5 Fiction Highlights from 2020

Hello! As promised, I’m back to share some of my bookish highlights from last year! One of my favourite things is sharing books with people – whether it’s recommendations or actual, physical copies. I wish I could share my copies of these books with you all, they’re that good. But I guess a simple recommendation will have to do instead… I hope that maybe one or two of these books will catch your attention and inspire you to pick them up and read them for yourself. These stories are very, very well written. And there is nothing more delightful than a good story, let me assure you. 🙂

Continue reading “5 Fiction Highlights from 2020”

A Reading Streak Concluded…

To read part 2 of this reading streak saga, click here… Now onto part 3!

gospel of mark
The Gospel of Mark

June came, and with it a brief four day foray into the book of Mark. My church had just put on The Mark Drama, and after 6 weeks of memorizing the structure of Mark and talking about Mark and then rehearsing and performing over an intense weekend, it was finally over. Post-production blues had definitely hit, and I was glad to spend just a few more days in the company of this Gospel with Mum. The only reason we read it was because that particular day, Mum had a migraine and we couldn’t find our other book option. So instead, we lay in the dimness of her room, and read Mark. It was a very good call. Mark was always a very special gospel to me because of performing The Mark Drama with my church, but reading it with my Mum just added to the precious memories I have associated with the book.

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no 1 ladies
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

This was the book that brought me through my graduation. Finally, finally, finally! It seemed as if the 6th of July would never come. As I pushed to finish high school, it was a blessing to take 10 minutes of my otherwise jam-packed days and head out to the African bush in my imagination. I would wash dinner dishes Mum read to me, the clamour of my younger siblings on the trampoline floating in through the open door. It was summer by the time this book finished, and we read the last chapter with me in Dublin airport and Mum back at home. With graduation over, the countdown to university was getting lower and lower, and I was headed on a long-anticipated weeklong mission trip to Ireland…

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let me be a woman
Let Me Be a Woman – Elisabeth Elliot

This book will always be inextricably intertwined with Ireland for me. We started this book whilst I was away on my mission trip in that beautiful country full of warm-hearted people that so desperately need the gospel. I would sneak out after team meetings in the evening and sit on the pavement outside the church where we were staying, listening over the phone to Mum read Elliot’s words of wisdom regarding all things womanhood. Or I would perch outside on a windowsill in the fresh morning air, taking 10 minutes to listen to Mum read before the day’s activities started. I’ll confess it was often a struggle to concentrate on what she was reading. My heart and mind were full with the laughter and fellowship that our team shared during that week, but also burdened by the need that we were faced with when doing outreach among the community. I would often have to shake myself out of my wandering thoughts and focus my brain on what Mum was reading to me – after all, it was valuable stuff! 

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screwtape letters
The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis

We were down to the last month before I left home… What a month it was! We read Screwtape amidst the busy-ness of it all – a graduation trip to London to see a show in the West End, a goodbye open house where 80 odd people showed up. I also worked a 50 hour work week, packed up my entire life into 3 boxes and 2 suitcases, and went to a youth camp for a few glorious, frantic days. This was a month of transition and change and goodbyes. It was nice to have the anchor of reading with Mum through it all. Every day was one less day at home… But every day also brought a few precious moments to hide ourselves away in my bedroom and read a little bit more about Screwtape and Wormwood. Mum and I both were captured by the genius of this book and encouraged by the wisdom it revealed.

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enjoy your prayer life
Enjoy Your Prayer Life – Michael Reeves

We read this little book over the last few days before I moved into college, during the trip across the ocean and the manic few days shopping and prepping and unpacking and repacking. To be very honest, my memories regarding this book are few. I know it was a punchy and impactful read. But there is only so much your brain can retain when you have moved 5000 miles across the ocean and are just about to step into the new adventure called university.

This I do remember… We finished this book late at night, curled up on an air mattress at my grandparent’s house. The light was bright and I was tired after a busy day. It was a typical scene for us – one that had played out many times during our reading sessions over the past few months.

But this time was different. When Mum read the last page and shut the book, we sat in silence for a moment. We both knew that it was the end of an era. The next day I would move into university, and we would say goodbye. She would fly home, and I would begin my life as a university student. We were standing on the edge of a threshold, and I would be the one to take the step across it, leaving her behind. 

