Reading and Vacationing

Hi everyone! Sorry I have been MIA this week. We successfully surprised my mom with a visit for her birthday! It was so fun!

Oh it was such a wonderful week with my parents. There is just something about the home I grew up in. It makes me feel safe, secure, and so happy.

I love seeing my parents as grandparents. They love their children but they really love their grandchildren. And they spoil us both, as it should be.

I just soaked up my time at home this week so I took a little spontaneous blogging hiatus. But I’m actually all caught up on reviews right now, which is kind of shocking!

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But I am still reading and hope to post a few more reviews this month.ūüôā

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Right now, I’m in the middle of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. I am most excited about this one. And I already cannot recommend this novel highly enough to my fellow book lovers. This book beautifully¬†expresses the power of books, the way books can change lives, and the way they connect us. I want to open a bookshop. And read all day everyday. And have a bookish pen pal (okay, I kind of do because I have all of youūüôā ) I basically love this novel thus far.

And I’m moving right along in War and Peace. I’m suddenly able to count down the number of books left in the novel. And that is crazy! Finding myself pulled into the plot and enjoying Tolstoy’s language and philosophy right now.

Isn’t it interesting that life doesn’t always go as planned, but it turns out better than we expect? It’s been a hard several months at our house. But I am grateful tonight for God and for His timing and for His love.

[The Magician’s Elephant]: A Review

It’s a lazy Saturday night at our house watching college football and snacking on homemade cookies. Life is good in Texasūüôā

I am here tonight with a review of a neat little book tonight: The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. I happened upon this book on Goodreads a few weeks ago. It caught my attention because of the cover and the elephant. Elephants have been my favorite animal for as long as I can remember. I have only read one book by DiCamillo before–The Tale of Despereaux and I remember it¬†having¬†such a rich plot¬†with brilliant characters.

If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be storytelling. DiCamillo has such a gift for creating beautiful stories. They aren’t long; they aren’t complicated; but they are memorable.

Initial thoughts:

  • For me, this novel was a change in pace from my usual genres. I enjoyed the lighter tone and easier read.
  • I want to read DiCamillo’s books with my children one day. They are so accessible for young readers.
  • I love the illustrations in this book. The illustrator is different than¬†The Tale of Despereaux¬†but they have the same feel to them.

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The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is the story of a journey for many people and one elephant. It is primarily the journey of Peter Augustus Dechene who discovers his sister is actually alive and he will find her by follow an elephant. But there isn’t an elephant in the city of Baltese. At least, there isn’t one until a magician conjures one up through the opera house roof onto a noblewoman’s lap. That begins a beautiful adventure involving a policeman, the magician, Peter, his sister Adele, and the elephant. Peter begins his search for Adele with his neighbor the philosophizing policeman. Adele dreams of the elephant. And the elephant dreams of home. Each wants to change their world. And each¬†can only do that will a little magic.

In thinking about which character I enjoyed the most, I realized we don’t actually know much about any of the characters. The story begins in medias res (in the middle of the story) and the focus is more on the plot rather than characters. Yes, we learn a few details about each of them. But no one really stands out. I enjoy them all but I also enjoy stronger character development.¬†For me, it was a bit lacking in character development. That’s not to say that I thought the characters were weak or flat. I just liked them so much that I wanted to learn more about them. ¬†I would be interested in learning more about Peter’s childhood, Leo’s experience as a police officer, and the background on the magician.

One of the strongest elements of this novel was the storytelling. Again, I think DiCamillo is one of the best¬†children’s storytellers right now. This story is captivating and exciting. It draws readers in so easily. Perhaps the short length helped, but I never felt the story lag. Every scene felt important because it would give us an important detail to the overall story. The tone was almost mesmerizing.¬†From the first page, I believed in magic. I believed in Peter’s quest. And somehow, I knew magic would change everything.

I also enjoyed the different perspectives in the novel. The limited omniscient narrator surprised me.¬†I thought we would just stay in Peter’s head through the entire novel. But I really enjoy when we get inside the heads of multiple characters. This novel was different than many because DiCamillo seems to use different perspectives as means to build the overall plot. And I think she does it well. My favorite perspective was the elephant’s. It was really neat to get insider her head–in fact, I would have liked to get even more from her.

This novel has added depth because it tackles profound themes like what is truth? What if we tried to change the world? And do you believe in magic? Such fun ideas to think about!

I think some potential answers to these questions are best found in the novel itself. Some of my favorite quotes from the book tackle these questions.

Truth is such a difficult idea to define in any novel, let alone a children’s book. But I love this simple line from early in the book.

“The truth is forever changing.”

The Magician’s Elephant, page 7

Leo is potentially my favorite character because he dares to see the world in a different way. I love this exchange he has with the magician.

