Book Review: I’d Rather Be Reading

ReadingAnne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading is aptly subtitled The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. Anne is the blogger behind Modern Mrs. Darcy, where books and reading are among her primary topics.

In this book Anne covers nearly every aspect of being an avid reader communicating with other avid readers.

Since she writes so much about books, people sometimes feel compelled to divulge their guilty reading secrets: hating books that everyone else loves, never having gotten around to reading a well-loved classic, having books on their shelves for decades that they haven’t read yet.

She discusses the books that we seem to come across at just the right time, even though we picked them up randomly, the books that “hooked” us into lifelong readership, the puzzling love for books that make us cry, the charm of libraries and bookstore, books that we keep because they were given to us or remind us of friends, how reading enhances real-life experiences, “bookworm problems” like never having enough storage space for books or needing to stop just at the best part of a book to go to work  or pick up a child from school, the different types of readers we are at different stages of life, the discoveries made in an author’s extra notes (acknowledgements, introductions, afterwords), and much more. Along the way she references a plethora of books she’s read.

Maybe because I am only an occasional visitor rather than a regular follower of Anne’s blog, I didn’t have the same sense of conspiratorial camaraderie I might have had in discussing some of these same topics with friends. But I enjoyed plenty of head-nodding and “me, too!” moments, which, along with Anne’s breezy style, made this book a pleasant read.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

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Book Review: Murder in an English Village

EnglishIn Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott, Beryl Helliwell seeks adventure all over the world in the 1920s. Brash, impulsive, and outspoken, she’s become famous as newspapers cover her exploits. “Beryl had a great deal of experience with people in the throes of shock. It tended to happen to others at an alarming rate when she was in the vicinity.”

But she has become bored and restless. After a while “one camel caravan is very much like another.” Finding an ad for a room to rent in the small English village of Walmsley Parva, Beryl decides to take a break and rest a while.

Edwina Davenport has been a quiet pillar in Walmsley Parva for decades, but the economy after WWI has greatly reduced her resources. When she decides to rent a room, she’s delighted when her old school chum, Beryl, asks to rent it. As the two get reacquainted, Edwina admits that she’s embarrassed to go into the village and face scrutiny and gossip because of her financial constraints. Beryl takes it upon herself to help out: she tells the chief rumormonger in town that she and Edwina are secret agents, and “Ed’s” seemingly reduced circumstances are just a front.

Edwina’s dismay at Beryl’s storytelling morphs into deep concern after someone makes an attempt on Edwina’s life in her own back yard. Who in sleepy little Walmsley Parva would have a secret that they don’t want investigated?

I had not heard of this book or author until I was sorting through a 2-for-1 sale at Audible. I had found one book I wanted, but couldn’t find another among the sale items. Then I saw this title. Normally I am wary of modern fiction, because usually it contains bad language or sexual scenes. But I perused a few reviews that said this was a clean story, so I took a chance on it.

As a “cozy mystery,” it’s a lot of fun. Well, except for a murder investigation and several sad tales connected with it. But Beryl and Edwina play well off each other. The story has a cast of distinctive characters. It dragged just a bit for me in the middle as the two women interviewed several people, but as the clues unfolded, the mystery came together satisfactorily. The ending left the possibility open for more Beryl and Edwina stories, and I found that a sequel has been written. The two have good potential for a running series.

I don’t recall that there was any bad language except Beryl uses one word as an idiom which I didn’t understand. Edwina didn’t, either, but her sensibilities were “shocked.” (I wasn’t about to look it up…). Besides that one incident, and the mention of a man having “octopus hands,” the book is clean. Someone is found to have had an adulterous relationship, but nothing explicit is discussed or shown. Beryl does have a penchant for alcohol and divorce.

I saw some reviews criticizing the narrator of the audiobook, Barbara Rosenblat, for some odd hesitations. But I did not find them distracting and thought she did a great job.

Overall I thought it an enjoyable story.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Marilla of Green Gables

MarillaWhen I first saw mention of Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, I was intrigued but wary. So many dearly love the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery: how could anyone in our day add to the story? Would it just be fan fiction? Would the author make Marilla’s story too modern and politically correct? Somewhere, in a link I forgot to note, I read that the Montgomery family was also wary of McCoy’s book, but liked it in the end. So that gave me impetus to read it for myself.

