Tag Archives: Book Club

June 2022 Books

So, I had a bit more time this month for reading. I finished 7 titles and started another. That one will take me a while. I’ll start there so I can explain.

About 8 years ago, a group of ladies I knew decided to start Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. I’d never read it nor had the desire to but this group got me a bit excited to read it. It is a daunting sized book at about 900 pages. As a group, I guess they felt the same way as the group never got past 2 weeks and a couple of chapters. I saw the book the other day and decided to tackle it again. I am about 100 pages in. It is a strange story so it is not a fast read. But I am going to push on because I am curious about how this is going to go for the next 800 pages. Is it going to continue with the main character seemingly so crazy as to fancy himself a knight-errant and facing all the thing he read in his fantasy stories? Or is something going to change drastically and take the story in a completely different path? I don’t know so I’ll keep on and see.

I read 2 books by Nik Wallenda, of the Flying Wallenda family. I started with Facing Fear. It was a touching, challenging, and wonderful book to read. Life is seldom what we expect or dream. It can be better or it can be worse. Either way, fear can prevent us from living life. Nik Wallenda delves into how he handles fear in his day to day life and in the job he does. Spiritual strength, his connection with the one true God, helps he in his daily struggles to keep focused and push forward into dreams. Reliving one of the worse high wire accidents of history in which he was the one in charge, he helps the reader see how worshiping God will render fear helpless. God is the one who pulls us through the hard times and helps us focus in the daily needs. I found this such a wonderful book that I bought additional copies for a couple of friends whose names stayed in my head during the reading of this book. My teenage daughter read through it almost as fast as I did, finding a connection with the performance aspect and finding worship in what you daily do. Highly recommend.

The other book by Nik Wallenda was Balance. Nik Wallenda takes us through his early life, his training, and his understanding of the balance of faith and life. His writing is engaging and we desire to see how he pursued life with an energy that drives forward continually. Without losing the focus of God working in his life, Wallenda shows us how he dealt with many of the challenges in his life. From his childhood and on through some of the biggest walks of his life on the high wire, we see the worship take center stage as he strives to show the world God through his performance. A beautifully written memoir.

When Shovels Break by Michael Shank is the follow up book to Muscle and A Shovel. In the first book, we read the conversion story of Michael and his wife. The second book is about living a Christian life and returning to it when you have fallen away. Michael is candid about the difficulties he faced, what pulled him away from Christ, the sins he chose and bore the consequences of, and how he returned to the one who loves him. This second book delves into the difficulties culture places on new Christians, how the flame of love can be extinguished, and how a seemingly good person can be living a double life. It is a good reminder to look beyond the surface of what you know about folks, get to know them, and offer help at every turn.

The Last Rose of Shanghi by Weina Dai Randel was a book I got from Amazon Prime First Read so it was an ebook. I found this historical fiction book a quick and enjoyable read set in WWII. It focuses on two unlikely people: a young Jewish refugee seeking work and life for him and his sister in Shanghai and a young Chinese woman who is a business owner seeking freedom from tradition and family culture. The struggles these two face are large and heavy but they keep pushing forward, seeking a way through the challenge. Music and friendship and love help them both to keep refocusing on what is best and through all the twists, turns, and cruelty of war, life can be good.

The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy was another ebook I had. Told in alternating voices between Flora, a game keeper’s daughter, and Lexi, Flora’s daughter, this is a story of difficulty in relationship, love, and life. Lexi is returning home to the Scottish highlands after her vocal career in London is no longer viable due to damage to her vocal chords and a dead relationship with a producer and following the death of her mother. However, she is taking home with her a new life in her daughter. As Lexi is struggling to learn her new place in the world and figure out what to do with her life, she is also exploring the world she grew up in and the secrets that her mother held. Through the friends of her mother’s and friends of her own, Lexi is reliving her mother’s life and learning much about community. Flora had lived through WWII and her beloved home port, Loch Ewe, became a naval base for the Home Fleet. From there, convoys were staged to supply the Russians who were struggling against the German forces. These dangerous Arctic convoys were a big part of the life of the community and Lexi learns just how important they were through piecing together her family’s history. It was an interesting look at yet another part of WWII.

