An Update on the Quarterly Classic Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge The Quarterly ClassicI promised an update on this, and I’ve been putting off writing it. I *hate* not meeting my goals, even if no one else cares if I do or don’t.

So, last year I planned a reading challenge. Four classic novels, one per quarter. Easy, right? Except shortly after brainstorming and making the goal for the challenge, I discovered I was pregnant with baby #3.

Right there, I should have deferred the challenge for a year. Two previous pregnancies have been … challenging, and even if I avoided the severe nausea and vomiting of the past, two other kiddos don’t always make life easy. I’m also considered high-risk, due to some ongoing health conditions and other issues, so that meant extra appointments and schedule juggling.

Except, I’d already made plans! Not just mental ones that only I knew about – real ones, with my friend Amy. Surely I could still manage to read those four books.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

I’m still reading, yes. But reading with pregnancy brain and in between everything else is quite different than reading when I’m at full strength if you will. I’ve had to dial back on the books that require focus and close attention. Spiritual reading, book club picks, and titles related to homeschooling are getting that time, not leaving a lot of time for classic literature.

I could have finished the books I planned to by now, but it would have been by racing through them, or not focusing on them enough to appreciate the language. And I don’t want to have just “read” them where my eyes have passed over all the text on the page. I want to immerse myself in them more. I want to savor all of Pride and PrejudiceThe Annotated Pride and Prejudice: A Revised and Expanded Edition by Jane Austen – it’ll be the only first time I ever read it after all.

So, yes, I’m calling it quits on my reading challenge. I apologize to anyone who was joining in. While I’d love to say “come back in 2015 when I’ll try again!,” instead I think I’ll see how things are going with three, and then evaluate what I think I can handle. I’ve already made plans for one blogging project for the year, and I’m trying to not make the same mistake again and jump in without really thinking it through.

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A Million Little Ways

A Million Little WaysA Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to LiveA Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman by Emily Freeman

I loved many of the ideas in Freeman’s book, especially her overall premise that we are all artists, because there are those “million little ways” to create art and offer it to the world and to God. You don’t have to be a writer, or painter, or one of those other generally recognized “creatives” to be an artist from her perspective. You can make art with and through the most ordinary and everyday pursuits. Even if no one else recognizes you for it. Even if no one else thinks what you are doing is art.

My issue with the book is purely stylistic: it’s not the life-changing text that it has been for others, simply because her writing style isn’t to my taste. Obviously many other people love it – I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just not the best fit for me, as typically I don’t enjoy more poetic nonfiction – I like my nonfiction books to be straightforward in style.

So, many of the concepts she addresses I love, but I’d feel like a hypocrite raving over it since it’s not to my style. However, if you like her writing at her blog, Chatting at the Sky, or you already know you like this style, grab this one – it’s a beautifully written book with some fabulous takeaways. And if you’re not familiar with her writing, she wrote a 31 Day series on Living Art to supplement the book, and it should give you a great idea if the book would be a good fit for you or not. [Read more...]

New on My Bookcase (vol. 23)

library haul 23Lots of books this time, because once again I forgot to juggle the holds dates better. Whoops. :)

I’ve reached the point where I’m counting and trying to figure out when will I make it back to the library, and how do I juggle holds dates, and combine that with an expiring library card = I don’t know if I’ll make another visit before the baby arrives, or just end up returning books and not getting anything new.

I’ve certainly got enough to keep me busy where I wouldn’t NEED any new material. But since when does not needing something new keep me from wanting additional options?


Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and MedicsWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action) by Kathryn Atwood by Kathryn Atwood
Loved her similar book on Women Heroes of World War II, and so I expected to love this one. And I did (yup, I’ve already finished it. So good!)

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a MarriageDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg by Molly Wizenberg
I’ve mentioned Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life before as it’s one I adored. I put this one on hold as soon as I found it in the library’s catalog, and my turn has finally arrived. So so so excited for this one.

Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and StoriesFresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories by Susie Middleton by Susie Middleton
It just sounds like my sort of book.

The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and DivorceThe Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce by Shaunti Feldhahn by Shaunti Feldhahn
Loved the last book I read by her, and am expecting to enjoy this one too.