In this interview, McCoy tells how she searched and marked the Anne books for clues about Marilla herself. This interview shares some other background information as well.

The book opens with a scene right before Marilla and Matthew decide that he needs help with the farm, and they discuss sending for an orphan boy. The next chapter takes the story back to Marilla as a thirteen-year-old girl. Her brother, Matthew, is in his twenties, still living at home and helping on the farm. Her mother is expecting her third child. Green Gables is being built but is not finished or named yet.

Marilla and Matthew work hard on the farm, and we see each of their personalities as they might have been. Matthew is quiet and shy. Marilla is sensible and practical, but she is a teenage girl and not an older spinster at this point. So she has hopes and dreams and enjoys idle time reading a magazine.

She makes friends with the chatty and opinionated Rachel White (later Lynde) and meets a young, strong John Blythe. Marilla’s first unusual opportunity to travel with Rachel’s family to another town to deliver shawls knitted by the ladies of Avonlea for orphans broadens her horizons and opens her eyes to people and needs outside their small community.

Tragedy strikes at home, which colors Marilla’s decisions for the rest of her life. Suddenly she has to work harder than ever. But she finds outlets for other causes when she’s tapped to lead the newly formed Ladies’ Aid Society.

Political issues in their region pit neighbor against neighbor and cause ripples of unrest. And Marilla finds that helping others sometimes involves risk and sacrifice.

I felt that the author did a good job with the setting and characters. The story did have a familiar Avonlea feel. Most of the main characters seemed reasonable representations (Rachel seemed the least like her LMM counterpart to me). It was bittersweet watching Marilla and John’s romance unfold, knowing it was not going to work out. But I liked that the author presented the break-up as sad but not unrecoverable. Marilla did fine as an independent single woman. I wasn’t thrilled with the political aspects of the story: I don’t remember there being much of anything political in the Anne books. On the other hand, the author researched issues that would have been important in PEI at the time, and it’s reasonable to think those issues would have impacted Avonlea. I liked the fact that each section of the contents echoed the titles of the Anne books (Marilla of Green Gables, Marilla of Avonlea, Marilla’s House of Dreams).

My one main objection centers around Marilla and John’s kiss scene. I felt that a sweet, chaste kiss would have been more in keeping with the setting and style of the books. Instead, the author has John falling in a brook, taking his wet shirt off, and Marilla’s sensation of her hands on his “naked body” (even though we was only shirtless, not naked.) The whole scene was written much more sensually than it needed to be. Sure, Marilla would have been a normal teenage girl with normal sensations and urges, and I suppose that’s what the author was trying to convey. Even still, I would venture to guess that most people’s first kiss even in our day would not border on erotic.

There was also a scene early on where someone thinks a bee is in the house, and the reaction from the other ladies was tremendously overblown, in my opinion, with ladies fleeing the house in panic, and the owner giving the house a thorough cleaning, even calling for the county inspector.

But for the most part, I enjoyed the story and the visit back to Avonlea.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Literary Musing Monday)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2019 Sign-up

It’s time for the Laura Ingalls Wilder reading Challenge for 2018! The basic idea is to read anything by, about, or relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder during February, the month of her birth and death. I have an extensive book list here if you’d like some ideas beyond the Little House series, but if course the Little House series is delightful to read or reread.

In the comments below let us know what you’re planning to read. On Feb. 28 I’ll have a wrap-up post where you can tell us how you did and what you thought, either in the comments or with a link back to your posts. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do I’d appreciate your linking back here.

Sometimes participants have done projects or made recipes from the series as well. If you do so, please do share with us! Annette at Little House Companion has some activities and other resources.

At the end I’ll draw a name from those who participate to win their choice of a prize:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker

OR

Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

OR

Little House Coloring Book, which contains art and quotes from the books. It’s not designed as an “adult” coloring book, but adults could certainly use it. 🙂

If none of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on the wrap-up post at the end of the month telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through random.org. a week from then to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

This year I am planning to read On the Way Home, written by Laura as she, Almanzo, and Rose traveled from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, and The Road Back, in which Laura and Almanzo traveled back to De Smet for a visit.

How about you? Will you be joining us this year? What will you be reading?

