• Reading

    What I Read: April and May 2019

    Children’s Lit

    Continuing on from earlier this year in children’s lighter classics that I didn’t read as a child.

    Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager. I read Half-Magic ages ago but forgot everything about it. This is fun, I’m reading more of the series, but it’s not the most thrilling middle-grade lit for adults.

    All-of-a-Kind Family, All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown, More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown by Sydney Taylor. These are okay, not the most interesting in tone and description, rather didactic, definitely a lower reading level than middle grade. I ended up DNF-ing the last book, a juvenile tone and writing style doesn’t work with adult life.

    The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. This is far closer to the sweet spot for excellent children’s literature, and I think I want to get more of these for vacation reading.

    Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. This is below middle-grade, definitely want future kids to read or to read aloud with them but just not inspiring enough/high enough grade level for an adult although I’d still like to try Ramona Quimby because I’ve heard those are more popular.

    What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I saw a gorgeously illustrated set of this series on a British Instagrammer’s page, it turns out they are American but for some reason I got the impression that they were less popular here, the reprint has a note from a British lady. I guess I thought that was odd, it feels like its usually the other way around usually? Also this kinda has that classic American North moralizing (the Northern authors moralize; the Southern authors write about crazy, and I mean CRAZY, people; and the Midwest authors manage to make everything banal, despairing, and demoralizing in my little, ironically, exposure to the grown-up American Classic scene) without the charm of better authors (think Alcott). At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to read more, but those covers! Maybe the others are better?

    The Changeling, The Truce Of The Games, Shifting Sands by Rosemary Sutcliff. And now for the taste of genius. I’ve exhausted most of the best novels of Sutcliff and had been getting some of her less inspiring reads. But these short stories that are part of an older children’s collection, are the true Sutcliff storytelling magic. I think that she wrote more of these (they are published by or part of Antelope books and feature woodcut illustrations, I believe), but I’ve had to get them a few at a time through interlibrary loans.

    ReReads

    The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. This, thanks to my more capable reading abilities plus age, is much shorter than my memory of it. Also, Puritan stereotypes are still annoying as heck. This is sheer historical ignorance, for example black was a GOOD color, a wealthy color for Puritans. Per David Hackett Fisher in my beloved Albion’s Seed Puritans were far more egalitarian (second to the Quakers who were the most) in gender roles and economics than the two Southern cultures (he divides early developing U.S. into four basic cultures coming from four in England) which would’ve have been more similar to Kit’s, I’d imagine, and she’s just used to being on the top too. So, a lot of this story is just nonsense. A lot of this just feels like modern projecting based on some dramatic events without any understanding of the overall times. Nat’s still awesome though.

    My Escapist Reads

    False Colours, Arabella by Georgette Heyer. These were both 3 stars for me, the first featured identical twins as hero and side character, one normal, one a rake. The second featured a girl with a brain . . . and a rake for a hero. Well you, know, that’s her favorite “hero.” I decided to take a break to keep any other Heyers in reserve.

    So then, I started on Mary Stewart and MM Kaye and found another therapeutic reads, of course I’ve mostly exhausted Kaye as she didn’t write very many.

    Death in Cyprus by MM Kaye and The Moon-Spinners and This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart which I read in that order and fairly close together (followed up by Death in Zanzibar), and I kind of started blending the author’s styles a bit, they are both British, suspense for the former, mystery for the latter; have a lot of similarity in the hero-types; and hilariously, were each set on an Island in the the eastern Mediterrean starting with a “c”: Cyprus (no, really?), Crete, and Corfu, respectively. I greatly enjoyed all three. I’m so glad I started both authors like this and read these books in this order, it just fit so well, and I highly recommended anyone new to these authors to do this.

    The Ivy Tree (My least favorite Stewart, I preferred the villain, I kept hoping against hope he wasn’t the villain, I hate the inclusion of infidelity, that was the love story, also, just not a great love story, period, rather sickening.)

    Wildfire at Midnight (Not super crazy about this one, also has a bit freaky stuff, again, cheaters. And the women are just supposed to ignore and forgive the not-truly-repentant cheaters to “keep” them. NO.)

    Nine Coaches Waiting (I think my expectations were too high as I adore the first two I read, and this is the most famous and didn’t match those first two in tone for me.)

    My Brother Michael (I really enjoyed parts, but kind of felt choppy in quality, also, be careful with this one, I feel like trigger warnings are needed, there is a psychopath here and some sexual stuff, one part is pretty awful, not rape although I thought for a bit it was implied in different episode which without the first I wouldn’t have thought at all, but then Simon and Camilla were too calm in their response, but it doesn’t stretch to the imagination that the villain would; anyhow, this is darker than the others.)

