Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life // by Jenna Woginrich

//published 2008//

This book was interesting because it was part memoir and part how-to.  Basically, Woginrich talks about how she wanted to start living a more sustainable life, but there wasn’t any way that she could quit her job and start living off the land somewhere – mainly because she didn’t have any land to live off of.  Instead, she started trying to make small changes in her regular life.  This book talks about her efforts and her mistakes, and encourages her readers to start trying to become more self-sufficient even if they aren’t comfortable butchering their own hogs and building a log cabin by hand.

It was also interesting because I actually read Woginrich’s second book, Barnhearta while back.  In this book, she’s still living a small town in Idaho, and ends her story by driving across the country to a new job in Vermont.  Barnheart focuses on the Vermont home.

While this book does cover some of the more “regular” topics in homestead-y books, like chickens and gardening, she also touches on things like sewing, knitting, antiquing, teaching your dog to carry a pack, and learning how to play an acoustic instrument.  She raises bees and angora rabbits (as well as the traditional chickens and tomatoes) and has a strong sense of humor, even while recounting some pretty serious mistakes.

Each chapter is focused on a different aspect of a more self-sufficient life.  Woginrich talks about how she got started in that area, some of what she’s learned, and concludes with some practical how-tos for the area.  She also has an extensive list of resources in the back, with actual descriptions of things so you don’t have to just mindlessly visit a bunch of websites, hoping to find what you want.  This book isn’t an end-all reference guide, but it’s a great place to start for some inspiration and ideas.

I really liked that Woginrich is (at the time of writing this book, anyway) both single and a renter.  These are two obstacles that many people use to put off learning about self-sufficiency, but Woginrich doesn’t let those things stop her.  A flexible landlord definitely helps if you want to raise chickens and bees, or plant a large garden, but things like container gardening, learning how to sew, and canning, can be done anywhere.

Frequently, I get annoyed when people assume that because I’m prolife and fiscally conservative, I must also hate nature and love eating meat raised on factory farms.  It’s 100% possible to be socially and fiscally conservative, and to also believe in shopping locally, eating food that has been raised humanely, reconnecting with our heritage, and supporting parks.  While I don’t have any idea where Woginrich stands on political issues, her book reminded me that learning to be more self-sufficient is important, challenging, and interesting – and that taking baby steps are better than taking no steps at all.  4/5 and recommended.

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The Mapmakers // by John Noble Wilford

//published 1981//revised 2000//

I love maps.  Let’s just get that out of the way to start.  I mean I genuinely love them.  I’m a very visual learner, so I think maps have always been a way for me to make sense of things.  Back in high school, my best friend and I would often spend an evening planing an intricate and involved roadtrip that we had zero intentions of taking.  We would get out the road atlas and various state maps (this was before Google Maps was really a thing because I’m old) and spread them out all over the table.  We would use those charts in the front of the atlas that give you distances between cities to help figure out how long it would take us to drive from place to place.  We would make notes of interesting places along the way where we would like to stop.  We would discuss the merits of various cars within our families and determine how much gas would cost for each one to accomplish the miles we had outlined.

And now that I’m an adult, I still love maps and I still love planning trips I’m probably not taking.  And even though we have a GPS and all that, you had better believe that I bright along paper maps every time we go on a trip!  I also collect maps in a haphazard kind of way.  I finally purchased a map of Great Britain a couple of years ago to help me with all the reading I do that is set in that country.  (I mean, someone says they are going to have to go from Bath to Brighton… I have no idea if that’s five miles or fifty or five hundred.)  We have a 4’x6′ map of the country hanging in our bedroom, and the husband and I honestly look at it all the time, discussing possibilities.  Recently, in an antique store, I found myself purchasing a 1950’s road atlas – printed before the interstates.  It’s a fascinating look at how people used to drive this country in the old Route 66 days.

All that to say, I was excited to pick up The Mapmakers.  The history of maps and the people who created them?  Sounds fantastic!  And while this book did somewhat deliver, it was still a bit of a mixed bag.

