Quick Lit, Reviews

The Book You Need on Your Fall TBR (and a few other ideas, too)

Hey friends! Welcome to Quick Lit, where book loving bloggers come together mid-month over at modernmrsdarcy.com to share what we’ve been reading lately.

I read a few great books this summer, but there was one that stood up and said to me as I was reading it, “As wonderful as I am now, I’m really an autumn book, you know.” The book was “Dear Mrs. Bird,” and I adored it. It’s historical fiction, set in the middle of World War II during the London Blitz. The plucky heroine Emmeline Lake leaves her day job in pursuit of becoming a war correspondent. She finds herself shoved into a back office of a dying magazine as an assistant to the fearsome Mrs. Henrietta Bird, a once popular advice columnist. Emmy’s war effort takes on its own type of intrigue and danger as she attempts to do her part for England. Emmy is one of those characters who is an unquenchable friend, loyal and kind, and also drives her friends crazy with her impulsive actions. The book is both humorous and moving, compassionate and light but with the realities of war woven through it. The way A. J. Pearce wrote a book that is both modern and true to the 1940s time period is incredibly rare and special. I’ve read several books written in England during the war years, and Dear Mrs. Bird strikes just the right tone to fit in with books actually written in 1940-45. (And because sometimes it’s nice to know, this book is about a PG/PG-13 level when it comes to adult content – fairly clean, with some mention of adult themes, some language, and of course the war themes). I think this book will appeal to you whether you like new releases or classics or just love a good cast of characters.

A few other ideas for your Fall TBR:

If you like middle grade novels: The Orphan Band of Springdale is a new release that is very good. I would argue that it has themes that put it more in a 6-8th grade range. It’s one of those “children’s” novels that anyone can enjoy.

If you like vintage books set in England: Merry Hall has me in stitches. The narrator is terribly funny in a sarcastic, witty way and his observations, though bogged down with gardening tidbits in my non-gardener’s opinion, are on point. I’m reading this rare book for free here. Internet Archive is a goldmine.

If you have a baby in the house: My baby (17 months) loooves the book Who?: A Celebration of Babies.

If you like non-fiction: I’m both laughing at and moved by Jennifer Fulwiler’s book One Beautiful DreamIt’s her story of how she came to realize that pursuing her passions and callings while raising a young family was actually something she needed to do. I’m hoping she’ll explain how she does that, too, because there are only so many hours in a day… and can I just say that the cover of this book kind of makes me cringe, and I think that was the intention? Fulwiler’s honesty about her real life starts even on the very cover. I admire her courage to put that on her book instead of choosing a cover that would be more Insta-worthy.

If you’re looking for an important and insightful addition to your fall reading, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis is eye opening and informative. J.D. Vance writes about his upbringing among the working poor of America. Ideas about how the American dream has come and gone for certain regions in America were especially fascinating.

I’m putting Kind is the New Classy by Candace Cameron Bure on my Fall TBR because her interview with Jen Hatmaker on the For the Love podcast had me very interested in Bure’s ideas about moving our outrage culture towards a kinder culture. I’m one of those strange people who didn’t actually watch much of Bure’s television or movie career develop, so I can honestly say I feel compelled to read her newest book based on the premise of the book alone.

So that’s what I’ve been reading lately and plan to read soon! Our homeschool’s first day of is today, and I’m both excited and nervous about going deeper into this home educating journey with a fourth grader, second grader, Pre-K-er, and toddler. Any ideas on good books about long term vision in homeschooling? I’m all ears.

Happy reading!

Everyday Life, Parenting

Thoughts on Leaving the House in the Morning: A Meme Story

Made my first meme today. It’s brought to you by the moment when I leave the house in the morning. Pretty much every time I leave home, I look around at the utter chaos and disorder, and say to tell myself:

If I arrive somewhere looking like I just barely made it out alive? It’s because I did. It’s like a bank heist gone wrong, a calculated plan poorly executed that doesn’t have as much to do with not tripping sophisticated alarm systems but more with getting the dishes done and beds made before exiting the building. (Although, a one-year-old??? Talk about a sophisticated alarm system. Do NOT take that Tupperware lid away from her).  This is especially true when we’re going to be gone for most of the day and we’re packing picnics, leaving dishes strewn across the counter and drawers and cabinets open everywhere, forgetting to put away hairbrushes, toothbrushes, pretty much everything. Why not just stop to clean it up? We’d be a good hour late, maybe two, and I’d be hoarse from all the “come back and put away!”-ing.  Better to call it a morning and pick up the pieces of dismissed outfits and twelve water bottle lids when we get home. The silver lining? A wrecked house to clean up is a good excuse for making an afternoon cup pot of coffee.

