Saturday, October 21, 2017

September Reads

I read the most books in one month I've ever read, 17! Well, if you count plays (which I do). I was light on the nonfiction and heavy on the light fiction. I will start with the two nonfiction books I read.

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. I could barely comprehend what the sentences meant and how they connected in the first two chapters. I also didn't quite agree with everything he said; I think he simplified the situation. I am saying this from a modern perspective of cheap emotionalism (I guess that would fit in his visceral category). I felt that he added unnecessary "complexity" and that some of his argument or word choices were sophistry or pedantry. The third chapter didn't connect logically with the first two (I think each chapter was a lecture?), and I found it much easier to understand.

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards. From the title, I expected a far deeper psychological look onto how we handled money. How we can have all the information but no follow through and why and how we can combat this. Instead, I got a shallow, dumbed down, forgettable pointless almost conspiracy theory self-help book. Which wasn’t helpful.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. A nice bit of candy-like and candy-involved reading at the middle-grade level.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Dickens. I went into this knowing that Dickens died before he could complete it, but I thought the mystery was unknown. He left clear indications in the book and in comments about the ending. The real mystery is about the detective, apparently. This felt SO dark. I know he had murders in other novels, but this was different, the murderer was clearly a socio/psychopath.

The Door Before by N. D. Wilson. Wilson wrote the 100 Cupboards a decade ago. I loved the trilogy. I wasn't super thrilled about a prequel, but I read all his fiction. I was far less thrilled when I started it and realized he was using it to tie 100 Cupboards (which is special) to Ashtown Burials (which is NOT special). One feels magical, the other sci-fi/action adventure. I dislike when authors seem to lose control of their plots and seem to want drama and "complexity" at the cost of quality. I feel that he lost control of Ashtown Burials and had to write this to add something to the long-overdue fourth book. Sorry, but this book didn't happen in my mind’s conception of these fictional universes.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie. Possibly the best written Christie novel I've read. Also, one of the most, if not the most disturbing. I was in denial about the identity of the murderer until the last.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. I came across this in my search for Peruvian novels, and since I hadn't read any Wilder, I thought, "Why not?" Wilder tells the complex stories of characters all involved in an accident.

Nick of Time by Ted Bell. This is first in a series. Time-travel and WWII. The tone is light. I feel like WWII fiction either must be light (and therefore totally unrealistic) or dark and accurate or it can veer into disrespect. Some may find the light-toned novels disrespectful though. But some may only be able to handle it from that perspective.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, and Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley. Book four tried to take the series to another level, except everything actually ends up absurd. We don't need a silly cult-like spy organization. I liked the simple mysteries set in an English village. The false "complexity" is out of the scope of the works and the abilities of the author. Also, the whole murder part seems to be more and more gruesome. Especially since the protagonist is a preteen. And then something happened at the end of the 8th book that made me so angry.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I know this isn't the first in the "series" but I felt that it works as a standalone. This is unique and well-written, something as rare as a blue moon in modern fiction. It is also hard to read. I felt that the author didn't handle the end very well. The pace increased and the story tapered off.

A Florentine Tragedy and The Importance of Being Earnest (re-read) by Oscar Wilde. I borrowed a whole book of Wilde's plays from the library to re-read my two favorites (I read Ideal Husband in August), and I thought I'd read the short A Florentine Tragedy. The story felt like one in Boccaccio’s Decameron. And I didn't like it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Finally Fall Book Tag

I've seen this post so many times, so I thought I answer it too. See here and here plus another Autumn reading post here.

1. In fall, the air is crisp and clear: name a book with a vivid setting!
Blue Castle.

2. Nature is beautiful… but also dying: name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.
A lot of Rosemary Sutcliff books deal with loss or grief, but Outcast heads that list. I would say it deals with tragedy and the loss and grief involved.

3. Fall is back to school season: share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.
Because I'm really annoying, Albion's Seed.

4. In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be a part of.
I think I'd what to live on the same street with the Penderwicks and Geigers.

5. The colorful leaves are piling up on the ground: show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

Not completely fall colored. But this is my reading/library shelf right now.

6. Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.
Any of the Grandma's Attic books.

7. The nights are getting darker: share a dark, creepy read.
I'm not super into creepy. How about Entwined.

8. The days are getting colder: name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.
An Old-Fashioned Girl.

9. Fall returns every year: name an old favorite that you’d like to return to soon.
I've got Blue Castle and Bookthief on my shelf to re-read, but I'm scared of not liking them as much or at all. Some re-reads don't hold up.

10. Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights: share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!
My bed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Birthday and Ice Cream



My family used to give me gifts, but I never kept them long. Mom mentioned how hard I am to buy for, so I started making a gift list (I wish I'd done that sooner!!!!!). I still get surprised because I put many items on the list for everyone to choose from. Everybody's happy.


I received a nice selection of movies, two cookbooks (I cannot wait to try some German cookies for Christmas), mini ceramic houses, and The Pioneer Woman's darling measuring bowls.


Travelgirl, Travelgirl's husband, my brother, my grandfather, and I all have birthdays in the same month, so we held a combined party. We made a massive slip and slide down our hill which was loads of fun. I wanted to make home-made ice-cream for this party (I made this pound cake for my actual birthday, and we ate it with whipped cream and strawberries). I made this mint ice cream (my sister had made it before so I knew it was excellent).


My dad cannot eat eggs, so I used the mint recipe as a base for the Double Dark Chocolate. I whisked 1/2 cup of dark chocolate cocoa in with sugar and cornmeal, I substituted vanilla extract for the mint, and I melted 8oz of dark chocolate and added it to the cream mixture before the ice bath. Unfortunately, I didn't plan my freezing time well, and we had to wait a day for our chocolate. So we had mint ice cream, and my brother brought homemade raspberry sorbet.


This seemed to be the summer for ice cream. Babysister had made the mint and a buttermilk base cookies and cream (not to my taste) earlier. We had also made a buttermilk strawberry basil pretzel ice cream a couple times. And then we made Country Living's Lemonsicle Ice Cream a couple times. After Dad bought a soft-serve ice cream maker, he made hard and soft-serve chocolate and vanilla a couple times.

Have y'all made homemade ice cream, gelato, sherbert, or sorbet? If so, what are your favorite

If so, what are your favorite recipes?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Financial Links

After another blogger (Lauren at Chic-Ethique) mentioned The Financial Diet plus some personal decisions, I've started diving more seriously into budgeting, tracking finances, and learning more about money. What I really think is needed, though is something dealing with all of our emotional and mental tangles over money. How one foolish choice can mess up your finances later when you are making worse choices that could have been avoided. How you can know all the basics, but still waste money, etc.

Financial Books I've Read or Skimmed

Financial Peace. Always a great start although I don't agree with everything.

I know I read or skimmed something by Larry Burkett. I would always start with Ramsey and Burkett.

The Behavior Gap. The title is GREAT. I have all the information, but I don't put it into practice. I was hoping for some sort of helpful psychological discussion. This book is quite silly and shallow and repetitive.

Save Money by Wanting Less. Yeah, this requires some self-talking.

Money and Mindset.

Extreme Savers.

Items to cut from your expenses.

This blogger talks about his journey to financial "independence" (truly a misnomer if you think about it) via passive income (an interesting concept).

I'm not really in a place in which I need a strict line-item budget (not sure I will ever be with the way I want to budget shop), but I still like researching it. However, I think everyone ought to track their expenses whether or not they use that to formulate a budget. You can also use it to see where you've spent too much money and where you can cut down money.

Ages ago, I came across a blog post (I feel like I linked it here, maybe?) in which the author discussed how she tracked her expenses for a year. I decided to do that. I've been working on how to make the most of that information.

I made a chart in Excel (I think you can use Google Sheets for this) with the headings item, date, category, and amount (if the item is an expense put "-" in front) and with a total of the amount at the bottom. I then made a pivot chart with "categories" as row labels and "amount" as values (sum of). I used the sort filter to remove the "income" category and made a pie chart with percentages to show how I spent my money visually.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Autumn Bucket List



About a month ago, I saw a lovely idea for a bucket list here on The Enchanting Rose. I at first thought I "needed" to buy pretty patterned paper and jewels too, but realized that I could use stamps and paint to add detail to the paper we already had. 


I picked out this gorgeous sketchbook from my notebook and journal hoard (mostly from Half-Price); this will be my art journal for autumn and winter. I made my version fairly quickly for me although it has taken me awhile to post.


I am so proud of this. I picked the colors to match the notebook cover.


I kept my options rather general. I'm hoping to get a photo and art page out of a couple of these; I think that would be fun. What are y'all's fall plans?

