The Reading Report, Vol. 10: A Little Spring Cleaning

We woke up to a light coating of very wet snow on the grass and trees yesterday, all glittering in the sunshine and making the woods look like a fairy world. But by mid-day, the snow had melted completely, as I expected since it is nearly spring in Middle Tennessee! I know a lot of people start talking about spring cleaning this time of year, and we get to itching to air out the house after being shut up for so long. I participated in a local consignment sale over the weekend and hauled out a bunch of the kids outgrown clothes from last year. Of course, I also brought home a fresh batch up new-to-us duds for this spring and summer.

It would also happen that I noticed this week that my reading life has gotten a bit messy lately. I have started a lot of books already this year, but I haven’t finished nearly so many. My mental  book lists are in quite a jumble! Even though my physical book shelves may appear pretty tidy, I feel like my reading life is in desperate need of a good decluttering session. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I get overeager to read “all the things.” Then I get overwhelmed with decision fatigue every time I sit down to read because I can’t figure out just which book I should pick up and keep reading. I know some people can have up to 10 books going at the same time, but I don’t think I am one of those people.

In order to clean up my reading life, I am going to shelve a bunch of the books I have started, just for the time being, and focus on just a few at a time. My approach to doing this needs to be balanced so that I always have some different types of reading material to choose from. My goal is to have only 3-4 books in progress at the same time. I aim to keep at least 2 fiction books on the docket at all times, one print and one audio. I also always need to be working through just 1 non-fiction devotional or self-help book. (This is the most challenging genre for me to actually finish, so just reading one at a time will help me stay on task.) Since I am continuously reading something aloud with my son, usually a new book for us both, I count it as part of my personal reading, as well.

Books I’m Keeping on My Active List:

True Grit–this is the newest selection for the Close Reads podcast. I am halfway through this book already, and I have relished it so far. It is not only a quick-moving book, but it is surprisingly humorous. I have also been intrigued by the many references to Scripture and bits of moral commentary.

White Fang–I chose this book for the “Classic with a Color in the Title” portion of the Back to the Classics Challenge because I already had it on audio. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the vivid descriptions of mistreatment of dogs that make up a large part of the storyline. It has not been an easy listen, although it is an excellent piece of literature and a compelling story. Painful but powerful…I think that is how I would describe this book.

Hello Mornings–I am determined to finish this book by the end of the month! It was the selection for the February focus in the Cultivating the Lovely Podcast Patreon group, but I didn’t get started until halfway through the month. I am enjoying and gleaning some good insights, but it is just slow going for me because of the genre.

Dr. Dolittle–this is our new family read aloud. I am sure it won’t take us very long as the book is not thick, and the story is a fun one!

Books I’m Shelving for Now:

The Wreath–I was borrowing this from the library and hadn’t gotten far enough in before the due date to merit renewing it. It’s on my B2tC Challenge list, so I will get back to it sooner or later!

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and the Key)–another B2tC Challenge book that I started with good intention. But this one is a painful read for me, and I can’t have more than one of those going at the same time. Maybe I will pick it back up when I finish one of my other fiction books.

Full–I do want to finish this book very soon. I only wish I had started it at the beginning of the 40 Day Sugar Fast because once that was over, I lost motivation to read the book, too!

Utopia–Another B2tC title that I started and couldn’t get into right away. I have had this book sitting on my bookshelf since college days and have never read the whole thing. I WILL finish it this year if it’s the last things I do, ha!

Better Together–I did read the first several chapters of Pam Barnhill’s new book, and I am really enjoying it so much! I just can’t read everything at once, and since I am pretty content with our current Morning Time and school schedule at the moment, I decided to put this on hold for the time being. I may come back to it during break week, though, just for a fresh bit of inspiration during my planning for the next term. (I do highly recommend you get your hands on this book before March 31, 2018 so you can get the fun exclusive bonuses Pam is offering! Just order through my Amazon affiliate link, then go to the Better Together book page and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to claim your bonus!)

