Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Best of" for 2016


I love reading friends' "best of" lists for 2016 ... especially if it's about books. There's always room for one more book suggestions, am I right? Last week, I finally did a big update on my book lists over to the right. There's a 2016 list for me, and our family read-aloud list is now current. While I was going through my 2016 list, I grabbed a pencil and marked those which stood out the most for me over the past twelve months. I limited myself to ten favorites which is always a hard decision. In no particular order, my (our) favorites of 2016 were:


1. Rabbits with Swords. I mean Ember Falls. This has turned out to be such a GREAT series. We are not so patiently waiting for the next installment.

We finally finished our first read aloud of our summer and with that we finally finished the Chronicles of Prydian series. Highly recommend! Bonus: if I'm lucky, I'll get to read these again with my boy in 4-5 years. #readaloudrevival

2. The Chronicles of Prydian by Lloyd Alexander. We finished this five volume set this summer by finally getting to books 4 and 5 in the series. I loved these and I think my girls would say that they did as well. I am looking forward 4-5 years when I hand these off to the boy and he dives into them ... or maybe I'll get to read them aloud again with him. I won't mind that one bit.


3. One of the few new books that I read this year, Stella by Starlight was so good that after I read my library copy, I ordered one for our shelves. We'll be reading this next year as we cycle through American history and my girls are getting old enough that we can delve more deeply into the topics of slavery and freedom.


4. Not a book per se, but this study on 1 Peter that I did this summer has to make it on the list. It was time well spent.

Current read aloud. We are having a hard time settling into something after finishing Ember Falls. 🐰 ⚔️ We have tried a couple things and I think we're going to stick with Half Magic (for now!) #readaloudrevival

5. We ended our fall semester of school on this read-aloud and it was a great way to wrap up our December school days. As I commented when I posted a photo of the book on Instagram, when your child asks if you have the sequel to book you just finished, and head's off to their room with it, you know you found a winner. We have plans to add the missing books in this seven book series to our library over time.


A group picture of the rest of this year's favorites.

6. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch was one of the books that N1 had to read for Challenge A this year, and one of the few that we hadn't read before as a family. I LOVED this book. The story of Nathaniel Bowditch who dreamt of a life of academia and the study of mathematics, but was forced to spend nine years of his childhood and early youth in apprenticeship. His determination and love of learning was so inspiring. I foresee that I will need to reread this when daughter #2 enters Challenge A in a few years.

7. Giddy Up, Eunice. Sophie Hudson is just one of my mostest, favoritest writers ever. She gets me. When she writes about topics such as family, friendship, mentoring, and current fashion, she is writing to me about things I am thinking about / working through and her books feel like a good conversation with an old friend that just knows you. 

8. Mere Motherhood is the only homeschooling book that I read this year (I think). It was not flashy or shiny or told me anything new, but just the humble story of a mama trying to do her best while homeschooling her kids. Plain ole encouragement from someone who has been there, and come through to the other side ... and survived.

9. Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson is going to be on my reading list for every January, I believe. A reminder and call to live each day intentionally and a direct word to me to quit whining about some things that bothered me, and make some changes. Ahem. 

10. Lastly, and not least by any stretch, is Wonder by R.J. Polaccio. Like Stella by Starlight, this is another that I read, and then immediately ordered - this time I picked up two copies (one for our house and one for gift). There is a reason why people are still talking about and reading this book even though it came out almost four years ago. It is a book that switches the point of view of who is telling the story, but it is an amazing story of kindness, resilience, and friendship. Just excellent.

There's 2016 in a nutshell. Honorable mentions could go to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I knew I would and did love that series, so that would have been too obvious. : ) What was your favorite read of 2016? Anything I need to put on my list for next year?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

October Reading and Etc.


You can tell when a school break rolls around for us ... I have a minute to breathe and update my/our reading lists here. :) We have been steadily plugging along with school and activities and house renovations and are oh so very thankful for a Thanksgiving break this week! Here's a short update on what we / I read in October, with hopes that a November update might be more timely!


Lots and lots of reading aloud happening here (as always!) and we finished up three books this month in different levels of rotation. First, the boy and I have moved to reading shortish chapter books before his bedtime. (Still plenty of picture books happening as well, thank goodness!) He has been enamoured with Paddington so we finished the first book in that series, A Bear Called Paddington. We love both the movie and the book, even though there are really very dissimilar, and moved straight away into the second book in the series, More About Paddington.

Secondly, we wrapped up King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green. We had read his retelling of Robin Hood last time we were in the Middle Ages, so I knew I wanted to read his version of King Arthur. We did enjoy it, though I give the caveat that it was also long and it took several chapters to get into the feel of the older English writing. Once we were in a groove, the story seemed to move at a much quicker pace!