Monday, October 9, 2017

My August Reads

I read 15 total books in August month. Here are the fiction books (the nonfiction are on my old blog).

New Reads
Auntie Mame. Tons of extreme moral issues of just about every sort, some from main, some from minor characters. Some unoriginal humor. Felt disjointed and inconsistent.

Big Stone Gap. Well, I loved the setting and Jack Mac (oh, I know he is a stock character type, but it is one that I fall in love with every time). But the main character is an indecisive brat. And the plot is like Jack Sparrow's confusing, constantly spinning compass; clearly manipulated to make the story seem long and complex, but ended up making everything feel like filler. Manufactured deepness and complexity in what is ultimately a very silly, unsatisfactory novel. This is why I distrust modern fiction.

Castle Waiting: The Curse of Brambly Hedge. Not what I was expecting, a silly retelling of Sleeping Beauty with some pitiful attempts at humor.

Christmas at High Rising. Some boring stories, some rather funny parts.

Flavia de Luce mysteries: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and A Red Herring without Mustard. This series is my win for August after a bunch of lousy books. As soon as I started the first, I knew I wanted to get my hands on all the rest, so I quickly requested all the currently published full novels, finished three more, and the rest are deliciously waiting on my shelves. As you can see I read a little out of order because I was impatient.These are fun and hysterical. Of course, like all mysteries, they have so many improbabilities, but the personality and humor are charming, and mysteries are always fun no matter how improbable. I must say that the age of the heroine and her fascination with murder, bodies, and the details are a bit disturbing if you look at it too closely.

How Green Was My Valley. Oh, oh. How righteous is the mighty Clan of Morgan. If the Morgans' sin, their actions are not sins, but everyone else's slightest fault is the deepest scarlet stain. I could write a tome on this book. I don't feel like doing that though. Tons of vigilantism, pride, bitterness, self-righteousness (in case you hadn't picked up on that point yet), etc. No satisfactory character or moral development. No satisfactory ending of the plot (and what exactly was the point and what exactly was the plot?). Pretty writing of the fluke type; the style that an author uses once successfully because the style has the right tone for that one novel's particular setting and plot, but when you read other works, it is ludicrously overwrought and out of place (this applies to Markus Zuzak's style, and I'm guessing also Bette Greene and Anthony Doerr). Also, quite graphic sexual similes. Ultimately the story is flat, hopeless, disturbing at times, and unsatisfactory.

Idylls of the King and a Selection of Poems. Hmm, still don't love epics and poetry. I will keep working on my poetry reading though. I liked some of Scott's. I'm sure I can find some to like although I'm not sure I will ever love the literary form.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Charming, sweet. Reminded me of Hitty which I think I now must give another chance.

Those Summer Girls I Never Met. This is unfathomably silly and trifling, and I knew it and meant it for a fun throwaway read. This is not one I really regret as absurd as it is. It is super short and is not fooling anyone on depth.

Re-Reads
An Ideal Husband. My ideal husband is the perfect mesh of Lord Goring and Algernon Moncrieff.

Monday, September 4, 2017

What I Read August: Nonfiction

I read/finished the most books per month this month: 15. Four of these are nonfiction. We'll start with the heavy

1. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry by Philip D. Morgan. I will be brief. I'm not going into the topic, not the scope here, just the scholarship. Exactly the type of meticulous research and analysis that I think all historians should use. Reminded me of my favorite Albion's Seed in the scholarly rigor. I do think he could have cut out some redundancy in the end and much detail in the beginning (I don't need to understand every single step of the cultivation process of every plant to understand his point about the grueling brutality). So for my self-imposed U.S. history course, I have 2 out of 3 books in less than two years (maybe when I'm 40 I will have completed it), still, with all the books out there that are a great percentage.

2. Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky by Paul Johnson. Yes, this was rather disappointing. I didn't think the author wrote well. His points, clarity, structure, and continuity are unclear and convoluted. I do appreciate learning about some of these people, but I don't understand his decision-making process for including others. I have to say I thought he made mostly poor choices. I wouldn't call all his choice intellectuals and of those who might be not all were/are all that influential.

Now "ad hominem" came to mind, and many other reviewers claimed that the author made this fallacy, but I think that is misplaced and misconstrued here. I don't think he is analyzing these people's arguments; however, like I said before, clarity is not his strong point (if he has a strong point?). I don't choose arguments based on people, but I do think you should reject immoral people even if their arguments aren't sound; the ends do not justify the means. Logical argument is not the only consideration, there are also morality and persuasion. However, immoral and fallible are often confused.