She prayed for me that night. I don’t remember exactly what she said. But I do remember her arms around me, holding me close. 

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Thus ended our 387 day reading streak – over a year without missing a day of reading together. I had no idea when we started reading that hot August afternoon in 2018 just how impactful our reading streak would be for our relationship. We spent a year together in the company of books – stories and wisdom, poetry and gospel. The words that she read to me did more than just entertain and educate me – they served to knit our hearts together in a special and unique way. 

So here’s to my precious Mama and the 387 days in a row that she read to me – each book we read was a joy, but the time we spent together was the far greater gift. ❤

I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have regarding this reading streak! Have you ever done anything similar? Let’s chat in the comments!

A Reading Streak Continued…

Click here if you haven’t read last week’s post all about the beginnings of my reading streak…

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just do something
Just Do Something – Kevin DeYoung

2019 moved forward along with my Senior year. Somehow it was now my spring semester and graduation was starting to loom large. This book came at just the right time. I was grappling with like big decisions about which university to pick and how I could know exactly what God’s will was for my life. The truths that this little book contains hit me hard and at just the right time. It’s crazy how accurate God’s timing is. 😀 

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l'abri
L’Abri – Edith Schaeffer

February rolled around, and with it the long-anticipated of a dear kindred spirit from across the ocean. She brought this book with her and joined in on our reading streak with us. We read this book at the end of many delightful days, lying on the living room floor with colouring books and blankets. One glorious weekend was spent in London, with Mum calling us to read as we sat on sun-dappled wooden floors in a house older than America. This book transported us to a chalet perched on the side of the Swiss Alps, containing a family uniquely dedicated to trusting God and ministering to those God brought in their path. The book was good, but made even sweeter by the company I shared it with for a whole glorious month. ❤

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the art of rest
The Art of Rest – Adam Mabry

My main memory of this book is reading it while sitting in the rain in our family van, just around the corner from my work. Mum would drive me to work 10 minutes early and we would sit and read before I ran off to deal with 30 children for three hours. The irony of the combination of the book’s content matter and my life during that time is not lost on me. It seemed that as we moved into March and spring my life only got busier. Graduating wasn’t an easy task, and life seemed full of busyness. It was good to take the time to read this book and be reminded of just how vital rest is in a Christian’s life. 

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the great adventures of sherlock holmes
The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

We then took a break (or perhaps a rest! :D)  from non-fiction and ventured into the mystery genre for the first time. We spent a delightful month solving mysteries along with Sherlock Holmes. It would take us two 10 minute (ish) sessions to finish one chapter mystery, and so we’d have to live in suspense every other day when we stopped in the middle of a chapter. It was a welcome brain relief from the constant pressure that I was finding myself under as I headed rapidly towards exams and graduation. Who knew that murder mysteries could be so amusing? 😀 

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irresistable
Irresistible – Andy Stanley

Easter brought with it a 3 week road trip around Europe, along with this gem of a book. We read it in whispers in a tiny air bnb in Wittenberg, Germany after 16 straight hours in the car. We read it the day I committed to the university I’m now at – during a heavy rainstorm in Prague. I listened to it while curled up in a cosy chalet bedroom surrounded by snowy Austrian Alps. I also listened to it while unconsciously being burnt to a crisp during a swimming break while in Italy. This book will forever be connected to the beauty and history of Europe, though it actually has very little to do with the continent and has far more to do with reclaiming the richness of our Christian faith. 

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freckles
Freckles – Gene Stratton-Porter

Home once again and routine back in place, our next book was this delightful vintage read. Spring was blooming all around and it seemed fitting that this book emphasized nature and the beauty of the natural seasons. As seasons were shifting, both in nature around me and in my own personal life, it was somehow comforting to read the story of this tenacious, tender-hearted one-handed boy and his passion for nature. I also really only remember reading this book in my bedroom, which may contribute to the aura of peace and nostalgia that fills the memories of this book.

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Come back next week to read the final installment of this reading streak series! 

 

 

 

Top 5 Fiction Reads of 2019

Greetings! As promised, I’m back with my first bookish post after my 2019 reading recap. If you haven’t read it you can do so here! 😉 I’m excited to be sharing these books with you. Good fiction is becoming an increasingly rare commodity, so when I find it, I enjoy sharing it with the world. 🙂 

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frankenstein
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I was determined not to like this book. It’s not typically the type of book I go for, and because certain people said that I would like it, I, being contrary, decided I wouldn’t like it. But then I was forced to read it for an English Lit class. And I then totally changed my mind (Surprise, suprise :D).