Thirdly, we finished up a wonderful biography of Corrie ten Boom. While we all enjoyed this, my 10 year old especially asked for "just one more chapter" as every one left us hanging as to Corrie and Betsy ten Boom's fate as they suffered the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. This was a gentle introduction to some of the scenes of WWII as well as a beautiful picture of the faith of Corrie and Betsy ten Boom and I'd highly recommend it.

For my own reading, I managed to get several books read (fall break helped immensely!)

  • Being There: How to Love Those Who are Hurting by Dave Furman. This is written from a pastor in Dubai who suffers from chronic illness. He gives wonderful encouragement and examples of how you can minister to those who are in the midst of any kind of a trial or struggle - simple, practical ways to engage, assist and encourage those in the long-term battle with illness, grief, depression, etc. Highly recommend. I know this is one that I will refer to often.
  • A Table by the Window by Lawana Blackwell. A clean, fun mystery that I haven't picked off the shelf in years. I have several stacks of books that I am hanging on to for nostalgia's sake though I haven't read them in years. This is one and I had the urge to read it over fall break. Still good.
  • Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. Mamas who need encouragement in the trenches of homeschooling need this books. I actually think this would encourage any mama, but she does speak a lot about homeschooling her nine children, eight of whom were boys! Autobiographical in nature, and full of stories of what worked with her crew, as well as stories of what didn't. The book comes off as a very humble retelling of the grace given to her as a mom trying to do her best with the work and privilege in front of her of educating her children. Another highly recommend.
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart. If you have a munchkin who loved The Mysterious Benedict Society, Mr. Lemoncello's library adventures, etc., get his book. I recommend it for adults as well, obviously, but 'tis the gift giving season, so here's a recommendation. :)
  • Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. This is a book that I've had sitting on my shelf for forever, bought because I had heard descriptions of his beautiful writing and imagery. The writing is this book WAS beautiful and the story so simple as you read of Hannah's life - from childhood, through marriage, and into old age with grown children and grandchildren. This is not one that I would reread again and again, but I was certainly touched by the one time through that I did read it.


I'll leave you with this one last book recommendation, or warning, however you may take it! Do not read Ember Falls if you do not like adventure, rabbits, rabbits with swords, mortal peril, and nail biting cliffhangers at the end of the book! We finished this last week and are now left waiting for the inevitable third book in the series because we must! know! what! happens! next!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Grateful to those that still come by here and read my keyboard peckings in this small space as well as those that I have connected with through Instagram. Reading and books bring me such joy, that is wonderful to have like-minded friends and acquaintances around the world to share them with. Grace and peace to all.

Monday, September 26, 2016

August and September Reads

We picked our new read aloud today! The BFG by Roald Dahl. My ten year old has read this but it's a new one for the rest of us! And welcome to so many new followers sent here via @melissabeaver! For the new folks, I have four munchkins - 12, 10, and 9 yeaAnd our next read-aloud is ... Tumtum and Nutmeg! I was rooting for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, but one of my girls really wanted to reread this one. And it's such a favorite of ours, I was totally swayed. Next time, Mrs. Frisby! #readaloudrevivalSea salt chocolate candy corn and Narnia. Mama's lunch break.

Popping in to give a quick reading update and bloggy hello! I have girls slaving away on math and geography, another is downstairs having a piano lesson, and the boy is getting some quiet tv time in my bedroom so I have a few precious moments here for an update. Our school work this year has ramped up considerably with the additions of a few things to our plate and that leaves little time for blogging ... or much non-school related reading for that matter.

