Summer reading report, so far.

Now that my children are able to swim while I sit and read a book (joy!), this summer I’ve been able to do a lot more reading than I could in years past. Here are some of my summer reads to date:

Title
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1)
The House at Rose Creek
The Secret Keeper
Blackmoore: A Proper Romance
The Lemon Grove: A Novel
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Spring Vacation Collection
Longing for Home: A Proper Romance
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Summer Wedding Collection
In His Hands: A Mother's Journey Through the Grief of Sudden Loss
The Kiss of a Stranger
Band of Sisters
House of Secrets (A Shandra Covington Mystery, #1)
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale

Some of these I’ve blogged about already, and some of them I’m still going to tell you about a little later, but you can go to my Goodreads account if you’re at all interested in knowing my reviews of the books.

Today I want to tell you about Sarah Eden’s newest book, Longing for Home. Even though I’ve met Sarah briefly before and we have a long list of mutual friends, I had never read any of her books before this summer. I don’t want to dare say that I get tired of reading Jane Austen, because I love her books, but I wanted to read something similar to Austen rather than repeat my reading of her classics for the who-knows-how-many-really time. I knew that Eden’s books are Regency Romance, so I gave them a try, and found them to be quite delightful. You can see from the  book list above that I read several. When I got the chance to read Longing for Home, I was excited, but a little skeptical because it wasn’t even Regency. It was Wyoming in the 1800s and that sounded eerily Western to me, but I read it anyway and I really, really liked it. In fact, I think it may be my favorite of her books so far.  Here’s a description:

Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.

 

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It really wasn’t a western at all, but I did learn a lot about some of the challenges of the immigrants and settlers. I really liked Katie’s spunk and determination, and her overall lack of self-pity when there was much she could have mourned. The story is a romance, which usually makes it quite predictable, but it was more than that too. She has competing suitors and some real challenges to face and I really didn’t know how it was all going to play out. I think Eden develops her male characters well, and this book is no exception. This was a great read and one I can easily recommend.

What’s been one of your favorite summer reads so far?

My summer plans for sanity: schedules, plans, charts, and other coping mechanisms

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I am one of those moms that makes a crazy weekly schedule for summer. I thought I’d share it in case it’s helpful for anyone else or gives you ideas of how to tweak things your own way. Do NOT look at this and feel guilty if you never had any similar intention. *I* do this because it helps me know what to do with my children when they are out of school and suddenly back in my care 24/7. If I did not make a plan or a schedule, I would find myself fretting in bed in the morning while my children got a jump start on chaos. If you are the type of mom who likes to go with the flow and not be pressured by a schedule, then you probably won’t like these ideas, and that’s okay. We can still be friends. :)

Weekly schedule.  Here’s a link to my chart, but this is the general idea: chores* done by 10 am, then a brief devotional and “summer school” (30 minutes of workbooks, writing, etc.). Mid-day activities include:

Monday:  Money and Menu plan– Allowance and Bank, Plan lunches and dinners for week (this year I’m going to try having each child in charge of one day of lunch and dinner), Grocery shop

Tuesday: Temple, Treat, and Tech– Get a treat and visit a temple, Rent a movie or video game

Wednesday: Service and Play–Humanitarian or other Service, Fun ideas from Pinterest

Thursday: Travel– Day trip or hike

Friday: Library and lunch– go to library and meet daddy for lunch

(This schedule is way more flexible than it may appear. Times are approximate, and we also have swimming lessons and other random calendar commitments, so some days the schedule will get trumped with something else.)

Then we finish off the late afternoons with a “summer snack” (usually a Popsicle), 30 minutes of reading time** followed by some quiet play time, their 30 minutes of media time, then dinner and family time, and finally bedtime– except for Thursday nights when I’ll let them stay up a little later for neighborhood night games.

*Note on chores: I make a daily chart (you’re welcome to download and edit my document here) so that every morning, each person knows exactly what their jobs are that day. Each day as they pass off their work, I will give them some kind of voucher that they can collect and cash in toward their allowance on Mondays. It may be as simple as a labeled popsicle stick. If you have any questions about the chores we do around here, go ahead and ask in the comments.

**Note on reading: You know how a lot of schools have a take-home reading program? Well, I modify that plan and run a similar system at home during the summer. My children like to read and will often pick up books during down-time and definitely at bedtime, but what I love about take-home reading is the assigned content. Sometimes I’m a big fan of forcing things on my poor children, especially when I know it would be good for them to step out of their comfort zone a little and expand their minds by trying a new genre or subject matter. So I did a lot of research about good books for my kids to read, and I went and checked out a lot of them from the library. Then I created big gallon Ziploc bags with their names on them and made a form (here’s a blank one you can download) that lists their “assigned” books. During their reading time every day, they read the book in their bag for as many days as they need to until it’s done. Then I sign it off, and they move on to another book on their list. I love this part of the day because it makes me feel like a children’s librarian, one of those jobs I’m just sure I would love.

