Monday, September 30, 2019

Book Review: Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart

Thunder on the RightThunder on the Right by Mary  Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are poorly marked spoilers in this review:

I enjoyed reading this on Kindle. Probably really a 3.5. I liked it but there are better Mary Stewart books out there.

Great literature? No, but Stewart is talented enough to give us beautiful elements when we're careful enough to read them. She knew she was writing a Gothic and refers us to Ann Radcliffe enough times that we know it, too.

But the story is more elemental than even that. She makes a heavy emphasis on earth and to a lesser extent water. [We meet Cambridge geologists conversing in the very opening of the book. They are, you might say grounded in the present. Nothing fanciful or terrifying or eventful will happen to them. They recur again at the end to show us that this interlude of Jenny's was outside the domain of the real. We have a man-induced "avalanche" that attacks our protagonists and then a mountain-made avalance where the mountain makes itself known. But our geologists aren't discussing the event beyond the composition of the rocks themselves. This is not our first rocky escapade - rocks center in the whole scenario in the car accident that creates the scenario. We see the power of the river in the storm at the bridge. The water threatens to drown those who dare disrespect the river and her boundaries. (hide spoiler)] The ground and the water push the plot at times, even the air if you consider the storm. There are fire elements as well in lanterns, gems, and torches. The four ancient elements are involved in the brackets to the story.

Really, I think Stewart wants to discuss light and how we see. It wasn't very far in that I noticed she was mentioning the lightness, or darkness, or moonlight, or sun, how there was red light or blue light and shadow. How the light affects the character's view, mood, perceptions, understanding. How the characters use different kinds of light for protection, support, inspiration. How fear or ferocity were stirred up by the atmosphere felt in the light.
The title seems to be talking about the Greeks and their belief that hearing thunder on the right is a good omen. If facing North, that means the storm is past. Stephen and Jenny hear thunder on the right and it bolsters confidence. [ The storm of knowing whether they both love - we've long known of Stephen's but we and she finally confirm Jenny's - has resolved and that resolution allows them to go forward as a team. They may be physically separated for the trial ahead, but they are still together in purpose. Stephen recognizes the Thunder on the Right, the storm past, and uses it to help Jenny move forward in what must be done. That this is closer to the center of the book may hide the fact that it is the height of the story. Stewart even names the chapter "Entr'acte: con amore." It seems as though it is a break, rest, breath but really it is the story itself. (hide spoiler)]

I liked Stephen who was imperfect but loved, and Jenny who was oblivious until the obvious awoke her. Is this the best Mary Stewart book? No. Is she heavy handed? Yes - a second book for sure. Is it quite good for its genre? Yes. Stewart is talented with imagery and descriptive language; there are beautiful passages. She brings a depth of symbol and beauty to a genre that can be skimmed on the surface for the story, but in this case ought not be.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Simple Woman's Daybook for September 9, 2019

For Today... September 9, 2019

Outside my window... the night is starting to fall.

I am thinking... about Education Philosophy, Anthropology, and Theology and how they fit together.

I am thankful... for Kroger Pick-Up groceries. I was able to order and pick up the week's groceries all in a single day.

I am wearing... sweat pants and AwesomeBots shirt. Comfy.

I am creating... hmmm ... I created a menu plan and grocery list. I have more things to work on but haven't been creating like I need to.

I am going... nowhere else today. Nboy and I went to Great Clips, Walmart, and Kroger.

I am wondering... why my kids are watching Wild Kratts with their TV time LOL

I am reading... Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart. I really like Mary Stewart for light reading. I'm alternating between her books and Barbara Pym's - I just finished Crampton Hodnet.

I am hoping... to finish Thunder on the Right more quickly than I did Crampton Hodnet.

I am learning... about Chapter 4 of the Westminster Confession of Faith: Of Creation.

In my kitchen... Sweet Potato Waffles. Breakfast for dinner when Daddy has an evening meeting.

In the homeschool room... we're struggling with the right time for Morning Time. We had a great week at 1pm, and then haven't been consistent - it's just hard to stop what we're doing and go do MT.

A favorite quote for today... "Christians cannot do anthropology without in some way doing theology."

A peek into one of my days... M-girl has aged out of recreational soccer, so she decided to referee. Saturday was her first game!

One of my favorite things... I do love breakfast for dinner. So, even though I don't like that Jason isn't home for dinner, we have a special treat and make a special memory with my kids.

Post Script Next week I need to plan and prep for traveling to California for Schole Sisters Laugh. I can't wait to see my friends - and I'm excited to go to California for the first time ever, too. It should be an amazing time! Are you registered? Do you have a group that you're meeting with?

