Tag: book review

Reading: October 2017

Currently

Beauty in the Word by S. Caldecott
This book has been on my to-read list for ages and a sweet friend even gifted me with it months ago. Yet, it sat on my nightstand. Finally, I picked it up last week and started reading it and goodness it’s good. It is written from a Catholic perspective, but the explanations he gives regarding education and learning and our consummate goals are just beautiful. I’m trying to read slowly and digest it all; copying all sorts of great things into my commonplace book.

Johnny Tremain
The chick and I are still slowly reading through this. So far, so good.

The Awakening of Mrs. Prim by N. Fenoliera
This was suggested by a host of people and it’s been so interesting so far. I feel like the writing style is so different, but maybe it’s just the characters? I don’t know. I have a hankering where I think this book is headed, but honestly I’ve been surprised already with some things that I didn’t expect so I’m curious to keep reading.

Home Education (#1) by C. Mason
I’ve finally gotten a copy of at least the first volume by Ms. Mason and I’m super slowly reading through it. I’m in a study group that’s going through volume 3, but for my own education I wanted to start from the beginning.

Finished

The Seamstress by S. Tuvel Bernstein
This was recommend to me by another friend ages ago and I finally got my hands on it. It is a Holocaust story, but one set in Romania, of which I knew very little regarding the story of the Jewish population in Romania. Her story starts with the years leading up to the War and then goes all the way through Liberation. It really is an amazing story of survival.

Number the Stars by L. Lowry
I’ve never read this book and my son needed to read it for his writing assignments so I figured it was high time – since both of my kids have read it multiple times. This is another Holocaust story, but set in Denmark. Again another area of Europe I wasn’t totally familiar with. This time, it is about a non-Jewish family, putting themselves at risk in order to save their friends.

Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by Powlison
Powlison is awesome and I’ll ready anything by him. I feel like he takes a subject that is so hard to discuss – any subject- and brings it back to Scripture so well. This is a super helpful book for those with and without any type of sexual brokenness; which in this day and age pretty much includes all of us.

The Optimist’s Daughter by E. Welty
I’ve never ready anything by Welty (who apparently is the “other” southern writer) and this was on my master to-read list this year. I almost feel like I need to read it again to really appreciate it. It was super well written and the story flowed along like nothing else.

Swallows and Amazons by A. Ransome
Fantastic! We really loved this book and it totally waxes nostalgic for days when kids were just free to do whatever without any fear of anything.

The Kitchen House by K. Grissom
Yet another book that was on my master to-read and it was good. Set in the south on a plantation during the years of slavery, it’s a hard book to read but the storytelling is amazing and the character development was fantastic.

What’s Next

I’ve got a couple of books about the internet that I really want to read: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by N. Carr and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by M. Harris. I’m really trying to figure out how to manage all the reading, writing and creating I’m not doing because of the lure of the screen. Setting boundaries in the beginning, but in the end I’m so ready to chuck it all. I long for the days when all I did was sit here and blog and write; which honestly weren’t perfect either. Nothing ever is.

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Reading: September 2017

I honestly don’t know what happened to September and I’m certain that October is about to feel the same way. I feel like a got a fair amount of reading accomplished this past month, but my “to-read” list is super long.

Currently

Johnny Tremain by E. Forbes
The chick and started this as our next bedtime read aloud. It’s on every list I’ve ever seen when studying early American history so I figure we should probably read it. We are only one chapter in so I don’t have much to offer yet.

With Lee in Virginia by Henty
This is a pre-read for my son and his American History list. I haven’t ever read anything by Henty and while I can’t preread all his book for this year, I figured this would be a good one to do. So far it’s been pretty interesting; but again I’m only a few pages in so the jury is still out.

Persuasian by Austen
I haven’t officially started this book yet, but a friend gifted to me and another friend told me last year that I needed to read it if I was ever going to be a true Austen fan. Emma will always be my hands down favorite, but maybe this might change my mind?

Completed

Swallows and Amazons by Ransome
This was a fun book. It’s full of lots of sailing jargon that we kind of had to work through, but the idea of a time of life where you could just let your kiddos loose on a little island and not worry about them is amazing to me. As I find out more about Ramsome and the beginnings of this story I love it all even more. We watched a video of the area where Ransome used to go and this story is based upon and you can even go and take tours. As I come to terms with a little adventure story in my head based on a real place where I grew up, it’s encouraging to me to know he had the same idea.

The Kitchen House by Grissom
This was on my to read this year and I flew through it. It was a great story; just riveting. I’m usually not a huge fan of southern stories on the same topic, but I feel like Grissom handled all the slavery and masters etc really well. She was honest in her treatment of them, but also very sensitive. I highly recommend it.

