Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews

Reading and Waiting

The overnight bags are packed.

The baby clothes are washed.

The kitchen is cleaned, right down to a de-scaled coffee pot (as of last night).

The bassinet sits next to my bed, waiting, like the rest of us.

Even the laundry is folded and put away.

Come on, baby, I can’t keep this nesting up forever!

We’re three days past the due date of our fourth baby, and trying our best to be patient, but every day feels so full of uncertainty, it’s getting more and more difficult. And so…I read.

What have I read during the waiting?

Baby Catcher – I picked this one up when I couldn’t wrap my brain around preparing myself for another labor and delivery. Written in a light-hearted yet honest way, I thoroughly enjoyed Peggy Vincent’s account of her career. She started out at a time when twilight drugs were still used on women in labor and became a successful home birth midwife by the end. I almost wish I were having a home birth after reading it. Almost.

Mended – I love how Angie Smith writes about the love of God and how it has changed her. I loved her memoir, Chasing GodMended reads more like a devotional, and I am really enjoying it, as well.

Present Over PerfectAgain. I’m trying to go slower and soak more up this time, but it’s so good, I can’t slow down.

A Study in Charlotte – The ancestors of Sherlock and Watson meet again at a high school boarding school in the present day, and solve a mystery together. It could have worked out to be a great book…but it really didn’t. The mystery was long and convoluted, the characters as normalized teenagers lost their appeal long before the novel ended, and the teenage culture presented was just plain scary. If this is what teenagers are dealing with these days, I am locking my children in a Rapunzel castle. Or at least not sending them to boarding school.

Right now, I’m wanting another book like A Gentleman in Moscow. Any suggestions? Because who knows how much more waiting we have to go…

Children's Books, Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

February Reads – A Quick Lit Update

February is sweeping by me. Our fourth child is due on the last day of this month, and I think it’s fair to say the nesting instinct has kicked in pretty hard in the last week. I can’t stop thinking that everything has to be cleaned/painted/de-cluttered now, “just in case” the baby comes early. I’ve never had a baby early, so this sort of thinking is probably unwarranted. Still, I’ve managed to sit still long enough to read some pretty great books in the last month. Today, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy and friends again for Quick Lit, a feature that gives us a chance to catch each other up on what we’ve been reading in the past month.

(Psst…check back for some kids’ book reviews coming this Thursday!)

Fiction

The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill – Have you heard about this book yet? It’s a storyteller’s treat that whisked me into another world every time I cracked open the book. I loved the characters, the setting, the lyrical prose…pretty much everything about it. It’s completely worth all the publicity and fan love it’s getting. If you’re considering giving this to your grade school aged child, I might suggest reading it for yourself first. It’s very emotionally tense at times. Though quite unique, it did remind me of Shannon Hale’s Book of A Thousand Days or Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood DancingI highly recommend it to anyone. 4.5/5 stars (Also, this book is this year’s Newberry Award Winner, so it’s actually possible I’m not the only one raving about this book).

The One-In-A-Million Boy, Monica Wood – A story about an unlikely friendship between a young boy and a very old woman, this story was sometimes sweet and sad, often awkward, almost charming, and mostly hopeful about how friendships with all sorts of people – young, old, poor, rich, religious, successful…all sorts – keep a person fully human and alive. Wood does an amazing job of describing characters who become very, very real as you read. Some parts of the plot seem fairly unrealistic, but hey, if you want all your books to read like real life, maybe just stick to real life. I don’t mind a book veering off into unlikely circumstances, as long as it flows with the rest of the story. It wasn’t perfectly constructed, but it was still a good read. 3/5 stars

I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh – Though this was a well written crime novel with a huge plot twist that you can’t even guess though you’re thinking the whole time, “I heard there is a huge plot twist,” I wasn’t a big fan of this book because of very vivid descriptions of domestic violence and a good bit of language. Mackintosh writes from her professional life experience as a former police officer. She speaks to an all-too-true issue in our world. If you’re a fan of The Girl on the Train (the book), you’ll probably like this one, too. I’m beginning to understand I’m simply not a crime novel fan, so I should probably stop trying. 2.5/5 stars.