The Spiritual Life–I started this yesterday on one of our long drives to and from church because I had forgotten to bring a book or knitting along for the ride. It is another of my B2tC titles, and I am looking forward to reading this as a devotional supplement, once I get finished with my other books in that genre.

Books I’ve Finished Lately:

Frankenstein–Having finished this book, my reaction was mixed. I was glad to have read it and gotten rid of all my pop-culture saturated ideas about what it would be like. I did find it a captivating and suspenseful read. There were some very thought-provoking ideas presented throughout the book. However, I also felt that I had to have a willing suspension of disbelief about the way Frankenstein acted throughout much of the story. Perhaps he really was a genius, but he did not display a lot of common sense or ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. His failure to take proper responsibility for the creature he had made really, really bothered me. But I guess that was part of the point of the story.

Farmer Boy–My son and I just finished this one together, and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Even the 2 year old found it enjoyable when she happened to be around. Of course, all the descriptions of food make this a book you don’t want to read when you are hungry! But as a model of a hard-working boy who not only did his work but grew to love it, Farmer Boy is pretty hard to beat!

Babe, the Gallant Pig–this was a quick, fun little book to read on a quiet afternoon! I’ve loved the film version of Babe since it came out waaaay back in 1995 (honestly, how did that get to be so long ago!?), but I somehow missed the fact that there was a book until just recently. My son read it on his own and thought it was great, too. My one word of caution, however, if you are thinking of handing this over to your independent readers….the author uses the “technical term” for a female dog throughout to refer to the mother collie. I did not know this until after my son read the book, and I was reading it myself. He did not mention it, and having not come across this word in daily life, it is probable he just skimmed over it. However, if I had it to do over again, I would probably do this one as a family read-aloud and edit that out as I read!

Well, I think that’s about it for this round of the Reading Report! How is your reading life these days? Do you have any readerly spring cleaning to do? Or is your booklist already nice and tidy? I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been reading lately!

The Reading Report, Vol 9: February Edition

With February flying by, it’s time for another installment of The Reading Report! I honestly have not been reading as much this month as I might like, and I’m not sure exactly why. I have listened to some audio books, and I have been slowly dipping into a couple of non-fiction books.  Since non-fiction is hard for me, I am always pleased at every bit of progress I make through them! So, let’s dig in and chat about what I’m reading these days.

What I’m reading now…

Frankenstein— This was my selection for the “Classic that scares you” section of the Back to the Classics Challenge. I really don’t know why I was afraid to read it, except that I didn’t know anything about the book and thought it would be kitschy or boring or just plain weird. But, surprisingly, I have enjoyed it immensely! It has been very thought provoking, especially in terms of ethics, morality and justice. I am primarily listening to Frankenstein on Librivox, but sometimes I read a chapter on Kindle instead. I’m actually at least 3/4 of the way through, so I am sure I’ll finish it by the end of the month.

Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction— I started reading this during the 40 Day Sugar Fast, and I have been using it as one option for extra devotional reading in the mornings. It is really an excellent companion for fasting. I would also recommend it to anyone who struggles with any kind of food battles from overindulging to under-eating and everything in between. Asheritah has a very conversational, encouraging voice, and the format of the book is perfect for individual or group study.

Hello Mornings— This book was on my list to read this year, and it came into my hands in a totally God-ordained way. I have only just begun reading this, but it’s already made me cry! Kat Lee has an encouraging and challenging way of writing, and this book gives plenty of opportunity for reflection as well as action. If you are tired of starting your days a frazzled mess, feeling like you are just along for the ride instead of really living each day with intention, I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Hello Mornings.