Sold On A Monday by Christina McMorris was a depression era novel that I enjoyed. An accidental photo leads to a reporter’s big break. It is quickly followed by a mistake that destroy’s the perfect photo. Recreating the photo slightly different leads to unexpected consequences that follow the reporter through life. Life in the US following the stock market crash left hard times everywhere but for Ellis Reed, this photo gave him a glimpse of a difficult past while leading him into what he viewed as better times. For the newspaper secretary Lillian Palmer, she also sees her past and it invoked a lot of emotion. These two follow their stories forward, propelled by this single photo. This was a unique look at how some of the lives were lived during the Depression and those difficult days. I found it an enjoyable story and it was an easy read. It definitely took some twists and turns but left a pleasant feeling at the ending.

Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K Runyan is another WWII story. Starting in the beginning stages of WWI in the remote part of Russia, we meet Katya. Her mother is struggling to keep them alive as the poverty is extreme in their area. Katya is smart and works hard to earn a place in a pilot training program, despite poor teachers who see her as nothing more than a girl who can marry and work and produce children. She and the other young ladies continue to work hard and earn their wings, again despite teachers who do not think women should fly. Earning the right to be a part of a women’s bomber group in the Russian Army, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, she learns to love, live, and strive for peace among some of the worst conditions possible. Her regiment’s success is celebrated and the enemy gives them the nickname “Night Witches.” The story of love, life, loss, and hope is one that is lived the world over in daily life and war time, peace and struggle. Based on an actual group of women pilots and navigators, I enjoyed this story a lot.

I always enjoy hearing about other titles so please share anything you enjoyed reading in the comments.

Lori, At Home.

August Wrap-up ~ Online Book Club

Our theme for the online book club this month was Newbery books. This could be any take on things so I chose to read the newest award winner and an honor book that I have been meaning to read that I have had on my shelves.

The newest award winner book is titled “When You Trap A Tiger” by Tae Keller. With one major exception, for which I would not allow my elementary aged students to read this book, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Lily and her mom and sister move in with her Halmoni (grandmother) and a whole new world opens up for Lily. She is thought of as a quiet Korean girl and often sits in that stereotype politely. But when she sees the tiger and learns that her Halmoni is very ill, she realizes that she has to become bold and fierce. Making new friends and facing her fears, she does just that and learns that freedom comes in different ways.

I truly enjoyed the story but had a haunch early on that there was something being hinted at that I wouldn’t like. And I was right. I Do NOT understand why authors and publishers have decided that there has to be a homosexual character in every single new book. It truly ruined this story for me. It was not overtly done but it was made clear at the end of the book. And it made me sad. The storyline had nothing to do with this and it was truly included solely for the purpose of saying it was inclusive or whatnot. But for that reason I will not recommend this book. I would not be opposed to my girls choosing to read it because we have had discussions about the agenda some authors/publishers/media executives have about homosexuality and they know the truth about God’s will. They know that this lifestyle is sinful. Still, I would not recommend this book to anyone. (For parents, if you are reading aloud, you could easily skip that part and where it was sort of hinted at early on, if you choose to.)

The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell is the other book I read this month for the theme. I truly enjoyed it. I had started it a couple of times during the school year last year but never got very far in it while my daughter was reading it. I really enjoyed this story of a teenager on trial for breaking the law of Spain, while in New Spain, in 1541. He was part of a group of explorers, though he was a cartographer. They sought gold in Cibola. When they found it and he ended up with it, he did not turn in the required 1/5 for the king. Thus, he is on trial. The story of how he came to be in possession of the gold and now on trial is found in the story.

This was truly and enjoyable read. I loved hearing how the expedition went, looking at the maps as they are included in the story, hearing about the people met and the cities visited. It was such an adventure. The ending is pleasing and leave some openings for interpretation and your own guess about what is going on in the future. I would recommend this one. I could make a great read-aloud. It is also a good read for a middle school or high school student to go along with a history program fitting the 1500s and the time of explorers in the New World.