For August, I did pretty well and then slowly tapered off as our work load increased as evidenced below:
  • Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier is one that I enjoyed - a fun junior lit adventure. Carrie did a great job reviewing it on her blog if you want more of a review that I have time to give here. It's the sequel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes which I read in June 2014. This is much the same sort of tale if you've read that one. Jonathan Auxier also wrote The Night Gardener which is deliciously creepy in all the right sorts of ways if you are 10-12ish (or older!) and wanting something a little fun to read for October.
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl (read-aloud). We had high hopes of seeing this one in the theater but we didn't get it read in time (though I would have waived that) and we spent our summer movie money on Finding Dory. (No regrets.) We can still look forward to watching this when it releases on iTunes later this year. The kids loved this one ... I found it hard to read aloud because of the BFG's unusual manner of speech. I might have enjoyed it more as an audio book! :)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, etc. Who didn't read this this summer? I didn't purchase it but waited to get it through the library. Definitely a different read from the regular HP novels, however, it was very interesting to read about the children of some of our favorite characters and the situation in which they found themselves. I'm glad I didn't spend the money on purchasing it, but it was worth getting on the hold list at the library.
  • Pretense by Lori Wick. I can't tell you why I picked this one off my shelf, unless it was just a nostalgic feeling for a book that I haven't read in about 10 years. This was a Christian fiction favorite from a long time ago and while this genre isn't something that I read much of anymore, this book stood the test of time, I enjoyed the re-read. (And the fact that it was something familiar that I could read as we started school and I had to keep putting down!)
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Latham. This is a classic that I read along (but not aloud) with my oldest who is in Classical Conversations Challenge A program this year. Oh my goodness, is this a good book! The story of Nathanial Bowditch who dreamed of a life of academia and the study of mathematics, but was forced to spend nine years of his childhood and early youth in apprenticeship. His determination and love of learning was so inspiring. I don't know that this would make a great read-aloud with a young audience because there is a lot of nautical terminology in the book that might make it cumbersome, but it's definitely a book that should not be missed!
Ah, September. Lots of read alouds going on and we finished a couple of big ones!
  • Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn. Our first official back-to-school read aloud and one that the boy had not been through yet. Delightful as always. I've talked about T&N at great length before. (I really shouldn't go back and reread early reviews ... wow).
  • The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton Burgess. This was one of our looped read-alouds that we worked through all last year and we finished it a couple weeks into this year. We all loved this sweet book full of animal information as told from the perspective of Mother Nature and her school of small woodland animals. We've decided that an animal story is a must in our rotation and we've gone one queued up to fill this hole. More on that later!
  • The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. I've read this book so many times, so this was just a quick reread for me before N1 has to write a paper on it for Challenge A. I actually had to purchase a new copy of the book - when I picked it up to reread it, I discovered that it was missing the first few pages. My childhood series has gotten a lot of love over the years!
And that's my list for the last two months.

New month, new read aloud. Diving into King Arthur today to go along with our medieval studies.  #readaloudrevival

Our current read-aloud is Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. It took us a few chapters to get into the language and flow of this story, but we are a little over half way through and are enjoying the adventures of the knights. I'm hoping that we will finish this in the next couple of weeks - we have the newest adventure in the Green Ember series (Ember Falls) sitting here on my desk staring at us and I can't wait to pick that one up!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

July's Reading Report

So much reading this month. July is a good month for that around here.

It's hot - reading is a great indoor activity.
It's hot - reading is a great poolside activity.
It's hot - reading is a great cheap activity.

I'm sure you get the point. : )


This is most of what I read this summer. There were also several library books that I read that have since been returned (both hardback and Kindle).

This month I finished:
  • None Like Him by Jen Wilkin. I've mentioned one or a hundred times how much I love her book Women of the Word and at the beginning of the summer I worked through her 1 Peter study on my own. This book is another great addition to your library. A great book on the attributes of God and one I will revisit.
  • The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase by Wendy Mass. The sequel to The Candymakers. I handed this off to my 12 year old when it arrived (along with the first book that she had missed reading) and she spent several days happily curled up with these).
  • Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs. I enjoy reading Annie Downs' books. She is very personable and easy to relate to through her writing. Is she as meaty theologically as a Jen Wilkin? No. Which is why I think her books are excellent for younger girls (both in age and faith).
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah. I don't remember where I saw this book mentioned other than it is the only book with Agatha Christie's beloved Poirot character that has been signed off by her people. I enjoyed this mystery. The author did a great job imitating Agatha Christie's writing, though you can tell a slight difference. I missed the inclusion of Hastings and Inspector Japp.
  • The High King by Lloyd Alexander (Chronicles of Prydian #5) Our one and only read aloud we have finished this summer! (We are still plugging away at the BFG). I am so glad that we read this series out loud together and highly, highly recommend them.
  • Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life's Biggest Yes by Kristen Welch. This was a title I read on Kindle on loan from the library. Good reminders that my kids don't need everything they (or I) think they do, and that small battles now are greater victories down the road.
  • Crispin, The Cross of Lead by Avi. This is one of the two books that my rising 7th grader needs to reading for her Challenge A / Classical Conversations class that we haven't read as a read aloud. The story of a boy with uncertain parentage who finds himself on the wrong side of the law. Very good.
  • The Firefly Code by Megan Frazier Blakemore. Another one I was interested in reading and checked out via my Kindle from the library. Her book The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill was one of my favorites a few years ago and this one was just as interesting as it discusses what it means to be human through the lives of some middle school students.
  • Village Diary, Village School, and Storm in the Village by Miss Read. Pure comfort reading! I discovered Miss Read when Jan Karon said she was one of her favorite authors. Miss Read's small English village of Fairacre reminds me of Mitford with it's colorful characters and gentle inquisitiveness in everyone's lives.