Basically, Wilford starts at the beginning of time and works forward from there.  It’s a lot of distance to cover, and this book was incredibly dense.  It’s 473 pages of incredibly tiny print, and it felt like I was reading this book forever.  Every time I looked at my little stack of books, this one was on top because it was always this book’s turn to read!  Personally, I think this book would have benefited from less time spent at the beginning of humanity and more time spent on modern innovations, as the earlier section of the book was definitely where it dragged the most.

The first few chapters cover the foundations of mapmaking and maps as a concept, back in the Greek and Roman days when men of Science abounded.  This is interesting, especially to realize just how long ago humanity was interested in things like measuring the earth.  However, Wilford then spends an inordinate amount of time in the Middle Ages (26 pages, which felt even longer) basically explaining how nothing happened in the world of cartography because Christians were in charge of everything, and Christians hate science, so Christians just made up stuff, and Christians ignored all the scientific progress made in earlier generations, and Christians believed the world was flat, and Christians couldn’t handle anything that wasn’t written down in Scriptures, so Christians made sure that no one else was allowed to study science either.  And if that paragraph sounds a little miffy, it’s because the whole chapter was quite offensive.  It just felt like (a) this chapter was excessive in length for the minimal amount of information gained (considering the chapter on mapping the entire moon is actually eight pages shorter than this one), and (b) Wilford went out of his way to find individuals on the fringes, presented their theories in detail, and then would wrap up with a sentence like, “While few medieval thinkers subscribed to this concept…”  If only a few subscribed to this concept, why did you just spend three pages describing it??  Oh, that’s right, it’s so you could spend those three pages mentioning Christians, Scripture, and complete lack of science all combined.  Whatever.

I think the reason it really annoyed me was because one of the things he literally mocked the medieval mapmakers for was how if there was an area on a map where they didn’t know what was there, they would just make something up so there wouldn’t be a blank space.  But then over the next few chapters as he discussed world exploration and the gradual filling in of the world map, he would talk about how things like a giant southern continent were drawn into maps as facts, as well as islands and all sorts of things that weren’t actually there; people would just make up what they believed was true and put it in.  So… if you’re religious and you do it, you get put in a chapter titled “myth and dogma” because you’re too stupid to use real science to figure things out.  But if you’re a scientist and you do it, it’s a “logical error,” even if it persists for decades.  Hmm.

ANYWAY sorry that turned a lot rantier than I was intending.  Once I struggled through the first hundred pages or so, the book turned a corner and got much more interesting (basically, when Wilford started focusing on maps instead of making snide remarks about religion).  The problem is that there was just sooo much to cover!  Wilford considers mapmaking to be a pretty broad concept.  I was really intrigued by things like setting up time zones, for instance – when did that happen?  How much of it was political?  I mean, this is a huge, international thing and it was really interesting to see how it all came together.

There were multiple events that felt like they could be an entire book all by themselves.  For instance, talking about early efforts to map the Amazonian jungle – people had to go out ahead and set up stations because they were triangulating distances by broadcasting signals from the stations to be picked up by aircraft flying overhead.  I mean – what an adventure!  Some of these guys had to pack in all of their supplies by mule and then just hang out there.  I would love to know more about that!

Or the survey parties that worked on mapping the country in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Originally they were sent out on brief, specific tasks as funding allowed.  When FDR decided we should spend pretend money instead of only spending real money, they sent out a semi-permanent caravan that traveled from place to place, mapping as they went.  This meant that the whole expedition now included wives and children, all living in trailers, spending three to six months on average somewhere before packing up and moving to the next project.  How intriguing is that?!

This book was originally published in 1981.  This edition was revised in 2000, because so much mapping technology changed in those twenty years.  The later chapters on GPS, satellites, extraterrestrial mapping, etc. were extremely interesting.  This book could really use yet another revision, as we’ve had another almost twenty years go by, and mapping technology has gone through yet another incredible series of updates.  At the time of Wilford’s initial revision, for instance, cell phones were just beginning to emerge – since then, basically everyone now carries around their own personal GPS unit, tracking their every move, allowing more and more maps to be created concerning human activity.