This book is a literary classic for a reason. Not only is the plot riveting, but it also covers some really deep issues. What makes a creature human? Is evil innate or learned? These question are grappled with time and again throughout this book. I really appreciated the way that Shelley writes. The story is gripping and haunting, heart-breaking and fascinating. It’s not one that you can shake easily, and is definitely worth a read (even if you think it isn’t your type of book at all!). 

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blue birds
Blue Birds – Caroline Starr Rose

This book was a delightful discovery that I made last year. By now you all know that I’m a huge fan of historical fiction. Not only is this book historical fiction, but it is also written in free-verse poetry – another one of my new-found literary loves. This book tells the story of two girls – one white, one Native American – who forge a friendship, despite the adversity of the world they inhabit. The free-verse poetry is such a good way of both separating and intertwining the two girls’ stories – and I loved it. Highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, poetry, or just a good, heart-wrenching story! 

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screwtape letters
The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis

Lewis has become one of my new-found loves. I’ve never read much of his works before 2019 – but I’m now thoroughly enamoured with his books. This book was my favourite of his works’ that I read this past year. Simply put – it’s genius. It’s vividly eye-opening and stark and arresting in all the best ways. Shot through with Lewis’s signature dry humour, it’s an incredibly enjoyable read. I’ve talked a fair amount about it on my blog before – suffice it to say, I really, really like this book. 😀

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lotr
The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien

This classic book took me an inordinately long time to finish. Not because it’s bad – far from it, it’s actually fantastic. But I read it with my Dad and sister and we are notoriously bad at forgetting about things. 😀 However, I finally finished this book in 2019, and I’m incredibly glad that I did so. I now understand all the hype about Tolkien and his incredibly detailed and complex story worlds. The story is richly embroidered with detail and beautiful history and heart. Yes, this book is an absolute tome. But it’s 100% worth it to make your way slowly and carefully through it. It contains the result of an insanely bright man’s brain – and it’s beautiful. 

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The-Boy-Who-Steals-Houses-by-C.G.-Drews
The Boy Who Steals Houses – C.G. Drews

This book broke my heart in the best way possible. It’s chock full of beautifully messy and hilarious and precious people. The story is heart-wrenching and perfect. The writing is all sparkle and glimmers of hope in the overwhelming darkness of life. And you need to read this book. I read it in one breathless sitting one summer night, and finished at 2 am with tears in my eyes. The story displays the brokenness and beauty of humanity so very well, and my heart was both broken and warmed by it. 

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And there you have it – my top 5 books of 2019! I definitely read some fantastic fiction last year, and I’m all the better for it! 😉

What were your top reads of 2019? Have you read any books that I covered in this post? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

The Boy Who Steals Houses – C.G. Drews

The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis

The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien

Blue Birds – Caroline Starr Ro

5 MG Series That I Love

Hello and welcome back!! It’s been a very manic week for me, what with work and extra deadlines and travelling various places and celebrating Thanksgiving… Let’s just say I’m grateful it’s the weekend! Today I was pondering over what to blog about, and I had a genius idea. Well, at least I think it’s quite genius. 😀

If you’ve read my blog for more than about two weeks, I’m sure you’ll be aware that I am a huge historical fiction fan. It’s my first love in the literary world and I am slightly obsessed. However, sometimes my brain is too tired to follow historical fiction (aka me right now after this crazy busy week :D) and I like to turn to something lighter. Cue: middle grade fiction. I know, I know – I’m nearly an adult and theoretically I should be shunning these childish books with every fibre in me. But, nope. I will freely admit that I do enjoy a good middle grade (MG from now on) book. And so today I’m going to be sharing 5 MG series that I love! When I pick up one of these books, I’m immediately hit with a wave of nostalgia and happy memories. These are the books of my childhood, and because I loved them then, I love them now!

