought his magic system was unique and interesting. I loved the character Saazed, in a mentor-type role, and I found the villian, the Lord Ruler, and his henchmen, the Inquistors fascinating. The main two characters were a little annoying to me, but I will try the other two in the series.

Fierce Bad Rabbits by Clare Pollard (****) – Non-fiction about the history of children’s picture books. I really, really enjoyed this bookish memoir. I especially loved her reflections on memories with her father. I bought this as a Christmas gift!

Alyesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (***) – This was light, fun modern Muslim-spin retelling of Pride & Prejudice. My daughter and I enjoyed it!

The Last Atlantean by Emily Hayse (***.5) – this was written BEAUTIFULLY. An unique reimagining of the legend of Atlantis. I found the beginning part, a lighthouse on the coast of Maine, to be my favorite of the whole story. Hayse really has a way with descriptions. The middle slowed quite a bit down for me, but I enjoyed the ending and this was very different and creative from what I’ve read recently. I’m going to try more of this author’s work.

In the Salt March by Nancy Willard (*****)- gorgeous, haunting poetry. Highly recommend!

Across the MilesPoems of Fantasy, Faith, & Fun by Annie Douglass Lima (***) – lovely, introspective, traditional rhyming poetry.

When the Heart Sings by Vesper Stamper (*****) – Heart-wrenching, unique look at the death camps of the Holocaust, through the eyes of a teen girl and survivor. Very neat illustrations!

Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton (****) – I was pleasantly surprised by this retelling. Very unique with Polish royalty and New York City during WWII playing into this. It was very fun and intriguing!

Christmas with Anne by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – a lovely collection of short stories with two from the Anne books and other random heart-warming seasonal stories.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (*****) – I did it. 806 pages. It took me a few months. The last 50 pages were my favorites. This was an amazing book. How our uninformed consciences or out of order affections can lead to terrible consequences or despair. How jealousy and guilt can tear us apart. Marriage. Questions about what is life really about and death. About faith and God. Motherhood’s {how did Tostoy write this so well?} questions and worries. I really felt most of all for Dolly and I loved getting an insider look into Levin’s thoughts, doubts, and life. Levin was my favorite because he came across so human and real. The characters were amazingly drawn here, albeit the names/titles a bit confusing. I loved Tolstoy’s writing and the picture he painted especially of the Russian countryside and domestic beauty. Much of the Russian history, I’m woefully ignorant about and that was the only thing slightly difficult about this. Otherwise, it was surprisingly readable. This is my first Russian classic and I really enjoyed it. What a way to wrap up a great reading year.

The Holy Bible (*****) – James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, Jude, Revelation, and got a good start into Isaiah.

Happy 8th Day of Christmas, friends! What are you reading? 🙂

A Bit ‘O Joy: Two Poetry Books for your Kind Consideration

What is bringing you joy currently? There are so many things that ring joy to me if I take the time to peel back the layers and peer in the cracks. One joy that has filled me consistently over my adult years has been poetry. Today, I’d like to highlight two poetry books that I’ve really enjoyed.

Across the Miles: Poems of Fantasy, Faith, & Fun by Annie Douglass Lima – I just finished this delightful and sweet collection of poems this week. Annie graciously gifted me the ebook of this lovely traditional rhyming poetry which brings to mind memories of growing up, imagination, the journey of Christian faith, and adds a delicious soaking in her glorious nature poems. I found myself especially drawn to her nature descriptions and delighted in the immersive feelings she gave me in the poems like “Grand”, bringing me back to a trip I took with my husband and new baby to the Grand Canyon, “God’s Metronome”, taking me to the edge of the ocean, and the haunting, lovely “The Bloodstained Moon.” I loved her deep honesty in “Ashes”, in which she shares of how she says goodbye to someone through memories put to flame. I shared a lovely Christmas themed poem, “Two Kings” with my children this week as part of our Advent readings. There are so many others I really enjoyed, “Song of the Star”, “In the Forest”, and “The Campfire” were lovely. My favorite probably though were her lovely ones on writing and especially “Poetry Graveyard.” Where does our writing go when it just dies? Annie made this collection very accessible with her poems grouped topically and also with little descriptions of her inspiration for a poem or defining an obscure poetry form. I found that extremely helpful. I plan on using these lovely poems with my children in our home school. Check out the link to this book and make a connection with Annie below!

NEW poetry book: Across the Miles

Connect with Annie: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com/

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard – Ever since I was introduced to Willard through her Anatole stories I was intrigued. My children and I have since read and loved many of her picture books and this was my first of her many poetry collections. Through modern verse, Willard’s metaphors and beauty are subtle and strange at first and she brings things to life through her use of specifics with a twist. However, if you sit a bit with her pieces you began to see and feel truly how many layers you cut sink your heart into. She is AMAZING at looking at the most simple commonplace things in a new way. I highly recommend checking into this short volume and I can’t wait to read more of hers.