The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on AmericaThe King of Sports: Football's Impact on America by Gregg Easterbrook by Gregg Easterbrook
One of my “looking forward to reading in 2014” books. Guess I’d better get working on that list a little more. :)

The Man Who Couldn’t EatThe Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner by Jon Reiner
No idea how this originally came to my attention.

Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance ArmstrongGood Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong by Zac Bissonnette by Zac Bissonnette
Learned about this one thanks to Laura Vanderkam.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern ParenthoodAll Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior by Jennifer Senior
This has been on my TBR list for ages, and I finally bumped it up to the top of the list. It kind of seems like it might be extra appropriate as I get ready to meet the new baby.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside OutThe Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon by Angela Liddon
Seems like I have to try at least one new cookbook a month. :)


The Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in ParisThe Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in Paris by Barbara Corrado Pope by Barbara Corrado Pope
My choice for a Paris-themed fiction book for our book club retreat. Because I love historical mysteries. :)

The Sandcastle Girls: A NovelThe Sandcastle Girls: A Novel by Christ Bohjalian by Christ Bohjalian
Some fantastic reviews plus a time period and setting that don’t get a lot of attention equals I have to try it.

A Scholar of MagicsA Scholar of Magics (A College of Magics) by Caroline Stevermer by Caroline Stevermer
Sequel to the recently finished A College of MagicsA College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer.

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Seven Quick Takes (vol. 9)

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

I survived the visitors, and the work on the house. There were some snags (of course there were), so not all of the windows got finished. So, they’re coming back in September to (hopefully!) finish them all, and maybe even do another project since they’ll already be out here.

I have no idea exactly how I will cope with the chaos and a new baby. I’m not looking forward to it.

— 2 —

July 2014 Young Living Essential Oils OrderThis month’s oils, and it’s a bigger order than sometimes as I’m trying to stock up on whatever I might need and possibly want before the baby arrives.

I tried to order the Young Living Feelings kit, but it was out of stock. So instead, I got Roman Chamomile, which was prompted in large part by Sarah’s recent class on 12 Power Oils. They all sounded good, but Roman Chamomile was the one that most seemed like it would be good to have prior to delivery. Well, that and I already had many of the oils she included in her baker’s dozen power oils. :)

Also suggestions from her class were Copaiba, Cinnamon Bark, and Idaho Balsam Fir. The Thieves is because I’m passing a bottle along to my mom when she visits, and the soap is because we needed more.

The Bergamot and Ylang Ylang were bonuses this month. Yay for free oils!

— 3 —

When this publishes I’ll have 3 1/2 weeks until my scheduled c-section. While I am excited and a bit anxious to meet this girl, I also know that things will not be easy for awhile, so I’m trying to enjoy these last days with only two kids, both of whom can transport themselves places, get in their carseats, and take care of most of their hygiene needs without help.

— 4 —

What is getting me super super excited to meet the baby is that I finally braved the chaos of the basement and went through the boxes of clothes. Most of the newborn / small baby items were loaners from a cousin, and have since been returned and aren’t available again. I wasn’t sure if I really had much of anything, or if I needed to go on the hunt for some clothes.

Happily, it looks like there is enough thanks to gifts for H, neutrals from G, and a handful of the cousin’s clothes that didn’t make it back to her for some reason. I actually prefer not having tons of clothes, so I need to double-check that there is enough of certain things (like sleepers), but I *think* I’ve got enough and won’t need to get anything.

Except some diapers. We will need those. :)

— 5 —

Pregnancy brain has struck with a vengeance. I’ve made a couple of brainless mistakes recently that have me wondering if I have any working memory whatsoever. Fortunately neither of them have been that costly, although any time I end up doing things like that it annoys me so much.

(It’s very hard for me to come up with any comments that aren’t baby-related. It’s kind of on my mind and seems to be pushing out any other thoughts.)

— 6 —

Both kids had a dentist appointment this week, and I was dreading it a bit, not sure how well they would behave or cooperate. Turns out they were FANTASTIC throughout the entire appointment.