“[The magician said] “‘What if?‚Äô is a question that belongs to magic.” ‚ÄúYes,‚ÄĚ said Leo, ‚Äúto magic and also to the world in which we live everyday. So: what if? What if you merely tried?‚ÄĚ

The Magician’s Elephant, page 151

I have always loved magic and stories that incorporate it. There are the obvious favorites like Harry Potter, but I also enjoy stories that give us magic in a new way. I love this quote from the magician.

“‘Magic is always impossible,’ said the magician. ‘It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic.'”

The Magician’s Elephant, page 154

Overall, a fun read that left me believing in magic and in the power of the human spirit. I recommend this one especially for children. I hope to read more of DiCamillo’s novels to my children in future.

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Have you read any Kate DiCamillo novels? What did you think?

[The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter]: A Review

Hi all. I am so excited to review The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter tonight. This is one of my absolute favorite children’s authors. There is just something about her beautiful stories, timeless characters, and inspiring ideals that I love.

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Hill Top Farm, The Lake District, UK

I bought a set of Beatrix Potter books in the Lake District on my study abroad there. I actually walked past the store first and didn’t buy them. So a friend and I went back early the next day and walked the almost 2 miles to Ambleside to buy them.

When my husband and I went back to the Lake District 2 years later, I insisted we visit Hill Top (Beatrix’s home). It is a bit tricky to get to (train, buses, and shuttle) but so worth it. It was perfectly Beatrix.

Miss Potter has been one of my favorite movies for years. Renee Zellweger is brilliant, Ewan McGregor melts my heart, and Emily Watson makes me laugh. I seriously cry and laugh and sigh every time I watch it.

Our nursery is Beatrix Potter themed including framed pictures of my favorite characters (Jemima and Peter especially), a darling crib skirt from my mom, and a very intricate baby quilt I made with my mom when I was pregnant with my first baby. It has over 100 little squares. I love it and I will never make such an ambitious quilt again. And of course, we have several copies of various Beatrix Potter stories.

A favorite author like this deserves the spotlight on my blog, that’s for sure.

I have read many of her tales before, but it was fun for me to read them all in a row to see how the characters dance between stories and the stories dance into my heart.

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The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter are a collection of stories varying in length from a few pages to several chapters. These 23 total tales follow various story lines of rabbits, cats, mice, frogs, geese and more. Some are more well known like “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” or “The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck” while others are lesser known like “The Tale of Little Pig Robinson” or “The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse.” All offer darling characters and sweet morals. Some make me laugh, some make me smile, and some make me confused. But they are all so fun.

There is something so timeless and so endearing about Beatrix potter’s characters. Some of my favorites have always been Peter and Benjamin Rabbit, Jemima Puddle Duck, and Jeremy Fisher. I love them because they are classic and the stories are simple yet¬†memorable. I love Jemima because she is independent and ridiculously naive. I love Peter because he is curious and a bit too daring. I love Benjamin because he is adventurous and silly. And I love Jeremy because he is simple and wise.

I remembered so many of the stories from my parents reading the books to me as a child. There were my favorites like those I mention above, but also others like about Mrs Tiggy Winkle and Tom Kitten. What sets Beatrix Potter apart is her ability to create these likable and memorable characters from ordinary animals and situations. There is nothing especially unique about a rabbit eating veggies in a garden. But Beatrix makes it special. And that special skill makes every one of these characters timeless. Random moments were familiar to me like Tom Kitten getting wrapped up in dough and the two bad mice stealing the cradle. Even the nursery rhymes seemed familiar to me. I love how celebrated and enduring these tales are. They stick with us and remind us of the joys and simplicity of childhood and imagination.

What surprised me is all the stories that I don’t remember reading before! Ironically, I feel like these were also the most long-winded and least engaging stories in the collection. And some of these really were hard to get through. I was almost shocked when I came to stories that I didn’t enjoy as much as I remember always enjoying Beatrix Potter. For example, the story about Pig Robinson was a bit dragged out for me–it read more like a novella than a children’s picture book. And the story about the badger stealing Benjamin Bunny’s children and living in the fox’s house was a bit weird. What I really want to do now is read more about the timeline of her writing. Some tales felt more immature than others and I am curious about when she wrote the more famous ones.

Can we just talk for a minute about what a neat woman Beatrix Potter was? She was an advocate for saving the beautiful Lake District (one of my favorite places in the world!), wrote and published timeless children’s books at a time when women did not do that, and overcame deeply difficult trials in her life. I really admire her. And I really love some of these quotes from Beatrix Potter. I think they capture the scope of her influence.

For me, Beatrix Potter’s tales will always be timeless and wonderful. These tales are perfect to read out loud to kids. They have the most gorgeous pictures. And the stories are lighthearted and fun overall. They also teach great lessons about obeying your parents, making smart choices, and learning from our mistakes.¬†I love her talent for storytelling and hope to be reading her stories for many years to come!