Our library system has a great little pamphlet that they keep available, among others, that lists all of the Newbery medal winners. It could make for a neat reading challenge for the girls. So, I am kind of mulling that around in my head.

Did you read any Newbery books this month?

Lori, At Home.

Newbery Medal Books ~ August online book club

Well, this is an interesting one for me. I haven’t paid attention to Newberry books for a very long time, about 18 years, honestly. I barely cared much then and I was a teacher. Okay, so I taught music but I used a ton of books in my music classes for my PK – 5th grade students. The tie ins were just so easy!

From my understanding, each year the American Library Association chooses one book as the winner and a few honor titles. It originated in 1921 and is currently administered by the American for Library Service to Children, a division of the ALA. The original proposal stated the purpose as: “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.” It was the first award for children’s books.

So, what am I going to do? I don’t know. I have been browsing the list of the winners and honor titles on the main site and have found several that I have read, several I have no desire to read, and several that look sort of interesting. I will probably read some of the older ones.

I am challenging myself to read, or at least look at, the current winner. I will share the books I have on my own shelves at the end of the month. But I’ll be honest – I struggle with the Newbery Medal books because they are such a tiny little section of the literature out there. I tend to pick books because they are well-written or interesting, not because they have a seal on their cover. However, some of my favorites are in the list for the Newbery Award. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s works received 5 recognitions with this award. I can name a number of authors that I respect that have works here yet they are still just a small portion of the literature out there. See my list below for the tip of the iceberg.

Also, when the ALA changed the title of one of their awards due to pressure from those who felt Laura Ingalls Wilder had racial issues in her works, I really lost a lot of my appreciation for what they do. (The ALA may have renamed the Wilder Medal but Laura Ingalls Wilder will always be a legacy writer in my eyes and any children I can influence.)

Some of the Newbery books the I like (and there were plenty of others I did not list!) include:

  • 2016 Honor Book The War That Saved My Life;
  • 2013 winner The One And Only Ivan;
  • 2010 Honor Book Where The Mountain Meets The Moon;
  • 2001 winner A Year Down Yonder;
  • 2000 Honor book Our Only May Amelia;
  • 1999 honor book A Long Way From Chicago;
  • 1990 winner Number the Stars;
  • 1984 honor book Sign of the Beaver;
  • 1979 winner The Westing Game;
  • 1963 winner A Wrinkle In Time;
  • 1962 winner The Bronze Bow;
  • 1959 honor book The Family Under The Bridge;
  • 1955 winner The Wheel on the School;
  • 1953 honor books Charlotte’s Web and The Bears on Hemlock Mountain;
  • 1950 winner The Door In The Wall;
  • 1948 winner The Twenty-One Balloons;
  • 1948 honor book Misty of Chincoteague;
  • 1946 honor book Justin Morgan Had A Horse;
  • 1945 honor book The Hundred Dresses;
  • 1944 honor book The Happy Golden Years;
  • 1942 honor book Little House On The Prairie;
  • 1941 honor books Blue Willow and The Long Winter;
  • 1940 honor books The Singing Tree and By The Shores of Silver Lake;
  • 1939 honor book Mr. Popper’s Penguins;
  • 1938 honor book On The Banks of Plum Creek;
  • 1934 winner Invincible Louisa;

Do you have a favorite Newbery winner? What is the title?

Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the other participating in the online book club –

Hopkins Homeschool
At Home: Where Life Happens
A Net In Time

Every Bed of Roses
Homeschool Coffee Break 

Online Book Club – July is Dream Destinations

Does July have you dreaming of vacation times? Maybe you get to take a vacation of sorts this year? I know many of us are still dreaming of that one special vacation. At Home Dad and I had planned to take a trip to England last year to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Like so many other things, it did not happen and it may be a while before we get to head off to that dream destination. So what can I read that will help curb some of those desires that can’t be indulged right now?

I am going to be reading some of the vacation books that we had for England.

Lonely Planet has a guide book simply titled Great Britain that is on my travel stack.
I also have a lovely book called Walking London by Andrew Duncan. It has some really interesting walks to take and the stories to go along with them.
Another walking tour book that has tons of interesting information is Turn Left at the Pub:Twenty Walking Tours Through The British Countryside by George W. Oakes and Anton Powell.
The final book on the stack for that dream destination is titled Curiocity: An Alternative A-Z of London by Henry Eliot & Matt Lloyd-Rose.