How faithfully grass holds the shape of the sea it loves…

That line is from her title poem and it just thrills me…

Have you read anything by Annie Douglass Lima or Nancy Willard? These books would make lovely Christmas gifts! Any poets that you have been loving lately? What is bring you a bit of joy?

November Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October Reads

Happy Advent Eve, my friends ~ here I am, yet again, behind on my reading log, but that’s ok. It’s real life we live behind the screens, is it not? And we all float through different seasons on the river of living, ebbing and flowing. I do so love reading other’s reading, though, so here I go. 🙂

October finishes:

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (*****) – I don’t remember who recommended this to me, but wow. 😳❤ The characters were amazing in this historical fiction of a family’s travels out to the American west in a covered wagon. The mother’s character, Winifred May, was my favorite and her relationship with her daughter, Naomi, was so inspiring! May I be a true confidant to my daughters as she was to Naomi. The five May boys, Warren, Wyatt, Web, Will, and dear little Wolfe really intrigued me and I cared about them. Maybe because I have four boys? The integrity and the depth of John Lowry, Washakie, and Lost Woman was inspiring. This book does have adult sexual themes, violence, and language, just FYI, but the characters live in it’s pages. I really loved this one!

Boggart by Susan Cooper (***) – A Canadian family of four inherits a Scottish castle and inadvertently brings back the resident, mischievous boggart in an antique desk! The boggart wreaks havoc in Toronto and the children must find a way to get the boggart back to his castle. 😃 A very sweet Middle Grade read I grabbed while thrifting. I really love Susan Cooper’s style of writing.

Hidden Current by Sharon Hinck (***) – I won this on a giveaway on Instagram! Beautiful cover! This is a Christian allegorical fantasy set on a floating world, Meriel. All is not as it seems for young Calara as she attempts to use her dance magic to make her way to the top of the all important, prestigious girl’s Order. The fate of their island world is in these top dancer’s hands, in more ways than one. Calara wants to be apart of the elite more than anything until something happens to shake her to the core. My favorite character was the mentor-like servant, Ginerva. This was fast-paced, clean, unique magic system story and my daughter and I enjoyed it. I just noticed that this won the Christy Award for this year, which is a high honor and it is the first in a trilogy.

One of Ours by Willa Cather (5+ stars) – Cather won the Pulitzer for One of Ours in 1923 and I can see why. This follows the story of an idealistic Nebraskan boy, Claude Wheeler, as he grows up under the critical, stubborn eye of his father and the quiet, timid, introspective ways of his mother on their farm. He searches for meaning and value in the mundane path set before him by others. He struggles with his depth of feelings and deep desires to have something worth while to live for. And along comes WWI…while the horrors of war become very real to Claude and all the American farm boys sent overseas, Claude finds purpose and meaning in the trenches of France. This is a very, very slow read, but wow. Cather’s deep introspection of life through Claude, his mother, and Mahailey, their beloved cook. Her thoughts on life, meaning, and the tension between desires and brute reality are deeply moving and thought-provoking. Cather writes beautifully intertwined nature scenes with her stories. This one may deserve a second read and a multitude of quotes copied out. ❤

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon (***) – Because I loved Where the Lost Wander so much, I decided to try another Harmon title. This was a beautifully written time-travel novel set in the 1920’s of Ireland and their fight for independence. Harmon did a fantastic job getting me intrigued and inspired by a time period and history I know nothing about. Anne Gallagher travels to her grandfather’s favorite place in Ireland to spread his ashes and deal with her grief of his passing. Little does she know how much he hid from her and the adventure she is in for! Her grandfather, Eoin, was my favorite character in this story, in more way the one, and I loved the use of journal entries in this story, as I’m an avid journaler. The only downside to this was the excessive sexual situations which just aren’t my cup of tea. Otherwise, I really, really enjoyed this historical fantasy-ish fiction. I think I will read more of Harmon’s backlist, because these two were so good.

Mortal Sight by Sandra Fernadez Rhodes (***) – A fast-paced dystopian YA novel with intriguing links to John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Cera Marlowe is a 17 yo with disturbing dreams and she has constantly moved all of her life. Her mother is hiding something from her and when she finds out the horror that is connected to these dreams, she feels even more alone. She needs to find answers quickly! I found the Milton connection fascinating and the fantasy powers intriguing. I’m not a huge fan of teenage angst and drama and this did flirt with that a bit, which I shouldn’t be surprised reading a YA book. 😉 However, this was clean, action-filled, and intense, so I enjoyed it for the most part. It’s part of a duology with the second set to come out next spring, I believe.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (5+) – A reread of my favorite of Tolkien’s books. Sigh. Just so nice to visit with Bilbo and Gandalf again.