Yes there are stories I didn’t like as much. Yes, there are reasons that certain ones have become childhood standards. Yes, I will still read these and love Beatrix Potter for all she is and all she wrote. But I think I will stick with the 13 tales in my Lake District collection.ūüôā

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What are some of your favorite Beatrix Potter stories?

This collection is the 11th piece I’ve finished for my list with The Classics Club! Check out my full list here. For more info on the club, click here.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Books Ever

Hi everyone and welcome back to Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today’s¬†prompt is...Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre.

At first, I thought this was way hard. My least favorite question anyone ever asks is “Oh, you like books? What’s your favorite book?” Haha. Like I could pick a single favorite!

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First, I thought I would share my favorite books ever. And that quickly died because I love too many books. Seriously, I came up with 20 in less than a minute.

Next, I thought I would try my favorite stand alone novels. No series (and there are too many wonderful series that I love out there!) Just books that have a story just in a single book. But that quickly got too long as well.

Finally, I tried again with favorite books whose authors only published one novel. Now this got hard! Some novelists that I love a single book from actually have written several! Surprisingly, I¬†need to read a lot more by some of my favorite authors. Time to add to the TBRūüôā All the books I list below are the only ones I have read from that author.

So here it is–my top 10 all time favorite books whose¬†authors I should¬†read more of. Enjoy!

*Links from titles lead to my reviews of the novels.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak // I absolutely love this book. I want to review it here one day. I feel like I forgot that Zusak has published other books.

 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // This is a recent favorite of mine. I also recently learned he has written other books. Need to check them out!

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George // I discovered that this is actually a pen name and this author has written dozens of books under various names.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr // One of my favorite WWII novels ever. And apparently not his only novel!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee // This has been a favorite of mine since I read it in high school. I am still debating if I want to read Go Set a Watchman or if it will hinder my views of the characters in the original.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott // I actually really want to read more by Alcott! Little Men is on my Classics Club list.

The Giver by Lois Lowry // This book is so powerful and so profound. Loved rereading it a few years ago. Would love to read more by Lowry.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte // One of my favorite classic novels. I want to read more of the Bronte sisters in general–especially Anne.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery // I absolutely love Anne. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have not read the full series. But I was gifted the complete set from my aunt recently and I hope to read them all soon. Perhaps an Anne of Green Gables Read Along…anyone want to join?ūüôā

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis // I have actually read the complete Narnia series but I hear there are so many works by Lewis worth reading. I need to review more of them on my blog. I have only reviewed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Which authors do you need to read more of? 
And who should I add to my TBR?

 

 

[A Sparrow in Terezin]: A Review

Hi guys. I hope you all had a great weekend and that your football team won (unlike mineūüė¶ ). It was a sad night on Saturday. But we also bought a new car this weekend so it wasn’t all bad!

I am so excited to review A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron today. This book has been officially on my TBR since I finished her novel The Butterfly and the Violinwhich is a beautifully captivating story¬†that¬†you should also read! I have fallen in love with the way Kristy builds moving stories out of artful moments in history. She calls herself a vintage storyteller, and I couldn’t agree more!

A Sparrow in Terezin quickly became one of my favorite books read this year and one of my favorite WWII novels ever. When I first finished this book, I felt emotionally full. My heart was weeping and aching and smiling.

Initial thoughts:

  • I love this book. I need to own this book.
  • I loved both perspectives from the first page. I didn’t expect to get more of Sera’s story, and I loved getting a glimpse into her life after the first novel.
  • One of my favorite characters in this book is Dane. I had never thought about the possibility of someone like him. He is surrounded by people who are evil. But he finds ways to rise above it. His character and sacrifice are beautiful.
  • This novel offers a full range of emotions–hope, love, and compassion in stark contrast to fear, despair, and heartache.
  • I want more novels in the Hidden Masterpiece collection. I might even say I need them.ūüėČ They offer such gorgeous perspectives on the ways God and art can bring happiness in dark times. I always finish them feeling so inspired and determined to do something good in the world.

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A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron follows the dual stories of Sera James–a present¬†day art gallery owner and soon to be Mrs. William Hanover,¬†and Kaja Makovsky–a half Jewish native of Prague who will risk everything to return to save her parents from the Nazi occupied city. Sera and her new husband face seemingly insurmountable legal problems that could result in 10 years in prison for William. Kaja will risk everything including her life and romantic future with the gallant and mysterious Brit Liam Marshall to try to get her parents out of war torn Prague. But things do not go as planned. Kaja finds herself in a Jewish ghetto as the teacher for young children. And Sera finds herself with more questions than answers about her new husband’s past. These stories cross in the character of Sophie–a Jewish girl who was saved by Kaja and will save Sera once again.

