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.

Reading, Reviews

July Reading – New Favorites and Quick-Lit Reviews

Today I’m linking this update on summer reading post up to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit. Check out lots of other quality recommendations on her page!

Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler – If you’ve ever read an Anne Tyler book and thought “Her writing is so beautiful, but I’m at the end of the book and I still don’t know what it’s about!” then this book is for you.  It has a definite plot with a beginning, middle, and end. I think of that as a plus, as much as I admire Anne Tyler’s other books. Vinegar Girl is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew (remember that 90’s movie, Ten Things I Hate About You? Also a retelling of that same play). In this retelling, the main character, Katherine, is a grown woman, but this book definitely has a Young Adult feel to it. It’s short and sweet and very clean, but some of the themes Tyler weaves in it might just stick with you. Anyone could enjoy it, and English teachers everywhere should definitely check it out.

The Friendly AirThe Friendly Air, by Elizabeth Cadell – I’ve discovered Elizabeth Cadell and my summer just got ten times better. I know there are way too many reviews about all sorts of books that say things like “This writer is a modern Jane Austen!,” and I’m about to add another one. Cadell really does write lighthearted yet interesting books about quality characters whom you will end up liking. This one was published in 1970 but it has a timeless feel. It’s about a young woman, Emma, who strikes up a friendship with an older eccentric woman, bound and determined to move to a warmer climate. She somewhat randomly picks Portugal and sets up Emma as her moving assistant. Of course, Emma becomes much more and adventure and romance ensue.

The Yellow Brick RoadThe Yellow Brick Road, by Elizabeth Cadell – My second Cadell book, and completely different from the first. This one is a mystery that starts with Jody, a sensible young lady, falling down some stairs during a job in London and waking up with the solid but mysterious knowledge that things are not as they seem. She is sure she did not simply faint and fall down some stairs, but it seems like no one wants her to know what really happened. As she pursues the truth and gathers allies along the way, the cozy world she took for granted is entirely changed. I read this book from start to finish in one day (on a sick day). It’s a great summer read!

Life Among the SavagesLife Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson – A few weeks ago, I was losing my sense of humor in mothering. Everything felt overwhelming, from getting my children to do their chores to dealing with bullying. I picked up this book and was saved. The beginning is a little slow, as Jackson sets the scene for where her family lives and works, but pretty soon Jackson had me laughing out loud over her account of shopping in a department store with her two children, or her attempt to make coffee while in labor with her third child. I can see myself reading this again in about five years. I need a whole slew of this type of books! Mothering is serious business, but if I can keep laughing as I go along, I might just make it.

The Curate’s Awakening – I’m not sure how to describe this book, other than it’s sort of a combination of a Thomas Hardy novel mixed with C.S. Lewis. It’s a novel about a young country curate (think beginner pastor) coming to grips after already choosing his profession with the fact that he doesn’t actually know what Christianity is about or if he even believes it. I’m about half way through and finding it to give me lots of food for thought. Also, the subplot of a young lady and her murderous brother keeps things moving along pretty well. (Thanks to my friend Mary for lending me this one!)

Beyond Our SelvesBeyond Ourselves, by Catherine Marshall – Catherine Marshall is the author of the famous Christy. You may have known that, but did you know Marshall wrote quite a lot of nonfiction, too? Beyond Ourselves is Marshall’s memoir of her spiritual journey in living in God’s strength was on my Fall 2014 Reading List… and I’m just now getting around to it.  I can’t even tell you how much I’ve gotten out of it thus far. My favorite quote so far:

Our emotions are often painfully misleading, and at best we have imperfect control over them…Our feelings can be affected by such irrelevant matters as the mood of those around us, by whether we had a good night’s sleep, by hunger or indigestion, or by a morning in which the rain blew through the open window, spattered the wallpaper, and the neighborhood dogs turned over the garbage pail. “I don’t feel God’s presence today,” we wail. What is the remedy? It is simplicity itself: our emotions are not the real us. (emphasis mine) (p. 58)

Fans of Elizabeth Elliot will find a lot to like about this book. I snagged the copy I own on a whim when our church library shut down and gave away all its books, but you can easily get a copy for about $4 off of Amazon if your local library doesn’t have it.