The Wreath— This was another of my picks for the Back to the Classics Challenge, under the “Classic in Translation” heading. I really didn’t know anything about this book except that it was Scandinavian, and that it is the first in a trilogy. I have only finished a few chapters, but it has definitely sucked me in with its hints at something mysterious and magical going on beneath the surface of normal daily life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin— Another pick from my B2tCC list, Uncle Tom’s Cabin also happened to hit my radar this month due to a discussion thread on the AmblesideOnline Forum. The discussion group there is also reading the “companion” that Stowe wrote as a response to criticism that she painted a more grim picture of slavery than it really was. I can tell these books are going to be very frustrating reads on one level, since they highlight the mistreatment of human beings for no reason but the color of their skin. At the same time, though, I can also predict that I am going to really enjoy the character development and Stowe’s writing style.

What I’ve finished reading…

Howards End— I had to return my print copy of this book long before I was finished, but I was thrilled to find the audio version available to check out on the Libby app. And it was even narrated by one of my new favorites, Nadia May. She did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life. I know I wasn’t able to listen as closely as I would have been able to read, but all the same, I really enjoyed Forster’s prose. This is the current Close Reads podcast selection, so it has been enlightening to listen to some deeper digging into the themes than I could ever even imagine doing myself!

A Door in the Wall— This was one of our free reads for AmblesideOnline Year 2. Even though it is a short book, my son and I took our time reading through it together. I appreciated the way De Angeli wove in the themes of overcoming adversity and learning to serve God in whatever capacity we can without being heavy handed. It was also a great living book for looking at the daily life of a boy in Medieval times, which fits in very well for the period of history that we are studying in many of our other books right now.

What I’m reading next…

Better Together— Podcaster and blogger Pam Barnhill has just come out with a new book all about her specialty: Morning Time! I am looking forward to reading an advance copy since I am part of her launch team and picking up a few ideas and pointers to improve our own morning time and homeschool in general.

And now it’s your turn…what are you reading these days? What books have you finished lately?

The Reading Report, Vol. 8: Reading in the New Year

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of The Reading Report! I hope that you are off to a positive start to this new year. I can hardly believe that it is already the middle of January! Here in Middle Tennessee we are enjoying a beautiful snowy day, which is a bit of a rarity around here, I think. We have already chuckled just a bit (sorry Southerners!) at the speed at which everything gets cancelled when a little snow is falling. But, homebody that I am, I guess I don’t mind the added excuse to stay home and enjoy the extra time playing in the snow, drinking hot tea, and (of course) reading good books. Which leads me to the main point of this post–what I’m reading in the New Year!

What I’ve finished reading…

If you read the last installment of The Reading Report for 2017, you know that I have taken on the “Back to the Classics Challenge.” That post outlined the 12 (or more) books that I plan to read to fulfill each category for the challenge. I do, however, plan to read other books as well, and I have set a goal to finish 30 titles this year. I have already made a small dent in that number in just 2 weeks, which is good because I actually have been so busy with other things that I feel like I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should.

First, I finally finished Triggers! This book was so packed with good spiritual insight and practical help for me in my parenting struggles. I really think I need to read it again, focussing on just one chapter every week and intentionally trying to improve in that area. If you have any anger issues at all as a parent, I highly recommend this book!

The kids and I listened to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland together on Audible. We enjoyed it so much! I had read this book years ago, but it was delightful to get re-aquainted with the story with my children. We listened to this one for free on Audible Channels, which is a feature for Amazon Prime members. They have several classic audio books, both for families and adults only, as well as newer releases. If you have Prime and haven’t used Audible Channels, you should give it a try! And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should! Ha! 😉

Another great book I finished (also via Audible Channels) was The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. It was so good! I am finding that Christie’s mysteries make a really good “break” from heavier reading or non-fiction.

What I am reading now…

The first book I am diving into from my Back to the Classics list is Howards End by E. M. Forster. It is also the current selection being discussed on the Close Reads podcast. I knew nothing about Forster or Howards End before I started reading, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Several thought provoking passages have jumped out at me, as well as many humorous lines. I still am not sure where the plot is going, but the characters I have met so far are delightful!