— 7 —

The best book I’ve finished recently was The Last SeasonThe Last Season by Eric Blehm by Eric Blehm. It felt a little bit bloated, so that makes me hesitate to recommend it more broadly, but I found it fascinating, and loved how it was structured. The Wallace Stegner references were a fun bonus, after so recently finishing Stegner’s novel Crossing to Safety. I’m in the midst of reading two books I am *loving*, and one more that I really like, so it’s been a good stretch. :)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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What the Kids are Reading (in July 2014)

AlmostAlmostAlmost by Richard Torrey by Richard Torrey
Especially well-timed as we first read it days before my son’s birthday. So even though the age was off by a year, it still connected with him in a bigger way than I expected.

Randy Riley's Really Big HitRandy Riley’s Really Big HitRandy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen by Chris Van Dusen
Baseball + outer space + robots = the perfect book for my boy. At least this month. We have read it countless times already. One of the unexpectedly fun parts was that Randy Riley has a telescope, and every time we read the book G would sigh “I wish I had a telescope.” And then it was his birthday and he got a telescope. :)

Sleep Like a TigerSleep Like a TigerSleep Like a Tiger (Caldecott Medal - Honors Winning Title) by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

H loves this one especially, and asks for it to be read every time we sit down on the couch together.

This is Not My HatThis Is Not My HatThis Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen by Jon Klassen

Makes them both laugh, and they love the expressions on the big fish.

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Wings of Fire

Wings of FireWings of FireWings of Fire (Ian Rutledge Mysteries) by Charles Todd by Charles Todd

I absolutely loved Todd’s first book in the Ian Rutledge series, A Test of WillsA Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) by Charles Todd, so my expectations may have just been a bit unrealistic for this one. I liked it, but don’t want to gush over it like I did the first.

One of the things I wasn’t crazy about with the first book was a particular narrative device, and I was disappointed to see it continue in the second. It’s not a major part of the story, but it’s tiring and doesn’t add much to the book besides length*. And that’s not a good thing: the book felt bloated, and like it could easily have been trimmed by 50 or more pages. I don’t mind reading long books, but I want it all to feel like it should be there as it adds to the overall story, and this one didn’t.

I also found that the plotting was weaker. I had figured out the “who” before it was revealed, but some of the “why” I never fully followed, even after finishing the book. Did I miss it? Were there just some threads left dangling? Was the resolution simply poor?

Finally, the setting and time period didn’t seem as essential to the story as in the first book. I had to remind myself where this one took place in England, because other than “not London” it never seemed to matter. And while Rutledge is still clearly dealing with the aftereffects of WWI (point #1 above relates to this), it doesn’t seem like *everyone* else is in the same way that other books have depicted.

I’m still going to read the third in the series, because I liked the first one so much, and think there is still promise for future books featuring Rutledge. And maybe tempered expectations will help with the next book too. Also, I wonder if the first book had been polished and polished and polished some more before being accepted and published, and then book two didn’t receive the same amount of attention and fine-tuning. So it is a more experienced author (or authors in this case), but a sophomore slump does seem to be real. Here’s hoping book three bounces back!

* I think I know why that device is used, as a way to show the lingering impact of the war on Rutledge, without just telling the reader about it. But I can’t help thinking there would have been another way to do so. It seems like it will get awfully tiring if it continues throughout the series, especially if Todd has to explain the why behind it every time. Guess I’ll see how they handle it later! [Read more...]

The Professor and the Madman

The Professor and the MadmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English DictionaryThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester by Simon Winchester

I’ve had Winchester’s book on my “to read” list for at least a decade. No joke – I know it was there when I was in grad school, and it never made its way to the top for me to actually read it. Until now, finally, when it being a book club pick pushed me to actually get it read.

Why on earth did I wait that long? It’s not super long, or hard to read – it’s a very accessible look at two of the main individuals involved in the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Which I realize might not sound that interesting if you’re thinking “writing a dictionary = boring, so a story about people writing one = more boring.” Not so!

I would caution anyone who is super sensitive that there are some descriptions that might be a bit tough to read. Speculation about some of the possible causes of Minor’s insanity (such as his experiences in the Civil War), and a particular event that took place once he was in the asylum both had me cringing and trying not to visualize the specifics.

