Friday, July 31, 2015

Books Read in 2014


I've been knitting more than reading for about 2 years now. Hence, the silence on the blog front. Maybe I'll post pictures of baby blankets and such sometime. So I'm behind on blogging, but surprisingly, I actually read quite a few books last year.

Links are to Amazon or Librivox as appropriate.

  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot - partially read and partially listened to this one. James Herriot's animal stories are just delightful, and laugh out loud funny at times. My children played "Tricky Wu" (a dog) for a while after we listened to these. Note, there is some language, but it's British cursing, so not nearly so offensive as American (insert tongue in cheek). (-;
  • Rose Under Fire  by Elizabeth Wein - This is a companion book to Code Name Verity which I read in 2013. It's a fascinating fictional WWII story, and I think I like this one better than the first one since there aren't such difficult moral issues to grapple with, just incredible suffering and bravery.
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jennette Walls - Heartbreaking, yet amazing memoir of growing up in an extremely dysfunctional family - we had a good discussion at book club about this one.

  • Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge - Guernsey Island is on my bucket list of literary places I'd love to visit! I don't like this one as well as Green Dolphin Street, but it's still charming and delightful - well-drawn characters and beautiful descriptions of the setting. There's just something about islands!
  • That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, Book 3) by C. S. Lewis - so interesting and insightful! This is the third time I've read it, and I learn something new every time. I really want to re-read the first two books of the space trilogy series now.
  • The Midwife's Here!: The Enchanting True Story of One of Britain's Longest Serving Midwives by Linda Fairley - an interesting story of a nurse/midwife in training in Manchester, England during the 1960's. I learned that abortion was legalized in Britain about 5 years before the U.S. It is so sad that a country that abolished slavery long before the Civil War, would begin to kill its unborn sooner. God have mercy.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - it's been a long time since I read this, and I enjoyed it more than I did in high school! Definitely one to read and discuss with my daughter when she gets older as examples of wise and foolish women.
  • China Court: The Hours of a Country House by Rumer Godden - a fascinating unraveling of family history over 4 generations. I found the circular writing style to be a bit annoying, as the author mixed tenses and times to reveal how the past was interwoven with the present (or vice versa). The unfolding of the story was fascinating, however, and I love Rumer Godden's quiet, descriptive style.
  • A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle - I must confess I didn't make any notes when I read it, and now the details are gone...
  • The Devil's Novice: the Eighth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael  by Ellis Peters - one of my favorite mystery writers. I really enjoyed returning to this series.
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle - same excuse as above, unfortunately.
  • Dead Man's Ransom: The Ninth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael  by Ellis Peters - I've long said that the Brother Cadfael mysteries have just the right balance of mystery, wit & wisdom, and sweet romance, and this one in particular excels at all of the above!
  • Hattie Big Sky  - I checked this out for my daughter, but ended up reading it myself. It's an enjoyable and well-researched story of how a young girl faced the hard work and hardships of homesteading on the Montana prairie in the early 20th century. It's rather strange and amazing to think that one could earn one's land by homesteading only 100 years ago.
  • The Pilgrim of Hate: The Tenth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters - I didn't enjoy this one as much as the others. Perhaps the elements of the story were just too disjointed, and it was definitely more mystical and overtly Roman Catholic than many of the other Brother Cadfael books. On the other hand, it brought back characters and circumstances from previous books, and it's always interesting to see how Peters weaves all the threads of her stories together.
  • Home: A Novel  by Marilynne Robinson - it's been several years since I read Gilead, but Marilynne Robinson's writing is as thought provoking as ever. It might have been nice to reread Gilead to see how the stories intersect, but this one stands alone just fine.
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok - I had forgotten how much I liked Potok's writing style. He thoroughly immerses you in the Jewish environment of Brooklyn at the end of the Second World War, and this is a fascinating story of two boys, two fathers, and the tensions between Hasidic and Orthodox Judaism, and the outside world.
  • The Promise  by Chaim Potok - I wanted the story of The Chosen to continue, so, of course, I had to read the sequel.
  • My Name Is Asher Lev  by Chaim Potok - this month's book club selection, but since this was a reread, I read the two previous titles for something new. Please don't ask me to pick my favorite Potok book.