One of my goals for this year’s reading is to work my way through at least one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. Since I still have young children, it made sense for me to start at the beginning and read Home Education. I am taking it very slow, only reading a few pages at a time, because I want to absorb the ideas and make lots of connections as I go.

The third book in my basket right now is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. I started this one as a companion to the 40 Day Sugar Fast devotionals. Although I am only a chapter in, I can already tell it is going to be good! The focus of both the book and the fast is not food as much as it is on breaking free from bondage to food fixation and other sins so that we can find our satisfaction in Jesus. I am looking forward to talking more about these concepts as I go through this journey over the next month.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I also am listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Since this was one of the books that I said I was “afraid” to read on the Back to the Classics list, I decided to get an early start on it. The first several chapters have been fine so far, just a little slow, perhaps. It is a lot of character set-up. But I think listening to it on Librivox has been a good way to get into it. I will probably start reading it in print, too, and go back and forth between the two.

That’s all for now…

I have been interrupted so many times while writing this post, I certainly hope it doesn’t sound as scattered as I feel! If it does, and you still made it this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! By the way, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or hope to be one in 2018), would you mind filling out this quick little survey for me? I am looking for some input on what you all would like to see more of in this space, as well as how I can best connect with you in the future! It is just 3 short questions, so if you can give me just a minute more of your time, I will be so grateful.


My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 2: Personal Growth

Welcome to the second post in my Goals for Growth series! Last week, I wrote about my goals for developing stronger relationships. Today, I want to share my 2018 goals for personal growth.

Physical Growth:

In the area of my physical health my overall goal is to get in better shape so that I can have more energy and strength so that I can better serve my family now and in the long term. Since my pregnancy with my daughter three years ago, I have had very little energy and strength. I have largely neglected my physical health, at least in terms of getting the exercise and intentional movement I need on a daily basis. I am not a highly athletic person naturally, anyway, and since it has been a long time since I have asked my body to move in many different ways, I am intentionally starting small and being very gentle with myself. My action steps to achieve this goal are as follows: complete the Foundational 5+ course from Fit2B, exercise at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week (also using routines from Fit2B), and go outside for 30 minutes every day for fresh air and sunshine.

My second goal is the area of physical health is to break my addiction to sugar. I have struggled with craving sweets for a long time, even though I know that sugar depletes my immune system and causes blood sugar spikes and drops that contribute to bad mood swings. My first line of attack in this sugar addiction battle is going to be following the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake, starting January 8th.

Spiritual Growth:

Tied closely to my physical health battles, my spiritual health is going to be of paramount importance to the rest of my growth. Recently I have realized that the scripts that run through my head are normally pretty negative. This negativity spills out into every other area of my life. My goal in 2018 is to exchange those negative thoughts with the truth of Scripture. This will increase my joy and gratitude and decrease my anxiety and discontent. My action steps to accomplish this goal include waking early each morning to spend time alone studying the Word and praying before the rest of my family gets up. I will also be writing down at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.

Educational Growth:

My goals in this area are not really new but more of a continuation of what I am already doing. My goals for my personal education in 2018 are to continue bettering myself through wide reading and learning new skills. I want to always be learning and growing my understanding of the world, of God and of other people. I never want to stagnate and stop using my mind or lose my sense of wonder at the marvels of creation. As I mentioned in my last Reading Report of 2017, I am joining the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Of course, I also have other books that I want to read that are not on that list, and I am hoping to complete at least 30 titles this year. As for learning new skills, I am planning to study some basic drawing and watercolor techniques. I want to practice at least once a week, as well as using what I learn in my nature journal entries each week.

I will be back in a few days with the last post in my goals series, all about my professional goals for 2018. In the meantime, tell me about your personal growth goals for this coming year. What are you going to be doing to improve your spiritual, physical and mental health? 