I actually enjoyed Sera’s journey¬†more in this book than in the previous novel. I like that we get to see what happens to her after her big search for the painting of Adele. We get to see her relationship with William blossom and falter. We get to see her connect with Sophie even more. And we get to see her scared, stubborn, happy, and indecisive. She feels real to me. She has moments in this book that are applaudable and that make me want to slap¬†some sense into her.¬†I easily found myself rooting for her and eagerly awaiting what would happen with the trial and with her marriage.

But as much as I enjoyed Sera’s story, I think I enjoyed Kaja’s even more. Kaja is such a neat character. She feels such an incredible sense of responsibility for her family and for justice. She wants to believe that people are good and will treat each other well. And yet, she falls for Liam Marshall (who I would have loved learn more about) and finds herself in the middle of the London Blitz and later a Jewish ghetto. She finds the good in a place where darkness seems to overcome any light. Her actions are always honorable and in defense of someone else. But she sees and experiences such difficult things. She nearly dies in a London bombing and then in the ghetto. What keeps her alive? I think it is her faith in God and her trust that there is good to be found in even the darkest circumstances. And those two things made me love her character and¬†hope for her success in any circumstance.

Kristy writes in¬†dual perspectives so beautifully. I think both points of view are well developed–making them both easy to get sucked into. I kept thinking I will finish at the end of a chapter, only to find a crazy cliff hanger that made me turn the page. But that was in a new perspective! This style kept me on my toes and invested in both stories. What was especially interesting about this book is that the stories don’t seem to connect for so long. I wasn’t sure where they would come together. This made the story all the more clever for me–waiting to explain the connection gave the story added suspense and excitement.

Sometimes when I read a book, I just think to myself “This paragraph (or page or chapter or entire book)¬†is written so beautifully.” A Sparrow in Terezin is such a book. I found myself wanting to write down entire paragraphs so I can experience some of the beautiful language later. I think it is a mark of a particularly great book¬†when I find myself enraptured by the language and the plot. This is especially true in a book like this, a book that successfully encapsulates the human spirit during the most trying times in life.

A few favorite lines:

“War meant everything. It could steal away today as well as tomorrow. It could take their beautiful city, and the souls in it, to hell and back without batting an eyelash.”

“Memories‚Ķ.they whisper in this room. Do you hear them? Listen.”

“Books create the ability to escape into a different world, and the children are desperate for that.”

A Sparrow in Terezin, pages 23, 200 & 279

I have long been a fan of WWII literature. But lately I especially appreciate WWII novels that give a different perspective on the war, that teach me something I didn’t know before. A Sparrow in Terezin does just that. I was instantly intrigued by the focus on the children’s art in Terezin and the large clock in Prague. Both were new ideas to me.¬†I also really enjoyed the first part of Kaja’s story that takes place in London during the Blitz. I haven’t read many¬†accounts or novels about the Blitz.¬†Because of this book,¬†I want to read more.¬† If I have any criticism of this book, it would be that we don’t get a lot of specific details about the Blitz and the British spy network. I was really curious to hear more about that!

Overall, the action in this book kept me turning pages quickly. There was so much going on in both time periods that I soon found myself at that point where I had¬†to finish because I can’t move on with my life until I know how it ends. The ending is lovely and heartbreaking and beautiful (I keep using that word!) I so appreciated a happy ending after the conflict and suspense of the plot.

One of my favorite aspects of the Hidden Masterpieces novels are the beautiful themes and powerful messages that are presented through these stories. In this novel, these messages focus on thought-provoking ideas like the power of art creating goodness in the midst of evil, the ways an individual can preserve the legacy and life of children, the ways time can be manipulated, the powerful influence a single person has to do good, and the importance of love and trust in relationships. Most of all, I appreciate the way God and His divine role is weaved throughout this story.

Some of the most compelling quotes in this book come in connection with the old Prague clock tower and the title of this book. The connections between time, God, and sparrows are truly incredible. It took me a good portion of the book to understand the beautiful symbolism of the title. But that journey to understanding made the title all the more powerful for me.

 

“My father used to say that all of time is set to a clock–God’s clock. We’re given so much of it from sunrise to sunset each day. And it’s in God’s will that time continues to move. He watches over all of us, wherever we should go. . .and especially when fear overrides the feeling of safety.”

“Sparrows soar on high; they are light and agile. They fly through the clouds unafraid and travel where the skeletons could never go. That is strength on little wings. . . . They rain tiny blessings down on the Jews in Prague while we are asleep. They shine light in the darkness.”

“Peace. That’s what it feels like. God’s peace showering down on us. And it’s not because we haven’t seen storms. I think it’s because he gave us the strength to weather them–no matter what.”