I would definitely state that most of these people are terribly immoral and massively hypocritical. Some reviewers said he only focused on the bad. Quite frankly, unless he lied, no good could cover all the bad that he described in these people. I think it is good to know the failings of influential people, particularly if they practiced a lack of ethics and lied in their contributions to society. However, I don't think we need to know all the biographies of unimportant people (which adjective I think describes most of these in terms of intellectual influence). And we certainly don't need to know a gross level of scandal.

That I think is the worst part of this book. His disgusting, obsessive, voyeuristic descriptions of sexual issues. I felt that he had some sort of complex. I mean he gave waaay more detail to this, graphic in my opinion, than any other issues he described. Immorality and abuse can and should be stated, but I don't need to know such vile detail that he too clearly enjoyed giving. Some of the things he shared didn't even relate to the major figures he featured. Even if the book had been well-written, I'm not sure that that would justify reading this. I wish I had put it down. Actually, I should have put several books down this month.*

3. Belles on Their Toes by Ernestine Gilbreth and Frank Gilbreth, Jr. Sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen. I found this even funnier than the first although I will note that some may be uncomfortable with the at times slightly suggestive humor.

4. Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy Thomas This is indescribably silly, trivial, and poorly written. I didn't really learn much about Paris or Parisian culture. The author focused on

#1  Flinging a slew of French food terms that meant nothing to me without pronunciation aids (which is frustrating); I couldn't appreciate learning about new food because I couldn't understand what the food was.

#2Switching back between New York and Paris restaurants. Um, what about the rest of the city of Paris. And the book isn't about New York.

#3 Herself and her embarrassing, insecure, awkward, immature #firstworldproblems.

I had no connotations, no knowledge to draw from to understand any of the French terms she threw at me. I felt like she was being intentionally snooty and ostentatious without being in the least educational. I wish I had put this down, a waste of time; I learned so much more from my skimming of Lessons from Madame Chic, and I'm sure there are tons of better books on Paris and Parisian food. This book is one of the most poorly written I've ever read; it is clearly all about the author having a publishing deal for herself.

Not a great nonfiction month, especially considering the fact that I had at least one guaranteed excellent nonfiction book on my shelf that I could have been reading instead of the absurd/awful ones.

*Oh, and he also quoted foul language. Again, just stated that the person cursed or something. I hate when people write for shock value. That distracts from the rest of the writing, which oftentimes in such cases is weak.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

What I Watched Recently

I don't think I watched many new movies. I can only remember one new movie, a Hallmark, A Country Wedding which was super cute. We rewatched a lot of movies including North and South, That Darn Cat, and Parent Trap (I got all these for my birthday).

However, I have watched a lot of travel shows over the last couple months

Rick Steves Europe
This my least favorite. A bit more touristy/watered down history. Not enough culture or interesting details.

Little Europe (this featured five micro countries which can all fit into the sixth smallest, Luxembourg)
Israel (not Europe, clearly, but still under this show)

The Curious Traveler
I like the focus on architecture and historical details.

Kotor, Montenegro
Oslo, Norway
Bordeaux, France
Venice, Italy

Born to Explore
This is my favorite. He focuses on food, nature, handicrafts, culture, animals, etc. The Namibia show focused entirely on cheetah conservation. I think the shows on Turkey and Namibia may have been my favorites.

Turkey
India
Shetland Islands, Scotland
Namibia

Wild Alaska Live Special
Anyone else grow up with the Kratt brothers' shows? Pretty sure I had a crush on Chris. When I was little I watched Kratt's Creatures every so often. When my youngest sisters were little they watched Zoboomafoo. Us older siblings watched them too, but I apparently wasn't as devoted; the little girls can remember so many episodes and details.

Well, they've aged considerably, but still apparently talk the same way as they did in their kids' shows. A bit jarring. But these three 2+ hour long specials on Alaska were magnificent. They filmed these during the Alaskan salmon runs at a couple locations including Tongass Natural Forest and Katmai National Park. The show focused on how salmon is the keystone to the entire Alaskan ecosystem and feature all sorts of Alaskan wildlife: brown (called Grizzlies in the lower 48 and black bears, beavers, otters, orcas, humpback whales, bald eagles, gray wolves, an absolutely adorable porcupine, salmon (of course), and some of the ugliest animals I've ever seen, walruses. I had forgotten they existed, and I must have only ever seen photos and drawings of the supermodels of this animal. They appallingly ugly. Anyway, the whole show showcases the absolute gorgeousness of this area of our country. Glaciers, lakes, forests, fjords, etc. Well worth a watch or two. (I watched a considerable amount again with my sister who hadn't seen it the first time).