The Reading Report, Vol. 7: Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

Welcome to the December edition of The Reading Report! I can hardly believe that Christmas is only two weeks away! The holidays feel a little different this year since we are in a new location, but we have been enjoying the local festivities. We will also get to see some family during Christmas break, which will be very nice!

My reading life has been a little off lately. I got a bit overwhelmed with life a couple of weeks ago and stepped back from a lot of things to give myself a mental break. During that time, I realized that I had succumbed to a bad case of start-itis, especially where books are concerned. I have started a lot of books recently and then lacked the motivation or focus to finish them. As I thought over what I want 2018 to look like, I came to the conclusion that I need to simplify and narrow my focus in several areas, one of those being my reading habits. And just at the moment I was thinking about how to do this, I stumbled upon some posts by fellow AmblesideOnline moms about the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Perfect timing!

This challenge is hosted by Karen at her blog, Books and Chocolate. (Sounds like a great combo, right?!) What I like about her challenge is that it will give me a chance to narrow down just exactly what I want to read in the coming year, with a creative twist. I have a specific goal to shoot for, and a timeline to do it in. It also will challenge me to read some things I might not otherwise have the courage to crack open. Some these prompts made me think of more than one book that I might like to read, so I am writing down both options and will see what mood I am in when it comes down to the actual reading. Now, without further ado, here are my proposed titles for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge:

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: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
4. A Classic in Translation: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset
5. A Children’s Classic: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Heidi by Johanna Spyri
6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More or Walden by Henry David Thoreau
9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London
10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray
11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: something by Jane Austen (because I just have to read an Austen ever year!)

At the end of the 2018, I will report back with the complete list of finished titles. I really do hope I can discipline myself to focus in on this list and not get distracted by too many other books I could read. In 2017 I finished 16 books, not including numerous children’s classics we either read aloud or listened to as a family. In light of that, 12 classics should not be too much to ask, even if some of them a bit long. I also am very slowly working my way through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education Series, but I just read a few pages of one of those each day or two and let the ideas simmer.

Do you have any reading plans for 2018? Are you joining in the Back to the Classics Challenge? I’d love to hear what you are going to be reading in the New Year, so leave me a comment below!




This post is linked up with Books and Chocolate: Back to the Classics 2018. 

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?

Podcast Round-Up: Classical Charlotte Mason Education Edition

Here we are back at last with the second post in my Podcast Round-up series! If you are a podcast addict like me, you are always looking for new listening material. And if you are anywhere on the classical homeschooling spectrum, you are going to love this list!

If you missed the first post in my Podcast Round-up series, it was focussed on some of my favorite podcasts for homeschool mom encouragement. This time around, I am narrowing that focus even more to podcasts specifically geared toward the subject of Classical, Charlotte Mason style home education. Some of these are more for the purpose of the mother’s education (I’m looking at you, Close Reads and Scholé Sisters!), while others are a bit more in the vein of how to actually teach using a classical or Charlotte Mason approach. In the end, though, that’s all educational for the homeschooling mom, no? I highly encourage you to give these folks a listen and let me know which ones are your favorites!

Circe Institute Podcast: Close Reads with David Kern, Angelina Stanford and Tim MacIntosh

The Classical Homeschool with Jennifer Dow and Ashley Woleben
The Delectable Education Podcast with Emily Kaiser, Nicole Williams, Liz Cotrill
The Simply Convivial Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler
AfterCast, an AfterThoughts audio blog with Brandy Vencel
Scholé Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill and Mystie Winkler

It’s your turn! What are your podcast recommendations for mother’s education or classical Charlotte Mason homeschool helps? Did I miss any? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

The Reading Report, Vol. 5: October Edition

This month has been apparently not been very good for blogging! I have been busy with other projects, like homeschooling, family fun time, knitting my son a sweater (hopefully, in time for his birthday next week!), and getting to know our new neighborhood! We have visited parks, met new friends, taken lots of nature walks and made weekly trips to our local library! The kids and I have been really enjoying lots of reading time as a result. I finished a few great books this month, and I have started a couple of new ones. Since a lot of my reading time has actually been kid-lit and picture books read aloud to my littles, I thought this month it would be appropriate to add a segment dedicated to some of our favorite children’s books we have read in the last several weeks. I won’t give much commentary on the kid’s selections, but I promise not to put anything on the list that I would not highly recommend reading with your own children!

