{Books Lately} September 2018

Books Lately | The Open Home

One of my goals for 2018 was to read more fiction books as I tend to gravitate towards parenting books and homeschool how-tos, which whilst often interesting and helpful they aren’t the sort of reading that feeds one’s soul and replenishes one’s energy. I’ve done pretty good with my fiction goal, if I do say so myself and also managed to utilise my local library for the majority of the following books, which has felt like a second win.

Here are some of the fiction books I’ve been reading lately:

To Kill a Mocking Bird image

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I’ve always enjoyed books set in the mid 1800’s to mid 1900’s time period of America, but alas my high school curriculum did not cover this one and thus I have missed out on a much loved modern classic until now. Many of you will know the story well. Young Scout and her brother, Jem develop a fascination with their mysterious and reclusive neighbour, Boo Radley whilst their Father, Atticus works to defend a young black man accused of a crime he did not commit. It’s humorous and heart warming in parts whilst dealing with the difficult subject of racial injustice in the Deep South of America in the 1930’s, and all through the eyes of a young child. I highly recommend it.

Anne of Green Gables image

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is another of those books that I missed out on as a girl and yet it is a favourite of so many of my friends that I knew I must finally catch up. This is definitely a book I think I would have enjoyed more if I had read it in my tweens, but that’s not to say I didn’t like it I just think some of the childhood whimsy and teenage angst was wasted on an old bird like me. The story is a sweet one though. It’s starts with a young orphan girl called Anne accidently finding a home with two middle aged siblings on Prince Edward Island and then follows her life through school and college as she makes Green Gables her home. By the end of the book of was feeling very fond of “Anne with an E” and I look forward to experiencing the rest of the Anne series through the eyes of my girls over the years to come.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette image

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I thoroughly enjoyed this epistolary novel and recommend it to all my fellow letter writers. Bernadette is quite the character. She has many unique personality quirks and struggles to connect with her family and fit in with her local community. For the first half of the book you are reading all the various correspondence from schools and personal assistants, between friends and neighbours, knowing that at some point Bernadette will go missing, but still not quite understanding why. I was unable to work this one out on my own and I struggled to put the book down. This one is available at the local library for those Guernsey based folk who fancy giving it a read.

Books Lately September 2019 | The Open Home

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Cranfield Fisher

This was a sweet read to end the summer with and await the start of the new school year. It was lent to me by a fellow homeschool mum and a gentle reminder about how sweet and enriching this learning lifestyle can be. The book starts with a very timid 9 year old orphan girl, Elizabeth Ann having to leave the sheltered home of her very loving yet over protective aunts to stay with the dreaded Putney cousins. The Putney cousins of course turn out to be rather lovely and their simple way of living out in rural Vermont turns out to be just what Elizabeth Ann needs to transform from a small, anxious and entitled little girl into the healthy, confident and competent Betsy you’ll come to know and love.  In an age of over scheduled, constantly connected, rather lazy children this book has an important message to tell. It is a gentle reminder that sometimes the simpler ways are not only sweeter but also more satisfying and life giving. This book contains some important values that are still relevant today, along with some much loved characters and is suitable for junior school kids as well as adults who enjoy some quality children’s fiction.

What books have you been reading lately?

{Books Lately} February 2018

Books Lately | The Open Home

The cold winter months have really fuelled my reading of late as snuggling up with a good book when the weather outside is so cold and blustery is a wonderfully comforting feeling. I usually read a lot more non-fiction than I do fiction, but I’ve had so much fun with fiction over the last couple of months that I’ve set myself the goal of reading one fiction book per month throughout 2018.

Here are some of the fiction books I’ve been reading lately:

A Christmas Carol by Charles DickensBooks Lately January 2018 | The Open Home

Having watched The Muppets version of A Christmas Carol religiously on Christmas Eve for over a decade I decided it was high time I actually read the original book, this copy of which we’ve had sat unread for far too many years. The work of Charles Dickens has always felt a little intimidating to me as I tend to picture incredibly thick books filled with lofty words set against the back drop of bleak Victorian England. A Christmas Carol is a great introduction to the works of Dickens. Firstly, because it’s not too thick. Secondly, because it’s not too bleak and thirdly, because most of us are quite familiar with the festive story the parts with the occasional lofty words are understandable. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch in this publication of the book also entice you to keep reading and there is definitely more to the story than the TV adaptations can include. I felt these extra snippets added a lot of depth and back story to Scrooge’s character and felt a lot more empathy for how the young man became the “miserable, bitter old miser” we often remember him as.