    Madam Will You Talk? (This one was thrilling, for more overall evenly intriguing but still doesn’t come close to my original favs.)

    Thunder on the Right (Eh, far more buildup than delivery.)

    The Wind off the Small Isles (This was an enjoyable short story.)

    All by Mary Stewart. A lot of my liking of these novels involves her evocative settings, so if I didn’t like the settings/her descriptions just didn’t match the atmosphere of previous ones, that fact was also mixed with any dislike of the story.

    Death in Zanzibar, Death in Kashmir by MM Kaye. The former is up there with Death in Cyprus, the latter is enjoyable. I DNFed Death in Kenya. I think there is two that I have ordered/will order via interlibrary loan.

    Westerns

    True Grit by Charles Portis. Eh.

    Shane by Jack. Eh, but in the hands of a better author could’ve been awesome.

    I’m going to keep trying, albeit slowly, on Westerns, though.

    Random

    Arthur by Stephen R Lawhead. I have Pendragon (the 4th book), but I think I’m done with this series for now. I felt so lost and felt that the author was as well.

    Motivational

    Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin. This isn’t really a book, rather a collection of organizational/personal environment ideas. I felt it “spoke my language,” others may not feel so. I think motivational/self-help books are VERY specific to each person, I mean within the exact same topic, if one author doesn’t work for you, find another.

    When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H Pink. Eh, considerably overstretched the “scientific” aspect, if you could even call it that; books like this and The Happiness Advantage (I DNF’ed for this reason, the lack of new concepts, and the tone) tend to stick “scientific” in quite too often and, I think, not very accurately. Sorry, not every scholarly study, undertaking, etc. is scientific. Also, protesting too much.

    The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey. Overall, great basic money advice. As with everything can be tailored to personal situation (something I didn’t realize in my foolish youth with his first book). Don’t agree about no credit cards, nor about super specific budgets all the time, ain’t gonna happen for this girl. But all the way there for the emergency fund!!!

    I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. He speaks my language, and I find him hilarious. He also writes more for my age and situation. I want to get the newer copy of this book for myself. I agree with more of what he had to say/the way he said it than Ramsey although, truly, the overall advice isn’t wildly different (no helpful financial advice is at bare bones). But I found Sethi’s breakdown extremely helpful to me.

  • Reading

    What I Read: March 2019

    I read 15 books in March.

    Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. This was a reread. I’d conveniently rewritten out a significant and sad part of the plot in my head apparently. Also, hindsight is 20/20; I don’t think the thought is perhaps accurate to the time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and it did help renew my interest in my country’s founding. At least I hope, I still have not picked up the book that has caused by (apparently many years long) study of U.S. to stall. Perhaps I need to revisit Liberty’s Kids?! Yes, that’s a good excuse.

    Cotillion, Black Sheep, and Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer. These all got a 3 star from me. Cotillion was old rake free. The couple were both young, both had personalities, and it was funny and sweet. Back to regular scheduling of course with Black Sheep (as implied by the title), I still found this fun. Cotillion featured (for you know a little variety) a very young rake and his basically child-bride. She was more of a prop (why do her young heroines generally feature zero real personality?), but the “hero” and his coterie and the scrapes his bride get into and just the wit, and everything altogether is absolutely hysterical, this almost got a four.

    Betsy-Tacy, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Winona’s Pony Cart, Heaven to Betsy, Betsy in Spite of Herself, Betsy Was a Junior, Betsy and Joe, Carney’s House Party, and Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. These were not the classic sweet novels I was hoping for, they were rather flat and silly, except the Deep Valley ones (the ones that don’t feature Betsy in the title, but don’t unfortunately repeat the omission in the books), those were MUCH better although far from classic level excellent. I read them in the order listed as that was the recommended chronological order. After Carney’s House party were two more Betsy books, but when I picked them up, the quality, Betsy, and probably the contrast of Carney’s House party caused me to opt in disgust not finish those. Emily of Deep Valley, I think, fell before Carney’s House Party, but I’d saved it for last as it was supposed to be the best. It could’ve been but it wasn’t, it failed to live up to the dust jacket description. The pacing was poor on the plot and the depth increasingly shallow even though the subject matter deepens. I still enjoyed it though.

  • Reading

    What I Read: February 2019

    Random note, apparently there are people in the world who can pronounce February with that first “r.” Needless to say, I’m not one of them. I actually had to stop and think when I heard that (on Jeopardy) to make sure I knew how to spell it right, I do, it’s autopilot. Anyway.

    Scholarly Nonfiction
    Viruses: A Very Short Introduction. I’m going with the medical field to start off my reading through this Oxford University Press collection. A lot of this is beyond me (maybe I should start taking notes) as it’s very detailed, and I’m more, I don’t know big picture? Not cellular level definitely, I’m looking forward to epidemiology, pandemics, etc.