non-fiction

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets, Dana White – White is the author of the blog and podcast A Slob Comes Clean, and she knows of what she speaks. (She’s also pretty funny). If you’ve read all manner of “get your house in shape” books and never once really hit on anything that worked for you, this might be your book. It’s for those of us have what Dana calls “slob vision” or basically blindness to messes until they get really bad. Like, blind to a sink full of dishes until you have no plates to eat off of. If you consider yourself a person who likes projects instead of a person who manages everyday details, this book will definitely give you some ideas on how to be a good home manager without making you feel like you have to change your entire personality to do so. I’ve learned that personality-wise I’m more on the naturally tidy side of the spectrum of home managers. Not that I am on top of everything all the time (um…no), but I’m more likely to walk through a room and take a few things that are out of place with me to put away as I go about other tasks than to ignore a mess until it becomes a project. I still enjoyed White’s perspective and it was illuminating reading a little about how peoples’ personalities make them approach maintaining a home differently. The power of habits plays a large role in White’s approach, and habits are always a fascinating study in my book. (Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before is an awesome book on the topic of habits, as well).

And now it’s your turn to let me know what you’re reading! February is a great month to hit the books, wouldn’t you say?

Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews

Late January Decluttering Encouragement – More Wisdom from Books

A Gentleman in MoscowI mentioned in my quick-lit reviews that I was loving the book A Gentleman in Moscow but wasn’t finished with it yet. Well, I am finished, and I wholeheartedly endorse it as a great novel. It’s so much better than Rules of Civility by the same author. I couldn’t stop highlighting parts on my kindle; there were so many great quotes. One, in particular, struck me as just perfect for this time of year when everyone wants to declutter but may have lost some steam along the way, so I thought I’d share it with you today.

For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity–all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. This armoire, we are prone to recall, is the very one in which we hid as a boy; and it was these silver candalabra that lined our table on Christmas Eve; and it was with this handkerchief that she once dried her tears, et cetera, et cetera. Until we imagine that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.

But, of course, a thing is just a thing.

-Armor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

Yes, things are just things. So if you started out with a passion for decluttering this New Year that eventually waned, may this propel you forward to further  minimalist greatness. Or, simply ease our guilt about not dusting enough. Those things are just things, right?

Want more wisdom from novels? Check this post out

Reading, Reviews

January Quick Lit- Winter Reading Update

It has been so long since I posted a book review! I’m excited to get back into some quick-lit reviews, and I’m linking up with many other reviewers at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I read slowly through the month of December, distracted by Christmas movies and holiday goings-on. I don’t know that we’ll ever have a more beautiful Christmas season. It was purposeful and planned out in ways that gave us white space to be sporadic. We saw all of our family at one point or another throughout the month, and saw lots of each other, too. And I have to admit, it was so much fun to decorate our fixer upper. We didn’t do a whole lot, but a white house just lends itself well to my Christmas nostalgia. Even so, January came with a sigh of relief and putting away all the Christmas decor felt like giving myself permission to truly rest in this season. I got an electric blanket for Christmas and a huge box of tea from Amazon and now winter is the time for reading.

The Snow Child – If you are a lover of fairy tales written for grown ups, you’ll like this book. And I’m not talking about fairy tales written for the Young Adult audience, such as Cinder or Beauty. Eowyn Ivey writes about a couple who are older, beyond their child-bearing years, but still long for a child. I don’t think I would have appreciated this book at a younger age, but the tender aching nature of the main characters combined with their will to survive and love no matter what touched me deeply. Ivey masterfully writes about her home state and its beauty and pain. I enjoyed this book even more than To The Bright Edge of the World, and that’s saying something.

The Broken Way – Ann Voskamp’s deep thoughts and way with words demands a slow, thoughtful reading pace. This one took me about two months, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still feel like I need to read it again. Voskamp moves further into her ideas of communion with God through gratitude that she presented in One Thousand Gifts and explores the truth that suffering and brokenness is a path that everyone walks at some point, but that God can use to bring us to deeper beauty and oneness with other people and Him than we could imagine. Any description I write of this book will barely scratch the surface – it’s a must read.

