Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"Aslan's World" by Angus Menuge

I. Loved. This. Book.

This Bible study is broken into six sections that each tackle some part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Biblical truths that are presented fictionally by C. S. Lewis in that book.  I learned a lot from it, and I'm going to have my son use it for school later this year.  It's aimed at probably middle school on up, but younger kids could get a lot from it too, with more help from an adult or parent.  

There's a leader guide at the back with some explanations and answers, and also a list of additional resources for those looking to dig deeper.  My Christmas wish list just got longer, friends.

This was published in 2006 in book form, but it's out of print now, except as a downloadable Bible study offered by Concordia Publishing House.  However, you can find used copies other places.  I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the first Narnia book, or the Narnia world as a whole.

This has been another book read for My Year with C.S. Lewis, and also my 44th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Monday, November 23, 2020

"Tales of the Black Widowers" by Isaac Asimov

My father-in-law recommended Isaac Asimov's mysteries starring the Black Widowers to me because he knows I like mysteries and he considers these some of the best.

Please note that my copy of this book had a much bigger picture of a spider on the cover and I had to cover it with a sticky note so I could read it in comfort.  Ugh.  I wish I would have had this much smaller spider picture, though I probably would have put a sticky note over it too.

Annnnnyway, this was a pretty entertaining collection of stories.  The Black Widowers are a bunch of men in and around NYC who get together once a month to have dinner in a restaurant's private room, no women allowed.  One month, one of them tells the others about a mystery they can't solve.  Their waiter, Henry, solves it.  Next month, same thing.  Every month, one of them presents a problem or puzzle or mystery, and Henry the waiter inevitably solves it.  It's a cute premise for a short story series.  And some of the mysteries were quite clever.  

But I figured out a third of them before they ended, and I'm always a bit dissatisfied if I figure out a mystery before the reveal.  It feels like I've been cheated, somehow.  You see, I don't TRY to figure it out.  But if the answer is there, jumping out at me, well, then I feel like the author could have done better, I'm afraid.

Also, I didn't really like most of the characters.  Many of them were rude or unkind to each other, and the only one I liked much was Henry.  But we never got to know Henry at all, he's always in the background, and so I couldn't connect with him, even though I would have liked to.  I can see why f-i-l likes these, as they're very cerebral little puzzles, but I need more than that from a mystery to make me like it enough to want to read more in the series.  So I'm going to see if he wants my copy of this and one of the follow-up volumes that I also had picked up at a used book store at some point.

And that means I got TWO books off my unread shelves by reading one!  This is my 43rd book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020, huzzah.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some mild curse words and mild innuendo in dialog, and for some discussions of crimes, including murder.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"A Very Bookish Thanksgiving" by Kelsey Bryant, Sarah Holman, J. Grace Pennington, Rebekah Jones, and Amanda Tero

This is a charming collection of five novellas, each revolving around a different classic book, and each centered around giving thanks for blessings, especially on Thanksgiving Day.  If you're looking for something clean and heartwarming to read as you prepare for Thanksgiving yourself, this is a great pick!  I can't think of many books that revolve around Thanksgiving, so it was really refreshing and different that way.

A Promise of Acorns by Kelsey Bryant and A Fine Day Tomorrow by Amanda Tero were definitely my favorites here, but all five stories were enjoyable.  I handed this to my 13-yr-old son when I was almost done with it, and he liked it a lot too.

A Promise of Acorns by Kelsey Bryant is about a young nanny at her first real nannying job, caring for two grandchildren of a reserved and remote art professor.  He asks her to teach his grandchildren about Thanksgiving traditions, and all of them learn many things by the end of the story.  This one is inspired by Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

As Long as I Belong by Sarah Holman is about a young woman with a less-than-ideal family life who is befriended by another family.  As she grows up, she grows closer to one of their sons while working together on the family campground/pumpkin patch, but newcomers make her feel unwelcome, and she wonders if it's time to move on with her life.  This one is inspired by Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  This was my son's favorite.

The Windles and the Lost Boy by Rebekah Jones is about a trio of siblings who help protect a runaway boy with the help of a mysterious man with a reputation for helping lost people.  This one is inspired by Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, and was my son's other favorite.