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Cold Outside

Dottie Morgan just wants to be left alone. Even at Christmas. Especially at Christmas. A part of her died when her son, Nelson, died in WWII. She’s not been well-favored in the town of Frost, Minnesota, since she ran off and married a “Dapper Dan” stranger, only to return pregnant and alone when her husband went to jail and later died. She and the town had held each at arm’s distance ever since. She felt that even God was keeping His distance from her because of her mistakes.

And then a blizzard trapped four other people in her house.

First Violet Hart came to tentatively ask Dottie about using the star she and Nelson had once made for the Christmas dance. But Violet got into an accident right in front of Dottie’s house and had to be tended to. Violet had been in the WAACs during WWII, a crack mechanic, but people didn’t respect her service. Now, even when she changed a light bulb or fuse, people wondered why she did a man’s job. But Violet had always felt more comfortable with mechanical issues than typical women’s pursuits. She had met one young man, Alex, overseas and corresponded for years. She had hoped he’d come to visit, but when her last letter came back stamped “Return to Sender,” she could only conclude he wasn’t interested, and she’d end up an old spinster like Dottie.

Jake Ramsey was the inadvertent cause of Violet’s accident when he tried to catch her. He had been Alex’s best friend all his life. When Alex died, all his belongings came to Jake, including Violet’s letters. Jake sort of took over Alex’s place, writing in his stead. In the process he began to get to know Dottie and then to love her. But how would she react when she learned that Alex had died and Jake had pretended to be him?

Gordy Lindholm had been Dottie’s neighbor across the street for as long as they could remember. He had loved her once. Still did, in fact. But she had married someone else. He had loved Nelson like his own, but Dottie resented that Gordy had taught Nelson to shoot and then inspired him to be a soldier. Dottie and Gordy had maintained a distant truce over the years, but he watched out for her, filled her wood bin and such. Now he heard the accident and went over to see what was wrong when the blizzard suddenly blew in. He could probably make it home, but it looked like he could be of help at Dottie’s house – if she’d let him.

Arnie Shiller had to stay after school as punishment for daydreaming. Darkness and cold descended on him as he made his way home, and then a sudden snow storm. He tried to make it home, but when that seemed impossible, he strove to make it to his designated Storm House, Mrs. Morgan’s.

Susan May Warren deftly weaves all these lives together in  Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I had started this before Christmas, but then set it aside to finish a library book that I could not renew due to holds on it. After Christmas I planned to put this book away for next Christmas. But I picked it up and read a few pages where I had left off – and got hooked into the story.

Susan has managed to write a tale of five wounded souls with all their flaws, unrecognized virtues, and issues without it becoming sappy or trite Christmas fare.

I loved this book. I loved each person’s story, their interactions, misunderstandings, and journey to make peace with God and each other.

And there were some brilliant moments throughout. As one example (in a slight spoiler), Arnie has been out in the cold too long when he is finally discovered. As they try to warm him, Jake explains that as feeling comes back into Arnie’s limbs, they’re going to be painful at first before they get better. In an aha moment, I realized that the exact same thing was happening to Dottie inwardly. All the emotions she had numbed since her son died were being rubbed back to life by all the circumstances and conversations, and at first they caused nothing but pain. I love that Susan made that parallel without being blatant about it, setting it up to dawn on the reader. She explains in her afterward another parallel or symbolism in the storm house itself.

A few quotes:

God doesn’t expect us to be strong without Him…we’re supposed to need Him, and there’s no disgrace in that. In fact, weakness just might be the mark of a man of God. Don’t call yourself weak because of the things you can’t do. Call yourself weak when you don’t let God take over, do His work in your life…That’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it? Our weakness, His strength? Him coming to our rescue? (pp. 225-226).

Hope, however fragile, is the one thing that keeps us from getting lost…We can’t stop the pain. We can only apply the comfort of God to it (p. 281).

Excellent book, even after Christmas.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Among the Fair Magnolias

magnolias Among the Fair Magnolias contains four different stories set in the Civil War-era South.

“A Heart So True” by Dorothy Love takes place in Pawley’s Island, SC. Abby Clayton’s father plans to run for governor and expects Abby to marry a distant cousin, Charles. But Abby’s previous encounters with Charles have turned her against him. Besides, she loves the country doctor. Will she end up marrying Charles out of duty, or will he show his true colors and convince her father Charles is not the man for her?