Fascinating – I’m so glad I finally read it after having it linger on my TBR list for years. [Read more...]

Read This, Not That: Fair Play Mystery

Mysterious Affair at StylesRules of Murder

Never heard of a “fair play mystery?” All that means is the subgenre of mysteries where the reader can solve it too – all the clues are presented in the novel, with no hidden information.

Agatha Christie was a master at this type of mystery, and if you’re looking for a Christie-type reading experience, it’s hard to beat the original.

Which brings me to Rules of MurderRules of Murder (A Drew Farthering Mystery Book #1) by Julianna Deering by Julianna Deering. First, the positives: isn’t that a fantastic cover? And doesn’t the premise of it sound wonderful?

Except, there’s a big letdown. While description sounded strong, the plotting itself was weak. There are red herrings galore, but the solution still was disappointingly easy to figure out. The main character annoyed me, as did the main secondary characters.

I get what Deering was trying to do with this book, and presumably the series, but overall it just didn’t work for me. I found myself longing for one of Christie’s original books, instead of this attempt at a nod to Christie.

Perhaps the later books in the series improve; plotting often does, but I’m more concerned with the personality issues that annoyed me, as I’d expect that to continue in later books.

Instead of falling for that fabulous cover (and the later books in her series also have wonderful covers), go with the original – Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles was lots of fun.

Publisher’s Description:
Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game

Book Details

Title: Rules of MurderRules of Murder (A Drew Farthering Mystery Book #1) by Julianna Deering
Author: Julianna Deering
Category: Fiction / Historical Mystery
My Rating: 2 Stars

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Homeschooling Kindergarten: the First Quarter with Sonlight Core P4/5

We’ve just finished the first quarter of the school year, as laid out in Sonlight’s P4/5 core schedule. That seems like enough time to give some thoughts on the books we’ve read, and the Sonlight experience. I’m really pleased with how easy it’s been so far. I do realize that right now I’m only really working with one child for Kindergarten, so we’re not talking hugely demanding academics here, but still – it gives me hope for the future to continue homeschooling with three children. And short-term, it gives me confidence that I can manage it with a newborn.

Core P45 IGFirst, a big success as far as I’m concerned is the instructor guide itself. I’ve loved having something written and planned out, to give me a general idea of what a reasonable amount to cover in a week is. If I was an experienced homeschool mom, I don’t know that I’d care, but as a newbie, I love it.

That said, I don’t follow the schedule religiously, and I have never once followed it day-to-day all week long. Generally, I try and keep us on one week at a time, but during that “week” (which may take anywhere from 2 to 10 days to finish) we jump around and do things in our own order. I also rarely use the discussion questions provided – I find it easy enough to ask my own based on what we’re reading.

For this first quarter, the books we’ve been using:
Developing the Early LearnerDeveloping the Early Learner
Perhaps my son’s favorite item from the entire package. He loves loves loves these sorts of activities. This is one of the main reasons I keep us on a week-at-a-time schedule, or else he’d want to finish the entire book in one week. As it is, he does a week in a day, and then impatiently waits until he can do more.

The Lion Storyteller Bedtime BookLion Storyteller Bedtime Book
Both kids like this one a lot, especially the stories that feature Rabbit and Tiger. (But our copy doesn’t look like the one linked; the cover is different. Apparently they’ve got the same content, just a different cover.)

Stories from Around the WorldStories from Around the World
They like this one, but not quite as much as the Lion book, although they have referenced these stories later, so clearly they’re listening and paying attention. I think Rabbit and Tiger just captivate them so much they’re inclined to favor that book.

Eric Carle's Animals AnimalsEric Carle’s Animals Animals
They’re mostly indifferent towards this one. The short poems don’t seem to catch their attention, but they do like the illustrations. However, I have noticed a difference in the last two weeks when we’ve read this one. My son is much more interested in it, so perhaps it was just a maturity thing, as my daughter still only cares about the illustrations.

