Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out of the reading funk - December 2012

Well, I'm still catching up from last year, but I got this posted just in the nick of time (one minute to spare!) to write up my December reads in January. Bear with me. I might catch up or even stay current eventually.

November found me in the grips of a serious reading funk (which I mentioned here). I thought perhaps it was the format in which I was reading, since I read several books in a row on my Kindle. But I'm currently doing that again, and it hasn't forestalled my progress, so I'm left to conclude that Three Men in a Boat is simply funk-inducing. My sincerest apologies to Jerome K. Jerome fans, but I just don't get it.

Interestingly enough, the book that jump-started my reading energies was the very book in preparation for which I read Three Men in a Boat. Oh, the irony! I loved To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis! Mystery, time travel, history (both WWII and Victorian era), lots of literary references, and a little tasteful romance - perfect! I must say that it was completely unnecessary to have read Three Men in a Boat in order to enjoy and understand this book. In fact, if any books would be helpful to understand the plot, it would be Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, particularly those with Harriet Vane, and those certainly are worth reading, as you can surmise from my glowing reviews here, here, here, and here!

After a homeschooling friend mentioned George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind, I decided to refresh my memory of this fantasy tale by one of my favorite authors. I love George MacDonald's novels because they are Scottish and full of the sovereignty of God. His adult fantasy novels are more difficult to understand and appreciate (you can read my thoughts on Lilith, for example), but his children's fantasy is generally sweet, good, and uplifting, if a bit heavy-handed in moralizing (see my reviews of The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie). At the Back of the North Wind falls somewhere in between fantasy and fiction, for there are parts that are most certainly dream-like and mystical (and a bit weird, at times), but other parts that provide a glimpse of healthy home-life and honest good work. It has to be understood in the context in which it was written, as I don't think this would have seemed so odd or out of place to his Victorian readers, who would have most likely understood some classical references much better than I did. I will probably read this aloud to my kids in a few years, as I think I would be good to talk about some of the more unusual parts and clarify some of the symbolism. Eventually, I may also write an entire post about this one, as it certainly gave me much to think about. Note: the free Kindle version which I read omitted much of the poetry, so I had to borrow a copy from the library to fill in the blanks. I should really leave a review and a request for that error to be corrected.

Finally, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas (probably before the previously mentioned titles, but it's less significant in my mind), I read another of the Irish Country Doctor series by Patrick Taylor. An Irish Country Girl is the 4th in the series, and I liked it best of all I've read so far (I believe there are 7 books now). As a flashback to the youth of Dr. O'Riley's housekeeper, Kitty, it seems more quaint and charming, and more essentially Irish, than the other books. I suppose I have a rather romanticized view of Ireland which this fostered, and I also enjoyed the more traditional, rural setting along with its more traditional values.

I also read Blackthorn Winter by Douglas Wilson in December in order to preview it for my daughter. She read it in January, and I plan the read the rest of the series aloud. I'll include my thoughts in a summary post once we've read them all.

For read-alouds, we enjoyed some Christmas classics, including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (along with the 1986 movie by the same title) and The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas: An Austin Family Story by Madeleine L'Engle. We also read plenty of Christmas picture books, of which some favorites were A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill, The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown, and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski.

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