A Sparrow in Terezin, pages 86, 190 & 337

Overall, a truly beautiful novel that everyone should read from WWII fiction fans to romance¬†lovers¬†to people who want to believe in the goodness of humanity. This book can touch everyone. I highly recommend it! And now I¬†need to read The Ringmaster’s Wifeūüôā

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What did you think of A Sparrow at Terezin?
Which WWII novel do I need to read next?

[The First Four Years]: A Review

So I just finished A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron. And my head is full of WWII bombings, Jewish ghettos, and beautiful love stories. But I actually snuck The First Four Years in right before I started my new favorite WWII novel. So I thought I better write a review of it before I forget about it!

This is the last novel as part of the Little House Read Along 2016. So it also marks the last part that I have been rereading. Excited to read some new pieces in coming months!

Initial thoughts:

  • This book is short. Like 150 pages short. And it reads so fast. I finished the whole thing in one afternoon.
  • And it’s also a bit depressing. I mean, the amount of hardships and trials that Laura and Almanzo go through in this book is incredible–bordering on unreal. I felt so bad for them as they battled so many hard times.
  • I did not know the full history of this novel. Laura left it in manuscript form when she died. Her daughter, Rose, gave it to her lawyer and he had it published in that same form after Rose’s death. I wonder how Laura would have expanded it.

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The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder follow the first years of marriage for Laura and Almanzo “Manly” Wilder. It is broken up into 4 sections, each detailing one year of their marriage. Before they are married, Laura tells Manly she doesn’t want to be a farmer’s wife because they will always be poor. Manly disagrees and asks for 3 years to show her that they can be successful as farmer. She agrees, and they are married. But things seem to progress from bad to worse over those years. They face mounting debts, ruined crops from wind and hail, and intense heartache in their small home. The one constant light in their lives is Rose, their darling daughter. But with life throwing so many difficulties their way, can Laura and Almanzo endure them all?

I really enjoyed getting a peek inside the early marriage of Laura and Almanzo. We really get to see them grow up over the course of the series. I knew they got married so it was excited to see that come to fruition. Their romance is so sweet and proper. It’s rare that we get the description of even a small peck on the cheek. But they show it in the way they work for and with each other. Manly builds them several houses by the end of the book and Laura helps him in his illness and around the farm. So much can be learned from their quiet, deep devotion for one another.

Surprisingly, I really loved getting more details about Rose and her beautiful childhood. Yes, they had financial problems. Yes, they had challenges. Yes,their house even burned down. But whenever Laura talks about Rose, she seems unaware and disconnected from those cares. Even when they lose their 3 week old son, it is Rose that Laura wants to see. She brings peace to their heartbroken world. Rose makes these first four years beautiful, happy, and full of discovery. In fact, Rose reminds me of my own daughter–full of energy¬†and excitement for¬†life.¬†I think that makes any challenge or heartbreak more bearable.

It was easy for me to identify with Laura in this book because I am also a young mother. I would have loved hearing more details about her pregnancy and the different stages of Rose’s life. I love that Ma comes to help with delivery and after Rose is born. Reminded me of my mom doing that for me (and taking parts of the night shift too!). I’m at the beautiful stage of life where we are having children and raising them. Children in any form make¬†life so much more worth while.¬† I felt the same way Laura did upon entering my first home as the homemaker. I was excited to set up my home and put all my treasures (mostly books!) in their proper place. There’s something about having your own home that makes life¬†beautiful, satisfying¬†and more cheerful.

I really loved how content Laura was to stay home. Life just sees so simple back then! This quote sums her up well:

“Laura was never lonely…a visit to the horses and cows at the barn was, she thought, as good as visiting people any day.”

The First Four Years, page 44

Can we just talk for a moment about the million problems they have to overcome! And how outside of their control these issues are!? There’s loans and interest and more debts¬†and the US government and hail storms and heat waves and severe illness and loosing a child and their house burning to the ground. It seems almost incredible that so many bad things would happen to the same family. I like to think that if she had revised this manuscript further, she would have added some more details about the happy times during these years.¬†I hope they existed. She mentions briefly having her parents and sisters over for New Years Day but not any specifics. I kept wanting to hear about her family. Did Mary come to stay with them? Did her other sisters get married? I’ve come to love them as much as Laura and missed hearing more about their lives in this book.

At least we get a bit of Ma’s wisdom in this book:

“There is no great loss without some small gain.”

“A¬†Rose in December was much rarer than a rose in June”

The First Four Years, pages 55 & 72

It seems like I have to include this quote because it sums up Almanzo’s personality so well. We could see this even when he was a young horse lover back in New York.

“Didn’t I tell you,” he said, “that everything evens up? The rich have their ice in the summer, but the poor get theirs in the winter.”