All in all, a 4/5 for The Mapmakers.  It definitely felt like Wilford could have skimmed over sections where he did nothing but complain about how the Christians prevented progress, and spent a little more time in places where progress was being made.  (E.g., the Jesuit priests, who created detailed and fairly accurate maps of South America in the 1700’s are blown off in one sentence…)  This book would also really benefit from some color pictures – the black and white images come through as rather blurry and not particularly useful.  This is a book about maps, it having some pictures of maps would really help explain a lot of Wilford’s jargon.

Still, if you like maps and history books about random things, this was an interesting, if rather slow, read.  Recommended.

Wrestling Prayer // by Eric and Leslie Ludy

//published 2009//

Sometimes you read a book that you don’t really want to read, because you know reading it is good for you.  Wrestling Prayer was that kind of experience for me.  I honestly was scared to read this book, because I knew that it was going to challenge me on a level I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be challenged on.

This book is a brutally honest look at what Christianity should look like, and why so many of us are willing to settle for a lesser version.  (Hint: getting the real deal means making some real sacrifices.)  While a lot of so-called Christian leaders out there pander to our selfish whims by reassuring us that we all need “me time”, the Ludys stand firm on a pattern of Scripture that shows that God isn’t particularly interested in part-time followers.

Wrestling Prayer is about way more than prayer – it’s about getting serious about following Jesus, about recognizing what that really means, and living a life that reflects it. This book is about confronting the fleshly weaknesses in your life and ousting them. It’s about claiming the promises of God for yourself in the way that they were meant to be claimed.

I really liked how accessible this book was. It’s not written in a dry, academic kind of way. Instead, it’s completely full of practical, useful information – which can make it all the more difficult to swallow!  The Ludys never come across as holier-than-thou – they never write from the mountaintop.  They don’t claim to have all the answers, and they are very clear about the differences between the “prosperity gospel” (“Of course God wants you to have the convertible you’ve always wanted – give us all your money and He will make it happen!”) and genuine, Christ-centered prayer that brings real results.

I don’t really see this as a book that would appeal to non-Christians.  It’s pretty clearly written for those who have already taken the first step.  But even if you are not a follower of Christ, reading this book about how it should look may be intriguing for you.

Honestly, I’m not ready to jump on board with the Ludys yet, but it’s not because I think they’re wrong.  It’s because I think they’re right, and I’m just not quite ready to make the sacrifices in my personal life that I know need to be made – kind of the same way that I know I would be able to loose weight if I’d stop eating a bowl of ice cream every day, but I’m just not quite to the point where I’m ready to take that kind of plunge!

4.5 for some brilliant writing – and the half-star off is actually just because Eric Ludy kept saying, “with boyish (and girlish) faith” like a zillion times and it was driving me crazy.  Just say “child-like” already!

All in all, Wrestling Prayer gave me so much to think about – more, really, than I want to think about.  It’s a dangerous book.  Highly recommended.

 

December Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry

//published 1951//

This is an easy 4/5 read, and a childhood favorite – it just isn’t very long, so I don’t have a lot to say about it.  It’s an oversized book full of gorgeous illustrations by my fave, Wesley Dennis.  Each chapter is about a different breed of horse.  I love how Henry usually manages to tell a little story or anecdote about each breed.  She even says in the afterword that writing this book inspired her to write several of her other stories, because the little mini-story she was writing in Album just got way too involved and interesting!  If you have a young horse lover in your life, this is a perfect gift book.  The illustrations are amazing, and it’s just the right amount of information to get them going.

I will say that, rereading as an adult, I was intrigued by how some of the chapters did actually feel dated.  Album was published in 1951, and she says things about various draft horses still being used to plow fields, which was in fact still happening in the 1940’s, but has disappeared pretty much completely almost 70 years later.  However, rather than detracting from the book, I felt that it gave it even more charm!

Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom

//published 1951//

This children’s book is about a boy who becomes the youngest rider ever for the Pony Express.  It seems like a completely improbable tale, but I looked it up, and most of it is actually true!  I picked this up at a booksale eons ago, but hadn’t read it in years.  Of course, I was attracted to it because of the illustrations…  by Wesley Dennis!  Have I mentioned that he was an artistic genius??  :-D  In all seriousness, his pencil drawings really do add so much to this story, and made me want to saddle up right along with Charlie.  This is an adorable story, and definitely deserves a slot on the children’s bookshelves here at my house.

A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

//published 1972//

Another 4/5 read – the perfect combination of fun, frothy, and witty that Heyer always presents, even if it is in a rather predictable pattern!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

//published 2015//

I’ve never actually read a book by Hoover before, but Stephanie mentioned reading this one a while back, so I thought maybe it would be a good place to start.  In this story, Fallon meets Ben right before she moves from California to New York.  They have an instantaneous connection, but Fallon doesn’t want to start a relationship at that moment.  Instead, they agree to meet on November 9 for the next five years, but to have no contact with each other – not even through social media – in between.

This book has a fun concept and I did enjoy it for the most part, but it began to feel kind of same-y, since we only get the story on November 9 each year – nothing in between.  Fallon and Ben are super insta-love-y, which I would have been okay with, except it began to translate into the sexual, so now the November 9 dates not only don’t have a lot of story, they do have a decent amount of sex, which also felt kind of weird since they don’t actually know each other all that well.  There was also a decent amount of swearing, and there is nothing like a string of completely unnecessary f-bombs to put me off a book.

Part of the problem was that I never liked Ben, like not even a little. I thought he was obnoxious and pushy and kind of a creeper. And while I did think the twist was clever, it didn’t really make me like Ben even more. He’s still kind of a self-centered whiner.

I did like the ending and felt like things came together well, and I really did want to see how things turned out, but overall I felt pretty meh about the whole book, and not particularly inspired to look up more of Hoover’s works.

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

//published 2005//

This story is about a woman who opens an agency that helps men get their lives together – she’ll help them shop for the right clothes, purchase nice gifts for people, redecorate their apartments, etc.  She’ll also provide herself as a date to various events where a plus one is needed – basically, she’ll help you with girlfriend stuff – but “no laundry, no sex.”  I really liked this concept and thought that this book would be about Melissa having various misadventures helping befuddled bachelors.  But this book turned out to be surprisingly boring.  Melissa aggravated me to no end, with her complete lack of self-confidence and the way she always knuckled under to her dad.  Her relationship with her long-time friend/flatmate (who is a guy) seemed extremely weird and confusing to me, especially since she was supposedly falling in love with this other guy.  Her dad was so horrifically obnoxious that I could hardly stand reading the scenes where she had to deal with him.  I was also confused about how Melissa was supposedly starting her own business but seemed to have no concept of how much money she had/was making/was spending…  I feel like I keep better records for my small, part-time Etsy shop than Melissa was keeping for a business that is supposedly becoming her livelihood.

I will say that I appreciated the lack of sex in this book.  While there were some romantic scenes, there was no shagging, and Melissa doesn’t sleep with anyone for the entirety of the book!  This was so refreshing and made me frustrated that I didn’t enjoy the book more overall.

The biggest problem was that this book wasn’t remotely funny.  There weren’t any humorous scenes at all, and there was so much potential!  Instead, it was basically just listening to Melissa waffle around and be stressed, which got kind of old after a while.  The next biggest problem was that there was not a single happily married person in the entire story.  Everyone who was married was miserable.  And I honestly didn’t feel like Melissa’s guy was going to make her happy, either.  It really put a damper on the overall tone of the book.