The Baker’s Daughter – There’s got to be some D.E. Stevenson in my reading list every winter. This book was my cozy, post-holiday party pick. The plot is fairly simple – a wealthy but unhappy young lady (whom the rest of her acquaintance considers verging on being an old maid) becomes a housekeeper for an artist. She wants to escape the drudgery of life in her father’s and stepmother’s home. Of course, she does in some ways and doesn’t in others.  As usual, Stevenson’s character driven novels set in Scottish villages draw me into the lives she describes in her book. I always, always think of L.M. Montgomery’s characters when I read D.E. Stevenson. Their vim and vigor and no-nonsense approach to life combined with kindness and a thirst for more in life makes them pretty much my favorite type of characters. (Important: this book is not to be confused with The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy. Completely different books!)

A Gentleman in Moscow – I’m still in the middle of this one, and loving it so much more than Amor Towles’s first book, Rules of Civility. Count Rostov is the main character, and his life in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow on house arrest starting in the 1920s is the surprisingly compelling setting. Philosophical yet humorous, the small setting does not limit the epic Russian nature of this novel. I am learning all kinds of things about Russsian’s evolution in the 20th century. If you have an e-reader, I highly recommend reading this book on it because being able to highlight and look up people and terms I am unfamiliar with has definitely enriched my understanding of this book and of Russia. I can’t help but compare this book with The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but with much more likable characters and sweeping scope. The characters who populate the Metropol are so real to me as I get close to the end of this book. I suppose I can’t truly recommend it until I read the end, but so far, it’s wonderful.

Up next is a huge stack of holds from the library that all came in at one time. I love/hate it when that happens. But at least it means lots of new reviews will be going up soon! Until then, I hope you enjoy some winter reading and tell me all about the good books you discover.

Children's Books, Reading

A Slew of New Autumn Picture Books We Love

There’s something about this time of year that makes all the children’s books feel full of warmth and rightness. Maybe it’s because the thought of little furry, woodland creatures scurrying around to prepare for winter makes us think cozy, happy thoughts next to warmly colored pictures. I don’t know, but I can tell you that we raked in a bunch of books that were perfect for the 2-5 age range at our last library trip. Not all of them are necessarily fall-themed, but most of them feature small, furry creatures  (and one tiny bear) and I guarantee you will not mind if your preschoolers ask to read them again and again. The last book in the list is a Thanksgiving themed one, so be sure to check that out, too!

2130219Whose Shoes? Anne Grossnickle Hines/ LeUyen Pham

A joyful little mouse-girl goes from room to room in her family’s house, trying on shoes. She has lots of fun being silly and so will your little ones when they read this book. Every other page has a lift-the-flap illustration. LeUyen Pham is one of my favorite illustrators, and she’s written some gems herself, too. I was quite pleased to stumble upon this one in our local library display.

Otto the Book Bear, Kate Cleminson

Otto the Book BearOtto is a tiny bear who lives in a book, but pops out on occasion to explore. When his book leaves him behind, he goes on an adventure to find a new home, and ends up finding something even better. The illustrations are soft and inviting, each page has just a few words that poignantly describe what Otto is doing and how he feels about it, and there’s just something about this book that makes you want to go live in a library for a few hours. It’s a perfect rainy day read-aloud, but any day will do. Plus, it’s so cute to hear my two-year-old ask for “Otto.” Thanks to Jansen at Everyday Reading for featuring this one in an Instagram post! We are in love with it.

Kitten's First Full MoonKitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henkes

Black and white, but not boring, Kitten’s First Full Moon is about a little kitten in who has to figure out that the full moon isn’t actually a bowl of milk to drink. She’s such a petulant little kitten, it’s hard not to wish that the moon would just become a bowl of milk. This book won a Caldecott in 2005, but we just recently started noticing the board book version popping up everywhere. It’s perfect to check out at the library or give away at baby showers.