Books Lately January 2018 | The Open HomeLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

Historical fiction may be my favourite reading genre but somehow it has taken me 30 years to discover the gem that is Little Women. Set during the American Civil War of 1861-1865 this once wealthy family now finds itself rather poor and with Mr March away on the battle field, Mrs March and the two eldest daughters are working to support the family. Jo, our protagonist along with her sisters Meg, Beth & Amy befriend a new neighbour, Laurie and the first part of the book follows their childhood games and war time struggles. The second part of the book follows the various adventures of the sisters as they come of age and find their place in the world. It’s not all love, marriage and babies though, although those do make up some very sweet parts of the story. The book is also full of some very relatable character struggles, as well as the presence of fear, the pain of rejection, and the heartbreak of loss. I think as a mother of just girls this book appealed to me all the more and the scenes of sisterly love, squabbles and unity were particularly sweet to me. I was pretty much hooked from chapter one and in fact a word of warning: Do not read this book when sat in the Departure Lounge of an airport, you may get so wrapped up in the story that you almost miss your flight!

Books Lately January 2018 | The Open HomeA Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers

I read this book a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely, more so now that I am reading it again with my church Core Group. Francine Rivers is well known for her historical fiction with Christian themes, but the stories from this book are actually based on the real women in the Bible that were woven into the genealogy of Jesus; Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and of course, Mary the mother of Jesus. I love how the author can bring so much life and context to even the shortest of passages in the Bible. She really helps you to read the Bible in the culture and context in which it was set, enabling you to rethink the familiar stories you thought you knew so well. I highly recommend this book, as well as Sons of Encouragement by the same author, which is written in a similar style. Both books come with discussion questions at the end of each novella to help you to dig deeper and unpack the stories more.


What have you been reading lately?

{Books Lately} November 2017

Books Lately | The Open Home

I have been slowly working my way through quite a few books over the last few months so today I am linking up with Quick Lit over on Modern Mrs Darcy to share with you some short and sweet reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately. Here are the notable.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 21.46.58The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon by David Elkind

One of my biggest values as both a parent and a home educator is protecting childhood, hence my interest in this book. In a world where toddlers have iPads, TV is an acceptable baby sitter, school hours continue to increase, organised sports dictate a child’s schedule, young girls are dressed like grown women and teenagers are constantly plugged into their smart phones, it’s not a surprise that childhood is drastically changing and quickly eroding. It’s all too much, too fast, too soon. Although first written over 25 years ago this book is even more relevant and important today. The message at the heart of this sometimes wordy book is that freedom and play in childhood is crucial for a child’s healthy development. Last updated in 2001 to include the effects of the internet and laptop devices on children, it already needs to be updated to include the effects of smart phones and social media, but the message remains the same – it’s still too much, too fast, too soon. Boundaries are needed and as parents, educators and childcare providers we need to make protecting and respecting childhood a priority because “in the end, a playful childhood is the most basic right of children.” Lets not deny them it.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 21.48.16The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian

In a Christian marriage praying with and for your spouse is perhaps one of the most intimate things you can do. I don’t know about you, but as a Christian wife my prayers for my husband (when I remember to do them and remember to include him!) can quickly degenerate into “be with him today, keep him safe, etc, etc.” Better than nothing I guess, but grossly hindering the power of prayer in our marriage. For wives who want to pray more intentionally for their husbands and perhaps see breakthroughs in their relationship with their spouse, this book acts as a guide enabling you to pray more regularly and more specifically for your spouse. Each chapter focuses on a different area of your husband’s life, enabling you to cover his whole life in prayer. From his health, to his work, his fears and temptations, his attitude and choices, hopes and future. It’s a broad list, but delivered in a very accessible way, with short chapters highlighting the authors own experiences and each ending with scripture verses and a prayer to guide you. Once you’ve read through the book you can simply return to a chapter that seems fitting at a specific time of life. I plan to write a list of the prayer prompts onto a bookmark to keep in my Bible as a reminder to pray for my husband and a tool for being more specific.