A Girl of the Limberlost
I’ve been reading this off and on for months and finally finished it. I really did like it and I do think it will be a great book to hand to my daughter when she is 15 or so. It’s a fun story about a whimsical girl who loves nature and about dealing with and overcoming deep heartaches – from mothers to boys.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Reay
This is a pick of our mom’s book club and it’s another book I flew through pretty quickly. It’s an easy sort of read; perfect for the beach honestly. A fun story with a feel good ending. Not a huge thinker sort of book, but not super twaddle either.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic
This was another book on my 2017 list and I really liked it. I felt like it was even more applicable as I finished it just about the time Maria and Harvey showed up and people in this day and age were struggling to find clean water. Towards the end I did start skimming through all his observations. The book was written over 10 years ago ago and it’s crazy the advancements in technology (for good and bad) and how that has changed so many things in our lives regarding disease (and the potential for disease).

Eve in Exile
This is our first quarter selection for our mom’s book club and we are getting ready to discuss it next week. Honestly I would never have pushed through this book without having the pressure to have to. It is filled with gobs of historical information regarding women’s rights in the US and in England and while I did appreciate the history, her tone throughout the book was so snarky that I had a really hard time getting into it. There were bits and pieces throughout it that could take away and I wouldn’t say I don’t recommend it. I did find a podcast interview with the author on Sheologians and I’m anxious to listen to it to help me maybe get a better perspective.

Coming Up

I feel like I am so far behind on what I need to pre-read for my children’s schooling and my own “schole” that I can’t even begin to make a list of what’s up next.

Reading: June 2017

Currently:

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by P. Patrick
So far this is probably one of the most clever storylines I’ve ever read. It is a bit sad (reminds me of the movie Up!) in the first few chapters, but I’m super intrigued to see where this story goes.

Walking on Water by M. L’Engle
Still plugging along and doing a horrible job journaling about this book – as in I’m not. But I do love it.

A Girl of the Limberlost by G. Stratton-Porter
Still plugging along on this one in between other reads. I’m still not sure if I like it or not.

The Core by L. Bortins
This is the handbook to get your started with classical education; especially Classical Conversations. I finally started reading it last week and honestly I need to get busy and set aside time during the day to focus on it…instead of Pinterest.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by L. Terkeurst
I picked this one up from the library and while I’m slowly reading through it, I’m still not sure if I’ll read it cover to cover. I feel like this subject has been beaten to death lately when it comes to blogs and books for women and moms.

Abandoned:

I decided to start a new category this month…

The Fringe Hours by J. Turner
I wanted to read this book for years, finally found it at a used bookstore and started reading it a few months ago. I got about half way through it and realized that this was exactly the book a friend needed to read. So I abandoned it and gifted it to her.

I’ll Take You There by W. Lamb
I love Wally Lamb and have poured through some of this other books in years past, but I didn’t make it 2 chapters in with this one before I was done. The story was silly and the language was awful.

Finished:

The One in a Million Boy by M. Wood
This was a sweet book. I feel like there was so much I missed because it took me so long to get through it. It would be a great book club discussion book.

The Handmaid’s Tale by M. Atwood
I got this on Overdrive as an e-book and poured through it in like 2 days. It is the second time I’ve read it and I still love it but seriously hate, hate the ending. Once I got towards the end of the book I started remembering why this book frustrated me so much the first time I read it. I wish we had Hulu though because I would love to watch the show.

Commonwealth by A. Patchett
This was great, but I can’t even remember now what it was about. So…maybe it wasn’t great.

When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit
This was a great book. My daughter and I have been reading this aloud for a few months and it’s a great story from the perspective of an 11 year old girl of what it was like to be a refugee. It’s a sweet story about family and making due. We both loved it.

What’s Next?

We start school in 1 month and I’ve got loads of pre-reading I need to start in order to get ahead of both my kids. Yep, I said both. We are homeschooling both children next year so that’s double the words I need to choke down and double the boxes of wine I probably need to invest in 😉

Book Review: on fear and waiting

On first glance you might not think these books have much in common. I didn’t plan on reading them at the same time and while I was reading them the connection between the two didn’t really occur to me either. But as I was laying down last night for bed (because don’t all great thoughts hit you right when you are about to go to sleep?) I realized how much they did have in common.

Shiloh is a fictional story written by Helena Sorensen. It is part of a trilogy and without spoiling too much, it is in many ways a creation story.  As in the true Creation story, evil enters in and in the land of Shiloh that evil takes the form of the Shadow. The land is cast in darkness and it is the hope of the people that shines out into the darkness. As their hope fades or grows, the light that shines out from them fades and grows. A cast of characters rises up against (and falls into) the Shadow and this is their story.

Still Waiting is true story, I’d almost call it a memoir in many ways, about one woman’s struggle to maintain hope in the midst of a continually difficult condition. Ann Swindell correlates her story with the story of the bleeding woman from the Gospels. It is a book that describes waiting and is filled with reminders of where our hope should lie.