For more Daybooks, check out The Simple Woman:

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Book Review: Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym

Crampton HodnetCrampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this on Kindle. I enjoy Barbara Pym and I enjoyed this book ... but even less than the usual for Pym happens in it.

In many ways, the characters learn to be content with their lot, which is a great lesson in these days of always wanting more. Time marches on, and sometimes you're in the right place. You don't always need to dream of a replacement, like Crampton Hodnet.

It was worth reading, I'm not disappointed to have done so, but it wasn't my favorite. It won't keep me from more Pym.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Simple Woman's Daybook for September 3, 2019

For Today... September 3, 2019

Outside my window... the sky is baby blue with streaks of white clouds. It's lovely and cool, but will warm up later.

I am thinking... I have a lot to do today! We have a big day tomorrow and I need to prep food today.

I am thankful... for the opportunities my children have that make my days so busy.

I am wearing... sweat pants and Buckeye t-shirt and batega exercise socks from our morning walk.

I am creating... Folk Songs and Plutarch booklets for co-op.

I am going... to post this and then cook. And wash the fabric I bought.

I am wondering... if I'll get everything done, perhaps I should make a list.

I am reading... The Plutarch Project Volume 5. I read about Alexander's birth and youth in preparation for co-op tomorrow.

I am hoping... to get some reading done today - I didn't yesterday.

I am learning... to take time for what is important.

In my kitchen... chicken and salsa is cooking in the crockpot. Chicken cooked and diced for tomorrow's lunch casserole to make. I need to bake the ciabatta and make breakfast. I want to make sloppy joes for in the crockpot tomorrow so when the rotation of eaters need to eat they can.

In the homeschool room... AoPS pre-algebra is going well. Lukeion Latin is going well. Books are being read. Phineas Gage was just narrated; Mere Christianity before that.

A favorite quote for today... "There is a saying of King Alfred's that I like to apply to our School,--"I have found a door," he says. That is just what I hope your School is to you--a door opening into a great palace of art and knowledge in which there are many chambers all opening into gardens or field paths, forest or hills." 

I'm hosting CMiRL on Instagram this week using this speech (scroll to page 111).

A peek into one of my days... morning walk. That light, tho!

One of my favorite things... it's football season again!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Review: Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

Airs Above the GroundAirs Above the Ground by Mary  Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Stewart's Gothic mysteries are always a treat.

They're literate - she throws in allusions with abandon - and eventually fast paced. I say eventually, because they build steam as she goes, often beginning somewhat slowly and not immediately "hooking" the reader ... in fact not hooking you until late in the game when you absolutely lose an afternoon to finishing the book.

That was the case here with Airs Above the Ground. There are multiple plots here woven together to create red herrings, general confusion for her characters (not to mention readers), and interest. The horses are important, the circus is important, location is important, the relationship between characters is important, even the gems are important.

It's a tidy finish, but not a wrapped up finish. The lives of the characters continue on, but with tracks down the road that you can't see for the tunnels.

Our heroine might be confused, but she is never thoughtless or incapable of rational thought. That's always nice to see.

There seems to be a sense of the need for solid footing in this book - being able to do the Airs Above the Ground exercises of the Lipizzaner horses requires training, understanding, and foundations. The young wife Vanessa is seeking the foundations of her marriage; young Tim, her travel companion is seeking the foundations of adulthood; Lewis, her husband, is seeking a foundation too - but I'll let you find it. They're all looking to be who they are - fitted to their own skin. When they're on firm footing, they, too, can perform feats to bring about safety and a right end.

The Countess is so saddened by their reduced circumstances, they aren't what they once were, and she hasn't her feet under her:

‘Ah, yes. I am afraid the best of the portraits are no longer here. We have to live as best we can, in ways which we would once have considered impossible.’ She lifted her shoulders, solid under the frilly blouse. ‘The best of everything is gone, Mrs March.’

and has become angry with nowhere to land:

This, it seemed, was one of those angry natures that feeds on grievance; nothing would madden her more than to know that what she complained of had been put right. There are such people, unfortunates who have to be angry before they can feel alive. I had sometimes wondered if it were some old relic of pagan superstition, the fear of risking the jealousy and anger of the gods, that made such people afraid of even small happinesses. Or perhaps it was only that tragedy is more self-important than laughter. It is more impressive to be a Lear than a Rosalind.

Her identity was not fitted to her own skin, but to the trappings of wealth. I feel bad for the Count.