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So, yes, we need some better leaving the house practices. It’s definitely a delegation issue at this point in my parenting. But for now, may the coffee be strong, the afternoon productive, and the evening full of something similar to if not necessarily Chick-fil-A.

Everyday Life, Nonfiction, Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

A Quest for Sustainability – Summer Reading 2018

A snapshot of my current reading pile on this mid-summer day made me realize that I have a pretty clear theme going on in this season:

Apparently I’m not gravitating towards titles with words like “revolutionize” or “begin” or even “new.” No za-za-zing or va-va-vroom hear, please! No, I’m checking books out that are about “ordinary” and “everyday” and “the middle.” Somewhat unconsciously, the theme of this summer has become the pursuit of sustainability. What good things can I do and keep doing? How can I keep doing the things I must and do them well while also keeping the joy and fun in life? This quest for sustainability is really uncool, very boring-sounding, but I’m drawn to it like a tired person is drawn to a plain white duvet and a familiar pillow. I’m weary of the fads, I’m figuring out some things about what doesn’t work, and I want to be faithful in the seemingly monotonous places in life. I don’t want to struggle along anymore in the everyday, ordinary parts of life. When the summer ends, I want to be ready for doing the school year well. I’m not itching for new– not a new house or a new career or even a new baby (and I treasure my babies) – I’m longing to get the house I currently have fit for a productive and full life, I’m settling into this homeschooling/homemaking/writing/so-much-more career, and I’m trying to squeeze every last snuggle and game of Uno out these four babies that are already here. So on that note, here’s what I’ve been reading this summer:

Everyday Holy is a collection of short devotionals, good for gently waking my brain up a bit in the morning. This is the third devotional I’ve read this year, which is…surprising. I used to dislike the idea of devotionals, but there are times when self-directed study gets hard…when you’re super busy or groggy from lack of sleep or simply a bit apathetic and you need a starting point to get you thinking in the right direction. I always appreciate Melanie Shankle’s blend of humor and honesty, and her constant grappling with the mundane, circumstantial elements of life that can numb us to the life believers are called to and graced with in Christ. My current morning reading practice is half a chapter of Proverbs (I spent the first six months of this year in Psalms and now I’m moving on!), a day or two from Everyday Holy, and a chapter of The Liturgy of the Ordinary or Give Them Grace. (Yes, I read a lot of books at once. No, I do not have ADD).

The Liturgy of the Ordinary is mostly about worship during the mundane chores and tasks we do each day. We fight in this culture against constant entertainment and a fear of the ordinary. Tish Harrison Warren explains in her book how she’s reconciling the ordinary with the sacred and coming to view them as not so separate after all. I liked parts of the book, though I don’t agree with all the author’s viewpoints. On finishing it, I’d give it 2.75 stars. I think I’m going to need to dig into The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris next, because this book quotes it often! My biggest yet most unimportant beef with  The Liturgy of the Ordinary Day is that the text is constantly interrupted with bold main points. Listen. I know this is a common practice in non-fiction publishing right now, but I hate it. I already read that sentence, and you’re interrupting my train of thought to read it again??? No. Put it off to the side in the margin if you must, but here’s a thought: maybe you should trust your readers to read the page of text and gather the main points on their own, intelligent selves? This may come as a shock, publishing world, but we are capable of drawing conclusions and recognizing the heart of the message. Thank you, rant over. (But don’t get me started on back and forth, present to future viewpoints in historical novels…gah! Hate it. (See, told you I don’t have ADD. What’s the opposite? Complete focus at the expense of all else? Tunnel vision? I have that)).