In short, this book didn’t make me feel happy to read, which is the whole purpose of chick lit.  It honestly made me feel low-grade stressed because I disagreed with so many of Melissa’s decisions.  And without anything funny to leaven the story, it just sort of dragged on with an overall dark gray tone to life.  3/5 for being fairly readable, but not particularly recommend.  At least I can mark this series off the TBR without bothering to read the other two books.

The Man Upstairs & Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1914//

Honestly, this was my least-favorite collection of Wodehouse stories that I’ve read to date.  While they weren’t terrible, they really lacked that sparkle and wit that I think of as trademark Wodehouse.  If I hadn’t known that these were Wodehouse stories, I wouldn’t have guessed it.  They were just rather flat, several with abrupt endings.  Not terrible for a one-time read, but rather disappointing on the whole, as I’ve come to expect more from Wodehouse, even with his earlier works.

The Divine Conquest // by A.W. Tozer

Also published as God’s Pursuit of Man.

//published 1950//

Wow, I don’t even really know where to begin with this book.  It is so incredibly challenging and thought-provoking.  It should come with a warning label – Don’t Read Unless You Are Ready to Be Convicted and Change Your Life.

I don’t mean to be rude or exclusive, but this is really a book for Christians.  I don’t see a non-Christian taking anything away from it, other than, perhaps, the urge to learn more about this mystery that is the relationship between man and God.  But Tozer is primarily writing to people who have at least a basic knowledge of Christianity – although he will challenge you to consider what exactly “being a Christian” means in real life as well.

Each chapter is a little essay, and they all build together to a cohesive overall message.  Tozer begins by discussing different aspects of the Christian faith, and how willing we are, as a rule, to “settle” for just sort of a cow-like behavior of coming to church when we’re supposed to, sitting in the pews, and then going home.  However, Tozer reminds us that becoming a Christian means accepting the Word means inviting an external force to change who we are from the inside out.

The argument of this book is the essential interiority of true religion.  I expect to show that if we would know the power of the Christian message our nature must be invaded by an Object from beyond it; that That which is external must become internal; that the objective Reality which is God must cross the threshold of our personality and take residence within.

Tozer reminds his readers, without mincing words, that becoming something means that you are changing, and changing means that you also are un-becoming things.

It is impossible to travel south without turning one’s back upon the north.  One cannot plant until he has plowed nor move forward until he has removed the obstacles before him.

In this day and age of constant fear of offending people, reading this book was like a drink of cool water on a hot day.  Tozer says flat out that, “Whatever stands in the way of spiritual progress I have felt it my duty to oppose,” and he does it firmly and without apology.

There is so much in this book.  I’ve underlined scores of passages.  After a few chapters of talking about turning one’s life around, Tozer begins to remind his readers that God does not expect us to do this on our own – and the rest of the book is devoted to the Holy Spirit.  When I first read this book, circa 2007, I had grown up in the church and attending churches and Bible studies and Sunday School and everything you can think of my entire life.  I had embraced the Christian faith as my own as an adult.  Yet I realized that I could not recall a single sermon on the topic of the Holy Spirit.  Tozer challenges his readers to embrace this aspect of God, not in the speaking-in-tongues-rolling-in-the-aisles way, but the fact that He does indwell the children of God and is there to help us make decisions, to live purely, to understand Scripture.  And instead of coming to Him, most of the time we just ignore Him.

Tozer says all of this much, much better than I ever could.  If you’re a Christian (or thinking about Christianity), I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  I’m still being challenged by it.  Tozer’s writing rarely feels dated.  Instead, it feels like he is writing today, and writing directly to his reader.  It’s like reading a letter from a well-loved but somewhat strict uncle.

Read The Divine Conquest.  But only if you’re willing to make some life changes along the way.

The Hidden Life of Trees // by Peter Wohlleben

//published 2015//

Do you ever read a book that you really, really want to like… but just can’t?  That’s where I ended up with The Hidden Life of Trees, a book whose premise really intrigued me, but the follow-through just wasn’t all that great.  This book had been on my TBR for a while, and I was pretty stoked when I received it as my second book from Mr. B’s Emporium.