    Light Nonfiction
    Off the Clock. I loved some of her ideas for memory making, but I have totally different personality (beach bum and rebellious type, lol) and perspective so overall this main points/aim aren’t/isn’t for me.

    Thinking with Type. I read this as part of this self-directed “course” in graphic design. It seems rather abstract and esoteric in parts, but I will probably go back to it for the more practical aspects. I’m definitely analog here though, greatly prefer the ancient practice of calligraphy.

    The Four Tendencies.

    • I’d heard of this before but didn’t look into it very deeply as personality tests/typing can be really obnoxious in their unscientific, unrealistic claims. When MuchelleB mentioned it in one of her videos and mentioned that she was REBEL/Questioner, I thought that sounded like me (this explains why I find so much of her advice/tips so helpful, rather unusual for me), so I read the book. I’m definitely that type.
    • I find this framework (it’s not a personality test ) extremely interesting and practically useful. I didn’t however, find it ground-breaking. Also, I’d already known much about my tendencies already, and I didn’t find what I wanted (job advice); actually beyond the initial explanations, I found much of the advice overly-generalized opinions, the Rebel section, especially.
    • The author seemed to rely too much of the obvious cultural connotation/stereotypes of Rebels. For example, she mentions obeying speed laws and mentions Questioners and Rebels as resisting this. I don’t, in fact, I’m the strictest person I know on driving, and I know our speeding laws are lax (we have so many road deaths near us in perfectly good weather). But I think my reasons might be different than say her personal Upholder tendencies.
    • Also, I think perhaps her being an Upholder affected her view. She seemed to say Upholder’s followed rules because they were rules. I don’t follow petty rules or say-so’s, but I consider morals, ethics, and laws paramount; I don’t even consider them as comparable with “rules.” This is a whole other topic I could chase.

    The Slight Edge. I found a lot of good ideas and took notes, but I definitely think that this could’ve been reduced by two-thirds.

    Light Fiction
    Conrad’s Fate. This is the last of the Chrestomanci’s books (that I hadn’t read). Not my favorite (clearly, since I forgot what it was about and had to look on Goodreads).

    The Golden Tresses of the Dead. These books have such a fun setting/tone, and there are some hilarious lines in almost all of them, and Flavia is quite a personality. However, I think that there is quite a bit in poor taste in all the books, some more than others. In this one, the mystery and ending was also sub-par compared to the rest.

    Veiled Rose. After reading the first of the Tales of Goldstone Woods, I stalled on this the second. I almost didn’t finish it, I skimmed to see if it turned out like I wanted and discovered via the other books that this plot is strung out while new stories and characters were focused on with more and more books. That (and the fact that there was yet ANOTHER book my library didn’t have) killed my interest in the series for a time. I think maybe I will slowly work my way through them. These were surprisingly “good” from a Christian AND homeschool author (my indicators that books are going to be TERRIBLE since everyone in homeschool circles seems to think they are a writer and Christian Fiction is a ludicrously absurdly terrible genre). I don’t think the author should have strung out a series to be this long. I also think that if she worked and reworked her books she could have something of a much higher caliber (I think that is an issue in today’s writing, in part due to the publishing industry, this lack of time and extensive drafting of books and this push to churn out tons of works).

    Frederica. I’m still on a Heyer kick, but I’m trying to space them out. Another middle-aged (okay, maybe not that old) rake again. Really, Heyer. The heroine has a brain and personality though (she gives all the on-the-shelf 28-ish ladies personalities and brains).

    Sprig Muslin. Not a rake AND they are of close age. However, most of the book focuses on a really obnoxious silly, stupid young girl (the type the old rake usually marries, usually sans the obnoxiousness, that would indicate something of a personality, lol) that the hero has to babysit and that everyone of course thinks is his mistress.

  • Reading

    What I Read: January 2019

    Rereads

    The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson. I realized when reading this that I’d read this as a child. Funny enough I guess, but maybe not quite as much (nor as endearing) as the Christmas one.

    Popular Nonfiction

    Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal by Ben Sasse. He can be SO Luddite-sounding, even though he claims not to be. I had trouble with the first part of the book, I think he tries to reach everyone, but I don’t find it accurate, and I don’t think he should be making some of the claims he does without statistics. The end (the actionable part) is far more encouraging (similar to the other book, except that book was mainly actionable). One of the best parts (if not the best) is his highlighting and explaining the difference between civics and politics, something I hold to be highly important.

    The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. This is good for motivation if you are in the right place for it. It could definitely lose some repetitiveness and be made into a booklet.

