The Reading Report, Vol. 17: Back to the Classics 2018 Wrap-up

How on earth is it already the second week in December? Life here in the Lemon house has been so full (of mostly good things) that I just can’t seem to keep up with the passage of time. But at long last, here I am with my final report and wrap-up on the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. I will be posting some other bookish news and reviews on non-B2tCC reads later on this month, I hope. For today, though, I will just be listing all the finished titles under their categories and linking each title back to the post in which I gave a brief review of the finished book.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-up

1. A 19th Century Classic: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

2. A 20th Century Classic: Howards End by E. M. Forster

3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers (read in place of Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton)

4. A Classic in Translation: The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset

5. A Children’s Classic: Heidi by Johanna Spyri (This is the most recently finished book on my list, so I didn’t get a chance to post a finished review after last month’s “in progress” report. We both loved the book, although I did end up feeling like Heidi’s character was a little too perfect throughout. The lessons taught still ring true, regardless.)

6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More

9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London

10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (in place of The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray)

11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen

I am so proud of myself for pushing through some of the less enjoyable choices I made for the challenge. And I must say that I am glad I participated this year! Also, according to my records on Goodreads, I have finished 54 books in 2018, which is a big deal for me! I honestly think this challenge pushed me to up my reading game across the board. Now I need to decide whether I want to tackle the 2019 challenge. We shall see!

Until next time, happy reading!

Tuninghearts (at) gmail (dot) com

The Reading Report, Vol. 15: So Many Books, So Little Time

Ah, yes, the title says it all, doesn’t it? So many books, so very little time! I find my desire to read many books far outweighs the actual time I have, or perhaps the time I take, to read them. My TBR list is ever-growing, and I truly need to start writing down all the books I have in mind to read sometime soon. My head is a poor place to store such information, but at the same time, perhaps in this case it is better that I forget a few titles since I surely will never get to all of them anyway.

The month of September has been particularly bad for tackling my TBR list for a few reasons. For one thing, our family’s schedule has been exceptionally full this month. It seems like everything has been happening at once around here, and by the time I have a moment to sit down and read something, I’m often too tired to do even that! Also, after finishing one particularly difficult read, I tried to start another book only to find that I couldn’t get into it at all. (More about that later.) Finally, I didn’t have a good audio book going until this week, so I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts instead. Good, but not helpful for my reading life (unless you count adding more ideas about other books I want to read!)

So, let’s see…what have I actually finished since last month’s report?

Finished Books:

I’m afraid to say that the only personal book I finished this month was Crossing to Safety. (I did finish a couple of read-alouds with the kids, but I’m not counting those just now.) Yes, I did decide to press on and finish this book even though I had a hard time with it for the first several chapters. Thankfully, I was rewarded for my stubbornness, because the second half of the book connected with me so much more deeply. I actually was in tears at the end. I still don’t know how to talk about Crossing to Safety or what Stegner was doing in this book that made it both so hard for me to read and so moving in the end. But I am glad I stuck it out, and I even would read it again someday and see what more I can glean from it.

Currently Reading:

King Lear has been pushed to the back burner a bit, although I have been keeping up with The Play’s the Thing podcast discussions. I just need to dive back in again, because I’m nearly to the end anyway.

I picked up Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford because I needed something light in between all the difficulty of CTS. I haven’t read but a few chapters, but I am enjoying it. I like that it is light but still literary in quality and not pedantic or trite. Sometimes I have trouble with modern fiction because my tastes have become so accustomed to classic lit that a lot of popular current novels just don’t satisfy me.

My new audio book is Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers, the first in her Lord Peter Whimsy mystery series. I have read one other Lord Peter mystery and enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m listening to this one on Librivox, and it is going to replace Age of Innocence in my Back to the Classics Challenge list in the female author category.

Try as I might, I just could not get engaged in the New York socialite scene of the opening chapters of Age of Innocence. I will come back to it some other time, but after struggling so with CTS, I just don’t have it in me to force myself to read yet another book that isn’t interesting me. A good mystery story is just the thing to get a girl out of a reading slump, and Whose Body fits the bill perfectly in this case!

I’m reading a few pages of The Spiritual Life every few days, purposefully reading slowly with pencil in hand. It is more of a devotional and educational book, obviously, so I want to let the points made by Mr. Murray and the Scriptures he references really sink in. So far, I find it very approachable for a book that is actually a collection of transcribed sermons from over 100 years ago!

More Time:

Since we are now over halfway through September, I am challenging myself to finish at least 3 of these 4 current reads by the next edition of the Reading Report. I think life should settle down some once we get through this month, and I am also trying to pare back on my social media time. I really need to spend more time with an actual book in hand and less time staring at my phone, unless that phone is playing an audio book, that is! 😉

How about you? How is your TBR list looking this month? Do you have more time to read now that fall is approaching, or is the school year busier for you like it has been for me? I’d love to hear more about your reading life, so leave me a comment below and we’ll chat!