In “To Mend a Dream” by Tamera Alexander, Savannah Darby takes care of her sister and brother after the deaths of their parents and loss of their Nashville home. She works for a seamstress and suddenly finds herself tasked with sewing curtains for the new owners of her family’s home. This is an opportunity to find a box her father had told her he had hidden away on the property.  Bostonian Aidan Bedford had visited the area and bought the place after an unusual conversation with an enemy soldier whom he nicknamed Nashville. Aiden has brought his fiance to see the place and decorate it to her tastes, but the more time they spend together, the less sure he is of their engagement. But something about the seamstress working on their curtains intrigues him.

In “Love Beyond Limits” by Elizabeth Musser, the Civil War is over, the slaves are now working as freedmen and sharecroppers in Georgia, and Emily couldn’t be happier. She spends most of her time teaching former slaves how to read. Not everyone shares her joy, however: the Klan is dangerously active in the area. An old friend seeks Emily’s hand, but she can’t accept him because she loves another: one of the freedmen. But she can’t express her love because it would be dangerous for the man she loves. (This one had an unexpected double twist at the end!)

In “An Outlaw’s Heart” by Shelley Gray, Russell Stark has been on the run for years. He had defended his girlfriend, Nora, from an attack by his drunken father and killed him in the process. Both his mother and Nora told him to go, and he has spent most of his time with an outlaw gang. Now he’s come home to Fort Worth to find his mother seriously ill and his former girlfriend caring for her. Nora is still single but seeing another man, someone Russell thinks is hiding something. But will anybody believe an outlaw? And can he ever put his past behind him and move on?

Some of the characters in the stories were from other books by the authors, but I didn’t feel I was missing anything in the stories by not having read the previous books.

I got this book mainly because I love Elizabeth Musser’s writing. But I enjoyed all these stories, the lessons learned, and the journeys of faith for each one.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

Reading Plans for 2019

I mentioned on last year’s list of books read that I like to find balance in my reading: some intention, but some flexibility; some classics, but some modern; some already on my shelves, but some new-to-me. It seems that these particular challenges have helped me find that best balance, plus they are fun to do together. They can overlap with each other, thankfully – otherwise I could only choose one or two.

So here are my reading plans for this year.

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeCarrie hosts an annual Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge in January. I’m reading Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy. I was wary of it when I first heard of it, but then I read that the LMM estate was wary, too, yet liked it in the end. So I am reading out of curiosity but hoping it’s good.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is hosted right here during the month of February! More information is here as well as an extended book list. On Feb. 1 I’ll post a sign-up post and share then what I’ll be reading.

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Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June, so I will share at that time what I will read for that challenge.

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Tarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge for the last two months of the year. The main rule: read Christmas books!

btcc reading challenge 2019

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. She comes up with categories and we come up with a classic at least 50 years old to fit each category. She also gives away a prize – a $30 gift card to Amazon.com or The Book Depository. You get one entry for the prize drawing for six categories completed, two entries for nine categories completed, and three entries if you complete all twelve. We don’t have to name the books, but it helps me to do so, and we are allowed to change during the course of the year. As with each of these challenges, more information is provided at the links above. So the classics I am considering for this year include:

  1. 19th Century Classic: Probably The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  2. 20th Century Classic (published between 1900 to 1969): How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  3. Classic by a Woman AuthorA Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)(Finished 2/14/19)
  4. Classic in Translation (written originally in a language different from your own): Possibly Anna Karenina by Tolstoy after Carol’s review reassured me that it’s not what I had thought it was.
  5. Classic Comic Novel. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  6. Classic Tragic Novel. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  7. Very Long Classic (500 or more pages): I’m considering Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Classic Novella (250 or fewer pages): Possibly Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald. My copy has 192 pages.
  9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). I may finally tackle The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzergerald or maybe The Last of the Mohicans by Janes Fenimore Cooper.
  10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). I don’t know of anything offhand for this category, so I may borrow Karen’s idea of Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge.
  11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived. Not sure about this one yet, but my choices are TX, SC, GA, and TN. Any suggestions?
  12. Classic Play. Probably either The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde or Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

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Adam at Roof Beam Reader hosts the TBR Pile Challenge to encourage us to get to those books on our shelves, Kindles, or TBR lists. For this one we have to name the books we are going to read, along with two alternates (in case we can’t get through a couple on our list). The books for this challenge have to have been published 2017 and earlier. And! Adam offers a prize: a drawing for a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository! Tempting for any book lover! So here is what I plan to read for this challenge:

  1. How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli
  2. There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe
  3. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright.
  4. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Just received recently, but on my TBR list for a while now.
  5. Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior
  6. On Writing Well by William Zinsser. On my TBR list for a very long time.
  7. Katie’s Dream by Leisha Kelly. (2004)(Finished 2/9/19)
  8. If I Run by Terri Blackstock (2016)(Finished 1/26/19)
  9. Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey (2017)(Finished 3/8/19)
  10. Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa (2016)(Finished 1/13/19)
  11. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  12. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)(Finished 2/14/19)

My alternates will be Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohkle (2014, finished 3/17/19) and Close to Home by Deborah Raney

As I finish them, I’ll come back and link the title to my review. I’m including the publication dates as well to make it easier to make sure they qualify for the challnge.

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Bev hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to also encourage us to read the books we already own, but with a few differences. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet (although some books for the above TBR challenge will count for this one as well), but we do have to commit to a level. I am committing to Mount Blanc (24 books). The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2019. But that means every book in my house and Kindle app on Jan. 1, even the ones I just got for Christmas, count! I appreciate that because too often I push my newer books back behind the ones that have been sitting there for a while.

Bev is also hosting the Virtual TBR Reading Challenge, like the Mount TBR except that the first one requires you to own the books you’re reading. The virtual one can include borrowed books. I am not sure about this one yet.

A new-to-me challenge that I have heard of but not participated in before is Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge. The categories appealed to me, plus some of them overlap with my other challenges. I couldn’t quite tell if she had a graphic for participants to use for the challenge. My picks for this one:

A book you’ve been meaning to read: I could fill pages with this category. I’ve had The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright on my shelf for a few years. Since it’s supposed to be love letters, I’ll probably plan to read it in February around Valentine’s Day
A book about a topic that fascinates you: I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel (Finished 2/19/19)
A book in the backlist of a favorite author: On Writing Well by William Zinsser is recommended by just about every book on writing that I have read.
A book recommended by someone with great taste: On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior, recommended by Michele. Many on my TBR list are from Michele.
Three books by the same author: I loved two books by Leisha Kelly last year, so I plan to read her next three: Katie’s Dream (finished 2/11/19), Rorie’s Secret, and Rachel’s Prayer.
A book you chose for the cover: This is not something I usually do, so I’ll have to see if any covers catch my eye this year.
A book by an author who is new to you:There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe, after seeing it on Michele’s review.
A book in translation: Possibly Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa (Finished 1/14/19). It’s described as a “fast-paced thriller” and looks a little scary.
A book published before you were born: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

So – I think that will keep me busy for quite a while. I’m excited to get started!

Do you have any reading plans for the year?

Literary Christmas Wrap-Up

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Here’s what I finished reading for Tarissa’s Literary Christmas Challenge this year (each title links back to my review):

I enjoyed them all, but my hands-down favorite was The Christmas Hirelings.

I didn’t end up reading everything on my original list. However, I did add a couple not on my original list that I received for free this month (can’t beat that!) I tended to read more from my Kindle app and listened to a couple on audiobook. My paper book reading was taken up by trying to finish a non-Christmas library book. I did start Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren and will finish, but probably after the end of the year. Everything else I’ll save for next December.

Thanks, Tarissa, for hosting the challenge! I like to read a few Christmas books in December anyway, but it’s nice to link up with others doing the same thing and see what they’re reading.

 

Favorite Books of 2018

Yesterday I shared a list of the books I read this year. Now I want to highlight my favorites from that list. Only a few were actually published in 2018, but all but one were new to me.

It’s hard to choose! Some had great subjects, great characters, great plots, or great writing. These are the ones that resonated with me the most.

In no particular order, here are my favorite books read this year:

Nonfiction:

ConscienceConscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley. Many people are confused about what exactly a conscience is, and what’s for, and how it works. This book was highly helpful, readable, practical, and informative. One quote: “Feeding excuses to your conscience is like feeding sleeping pills to a watchdog” (p. 64).

TrustTrust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback is a treasure of short but purposeful chapters. “Out of his love for you, he is well able to prevent the thing you are so afraid of, and out of that same love he might allow it. Either way, whatever happens, he only allows what is going to work for your eternal happiness and blessing and his glory” (p. 26).