The First Four Years, page 49

I think this quote sums up the whole series quite well. It shows that the human spirit can always look forward with hopeful potential towards the future.

 

“The incurable optimism of the farmer who throws his seeds on the ground every spring, betting it and his time against the element, seemed inextricably to blend with the Creed of her pioneer forefathers that ‚Äúit is better farther on‚ÄĚ–only instead of father in in space, it was farther on in time, over the horizon of the years ahead instead of the far horizon of the West.”

The First Four Years, page 133

For me, this book had all the potential of being one of my favorites in the series. But I can understand why Laura didn’t publish it. It’s imbalanced towards their difficulties making it hard to get excited about reading, and it is just so short. I wanted more! Definitely worth reading though to finish the series.

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What did you think of The First Four Years? 
Which is your favorite Little House book?

This post is part of the Little House Read Along 2016 hosted by Bex @ An Armchair by the Sea and Lynn @ Smoke and Mirrors. Each month, we read and review one of the Little House books. More info about the read along can be found through the links above. Check it out with the read along hashtag (#LittleHouseRAL) and join us anytime!

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[War and Peace, Book 10]: A Review

Guys. I finally finished book 10!! This feels like a really big deal to me.

First, this is the longest of the books within the novel. And second, it covers about 15% of the book from just after 50% to almost 70%. That was such a hard stretch for me! When I hit the half way mark, I was so excited! And then the story just seemed to drag until 60%. Between moving cross country and trying to settle in, it took me longer than normal to get through the second half of this book. I honestly barely remember what happens at the start of it.

I continue to enjoy reading the chapters on my kindle. It makes it a lot easier to read and usually I like seeing my progress displayed.

Suddenly, I only have about a quarter to go. My momentum is at an all time high! Plus, the story is getting really good again.

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Book 10 covers several important events on the front fighting against Napoleon including the battle of Borodino which is a turning point in the war favoring the Russians. We also spend a lot of time at Bald Hills with Prince Andrew’s family. First, he returns home before returning to his regiment and then writes to warn his father to leave because the French are marching on Moscow. Prince Bolkonski does not leave his home until it is almost too late. In fact, on the day they are set to depart, he suffers an intense stroke that leads to his death. His daughter, Mary, is much affected by his death and almost does not get to Moscow ahead of the French troops. But she is saved by Nicholas Rostov and a connection is formed between the two.¬†The book ends with Pierre traveling to the front on the eve of battle and a detailed description of the battle’s events from Napoleon’s perspective, to Prince Andrew’s injury, to Pierre’s thoughts as he looks on.

This book had a lot of philosophizing from Tolstoy. At first, it was difficult for me to get through the chapters where nothing happened but he talked about his opinions on the war, the Russian troops, and Napoleon. I was just reading the words to get through them. But I actually grew intrigued by his hypothesizing. Most especially, I enjoyed his thoughts on writing history, war, and the importance of life. He talks quite eloquently about the flaws in writing history. Man gives himself (or another man) too much credit in changing history. Usually, events unfold as they are destined to, not because Napoleon had a cold.

A few favorite quotes:

“To question of what causes historic events another answer presents itself, namely, that the course of human events is predetermined from on high–depends on the coincidence of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that a Napoleon’s influence on the course of these events is purely external and fictitious.”

War and Peace, book 10

“Compassion, love of our brothers, for those who love us and for those who hate us, love of our enemies; yes, that love which God preached on earth and which Princess Mary taught me and I did not understand–that is what made me sorry to part with life, that is what remained for me had I lived.”

War and Peace, book 10

Tolstoy also makes his opinions about war known through the conversations between characters. The evening talk between Pierre and Prince Andrew is especially compelling. They talk about the ways to win battles and ultimately wars. And Andrew makes several claims that shape the way I viewed the battles that followed.

“And yet they say that war is like a game of chess?”

War and Peace, book 10

“Success never depends, and never will depend, on position, or equipment, or even on numbers, and least of all on position… But on what then? …. On the feeling that is in me and in him… and in each soldier.”

War and Peace, book 10

“War is not courtesy but the most horrible thing in life; and we ought to understand that and not play at war.

War and Peace, book 10

It’s hard to pick a favorite character from this book. I really enjoyed Mary’s journey in this book. Her freedom from her oppressive father but also her reconciliation with him. I enjoyed Nicholas Rostov’s added maturity and surprising encounters with Mary. Hoping to see more of them together in the last books of the novel. I enjoyed seeing Pierre show sudden patriotism and go to “watch” the battle of Borodino. That made me laugh! And I really enjoyed seeing more of Prince Andrew and his epiphany late in the book. I so long for him and Natasha to be reconciled at some point!