  • Lark Rise to Candleford: A Trilogy  by Flora Thompson - a fascinating memoir of life in a tiny hamlet of Oxfordshire in the late 1800's. It was a hard life for the poor, but I think I would rather have been poor in a hamlet than poor in a city.
  • Cheaper by the Dozen  by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey - this is a fun and fascinating story of a large family in the early 20th century. I really should read this aloud to my kids soon.
  • Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse  by Jennifer Worth - this second volume doesn't have any birth stories, but the author is a compelling writer. Some very disturbing things are dealt with tactfully, and other stories are humorous or heartwarming. This just confirmed my belief that the hardscrabble existence of a country hamlet would be far better than city slums (see comments on Lark Rise to Candleford above).
  • The Giver  by Lois Lowry - I read this in preparation for our book club movie night - a disturbing story (I don't usually read dystopian fiction), but very powerful in its pro-life message for both old and young.
  • The Bird in the Tree  by Elizabeth Goudge - Elizabeth Goudge has become one of my favorite authors over the past year or so. I'm always amazed by how it seems the plot is going in a predictable direction, and then she surprises you with the characters making unexpected, and often very difficult choices - they wrestle with genuine temptations, just like you and me. She writes with amazing insight into people and relationships, particularly marriage, which is surprising since she remained single all her life. At the same time, her beautiful descriptions make you feel as if you were sitting in the garden or the parlor right beside the characters. Highly recommended if you like a richly woven, character-driven novel.
  • Pilgrim's Inn  by Elizabeth Goudge - This is the second in a trilogy which seems to be alternately called "The Eliot Family Trilogy" or "The Eliots of Damerosehay series." The Bird in the Tree is the first. This is an amazing novel which brings the lives of several hurting people together. Instead of it being an emotional train wreck, however, there is wisdom and healing and beauty to be found. This is truly another amazing novel by one of my favorite authors.
Read-Alouds with Kids
  • Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome - 3rd in the Swallows and Amazons series - a wonderful adventure crossing the Atlantic and looking for treasure in the Caribbean! There is supposedly an extra, unpublished chapter in which the author explains that this story was only made up by the Swallows and Amazons during the winter that followed the first book. My family denies that possibility and prefers to believe this story "really" happened. What? Don't you believe your favorite fictional characters are real?
  • Half Magic by Edgar Eager - a fun and magical story with several mentions of E. Nesbit - what's not to love about that?
  • Harding's Luck by E. Nesbit - if you've read House of Arden (which you should), you simply must read this book to get the rest of the story!
  • Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome - 4th in the Swallows and Amazons series - we love these books!
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster- I tried this as a read-aloud, but eventually, we resorted to an audio book. It's really a fun exploration of language and puns, but can be rather confusing if you're not a word geek like me.
  • The Well-Wishers by Edgar Eager - not so enjoyable as Half Magic, but still fun.
  • Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright - we really enjoyed this summer adventure story with well-balanced characters and engaging descriptions of nature. Of course, my kids weren't really evaluating the characters and descriptions; they just liked the story!
  • Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright - The sequel is just as much fun as the first! These books are notable that they are enjoyable for both boys and girls, and not obviously intended for either - a great family read-aloud!
  • Nurse Matilda - these children are so naughty it's funny, but Nurse Matilda teaches them that what might seem funny for a little while is not such a laughing matter when it's out of your control. 
Audio Books
We listen to books a lot at our house. Narnia and Little House series are our frequent lunchtime (or anytime) companions. Here are some others that we have enjoyed:
  • Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, read by Adrian Praetzellis*
  • The Wind in the Willows by , read by Adrian Pratzellis*
  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
  • All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot
  • Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, read by
  • Harry Potter Series (yes, all of them) by J. K. Rowling, read by - My daughter had read the first 5 books, and we were only listening to the audio version after she had finished reading each one. Then we gave up and just finished listening to numbers 6 & 7. I'm just a little bit of a Harry Potter fan: I have a Golden Snitch on my car antenna, and I'd really like a time turner key chain. ( :
  • Little Britches: Father & I Were Ranchers, Man of the Family, Mary Emma & Company by Ralph Moody - you just can't do better than these stories for family listening in the car or anytime!
*Adrian Praetzellis is one of the best readers on Librivox, in my opinion. Just start listening to The Wind in the Willows, and you'll be hooked! "Oh, Ratty!"