Books Lately August 2017 | The Open Home

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

The Danes continually rank the charts as some of the happiest people in the world and Meik Wiking, the author and CEO for the Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen believe this is down to one simple thing: hygge. Books on “Hooga” and “the Danish way to live well” have been trending for some time now so when I saw this book on display at my local library I decided to grab it and see what this hygge thing is all about. Hygge does not translate easily into English, but the words cosiness, ambiance, intimacy and togetherness often get thrown around. As Wiking explains, “In many ways, hygge might be the Danish cousin to slow and simple living” a topic I have been reading around for many years now. I personally didn’t find the concept of hygge to be particularly revelatory for my own life as it seems to be a lifestyle I have already been in pursuit of without the hygge label. However, it is still a very appealing concept. For those who want to add more hygge to their lives this book gives lots of practical suggestions on hygge-like activities you can try, things such as bringing out the board games, playing boules, lighting the fire or setting up a mini library. What I particularly liked about this book was one of Wiking’s final chapters on savouring and gratitude. If I was to sum up hygge in just one sentence then I would say that hygge is all about savouring the moment and enjoying the simple pleasures of life, because living in and appreciating the moment are conducive to gratitude, which in turn is conducive to happiness, which is why those Danes are just so darn happy!

Replenish Book ImageReplenish: Experience Radiant Calm & True Vitality in Your Everyday Life by Lisa Grace Byrne

I first read this book in 2015 and it resonated so deeply with me that I vowed to work through each core essential. Admittedly it’s taken me a little time to get there so I’ve re-read the book so as to come up with a plan of action. I still stand by my original review from July 2015 it’s definitely a book I want to keep coming back to as it’s full of practical and life giving advice. A must read for all mothers of little ones.

What books have you been reading lately?

{Books Lately} May 2017

Books Lately | The Open Home

Wow! It’s been a long time since I shared with you some of the books I’ve been reading lately. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a particularly slow reader in this stage of life. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to get through the books I want to so for months my books sit forlornly on the coffee table as I slowly work my way through.

However I have finally got through enough books for a blog post, so here are some short and sweet reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately.

Lessons from Madame ChicLessons from Madame Chic: 20 Style Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott

This book was recommended to me after I finished reading French Kids Eat Everything back in March of last year. French lifestyle has really begun to intrigue me and this book has some good observations to glean from. Jennifer L. Scott spent 6 months living in a Parisian home as an exchange student and learnt many lessons from observing her hostess. The first few chapters about Parisian life and french fashion were particularly interesting, but as the book went on I felt the lessons got a little more wooly and simplistic, many of which weren’t particularly new to me, such as using manners or trying to perfect the no make up look. Despite this I enjoyed her conversational style of writing and short chapters, which for a busy Mum enabled me to get through it pretty quickly. I think this book is targeted mainly at university students and women in their early twenties who still very much feel on a journey to becoming a woman and could use some pointers along the way as they develop their own sense of style and class.

Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph

As a mother of girls it is alarming to read about the decline in the mental health of young girls, which now more often than not, starts in the primary school years as children are hurried towards adulthood and exposed to more stresses than in previous generations. The book covers all the tricky topics we parents often worry about such as bullying, body image, eating disorders and social media threats, but rather than alarming you and leaving you feeling hopelessly overwhelmed Steve Biddulph manages to be incredibly informative and yet wonderfully empowering at the same time. The five key stages of girlhood are set out chronologically throughout the book allowing you easy access to each developmental stage and the challenges it brings. I personally feel this book is full of parenting wisdom, it encourages you to consider where your daughter is at whilst giving you tips on how to connect with and support her at each age. Summed up Raising Girls is the ultimate parenting guidebook for girlhood that you can pick up and delve into as your daughter grows.

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

This is the sequel to the the ever popular Daddy-Long-Legs which sees orphan girl Judy Abbot fall in love with the mysterious benefactor with whom she corresponds with via letter throughout the book. Dear Enemy takes on the same writing style of Daddy-Long-Legs, but this time the letters are being sent by the young and witty society girl Sallie McBride, the college friend of Judy that we met in the first book. It follows the trials and tribulations of Sallie as she becomes superintendent to the orphan asylum in which her friend Judy grew up as well as her tumultuous relationship with a Scottish doctor whom Sallie refers to as “Dear Enemy.” I personally found the insights into orphanage life in the early 1900’s rather interesting, one most be warned that as this is set one hundred years ago the language and political views of the time are perhaps not what we would consider to be PC today, but are representative of the era in which it is set and not necessarily the authors own personal views. This is an enjoyable read, perhaps not quite as good as Daddy-Long-Legs but humorous and enjoyable nonetheless.

