Seven Recent Reads/Shows

It’s Friday!! And I’m gearing up for a solo weekend with the girls while Tom flies to his younger brother’s graduation. I will readily admit how wimpy I am about solo parenting, but, armed with a lot of coffee and a bottle of wine, I should be just fine, and I will choose not to care about the state I’m sure the house will be in by the time Tom returns. Also, perspective is everything, right– all I need to do is think about this mom of QUAD babies (!) and/or watch an episode of Victorian Slum House when things are getting bad and life will suddenly seem rosy!

Like I said the other day, one of the best parts about less social media has been a lot more reading. It actually is the perfect antidote to all the crazed distraction that smartphone use breeds: you have to sit in one spot while you read, you have to actually focus on ALL the words on the page if you actually want to follow the story or the thought, there are no distracting images (well, beautiful picture books excepted), and you have no chance of clicking over to an entire other story/post/whatever and thus losing the original story thread you picked up.

So I thought I’d tap out a few highlights of what I/we have read in the last 7 months or are currently reading, but also some good stuff we’ve watched. (Is it just me, or are the streaming options lately just abysmal?!?).

Books (links are affiliate!)

1.Till We Have Faces– C.S. Lewis

This was a reread for me for book club, but it is a story that is so well-crafted and sticks with you.

2. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene

I could not believe Tom hadn’t read this yet, so I made him read it with me over the winter. I consider it required reading for 21st century Catholics. Greene pretty much mastered the portrayal of the struggling sinner who is nonetheless called to do something beyond himself. If you like Brideshead Revisited, you must read this!!

3. Consider This by Karen Glass

This is a really wonderfully written and accessible book explaining how Charlotte Mason fits into the sphere of classical education. (I told you I’ve been totally geeking out on education lately!). Even if you have no interest in Charlotte Mason or classical education (though I strongly recommend you look into her work if you’re in the education/homeschool world), this will be very inspiring just on teaching, learning, and education in general.

Shows

4. A Serious of Unfortunate Events (Netflix). This goes under Funny, Well-Acted, Well-Produced. It was just really fun to watch, the cast is perfect, and we are really looking forward to the next season.

5. To Walk Invisible (PBS). We were reading Wuthering Heights together when we watched this, so it was apropos. It was hard to understand, what with the accents, but was fascinating (and depressing in some ways) to see how the Bronte sisters developed into the most famous sisterly band of writers.

6. The Crown (Netflix). We watched this when it came out, just like every other person, I’m sure. We enjoyed it overall though. Claire Foy was literally perfect as the Queen, and the story seemed to be presented accurately.

7. We have sort of started this Turkish period drama, Kurt Seyit and Sura (Netflix), but we’ll see how long we stick with it (maybe it will pick up in future episodes).

Well, that brings me to 7, and so I’ll just link-up with Kelly and the Quick-Takers here, and call it a night.

As always, tell me what you’re reading or watching (and hopefully save us some time scanning Netflix/Prim to try and find something decent!)

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7 Books I’ve Read in the Past 7 Months

Despite the fact that I haven’t written about books since before Maeve was born, I have been reading since then! There was that lovely period of time right after she was born when I stayed in bed for awhile and Tom was home, so I got to read a lot while nursing/holding a sleepy newborn. Then followed some stretches of fussy baby waking up to the world, and far less reading, and then a bit of a crazy spring /summer, during which I was supposed to read Brothers K for book club (still working on it- halfway there!). But I’m confident that I’ll finally be able to get a lot more reading in, primarily because we moved Maeve’s crib into the nursery. So no more tiptoeing in the dark to get ready for bed, and worrying that every whisper and creak will wake her up, much less turning on a light.

Anyway, of the books I read, there were some hidden gems, some that were just ok, and a couple I won’t be rereading!

(All links are Amazon affiliate!)

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The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Where has this hidden gem been all my L.M.M.-obssessed girlhood??! This is a such a different story! Her heroine starts off as just the most awful, pitiful, mousy character, and her transformation is glorious. L.M. Montgomery shines, as she always does, in painting vivid characters, hysterical caricatures, fun plot twists, and glowing descriptions of a place that sounds heavenly. I started this shortly before having Maeve and finished it the night we brought her home. I highly recommend it, especially if you were a fangirl of Anne, Emily, Jane, Pat, and any other L.M. Montgomery series. Since the main character is just a bit older (late 20s) than most of Montgomery’s female protagonists, it especially makes great reading for a grown-up Anne fan.

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Willa Cather strikes again! This book is long-ish, but I had a lot of nursing sessions in late February through March! 😉 I particularly found it interesting because the main character is a plucky young girl from middle-of-nowhere Colorado who has an extraordinary singing voice and sets off to conquer the world of opera. Cather evidently did a lot of research for this one into the world of music, vocal performance, opera, etc. I really enjoyed the character development and Cather’s gift of making the settings come to life.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

I read this towards the end of college, and I remember being really struck and impressed by it and wanting Tom to read it as well. So Tom and I picked it up as our next read aloud during the winter and early spring. As you might guess from the title, it’s about an adulterous affair that has recently ended. The narrator is the man who carries on the affair, and the book moves back and forth between his memories/retelling of the entire affair; his present day depression since his lover, Sarah, has died; and Sarah’s journals that he is reading.