But, since you are reading up on book club, you understand that some dream destinations are intentionally in your head through stories. I picked up this book at the library that caught my attention as I was walking by one of the stacks

Wild & Free Book Club: 28 Activities to Make Books Come Alive is going to be a lovely way to read up on some possible destinations. My youngest may be 12 but she is still very much a hands-on learner and so this may help me introduce a few new books to her with fun activities to boot. And that type of thing really transports you to the place of the book, thus how I see this one fitting into the dream destination idea.

Finally, I am going to read A Devil To Play: One Man’s Year-long Quest To Master The Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument by Jasper Rees. This one is a skills destination but a dream one just the same. I love the French horn. It is my instrument of choice and I hope that very soon I can rejoin the community band and play with them. Until then, I will read about one attempt to hit the destination of playing the horn well.

That’s my plan for the next 3 weeks or so. Do you have any dream destination reading you are doing?

Be sure to visit the other participating in the online book club –

Hopkins Homeschool
At Home: Where Life Happens
A Net In Time

Every Bed of Roses
Homeschool Coffee Break 

Lori, At Home.

Online Book Club – end of June wrap up for Beach

You know, June kind of flew by and I don’t know where it went! Actually, I do – church camps and dance. A lovely time but here we are and June is now done. So, what did I read that hits the theme of “Beach?” I’ve got two for you and neither were planned, which is kind of fun.

Sprinting Through No Man’s Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France by Adin Dobkin

This was a Kindle book I grabbed when it was free. I thought it sounded sort of interesting. It is. I am really enjoying it but it is a slow read for me so I’m not quite done with it. I thought it sort of hit the brief for the theme of beach because the beaches come up several times as they travel around France.

This is the story of the 1919 Tour de France. Most, if not all, of the cyclists were straight off the battle field. No training, little to no time for family, poor bicycles, and lots of hardship. These men were willing to do this not for the prize money but for the strength of the country. France needed this and these men were doing more of what they had done as soldiers – stay strong for the good of the country. This is the story of their hardships – they were lied to about what the conditions of the road were; they were supposed to have tires provided and did not; they had strict rules to follow that made horrible conditions worse; and much more.

I did not know that they ran the Tour that year but this is a whole new look at it. I have enjoyed this story and will enjoy it to the end. It is a tough narrative to read as it isn’t the exciting retelling that you might expect but it is written with as straight-forward a telling as possible so that you are not swayed with emotion – good or bad – for the riders or the organizers or the people along the way. It does bring to light the condition of so many in the year 1919 as the war ended. I can definitely recommend this book.

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

I found this a quick and fun little book to read about getting one’s life back on track after a shift in your plans that you can’t plan for. Noreen is sidetracked by a layoff, losing everything that she thought defined who she was. In trying to get herself back to, well, herself, she makes some new friends and they start walking together. This builds a strong friendship and they all help each other through life transitions, difficulties, and the joy of day to day living. This is the kind of book that you want to read just for fun and you sort of fly through.

So, why is this a beach read? Well, they spend a large part of their walking time on the beach. So, there you go. 🙂 Living close to a beach made it possible for them so it plays into their story a bit.

I just found out that it is technically book 1 of a series so maybe I’ll look for the others just for the fun of it. I loved that it was a beach read that was about friendship, not romance. That is a bit unusual. Yes, there is a smidge of that but it is all a part of the friendship/getting life back together stuff, not the whole book.

Other books read, non-beach-themed include:
These Tangled Vines – by Julianne Maclean (fiction)
Immerse – by Dale Jenkins (non-fiction, Biblical)
Vienna Prelude – by Bodie Thoene (fiction)
Hey Ranger! – by Jim Burnett (non-fiction)
Help Your Kids Learn & Love The Bible – by Danika Cooley (non-fiction, review coming up in July)

That’s the wrap-up. What did you read this month?

Lori, At Home.