Such a Little MouseSuch A Little Mouse, Alice Schertle/ Stephanie Yue

Alice Schertle is famous for Little Blue Truck, a favorite around here, and her latest children’s book about a little mouse exploring the world and storing up food during each season of the year does not dissapoint. The little mouse lives in a sunny field and meets many woodland creatures through the year, but the best part to me is the cozy drawings of his home under the dandelion clump.

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving StorySharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story, Pat Zitlow Miller/ Jill McElmurry

All ages can appreciate this lyrical book with bright and warm illustrations that show a big family coming together to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it might be a far cry from what mine or your Thanksgiving looks like now, but it’s fun to see the work that went into a meal at the turn of the 20th century, and the warmth of family gathered and a meal shared glows on each page. Thanks to Sarah McKenzie at Read Aloud Revival for sharing this book!

Those are the picture books we’re enjoying this month! I hope you have a great week celebrating Thanksgiving with your friends and family and in your own heart.

Reading, Reviews

Books To Read This Winter – There’s Something For Everyone!

Winter is simply the best time to read. I mean, I love stretching out on a deck chair on a sunny June day with a book, but there are lots of other things I love in June, too… picking berries, swimming, planting things that probably won’t grow, going on long walks at sunrise, washing stuff…I really like June. But if I’m next to a roaring fire on a cold December day, my hands are aching to have a book in them. All is wrong with the world if I’m without something to read in wintertime. Lucky for you, I started my winter reading early this year! I’ve read a little bit of everything lately, and so I’m putting together a little guide for what to pick up this winter, gathered from several different genres.

Literary Fiction

To The Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey

To The Bright Edge of the WorldThis is my favorite book of 2016. It combines adventure with history in a completely new way, and is one of those books that is so interesting and well written, it will appeal to men and women of any age. Set in the frontier of Alaska at the end of the 19th century, this novel is based on the real historical figures of Colonel Allen Forrester and his wife Sophie. Colonel Forrester is given the task of mapping an unexplored area of Alaska, and the fictionalized accounts of his trip with his small group of men are enthralling and make me want to know much more than I do about Alaskan history and all the mysticism explorers encountered. While Colonel Forrester is away, Sophie pursues her own love of nature through the newly invented camera. I found both of their narratives to be equally absorbing. This is the kind of book that you put down and you can’t wait to pick up again, and when it’s over you long to start another one just like it. I haven’t read Ivey’s first novel The Snow Child, but it is on the bedside table stack and will surely be one of my Winter 2016 reads.

Historical Fiction 

Amy Snow, Tracy Rees

Amy SnowIf you like historical fiction about women in the 1800s, this book is your cup of tea. It follows the life of the title character Amy Snow, who was found as an abandoned newborn by a young heiress and raised in a confusing and unconventional way. After the heiress dies at a very young age, Amy must follow a trail left for her to discover the truth about who she is and who her benefactress was, as well. I would say that Jane Eyre heavily influenced Tracy Rees; Amy’s character is very similar in tone and personality to Jane. This is the winter equivalent to a light, well-written beach read, with a huge plus that it is fairly clean/non-smutty, though it deals with some adult themes.

Memoir

 The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines

As a fan of Fixer Upper, I knew I would be reading this as soon as I heard they were The Magnolia Storyreleasing it. I tried to go into it with low expectations…after all, they’re TV personalities, not writers. I was pleasantly surprised, though, because what I found in the pages of The Magnolia Story was not a story about TV personalities…it was a story about real people, with real faith and normal struggles. Sometimes it seems like a memoir has to feature a tragedy to get published, but this one was hopeful and inspiring. I garnered some real perspective on thriving when you’re not in the middle of what you would consider success, and on building a strong marriage by sticking close together in life, pursuing similar dreams.  As a book, it’s not a Pulitzer Prize winner or anything, but a tiny taste of what it would be like to sit around a dinner table for a few hours with Chip and Joanna Gaines and laugh and talk with them about life.