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So there you have it. It’s kind of like comfort food for the psyche; it makes me feel better to have a summer strategy. Here’s wishing you the best in your own summer preparations. What are some of your favorite strategies?

Some good LDS reads

If you like reading LDS literature but don’t know where to start, I have a few suggestions for you. When it comes to the religious genre, I tend to lean toward non-fiction (surprise, surprise). I also have friends who write LDS fiction, and I love them, and have enjoyed anything I’ve read from them, so if fiction is your thing, give Melanie Jacobson, Becca Wilhite, Sarah Eden (I don’t actually know her, we’ve just met once, but I just started reading her regency stuff, and I like it) and Annette Lyon a try.

Okay, so non-fiction. I tend to like stuff that is heavy on facts and doctrine. Not necessarily a heavy read, but I like to feel like it has substance, like it makes me smarter or better. Deseret Book gave me the opportunity to review some of their titles and these are the ones I picked.

DC_Ref_CompanionSM_detail

This book is a big book. As in 919 pages big. But it is awesome. If you have wanted a way to learn more about the broad spectrum of Church History, this is a really helpful reference. Written by about 100 talented contributors, it has maps, excellent photos, a 700-page enclyclopedia that explains pretty much any person or place or theme mentioned in the D&C, and a 150-page overview that includes the historical background and content summary for all 138 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is a really great resource. A little pricey, but use one of those 25% off one item coupons and get it. It has been a really helpful study aid.

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The Continuous Conversion

by Brad Wilcox

The tagline of this book is: God Isn’t Just Proving Us, He’s Improving Us. This book is a good follow up to his first book, The Continuous Atonement, and explains more some of the principles he taught in his BYU devotional about grace. (I love grace, and I really liked that devotional. Link here.) Sometimes Brad Wilcox is a little too anecdotal for my taste, but he did use some good analogies to clarify the doctrinal principles. For example: “When a person is learning to play the piano, are the only two options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? Similarly, in mortality, are the only two choices being perfect or giving up?” The book focuses on the process of conversion and transformation.

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Choose Higher Ground

by Henry B. Eyring

Well, the best thing about this book is that President Eyring wrote it, of course. I suspect that many of these chapters are actually a collection of talks that he has given, but they are organized nicely into sections and themes that address the climb of discipleship and the safety that can be found on higher ground.  The book is divided into these sections: A Strong Foundation (my favorite), Personal Growth through Helping Others, Strength in Adversity, Power to Live a Consecrated Life, and Help for the Last Days (where among other things, he recommends looking for the Lord’s hand in our daily lives). You simply can’t go wrong by studying the teachings of a living prophet.

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Eliza: The Life and Faith of Eliza R. Snow

by Karen Lynn Davidson, Jill Mulvay Derr

I don’t know a lot about Eliza R. Snow except that she was an early Relief Society president and that she is responsible for one of my favorite quotes about womanhood: “Tell the sisters to go forth and discharge their duties, in humility and faithfulness and the Spirit of God will rest upon them and they will be blest in their labors. Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise.” Well, this book about her is informative and insightful, but it is also lovely. The pages and photos and artwork make it just a really pretty book. I really like this up-close look at a woman who lived a life of holiness and sacrifice and service.

FollowProphets52FHE_detail

If you know me at all, you know I love living prophets. Rebecca Irvine created an easy way to teach your children about the lives and inspirational stories from the prophets of the Restoration, from Joseph Smith up until President Monson. The fifteen chapters (for each of the fifteen prophets) all include 3-4 weeks worth of FHE lessons you could use, complete with printables, stories, music suggestions, activities and even additional references for further study. This is a really practical and easy way to teach about our modern prophets.

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Another recent favorite that is only recent to me because I was too distracted when it came out is The Beginning of Better Days. It is a really cool treatise of all the things the prophet Joseph Smith taught about womanhood, mixed with beautiful commentary by Sheri Dew and Virginia Pearce. If you haven’t read that one yet, it’s worth your time.

Do you have any favorites to add to the list?  [Pay no attention to this subliminal shameless plug about reading my own book, Covenant Motherhood, here. Come on, it’s like my own child. I couldn’t ignore it. :)] What are some good LDS reads that you’ve found particularly inspirational or educational lately?