Ireland's Wild Coast Special
A two-hour show featuring man making his way around the Atlantic coast of Ireland in an old-style boat. A rather softer part of nature, compared to Alaska. Even the salmon look different because of the milder environment; they didn't go throught the bizarrely dramatic changes the Alaskan salmon did. Birds (including the ludicrous, adorable puffins) comprised a huge proportion of the wildlife, but we also saw humpback whales again, a blue shark, a basking shark, red deer (they are huge, my sister thought they looked like cows; the mule deer out West were huge too, not like our over super abundant white-tailed deer), red squirrel (much prettier than our aggressive gray squirrel which has apparently invaded and harmed red squirrel populations in Ireland and the UK), and pine martin.

I was looking up the name of the last animal and discovered the last wolf was killed in Ireland in the 18th century. I guess that is rather more recent than I would have thought although I usually think of England in terms of that (and they became extinct there two centuries earlier; that is a big difference though). Wolves are "extinct" if you can call it that in my state and region which is JUST fine with me. They are one of the most dangerous predators to humans and their animals. By wolf, I mean gray wolf. I think the coyotes around here may have red wolf blended in them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How I Choose My Books Tag

I found this tag here and thought I would do this.

Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you pick up that book in the first place?

An Old-Fashioned Girl by L. M. Montgomery. I saw it on my grandparents' bookshelves, and when they downsized, I got to keep it!

Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?

I brushed off some middle-grade novels because they were middle-grade novels, um people, those are what are blossoming now. But stupid me. Specifically, Harry Potter (I was caught by the fourth movie), and the Penderwicks (I got into these after all my sisters raved about them).


Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick a book at random. How did you discover this book? 

Wuthering Heights. Um, well, it's well known?

Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

Knife by R. J. Anderson (well, the trilogy and the duology that followed). It sucked me right.

Pick a book you discovered through book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?

Blue Castle. I didn't discover it, but I had written it out because of mistaken understanding, and when lots of bloggers started raving about it I had to try. My library had to get a new copy, and I saw the lovely cover and read the beginning, and I was drawn right in, and DID it live up to the hype!

Find a book on your shelves with a one-word title. What drew you to this book?

Entwined. Twelve dancing princesses retelling. Another blogger recommendation.

What book did you discover through a film/TV adaptation?

Pride and Prejudice. Friends introduced my sister to the '95 adaptation, and then other friends brought it to a sleep-over.

Think of your all-time favourite books. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

All-time favorites? That is a bit concrete and permanent. Rosemary Sutcliffe novels (introduced through school, around age 14) are some of my longest loved books.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top Ten Tuesay: Back to School Suggestions

I'm linking up at The Broke and the Bookish again.

I'm going to split my list, some classics, some historical fiction

I'm going to pick classic novels that I hadn't heard much or anything about until I entered the blogosphere or until I read the more popular ones by the author. I found the stories and writing style of Eliot interesting in her long novels (but not her novellas), and I preferred Charlotte Brontë's more mature style in her less famous works. And the less famous Anne has an interesting novel that is as gothic as Emily's in a different way. 

Classics (high school)

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
2. Adam Bede by George Eliot
3. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
4. Shirley Charlotte Brontë 
5. The Professor by Charlotte Brontë 
6. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë 

Historical Fiction (middle and high school)

7. Jip, His Story by Katherine Patterson (I love her writing and this story ranks with Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terebithia in quality of plot and writing)
8. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
9. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
10. The entire Eagle of the Ninth series by Rosemary Sutcliff (except the adult crossover with King Arthur novel Sword at Sunset which is inappropriate for children plus doesn't fit in with the rest of the series well). This series traces a family line through the various periods, cultures, and people groups of Britain starting with a Roman Italian who marries a woman from what is now Wales all the way to a family in a Viking stronghold in the time of the Normans. 

The Eagle of the Ninth 
The Silver Branch 
Frontier Wolf
The Lantern Bearers 
Dawn Wind 
Sword Song 
The Shield Ring