Wohlleben manages a forest in Germany, and so spends a great deal of time with trees.  His book sets forth the case that trees can communicate with one another, and can work together as a social network to support and care for one another as well.  And I actually agree with all of those things.  Forests are magical, and it’s obvious when you spend time just quietly sitting in one that there is a great deal going on.

However, there were a couple of things about the book that just didn’t resonate with me.  The first was simply the lack of orderly progression through the book.  Each chapter just felt like a random essay.  The chapters didn’t really build together, and he references things both before and after his point of writing.  While it makes sense to direct readers back to something we’ve already covered, or even to mention that something may be covered more in-depth in a future chapter, Wohlleben does this in a way that sometimes left me confused – why is he talking about this if we haven’t actually read the section that’s two chapters ahead?  Why didn’t he mention this back three chapters ago when we were already talking about this topic?  The whole book felt rather choppy and disorganized, rather than flowing together as a whole.

The second thing that began to get on my nerves after a while was Wohlleben’s tendency to make leaps in logic.  He presents a situation, and then explains ‘why’ this is – as though there are no other options.  Such as this:

And how do trees register that the warmer days are because of spring and not late summer?  The appropriate reaction is triggered by a combination of day length and temperature.  Rising temperatures mean it’s spring.  Falling temperatures mean it’s fall.  …  And what this proves as well, by the way, is that trees must have a memory.  How else could they inwardly compare day lengths or count warm days?

I mean, really?  Trees having memory is only way that they could respond to day length/temperature fluctuations?  It isn’t even that I agree or disagree about trees having memory.  It’s the way that it’s presented as conclusive fact, with no science or study behind it: “What this proves…”  But does it?

There are also moments when it feels like Wohlleben has no idea what he is doing or talking about.  My mind was absolutely blown by this paragraph, where he is talking about the dangers of invasive diseases and insects:

In connection with this, I sometimes wonder if foresters don’t play a role in the spread of the disease. I visited damaged forests in southern Germany, and then afterward, I was out and about in the forest I manage – wearing the same shoes!  Might there have been tiny fungal spores on my soles that traveled into the Eifel mountains as stowaways?

You think!?  I think we can mark page 216 as the point where I lost all respect for Wohlleben as a forester.  It’s pretty basic management technique when caring for any living thing, from dairy cattle to corn to trees to disinfect your clothing and shoes (and in many cases, things like the tires on your car as well) when going from unhealthy, diseased creatures to the healthy ones.  He goes on to say, “Whatever the case may be, since then, the first ash trees in Hummel have also been struck with the disease.”  !??!!?!?!?

There was also a definite attitude that only ancient forests really have this art of communication going on.  Young forests, or ones that have been planted, lack the true connection of the ancient forests.  And while this does seem true at some level… I also think that there is still communication and feeling within younger forests – and even artificial ones.  I’ve walked through many stands of planted pine, like the ones Wohlleben dismisses, and they still possess that sense of communion.  According to Wohlleben’s logic, virtually no stand of trees in the United States is really worth bothering about, as most of them are only a few hundred years old…

All in all, I was just rather put off by Wohlleben’s condescending tone throughout.  He would say things like, “Statistically speaking, each tree raises exactly one adult offspring to take its place.”  So… forests never get larger when left to their own devices?  And how can you make such a sweeping statement, anyway?  How can you say that, across the literally billions of trees on the entire planet, there is always a stagnant number of trees, because each adult tree is producing exactly one offspring?  I mean really.

I wanted this book to be magical, because trees are magical.  I’m honestly quite passionate about trees and forests; my sisters thinks that I may be a misplaced dryad.  (My tree is a birch, if you’re interested.)  But Wohlleben took all the magic out of the whole conversation.  His writing was rather dry and, as I said, condescending.  He used just enough science to make himself sound important, but not enough to make this a legitimate scientific book.  While there were bits and pieces that were interesting, Wohlleben himself aggravated me too much for me to really love this book.