Tree & Leaf by J.R.R Tolkien (5+) – This is a collection of lovely essays and short stories and poems. I love his thoughts in “On Fairy Stories” and this “There was no sense of rush. He was quieter inside now, and at resting-time he could really rest.” – JRR Tolkien 🌿🌿🌿 from “Leaf by Niggle”. I was in a Tolkien mood this autumn. ❤

Love Not the World by Watchman Nee (*****) – I found this a challenging and timely look at our loves and how we let the world’s system influence us as Christians. Definitely has some gems, not perfectly clear at times, but I really loved it.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Please share what you read in October/November! I’ll be next week, hopefully ;), for my November Reading Wrap Up.

The Nativity by Arthur Hughes

September Reads

Hello and Happy-Last-Week of October, friends!

I’m trying to catch up and wanted to share what I read last month!

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was actually at the tail end of August, because I was desperate for something other than the disappointing things I had been reading. It’s definitely predictable, but so cozy. I’ve reread this multiple times and I’m always in love with The Blue Castle by the lake. Swoon. The question about how I would live my life, if I only had a short time to live, always strikes me deeply. I love the friends to love story angle too, instead of all the instant romance stories out there. Have you read this Montgomery? Any other Blue Castle fans out there? If you could have ANY “blue castle” what would it be? I actually think the way Valancy’s is described is pretty close to my own dream.

At Mrs. Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress!) (*****) – I’ve wanted to read one of Taylor’s stories ever since I saw Jane Brocket’s recommendation of her in The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Wow. Subtle and uber perceptive look at human personality and character underneath layers of gorgeous domesticity and descriptive settings. The little boy and his mother’s bookish connection was lovely. This definitely had a darker but honest feeling to it. It felt so realistically human by everything not being perfectly happy. No formulaic tropes here. I loved the Bronte influence and thread throughout – at first, I wondered where this was going with the main protagonist, Julia, but then the tension eased for me a bit as I realized there wasn’t really going to be much of a “plot” or a lot of movement. It was more about seeing human nature in the little moments of life. I want to read this again soon and jot down some quotes and I very much hope to read more of her in the future.

The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blackmore (**) – Ugh. I found this book to be full of cheesy puns and Blackmore’s twisting of beloved stories to be super irritating to me. Ha! I was so disappointed. I looooove books about books and this one looked even MORE promising because of her book choices being ones that I love. I did enjoy the peek into the author’s lives and some of the things that Blakemore felt about her favorite stories, but this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (And Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller (****) –

“…my faith in art had never faltered. Culture could come in many forms, high, low or somewhere in-between: Mozart, The Muppet Show, Ian McEwan. Very little of it was truly great and much of it would always be bad, but all of it was necessary to live, to be alive, to frame the endless days and make sense of them.” ♡ Andy Miller ♡

I felt like I could really understand Mr. Miller’s need to read and I could appreciate all that he was searching for in the pockets of time as he read between “real” life. His collection of quotes and thoughts on these books, humanity, writing, life and his sarcasm and humor made this a delicious read, albeit some of the British cultural references fell flat for me just cause I’m American. Ha! I also enjoyed that he is a fellow rereader. Good to know we don’t always have to be reading the “new” thing out there, because there is so many old things to read and revisit. I’ve challenged myself in the past couple of years to read widely and a bit deeper, not always reaching for fluff. Such an interesting and delightful bookish memoir!

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (***) –

“Cousin Geillis must have seen it, and understood how, along with everything else, it would help to develop the strong sense of property that I had, the two-way need of belonging, and the almost fierce sense of responsibility that went with it. Thornyhold, with all it contained, would be safe with me.” Mary Stewart

Thornyhold was a cozy, domestic type mystery with a witchy spin to it. It kind of reminds me of a Goudge in setting style without dear Goudge’s amazing multiple layers, deepness, and spirituality 😂😏🤷‍♀️. So not like Goudge, maybe. 😋 Very enjoyable!

The Door on Half-Bald Hill by Helena Sorenson (***.5) –
How do we ask the right questions? The Door on Half-Bald Hill took me a bit to get into and wrap my mind around, but slowly it crept it’s way into my heart. In an ancient Celtic world, told from the young Bard, Idris’ perspective, the tension of his desire to encourage his village with a new Story, Vision…or the Word, in the face of a creeping, bitter poison deep in the land is extraordinary high. As the village healer turns dark, mysterious, and closed off and the village Druid desperately clinging to old ways that aren’t speaking to him, Idris increasingly finds the villagers looking to him for answers. This story made me look a bit deeper and ask questions about life, love, and sacrifice. 

The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart (*****) – After reading Thornyhold by Stewart a friend mentioned her Merlin Trilogy being her best work, so I just devoured the first two. It is AMAZING. If you like Arthur/Merlin legend stories, please check these out. I hope to read the last this winter. I also learned there is a fourth book connected to this trilogy too!

