Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Literary Sense, by E. Nesbit

Before our travels to pick up Bookworm5 I found myself scouring Amazon for free books on Kindle. Most free books on Kindle are a nice thought that I'm not interested in thinking about. However, I did discover that there are a plethora of E. Nesbit books available at no cost and so I proceeded to download every single title of hers that I saw. One such title was The Literary Sense which I recently completely.

Now, I have grown to adore reading Nesbit's books both by myself and with my kids. She was a fairly prolific writer which is an exciting fact if you love her books. I repeat: most of her books (if not all?) are available for free download on the Kindle which is a double treat and one that I highly recommend you take advantage of. I'd not heard of The Literary Sense before but I don't feel very badly about that seeing as how hardly anyone else has either. (Not even one Goodreads review?! And nothing on Amazon. Tsk, tsk!) I launched into the story, oblivious to what I mind find, and found myself delightfully surprised.

The Literary Sense is a collection of short stories definitely not intended for children. There are adult themes running throughout this book and its clear from things that Nesbit found a great deal of merriment in poking fun at her fellow human being. In these stories, which function more as character sketches, Nesbit tickles her own funny bone by pointing out the irrational behaviors of others who suffer from a case of having a "literary sense" (aka a sense for the dramatic). The people she wrote of are always just a little bit over the top in their beliefs and actions towards the realities of life. With Nesbit's typical wit the reader can easily see how silly some folks can be when desperately in love. There is a certain degree of the preposterous running throughout which makes for entertaining reading. Nesbit most certainly had to have chuckled her way through the creation of this book and there seems nothing better to do than to laugh right along with her. If you don't, you'll miss out!

If you like Nesbit in general, you'll want to check out this title because it offers another side to her as a writer. Whether the characters are likable or not is a matter of debate. They aren't really meant to be liked so much as humored. The romances of the foolish generally produce wry smiles so its fair to suggest that you expect to have a wry smile on your face as you read along.

I loved this title because it was unique and somewhat unexpected. Nesbit pokes fun at human nature in a way that hits the nail right on the head without being the least bit offensive. From this title I would deduce that Nesbit was a careful study of human behavior and loved a good laugh. If we are to write books which we ourselves would enjoy, I think she did that for herself with this one. I felt more as if I was reading something she took delight in and caught wind of an inside joke somehow. The joke was so funny its worth passing along and so, with that, I'd recommend The Literary Sense to you. (Remember, it's free! What's to lose?)

"All the same, he was nice, which is something: and she loved him, which is everything." (The Force of Habit)

Other books by Nesbit which we have devoured:

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Green Meadow Series, by Thornton Burgess

Our family got started on reading through Thornton Burgess's Green Meadow series quite by accident. Years ago I had read Old Mother West Wind (linked to review) and wasn't quite sure what to make it of. My lasting reflection was that it was a cheesy story that felt like a "knock off" from other people's tales. (You'll see what I mean if you click that link to my review from back in the day.) Really, I hadn't thought about Thornton Burgess in years. Then, a few months back, Jonathan and I were out on a date night and found ourselves in a bookstore (*cough*cough*). I picked up one of Burgess's Green Meadow stories and flipped through it, thinking it might be an easy independent read for Bookworm2 (age 7) and so brought it home. In the end, instead of him reading the story alone, we read it aloud together. It was a hit!

Thornton Burgess was a great lover of nature and his children's stories are based on animals, whose habits and tendencies Burgess seemed to know quite well. Born in 1874, Burgess spent his formative years on farm land in Massachusettes. He tended cows, picked berries, trapped muskrats and observed the natural world. He spent 50 years of his life writing children's books and as the backdrop for these stories he drew a lot from the landscape which he was so a part of as a young person. All told, he wrote over 170 stories, popularly referred to as "bedtime stories" which have been enjoyed by children the world over.

For our part, after reading our first book from the Green Meadow Series (not the first in order, just the first we picked up) - The Adventures of Happy Jack - we all wanted to read more! I hopped on Amazon and found this set of six books at a royally good price and picked them up. We've been working our way through them ever since. The kids all absolutely love them. They are at times laugh out loud funny and we are often left highly entertained. (These books are super cheap on the Kindle and not at all pricey in paperback.)

Burgess is about the business of telling a moral tale through the use of his animal friends. His characters who are suspicious of others soon learn the importance of trust and kindness. The characters that are show offs and braggarts meet humility in less than kind circumstances. Perhaps the preachiness would bother some but I find the stories so quaint and well-told that the warnings against pride and selfishness are very well-received. The character of Reddy Fox, for example, has given us things to discuss when we're talking over our own behaviors between our own family members. These books are not only fun, but useful!