Online Book Club – Migrations

Migrations was a tough theme for me since we aren’t in the homeschool time where a theme is easy to incorporate. Also, I couldn’t think of any good books just for me to read for the theme of migrations. My personal reading came through, though, to my surprise.

Walking The Bible: A Journey By Land Through The Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler

Walking The Bible is the story of Mr. Feiler’s journey to follow the footsteps of the people in the first five books of the Bible. This truly is an epic journey, employing walking, driving, camels, rowboat, and more. It took more than a year on the path and more in planning. But it brought him to where he was wondering if he could come – to an understanding of God and man’s relationship with God.

Mr. Feiler is a Jew and there is much in here about the history of the Jews, not just in the Bible, but in time. Keep your Bible close while reading this one, as you’ll want to keep up with the stories they are following and double check the facts and stories. I found new details from the accounts that I didn’t know. I learned a lot about the Jewish culture, as well as the bedouin, Egyptian, and other peoples from the Middle East. I learned much about the land itself while Mr. Feiler and Avner, his guide, traveled and talked to people.

Learning more about other culture’s beliefs and understandings helps me see more about the truth of the Bible and the God of the Bible. It made me search more in the word of God to understand where others got their belief from and how it aligns or doesn’t with God’s word. It was really quite interesting.

So, how is this a book about migrations? Well, I could state the obvious, since these men traced the paths of Adam and his sons, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the Israelites. These men migrated from one place to another as God directed them.

But it is also a personal migration for the author of the book. He went from a Jew who barely believed, to one who was proud to call himself a believer in God and a member of the people that were brought out of Egypt. He understood more about God, the relationship of God and His people, and the land to which they were brought.

Please note that this book is a Jewish man searching for more understanding of the Jewish beliefs, not a Christian book, though Christians do believe in the truth of the first five books of the Bible. Just note where their belief differs from Christianity. This book is still a fabulous study of the first five books and how archaeology will support the truth of the book.

This is one I had tried to read a few times previously but got stuck in the significant study that I wanted to do to go along with it. It is a fascinating book and I am glad that I had the head space to be able to read it through now. This “migration” of understanding is wonderful and I would definitely recommend this book for strengthening your understanding of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

As I was working on this, I found a video on the book by the author. It might be worth viewing. I’ll be watching it soon.

Please visit the others who are participating in the Online Book Club, hosted by Hopkins Homeschool.

Hopkins Homeschool
The Life We Build
A Net In Time
Homeschool Coffee Break 

Lori, At Home.

Online Book Club – March Wrap-up

March means Irish and green and fresh and new for me. I enjoyed rereading a novel about an ancestor from my past. Honor O’Flynn: a search for the True Will of God, by James P Bailey, is the story of Honor and how she came to be in America. I had forgotten a good bit of the story line so it was good to read it again.

In the book, Honor was kidnapped off the coast of Ireland when she was a young teen. During the horrific days that followed in the hollows of a nasty ship, she is friended by a kind woman and a teenage boy. The woman sold herself as an indentured servant so she could provide for her children, hoping to bring them to America before long. The boy came to make a better life than he could have had in England. Honor was going to be sold as a “tobacco wife” to the highest bidder. These friends helped her more than she could imagine.

Honor had thought she was meant to serve God as a nun in her hometown teaching children. This new turn of events had her perplexed and she was seeking to see God in her new circumstances. She learns that things are not always what we plan and that God can be served where you are.

Honor does marry, willingly, William Logsdon and goes on to live a long life in America. These two are actually in our family line, though this is a novel. It was unclear by reading the notes in the book how much of this is created and how much is based on fact. It is a fun read, nonetheless, and is a good story, indicative of the times.

I didn’t search for any other books for the theme this month.

Please visit the other participants to see what they read this month. There has been a variety of books this month.
Hopkins Homeschool
The Life We Build
Homeschool Coffee Break
A Net In Time

Lori, At Home.

March Online Book Club

The theme this month is St. Patrick’s Day. Honestly, with older kids, this is a harder theme for me. When they were younger, I would have just grabbed a bunch of books. I mean, just look at what we had in our March book basket a couple of years ago. Now, I’m. thinking Irish and Ireland. But I can’t find anything here at the house. How do I have this hole in my book collection?