The Holy Bible (*****)- Acts, Romans, and 1 Corinthians

August Reads

Hello, Fellow Bibliophiles! How did your August reading shape up? I tried some modern fiction again this month, folks. That doesn’t bode well for me, usually! HA. 😉 Here is what I ended up finishing:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (***) – This was an interesting story of a young woman apprenticed to a magician of paper folding. She grows through frustration and disappointment of being “bonded” to what she deems an “old-fashioned” magical craft and Master. Little does she realize that her teacher has a troubled past and it will be up to her to help. This was a super creative idea and I like the magical paper folding. Unfortunately, this was a formulative and stereotypical romance and the action from the antagonist was very gory and violent. Not sure if I could totally follow the main, and very drawn out chase scene. It was creative in one sense, but a bit too confusing and “too much” in another way. I also read another by her called Magic Sweet, Magic Bitter, but it was so strange. It was almost like magical beings marrying humans. It had one neat idea, about baking healing qualities into breads and treats. That’s it, though. 😉

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (**) – 2.5 stars just for the beautiful writing style, but other than that, meh. This reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern, which I didn’t end up liking, but this had a much better shaped story. A young girl has to find her way through her mysterious past following clues through ancient portal doors and a magical book that shows her parents lives. I really, REALLY, disliked all the modern issues dropped into this story. They felt jarring and preachy, the diary entries from her dad really slowed the story down. I was ripped out of a story set around 1900’s? for the author to “preach” at me about current hot button topics. Ugh. No thanks.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mantel (***) – this was an interesting read about the lives of a brother and sister who got caught up in a Ponzi scheme and the fallout on their lives. This had a lot of layers under the surface. I definitely still love Station Eleven a whole lot more, though.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase (***) – I loved the atmosphere and mystery of this story. A woman feels a strange connection to an dilapidated, rambling hall and stumbles on a mystery from her past. Unfortunately, the overt sexual content was a bit much for me, ick. Otherwise, this had the total lovely creepy, whimsical feel that I really enjoy.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Numbers, Isaiah and John, now into Jeremiah, Acts, and dipping into Deuteronomy slowly as well.

I read a lot of other things, but this is what I finished. Nothing smashing out of the modern selection this month, I’m afraid. Still searching for the elusive modern read that I LOVE! 😉 How ’bout you? Read anything lovely?

July Reads

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{My younger children enjoy Tortuga}

Hello, friends! July was a good month of reading for me! Did you read anything great?

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson (*****) – A friend recommended this title and I wasn’t disappointed. Short, gorgeous reflections on sharing nature with children and keeping wonder alive. I highly recommend this one! I’m sad I waited so long as I tried to read her Silent Spring and found it a bit dry. I will be looking for her books about the sea soon.

Heidi’s Alp: One Family’s Search for Storybook Europe by Christina Hardyment (*****) – This was a funny and heartwarming account of an English family and their friend’s trip through six countries in Europe in a camper-van (RV), searching for bits of their favorite stories. Hardyment’s beautiful writing lends magic to every page of this fascinating memoir as we walk along with some of the world’s beloved classics. We especially get to see things through the eyes of Hans Christian Anderson. The author does a wonderful job with the tension between the reality of travel with children and the simultaneous enchantment. I love how the accidental and mundane often beat out the super planned or touristy spots. So true! This is so lovely and inspirational and Hardyment’s extensive knowledge on the history of many fairytales, lore, origins of story, and details of different author’s lives are just the icing on the cake. Highly recommend this one!

Selected Poems of Helen Goodhue Ploeger edited by Phyllis Miller (***) – I received this as a birthday gift from a dear friend and I really enjoyed it. The simple, rhyming poems  revealed the poet’s love of place, especially the desert and her eye for small bits of beauty were lovely. I enjoyed her desert and other nature poems the best. This book also had a beautiful, aged-feeling paper and luxurious cloth cover.

“Night Magic”

There’s magic in the summer night for me

In California deserts

High in the mountain tops

Or down along the peaceful sea.

 

There was a time when nights seemed sad & lonely

And all the gleaming stars

A gentle, patient moon.

Seemed not for hope, but sadness only.

 

Why is it now, that there is only magic 

And musical harmony

In the summer night?

‘Tis I who changed, night is not tragic.

 

~Helen Goodhue Ploeger

 

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (****) – This was a fascinating look at libraries throughout history. Manguel looks at them through the lenses of myth, order, space, power, shadow, chance, workshop, mind, island, survival, oblivion, imagination, identity, and home. Aren’t those chapter titles intriguing? This is academic while being conversational. A book really about books by looking at how we store and collect them. Manguel had some very interesting ideas, quotes, and unique ways of looking at why books and libraries are so important to us. He intertwines this with little stories of his own library’s creation in the French countryside. Each chapter opens out with thought provoking quotes, which I loved and jotted a few down. The importance of reading really comes home in that we become a world citizen through the eyes of the world’s books. I recommend this book!

Those who read, those who

tell us what they read,

Those who noisily turn

the pages of their books,

Those who have power over

red and black ink,

and over pictures,

Those are the ones who lead us

guide us, show us the way.