Themes I am enjoying/pondering:

  • What is the purpose of war? How can one find purpose in a battle to fight to live? How does God play a role in the outcomes of wars and in history? So many interesting ideas about these questions in this chapter.
  • Why is honor so important? How does it affect our actions? The generals both act in ways that seem questionable. But the battle goes on far longer than necessary. And the soldiers continue to die for the honor of their country.
  • How is history written? How can we find truth in history written by imperfect people?

Things that are tricky and/or confusing:

  • Russian geography. I have found some maps online and I look at them occasionally but it still is hard to keep all the names and places straight.
  • Customs of war. Some if it doesn’t make sense to me. Why offer or accept a battle that will just cause men to die? Why don’t the superior officers fight? Why can Pierre watch? All things I am still wondering.

I think I really started to appreciate what Tolstoy is doing in this novel. He is not just offering a history lesson or an exciting plot. He is creating a story surrounded by deep themes of war, love, history, and peace. He is giving us a story of such intense emotion and overwhelming grandeur that you have to appreciate his skill.

Looking forward to what the final books have in store and hoping for more happy endings than sad ones.

Top 10 Tuesday: TV Recommendations

Welcome to a new week of Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s theme is…In honor of Fall TV, do a tv-themed topic!

I have a rather eclectic taste in TV shows. At our house we watch¬†a lot of different shows ranging from 50’s sitcoms to current seasons of popular shows. I wanted to do more than just list all my favorite shows (which would be more fun for me than for anyone else). But I was intrigued by one of the idea prompts this week about recommending TV shows.

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I’ve been on a serious Harry Potter high lately with The Cursed Child coming out, reading all the books again, and asking my husband to watch most of the movies in the past few weeks. And suddenly I had an epiphany for my TTT post this week:¬†TV Shows I would recommend to Harry Potter characters.

I am super excited to share these recommendations with you all. Enjoy!

Star Trek for Harry and Ron // I had a hard time trying to think of a show Ron and Harry would enjoy. But I think this is actually a pretty good fit. It’s about adventures where the characters meet different¬†creatures¬†and overcome different evil forces. Isn’t that what these guys do through the whole series? I also wondered if they would appreciate watching soccer or football games–or if they’d be disappointed that no one was flying.ūüėČ

Gilmore Girls¬†for Hermione Granger // In another life, Hermione could be Rory Gilmore. They are actually super similar–straight A students at the top of their class, loyal friends, and serious book worms. Plus, since she’s muggle born, Hermione would probably understand and appreciate all the witty pop culture banter in this show.

The Middle¬†for Mr. Weasley // I think Mr. Weasley would be fascinated by this show about a “typical” middle class American family and their crazy daily lives. It would only continue his somewhat misinformed view of Muggles and what they do all day. But it would make him laugh too and he deserves a good laugh.

The Crocodile Hunter¬†for Hagrid // Okay, I must admit I¬†haven’t¬†actually seen a full episode of this show, but how perfect would it be for Hagrid? He would love all the animal encounters in this show.

Drop Dead Diva for Ginny // This is a seriously underrated show and Ginny is a seriously underrated character. I think we lose so much of her awesomeness in the movies. Jane is talented, loyal, and kind. The same is true for Ginny. She is one of my favorite characters in the books and deserves more recognition.

Top Gear for Fred and George Weasley // I think the Weasley twins would love this show (the original one with Jeremy, James, and Richard). They would fit right into the goofy, making-fun-of-each-other banter that goes on constantly during this show. And they would probably love the tricks that are pulled on this show (and give the producers a bunch of new ideas too!)

The Great British Baking Show¬†for Dobby // I mostly base this recommendation off of Dobby’s antics in The Chamber of Secrets. But I think he would appreciate that¬†anyone can apply to be on TGBBS and I think he would be a great host for the show–always trying to help the participants but causing more trouble that help.

Iron Chef America for Severus Snape // For all the reasons Dobby would like The Great British Baking Show, Snape would hate it. But I think he could enjoy this cooking show which is much more cutthroat and is designed for people to fail (to a point). I could see Snape being a good judge on a show like this.

Once Upon a Time¬†for Luna Lovegood // This show started so clever and enjoyable. Then it just got more weird and I didn’t like or sometimes understand all the connections they make between fantasy worlds and characters. But if there is one person who would understand all that, it’s Luna. Perhaps her father would write about it in the Quibbler too.

 

What do you think about my recommendations?
What shows would you recommend for Harry Potter characters?

Me in 5 Characters Tag

Sometimes I write a lot of reviews and not a lot about me on this blog. Yes, it is a book blog, but I am the blogger behind the books, right?ūüôā So tonight I am sharing a bit more about me. Sorry books!