I have one book in mind but I can’t think of the title and I can’t find it in my Kindle books, though I feel certain I bought it. It is the story of a family member who was kidnapped on the coast of Ireland and brought to America to be sold to be someone’s wife. We are unsure about how much of it is accurate, though we know this girls existed and is in our family line. (My mom found the title of the book for me and I do have it on my Kindle, though I don’t know why I couldn’t find it! It is called Honor O’Flynn: a search for the True Will of God.)

Do you have any suggestions for books related to St. Patrick’s Day or anything Ireland, Irish, or related? I need some ideas! Maybe some travel books. I enjoy those.

Check out what others are planning for the month.
Hopkins Homeschool
The Life We Build
Homeschool Coffee Break
A Net In Time

Lori, At Home.

February Online Book Club Wrap-up

So, as much time as we had at home, I didn’t read nearly as many love-themed books as I had planned. I was unable to get to the library to see if they had a print copy of the CS Lewis book The Four Loves, which I had really wanted to read. I’ll keep it on my radar and maybe I can get it before long.

The book on theme that I did read was My Mother’s Quilts. I treated it as a devotional book, reading three or four thoughts per day. Each of the thoughts was based on a quilt one of her family members had created, running all the way back to the Civil War era. The thoughts focused on family but also on lessons the Lord can create from daily encounters or common items. This is a highly recommended one. Just beware – you may want to start quilting. I know I do but my machine isn’t working right and I can’t find anyone to fix it!!!

I read a couple of others books that hit on the idea of love in a different way:

Animal Days by Desmond Morris – This book shows how much the love of learning or a profession can drive your life and make it something you are really proud of. This is the story of a zoo keeper and how he ended up there, where the zoo life took him, and many of the lessons he learned from it. I really liked this book and would recommend it.

When I Was Yours by Lizzie Page – This is a novel about a family who takes in a refugee from London during WWII. It jumps back and forth between the years of WWI and WWII, tying memories and choices to their current day situations. It highlights how choices affect others and how we can make one choice that will change the course of our lives for the better. This is one I enjoyed (there was a scene or two that I wish weren’t included – the shock value is useless and it cheapens the book to me).

I also worked on the series of Hamelin Stoop by Robert B Sloan. It is a review for the 3rd book that will post early next week on the Facebook page.

What did you read this month? Do you recommend it?

Be sure to visit the other members of the Online Book Club to see what they are doing this month for the theme of Winter.

Hopkins Homeschool
The Life We Build
Homeschool Coffee Break
A Net In Time

Lori, At Home.

Online Book Club – February

Trying to find where to head with the theme for this month – love.

Seems sort of cliche for the month, doesn’t it? And we don’t really do Valentine’s Day in our family. Never have, really, as it seems to be more of the infatuation sort of “love” that is focused on for the holiday. But we do want to acknowledge that love is important and part of what we need in life. Really, though, we need to be focusing on God’s love and that is where I hope to show my heart to my girls.

With that in mind, I have been wanting to approach the CS Lewis book The Four Loves once more. We listened to it a few years ago on audio, with Lewis doing the reading but I would like to see if I can find it in print for a reasonable price.

The next one I have on my reading list this month is a daily devotional called My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family, and Faith by Ramona Richards. I have read this one before and really like it. The quilt has always represented a showcase of love in my mind as I saw my great-grandmother and grandmother work so hard on them during their lives. So, this one is a sweet devotional focused around the quilt.

The last book I have in my stack for this theme is another read-through of Keep A Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot. This lady stands as an embodiment of showing the love of God to others throughout her lifetime and her writings bring that through well. I have read this one out loud with my girls before and I want to read it on my own now. I enjoy the writing of Elisabeth Elliot and if you have read her writings, you should. Through The Gates of Splendor is an amazing look at the work of herself and others in the jungles of Central America.

I am sure I will find others to pick up along the theme during the weeks of February and there are tons of children’s books that fall here but these are where my mind is at this time of the month, so here you go.

At Home.

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