 

~Aztec Codex from 1524

Vatican Archives

 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (***) – This Pulitzer-winning title is sort of inexpiable. Lines of extreme beauty mixed with stream-of-conscience nonsense understood possibly by only Dillard herself. This book is a woman’s rambles through the natural world around her home and local creek as she examines deep questions on death, life, faith, humanity, the natural world, and our souls. Her writing takes deep concentration and sometimes it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. It reminds me of a prose sort of Gerald Manley Hopkins. This title literally took me YEARS to finish, but I’m so glad I did, as reflecting back on all the time with this, I feel I was richly rewarded in ideas and beauty. Definitely not a quick read, but I recommend for the beauty seeker who doesn’t want to loose their sense of wonder in the infinitely small miracles of this world. It may be one I might try to reread someday.

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith (**) – I was looking for fiction that has a certain feeling to it and this was recommended to me. Do you ever try to find a story based on the stories you’ve loved the feel of or atmosphere? I really enjoy home-y, cozy type fantasy or regular fiction with elemental magic or at least a nod to the spiritual world. This book follows the story of Elena, a vine witch. The idea that each vineyard has a special witch that is connected to the earth and vines was uniquely and creatively done. This book was well-written and fast paced, good setting and character development. Just way too dark for my tastes, the occultism themes being very heavy. The romance was so stereotypical and too focused on the sexual for me. I liked the story idea in theory, but in the end this wasn’t what I was looking for. I don’t recommend this one.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (****) – Last month, I read Romanov by this author of YA fantasy. This one I liked better! It was a fast paced unique retelling of the historical Guy Fawkes Gunpowder plot set in 17th century London. Thomas Fawkes has the stone plague and finds himself expelled from his school. He travels to London to find his long absent, infamous father and gets involved in the plot to blow up the King. I found Brandes use of magical color power very creative and changing the political and religious tensions into color/magic tensions was brilliant. Only one small quibble was that I wasn’t clear on who to root for at times. The White Light was so mysterious it confused me. Overall, I enjoyed this story better than the first I read by this author.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Leviticus, almost finished with Isaiah, and slowly meditating on John.

What a wonderful month of feeding my soul! 🙂 Hope your reading has been fantastic lately! Let me know!

~

June Reads

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It’s July already. Wow. Here is what I read in June. A busier month for us and after my book hangover from all my fun May reads, it was a bit quieter.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (****) – slightly snobby-ish 😉 reflections on books and the book life – I especially loved how much her and her parents and sister lived a life of books. I loved her reflections on used books. Big head nod and kinship to the importance of reading in her life and there is a nice list of OTHER books about books in the back, if you can follow that. 😉

Romanov by Nadine Brandes (***) – a unique YA retelling of the historical Russian story of the infamous tsar’s abdication and lockdown of the their family mixed with fantastical magic. This was creative and full of lovely details with a good plot. I loved the spell ink/magic aspect of this version. I especially loved the mysterious magician and would have loved more of him. I couldn’t really see in my mind’s eye the characters or settings very well, which frustrated me at times. I felt a teeny bit dissatisfied with ending, but overall, this was solidly entertaining and a page turning story. I would love to try some of this author’s other YA stories.

Kindling by Nevil Shute (***) – This was about a wealthy businessman who life is a lonely, workaholic blur. His marriage is dissolving and his health terrible. He ends up finding himself getting an emergency surgery in a small, economically depressed coastal village. As he recovers, he befriends many of the locals and imagines how he could bring capital to the area to revitalize the place. He starts to care for the people and wants to infuse life into the area. He ends up helping in ways that trickle down, but aren’t entirely legal. He pays heavily in the process, but the act of selflessness restores his peace and health. This has some very outdated/potentially offensive themes and probably is too simplistic in many ways, but there’s no denying that it was inspirational.

Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – this was a reread for me. One of my favorites of the whole series. The big Blythe family of children is just a joy and Anne and Gilbert’s marriage is lovely and sweet. The domesticity and nature sentiments are just so beautiful.

The Soul’s Habitation by Grethen Hayward Sousa (****) – strange, very specific and introspective poetry collection. Sousa is a master at unique metaphor and very specific details that still lend to an uncanny universal appeal or meaning to her words. I especially loved any and all poems on aging, contemplating life after death, or on growing older. Some favorites, “Fishing For More Than Bait,” “Bathing Elsa,” “The Taming of Time,” “and others.

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori (****) – I found this a fascinating look at trees around the world. This included extensive beautiful illustrations. I loved the folktales and lore surrounding the trees. Just so interesting. This would be a lovely gift for a nature lover in your life. Highly recommend!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (*****) – a lovely overview of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. I’ve reread this gem many times and I just am always so encouraged.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Exodus, into Leviticus. Finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and am about half way into Isaiah. Also reading through the Gospel of John.

What did you read last month? Anything that jumped out to you? Any July reads you are loving?

~

 

May Reads {Part 2}

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As promised, here is the second half of my May finished reads. Whew! Maybe I need to do something other than read? 😉 Here is Part 1 if you missed it and are interested!

