Monday, January 26, 2015

More Bookworm Problems

Some more bookworm problems to share in. Hopefully they'll bring a little smile to your Monday.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

She is Mine - Winners

If you missed my review of Stephanie Fast's She is Mine, please take a moment to read. (Linked to my thoughts.)

Using the five winners were selected who will be sent copies of this book. I am in the process of contacting the winners and will mail their books out to them within the week.

The winners are:

#6 - Alicia
#18 - Annette
#9 - Amy (@Hope)
#11 - Elisha C.
# 7 - Barbara

EXTRA WINNER (if she'll note this):

crwread. You didn't leave an e-mail address so I have no way to contact you. However, based on the comment you left I would love to send you a copy of this book as well. If you see this, please leave a comment and/or contact me via e-mail - readingtoknow (at) gmail (dot) com

If you get back to me, you too shall have a book! And thank you for sharing your family's story.

(And as a note to everyone, e-mail addresses are so necessary and handy when it comes to contests such as this!)

Now, if your name wasn't selected, I hope you'll look into this book a little further and consider purchasing a copy for yourself. To learn a little bit more about the story, you can check out this 5 minute video which tells you a bit more about Mrs. Fast's life. I think you will be simultaneously overwhelmed and blessed by it!

If you are planning to read it and/or have already done so, I'd also recommend that you check out this talk that Mrs. Fast gave which my husband and I found to be very encouraging!

Again, I just want to note that I fell strongly enough about her story and her desire to open our eyes to the needs of the orphans all around the globe that I purchased these books for the giveaway myself. I wish I could give absolutely everyone a copy but I'll start here and see what happens. I hope you will read it. If you find her story thought provoking and if it stirs your heart a little, I'd love to hear from you!

Let's end with a song, shall we? I was recently introduced to this song and I find myself growing more fond of it by the listen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Road to Avonlea Season 1 (Giveaway)

Last summer I went to a garage sale and I found an unwrapped, UNWATCHED copy of the full-version of Road to Avonlea: Season 1. I gasped and grabbed. UNOPENED?! UNWATCHED?! Sacrilege!

No price tag.

"Excuse me," I asked, "How much are you asking for this DVD set?"
"Oh, a $1 is fine."

I did not wait two seconds. There was no hesitation. SURELY I could find a kind, warm and loving home for this DVD set come January 2015 during the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge. Surely the right person to love it is lurking out there somewhere!

Have you seen the Road to Avonlea series? (Linked to personal thoughts.) My best friend and I watched it as we were growing up and we both fell in love with the characters. In fact, one of my children shares a name with one of the characters from this show (or, I should say, from The Story Girl which I am currently reading aloud to my kids). I really, really love this series created by Kevin Sullivan. Overall, I found it to be delightfully well done. Yes, it has flaws but I can't notice them. Season 1 is most true to the books (The Story Girl & The Golden Road) and I find it so enjoyable.

If you haven't yet seen this series, check it out! I think you will enjoy it. More to the point at present, if you think you'd like to WIN this complete set of Season 1 episodes, please leave a comment below. NOTE: You MUST leave a valid e-mail with your comment in order for your comment to be counted as a valid entry.* This contest is open to US and Canadian residents and will be open through Thursday, January 29th.

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

*Several times recently people have left entries but have not included their e-mail address. As a result of not having a way to contact them, I had to select a new winner although their name was originally chosen. If you want to win, you'll need to follow my request for an e-mail address! Thanks for understanding!

Best to you all. I look forward to passing this along to someone who will really love it!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Nesting Place, by Myquillyn Smith

My friend Alison recommended that I read The Nesting Place (for part of my 2015 Facebook Challenge) and so I did. I wasn't sure at all what to expect but I gathered that it was a book on home decorating and, well, I always like those. I like to glean from them, if not read them outright.

What I didn't realize when I picked up a copy of the book was that it was written by the blogger at The Nester. (I used to participate in her Christmas Tour of Homes. It was fun and I enjoyed it for awhile there.) At any rate, I sat down with this book and was instantly sucked into it. I read every single word and enjoyed the large majority of them. Alison indicated it was a book to be loved and it is! Now for those of you who don't do decorating books, hear me out before you cross The Nesting Place off your list. If at the end you still don't feel like this book is for you, well, then we'll just move along.

While most "professional decorators" want to tell you what to do and what not to do in your house, Myquillyn (how do you pronounce her name?) has no such desires on you or your household. She has a relaxed style of writing (and decorating) which allows you to rest comfortably within your own skin. She's not trying to make you and your home into something that neither of you are. Rather, she is trying to build a relationship between you and home, helping you to better understand yourself, your family, your needs, and your space, so that you can make it everything that you would like it to be.