ScarsThe Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. Vaneetha is one of those people, like Job or Joni Eareckson Tada, about whom you wonder, “How much more can they take?” She was once bitter toward God for what He allowed. But once she realized He had a purpose in everything and trials were His tools, she began to view them in a different light. “I’ve often been devastated when he tells me no, but as I submit to his will in those situations—even with disappointment and tears—he assures me he’s working for my good. I see only part of the picture. He has a purpose in his denials. The Father said no to the Son [in Gethsemane]. And that no brought about the greatest good in all of history. God is not capricious. If he says no to our requests, he has a reason—perhaps ten thousand. We may never know the reasons in this life, but one day we’ll see them all. For now, we must trust that his refusals are always his mercies to us” (emphasis mine).

Anger

A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch. Though I wish this had been laid out like the author’s Running Scared (one of my favorite books of 2015), it’s packed full of great and convicting content. “Jesus…enlarged the boundary of murder so that it includes all kinds of anger. In order to do this, He links them at the level of the heart, where they share the same lineage of selfish desire. We want something–peace, money, respect–and we aren’t getting it. The only difference is in our choice of weapons” (p. 18).

WOTW

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin was a reread for me, but it’s still my favorite book of its kind.

Classics:

He Fell In Love With His Wife

He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe. This 1886 novel is not the first or last about a marriage of convenience in which the participants actually do fall in love with each other, but it’s full of humor, warmth, and pathos. I loved the characters and the story and bought more of Roe’s books after reading this one.

Christmas HirelingsThe Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. An 1894 classic Christmas story that I think could rival Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

Fiction:

Guernsey
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I’ve heard for years how good this is, but I just got to it this year. And it’s every bit as good as I’ve heard. An author discovers that the island of Guernsey was occupied by Germans during WWII. A group of neighbors there invented a literary society first as a cover for getting together to eat a pig which was supposed to have been given to the Germans. Then they had to continue meeting to keep up the ruse. In the meantime, they got to know each other. The author comes to visit them and learn more about their stories. (The movie is wonderful. too!)

Hands
My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay. This is another that was well-spoken of a few years ago, but I just got to it in time for its re-release this year. A group of teens on a backpacking mission trip to Indonesia is stranded when fighting unexpectedly breaks out and their hosts are killed. The kids have to hike through the jungle, facing all kinds of dangers, pushing themselves beyond their limits, struggling with their faith.

JuliaJulia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly. Set in the Depression, a family without resources whose one hope falls through finds an abandoned house. They ask the owner, an elderly woman who could no longer live there alone, if they could live in the home in exchange for fixing it up. In time they offer for her to come back to the home as well, eventually forming a new family. There are many great layers to this one: the father and husband earning back his self-respect, his wife learning to forgive, neighbors helping even when they don’t have much to give. I loved the way the author got me into the characters’ heads and got them into my heart.

Fly AwayFly Away by Lynn Austin. An uptight, introverted Christian professor retired against her will is resentful and depressed and doesn’t know what to do with herself. A laid-back, gregarious atheist grandfather pilot finds he has cancer, and plans to “take off and forget to land” rather than put his family through his slow, painful demise. When they meet, sparks fly. But when she learns his situation, she knows she needs to tell him about the Lord. Her various attempts, first to find someone else to do it, then trying and failing to give him a tract, are comical but sad. I loved the journey on both sides.

Before we were yoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. This novel is based on true circumstances. In the first half of the twentieth century, Georgia Tann operated a children’s home by stealing poor children and brokering adoptions for a price – effectively selling children. This story involves one family’s being torn apart, scattered, and trying to find each other again. Some commented on my review that the book sounded too sad to read, especially when one gets emotionally invested in characters. But it ends in a good place. And, sadly, human trafficking still goes on today, and we need to be aware of it. Besides being a riveting story, the writing is gorgeous.