    The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski. This had interesting information, but quite frankly, I’m not sure what her point ended up being. I think her thesis was that a group of home economics educators played a pivotal role in universal American stylishness in the 1930’s-1950’s, but I find that quite a stretch. She didn’t include readership statistics of their books or participation in their courses. And this was such a small period of American history. Also, most of it wasn’t really a historical treatise but rather focused more on the “Dress Doctors” programs and advice. She doesn’t address the past style of American women for context, nor does she give a reason for the overall lessening of formality (which also applies to Europe, but we declined into outright slobbishness and trends, at least per the average person or fashion site). Also, America is so widely different, even now, you can’t honestly lump everyone together. The rural states had less need and less access to fashion as more urban states with wildly different lifestyles and incomes. She mentions very briefly the divide of the deep South farm girls and the New York city girls, but not very comprehensively. And she focuses so much on urban working women and university women (the later an especially tiny minority) without acknowledging wide differences to or their relative significance to the broader picture.

    Light Fiction

    Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout. I’m not crazy about these, so many ethical issues.

    Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout. I decided to try one more, but no.

    The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer. I’d read two Heyer’s before, but while I enjoyed parts, they seemed to drag (also, both were apparently her Georgian novels, this one is Regency, more on that below). I started Regency Buck but couldn’t get into it, and I meant to try again later (I still do, but now our library doesn’t have it anymore). However, this one starts fast and is almost constantly hilarious. My love was dampened by the death and the poor taste response to it though. I gave this four stars.

    The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer. This also starts fast and is hilarious. It also seems deeper and better writing-wise than the above. I gave this four stars. This one is also Regency.

    The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer. Hmm, I wanted to like this (there are some hilarious episodes), but Rule’s adultery. Pointless too, he didn’t care for the woman, he had no reason to be with her, and it’s especially awful that he is trying to woo his wife at. the. same. time. So many layers of NO. Also, as other reviewers pointed out, the heroine is blah. Which is too bad because she starts off so strong. The is Georgian, I could hardly bear the description of the ludicrous Georgian finery and silliness, and I know the period was decadent and immoral (the Regency and the Victorian periods were a reaction to it). One star for the adultery.

    These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. This is puke. Ugh. The age difference bothered me more here. Heightened by the constant epithet of “mon infant” and her servile, worshipful, constant “Monseigneur”-ing plus her overall worshipful attitude towards His Abominableness. More of the same Georgian decadence and shallowness. If I could give this less than one star and have it mean something, I would. Except heightened especially with being in France. I decided to take a Heyer break for a few weeks after this one.

    Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Interesting and fairly unique (to me) fantasy. I disliked the silly, shallow heroine though.

    Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. Cute middle-grade story. Feels like The Boxcar Children.

    Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. The residents of an island slowly lose their legal ability to speak. This is funny, although I feel like I probably missed a lot of the jokes.

    The White Stag by Kate Seredy. Um, no, I don’t want a stupid, contrived (felt very copy paste as did the illustrations which were an odd mix of old West, Greco-Roman, and who knows what else), fantasy story about an extremely violent historical person.

    The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartín Fenollera. Interesting conception in parts, annoyingly stock Darcy/Knightly/Rochester trope. Silly heroine who doesn’t have any believable or developed change, much less awakening. Unexpectedly Christian.

  • Reading

    What I Read December 2018

    Nonfiction
    The Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. I really, really enjoyed this at first. I didn’t appreciate the lack of sources, and I noticed he embellished his stories and spoke too firmly of things that maybe weren’t so factually provable, but I didn’t really pause until I came to the story of the 12 Days of Christmas. That song included an extremely far-fetched story about it being code for Catholic doctrines (besides the connection stretch the doctrines weren’t specifically Catholic, and Latin rather than English was significant in Catholic teaching at that period). I looked it up, its essentially an urban myth. So of course that gives me pause about the whole book. I know there is a more updated edition, perhaps this story (and other issues if any) are corrected in that. I still want to read his other books about Christmas, I just think I might be doing my own confirmation research

    Light Fiction
    15 books by Diana Wynne Jones. Howl’s Moving Castle at 4 stars is the highest rating I’ve given her books, I think. She has a lot of boring ones plus I find a lot of problematic elements in her works (dwimmer magic in Crestomanci gave me a twinge for example with the dead animals). I did put one book down (The Time of the the Ghost) which I definitely advise against (twisted, violent, occult, savage, old pagan), although I skimmed it (I need to stop that, not exactly consistent). My standards slipped I think both with morality and with quality because I wanted easy, and I wanted to finish my challenge.