The Reading Report, Vol. 14: When You’re Not in Love with a Book

Ever start reading a book that comes highly recommended only to have it fall sort of flat for you? It happens to all of us once in a while, doesn’t it? I am currently reading a book that is well-liked by many people, but I just can’t decide how I feel about it. I am nearly halfway through, so it is not that I haven’t given this book enough time. The confusing thing is that I love the overall style of the writing, especially the descriptive passages that have an almost poetic feel. But I don’t care much for the characters so far, and I am having trouble resonating with the story for some reason. At the same time, I do want to know what is going to happen to these characters. It is a complicated feeling!

I’m curious to know what you do when you come across this situation in your reading life. When do you decide to give up on a book that you just aren’t loving? What makes you finish a book even when it isn’t your cup of tea? I would love to hear how you deal with books you don’t just love? In other news, here are the books I have finished since last month and what I am currently reading:

Finished Books:

I finished reading, or I should say listening to, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It was not the most riveting detective story ever, but considering that it is known as the original detective novel, I suppose that makes sense. It was longer than I anticipated, and the epistolary format seemed a bit cumbersome at times. However, I did enjoy the story and character development. And the solution to the mystery did have some unexpected twists!

I also finished Richard Adams’ Watership Down and absolutely fell in love with it! Who knew a book about rabbits could be so captivating?! I don’t know quite how to write about it, honestly. Adams succeeded in addressing so many deep themes in this fantastic adventure that I still find myself mulling over the ideas presented. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t yet!

Currently Reading:

Crossing to Safety: This is the book I’m struggling with right now. I am going to finish it, though, and I will let you all know how I feel about it when I’m all done!

Age of Innocence: I haven’t really spent much time with this book yet, but it is not my first Edith Wharton. I expect to be fully engaged in this story once I have time to read past the first couple of chapters.

King Lear: The CiRCE Close Reads Podcast Network just started a new podcast called The Play’s the Thing. It is dedicated to slowly reading and discussing all of Shakespeare’s plays! The first one on the docket is King Lear. I knew virtually nothing about this play until I started, but I am enjoying it so far, although it sounds odd to say I am “enjoying” reading a tragedy!

Up Next:

I only have one more book (after Age of Innocence) to complete on my Back to the Classics Challenge list, and that is The Spiritual Life. When that is all done, my plan to is to compile a list of books that I already own to read. I am looking forward to finishing my B2tC list so I can give myself more permission to read whatever I want whenever I want to read it!

P. S.–Later this week I am going to a local library book sale, so I will probably be posting on Instagram about my finds, and maybe share about them in next month’s Reading Report. Be sure to follow me so you don’t miss seeing what I bring home!

The Reading Report, Vol. 13: Summer Reading Edition

summer reading

Wow, I can hardly believe it has been over a year since I started “The Reading Report” as a regular installment each month. I have so enjoyed keeping track of my reading and discussing books here on the blog. I hope you have found a few new titles to interest you, as well! For this July edition, I am going to share a quick recap of my summer reading so far, plus, what is up next on my list.

My summer reading time has been pretty high due to long drives to family and my new habit of walking in the driveway and reading at the same time. Since I have collected a rather long list of finished books from the past month and a half, I’m not going to try your patience with long descriptions of what I thought of each book. Instead, I will just tell you how much I liked or disliked it, and a few words that sum up the book or my feelings about it. All the Kids’ Read Alouds are books we loved and highly recommend, so I won’t bother with further comments on those. Here we go…

Finished books:

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Loved it (of course), Jane Austen (enough said!)
The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse: Liked it, British humor
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Shaffer and Barrows: Loved it, Post WWII but light and fun
Utopia by Thomas More: Disliked it, Important book but heavy on the socialism
The Wreath by Sigrid Undset: Liked it, Excellent writing but sad story
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams: Liked it, Another sad story but excellent play
One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler: Loved it, Truly funny with an important message

Kids’ Read Alouds:
The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
Poppy by Avi

Currently Reading:

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: This is one of my Back to the Classics reads. It is kind of long, and so far the story is a bit slow moving, but there are several interesting characters and a mystery being set up. I think I will enjoy it more and more as I go.

What Should I Read Next?

Since I just finished the two main books I was focussing on reading last night, I haven’t really had time to choose what to really dig into next. I have several unfinished non-fiction books that I really would like to work on, but I don’t know which one most piques my interest right now. For fiction, I am trying to decide between Watership Down and All the Pretty Horses since I acquired both at recent library sales.