My First Picture DictionaryMy First Picture Dictionary (Part of the Language Arts K package)
They love looking up the new letter each week, and were sad during the week with no new letter. It’s been fun for me discovering some words that both kids already know, and sometimes I have no idea how they know them. Some of them my son has told me I’ve said, but I don’t remember using them.

A Treasury of Mother GooseA Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes
They’re big fans of this one – we tend to read lots extra in this one every time we open it, so we’ll likely end up reading the entire book at least 4 times during the year, assuming our current pace holds steady.

The Children's Book of VirtuesThe Children’s Book of Virtues
Somewhat indifferent, leaning towards liking it. We’ve only read 3 or 4 entries from it, so this one is a little more “still to be determined” as to whether or not it’ll be an overall hit.

Uncle Wiggily's Story BookUncle Wiggly’s Story Book
They HATE this one. I stuck with it for two weeks, but I hated reading it too, and decided to ditch it instead of torturing us all. I may try it again in a few months. Or I may not, since I didn’t like reading it myself. :)

101 Favorite Stories from the Bible101 Favorite Stories from the Bible
They aren’t really fond of this version. They liked the The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His NameThe Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones I used previously, and I keep debating whether or not to try another one instead of sticking with this one. It’s not such an obvious thing as the Uncle Wiggly one was, so for now we’re sticking with it. At least each day’s story is short!

Things People DoThings People Do
They like this quite a bit, but they never protest too much at only doing one entry a week, so it’s not the most compelling book I’ve read to them. It’s still a good one, and leads to interesting discussions with one or both of them.

Language and Thinking for Young ChildrenLearning and Thinking for Young Children (Part of the Language Arts K package)
Eh, doesn’t do much for me, or them. I think if you’ve read a lot on early childhood education, and pay attention to every day learning opportunities, much of this will be a repeat. At least it’s all seemed that way so far!

Berenstain Bear's Big Book of Science and NatureThe Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature
I already mentioned this one last month, but I can’t leave it out as it was definitely a highlight of these weeks. This one will definitely be read through multiple times they like it so much. There was no way we were able to limit ourselves to the listed amounts for each week – instead I’d just read until we came to a good stopping point, and then pick up again where we left off.

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InvasionInvasionInvasion by Walter Dean Myers by Walter Dean Myers

I’ve read other books by Myers, and he’s a dependable author for me, so I expected to enjoy this one despite military history not being my favorite. And I did, in large part because Myers’ focus isn’t on the military tactics aspect that I don’t enjoy, but on the experiences of the individual soldier, which I do. All in all, this is a good book about the time period, with a focus that isn’t often found in books for this age range.

My one real complaint with the book is (and this is a possible spoiler for some events, so read on only if you don’t mind knowing some of what takes place in the book) that the description of it makes it seem like there will be significant interaction between the white and black soldiers, Josiah and Marcus. Instead Marcus appears at the very beginning, and once or twice more later in the book he’s there for a few pages. If you’re expecting a lengthy look at the war from the perspective of a black soldier, it’s not here, so I wouldn’t pick it if you’re wanting something discussing race beyond the most superficial aspects*. I hate criticizing books for not being something other than what they are, but because of the description of this one, it seems to set this up for possible disappointment if you’re thinking it will be something else.

While I haven’t read them, two of the author’s other books have a connection to this one, although they can be read in any order apparently. Marcus Perry, the black soldier who appears so briefly in this book, is related to the main characters in the books Fallen AngelsFallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers and Sunrise Over FallujahSunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers. I’m looking forward to reading both of them.

If you do read this one, don’t miss the authors’ note at the end – it’s excellent, and gives some details about the writing of Invasion, and the inspiration behind Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah.

Recommended, with some strong cautions that should be fairly obvious given the topic of the book – it follows an ordinary soldier through the Normandy Invasion of D-Day, and events shortly afterwards. There is a small amount of profanity (although nothing like I’d imagine it really was like among soldiers), but mostly it is the violence of war, sudden death, and the risk of death at any moment could make it so inappropriate for younger or more sensitive readers.

(*For a great book on that, covering the same age range – or even a bit younger – , try Courage Has No Color. It’s nonfiction, but very readable.) [Read more...]