    1. The Lives of Christopher Chant. Not my favorite Crestomanci; his and Millie’s backstory is fun though.
    2. The Islands of Chaldea. Her family should have left this unfinished.
    3. Dark Lord of Derkholm. Fun enough, tons of moral issues though.
    4. Year of the Griffin. Fun enough.
    5. Witch Week. Fun enough.
    6. A Tale Of Time City. Interesting.
    7. The Magicians of Caprona. Cute.
    8. Witch’s Business. Cute.
    9. The Ogre Downstairs. Funny a bit heartwarming at the end.
    10. Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories. Some good, some disturbing, some boring.
    11. Enchanted Glass. Interesting, totally repulsive “twist” at the end though, to me.
    12. The Homeward Bounders. I gave it a three, but drawing a blank about my impressions and the details.
    13. The Game. Boring.
    14. Earwig and the Witch. Bleh.
    15. Wild Robert. Funny.

    Illustrated Books (oh, I know, scoff)
    Dorothy Kunhardt’s Kitty’s New Doll. A Golden book childhood favorite my sister received for Christmas. This one has the original illustrations (far more charming that the current ones, I need to get my own copy, why do publishers do this, if you want new, keep the old and have both!).
    The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee. A childhood favorite that I received for Christmas.
    Thumbelina by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Adrienne Adams. Received for Christmas; I grew up on the movie, but I don’t think I’d read the original story.
    Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. Part of my Christmas season reading.

    Rereads
    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

    Knife (Spell Hunter), Rebel (Wayfarer), Arrow, Swift, and Nomad by R.J. Anderson. I love these painfully, just read them.

  • Reading

    What I Read: November

    I determined to try and meet my 140 book goal despite my laziness previously. It helps that I got a lot of children’s illustrated Christmas books, lol. Obviously, that is not my ideal reading. I think they are excellent for relaxation from stress, but I’m not sure I would want to count them normally. Anyway, I read 21 books in November.

    Children’s Christmas Books

    The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot. I love James Herriot, but this is a tear-jerker, and probably too sad for the intended age (we’re a leetle, read “a lot,” sensitive about animals in this family).
    Christmas in Williamsburg: 300 Years of Family Traditions by Karen Kostyal. I was just not impressed by this, it seemed rather incoherent (although I was a bit out of it when I read it).
    Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant. I got this because I remembered the silver packages from my childhood (which featured a lot of Cynthia Rylant books, my mom didn’t remember this one).
    The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket. Boring and unfunny.
    The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket. Adorable illustrations and concept, too bad about the tone.
    A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. What on earth?
    Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco. My childhood featured several Patricia Polacco books, but I didn’t remember this one although my mom did. This one is bittersweet, featuring a couple separated during the Holocaust and reunited in old age, so caution for the sensitive.

    Light Fiction

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Um, so I don’t get the craze about this although it was funny (I’m NOT a sci-fi person, so I probably missed a lot of the poking fun).

    Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead. Um, quite a massive drop in quality from his Pendragon Cycle, and, I felt, in morality. I finished this one and started Scarlet which I eventually quit as it got worse. Bran’s no hero. Quite zero sum in a way that especially bothered me. Some very perverse, grotesque slaughters of animals and scare tactics (including horses, is this just an American thing to put horses on a higher plane? I guess I assumed it was British too, but maybe not for the time period, but its fantasy historical fiction). Unprovoked killing of men by “good” guys.

    Mixed Magics: Four Tales of Chrestomanci. The first two of these I enjoyed far more than I think Charmed Life, they are delightfully funny and charming (precious Cat in the second one). The third is eh, the fourth a bit better (some funny shots at Greek gods).

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I remember this from childhood, and my scandalized feelings about the Herdmans (clearly, I was a bit Alice-like). We even watched a play version. I read this hilarious and heartwarming books very quickly in one day, and since I’ve discovered it was a series, I think I’d like to try more (since I need tons of light stuff to get through more serious reading).

    The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. This was such fun, except toward the end, I was hoping for something more upbeat, I’d preferred the Pinhoes to be more wholly good. Also, the power Chrestomanci has over his fellow magic people bothers me. There shouldn’t be one person with unilateral decision-making capacities. Particularly a person with magical abilities. I like Chrestomanci (Chrisopher Chant) himself, overall (athough I’d like him better if he felt he shouldn’t have that much power), but I don’t like the Chrestomanci position.

    A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Historical fiction, I was wondering how accurate this portrayal was, but it was written in the 1920’s, so she probably had access to people who were alive at the times about which she was writing, but still. I was rather annoyed by about every characters, but I did find the book interesting for a “light” read.