A 3/5 for an interesting concept for some chapters that were decent to read, but overall not particularly recommended.

November Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

The Voyage to Magical North and The Journey to Dragon Island by Claire Fayers

//published 2016//

I have to say that I actually really, really enjoyed these books, so the whole “meh” feeling doesn’t really apply here.  I gave them an easy 4/5 and completely enjoyed joining Brine on her unexpected pirate ship adventure.  Fayers did a great job with world-building – as an adult, I still found interesting and engaging, but I think that the target audience (middle school) would still easily be able to follow the simple yet involved rules of Brine’s world.

//published 2017//

Brine herself is a very fun heroine, and I felt like her character was balanced out well by Peter, and later Tom.  All in all, I enjoyed how the characters didn’t really fall into stereotypes, but also didn’t feel like they were trying to not fall into stereotypes.

I would definitely recommend these fun and magical little books, and will be looking out for further adventures of Brine & co. in the future.

Cinchfoot by Thomas Hinkle

//published 1938//

Another Famous Horse Story, I found this one to be a bit boring.  Cinchfoot just sort of meanders about but there isn’t a really strong plot or story that feels like it is pulling things along.  Not a bad read, but not one I see myself returning to again.  3/5.

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater

//published 1979//

While this wasn’t my favorite Pinkwater book ever, it still had some very funny moments.  I also think that Pinkwater’s thoughts/views on the educational system are brilliantly insightful and cutting.  I also loved the way that Lionel realized that if he wasn’t learning things, it was his own fault at some level.  Some of the adventures the boys have are quite ridiculous, but the ridiculous is exactly what Pinkwater writes so well.  3.5/5 and I do recommend it, but only if you’ve read some of Pinkwater’s stronger works first.

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

//published 1946//

This was a pretty adorable little Heyer tale.  I did find Carlyon a bit too overbearing at times, but Elinor was just too adorable, as was Carlyon’s younger brother.  I quite enjoyed the way that the love story was secondary to all the ridiculous spy tales.  Fun and frothy; classic Heyer.  4/5.

The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

//published 2017//

So I purchased this edition because of the amazing illustrations by MinaLima.  My husband gave me some money for my birthday that he said was specifically for books, and, more specifically, I must purchase at least one book that I’ve been not purchasing because of its unreasonable expense!  This one fit the bill – but it was worth every penny, as the book itself is absolutely gorgeous. The illustrations are amazing – not just the big, fancy, interactive ones, but all the details on every page.

It was also interesting to read the original version of B&B – it’s a great deal more convoluted and involved than the traditional version we see these days, as Beauty has eleven (!!!) siblings, and there are multiple chapters devoted to a complicated backstory with fairy feuds.  It was still a very engaging story, although I can see why it has evolved the way that it has, getting rid of some of the extraneous characters and building more personality among those that are left.

Anyway, this was definitely a worthwhile purchase and read, and I can see myself returning to this gorgeous book many times in the future.

The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner by Ann Larkin Hansen

//published 2017//

This is another Storey book, and another addition to their Backyard Homestead series.  While this book did have some interesting information, and I did like the format where things were laid out by season, it was definitely an outline type of a book.  There wasn’t really a lot of depth about anything, making this more of a starting-point reference rather than an end-all tome.  It makes a nice addition to my collection, but definitely wouldn’t be the book I would choose if I could only have one homesteading manual.  Still, excellent formatting and very nicely put together, as I’ve come to expect from Storey.

The Little Nugget by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1913//

This was a fun little tale of a very obnoxious little boy who is worth a great deal of money, and so has multiple people attempting to kidnap him for various reasons.  While there were several funny moments and it was overall an enjoyable tale, it wasn’t as developed as most of Wodehouse’s later works, and lacked that sort of bubbly perfection.  It was an easy 3/5 read and one that I do recommend, but not if it is your first foray into the world of Wodehouse.