Grand Intentions by J. Grace Pennington is about a young woman who dreams of being an author, but whose life always seems to get in the way of her having the time to write.  When her grandmother asks her to house-sit for her while she goes on a long trip, the girl believes she'll finally have time to really write.  But she learns that the lack of time is not what's holding her back.  This one is inspired by Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

A Fine Day Tomorrow by Amanda Tero is the only piece of historical fiction here.  Set during WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919, it follows four sisters as they struggle with many troubles both personal and societal.  Their father is a chaplain in the army, and one sister's fiance is also in the army.  The story focuses on that sister and her attempts to help others despite not being quite healthy and strong herself.  This novella has a lot of heartbreak, but also a lot of hope and love and joy.  And, since we're still battling our own pandemic, it's a timely read as well.  This one is inspired by Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I loved the idea for this anthology, of not so much retelling classic books as using them to highlight similar struggles that the characters in these stories face.  Each book plays a role in the story it inspired, which was also a neat touch.  

This is a "limited edition" collection, which I assume means it will not be available forever.  It also appears that there will be more collections in the works! You can learn more from the Instagram account A Very Bookish Holiday.

(Mine from my Instagram account)

Particularly Good Bits:

What a pity I wasn't in a novel where my author fed me words woven with pen, ink, and contemplation (p. 45, A Promise of Acorns by Kelsey Bryant).

While some might find sewing the same thing over and over a boring, tedious job, Essie enjoyed the monotony. She found an odd comfort in the little, reliable things in life. A quarter-inch seam was a quarter-inch seam. Its plans wouldn't be changed (p. 365, A Fine Day Tomorrow by Amanda Tero).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Good, clean, wholesome storytelling.

This is my 42nd book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

"Over the Moon" by Natalie Lloyd

How ridiculous of me to have this book sitting on my unread shelves for a whole year.  I kept wanting to read it and always having some other thing I "needed" to read, like a book for a book club or a buddy read, or something due at the library, or whatever.

Well, anyway, I've read it at last.  And I loved it.  I didn't love it for like the first two-thirds of the book, I just liked it a lot, but that ending!  I had tears in my eyes repeatedly during the last couple of chapters.

Twelve-year-old Mallie lives in a mining town that has lost hope.  And lost light.  They live in a gloom caused by mysterious dust that blocks out the sun.  Monsters prowl the woods, scaring children and keeping people from trying to leave.  Once, their world had magic, light, and joy, but now it is a place of creeping despair.


Until Mallie and her friends take on a dangerous mission, uncover some highly unpleasant truths, and soar above the gloom and fear that has consumed their lives.  

Also, this book has flying horses, and I LOVE FLYING HORSES.  They aren't in nearly enough books, and I'm so glad this book has them :-)

Particularly Good Bits:

I'm still learning many things about myself, but I already know this much: I'm wild and brave on the inside, a fire-popper in a glass jar (p. 7).

As sure as I know my name, I also know this much is true: I am still brave enough to dream (p. 16).

Denver takes my hand, and it's a perfect fit, a key inside a trusted lock (p. 28).

"You," I breathe, "are wonderwow" (p. 82).

"It's a pet peeve of mine, when people say girlish or boyish like it's an actual insult" (p. 163).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for danger, peril, some scary monsters, and abusive behavior toward children.

This is my 40th book read from my unread shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020!!!  And that was one of my goals for that challenge!  My other goal is to have 12 fewer unread books OVERALL in my house by the end of the year, and I'm still working on that one...

Saturday, November 7, 2020

"The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Any time I start to feel like my life is horribly hard, I need to reread this book.  Covid and lockdowns and cancelled plans and no vacations are hard, yeah... but I'm not watching my kids slowly starve.  I'm not twisting hay into sticks to keep my house just warm enough so that my family can starve instead of freeze to death.  I'm not facing down day after day of numbing misery while trying to keep the spirits of my children from faltering.

I can barely imagine the kind of fortitude.  I don't think anyone in this country really can anymore.

I read this aloud to my husband and kids this fall.  My husband has never read these books, and he's more engrossed in them than my kids are.  That makes it extra fun for me as a reader :-)

Particularly Good Bits:

"We wouldn't do much if we didn't do things that nobody ever heard of before" (p. 32).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Although the subject matter is heavy, it's written in a non-scary way.

This is my 8th book read for my third Classics Club list.