Mystery or Crime Novel

Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2)The sequel to Girl Waits With A Gun does not disappoint. Constance Kopp is back as one of the first lady cops in America. She is trying to work her way into the well-deserved role of deputy sheriff, but a German con-man is besting her and everyone else on the police force. Just as I did in the first installment of The Kopps Sisters series, I thoroughly enjoyed the history and real-life people woven into this page-turner. Amy Stewart always features a plot-line straight from the newspapers of the early 1900s. Definitely start with the first book, but don’t wait too long to get into this series if you’re a fan of Maisie Dobbs or historical crime fiction in general. On a clean-read note, this is a very non-graphic crime novel, for those of you concerned with being able to sleep at night (that would be me).

Faith-Based

The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant LifeI’m slowly and carefully soaking up the words of this book on chilly Autumn mornings before my children wake up. So far, it is everything you would expect from Ann Voskamp – a constant fluctuation between despair and bright hope, earthly circumstances and heavenly perspective, fear and awe-inspiring love. I would venture to predict that this second book of Voskamp’s won’t be the raging success her first one was, mostly because it isn’t as much of a self-help book on finding joy. Joy is still a theme, yes, but Voskamp is exploring a tougher path this time to true, complete joy in giving.  This one isn’t going to get you keeping a list of things to be grateful for. It will get you thinking more on what’s been given up for you and how you can give more up for others. As I keep on reading it, I’ll give a fuller review. I’ve read enough to say you should definitely join me in reading it!

Fantasy or YA

Nothing new to report here, but I’d strongly recommend Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and many of her other books. Clearly, I need some recommendations in this genre.

Those are my top picks for Winter reads in 2016! Tell me what yours are, pretty please? I’m always looking for a good book this time of year.

And if you’d like to follow me on goodreads.com, here’s the link to do that. It’s so fun to be Goodreads Friends and see one another’s reviews about all sorts of books, and I guarantee you’ll find a plethora of good reads. It’s better than Pinterest for book lovers (and maybe more dangerously time consuming…but check it out anyway!). Happy Reading!

Image result for goodreads logo

 

Reading

Fall 2016 Booklist {Books I Hope to Read This Fall}

Most book reviewers start talking about the fall reading they plan to do under cozy blankets with mugs of hot tea, oh, right around, August 15th. All those images that start popping up on Pinterest and in blog feeds of soup recipes and chunky sweaters make us down here in the Southern United States scream, dunk our faces in ice water, and sit in front of a fan for a few hours. We literally have no memory of what naturally cool air feels like until at least October.

All that’s to say, I just gave the first thought to fall reading about two hours ago, when I noticed I would kind of like to put on a sweater at 1:00 in the afternoon.  The air has a fall tang to it, and now I’m itching for a good fall reading binge. I love a good fantasy book in the fall. The only problem? My Goodreads To Read book list is firmly entrenched in serious books. Dang. Who is picking these books for me? Oh, right, me. So, I’m writing down what I think I’ll probably read based on what’s currently on hold for me at the library, but I need your recommendations for just plain fun (but no Outlander recommendations, please), and I’m reserving the right to fling any part of my list out the window in the hope that some enchanting, engrossing, especially wonderful book (or, even better, series!) comes my way.

The Mia The Reader Fall 2016 Booklist

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant LifeAnn Voskamp is releasing a new book on October 26th, and you can bet your book light it will be in my mailbox on that very day. One Thousand Gifts is one of my favorite books of all time, one that truly set my feet on a new and better course, and I eagerly await Voskamp’s second book. My only concern is I suspect it my wreck me for the typical American Christmas season. I’m mostly okay with that.

 

 

Truly, Madly, Guilty, Liane Moriarty

I don’t love all of Moriarty’s books but I always give them a chance after reading What Alice Forgot. Her newest came out this summer, and the premise is a little iffy for my taste, so the jury’s out on whether I’ll actually read it all, but I’ll give it a go as soon as my turn for it comes up at the library.

Teaching from Rest, Sarah McKenzie

I enjoy McKenzie’s approach to homeschooling on her blog (and her podcast is one of my favorites), so I think it’s high time I read her highly praised book. I could use a lot more wisdom in this area. McKenzie approaches her homeschooling from the Charlotte Mason way of thinking, for anyone who is looking for more of that in their homeschooling philosophy.