Smith mentions that most decorating type of books market themselves to home owners and so hers is unique in that she writes with renters in mind. Why? Because she (up to the point of this book's publication) was a renter herself and had to make decorating decisions based on her family's needs inside a home that they did not own for themselves. All of the pictures contained in this book (and there are a great many) are of her rental house. From the looks of things, she has certainly made it a lovely, charming place to be.

I liked this book for several reasons, nonetheleast of which was the fact that she's not trying to pigeonhole people. I liked it because:

  1. She makes the point over and over again that you need to be the one that is most satisfied and happy with your home.
  2. Your home needs to be arranged, ordered and decorating to suit the liking of those that live within it.
  3. She works tirelessly to remove fear from her readership over putting nail holes in the wall and/or picking out paint colors.
  4. She is not a perfectionist and therefore does not demand that of others.
  5. She strongly encourages freedom to be creative and experiment until you find out what you like.

Smith very much wants to encourage her readers to dare to try things without worrying about whether or not they will be perfect. She points out that if you are always waiting for a perfect thing to come along then you will forever be disappointed. She inspires her readers to be content with the home and the things which God has graciously given them so that they can settle in and create a warm, loving, beautiful environment to live in with their family.

If you are uncertain about how to decorate you should know that this book is not going to tell you things like, "Put your couch here and your chair there." Instead she's going to encourage you to move the furniture around (it's a free activity!) until you find out what works best for you. She's going to encourage you to paint (and then repaint if you don't like the color after all). She's going to encourage you to do something, rather than nothing so that your love for home will grow.

I thought it wonderful encouragement and good advice for people in general. You and your ideas do not need to meet any financial status before being able to glean from this book and be encouraged by her words. The pictures of her house indicate that she's made a fair amount of mistakes and that she is highly imaginative and creative but that didn't make me feel the least bit intimidated or frightened. Instead I felt encouraged to take another look around my house and see what might be changed in order that my family would find an even greater enjoyment in our home than we already do. (We do love our home but there are spaces which still puzzle us when it comes to deciding on their purpose.) In my opinion, there is always something to learn about furniture arrangement and home decor and I loved this book for the simple, practical, encouraging advice which it offered.

Added bonus: the book is simply beautiful to look at.

Many thanks to Alison for recommending this read! I enjoyed it thoroughly. (And now I just can't decide which of my in town friends I should pass this off to because I really think it suits many of them quite well! Perhaps we'll just need to pass it around.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lucy Maud Montgomery Links

Here are some links to pop around to in order to learn more about Lucy Maud Montgomery, her life, her books, and her world.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

So Brave, Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger

Last year in January I invited six people to choose six titles for me to read during 2014. Well, I didn't manage to get all six read but I'm giving myself until the end of January to finish them. (Does that count? I don't think so but let's just pretend, shall we?) One of the titles suggested was So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. Amy from Hope is the Word put this book forward for me to read it and I was glad of it because I remember enjoying Enger's other title, Peace Like a River. (I have linked that title to my very confusing, disoriented sounding review which I wrote back in 2006 and now despise. Why is anyone reading this blog? I really have no idea what I was attempting to communicate back then! Let's stop talking about it.) Anyway, that to explain that I needed to read So Brave, Young, and Handsome and now I can happily say that I have done so.

I read this book over a period of two days and found it very entertaining. It's not anything like what I imagined it would be. It was better. To give you an idea of what the story is about, should you not be familiar with this title, it is set in Minnesota in 1915. The main protagonist in the book is a dried up author named Monte Becket. Monte had written a best seller and his publisher is clamoring for another. Monte has been pretending that he is chock full of ideas for other books but that's not the truth of the matter. The guilt of not being able to write something out begins to weigh on him. Unfortunately the words just aren't coming. He is really beginning to out of sorts with life in general when he meets a man by the name of Glendon Hale. Hale has a somewhat murky and mysterious past but Monte is drawn towards the mystery of who Hale is. When Hale asks Becket to travel with him to Mexico, Becket agrees to go along. He figures on having a nice getaway with his pal but his trip is anything but predictable or pleasant. As it turns out, Hale's past is out hunting for him and Becket gets entangled in one huge mess. I won't say anything more than that. If you want to read of their adventures, you are going to have to read the book for yourself!

Should you read the book for yourself? Oh yes! Absolutely! So Brave, Young, and Handsome can be classified as a western, just like Peace Like a River. I wouldn't say that that is a genre that I am drawn to, but it is one I enjoy every now and again. This story is rich with outlaws, inlaws, and everything in between. The scene is set all over the western United States and if you read it, you will find yourself on a very incredible and highly entertaining adventure. What I love about Enger's books is that despite the fact that he deals with some pretty hefty subject matters, he is extremely discrete. These are "clean" books in the sense that he paints a picture without being overly descriptive. There are no sex scenes (although some are alluded to in a manner which suits the characters but does not engage your imagination) and little to no cussing. (I don't recall any although in retrospect it seems sort of strange so maybe I missed something.) It's the wild west with horses, guns, rickety old vehicles, camping under the stars and sharp shooting circus performers. Mostly I found this book to be plain, good fun. I don't feel any hesitations in being able to recommend this story to others.