The Green Meadow series takes a look at a variety of animals in the forest and meadow and we learn the landscape as we spend time with each individual critter. Each title focuses on a different animal who resides in the area. For example:

The chapters are remarkably short and easy to read. We can polish off 7-8 chapters in no time flat making these quick read alouds. They are perfect as independent reads for ages 6-8. Bookworm2 has enjoyed a few titles on his own since we've begun reading them. (It takes him 2-3 days to read one title.)

I'm solidly sold on Burgess as an author of children's stories at this point in time. Not only have I been collecting the titles for us to read, but these are going to be go-to gifts for early readers. It's a beautiful world that Thornton Burgess lived in and created. There is a peacefulness about these books which is hard to find in books these days. If you are looking for an easy early chapter book and like the classic feel - look into these books. I don't think you'll be sorry! For my part, I'm glad I didn't work off of remembrances and impressions from years ago, passing the Burgess title by instead of bringing it home with me. Our reading life has been so enjoyable these days, thanks in large part to Burgess.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Check In

Howdy, howdy!

Well, life has been crazy busy but we seem to be hitting our stride and finding our new normal (to some extent or another). This little blogging break has been a good thing for me and mine as we recently adopted Bookworm 5 (a girl! a sister!) and have been settling into life with her. Things are going well and daily progress is being made but it definitely requires some concentrated efforts and so blogging took a back seat there for the spring. However, I can feel life returning to this ol' blog friend of mine. I double checked and I've been writing here at Reading to Know for ten years this summer. Ten years! It's a little hard to say goodbye to this place in any kind of permanent way.

Life with five kids is a little bit more crazy but I think there'll be time to jot down a quick thought or two on the books I've (still!) been reading. That'll be better than nothing, as I've discovered that not processing my thoughts in writing post-read is rather disastrous for my memory. (As in, I barely remember what I liked about the book even one week later!)

So, hello again. It's nice to feel in a position to come back to blogging a wee bit. And just in time too because we wouldn't want to forget about Ye Olde Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge now, would we? I can't NOT host that and July is just around the corner so . . . get ready!

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

Monday, April 04, 2016

A Hiatus

It rather pains me to post this. . .

But . . . in between finishing up an adoption process (wrapping up here shortly!), and starting a new business, home schooling and living the rest of life, I've come to the determination that blogging needs to take a back seat for at least a little while. Until things settle out and find a new order, I'll take a little break.

Hope you all enjoy a glorious spring!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Who God Says I Am

Sometimes life is messy. Lately it's been just that, a lot of pleasures mixed with a lot of pain. Thoughts are muddled in multiple directions and from multiple sources and that's never fun. It's easy to lose one's self by fixating on the moment. It's so remarkably easy during these times to be blown off course for the simple reason of frustration. Yet we are each called to walk through difficult times and seasons as these times serve a great purpose.

Here is the thing that has been coming (more) clear to me: that in the midst of the whatever, I am still the Lord's. I am still in His hand. I still believe. And what is so wonderful is that no one can remove me from His hand. No one can snatch me out of it or call me anything less. I believe that I am His and He is mine and all I can say in response to that truth is, "Thank you." I'm beginning to see that the only way to survive the storm is to be grateful for it and to remember Who is ultimately in charge. (And shall I only accept good from Him, but not evil? Job 2:10)

Our pastor preached an incredible sermon on Easter Sunday from 2 Corinthians 4, with a focus on vs. 16-18.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self his being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Whatever afflictions we might face in this life, we need always to remember that they are light and very momentary. They are designed to prepare us for the weight of glory which we will experience one day. So, for now, in the midst of the pain and the sorrow, we must look to truths which are unseen instead of just looking around at what can be immediately viewed with our pitiful, tear-filled human eyes. What can be seen shall pass away. What can't be seen is eternal and of great comfort.

We can remind ourselves that we are the Lord's and the future is quite magnificently bright.

So I do not lose heart but instead learn to be thankful.

As happens quite frequently, there is usually a Steven Curtis Chapman song which foots the bill for whatever the emotion I'm working through. Today it's this one from his new album and the song is entitled, "Who You Say We Are." There is always a lot of confusion in life but it boils down to the words in this song.

I am who He says I am -- His!