That sums up what I’ve been reading lately! Found any gems this summer? Let me know in the comments!

Reading, Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday

My Top Ten Beach Reads

Is there any felicity on earth that compares to reading a great book on a quiet beach? No. There is not.

I’m linking up to the Top Ten Tuesday meme over at thebrokeandthebookish.com to share my five favorite beach reads from the past and the five books I’ll be reading this summer. What’s even better is I’m also including the five books you must read with your kids at the beach! Fifteen for the price of ten! Hang on to your sunhats.

Favorite Past Beach Reads

  1. The Pilot’s Wife – Shreve is like Piccoult: she may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but read at least one of her books. Her writing is beautiful.
  2. Jacob Have I Loved – YA that you’ll never leave behind
  3. The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans – I think this will be considered a classic in fifty years. (more about this book here!)
  4. What Alice Forgot – Light hearted, yet thought provoking.
  5. Orphan Train – A great piece of historical fiction!

Bonus: If you have not read these, these two off my Favorite Books List are best by the beach!

  1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  2. Anne’s House of Dreams

What I plan to read this summer:

(though probably not on the beach—I have three kids 7 and under…reading on the beach is a thing of the past and the future, but not the present).

  1. The Forgotten Room – Karen White is best read by the ocean! I especially loved Long Time Gone
  2. Everyone Brave is Forgiven – The book of the year, apparently! It’s often compared to All the Light We Cannot See.
  3. At the Edge of SummerAt the Edge of Summer – A new book by the author of Letters from Skye.
  4. Birds of a Feather – I read the first Maise Dobbs book a while ago, and it’s high time I moved on with this fabulous series.
  5. Deerbrook – An old book I’ve never heard of til recently! It’s compared to works by Gaskell and the Brontes, so sign me up! Also, it’s available for free on Project Gutenberg.

 

Great beach reads for you and your kids!

  1. The Maggie B. – I am in love with this book.
  2. Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat – Great for little boys!
  3. Amy's EyesAmy’s Eyes – I read this chapter book in an old beach house when I was 10 or so and thought it was awesome.
  4. The Nickelplated Beauty – Such a good book about a family who lives near the sea, their rusty stove, and their love for their mama.
  5. The Golden Venture – Out of print, but an absolute treasure. I checked it out repeatedly in the library as a kid. It’s about a girl who stows away to follow her dad to the California Gold Rush and ends up living in San Francisco.

I think I could go on forever! Beach reading is absolutely the best. I’m looking forward to a great summer of books and beaches. Share your favorite beach reads for you or for children!

[Side note: My brain is already on vacation. Seriously, it thinks it’s lounging on a beach chair sipping lemonade in a tropical oasis. The only problem with this is, it’s totally not true. We are not done with school yet (two more days), we are still in the middle of a million house projects, and life is very busy. I am trying my hardest to focus and get motivated to get stuff done, but my brain is saying, “Sorry. I’m done. DONE.” And my body is not far behind it. I’m tired, and it’s a weird tired. An “I’ve been sitting by the pool for three hours and can’t will myself to move” kind of tired. Except I have most certainly not been sitting by the pool. I’ve been staring at unfolded laundry and stirring macaroni and cheese. Hence the quiet on the blog. I can’t think an original thought, even though I’m off Facebook, so hang tight…something will come to me eventually. But maybe not til the rest of me joins my brain at the beach.]

Reading, Reviews

Update on the Spring Reading List

Time for a quick catch up on some recent reading! As always, my reading list is mishmash of novels and a little bit of nonfiction. A couple of months ago, I put out my Spring TBR list of 9 books. Here’s how it played out.