Now, how about you? Are you doing a lot of summer reading, either for enjoyment or pre-reading for homeschool? Tell me all about it in the comments!

The Reading Report, Vol. 11: April Edition

I’m baaaack! I really hated to take over a week-long hiatus from the blog, but we just had a lot of real life going on that interrupted my writing life. I finally feel like I’m getting some ideas on what to write again, so hopefully, I will be back with more regular posts in the coming weeks.

The good news is that my plan for “spring cleaning” my reading life last month worked out really well, and I have several finished titles to discuss today. I also have started (or re-started) a few books that are giving me a lot to think about! So, let’s talk books, shall we?

What I Finished Reading:

True Grit: This was my first time reading a western novel, and I LOVED it! It was the most recent pick for the Circe Close Reads podcast, so I knew it would be good. I just didn’t know what to expect. I was most surprised by how much I laughed while reading this book. The adventure part of the story was fast-paced and made for a quick read. Be warned…there are snakes, gunshot wounds, spiders, bats and skeletons! But the story is so well-crafted, that I think it is totally worth the any discomfort caused by those little details!

Hello Mornings: If you are needing a fresh start or just a little “kick in the pants” to get into a good morning routine that will set your day off in the right direction, I can recommend Kat Lee’s book, Hello Mornings! Her personal stories and encouraging and touching, and her writing style is candid and uplifting. The practical suggestions and questions for reflection throughout will help you take action to make your mornings count. Even though I have a pretty workable morning routine already, it was good to think about how I can up my game and add more healthy habits to certain areas of my morning and the rest of my day!

Dr. Dolittle: This was a free-read that my son and I read together last month. I was a big fan of the Dr. Dolittle musical with Rex Harrison when I was young, so I really was looking forward to reading the book. It was a delightful tale, as I expected. My son loves stories about animals, as well as adventures and fantasy, so this book fit the bill quite nicely.

Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction: I amazed myself by actually completed two non-fiction (self-help, no less) books in one month! Granted, I had been working my way through them both for longer than that, but I am proud that I am improving in my ability to stick to this genre of book and finish! Asheritah Ciuciu did such an amazing job writing a book on such a challenging topic as food fixation, and her personal story makes everything she says so relatable. I think this book would be great for a small group or for accountability partners to go through together. It contains so many practical, Biblical ideas for changing the way we think about food and for pointing our attention back to Jesus.

White Fang: Yes, I actually finished the RIGHT book this time! And in the end, I am glad I read Call of the Wild first, and then this one so soon after. It gave me a chance to compare the stories of the two dogs who are the main characters. Jack London is such a great writer, and I found the way he crafted the two plots to work in opposite directions of each other truly fascinating. Again, I must warn more sensitive souls that these books contain some pretty hard to read descriptions of cruelty to dogs, both by men and other dogs. However, no matter how bad things look, there is redemption in the end.

Bark of the Bog Owl: The first book of the “Wilderking Trilogy”, Bark of the Bog Owl is a middle-grade fantasy novel that I think the whole family will enjoy. The story is a retelling of the life of the young King David, but set in a mythical world that resembles a medieval twist on the American southern landscape. (Sounds intriguing, no?!) My husband happens to work with the author of these books, Dr. Jonathon Rogers, and he was so kind to gift us with the whole set! I decided to pre-read this one to see if it would be a good family read aloud now or if we should wait a while. I am glad to report that we will definitely be adding it to our schedule sooner rather that later!

What I’m Reading Now:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: I picked this one back up, this time in hard copy format, rather than the e-book I started out with. While I know this is an important book for me to read and understand, I can’t really say I’m enjoying reading about the buying and selling of humans.

Parenting Scripts: I’ve mentioned this new book by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake before, and I am looking forward to digging into it again (and finishing it this time)! The great thing is that I’ll be reading this in community this time because Amber and Wendy are hosting a book club on their private facebook page. I can hardly wait to create some better strategies and habits for dealing with parenting challenges!

Switch on Your Brain: I recently heard about the author of this book, Dr. Caroline Leaf, and listened to a couple of podcasts she did on the affects of social media on our brains. I was so excited and curious about her work, that I got my hands on the first book of hers I found. And I’m loving it so far! This one has so much Scripture and science woven in together, and she also includes a 21-Day Brain Detox at the end of the book, which sounds fascinating! I’ll definitely let you know what I learn.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: I just started this today as my new audio book. It’s a little slow here at the beginning, but judging from my past experience with Jules Verne books, I think the action will pick up later on.

That’s a Wrap!

Kudos to you if you actually read this whole post! I realize I had a lot to say about all my books this month. I guess I’m making up for lost writing time, ha! But now it’s your turn to tell me what you are reading. Have you finished any new books lately?