To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey

To The Bright Edge of the WorldI’ve heard Ivey can make any book work simply through her way with words. I haven’t read her first book, The Snow Child, but was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. This is her second novel, and both of her works are set in Alaska. Perfect fall/winter reading. (I know, I know, it’s not always winter in Alaska, but snow usually has something to do with the story).

The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines

Because I am a fan of Fixer Upper and I can’t help myself. I appreciate how Joanna’s blog writing focuses on the positive elements of work and parenting, and I’m just plain curious about how the Gaineses’ life has become what it is now.

This may be my shortest seasonal reading list ever, but I’m trying to be a responsible adult and sleep and cook meals and things like that this Fall. Also, we are still knee deep in home renovations here. But you can be sure I’ll be reading other books along the way. I’ll keep you posted. And coming soon is the list of what my kids and I are reading together right now!

What are you reading?

 

Reading, Reviews

All The Pretty Things and Other September Reads

Thank you for all your kind words after my last post, The Summer That Was Quiet and Hard. Knowing that the whole self-contempt, identity issue is something many of us face, I wanted to share a few books that are helping me think through it all. 

This past month or so of reading has been completely out of the ordinary. I am usually a novel girl, as in, I read lots of novels and throw in a few nonfiction books here and there for good measure. But when you’re trying to figure out a lot of real life and you feel like you’re wading through deep waters, a thirst for help and wisdom and true stories from other travelers along the path is all that will do. And I gotta say, a couple of these books that just came out in the last two months are amazingly wonderfully.

Present Over Perfect

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of LivingI put Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect on my Spring TBR list, hoping to get an early release copy. I didn’t get one, but it was God’s goodness to me that I didn’t and that somehow I didn’t even get around to buying it the day it came out. I waited to read it until the very end of August. There could not have been a more perfect book for me to read at that very moment in my life. This surprised me, because I actually thought before I started the book, “I’ve kind of heard a lot about this message –the slow your pace, pay more attention to the present message–lately and I’m not so sure this book is going to have anything new to say about it.” Let me tell you, I was wrong.  Present Over Perfect bowled me over. It was this book that helped me recognize the self contempt I was feeling, and the one that gave me some tools to start waging the slow thought-battle against it. Niequist has so many good things to say about how we define ourselves and what our defining measures can do to our lives, in good and bad ways. I want to read it again right this minute. I hope you pick it up, and I hope it is the huge gift to you that it was to me.

All the Pretty Things

All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way HomeEdie Wadsworth of Life In Grace has been writing her memoir for three years. This is one of those, “I wasn’t going to write a memoir but a publisher asked me to” situations that makes aspiring writers jealous and angry, but I am really glad that Wadsworth wrote it, no matter what the process was. All The Pretty Things is a book I couldn’t put down. Edie grew up in rural Tennessee, the daughter of dysfunction and love. Her family and her story will make you laugh and cry in sequence over and over again. I loved it. If you’re a fan of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this book is definitely your cup of tea. I liked it even better than Walls’s memoir because of the huge measure of hope and redemption on every page. I bought this book. I love books, I read tons of books, but the library is my best friend. I hardly ever buy brand new books, but I bought this one. It’s so good, and filled with hope in hard situations. (Side note: her short podcast series Grace Talks is still my favorite podcast ever).

Chase

Chase Study Guide: Chasing After the Heart of GodThis is the second study I’ve done by Jennie Allen (the first one was Stuck) and again I am so thankful for the books and studies that are in my life at just the right time. Chase begins with a chapter called “Identity” and that is perfect. I’m finding you have to come face to face with who you are without God and with God before anything can become clear and you can live in the goodness God gives us. Chase studies the life of David and so far it’s been eye opening to look at stories I’ve read a million times (like David and Goliath) through the lens of how David’s belief in God changed his actions when compared to everyone around him. Truly, what we believe about God and ourselves changes everything.