It took a lot of thought to reduce my favorites to the top twelve above. But there were so many good books I read this year, I can’t help including a few more “honorable mentions”:

  • Adam Bede by George Eliot didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in with its love triangle. But I loved Eliot’s other books so much, I gave this one a chance – and I am glad I did. I love the way Eliot gets us into her characters’ heads.
  • Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas V. Mastriano. True story of a man who went from a conscientious objector due to his faith to winning the Medal of Honor for capturing 132 Germans in WWI. Fascinating story, both for his personal growth, the incident in the Argonne, and his life afterward.
  • Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. The author got in the way of his story a bit, but otherwise this was a great biography of Wilberforce.
  • Come Back, Barbara by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani. Father and daughter tell her prodigal story. Probably most valuable for what he learned about his own mistakes and limitations.
  • Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped in His Own Body by Martin Pistorius. Hard to read in places, but an amazing story.
  • The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron. I love that Kristy tackles subjects no one else in Christian fiction does.
  • The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron covers three different timelines, all connected to a castle in France.
  • The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser. A maid with a knack for clothing design leaves her employer during a visit to America to try to make her own way.

What were some of your favorite reads this year?

(Sharing with Semicolon, who invites us to share our end-of-year book lists for her last Saturday Review of Books, and Literary Musing Monday, and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Books Read in 2018

I like to read with some intentionality rather than picking books up at random through the year, but I also need flexibility for the unplanned. I enjoy chipping away at the books already on my shelf and Kindle app, but it’s fun to get in on the buzz of a favorite author’s new release or a book currently making the rounds. This year I felt that I hit the perfect reading balance between all those factors. Some of the reading challenges I participated in helped me read with purpose, but I left room this year to incorporate new finds or whims along the way.

I’ll probably finish a couple more books before the end of the year, but I wanted to get my list finished in time for Semicolon‘s last Saturday Review of Books, in which we can post our end-of-year book lists. Today I’ll share all the books I read this year: tomorrow I’ll choose the top 10 or 12 or so. The titles link back to my reviews.

Classics:

Adam Bede by George Eliot

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Nonfiction:

Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas V. Mastriano

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

Classics of British Literature by John Sutherland was not a book, but a series of lectures about British literature. But since a PDF of his lectures was also provided, and I consulted them frequently, I’m going to count this as a book.

Come Back, Barbara by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani

Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differby Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley

Daily Light on the Daily Path compiled by Samuel Bagster, not reviewed, read yearly for decades now.

Drawing Near to the Heart of God: Encouragement for Your Lifetime Journey by Cynthia Heald

Finding Christ in Christmas by A. W. Tozer

Full Assurance by Harry A. Ironside

Gospel Meditations for Mothers by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, Hannah Anderson, and others

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped in His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s Service by Irene Howat

Heaven Without Her: A Desperate Daughter’s Search for the Heart of Her Mother’s Faith by Kitty Foth-Regner

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron

Homebody by Joanna Gaines

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs, a biography of Louisa May Alcott

More Than These: A Woman’s Love for God by June Kimmel

Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles: 25 Keys to Having Memorable Devotions by John O’Malley

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

Reclaim Your Life from IBS: A Scientifically Proven Plan for Relief without Restrictive Diets by Melissa G. Hunt

Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness by Candace Cameron Bure

The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch

A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining Through Me Every Day by Joni Eareckson Tada

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, Wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes, Jr

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents  by Kathy Howard

Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

Christian fiction:

Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Back Home Again: Tales from the Grace Chapel Inn by Melody Carlson

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Borders of the Heart by Chris Fabry

The Christmas Bride by Melanie Dobson

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Coming Unglued by Rebeca Seitz

Emma’s Gift by Leisha Kelly

Florian’s Gate by Davis Bunn

Fly Away by Lynn Austin

Hidden Places by Lynn Austin

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas by Lenora Worth, Belle Calhoune, Jill Kemerer, and Allie Pleiter

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright

Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly

Looking Into You by Chris Fabry

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay

My Father’s House by Rose Chandler Johnson

The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser

Perfect Piece by Rebeca Seitz

Scrapping Plans by Rebeca Seitz

Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Someday Home by Lauraine Snelling

The Song of Sadie Sparrow by Kitty Foth-Regner

Tea With Emma by Diane Moody

Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti

Other Fiction:

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book VI: The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser

I dipped into, but did not read completely Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal by the editors of Reader’s Digest, The Christian Writer’s Market Guide-2018 edited by Steve Laube, Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White.

I laid aside two books I had started, but found enough objectionable content that I did not want to finish.

By my count, that’s 78 books. I’ll have to double check, but that may be a record! Usually I am in the 50-60 range.

It’s been a wonderful year for reading!