Before I share my book picks, I just want to clarify MG for anyone out there that is a bit mystified by the term. According to this source, “Middle grade books are meant for younger readers who are comfortable with longer works, more complex topics and grammar, and full chapters. There’s a huge range of types and styles in this area—everything from Black Beauty to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series could be considered middle grade! Basically, if it’s appropriate for a kid between 8 and 13, it’s probably middle grade.”

I find foraying into (quality!) middle grade fiction refreshing and relaxing. For me, the markers of quality MG books include things like humour, charm, innocence, and the importance of family and good morals. Sadly a lot of MG books published these days don’t fit this criteria (that’s a whole other blog post for another time!). Thankfully over my many years of reading I’ve managed to separate the dross from the silver so to speak, and today I’m going to share my absolute favourite MG series with you! So if you have younger siblings or nieces/nephews or grandchildren or children you babysit, or if you just fancy reading some quality children’s fiction, then this blog post is for you!!

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The Melendy Quartet – Elizabeth Enright

This delightful quartet of books is one of the main series I remember my Mum reading to me as a child. I must’ve been about 10 when she read these aloud to me and my sister. I remember begging for just one chapter more on warm summer nights, and being totally immersed in the world of these hilarious children – the Melendys. One might think that living mother-less during the time of WWII would mean that these four siblings lived depressing lives. Quite the contrary! These books are filled with their heart-warming, hilarious escapades and oh what joy they bring to my heart whenever I think of them! These books make me think of summer and the countryside and the ins and outs of sibling relationships and the loyalty and love of family. These books are timeless in their story and will delight readers of any age. 

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The Penderwicks Series – Jeanne Birdsall

I discovered this MG series relatively late in the game – only about 9 months ago. But the fact that I was so much above the target age range for these books didn’t hinder my deep enjoyment of them whatsoever. These five books tell the quirky and charm-filled stories of the four Penderwick sisters and their adventures over the years as they do life together, gaining new friends, making new enemies, and seeing their family grow. I loved how unique and realistic each sister was – and I should know having four sisters myself! Birdsall is a very solid writer, and I am very excited to get my hands on the final book to see how the Penderwicks’ story ends (I’ve not read book #5 so no spoilers please!! :D). 

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The Circle C Adventures Series – Susan K. Marlow

Of course what would a blog post about books be without at least one historical fiction mention?! 😀 I was introduced to this series about… 8 or 9 years ago probably, and I have been a huge fan of Mrs Marlow’s work ever since. This series chronicles the adventures of Andi Carter – a girl living on a ranch in the 1880s wild west. These stories are full of adventure and excitement – bandits, kidnappings, horse races, gold digging and much more! From the very first book I fell in love with the Andi’s world – how could I not, being such a big history fan! These are quality adventure stories with the added benefit of being solid Christian fiction as well. Plus, Mrs Marlow has written loads of other series about Andi for basically every age – young readers up to young adults! Check out the CCA website here for more information about the many books chronicling Andi Carter’s life.

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Andrew Clements

Ok, I’m going to cheat and recommend a MG author rather than a series. (I’ve picked my top 5 of his books to put in the slideshow above.) This author is Andrew Clements – and I love his writing! I think the first book I ever read of his was Frindle, and since then I’ve read the majority of his works. He writes about kids and their trials and triumphs in daily life and school. His protagonists are real and raw and go through some hard things. But his stories are so unique and engaging and positive that it’s hard not to love his books! The plots truly are so unique and I love being able to step inside the brain of a kid for the duration of the story. These books are more ‘school stories’ rather than ‘family stories’ as some of my other recommendations are – but this makes them unique and I highly recommend them! 

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The Moffats Series – Eleanor Estes

This last series reminds me of the first series I recommended – they are both about four siblings, missing one parent, who live during the time of a world war. However, The Moffats series is actually totally different from The Melendy Quartet. Different authors make for different stories I guess! This series is so wholesome and sweet and hilarious it’s impossible not to love it! I love each and every character for their quirks and foibles and the stories that they create together. This family is one that sticks together, even when times get really rough. They truly love each other, despite all their differences. And oh the escapades they get into! These four books are such a hilarious, delightful snapshot into the life Moffat family – I just love them. 

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So there you have it – 5 MG series that I love!! And now I’m seriously inspired to go reread some MG books – I feel like I’m in need of a dosage of hilarity + sweetness + charm + children in my reading life 😀 

Let’s chat in the comments! Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite MG books?