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – I loved this Middle Grade/YA book even though I didn’t understand all of it and I suspect its based on some Welsh mythology that I’m not very familiar with. Totally had a book hangover with this one. Time travel, magic, and heroic children saving the world! Yay! Just perfect! Unbelievably, she had a character named Maxwell Hyde and I have a character named that in my children’s story I’m working on. So I’ll probably change his name, but it was so, so cool that I had a moment of the same creative brain as dear Diana Wynne Jones. This is one I may reread from time to time, so fantastically weird and creative.

Iron-Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill (****) – I mentioned reading another of Barnhill’s books here and being a bit disappointed, but still wanting to tackle her backlist. This was a lovely story about a princess and an insidious, ancient evil creeping about the castle. It used mirrors and a flattering tongue of lies to get free of its jail and rule the worlds. With the help of friends and a dragon, Princess Violet overcomes the control this evil god has on her and saves her people. The only part I didn’t love was when Nymbus had control of Violet and I had no one character to really root for, except maybe the dragon. Overall, I loved this story!

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (*****) – This was a recommendation from Mr. Blackwell and I was highly anticipating it! It didn’t disappoint. The perfect combination of beautifully, unique metaphor and a lovely story. A young girl grows up in a lovely and unconventional childhood with an eccentric bachelor. She was rescued from a ship wreck and begins a lifelong search for her mother, following the cello music that seems to connect them. A band of street children who live on the rooftops of Paris join her search. Lovely!

Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn (*****) – Just so encouraging! The fictionalized tale of a Swedish minister’s family from the mother’s point of view. A family of 8 children and the inspiring and heartwarming happenings as they immigrate to America. I got this recommendation from Karen Andreola’s book Mother Culture, I believe.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin (*****) – I have been wanting to read this one for awhile and I finally did!  Lovely, mysterious retelling and intermingling of well-loved fairy tales. The illustrations are simple and sweet. The home-y-ness is so lovely. The animals, woods, and their home were stuff dreams are made of and the surprise ending was delightful.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (****) – an interesting mash up adventure of a boy named Odd and how he helps Odin, Loki, and Thor get back Asgard from a Frost Giant.

Digital Minialism by Cal Newport (*****) – This was an EXCELLENT book and just what I needed to read at the present. Mr. Newport raises so many questions to ask oneself about the quality of life we want to live and what role social media does or does not play into our answers. Timely and so important!

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson (*****) – I adored this book! It was full of mystery, nature, and folklore, and the House with the Chicken Legs returns to help them with transportation (from Anderson’s previous story)! The food/home-y-ness, working together with the animals, and the legends tied into Yanka’s story and her map was so well done. The half bear/human element of this story may feel a little strange, but it was interesting and I loved the Lime Tree aspect of the story. I liked that Yanka’s adopted mama made her a lovely skirt stitched with stories on it. There were so many little details to delight and I enjoyed this book immensely.

May was such a fun, light month of reading! ~

 

May Reads (Part 1)

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Hello Friends! How do your pages turn? 🙂 May was a fun month of reading for me and I finished a lot. Not sure if I hit all my monthly category goals, but I enjoyed so much of what I read. In other news, I’ve decided to leave Goodreads. It was beginning to be too much for me, albeit, I enjoyed some of the bookish friendships over there. Soooo, I am now analog for my book recording and reviews (well, besides here on the blog). It’s fun! Next year, I may get one of these for my recording my reading.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (****) – The imagery in this novel was what I found fascinating and beautiful! The Thames river, flowing water, folk lore, and everything surrounding those things were written in such a lovely way. One might even say water was an important character of this story. There were some beautiful introspective lines and some fascinating, well-drawn characters. The story itself was strange, yet brilliantly done. The main story line is surrounding the supposed reappearance of a missing girl and the tension surrounding this was too high for too long for me. Often I felt unsatisfied and anxious, especially when I got bogged down in the draggy middle. There are many story lines and thankfully, they FINALLY converge in the end of the book. I’d say overall, I liked this one better than The Thirteenth Tale, but more for the gorgeousness of the writing than the story. This strikes me a little bit horror, creepy, and with sexual themes (not my usually cup of tea), but overall, I still did really like it. It’s one of those books you will be thinking about for awhile. If you want a long, immersive read with a darker, thought-provoking feel to it, you may like this one.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was a reread for me and I just loved it all over again. Anne and Gilbert are married and setting up their first home. They meet and grow to love their neighbors, Captain Jim, a lovely, old sailor who is the lighthouse keeper, Cornelia, the local busy body, man-hater ;), and Leslie, the mysterious, sad beauty who lives close by. I just love Anne’s garden, house, and the beach. Anne and Gilbert share a heart-wrenching loss and it’s so lovely to share in this intimate beginning part of their lives together. I loved Captain Jim’s book being written and published as well.