Book Babble

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Let’s talk about books, shall we?

Books I’m reading:  Right now I’m reading We Were Not Alone: How an LDS Family Survived WWII Berlin and Life of Pi (my book club’s pick for the month).

Books I recently read:  I, Juan de Pareja.  Loved it.  It’s supposedly for children (Newberry Award Winner), but it’s all about Velazquez and Spanish art history, so I really liked it.  (Did you know I lived in Madrid for 3 summers as a young adult?  Sigh, I miss it.)  And Precious Bane.  Oh my goodness, what a beautiful book.  It’s one of those genius books that should have been really famous, but is still largely undiscovered.  There’s one scene that’s kind of PG-13ish, but even with all my book prudishness, the writing and character’s thoughts were so compelling that I just loved it.

Books on my list:  Remember Melanie?  Well, she writes “LDS chick lit,” which I never read.  Except I’ve read all of Melanie’s because I really like her.  And I have to admit that when I read her books, I automatically feel transported to age 24, and I love her sassy protagonists and witty dialogue.  She has a new one that just came out called Twitterpated and I need to get my hands on it.  It’s about a girl whose roommate dares to sign her up (without permission) on an online dating site.  Mayhem ensues.  And probably romance.  Should be a fun read.  Check it out.  I think they’re giving away a copy here.  Yay, Melanie!

Books I’m writing:  I’m writing a book.  That still blows my mind.  It’s about how motherhood is a reflection of all the different roles and missions of the Savior’s ministry.  My goal is to have it finished by May, and published next year.  Start saving up spare change so you can buy it in 2013.  Then when I send a query letter to publishers, I can say, “I already have 23 people lined up to read this book.”  I’m sure that will be the critical selling point. :)

The other book that I contributed to (and incidentally, so did Melanie), Tell Me Who I Am, is available on Amazon now.  I’ve decided I’m officially famous if I’m listed as an author at Amazon.com.  Don’t tell me if I’m wrong.

Books you’re reading:  How about you?  Have you read anything lately that you think the rest of us should read? Do tell.

The Return to Reading

Almost a year ago, I announced that I was beginning to read again now that I’ve emerged from the fog of infant and toddler years. At that time, my readers responded with an insane amount of good book recommendations. I’m happy to report that I have read the following since then (and probably some more that I forgot to record.  I put an asterisk by the ones I enjoyed the most.):

The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Help*

Kathryn Stockett

I obviously haven’t made a ton of progress, but I’m ready to really dig in to your suggestions this year. Matt got me a Kindle for Christmas, and I really love it. My favorite thing about it is easy one-handed reading while I’m all tucked in to my bed covers. Anyway, I’ve made a list from your recommendations of 49 books I’d like to read. Do you think it’s possible I can read them all in 2011?! My goal* is to at least start all of them. Despite my undying trust in your taste, I’m a super picky reader and sometimes things turn me off that don’t bother other people. However, I want to at least give them all a chance, even if I decide partway through that they’re not for me. You can click here to see my list of books I want to read, courtesy of YOU.

*by “goal,” I mean I really want to try.  I’m not going to freak out if  I don’t finish the whole list, but I bet I get a lot more read this year just by trying.

Do you have any must-reads to add to the list that you’ve read in the last year?  Keep in mind my picky criteria:  I’m kind of a book prude (hate blatant sexuality, especially sexual violence, or casual coming-of-age experimentation, as well as child abuse or crass language) and I try to steer clear of dark, brooding, or depressing literature (Seriously, I get discouraged for days just from reading sad news headlines).

Favorite Christmas Books for Families (including a giveaway)

I hope this doesn’t count as playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  I just want to give you some great ideas so you can get a jump start on the holiday season.  We love to read around here anyway, but come Christmas time, I hit the library and clean them out of nativity-related stories (I know, I’m selfish).  We also own several that we love to read every year.  I keep a basket full of Christmas books by the fireplace, and send my children there anytime I want them to settle down.  We all cuddle on the couch and read stories for a while, and we usually read several stories at bedtime as well.  Here are some of our favorites:  (I got the pictures from Amazon.com)

What is Christmas? by Michele Medlock Adams is a sweet rhyming book that talks about the true meaning of the day.

The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri:  I love this one about how Jesus loves us all just as we are.

