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!

Everyday Life, Reading

A Woman Named Fairlight

When I first read the book Christy, by Catherine Marshall, I was about twelve. I loved it for the adventure, bravery, and romance. I re-read it after I had been married for a few years, and got something entirely different out of it. This passage is one I think of every day when the sun is shining warm and bright and the dishes are crusty in the sink. It features Christy’s best friend in the mountains, Fairlight Spencer. Her very name is poetry.

“[Fairlight] taught me something important about the use of time and how to enjoy life. With a husband and five children to cook, clean, wash, even make clothes for, and with no modern conveniences at all not even piped-in water, Fairlight might have felt burdened and sorry for herself–but she did not. Often, she found time to pause in her dishwashing to let her eyes and her spirit drink in the beauty of a sunset. She would interrupt her work to call the children and revel with them in the grandeur of thunderheads piling up over the mountain peaks, heat lightning flashing behind the clouds like fireworks. “It lifts the heart,” she would say, and that was explanation enough for any interruption.

There was always time for a story in front of the fire with the children snuggled against her; always leisure for the family to gather on the porch “to sing the moon up.”

Fairlight told me how on the first fine spring day, she considered it only right and proper to drop her housework: “The house, it’s already been a-settin’ here for a hundred years. It’ll be right here tomorrow. It’s today I must be livin'” and make her way to one particular spot she knew. There she would kneel and with her long slender fingers brush aside the dead, sodden leaves and gaze wonderingly on the first blossoms of the trailing arbutus.” (Chapter 17, Christy). 

Trailing Arbutus

Yesterday was a day when I remembered Fairlight and threw the daily routine to the wind. One o’clock is when my two-year-old Isaac is supposed to go down for his afternoon nap. But the sun was warm, the day was bright, and the cold rain that had plagued us for a week-and-a-half was finally gone. We spent an hour outside, pretending to spin the pine straw all over our yard into gold (Ella’s favorite outdoor make believe game). You’ll be relieved to know that we spun enough gold so that the king decided not to throw us into the dungeon. Believe it or not, it was Isaac asking “Can I take a nap now?” that finally sent us inside. Poor kid. I maintain fresh air is just as good as a nap, but maybe not for a two-year-old. Fortunately for him, he got both. Now that the gray day is back, we hold the memory of sun rays on our warm faces until it breaks through the clouds again. And, yes, I did get around to washing those crusty dishes.

What feeds your soul is different than what feeds mine. Bright sunshine may be nice, but what you may really love is baking scrumptious chocolate delicacies, or creating beauty out of nothing but fabric and thread or a few blocks of wood. Maybe getting your car really clean or organizing your kitchen pantry makes your heart sing. Maybe it’s just sitting by the fire with hot coffee and your loved ones. Whatever it is, remember Fairlight and leave the laundry unfolded. Grab a book, grab your family, grab your favorite baking ingredients, grab on to what makes you feel alive, and tell everyone, “it’s today we must be living.” And have a truly amazing weekend.

 

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