What I’m currently reading…

Since I finished Little Women, I just had to get Little Men next! I found out about the deal on Audible to get the narration for $.99 after “buying” the free Kindle version and adding Whispersync. I have not gotten very far into the book yet, but I already can tell this is one I want my son to listen to when I am finished!

After waiting a couple of weeks, I finally got Gilead by Marilynne Robinson on hold from the library. This was the last book discussed on Close Reads, and I decided to wait to listen to the podcasts until I had finished the book. Now I get to read and listen at my own pace, which is such fun! I have heard that this book greatly loved by some and strongly disliked by others, so I am looking forward to coming to my own conclusions as I read.

I know I have mentioned reading Triggers before, so I won’t go into much right now. I had set the book aside for a while, but I joined a book club group on Facebook to read the book together, which gave me the little push I needed to pick it back up again. I have not been a good participant in the book club at all, but I have benefited from digging back in and examining my heart in regards to my parenting.

I had heard about The Explosive Child from some parents on a homeschooling forum, and I thought it would be an interesting book to peak into. I have a child who struggles with overcoming frustration and not being very flexible, although perhaps not to the extreme of the illustrations in this book. I hope to find a few nuggets of wisdom and practical strategies to help that child learn better coping skills. I will let you know what I think as I get further in!

What I have finished reading…

It took me several months, but I finally finished listening to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I was so accustomed to listening to this book while I was cooking dinner or cleaning the kitchen that I almost felt lonesome when it was over! I loved every minute of this book. I only wish I would have read Little Women earlier in my parenting journey. So much of Marmie’s advice and the accounts of Meg and Jo’s struggles hit close to home for me. I am so glad I didn’t miss this book!

A few people I follow online recently posted about their progress through My Antonia, which was required reading for me in high school. I tried to remember something of the story, but all I could recall was that I didn’t really like this book. Since I could not recall why, and knowing it is a piece of literature that has stood the test of time, I decided to pick it up and see what I thought of it now. Boy, am I glad I did! This was quite possibly the most beautiful book I have read all year! When I finished the last sentence, I just had to put the book (um, my phone) down and soak it all in for a few minutes. Looking back, I can only guess my dislike for the book when I read it as a teen was due to my lack of life experience and perspective. But now, as a woman, wife, mother, friend and traveller, the narrative of My Antonia was breathtaking, poignant and full of truth about life, love and loss. I read this via the Libby app (meaning I borrowed it from my library system through Overdrive), but now I am planning to buy a hard copy to have and read again and again.

Murder on the Orient Express is the newest read on the Close Reads Podcast, and one of the other “close readers” found an audio version of the book read by David Suchet on Since this book is in high demand now that a new film version is coming out soon, I decided to enjoy this free version. I binge-listened to it over the course of a few days, and it was perfectly delightful. I have always enjoyed a good Agatha Christie mystery, and Hercule Poirot did not disappoint!

I also finished Come With Me, and since I described it in the last Reading Report, I won’t go into detail here. But I did enjoy it to the end. I found one minor factual error in one of the last few chapters pertaining to Paul’s life…but overall, I enjoyed and benefited from this book as a supplement to my daily devotions. And now, Suzanne Eller has come out with an actual devotional study book to correspond! So, if you are needing something to rejuvenate your personal time with God, I would recommend both!