Throughout the story of Shiloh, the characters wake up daily in a world shrouded with darkness. This darkness is all they have ever known and they have the choice to believe and continue to hope in the stories that they’ve been told through generations or give into the darkness and live with it until their time is done. I love that it’s not an easy story. We don’t live in an easy world and this parallel world is no different. We give into the darkness and we let our light of hope dim and even at times we let that light be completely smothered. This story of the land of Shiloh was tender because of the darkness that I found myself in a few seasons ago. Like Amos in the story, it was easier to give into the Shadow and ignore all the pain. But in the end, I knew I couldn’t keep drinking the water of darkness, but I had to find my way out into the light. I’ve rarely read a story where the ending sticks so clearly in my mind. The quartet of characters has a choice, to give into the fear literally racing at them or face the absolute unknown. Both options were incredibly frightening – yet one led to life and one led to death. The longer you live in a place of shadow the more we are faced with this same option. To remain in darkness is scary and crushing. But to step out away from the darkness is full of fear also. Ultimately, restoration only comes when we move out of the darkness.

This is where hope and waiting come in. In Still Waiting, Ann relates her struggle with a psychological condition that is enhanced by anxiety and fear. She can’t control it, yet she can control her hope in restoration. Each chapter is focused on an aspect of waiting – how waiting breaks us, weakens us, claims our identity, makes us angry, brings us shame, feels like suffering and is risky, yet in the end waiting is filled with grace. Waiting teaches us hope. In our weakness, in our darkest moments in the shadows, we can learn that our “weakness is a bridge to Jesus.”

One of the overarching themes in Shiloh was the idea of Identity. It is only in remembering who they are, who they belong to and who created them that they are able to reignite the light within them and free themselves and others from the darkness. Amos cries out to his sister that she has to remember and yet he struggles to identify what she should remember. Their lives had been fraught with so many memories that were so crushing;  yet even in sorrow there is hope living there. He reminds her of her gifts and he reaches out to her. It’s only in the remembering and the reaching out that the light begins to break through. The same goes for us as we struggle with hope and waiting. Ann reminds us that God has claimed us, he has renamed us and he is in the process of restoring us. It may not be a restoration that we want or in the time that we want, but it is still a promise that He keeps. We might eve be freed from one shadow only to be eclipsed by an even stronger one. That is where we have to decide whether we will give into the anger that will surely rise up or give into obedience and believe the promises.

Simoen and Amos are truly dark and light in the story of Shiloh. One gives into anger and the other obedience. Both of them have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and both of them are needy. It is out of our need that Jesus comes for us and that the Light reaches them. But on the opposite side, it is out of that need that the darkness comes too. We cannot respond in obedience without knowing who we are and believing in the hope. And oh the risk. Ann reminds us through her story of that risk.

“Our desires and our dreams so often dissolve before us. Life is hard. Our hearts grow weary. Hoping feels too tender, too raw. Waiting for the fullness of our promised restoration threatens to usurp our hope.”

So it’s a question of where our hope lies. If it’s in us and our ability to push through or just ignore the darkness, we will fail. But be warned, we will fail when our hope is centered in Christ too.  The difference is where we fall. When I am grounded in the promises of the light; I will be injured, sorrow will come and I may continue to sit in this place of waiting for restoration. The difference is I am sitting in the light.

 

**note: I received the book still waiting from the author in compensation for a review.**

book review: bel canto

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I recently discovered the lovely blog called the modern Mrs. Darcy and I’ve become crazy fond of her writing style, but especially her love of books. She’s opened up a whole host of reading material that have seriously rebooted my library wish list.

I came home from the library a few weeks ago armed with a whole stack of books recommended and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was the first book I grabbed from the said stack. I read a few short reviews on goodreads before I got started and honestly I was a little nervous about it. The reviews were pretty mixed, but I decided to plunge in anyway.

It honestly took me at least 100+ pages to get into the story. I found out after I finished the book that it is loosely based on an actual hostage event that happened in Peru in the ’90s. The story is about a Japanese man who comes to an unnamed South American country for a birthday celebration in his honor. What gets him to come to this event is the opera singer they have invited to sing in his honor. The party turns into a hostage event that goes on and on and on for weeks upon weeks.

Once the characters are all introduced, the story really takes over and it really did suck me in a bit. It is about the relationships that develop between these very unlikely people: wealthy businessmen and politicians with the kidnappers who were jungle raised with literally nothing. The kidnappers become overwhelmed with the running water, televisions and plushness of the mansion they have taken over and the businessmen and politicians find themselves with nothing but time on their hands…something they normally don’t have. It causes these men to realize the things that they have “lost” at home and their love for their families. It causes others to realize what the desires of their hearts truly are. It is really about people letting down and letting go of the fakeness that we tend to put on and they are truly just stripped down to who they really are.

I will warn you the ending is abrupt and hard. There is also an epilogue that I honestly wouldn’t read. I read a review on goodreads where the reviewer wishes that the epilogue wasn’t even included because after the harshness of the ending of the story it seemed really out of place and I agree.

Overall a great book…if you can stick with the first 100 or so pages of character introductions.