We start school on Monday so I thoroughly expect my reading level to go down. And, while I didn't knock out everything on my summer reading list, I did make progress on several "to be read" books that I had had sitting around for much too long. I call it a win. : )

Any great books that knocked your socks off this summer? It's time to start thinking about a fall reading list! : )

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June's Reading Report

UntitledUntitledThe pressure is on when all the Kindle books I've checked out from the library are about due. I read this one yesterday and it was a sweet, sad story by the same author who wrote the Clementine series. Thoroughly enjoyed diving into it after such a busy wI've spent a good chunk of my morning reading through this book this morning with the library webpage open so I look at books. Super excited to use this as a resource for what I'm envisioning our history/geography to be this next year!

June has been a good reading month. I read a couple monster books that were on my summer reading list and several others that I knocked out in an afternoon. A good mix of heavy and light over the last thirty days or so!

I finished:

  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker. This story is told from the perspective of the two main characters, Pax (a fox) and his boy, Peter. They are separated when war comes to their area and Peter's father has to leave and fight. The book is the story of how the two journey back to each other and the growth of each character along the way. I thought this story was ... different ... not bad, but not something I loved and will gush about. The war and separation aspect was well done, but dark and I think that weighed me down when reading, if that makes sense.
  • The Two Towers and The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien. I'm going to list these two together as they really were the bulk of my reading this month. I loved, loved, loved finishing this series. I had said last month that The Fellowship had dragged for me a bit, but The Two Towers definitely picked up the pace and continued in to the last book. I loved that the books went more into the characters of Eowyn and Faramir and Samwise Gamgee. I am a Sam fan forevermore.
  • Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson. This book was delightful. It was not the memoir feel of Sophie's first two books, but a look at women mentoring other women, how we see it modeled in the Bible, and how we put so much pressure on each other to do it just right. An encouraging book Biblically and with several laugh out loud moments thrown in for good measure. Her writing is some of my favorite.
  • Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin. I am listing this here, although to be clear, I don't think that this is a book that you technically read. The first three - four chapters are really where the text of the book is. After that, it is just chapter after chapter of book suggestions as you read your way around the globe. I'm looking forward to using this as part of our geography / social studies this fall.
  • 1 Peter study by Jen Wilkin. Also listing this here just to note that I finished it, but over the course of nine or ten weeks. Jen Wilkin is becoming one of my favorite Bible teachers. (Her Women of the Word is excellent if I haven't said that quite enough here). You can watch a session she did from 1 Peter at the recent Gospel Coalition women's conference if you have never heard from her before. Highly highly recommend if you are looking for a study for yourself or a group of friends.
  • The Negotiator by Dee Henderson. Also another I'm hesitant to list here because I don't know that I really read this, but more skimmed it. This is the first book in a series of books by a Christian author that I used to read quite a lot of when N1 was little. I borrowed it from the library on my kindle and scanned through it the other day while I was doing a ton of cooking and was kitchen bound for several hours. It was interesting rereading this bit of Christian fiction with older eyes, and realize that I have kind of lost my taste for it.
  • The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery. A book that I finally bought for myself on kindle after eyeing it on Amazon forever. This last book in the Anne series was written right before LMM passed away and was only recently published in its entirety. It's made up of short stories (that have references to the Blythe family scattered throughout) and in between those are sections of poetry supposedly written by Anne and Walter and read to the family with some discussion. A book detailing which Blythe child married whom and how many kids they had, this is not (sadly). But I will take fresh short stories from a favorite author in its stead and enjoy it for perfect summer reading when I have time to read one or two and set it down.
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. Anther book from my summer reading list that I finished this morning. (Nothing like being told by the library that you have to return it because someone else has it on hold to light a fire under you). An oddly endearing book about a robot that is marooned on an island and has to learn how to survive and eventually befriends the wildlife on the island. Sort of futuristic, sort of a nature story and it worked. Definitely different that a lot of other juvenile fiction I've read.
You will note that there isn't a single read aloud listed on here, which is a little sad, but shows where life is right now. Life is at the pool and running around the neighborhood riding our bikes with friends. Life is at camp for the next several weeks as the girls go in shifts. We are about half-way through with The High King, the last book in the Prydian Chronicles and we plan on finishing it in July when all are back home under one roof. We've actually read the last couple times with a handful of neighbor girls along with us (which, bless their hearts, has got to be so confusing to come into the last book of this series and not even at the beginning of the book with us). That's been a fun surprise to have our extra friends interested in listening along!

Off to July and more whittling away at my summer reading list!