So that’s what I read in September. And now it’s October! I’ll be back in a few days to post my reading goals for this Fall. Until then, have a great start to October!

Reading, Reviews

Quick Lit Review- August, 2016

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit today to review what I’ve been reading lately. I have to confess, most of these books were read at the end of July or before August 6 because OLYMPICS. I save up all my TV watching hours for four years and cram them into two weeks and I loooove it. I wrote here about how my husband and I had to re-think our sports watching habits a few years ago, but I will not be moved on this– I will watch as much Summer Olympics as possible. But onto the books I did read since last month’s Quick Lit review!

The Light of ParisThe Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown – I looked forward to this new book coming out by Brown because I really enjoyed her debut novel, The Weird Sisters. The Light of Paris was not as appealing to me, partly because it’s one of those back-and-forth situations between a character in the past and present, which I am pretty much sick of. The one technique that saves this novel structure in The Light of Paris is the present day plot is narrated in first person and the past plot is narrated in third person, so it’s a tiny bit easier to keep the plot lines straight in your mind. Still, I much prefer getting into one character’s story and staying there. Other than structure, I’d give it a 2.5 stars, mostly because the themes and story lines were not all that believable or enthralling.

The Affair at the Inn – I discovered that Kate Wiggins, author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, co-wrote a charming little book about a group of travelers in England in the 1800s. It was amusing, a nice light read for fans of old books and free on Project Gutenberg.

The House on the Cliff – My most recent D.E. Stevenson read. As usual, she does not disappoint.

The Grand Sophy – First foray into Georgette Heyer! I can’t say it turned me into a devoted fan, but all the readers who say Heyer is great for a sick day weren’t lying.

The Middle PlaceThe Middle Place – Kelly Corrigan’s first memoir is a touching and honest account of dealing with cancer and family relationships at the same time, though I much more enjoyed this memoir about a brush with death, largely because of the faith behind it. I listened to this one while painting some furniture.

Deck with Flowers – More Elizabeth Cadell! She’s my new-old discovery this summer, and I’m really enjoying reading her books as I can find them.

There’s an Easier Way: 21 Ways to Lovingly Raise Your Children Without Regrets – I picked up this booklet on Amazon after hearing one of the authors, Bonni Greiner, speak on The God Centered Mom Podcast (which I highly recommend). The book is an easy read that doesn’t go incredibly deep but is full of useful tidbits, all of them doable and sensible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a mom but you also don’t feel up to reading a deeply theological parenting book, this one is great to get you thinking in the right direction without robbing too many precious brain cells or sleep. =)

I’m currently in the middle of new release Radio Girls, and enjoying it so far! What have you been reading?

Everyday Life, Reading

The Wisdom in Literature: Truths for Everyday Life

There have been many people in the past ten or so years who have either implied or straight out said that they think reading fiction is a waste of time. I don’t think they were exactly condemning fiction, just letting me know that they felt a certain level of guilt when they spent time or brain energy reading a novel. As a to-do list lover, I understand that feeling to some extent. Even so, I still confidently say, “Literature and stories have changed my life for the better.”  It could take hours to fully flesh out this statement.  I think there’s plenty of research to show how valuable reading quality novels is (like this article about readers being empathetic or this one about reading fiction to improve brain function), but I’m not going to argue on that kind of scholarly level today.  Instead, I’m going to give some concrete examples of wisdom I’ve gathered from literature. These are pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned recently and long ago that I’m actually putting into practice in my everyday life right now.

1. Hungry boys need bread and butter.

I have a five-year-old boy. I am not lying when I say he is always hungry.  I’m not sure what I would think about this as a mom, having only grown up with girls in the house, if this conversation from Anne of Avonlea between Anne and Davy (who is six) hadn’t stuck with me:

“Anne, I’m awful hungry. You’ve no idea.”

“I’ll get you some bread and butter in a minute.

“But I ain’t bread and butter hungry, “said Davy in a disgusted tone. “I’m plum cake hungry.”