    Literary Fiction

    All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. I’d skimmed some of these stories as a child, but I didn’t remember anything to inspire me to pick them up quickly though I’d been meaning to do so. My mom borrowed a bunch of his works from the library, and when I worked a tedious job, I decided to get Playaways and got this one (narrated by Christopher Timothy). I was hooked right off. Little me clearly didn’t understand/appreciate British humor. I decided I wanted to try to read the second and quickly realized, no, I must listen, so I borrowed the second audio version. These are gems. The humor, the detail, the learning, the homeyness, the characters plus the narrator-actor’s brilliant reading and accents bring it quite alive. If blood and guts grosses you out, this isn’t for you. An be wary animal-lovers, there are some hard stories. I almost thought I couldn’t make it through a few.

    So Big by Edna Ferber. When I read A Lantern in Her Hand, I was reminded of this. So many of the same irritations. Rather depressing and yet at the same time rather fanciful. I know Ferber would’ve or could’ve known people like this, but it still had the sort of “poor hardworking hopeless people” attitude that someone who isn’t in that sphere uses. I definitely prefer Berry’s outlook toward farming even as I realize he usually has more more recent, more potentially prosperous (in soil and access geographically to other things) settings, and even as fanciful I think his outlook can be; he gives dignity not despair and pointlessness.

    Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead. I enjoyed this one more than Taliesin. The feel is strikingly different. It’s also darker. I’ve thought a lot about bad content and tone toward content, but I guess didn’t think about emotions. I’m on Arthur now and started thinking about all the palpable hate. There are few acts of violence described, but not usually too graphically, and they fit with the historical (Saxon invasions) setting. The main characters are usually distinctly “good” characters in this series, but they are surrounded by so much hatred. It’s chilling and depressing, especially since the author is writing fantasy historical fiction. Much of what he writes rings similar to Sutcliff books, except darker; he’s done his research. Just bear all this in mind as it can be emotionally daunting or depressing. Thus far, I think it is definitely worth a read.

    Popular Nonfiction

    Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. I don’t agree with his philosophy, but I do think there are things I could learn, so I might re-read.

    Accounting 101: From Calculating Revenues and Profits to Determining Assets and Liabilities, an Essential Guide to Accounting Basics by Michele Cagan. I’m planning on taking the accounting CLEP, so this was for that. It was written for prospective entrepreneurs and written to people who don’t know much about business, so I’m not sure how helpful it was for me. The writing seemed a bit, informal?

    Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson. A lot of this I’d heard before, but it puts ALL the aspects of sleep together along with tons of science plus stuff I’d not heard plus tips. All very organized (unlike the above sentence). I want to buy this.

    Scholarly Nonfiction

    Infectious Disease: A Very Short Introduction by Marta L. Wayne and Benjamin M. Bolker. I’m rather a germaphobe, so I like to know. Actually, I find epidemiology fascinating and it’s on my list of prospective majors (for when I’m rich and can just keep going to school for everything I find interesting). This had some very interesting information on the mathematics and statistics involved in tracking disease which is something I’d never heard or thought of, rather beyond me now, but definitely interesting. I’m interested in reading as many of these Very Short Introductions as I can (at least the more concrete ones, I’m not sure I could take the more abstract ones, like Consciousness and the like, I’ve little patience for that, but we’ll see how I like them), and have a whole batch to borrow next from the library.

     

  • Reading

    What I’ve Read: October 2018

    Light Fiction

    The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup. Children’s illustrated book by Rosemary Sutcliff. Cute story, but I thought the illustrations lacking.

    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Cute but definitely trying to hard to be whimsical.

    Simon. A Rosemary Sutcliff novel set in Civil War England. I enjoyed it, but I definitely prefer her more ancient settings (and those tend to be better written). This made me curious about the division of England, how and why? As far as I know my family was from the very far north. Puritanism was strongest in the lower east. But how much did actual Puritanism play as opposed to just plain anti-Catholic sentiment (and wasn’t the North more Catholic for a time or was that just more ancient? It wasn’t Catholics who emigrated in the particular wave from which I hail) or just plain anti-Charles I sentiment?

    Literary Fiction

    Frankenstein. I posted my review previously.

    Taliesin. Quite unique in conception I think, I of course, LOVED the Roman-Celtic Britain setting.

    An Episode of Sparrows. I got confused and posted about this for September, but I read it in October.

    Nonfiction

    A book on a county in my state.

     

     

  • Reading

    What I Read: September 2018

    I feel like I have a habit of slacking off and then reading a ton  . . . and then not keeping a good pace. I read 15 books this September. As of this writing, I’m 25 books behind my goal.

    Rereads (3)

    Magic for MarigoldPat of Silverbush, and Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery. Nothing like an L.M. Montgomery book for a soothing and beautiful read.