The Story Peddler by Lyndsay A. Franklin (*****) – I loved this Middle Grade/YA fantasy story. It was very creative. A young story teller creates living rainbow story threads out of her hands that end in a piece of art for keeping. She ends up in a plot to help free her kingdom from the tyrant ruling and finds a deep secrets about herself. I may read the other two in this series.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (****) – my older four children and I finished this play and we really enjoyed listening to the Archangel audio version of it. We found this intriguing and inspiring. It has piqued our interest in history surrounding these events. I want to revisit my Folger copy and jot down some quotes in my commonplace. We also enjoyed this movie of it here, FYI – preview before showing to younger children. (I’ve decided to start adding in a few favorites I’ve read with my children, occasionally here! I was inspired by Kortney!)

Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins (*****) – This has a 1990’s feel to it ;), but I loved it! It is lovely for any Avonlea die-hard fan. Recipes, facts, crafts, and sweet illustrations all about Anne and Green Gables. I plan to make an apron from a pattern in this book.

Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – This was my second time through this book and I really slowed down and enjoyed it. I jotted down many quotes and recommendations to follow up on. You can get it here, if you are looking for Christian mothering or home educating inspiration! Mrs. Andreola is lovely, wise, and gentle.

Stories of America, Volume 2 from Simply Charlotte Mason– we all really enjoyed these short chapters on American history up to “the war on terriosm” and the beginning of technology age. I started in the World Wars section and read to the end. I will return to this when we come back through history at the story of the Oregon Trail. This book was a little dated at the end, but I might check into Volume 1 for our history readings in autumn.

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (**) – this is SUCH a hard collection of short stories to review! It is grotesque and vile in some ways, especially some of the stories with their sexual, dark overtones. The writing though is AMAZINGLY magical and the creativity is astounding. This MUST be YA or Adult because it has horror themes in it. I picked this up because I loved Barnhill’s writing style in The Girl Who Drank the Moon which was a Middle Grade, so I was sort of shocked and surprised by these stories.  My favorites stories in the collection were “The Dead Boy’s Last Poem”, “Elegy to Gabrielle”, and “The Unlicensed Magician”. This deserves a closer look for me, I think, just to continue to learn the craft of superb writing. However, I can’t recommend it at all ESPECIALLY  not for children and I probably will only reread my favorites above. I can’t wait to read more of Barnhill’s backlist, however.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (*****) – WOW. This is an A-mazing book for creatives, especially writers, but for everyone. Basically: Do the Work. The End. I think this is my favorite writing book so far and I’ve read many. Highly recommend!

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by Rowling (*****) – A reread for me! I loved when Firenze rescues Harry in the Forest and I love how the three friends help each other to get through the “maze” and the creepy Voldemort (oops…He Who Shall Not Be Named) connection to Quirrell is definitely shiver inducing.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Psalms and started Proverbs and read Genesis and some of Exodus. I love Genesis so much!

{I’m going to stop there and do a Part 2 of May 2020 Reads! Ha! I read SO many Middle Grade books this month, it was a pure delight, but LONG to put in one post. I’ll be back.}

What did you read last month that you loved?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Reads

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{early morning favorites: sunrise and The Cloud of Witness devotional}

Hello, Bibliophiles. Happy May 1st! I finished MANY reads this past month and wowsers, my brain is spinning from all the goodness in here. How ’bout you? Did you finish anything noteworthy? I’d really love to hear! The next best thing to reading books is talking about reading books. *wink, wink* I also realized that I read from ALL of my categories in my challenge to myself this year, although the one I’m counting as memoir is more of an autobiography. I really do love those genres of books.

Tree and Leaf: Includes Mythopoeia and The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) – This was small collection of an essay, a short story, and two poems and it was AMAZING, but unfortunately, I’m not going to succinctly be able to explain why. Ha. These great, learned writers do that to me. Make me all tongue-tied and starry-eyed. My imagination soars up and away and I’m gone. I seriously had a book-hangover from this one. The first essay “On Fairy Stories” was one of the reasons I wanted to read this book, as an artist friend on Instagram had referenced it. It was amazing and just such an encouragement to me as a writer, mother, and really as a Christian, too. I found it so beautiful, I had to reread lines, pause, and go back. I took time to read his extensive footnotes which were all at the end of the essay due to space. The short story, “Leaf by Niggle” was vague, beautiful, and so inspiring. Perhaps a wee bit autobiographical of Tolkien’s life. I didn’t understand it all and perhaps it had a thread of his Catholic faith that was beyond me, but it was all just so lovely. The poems were so fascinating too. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are looking for creative inspiration.

The Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge (****) – I found this autobiography just a beautiful look at Miss Goudge’s life and you could see how so many of the lovely details in her stories came out of experiences and places in her real life. I gobbled this book up in a couple of days. So fascinating! And of course, England comes alive through her eyes.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (*****) This was the March pick for my Instagram Classics read-along and I listened to it while I washed dishes. I finished it a little late, but I really enjoyed the story of Miss Grey’s life as a governess and this was just a sweet and sobering look of the life of the hardships, yet little joys that Agnes found. This was slow, yet interesting. After digging around, I may have already read this one, but had forgotten! Ha. So, I wouldn’t say it’s RIVETING, but I definitely look on it fondly. It was happier than some of the reads we’ve done this year.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This is ageless adventure story surrounding three children and their mysterious Uncle Merriman Lyon on the coast of Cornwall. They must decipher a mysterious, ancient map and find a priceless treasure before the Dark does! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? That’s because it IS! I reread this book often. Highly recommend!

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (****) – This was my first Wharton and wow, it was amazingly written. I loved immersing myself in the Golden Age of New York and the wealthy families and intrigues. I found Wharton’s characters so interesting and this was funny and thoughtful at the same time. It was a teeny bit repetitive as Newland Archer agonized over his life, decisions, and keeping up an outward adherence to what was the norm for his class and culture while internally and morally battling his choices. I really want to read more Wharton now.

The Voice of Many Waters: A Sacred Anthology for Today complied by Kay Snodgrass (*****) – This was a beautiful collection of poems that I had found for .25 cents at a thrift store earlier this year. I’m so glad I picked it up and I will be thumbing through it again. I found a couple new-to-me poets also.

From Room to Room by Jane Kenyon (*****) – Poetry has really been feeding me lately and this sparse, gorgeous collection was no exception. Deceptively simple, layers underneath. ❤

The Dalemark Quartet, Volume 1: Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – I needed a new series from Diana and this was fun! 3 stars for the first book – Cart and Cwidder and 5 stars for the second book – Drowned Ammet. Both of these books are set in Dalemark and are loosely related.

The Ravenwood Saga by Morgan L. Busse (****) –  I got this series via Kindle as the first was free with my Prime account. This was well-written, intriguing fantasy about a young woman’s coming into her inherited secret power that she doesn’t fully understand. To her horror and revulsion, all isn’t as it seems. The country is divided into different Houses each with different gifts and House of Ravenwood’s gift has take a sinister twist over the centuries. An outside threat could draw the Houses together in defense of their land or will it drive them apart? My oldest daughter and I enjoyed this series!

Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. M. Nouwen (*****) – This was a BEAUTIFUL look at Jesus and what we can draw from His life example during the Lent and Easter season. I really loved this!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Beautiful and haunting lines creep up on you in this interesting, ageless story of a fountain of youth. I’d like to reread it at sometime and jot the lines down soon. The story definitely makes you think, but my favorite is Babbitt’s lyrical writing. Just lovely. I grabbed this off my shelf one afternoon when I was looking for something different to read.

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Heartbreaking and beautifully written – a darker story from what usually came from Goudge’s pen. She definitely wanted to put a kinder spin on Lucy Walter’s life than history. I found it extremely sad at the end and it made want to hug my babies tighter. I really loved it and gobbled it up in a few days.

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon (*****) – This was a lovely and thoughtful collection of essays by the poet Jane Kenyon. I touched on it a little here, if you’d like to read more. I’m stalking Kenyon’s work currently. Extremely inspiring for fueling creativity!

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (*****) – Oh, my goodness. This was so simple, yet so complex. Layers of beauty in this simple, intimate look at the lives, loves, and natural beauty of Maine. Even though this is fictional, it felt living and truly heart-felt. Jewett breathed life into these people and this place. You could really tell she KNEW this region and deeply loved it. This is probably so slow moving to some (not much of a plot), but I found it so very lovely. I think the older version has illustrations, but mine did not, which was a bummer. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl (***) – We’ve been trying to read more Dahl here and I grabbed this off the shelf and enjoyed it one afternoon after we had finished school. So creative and I really loved the illustrations. Probably not my favorite of his, but lovely all the same.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (*****) – I struggled with this a bit at first, but then I read some reviews on Goodreads that made me want to hold on and I’m so glad I did. This ended up being a beautiful, reflective read for me. I copied down some passages into my Commonplace Journal also for further reflection. This is a time period I really know nothing about, the United States in 1930’s and we follow a young woman, Janie, as she walks through three different marriages and the tensions of race in a post-Civil War America. Definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and the different characters were done so well in this book.

Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken (****) – I really enjoy Joan Aiken’s fanfic based off of characters and situations from Jane Austen’s novels. This follows mainly Anne de Bourgh and Maria Lucas. Light and fun!

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (****) – This is a beautifully written historical fiction story and I was transported to 17th century Quebec in a lovely story full of domesticity, children, faith, and wonder. It was a slower read for me and in fact, I started this in February and finished it today! Ha. I really love Cather’s writing, though, so it was worth it.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I’ve been slowly working through Psalms and finished 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Wow. I made a dent in my TBR stack this month. Ha. I guess Covid is good for something. 😉 There were SO many  lovely finishes this month, but I’d have to say Tree and Leaf and  The Country of the Pointed Firs were my favorites. How ’bout you?

~