Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What I've Been Reading Lately: August 2018

Guys. I finished 10 books this month, thanks to two camping trips and a weekend by myself (my husband saw just what I needed and insisted on taking the kids camping for 2 days so I could stay home by myself for the first time ever.  Yes, it was lovely).  What have you been reading lately?

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

This book has been on my list for years. I've even started it multiple times, but always ended up setting it aside for one reason or another (not that I didn't like the book, it just worked out that way). I started it again this month and finally got so into it that I couldn't put it down. I loved to see the development of the strong female protagonist; she didn't start off that way, but we follow along as she finds herself and the bravery to share her voice. I found myself a little disappointed in the ending, but then I discovered that's it's part of a series.  I've already got the second book on hold at the library and I can't wait to continue the story.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I'm still mulling over how I feel about this book.  It was definitely a page-turner; I wanted to keep going to see what happened to the characters. I enjoyed learning more about all the intertwined stories bit by bit as the book moved along.  I hate the stereotypical high school experience (cliques and alcohol and parties and lots of sleeping around) but loved to see the relationships develop between all the characters.  Have you read this one? What did you think?

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I have heard so many people talking about this book as the Netflix series comes out soon.  While it was a fun, light read, I didn't love it like so many people do.  I think I'm just not a YA Romance kind of person. I loved the sweet single Dad, the perfect portrayal of life with sisters, but I found myself feeling so annoyed with Lara Jean (the main character) for being so completely obsessed with guys.  I wanted to put my arm around her and suggest that she find a new hobby.

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)

I enjoyed this brief description of plantation life in Africa in the 1920s and 30s. It's a memoir written by Karen Blixen (pen name Isak Dinesen).  While I did find myself shaking my head a few times at the treatment of the native people (were they slaves or paid servants?  The book doesn't really address this issue) and what felt to me like subtle racism interwoven throughout the narrative, it's obvious that Blixen loved Africa, its people, and the life she built there.  There was a tone of melancholy throughout the book that I was so drawn to.

Babylon's Ark by Lawrence Anthony

I loved Anthony's The Elephant Whisperer a few months ago, and immediately put his other books on my list.  Babylon's Ark is the incredible, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of the rescue of the largest zoo in Iraq during the war. Anthony risked his life in order to save the animals who had been abandoned when their caretakers fled the city due to bombing.  The animals that remained alive were starving and dehydrated, many had wounds from shrapnel and were living in deplorable conditions.  Even though I am not a huge animal person, I loved Lawrence Anthony's dedication to these helpless creatures.  His attitude that not saving them was a reflection on us as a human race, rather than on the people who cared for them so poorly, has stuck with me.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Love.  This book is wonderfully written, realistic and uplifting.  It doesn't gloss over the damage and hurt that an abusive relationship creates, but it doesn't dwell graphically upon it either.  There's a fine line, there.  I feel like so many times in books like this, the happy ending is the child being removed from the parent and we don't see the turmoil they face, the mental train of thought that "If only I had done this differently, she would have loved me..." or "Maybe things would be better if I ______..." mentality that so often happens with people are mistreated.  I appreciate that we got to see Ada's progression out of that way of thinking and her acceptance that she is worthy of love just the way she is.  Can't wait to read the sequel!

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

This is essentially a "What If" story. What if the Cold War had turned out differently and Russia and the US had actually used nuclear bombs on each other?  It's the story of a small Florida town that was affected by nuclear blasts, but not completely obliterated by them. It includes so many details that I never would have considered: the breakdown of society and how they find order in the midst of chaos, short and long-term effects from radiation, and the power of love and friendships even when the world is falling apart.

Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

We recently discovered the absolutely fantastic movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  It's delightful.  It's our new family favorite, and it's based on an equally delightful book.  My husband read it in about 24 hours and passed it on to me; it's taken me longer to get through it, but I still really enjoyed it.  It's an unlikely friendship story and an adventure story all rolled up.  It's funny and engaging.  (I'll admit that I did struggle a little with the constant use of Maori hut names and place names, I found that trying to pronounce the name correctly in my head drew me out of the story every time I came across one, which is very often).  Loved it.

Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff

This read-aloud took us a little while to get into, but by the end I was in tears. A great historical fiction book, set in Ireland during the great potato famine.  It's got some strong and brave female characters, a lot of hardship and a lot of hope.  We loved it.

I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

I was so delighted to receive an advanced copy of this book! The official release date is September 4th.  As can be expected from anything Anne Bogel creates, this book was delightful.  Heartfelt and engaging, full of humor and relatable.  I found myself described over and over again among her delights and dilemmas of the readerly life.  So, so good.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Grateful Heart: A Guided Gratitude Journal

Grateful Heart: A Guided Gratitude Journal is here!  I'm so excited to share a peek into this project that is now available for purchase.  Grab yours here.

I've always kept a journal; writing through my thoughts and emotions is such an effective way for me to process them. Over the years my journals have evolved, but the reason I spend time in them remains the same.  An added bonus is that I love to look back through them occasionally and remember the funny things a child said, or a sweet heartfelt moment, or re-live the heartache I was feeling as I wrote and then remember how a trial was overcome. It's such a blessing to look back and see God's hand shaping my life.

Whenever I share glimpses into my journals (like this travel journal, or this one) I often hear the comment, "Oh! I wish my journal could look like that!"  If you've ever felt that way: wanting to include doodles and ephemera in your journal, but not really sure where to begin, Grateful Heart is for you!

Each page has a hand-lettered prompt, designed to get your creative juices flowing.  These prompts will spark memories and inspire you to write or paint or draw about blessings you have received.  You can use any techniques or methods you want in this journal, but here are a few ideas to help you get started:
  • glue/tape in photos of your favorite people and places
  • write detailed memories; you'll love to go back and read these in the future
  • use colored pencils or colorful pens to tell your story
  • doodle
  • make a list
  • color in the prompts and journal all around them
Here are some of the ways I've been filling up my own gratitude journal:

Buy your Grateful Heart Gratitude Journal here.

I would really, really love to see this journal in use! Please share a photo of your journal on Instagram and tag me!

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Announcing the A Lively Hope Stitching Club (and other news!)

Announcing the A Lively Hope Stitching Club!

This Families are Forever pattern is the very first of many FREE monthly patterns available to those who subscribe to the A Lively Hope Stitching Club email.

Each month, typically on the first Friday of the month, you'll receive an email from me with a pdf pattern and list of all the embroidery thread colors you need to complete a gorgeous new hand embroidery design.

I'm delighted to begin this project and can't wait for you to join me! Join soon; the first pattern goes out on Friday!

There are some more exciting changes happening here at A Lively Hope!  Here's a quick version so you can see what's happening at a glance:
  • Two separate monthly newsletters: one to stay up to date with all things A Lively Hope (book reviews, scripture study helps, journaling, homeschool inspiration, craft projects, tons of free printables) and one just for FREE hand embroidery patterns!
  • I'll be releasing a free hand embroidery pattern every month!
  • Stitching Kits are on their way to the shop! Each kit has a beautiful hand embroidery design pre-printed on high quality cotton fabric as well as all the embroidery thread you'll need to complete the project. I'm thrilled that this dream of mine is finally coming to life!

A Lively Hope Blog newsletter: If you'd like to receive the A Lively Hope newsletter, please sign up here.

A Lively Hope Stitching Club newsletter: If you want to receive a free hand embroidery pattern delivered right to your inbox each month, sign up here.

Of course you can sign up for both newsletters if you're so inclined. 

So, to recap, the plan going forward will be one monthly newsletter featuring the free hand embroidery pattern and one separate monthly newsletter with all the new stuff on alivelyhope.com, plus each month I'll include five things I'm loving lately (this could include anything from books to podcasts to craft projects).  

I am so grateful to you, readers, for supporting me in this work that I love.

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