“Oh,” laughed Anne, laying down her letter and putting her arm about Davy to give him a squeeze, “that’s a kind of hunger that can be endured very comfortably, Davy-boy. You know that it’s one of Marilla’s rules that you can’t have anything but bread and butter between meals.”

Well, if even Marilla can admit that little boys must have something to eat between meals, then I guess it’s a fact. Let them eat bread and butter! (or something equally wholesome).

2. Get your work done in the morning.

D.E. Stevens has many practical and plucky characters in her books (and I like or love them all). I read The House on the Cliff a couple of weeks ago, which featured as a side character the delightful Mrs. Chowne (whom I have irreparably paired in my mind with Mrs. Patmore). At one point in the book, the main character finds Mrs. Chowne up very early and asks her why, and Mrs. Chowne replies, “I like getting up early on a nice bright morning. The work gets done much quicker if it’s done early.” So true. Anytime I make a to-do list, if I don’t get the majority of it done before lunch, it typically doesn’t get done, or if it does, it takes a dreadful amount of time. I don’t know how to explain this, except that Mrs. Chowne is simply right.

3. A little time away from children can help you love them more.

There’s nothing like feeling completely smothered from morning til, well, morning, that makes me grumpier. Especially in those years when there’s a newborn needing me all night and a toddler or two adding to the neediness all day, I feel like something in me is going to crack. But once everyone is (mostly) sleeping through the night, sanity returns. As Kelly Corrigan writes in The Middle Place“I wake up with Georgia just inches from my nose, urgently notifying me that Claire is ready to get up. I always love them best first thing in the morning, having forgotten something critical about them in the night, something gorgeous and utterly lovable.” After a good night’s sleep when nobody wakes me up, my children’s eyes seem more beautiful, their skin more exquisite, their voices like music. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel during the all night-neediness years.

4. Tidying up a sickroom will make the sick person feel better.

Near the beginning of Little Women, Jo goes to visit Laurie for the first time. He has been housebound with a bad cold for a week and needs some cheering up. When Jo comes in, she looks around and sees that the room Laurie has been confined to during his sickness is nice, but definitely in need of her help. She says to Laurie,

“I’ll right it up in two minutes, for it only needs to have the hearth brushed, so,–and the things made straight on the mantel-piece,so–and the books put here, and the bottles there, and your sofa turned from the light, and the pillows plumped up a bit. Now, then, you’re fixed.” And so he was; for, as she laughed and talked, Jo had whisked things into place, and given quite a different air to the room.

Having been under the weather myself for the last three weeks, I can tell you that this made up piece of fiction is absolute gold. Even if you are the sick person and you can only make your bed before you get back into it, just doing that will lift your mood. A few days ago, I undertook to clear all the junk out of the corners and along the walls of my bedroom in a burst of energy. Even though I had to spend more time resting later, I felt a peace about me that wasn’t there when the room was cluttered. Something to remember for the next time you or a loved one is sick. (On the other hand—I have certain loved ones who would be straight up annoyed if I came to visit and started cleaning the bedroom. Know your sick person…though sometimes it’s a risk I’m willing to take…).

5. Don’t Think Too Hard At Night

This one might be the best. It’s from a children’s book with a not-so-wise-sounding title: Bing Bong Bang and Fiddle Dee Dee. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, though, for kids and grown ups. Here’s the part I hope to remember until my dying day:

“The morning is wiser than the evening. And the light is better, too.”

How many times have you been lying awake with a problem or worry running circles in your mind, and it’s actually gotten better thanks to your nighttime thinking? Or have you had an argument at night that didn’t only get worse the more you talked? Personally, this has never happened. Problems or disagreements stretch at night like scary black shadows, but in the morning, they are once again just the size of the thing they really are and they can actually be dealt with. Maybe you’re getting the idea that I’m a morning person, but I think this is pretty much universal–problem solving and argument resolving are daytime events.

Have I made my point yet? Sure, this wisdom is always true, whether it’s put down in black and white nonfiction or told in a story. When it’s in a story, though, it has a way of etching deeper into my mind and proving its worth. That’s why I don’t think fiction can ever be called a waste of time.