Let me just say that I had forgotten the intensity of this story! It explores deep and heavy issues, but it’s ultimately the story of Sarah’s response to a Greater Love than what she thinks she has with Maurice. That said, it was a much more difficult read as a married person and Greene does have some rather explicit descriptions of the affair. So it’s gritty at times, but Greene also does a really amazing job of diving into the emotions and thought processes of people who are hurting, searching, and ultimately seeking fulfillment in God. I still highly recommend it, though it isn’t exactly light and uplifting!

(Also, quick caveat: NEVER EVER watch the movie with Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes. It is complete trash and misses the entire point of the book. Ugh).

Helena by Evelyn Waugh

Ah, Waugh. Such a funny, witty, smart, and engaging writer. This is a short little novel, following St. Helen’s life and journey to find the Cross of Christ. He really does such a fun job showcasing the absurdity of so many key players and events in the Roman Empire at the time with lots of tongue-in-cheek dialogue, in a really British way. Also, he wrote that this book was his own favorite of all his works, so if you love Brideshead, you need to read this one.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

This one I actually read in like, 9th grade, and promptly forgot it in its entirety. Upon re-reading it for summer book club, I’m not at all surprised. I mean, it’s Hardy. So yeah. It still was a bit ponderous to get through, even now. It was pretty good, though, once I got through all the sheep-herding explanations and demonstrations. I’m not a huge Hardy fan, but this is definitely better than his others. And then we watched the recent film adaptation with Carey Mulligan, and it was really well done: super faithful to the book, beautifully shot, and superbly acted. Bottom line: just watch it. You’ll get the story and skip all his Victorian rambling.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I never would’ve picked this up had it not been for book club. I’m really, really not a fan of Romantic writers. This story was just so not my thing, and the writing style irked the heck out of me: framing devices within framing devices within framing devices (yeah, you’re confused, right?!), overly flowery language, moralizing, etc. No thanks! That’s about all I’ve got for this one, sorry…

A Room With a View by E.M Forster

I’m no great Forster fan either but this was for summer book club. It was ok, but Forster is clearly trying to push his ideology of progress and Romanticism: good! and tradition and moral values: bad! So that was annoying. But his characters were really funny and well done, and the lush Florentine backdrop is a pleasure to take in.

Whew, well, that’s that for the late winter/spring/summer! I’ve got some good stuff waiting in the wings, but would love any additional recommendations you can throw my way!

Linking up with Queen Kelly for Seven Quick Takes!

What I’m Reading

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As I write this, I am still pregnant. The nest has been nested, so it’s now a matter of getting my mind off of the fact that I am not in labor and have had no signs thereof. So let’s just chat about some of the books I’ve finished over the last two months or so.

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

I’ve long been fascinated with the last few generations of the Habsburg dynasty, and Empress Sisi’s story is one of the most interesting, bizarre, and (not surprisingly) touched by tragedy. This historical novel goes through her initial meeting with Emperor Franz Josef, their early marriage, and its eventual demise. It was well done, overall, though the first quarter of the book I found a little plodding as it seemed to read like a movie script, describing every movement, action, glance, etc. But it picked up after awhile and gave a glimpse into just how crazy and often messed up life was as a royal in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. I don’t envy Sisi’s lot in life one bit.

The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict

Not sure how I hadn’t yet read this, but I’m glad I did. It’s really short and Benedict is super thorough, covering everything that could come up in monastic life: when to get up, how much to eat every day, what to do with disobedient monks, etc. It was kind of amazing to see how very much motherhood and abbot-hood have in common, and I found all of his advice to abbots to be completely applicable to parenting as well. I think anyone can read and relate to his rule on a personal level (although his chapter on the ins and outs of praying the Divine Office did leave my head spinning).

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

This is one I read back in high school, but I really enjoyed re-reading as a wife and mom. It’s a fictionalized account of a real woman’s life who visits her uncle in the wilderness of Canada as a 16-year-old, and falls in love with and marries a Mounty just a few months later. Their life in the unforgiving climate of an extremely uninhabited part of Canada at the turn of the 20th century certainly puts things in perspective! No electricity or heat, weeks and weeks of travel via sled/dog teams to get from one post to another, no access to modern medicine, hardly any communication with the rest of the world, dealings with large Indian settlements, etc. Oh and the endless winters of -40° F. Just brr. We can do Mid-Atlantic winters with heat and SUVs and instant hot water. Anyway, the story is both sweet and gritty, as it follows the blossoming marriage of Kathy and Mike, as well as the tragedy and hardships they face together.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Tom and I read this together, and it was our first Flannery full-length novel. She’s a really gifted writer who can spin hilarious descriptions that will make you laugh out loud, followed by some super interesting insights. I will say, though, we were a bit over our heads with the weirdness of this work. We ended it and were like, “Uhhhh….so what was this supposed to be about??” We even tried looking up some essays and articles to help us out, but we need a professor or something. Anyone care to shed some light here? If I were to give a quick synopsis it would go something like this: a young soldier home from WWII struggles to accept the faith of his parents and decides to go to a small southern town to preach that there is no Christ and no church. He comes across several really bizarre characters and some really bizarre things happen to him. It’s hard to explain…again, if you’ve read it and have any thoughts, we would love to hear them!

Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag

This novel is kind of the immigrant version of Little House on the Prairie– with a lot more of the actual gritty, depressing details. A Norwegian family travels from Norway to the United States, eventually making their way westward to the uncharted Dakota Territories, to stake a claim on land and begin farming. They form a community with three other families, the closest human beings for about 90 miles around them. The book really gets into the heart of how the intense loneliness and desolation of the prairie affected many of the foreigners and pioneers who sought to make their home there– the main character’s wife basically suffers from deep depression and what ultimately seems like some sort of psychoses, due to the fact that she never really wanted to leave her homeland and is terrified of everything in the wilderness of their new life. It’s also a classic man vs. nature story, as the weather and the prairie itself often play a huge role and are written as entities out to destroy man. It’s a gripping tale of determination, survival, and the effects of the pioneer life on marriages, relationships, and communities.

(And as I mentioned before, this book was also very appropriate as a blizzard/winter-weather read, as their 7 month winters of daily blizzards with little fuel and food once again put our life into perspective. Electricity and heat FTW).

All links to Amazon are affiliate, meaning if you click through and purchase something, we might get a couple cents at no cost to you!

2016 Reading List

2016 Reading List

I’m kind of excited to have a list already laid out for myself so that when I finish one book I won’t go for days and weeks wondering, “Ugh, what can I read next?!” as I typically do. Now it’s all here and hopefully, I can get it all done!

Book Club:

Postpartum/Other Fiction:

(Mostly lighter stuff that I can read while nursing, and some I may listen to on Librivox).

Fiction Read-Alouds with Tom:

As you can tell, I really love Greene and am super excited to reread these with Tom (who hasn’t read them yet).

Spiritual:

Non-Fiction:

What are you reading this year? I’m always up for recommendations!

(Disclosure: the links here are affiliate, meaning if you click through them and purchase anything on Amazon, I will get a couple cents at no charge to you!)

What We’re Reading

I used to be an insanely avid reader. Then, I grew up and things called “responsibilities” butted their aggravating heads into my reading time. Probably sometime in college, I made the subtle switch from reading for the sake of pleasure to reading because it was assigned, or reading something that was going to augment what I was learning, researching, or whatnot. I realized that was a sad shift, and have been consciously trying to read more in the first category. Tom and I like to keep at least one novel going, and sometimes also another non-fiction. Here’s what we have going right now, as well as my own individual list!

Out loud/Together:

Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset

We loved Kristin and wanted more Undset, so we started this a few months ago. St. Catherine’s story is very Italian– dramatic, intense, over-the-top. She’s equal parts inspiring and non-relatable. I’m hoping we can finish this during Lent.

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

This was recommended to us based on our love of Austen. Trollope is quite funny, and we’ve enjoyed this one, though I don’t think it quite stands up to Austen.

Me:

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

This one I just finished reading on Kindle from the library e-book system. I had heard it raved about and I loved his Freddy and Fredericka, so I was eager to see how this one is. Basic conclusion: WTF. And, put more elegantly… seriously, what is this tripe? It’s fantasy masquerading as pseudo-historical fiction but it’s mostly just utterly ridiculous. I mean, the totally unrelated 20-100 page (NOT exaggerating) tangents and descriptive narratives aside, the book just has no coherency.  The theme… is there one? I seriously couldn’t figure it out; the most obvious thing seemed to be the author screaming, “Oh look! I know words! Big words! I can make crazy, convoluted, un-readable metaphors and sentences and call it a story!” Oh, and the ending is a pick-your-own-adventure, too. I feel like I wasted several weeks of my life reading this over 700 page tome of tawdry writing. Don’t do the same! Also, I looked up review on Good Reads, just to be sure I wasn’t crazy and totally missing something, and man, some of the reviews had me cracking up! (And no, I wasn’t crazy). Here’s an excerpt of my favorite:

“In a certain now-distant era in the vestibules of verbiage, a diamond-dusted nor’easter came brightly brushing, softly sifting, sewing the perspectives, peripheries and promenades … with perilously prolix page-counts .. that persisted then, all along the gridded avenues of the grandest city that Time had surely ever decreed.

It was the City Of Books, and this was the kind of book, nay, the Very Kind and most-principal example, that was written then, and by rights most highly regarded by the Reading Citizenry to deck the halls and paper the walls.” 

So, basically, I wish I’d never read it and that Helprin confined himself to what he does well: humor.

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

The Pope’s fave book. More Italian drama/romance/adventure/intrigue– and so far it is awesome!

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I like that I can pick this up and read a chapter here and there. Which is to say, I started it last May, and just now got back to it. 🙂

What are you reading? I’m always, always looking for good recommendations, particularly for fiction!