There's a a slow chase across Austria, a spectacular roof-top chase scene, a car chase, a train chase to bring the story to conclusion.

I'm not saying that everyone should read Mary Stewart. This is absolutely light reading - but a thoughtful light read. I've downloaded Thunder on the Right to read next.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Book Review: Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, AbolitionistFierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I've long wanted to read this - I've had it for Kindle for a number of years, but just never could get moving on it. This winter I went ahead and bought all of Prior's books when On Reading Well came out.

I'm glad I started here.

I very much enjoyed reading about More, her life and her work. She was a fascinating character. Her work with Wilberforce and on her own was tireless on behalf of the neglected and poor. Her Christian witness and insistence upon it was lifechanging for many. Her attacks at the culture by using their means in a Christian way were ingenious. By turning cultural norms on their heads for Christ, she was able to reach many with the gospel of truth. More's life was beset with ups and downs and she was certainly imperfect, but she worked for the Kingdom insisting upon excellence and I suppose that is the lesson to take away. Her leaflets were Christian and were of better quality than the mainstream ones. Her poetry, plays, prose - fiction and non - were all of the highest caliber. If we want to reach a world through culture, the quality has to be there above all.

My main dissatisfactions with this book were more technical in nature. Overall, it was well written and kept my attention, but there were some notable occasions when I had to re-read paragraphs a couple of times because I lost the antecedents to the pronoun. This was one of my "Bedtime Biography" reads, so I was tired, true. I thought there were places where the writing could have been tightened up a little.

The other has to do with the way biographies are written these days - the thematic approach. Instead of mixing up all of the themes in chronological fashion, they pull different areas of interest or ideas into different chapters. I understand why people do it, but as a reader, I find it confusing to remember the threads and pull them back together in a whole picture of the person. This is a matter of taste and preference, but an important one.

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Monday, April 08, 2019

AmblesideOnline Camp Meeting 2019 Big Impressions

I had the great joy of attending the AO Camp Meeting this past weekend. I roomed with dear friends - Virginia Lee Rogers and Heather Tully - while my amazing mother-in-law finished up Year 7 with my kids. I traveled with friends, Darcie and Anna, to Tennessee.

We arrived at Camp Garner Creek right on time and immediately ran into the Other Dawn (or am I the other dawn?).  We registered and prepared for a very busy weekend.

I found my Charlotte Mason IRL co-curators, which was a joy

The whole weekend was wonderful.

This will be a short post, I plan - Lord willing - to write more as I contemplate and reconsider the things I heard and read. But for now, I thought I'd share some of the big ideas I was left with.

The big words I came home with: Magnanimity, Joy, Enthusiasm, Generosity, Companionship.

I know it's not a very good picture.
The generosity of the Advisory from first to last - they thanked us for using their lifetime of work - was a wonder to behold. Whether it was generosity of things - art prints, bookmarks, chocolate - the generosity of ideas - poetry, songs, clouds - or their wisdom of experience - in talks, songs, and plans. The entire way of the event, which could have been heavy and burdensome was all Jesus - and his yoke is easy and his burden light.

These are not perfect women. They will tell you, but they are generous women. They have cleared and made paths plain to follow and I am thankful they've left it well marked. Theirs is an example to follow as they follow Christ.

I was also struck by the ideas of joy and enthusiasm. It was a joy to be with so many moms walking the same path I am. Singing, praying, laughing, and crying together. I have a tendency toward melancholy and cynicism and this weekend only emphasized how I need to bring more joy into my homeschool. One way to do it is by being enthusiastic ... singing folk songs with gusto, being genuinely excited about the work, and generally trying to remember that the joy of the Lord is my strength.

Toward the end of the weekend, the word Companionship was brought forth. As my word for the year is "commune." it seemed so fit. So many of the women I met "for real" this weekend were already friends, but as we continue to pursue an education for ourselves and our children, we are more truly companions - walking, talking, leading, leaning, picking up, pulling along, pushing forward, going hand-in-hand (or mind to mind) along the pathways of life. We commune. together as we commune. with the Lord.

The final idea - and one I've been contemplating for a couple of years now - is Magnanimity. I leave it for last, not as the least important, but as the most. It encompasses all of the others and expands on them with sympathy, empathy, and a dealing with others that is beyond our humanity. It's a bigness, a sense of being above pettiness, a large soul, a full soul that overflows it's banks. I was overjoyed to see it at work.

I had a hard time explaining how the weekend went, but finally found the right way: after other conferences my brain is full; after the AO Camp Meeting, my being is full.