    Light Fiction (6)

    Murder is Easy, Towards Zero, Destination UnknownThe Secret of ChimneysThe Seven Dials Mystery, and Sparkling Cyanide. I needed some more easy reads, but of course I needed to save some of Agatha Christie, and I usually get a little freaked out after awhile.

    Literary Fiction (1)

    An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden. The beginning was slow, the middle beautiful, the ending rather slapdash and ludicrous and also made the beginning look silly too. I’ll still read more of Godden though for that middle goodness.

    Serious Nonfiction (2)

    Death by Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent by N.D. Wilson. I love his voice and his prose and his insight even if I’m estranged from his message.

    The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. I think this straddles the below category because while the subject is serious, I think the treatment is deceptive it is “depth.” And I’ll leave it at that.

    Popular Nonfiction (3)

    Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson. I think this straddles the serious category because it is far deeper than the similar book below. So much in here struck a cord with me. I’ve experienced Sarah’s deep writing on her blog and her sister’s writing on her blog. I was sure enough on the depth of this book that I preordered it (I mean she promised extra reading lists and such for preorders too); I’m so glad I treated myself. This is something I will be going back to again and again. I had hardly started in before I was bursting into my sisters room raving about Sarah’s discussion of discernment (an opportune irony moment, my sister had a peculiar smile/smirk and when questioned, revealed the cover of the book she was reading, one of the Twilight books, ha, I’ve read them too, at I think the same age). I’ve since lent the book to another sister. This is just the deep discussion of humanities and taste of which I’ve felt a lack.

    I’ve already picked up one of her recommendations (one I’d heard of but wasn’t at our library, so I hadn’t pursued strongly). I’d read many recommendations, but she had plenty more, including some I’d heard of and thought I should try to pursue more seriously (most of the times I add books to my massive library TBR list and then randomly order them and possibly try them).  I since noticed that Joy, her sister, has started a podcast, so I’ve listened to a few of those, including one with her brother about heroes (go listen!). That family clearly knows how to discuss deeply. I know my mom had their mother’s books that I skimmed growing up, but I since I skimmed those ages back probably sort of pushed them all (unjustly) too close to those other Christian Mom type books (which can be really fluffy), but now I want to know pursue more of her work with her children.

    Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards. This was interesting book on interpersonal skills, more in my language than Crucial Conversations. Probably a book I need to own and reread.

    I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life Popular Nonfiction by Anne Bogel. This is superficial; this is from that group of readers who I just can’t relate to even if I technically agree with some of the words and opinions expressed, there is no real Kindred Spirit. I read it for contrast and to have quick read (cheap, I know) with Book Girl (publishers seem to have a theme going, I have my sights on another book in this category, probably more in the Book Girl league).

     

  • Reading

    What I Read and Watched August

    Scrolling through my Goodreads, looking at August books, why does the beginning of August feel so long ago (oh, because it’s close to October now).

    August was NOT a good reading month.

    I only re-read items. Books 3-7 of HP at the beginning of the month and Jane of Lantern Hill towards the middle.

    I’m thinking I watched a lot of YouTube like I did this month. I miss good blogs. I started a month of Netflix in August too. VERY disappointing. I’m not sure what things I watched in August and what I watched in September. I think August was mostly “Friends” and rewatching “Parks and Recreation.”

  • Reading

    What I Read: June

    I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

    When one adds Agathe Christie to the months reading numbers, one looks like a prodigious reader. Of the 10 books I read last month, 6 were Agatha Christie’s. I’ve already read 10 books this month (again, thanks mainly to Agatha Christie novels).

    The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1), The Thirteen Problems (Miss Marple, #2), The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (Miss Marple, #9), The Pale Horse, A Pocket Full of Rye (Miss Marple #7), and Crooked House. These are just page-turners and most didn’t stand out much except the Crooked House which was the best mystery I think, but I almost cried at the end. The rest aren’t her most interesting.

    Switzerland by Lura Rogers Seavey. This is a children’s Enchantment of the World series book. I think kids’ books are great for quick overviews of subjects, particularly for subjects I know very little about. I thought this was a solid source of beginning information on countries, and I plan on reading more of this series.

    Outlaws of Time #3: The Last of the Lost Boys by N.D. Wilson. I’ve been less satisfied with most of his more recent writing, I feel like his unique voice is being drowned out or diluted. This novel was fast and forgettable and rather pointless I thought. This series is my least favorite.

    Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson. I found parts of these books quite funny, but I think put together they were a bit repetitive, mundane, and tedious; the adults came across as spiteful (that ballgame section, ouch) and whiny especially since I was comparing my grandparents (who all were children in the 40’s like Jackson’s children) and their families’ to Jackson’s; I suppose the Northeast was quite a bit wealthier and more modern (e.g. my grandparents didn’t always have plumbing as children, I’d have to ask about a telephone, and I know my grandmother recently mentioned an aunt as having more money as the one with the camera) at that time period if this family was “tight” on money. Regional and historical differences like that are quite intriguing.

     

  • Reading

    What I Read April and May

    I’ve not read much or well lately, sticking to a too high percentage of re-reads.

    Re-Reads

    • Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George. The last of this trilogy, and I didn’t like them half so well this time around. Not all middle-grade can last through all adulthood.
    • Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter. I loved parts and some parts bored me or made me cringe (she does tend to be rather sanctimonious, in this book it is rather heaped unevenly at the end).
    • The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy; The Penderwicks on Gardam Street; The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall; and The Penderwicks in Spring. All of the Penderwicks I read in 2 days (how I love these; these DO last through adulthood), so I could read the newest one. Which I stopped and returned. Period.

    New Reads

    • The Five Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird. This was my first speedy read through. I need to go back and read more slowly (the authors recommended three times). I think I’m going to buy this one. I might even order it today.
    • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. Rather stranger and more uncomfortable than the first novel, plus really boring at the end.
    • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. Although much longer than the first two, this book wasn’t long, yet I spent a month on it . . . and it felt even longer. This felt so different, less sci-fi/interplanetary fiction and more dystopia (which isn’t my favorite, and I’m rather bored of now). Also, rather twisted and disturbing. I should like to know what N.D. Wilson and Jeanne Birdsall so love about it. I’m clearly missing something.

    9 books in 2 months. Ouch. I think I may have finished one or both of the Shirley Jackson autobiographical books in May, but I’m not sure, so I will just include those next month.

  • Reading

    What I Read in March

    Re-Reads
    The Elusive Pimpernel and El Dorado. The succinct version of my opinion of these is similar to the first, so you can check out my January reads for that. I could rant and rave about how little we get of Percy and how stupid and selfish Marguerite is and how much we have to endure her, but I won’t  . . . for now.

    Freckles and The Girl of the Limberlost. These are sweet, but I still found a lot to irritate (no, really?!). I love the nature descriptions and some of the romance. I disliked some of behavior and especially the attitudes.

    Dragon Slippers and Dragon Flight. I wanted something light and easy; I don’t enjoy these as much as I did at first though. Creel is really getting on my nerves.

    Light Fiction
    The Grave’s a Fine and Quiet Place. I am thankful the weird conspiratorial elements are left out of this one. I found it too gross. I enjoyed it well enough, but I thought the story overall was unsatisfying, simplistic, and incomplete. The humor (the best part) is still great.

    Dense Fiction

    The Brothers Karamazov. Well, this had the potential to be a really thrilling novel (if the author cut the excessive, absurd, and rambling sermons), but by the end everything fell flat. I think it is hard to key up a reader when the penalty is not the death penalty; there is less trauma, less believable pathos. Plus I was sick of just about everyone and the plot.

    The Old Man and the Sea. Poignancy and pathos. Although the story dragged, yet Hemingway’s artistry kept me interested although I was fearing a sadder ending (I’ve read at least two of his short stories). Prose is what makes a real writer great, NOT a extravagant story line (which anyone can plot).

    The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway is a great writer but wow, his characters are almost always horrid. I got the feeling of almost, if not definite ant-social disorders. Zero conscience, dispassionate/removed discussion of others feelings, using/abusing others (cruel, rapier taunting), little real feelings besides short bursts of manipulative anger are exhibited, those characters who are sensitive are portrayed as odd, caricatured, rather flat anomalies. Unbelievably crass womanizing lechery. Hard, constant drinking. (All this applies to the two short stories I read as well).

    Popular Nonfiction
    Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. I wrote tons of notes on this, but I really didn’t get much out of it. I thought it over-complicated and gimmicky, maybe someone might find a concrete yet abstract plan helpful, I don’t. I also found much of the descriptions and word-choices to be poor and to add unnecessary distraction and confusion. I preferred what I culled from my interpersonal communication textbook (very specific yet simple points that everyone can use at anytime, e.g. “you” sentences are accusatory, “we” often are presumptive, deceitful, and manipulative).

    Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World. I found this extremely useful; the world of the Pilgrims is explained to give a context to their actions and role in history. This type of history is my favorite, and in my opinion the most essential aspect of studying history because you cannot understand events without understanding the times. While this seemed well-researched, and I appreciate the over-arching idea, the organization, editing, and writing could have used work (hence the popular nonfiction categorization). I think far more footnotes and factual evidence is needed also. However, I think the good is well worth sloughing through all the bad.