What books have you been reading lately?


{Books Lately} July 2016

Books Lately | The Open Home

Well it’s been a long time since I shared with you some of the books I’ve been reading as I’ve kind of had a bit of reading block these past few months and just couldn’t work my way through anything, until recently. I then devoured 3 books in just over a month, which is actually a lot for me. So here I am linking up with Quick Lit over on Modern Mrs Darcy again to share with you some short and sweet reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately.

Books Lately July 2016 | The Open HomeThe Rings of My Tree: A Latvian Woman’s Journey by Jane E. Cunningham

Once started this book is hard to put down. I have read quite a few biographies by survivors of World War Two, mainly set in the Netherlands and mainly written by Jews or those trying to hide the Jews, but this book is different. Mirdza is not a Jew so this book does not follow the usual theme of holocaust horrors but instead highlights the journey of a young Latvian woman who is forced to flee her country in 1944, not because of the threat of the Nazis, but because of the invasion of The Red Army. I had never before considered the double threat that eastern Europe and the Baltic States faced with both the Nazis and the Soviets fighting to claim their soil. The end of the war did not bring freedom to Latvia it brought a new regime that would be in power for many years to come. I could feel Mirdza’s anger and anguish as she faced life as a displaced person, an incredibly fascinating account particularly in light of the current refugee crisis that is happening today in Europe. The story is a wonderful reminder that “where there is life, there is hope.”

Books Lately July 2016 | The Open HomeThe Earth is Singing by Vanessa Curtis

Continuing with the theme of World War Two and Latvia this fictional story is inspired by the authors own Latvian Jewish heritage. The story starts in June 1941 when the Nazis “liberate” Latvia from the Soviets and swiftly put their anti-semitic plans into place. As told by Hanna, an ordinary fifteen year old girl who also happens to be a Jew, life is about to change drastically. This book is beautifully written, incredibly thought provoking and yet horrific at the same time. This book highlights the pain that is felt when your own community seem to have turned against you, a fresh perspective that is not always explored in other books set in the same era. As with reading all books detailing the holocaust it is hard to comprehend how some people can treat their fellow human beings in such a harsh and evil way. This book is very detailed which is why I also recommend it with a brief word of warning: do not read this book before going to bed! The story follows the historic events of the Rumbula massacre which is incredibly disturbing. I’ve been reading books about World War Two and the holocaust since my mid teens but never before have I read of an event quite so wretched. Despite the horrors, this is a story that should be told.

                             The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organising by Marie KondoBooks Lately July 2016 | The Open Home

As a self confessed neat freak, books about decluttering and organising always appeal to me as I’m always looking for new ways to fine hone my system. However, I’m also a bit wary of these books as some I’ve read in the past have been so basic they’ve just not offered me anything new. I’m pleased to confirm though that The KonMari method however, does have a lot to offer even the tidiest of people.  Marie Kondo is a cleaning consultant based in Japan and by the sounds of it works with some hardcore hoarders. This book is not really about everyday tidying up (which is really just putting things back in their place) but rather about the one-off decluttering and organising that will put your house in order. The first step is to work your way through her suggested categories and discard, discard, discard! Most of her clients discard at least two thirds of their belongings and are left with only the items that truly bring them joy. Her guidance of only keeping items that spark joy has become one of the main things that sets her approach aside from others, that and her folding and storage method for clothing, both of which I can confirm work really well in practice. If you struggle to keep your home tidy, desperately need to declutter or like me just enjoy organising your home then this book is definitely worth a read.

What books have you been reading lately?

{Books Lately} March 2016

The Open Home 342

My reading has slowed down a little of late mainly because most of my spare time this past month has gone on letter writing and mail art. However I am still linking up with Quick Lit over on Modern Mrs Darcy to share with you some short and sweet reviews of a couple of books I’ve been reading lately.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 22.47.22Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

I adore reading books that are written in letters and this childhood classic by Jean Webster did not disappoint. Set in the early 1900’s the story follows orphan Jerusha “Judy” Abbott through her college years as she sets out to become a writer. Judy writes rather witty letters to her anonymous and rich benefactor, a trustee of the old fashioned orphanage where she grew up. I was able to guess who Daddy-Long-Legs was early on in the book but this did not take away from the books charm, it’s an incredibly enjoyable read with themes of social reform and women’s rights. I now plan to read the sequel to this story, Dear Enemy.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 22.46.57French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion

When it comes to food (and fashion) the French seem to know what they are doing, don’t they? This book is the personal story of a Canadian mother who moved to France with her french husband and two young daughters only to discover that here children ate “grown up” up food. What followed was a year of food education that led to her coming up with ten food rules that took her girls from being incredibly picky to gourmet eaters. These food rules are mainly things to encourage or avoid, such as encourage family meal times and avoid snacking and eating alone. I was able to glean a lot from this book. Thankfully my girls are usually good eaters, but I have definitely picked up on some areas to work on both for them and for me. I highly recommend it to parents who are willing to put in the hard work and for adults in general who want to improve their own eating habits.


What books have you been reading lately?

{Books Lately} February 2016

The Open Home 342

Due to computer issues I was too late to link up with Quick Lit over on Modern Mrs Darcy last month. However, I’ve been rather pleased with my reading attempts of late. I’ve been managing to squeeze in lots of reading time despite my toddler dropping her lunchtime nap and I’ve even managed to add in some fiction! So here you have it, some some short and sweet reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately.

Simplicity Parenting Book ImageSimplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

This is quite simply the BEST PARENTING BOOK I have ever read! It’s full of so much good stuff that I intermittently go back and re-read it to keep things fresh in my mind. Kim John Payne is a Child Psychologist with experience working in war torn countries in south east Asia. He was shocked to discover when returning to the US that many children were presenting with the same symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder as the children he had worked with overseas. The reason for this he discovered was the strain of a life lived with “too much” – too much stuff, too much information, too many choices and too much stress, all at a pace that is unsustainable and leads to burnout. So the answer? Simplify.

This book is not about making parenting simple but about parenting with the goal of simplicity for your child. The book of course tackles topics such as how to simplify your home, which toys to chuck out, how to manage screen time etc, but it is the chapters on rhythm and filtering out the adult world that I found most interesting. I highly recommend this book to all parents and parents-to-be, it’s easier to start as you mean to go on that’s for sure, but it’s never to late to slow things down and make the changes that will enable your child to enjoy a more carefree childhood.

You Are Your Child's First Teacher Book ImageYou Are Your Childs First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

I’ve always had a particular interest in earlier years education, probably because my Mum ran a preschool and I too considered this career pathway whilst in high school. I actually ended up going the health and social care route rather than the child care one but my interest remains the same, hence this book. Drawing from her experiences with Waldorf Steiner education, Rahima Baldwin Dancy shows that education starts way before formal schooling. The parents are in fact the child’s first teachers and the home the basis for all learning. I love this view, it definitely resonates with me.

The chapters explaining child development are particularly interesting and I have found them to be of use with understanding the developmental stages of my own girls and how to encourage their learning rather than hinder it. Interestingly this book also focuses a lot on rhythm in family life and how this helps children to thrive in the early years and beyond. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in child development, early years education and home education.

And the Shofar Blew Book ImageAnd the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers

I always enjoy a Francine Rivers book. I love how her Christian fiction can be so relevant to real life, feeding my faith and recharging my batteries at the same time. This book follows the story of an enthusiastic young pastor who loses his way over the years, neglecting his family and turning from his faith, all consumed by his ambition to grow his church. This was not my favourite Francine Rivers book but it is most definitely a good read and I really got into it. As a young pastor’s wife myself, I could appreciate the many pressures and temptations that the young couple in ministry were facing, having already experienced some of them myself. This book speaks truth for all Christians though, not just those in full-time vocational ministry and is a wonderful illustration of our call to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society Book ImageThe Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

As a Guernsey girl I admit I was slightly nervous to read this book in case I was disappointed by it’s portrayal of Guernsey life, but it turns out I need not have been nervous.  The authors have captured both occupied Guernsey and the post war period incredibly well and I found the book hard to put down. Without giving to much of the story away, the main character Juliet finds herself in Guernsey following a brief correspondence with the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society members, who are all rather lovable and incredibly quirky. She hopes to write a book about island life during the German occupation from 1940-1945, so is on island to interview members of the society. She inevitably falls in love with the island, just as the author, Mary Ann Shaffer did all those years before. It truly is a delightful read that also touches on some of the heartbreaking truths of the war. This book is perfect for letter lovers and history enthusiasts of which I am both, it will leave you uplifted and in need of your own literary society.

What books have you been reading lately?