Kid Lit we’ve been loving…

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Just finished this one tonight, and my son was disappointed that it was over. (Always the sign of a great children’s novel!)
Rabbit Hill: I have read a bit of this one on my own just for fun, and my son has read the first chapter on his own. I think this will now be our bedtime read-aloud. It is all about a rabbit family, as well as their other animal neighbors, waiting for a new human family to move into the farm house and garden that has been neglected for a long time.
Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back: We listened to Mary Poppins during our car rides over the period of a few weeks, ending with our camping trip in early October. It was a delightful listen on every level. The narrator was excellent and truly brought ever character to life. This one had me and the kids laughing every time! I was happy to find the sequel was also in our library system, so we get to listen to it next.

And that’s a wrap for this edition of the Reading Report! Next time, I hope to get this out a little earlier in the month. I am thinking since I may not have finished many more adult books by then, I will compile a list of some of our very favorite picture books. I was going to include them here, but this post was already getting quite long! Until later, happy reading!

The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!

The Reading Report, Vol. 2

Welcome to Volume 2 of “The Reading Report!” I am so glad to have you here to discuss books and reading with me! In Volume 1 I listed all the books I have read over the past year or so, but now I am ready to write about my current reads. So fix your favorite beverage, pull up a chair and let’s chat about books, shall we?

What I am currently reading. . .

First up, because it is the book I was reading most recently, is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I started this one to participate in a discussion group on the AmblesideOnline Forums, and it has been really helpful to read along with other people. We are reading it very slowly, just one “book” every month, which is good because it is pretty meaty. At first I had a hard time keeping all the characters and their relationships to each other straight, but now that we are halfway through, I feel a lot more comfortable with all that. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about this book. I like it, but not in the same way I like, say, Pride and Prejudice. The Brothers Karamazov is the first Russian novel I have read, and the pacing and structure is very different from my usual reading. I am finding that I do not always understand the deeper themes and ideas that are being developed in the conversations alongside the plot, but I decided that for my first reading, I don’t need to worry about that. I am just trying to enjoy the ride and see it through to the end, which should not be too hard since I really am curious to find out what happens to the various characters!

The other fiction I am actually really reading right now is Brideshead RevisitedThis is another read inspired by a group discussion, this time on the Close Reads podcast from CiRCE. I find it interesting that this is one of several books I have read this year that are either during or shortly after World War 1. This was a time period I have virtually no knowledge of, but reading fiction from that era of history has given me a desire to know more. The prose in Brideshead Revisited is truly some of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. Waugh is a master wordsmith. I have also really benefited from the podcast discussion as it has helped bring out a lot of ideas I would have otherwise missed because I am so new to the concept of reading closely.

In non-fiction, which is usually my weak spot, I am dipping into three different parenting books right now, all of which I have enjoyed and gleaned wisdom from thus far: Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson, Grase-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel, and Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. I will write in more detail about each of these later when I have gotten closer to finishing them!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

I actually FINISHED a whole book! And in just one short week, too! It has been a while since I read through something that quickly. I am on the launch team for a brand new book called More Than Just Making It by blogger Erin Odum of The Humbled Homemaker. I will have a post dedicated to my book summary and review, but suffice to say that it was an excellent read! Part memoire, part practical tips on how to go from financial frustration to financial freedom. If you are at all interested in getting the book, I highly recommend you check out the preorder bonuses because they are amazing!

What’s on the back burner. . .

So, I sometimes have a problem with a little “start-itis” in which I begin reading too many books at a time. Some of the books I was gung-ho to start in the winter and spring have had to take a back seat. I fully intend to read them in the very near future, but for now I just don’t have the bandwidth for them. Back burner books, in no particular order, are: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (I was mostly listening to this on audio, but probably need to switch to print because I was tuning it out too easily); Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (again listening on audio); Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (another audio book I haven’t had time for); The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain; and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.

I was considering sharing a bit of my “To Be Read” list, but I think this volume is quite long enough already! What are you reading right now? Have you finished any great books lately? I wouldn’t mind adding a few more titles to my own wishlist! 😉