Monday, March 28, 2016

What's On My Nightstand (March/April)

What's On Your Nightstand

Still trucking along in my reading over here. Slow but steady!

This past month we went on a two week trip to South Korea which was really amazing and allowed for some concentrated reading time. (That's a long plane ride!) Now we're back and "settling in" to life again - which has not been without a few stresses - and I'm looking ahead and this next month's reading plan. At the start of this year I figured that assuming I could read three books a month was probably doable, alongside one read-aloud with the kids. So far that's working, so I'll try for that again during the month of April.

Last month's goals were to read:

  • The Search for the Delicious, by Natalie Babbitt with my kids. (The title is linked to my review.) We read it and loved it. I can only continue to highly recommend the read to you and yours!
  • Vittoria Cottage, by D.E. Stevenson. I read it on the plane and loved it so much that I also read the second and third books in the series. Reviews forthcoming!
  • The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor. Read and reviewed it and then moved onto books two and three, completing the trilogy. (Linked to my reviews.)

  • Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie. That didn't happen, so I'll bump it to the next month.

As it turns out, I exceeded my quota for books last month. That gives me a warm and happy feeling inside. It was great fun to read through not one but two entire series in "one sitting" as well. That doesn't usually happen!

This month's goals will be:

I read a lot of Bridges' books in my teens and held onto my copies. I haven't read them in a decade or so and have been feeling a tug of late. I'm between these two titles at the moment.

  • Lastly, for myself, I should be getting to a title I accepted for review. I haven't accepted anything for review lately but The Importance of Being Little caught my eye. I should give it a go. (I mean, like, I really need to get to it!)

As for a read-aloud with the kids, Jonathan started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to them while we were in S. Korea. We got far enough along into it that I think we should finish it up. We've taken a week's break from anything but play so it's time to dive back into the books!

These titles are what's on my nightstand. What's on yours?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Arch Enemy, by Frank Beddor

ArchEnemy is the third and final book in the Looking Glass Wars (and I'm glad). I read the first two books a few years back, (as mentioned), but wasn't motivated then to finish the story. In my recent re-reading of the series I felt like reading to the conclusion and, ultimately, I'm glad I did. We recently took a two week trip to South Korea and that's a mighty long plane ride. I was looking for books to take on the Kindle and decided to take the plunge and order this title to read on the flight.

ArchEnemy picks up where Seeing Redd takes off. A neighboring king has managed to suppress imagination in Wonderland, thus throwing a wrench in both Alyss and her wicked aunt Redd's schemes to maintain their queendom. Alyss and Redd are in a dead heat to see who will ultimately defeat the other. Throw in the turmoil with the neighboring kingdom and there are more epic battles to be had then ever before.

That's about as an exciting description as I can give this book.

ArchEnemy needed to be the last book in this series. Please don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the first title, The Looking Glass Wars (linked to recent review) but the other two titles feel more like a grab towards an action movie to me and after awhile one gets tired of the endless nastiness and battle scenes. I get it already - Redd is a horrible person with the nasty ability to use black imagination to terrorize everyone in sight (and out of sight). Alyss is the struggling brave warrior princess who is learning to govern a queendom. The idea for the characters and the story are both very, very fun but it felt like the books were a progression of longer more intense battle scenes. That's just not my thing. While I'm glad to know how the story "ends" (as far as the trilogy goes) I'm feeling rather done by book three.

It's been a long time since I've read any fantasy or adventure books and  reading these was something I wanted to do. I feel like I've successfully scratched that itch and am ready to move onto a different genre for awhile. It's fun to dive into an alternative world now and again and read something more unique than my norm and for that reason I'm glad I read The Looking Glass Wars trilogy. By no means do I regret it, but its time to read something else. It's not likely I'm going to ever re-read the entire series of these books, but as I've mentioned, The Looking Glass Wars: Book 1 can stand alone and I can totally see myself pulling that one off the shelf at some point in the future. Frank Beddor had a very compelling, unique storyline to deliver and overall I'd say he delivered well. I'm just not as into battle scenes as he is and so I grew weary way before he did.

One extra little thought that I had when reading ArchEnemy was that it's very Steampunk. The descriptions of the character's wardrobes and weapons painted a very Steampunk feel in my mind and so if you have a Steampunk friend who likes to read, they might find this story extra compelling. Just a thought!

If you ever have a chance to read the first title, The Looking Glass Wars, I'd highly recommend it. The rest of the series is a "take-it-or-leave-it" in my opinion.

Other posts of interest:

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