  1. The Summer Before the WarThe Summer Before The War, Helen Simonson – I loved the setting and the characters of this book. One the one hand, I wanted to read about them forever. On the other hand, the pace of the novel was uneven and it was hard to pull out the overarching themes that take a book from just a story to something worth recommending. Not as good as Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
  2. The Song of Hartgrove Hall, Natasha Solomons – Also did not meet expectations. Very gloomy characters. Very gloomy setting. The main character is a moody young man in some parts of the book and a grumpy old man in others, who doesn’t seem to have developed much of a moral compass or compassion for others in between times. The back and forth between time periods disjointed the book. Solomons’s The House at Tyneford was much better.
  3. Keep Me Posted, Lisa Beazley – Surprisingly, this one was my favorite. It was PG-13 rated in my opinion, and sometimes got a little too gossipy in tone at the beginning when the two main characters, sisters living in different countries, start writing letters back and forth. However, this book was actually one of the catalysts that led me to Give Up Facebook. I liked its themes of true friendship and authenticity. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it has redeeming value, likable narrators, and it was just what I needed to read at the time I picked it up.
  4. Flood Girls, Richard Fifield – Abandoned early because of excessive crudity.
  5. Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly – I want to go back to this one…but I’m scared. I got about 1/8 of the way in and chickened out. Why? Well, I’ve read quite a few books set in WWII. Now, I get to a certain point in the story and think, “Oh, no. No no no. I know that place. I know that name. I know how this is going to play out…and it isn’t going to be pretty.” Lilac Girls is in a stack with The Nightingale right now, waiting for me to recover enough bravery to go on.
  6. Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist – Didn’t get an early copy, so it’s still high on the list this summer. It has an August release date.
  7. Longing for Paris, Sarah Mae – Still in the middle of this one! I’m struggling to engage with it, but I don’t think it’s because it’s not a good book. I think it’s because it hits pretty close to home. Sarah Mae is presenting an idea and a challenge that requires hard consideration on my part. So I keep putting it off, saying, “Maybe tomorrow.”
  8. High Rising, Angela Thirkell – Haven’t gotten a hold of a copy yet. Thirkell isn’t exactly floating around libraries and used bookstores in the U.S.
  9. Last Stop on Market Street – Still on the holds list at the library for this one!

And now for some short reviews of books that got added to the Spring reading list as I went along!

A Place We Once Knew Well, Susan Carol McCarthy

SA Place We Knew Wellet in Florida in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is the story of how the missile crisis was the tipping point for many other crises in a small town near McCoy Air Force Base. Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The historical accuracy of the book combined with the emotional story depicting how many Americans must have felt during those 13 days of uncertainty in 1962 was fascinating. The actual story and characters delve into some other themes of the time like women’s healthcare and mental health. Those were not as thrilling, but all in all it was good enough to make it a solid 3 star book.

Land Girls, Angela Huth

I thought I’d love this book. I hated it. It is set in the English countryside during WWII, and follows the experiences of three young women who signed up to be Land Girls. These women did the farm work that the men would have done if they hadn’t been called to war, and then some.  All that sounds fascinating, right? Sadly, that is where the historical accuracy of this book ends. Angela Huth imposed a college co-ed dormitory lifestyle of today onto characters and situations from the 1940s. The amount of “shagging” going on was ridiculous. The amount of food these girls ate was also ridiculous (rationing, hello?). Beyond the historical inaccuracies, the amount of time spent in the secondary characters’ thoughts was jarring and unpleasant. If Huth had stuck to developing the three main characters and kept their actions in line with other literature of the period, this could have been a great book. Unfortunately, it is loathsome. And the original Land Girls think so, too.

Heidi's ChildrenHeidi Grows Up and Heidi’s Children, Charles Tritten

I need large doses of Old Fashioned Goodness in my reading life, and these were perfect. They made for excellent bedtime reading.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

I grabbed this one up when I saw it was a new release by Susan Meissner, who wrote one of my favorite books of last year, Secrets of a Charmed Life. Set in the late 1930s, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard follows two women as their unlikely friendship progresses. The theme of motherhood is big in this book, and I appreciated how Meissner presented it tenderly and as something of great value, but also shattered the myth that it will complete a woman. The book is on the cusp of the change in what a woman expects from her life — from children and marriage and a life firmly rooted at home to a career. The two main characters present opposite sides of that shift. The complexity of their friendship as they navigate their differences points to the most important theme in the book — nothing you strive for in life will take the place of being truthful and living with love for others greater than love for yourself.

All in all, I haven’t come across anything work more than 3 stars this Spring. The search for the great summer read of 2016 is on!