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I was so excited to get this tag earlier this year from the amazing Emily over at Rose Read.¬†Thanks so much, Emily, for tagging me to do the ‚ÄúMe in 5 Characters Tag!‚ÄĚ

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As the title would suggest, this tag requires you to describe yourself by using 5 book characters. So, here’s a bit more about me through some of my favorite characters!

 

Anne of Green Gables // I identify so much with who Anne becomes after she comes to Green Gables. Unlike Anne, I had a beautiful, happy childhood. But like Anne, I have always loved reading. I love the classics. I love my childhood home and town. I longed for (and was luck to find) many bosom friends there. I left my home town and taught school. And I fell in love with a handsome boy who had admired me from afar for a timeūüôā

 

Hermione Granger // I bet this one was a bit obvious, but it’s true! I think a big reason the Harry Potter series is so popular is because the characters are easy to identify with. I’m like Hermione for the obvious reasons like reading constantly and doing well in school ( can totally relate to the late night, stressful study sessions!). But I am also like her because I am a loyal friend, I fight for what I believe in, and I often prefer to follow the rules than to break them. Also, I really admire Emma Watson.

 

Juliet Ashton // I feel like, in another life, I could be this protagonist from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. She is an aspiring novelist (I’d love to write a book one day!) but she also wants to write something meaningful. She is devastated by¬†the loss of her books when her London apartment is bombed in WWII (I would be too!). And she easily falls in love with life in the countryside of Guernsey While I have not yet been to Guernsey, I could quite happily like in the English countryside forever.

Lucy Pevensie // First, I am like C. S. Lewis’s classic Chronicles of Narnia¬†character because I believe in magic. I like to think I would be like Lucy and find Narnia first.¬†I¬†love books because they can take me to new worlds and allow me to meet new friends. Books are magic. Like Lucy, I have always had a big imagination and I want to help those I love. I also love the journey Lucy goes on through the series and all she learns, often through mistakes or trials. I know my life has not always been easy, but I am grateful for the journey.

Laura Ingalls Wilder // I have fallen back in love with the Little House books this year. It’s easy for me to identify with Laura because she is so full of life and we both grew up in homes where love and happy memories were plentiful. She likes to be with people and be part of the group (as do I). She makes friends easily and I often joke that as soon as I’ve met someone they are my friend. She works hard and loves her family most of all. I feel my best when I have been productive during the day. And my family is my whole world.

I tag…

Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom

Carrie @ Reading is my Superpower

Lynn @ Lynn’s Book Blog

Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse

That was fun! Thanks for reading!
Which bookish characters describe you?

Burn, Rewrite, Reread Tag

First, I think I need to apologize for being so bad at completing tags! I think they are fun and I like mixing it up, but I just forget about all the tag drafts I have sometimes. Today is the day to start being better at these! I’ve seen this particular tag on many blogs and and excited to give it a go today. Thanks to Giovannard @ Book Coma¬†for the tag!

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THE RULES:

  1. Randomly choose 3 books. (Use the ‚Äėrandom‚Äô option on your Goodreads read shelf. Thanks for that tip, it makes this so much easier)
  2. For each group, decide which book to burn, which one to rewrite, and which to reread.
  3. Repeat until you completed three rounds

Round #1

Burn: Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer // I read this book once–when it first came out. And honestly, I was so disappointed that I was actually angry when I finished. And I have never read it since.

Rewrite: Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes // There are moments in this novel that are funny and clever, like the most commonly read scene fighting the windmills. But there are some parts that are just boring or too long. This book does not have to be 900 pages. So I would revise it by cutting it down.

Reread: Half Magic by Edward Eager // I loved this underrated book as a child and have actually been wanting to reread it lately. I remember it being a great book to read out loud too.

Round #2

Burn: Ready or Not (All American Girl #2) by Meg Cabot // I love the first novel in this series–All American Girl– and I wanted to like this one. But the ending is just stupid and the whole premise is juvenile. Disappointing sequel.

Rewrite: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte // I want to love this book. It’s by a Bronte for goodness sake! But I just don’t love the plot or Heathcliff. So perhaps a bit of rewriting would help.

Reread: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy // A fantastic classic about the French Revolution! I love the story, the characters, and the action!

Round #3

Burn: Insurgent by Veronica Roth // I think this series started really well. And then got progressively worse. As the second book in the series, this one is the beginning of the end for me.

Rewrite: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks // First, I love The Notebook! I love the story and the characters and the heartbreaking romance! But I had to pick one to rewrite. Sparks always writes such tragic romances. So perhaps a bit less tragedy wouldn’t be so badūüôā

Reread: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas // I love this book so much. And the movie is one of my favorites too. Such an incredible, classic story of revenge, redemption, and love.

Well that was fun and hard and I don’t like talking about burning books (even ones I don’t like).

I tag . . .

Penni @ Penni’s Perceptions

Emily @ Rose Read

Tasha @ The Bookie Monsters