Now, onto the cookbooks! I may have mentioned three or three hundred times that meal planning and prep is the bane of my daily existence. This summer, I’m out to conquer my struggles by keeping simple meals on repeat. Usually what happens is I swing from an uber-healthy eating phase to an “I’m sick of all this food prep give me pizza” phase. I stay in the second phase for quite a while before swinging back, but I feel nagging guilt about it all the time, so I end up avoiding buying “unhealthy” foods because I know they’re poison but then I don’t have the energy or forethought to provide my family with healthy foods and my grocery shopping is all a muddle…and then the week is suddenly a disaster. No, I’m not being dramatic. That’s why I was drawn to Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook. Sustainability? Balance? Yes, please. I have yet to cook anything from it, but the Breakfast Egg Salad and Greek Yogurt Pancakes are on this week’s menu! I haven’t made it out of the breakfast section yet…the photos are beautiful. I have tried two recipes from Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites and they were winners, especially the Chicken and Rice Street Cart Style. Have I ever gotten chicken and rice from a street cart? No. But I will be making this recipe again and again.  One of the best parts of these two cookbooks is the authors are not just good cooks but excellent writers; I actually want to read all the text and introductions to each recipe. Not sure how I became a person who reads cookbooks (or a Goodreads friend whose shelves are cluttered with cookbooks…) but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the pursuit of sustainability, haha.

The Baker's SecretOn the fiction side of things, I haven’t been hitting the novels very hard. I love being outside in the summer, running around with the kids, doing house projects, swimming, so the cold winter months are really when I do the bulk of my reading. I did read The Baker’s Secret,  and really enjoyed it, though there were definitely depressing parts (war novel). If you like WWII historical fiction like The Plum Tree or The Nightingale, you’ll like this book. I also finally got Ronia, the Robber’s  Daughter off my to-read list, and mostly enjoyed it, though it was much darker than I was expecting. I won’t be reading it to my kids…it’s more of a YA book, in my opinion.

Now homeschool planning for the coming year is heavy on the brain, so my reading habits probably won’t pick up til September or October, but I’d love to hear what your summer reading is looking like! Happy summer! And head on over the Modernmrsdarcy.com to see more of what readers have been reading this summer on the QuickLit feature!

Children's Books, Reviews

The Pink Umbrella – A Love Story Worth Reading with Your Kids

It’s pouring rain here…the perfect day for me to tell you about this gem of the book: The Pink Umbrella, by Amelie Callot, illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. This is a children’s picture book, but it’s also the perfectly delightful story for all ages of Adele, a cafe owner in a small village by the sea. Adele is like sunshine to the people around her, but gets very blue on rainy days. In short, Adele hates rain, and the people who love her hate to see her sad. The story develops in a simple way, but it will melt your heart.

Yes, The Pink Umbrella is about romantic love, but in the best possible way. The love story is about a slow, abiding, caring, gentle love, not a sweep-you-off-your-feet, love-at-first-sight kind of love our children are so often exposed to in fairy tales and through all kinds of mediums. Beyond a healthy and beautiful love story, the book gives a good picture of how a hard-working, thoughtful, and generous person in seemingly small ways can change the people and places around him or her. Adele is an ordinary woman, not a princess, and this is an ordinary story, but with gorgeous illustrations and a couple of characters you’ll want to know in real life.

Make an outing to a library or bookstore to get The Pink Umbrella part of your plans this weekend!

{Note: this post is completely UNsponsored}

About Mia The Reader ~ Just a lady with a busy life full of a big family, a background in literature, and an obsession with books ~

 

Everyday Life, Parenting

Giant Balls of String – The Untidy Parenting Journey I’m On

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you may remember that I write some posts about parenting now and then. You may have noticed that I write those posts far less often now than I used to. Something about having children older than, oh about three years old, can make a parent question why she ever thought she had much parenting wisdom. With my two older kids 9 and  almost 7, and my two younger ones throwing me for loops daily, I hardly ever find myself thinking, “Wow, I should share what I’m learning with the world at large.” For one thing, what I’m learning isn’t neat and Image result for balls of stringeasy to whip up into a tidy blog post. Parenting is beginning to seem like untangling a gigantic ball of string. You start at the beginning with varying emotions and you hit particularly tangled snags and you also go through some smoother parts. There was a clear beginning to this ball of string, but who knows where the end is or what it will look like, or even what kind of material we’re dealing with– I have wool and you have silk? Both? I don’t know. This analogy is getting weird. Either way, giant balls of tangled string don’t make for good blog posts with clear beginnings and neat conclusions. All I really know is as my kids get bigger, my wisdom gets smaller.