I wish I had read this book "on time" but I'm glad to have read it at all. Thanks, Amy, for suggesting it to me. I've now read it and passed it along to Jonathan. I think he'll get a kick out of it also.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers

I know that I have read a Dorothy Sayers book before, but enough time has gone by that I can't remember which one or whether or not I liked it. (My best guess is that it was Whose Body.) At any rate, my church ladies' book club met in December and instead of discussing a book, we had a white elephant gift/book exchange. The only rule was that you had to contribute a book that you had actually read and liked and/or wanted to read. I ended up with two books out of the evening, both ended up being from my friend Joy. Not coincidentally, both mysteries (for Joy loves a good mystery). One of the books was a P.D. James (who I know I have not read) and the other was Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. Gaudy Night, which Joy informed me was her favorite of Sayers' many books. This information made me happy for the chance to read it. I'd been itching to read a good mystery for some time and I always enjoy opportunities to read books which my good friends really love! (For reference, the book club meets this month for the purpose of discussing the books we received and hopefully read.)

In case you are curious what the word gaudy means - (like I was) - it is more modernly defined as meaning "brilliantly or excessively showy" or "ostentatiously ornamented." Looking up a difference source I discovered that "gaudy" derives from the Latin gaudium and Old French gaudie, meaning "merry-making" or "enjoyment". The story is set at the all-female Shrewsbury College in Oxford. Our protagonist, Harriet Vane, has been invited to attend the college's Gaudy Night party. The stage being set, we next meet the crime. Immediately following the Gaudy Night party, college students and faculty are being threatened anonymously with obscene graffiti and malicious pranks. Fearing to bring the wrong kind of attention to their burgeoning women's college, the faculty calls on Harriet Vane to assist in determining who is making these anonymous threats. Of course, this being a mystery, I can't reveal much about the story without spoiling the plot so my description of the book will be short. Suffice it to say, I found it to be an enjoyable read. My cravings for a good mystery were completely satisfied.

What was possibly more interesting to me than the mystery itself was the way that Sayers argues intellectually with her reader throughout the book. Her characters are academics in Oxford who love to pose questions and make arguments. There is a heavy, almost exclusive emphasis in this book on the rights of women to pursue and receive a higher education. The book was published in 1935 at a time in history when women more commonly remained "in the home". At this same time, opportunities and careers were being made more available for them. As a result of Sayers' arguments and as an interesting historical note, Gaudy Night is labeled the "first feminist mystery novel."

Certainly more modern readers take for granted the opportunities which are readily available to women these days, but Sayers was working in a world which was primarily dominated by men. It is fascinating to read her arguments for "women's rights" (that's not what she called it; it's what we call it) to pursue vocations outside the home. Poignantly she uses a college setting to argue her point (more effectively). Doing just a tiny bit of online research I discovered the Sayers herself was involved in the struggle to allow females to study at Oxford. In this book the women's college had just recently been granted the right to exist, hence their desire not to draw negative attention to themselves. The Dean and the staff wished to solve the mystery without bad press; they did not wish to be viewed as catty and troublesome. Vane's role is to help maintain the reputation of the college as much as it is to solve the mystery.

Irony is in the subplot. One of Sayers' other popular literary characters is Lord Peter Whimsey and when push comes to shove and Vane is suffering some difficulty in discovering who the perpetrator of the crimes is, she finds herself with a strong desire to consult with Whimsey. He makes an appearance but also engages with the arguments for "a woman's place" in society and in the world. From a historical perspective, this book is interesting to read. From the perspective of enjoying a good mystery, this book also makes for a very satisfying read. I must also say that from the perspective of one who gets a huge kick out of wit and irony, I found Sayers to be a positively brilliant writer and I enjoyed her immensely.

There are plenty of people out there that can make a much more intelligent argument as to why you should read Sayers, I am quite certain. There are people who could tell you a great deal more about her work and her passions. There are people who love to do nothing more but argue with and for Sayers and her passions. I know next to nothing except that I found her to be a marvelous story teller who has a clever way of writing which caused me to chuckle on more than one occasion. For me, that's all that I was looking for in a mystery.

Yes, I am curious to read more about her and more of her books. I can only imagine that I will be reading more Sayers in the future. Particularly if my friend Joy has anything to do with it. For now, I'm content to have read this one and thank Joy for the opportunity of doing so!
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