The Fourth Wise Man by Susan Summers and Jackie Morris: You might have to tell it in simpler words to the youngest children, but the story and pictures are beautiful.  (Incidentally, I watched the movie “The Fourth Wise Man” at a zone conference on my mission and it fast became a holiday favorite for me.  I really recommend it as a great Christmas movie to watch with your family.)
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson.  This is one of my favorite stories about a mouse whose selfish ways turn around when the real story of Christmas changes his heart. So sweet.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas is by the same author,but this one doesn’t count for the nativity-type.  The rhyming text is just whimsical, the story is cute, and my kids love it.

my very first Christmas Story: a very simple board book that tells the true story of Christmas with cute pictures

The Shepherd Boy’s Story: another cute Christmas story board book that encourages children to tell others about Jesus.



The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is an excellent read-aloud about some rotten kids from a troubled family who forced their way into roles in the local Christmas play.  Your children will love reading about all their mischievous antics, and I’ll be surprised if you can read about the actual performance without tearing up.  It’s a great story about the goodness in all of us, even where we least expect it.

Okay, so technically this is not a book. Classic Holiday Stories is a Disney DVD.  I like to read my children some kid-friendly version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or maybe the original text this year. This DVD has the Disney cartoon, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which I think is cute and my boys really liked it last year. It will be fun to watch it again after reading the story.

Finally, I recieved this book as a gift from Jana Parkin (a.k.a. Charette in the blogging world) a few weeks ago.  It is called What Think Ye of Christmas? by Ester Rasband. 

Jana did all the artwork for the book in beautiful watercolor paintings.  It is really a lovely book that explains the Christian message behind all the symbols of Christmas time.  It helps you to find and recognize Christ even amidst a commercial wonderland.  “All things bear record of Him.” It encourages you to live out that Spirit of Christ as you celebrate the holiday.  And Jana’s paintings are so masterful and charming.  We went out to lunch the day she gave me the book as a gift, and after I took it home and read through it, I wished I had kidnapped her to come home with me and paint something beautiful like that on my walls.  Would you like to win a free copy of “What Think Ye of Christmas?” Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing for this fantastic Christmas book, courtesy of the artist herself.  For anyone who would like to purchase copies as gifts, you can do so here (you can find a discount code on Jana’s blog).  Drawing will be open through Thanksgiving Day.

Do you have any favorite Christmas books in your family?

It is quite vexatious.

I just finished reading Emma by Jane Austen.

Then I watched the really old 6-part miniseries of Emma (because it’s an instant download on Netflix).

And whenever I finish reading anything by Jane Austen, no matter how many times I’ve read it, my brain starts thinking in old English.  And, upon my word, it is quite tiresome. I half expect a servant to announce my arrival as I go from room to room.

You may recall that I’m an adoring Austen fan.  I can’t really discern why, as I’m not extremely formal nor romantic; nevertheless, I can return to her books and the adaptions of them over and over again and never find them tedious.  Sorry, I just can’t get the tainted language out.  I shall exert myself.  :)

Anyway, Emma has never been my favorite Austen heroine.  Like Mr. Knightley does on occasion, I find her indulged and careless.  But this time around, I saw a lot of myself in Emma, and that surprised me.  For the first time, I realized some parallels between her love story and my own, especially how she tried to help a friend to make a match and was surprised to find out that his affections were directed toward herself.  (Of course, in her case, it led to shock and disgust.  In my case it led to shock and then marriage.)  Also, like Emma, I like to laugh, and sometimes I find myself in an annoying situation (for those familiar with the novel, think about the outing on Box Hill), and I use my own humor or wit to make it tolerable.  Once at a boring and tiny-bit contentious PTO meeting, I cracked a few jokes to “lighten things up” a little, and like Emma did with Miss Bates, ended up offending someone unintentionally.  So, when I saw the comparison, I too felt personally rebuked by Mr. Knightley when he expressed his disappointment in her– “Badly done, Emma.  Badly done.” — and I felt her shame as she rode home in the carriage in tears.  I’m still not sure what to make of the fact that I’m more like a character I’ve never really liked than I thought I was.

I like to think that the Austen heroine I’m most like is Elinor from Sense and Sensibility.  In many ways, I relate to her the most.  She is the oldest child, the responsible one.  She is practical and realistic, but has deep feelings.  She is clever and consoling and gives good advice.  I like Elinor.  I love Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, too, especially for her wit and spunk.  One thing I like about both of them is that they do not have a brooding nature; they forge on with what must be done even when they are suffering or confused.  My favorite heroine is Anne Elliott from Persuasion.  I don’t think I am like her, because she is too kind and patient, but she is the character I most admire.

How about you?  I know there are some more Austen fans out there.  Who is your favorite heroine and why?  And which one do you think you are the most like?  We’ll have to save the discussion of favorite male characters for another day.  Good heavens, that deserves a discussion of its own.

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