Most of us, when we find ourselves lacking wisdom, go looking for it. We skip out into the information age, sure we’ll find some ideas. A few minutes later, we run back and hide our heads under a pillow. So many opinions. So many serious, earnest voices. And so many do’s and don’ts.

“Make your bed everyday and you’ll be successful in life!”

“Don’t make your bed, that’s gross!”

“Throw everything out that doesn’t bring you joy and you’ll be freeeee!”

“Don’t throw that away! Repurpose it into an amazing entryway bench or life-changing crafting opportunity with your child!”

And whoever started the terribly trendy articles titled “5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Spouse” or “The 10 Worst Things You Can Say To Your Teen” should be well, not shot, but maybe sentenced to Antarctica to shovel snow for life. You can find convincing arguments for all sides of both important and trivial issues in books, online, in conversations with friends, in forums (ugh…we should all agree to just skip the forums…). And then, to smooth it all over like peanut butter on very, very lumpy bread, we have the phrase, “You do you.” Thanks. That fixes everything. I mean, at this point I don’t have time to think about who am I, much less how to do me. I’m too busy sorting through mixed reviews on sippy cups. I thought I was just going to jump online and buy a sippy cup, but which one? There’s this one… some people say it will change your life and some people say that it’s so defective it will ruin the interior of your mini-van and you’ll have to buy a whole new van, or maybe it will give your kids cancer. Am I the kind of person who buys a stainless steel sippy cup, anyway? How can there be this many STRONG opinions about a sippy cup?

If we’re reading all these reviews and searching for the right information to help us raise our families, we probably are living life with laser focus on getting things right. That’s a good thing…parenting is important…until we wake up one day and wonder if something might be missing. Something important, like light-heartedness. Something like freedom…you know, the freedom to not feel bad for rewarding your children with popsicles after they clean out the back of the SUV on a hot day, even though you read that viral article on why you shouldn’t use food as a reward. Or something like fun…why do I feel bad when I say “yes” to UNO instead of forcing that phonics card game on my 6-year-old? Games are supposed to be fun! In the grand scheme of things, it’s this all-important Something, the cheerfulness, freedom, and fun, that I know without even having to hear it from someone on the internet is what I want my children to look back and see in their time with me before they become adults themselves. I don’t know about you, but in the past two or three years of my parenting life, I’ve noticed that Something is missing.

This gradual realization that I’m losing cheerfulness, freedom, and fun as a mom in my earnest pursuit of parenting perfection is what has kept me from posting anything about parenting here lately. I don’t want to be one more voice that comes across like I’m telling parents how to do every little thing the right way. I am sick of those voices myself. And, like I said earlier, my parenting wisdom just keeps on shrinking. So I kept quiet until I thought maybe I could be a different kind of voice. In the meantime, I read your messages about this blog. Some of you lovely readers asked me if I would be posting again on parenting or homeschooling again. Those messages and in-person conversations surprised me so much! I’m truly grateful for them. I doubt I’ll ever again think I have tons of good ideas to share about parenting like I must have had when I started this blog with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old and no clue that I’d have two more children come along and ten thousand moments of doubtful parenting in my future. But if I can do one thing on this crazy internet, I would choose be a voice in a parenting movement of cheerfulness, freedom, and fun, in pursuit of connection and relationship with our children. I’ll get a million things wrong along the way, but I’m starting to understand that being okay with getting a few things wrong is the first step in parenting from a place of strength and lightheartedness, even as we parent with purpose.

And of course, there will be book reviews for you and your kids as a great season of summer reading approaches.

Thanks for reading!

 

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