I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

What We're Reading in January 2020

Last week I started reading Gilead, a book that has been lauded as a must-read by all my favorite book people. I trudged along for over a hundred pages, finding every possible excuse not to read when I had the chance. Cleaning the windows, folding clothes, organizing my purse--all these tasks seemed to be more appealing than reading that book.

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After finally getting half-way through it, I decided that while Gilead appeals to many, it doesn't appeal to me. (It has a strange premise, is written as one long, continuous personal reflection--without chapter delineations, and has a meandering plot.) So I gave myself permission to abandon ship.

Admittedly, ditching a book is often quite difficult for me to do, especially now that I know what a personal investment the book writing process actually is. It can sometimes feel like in giving up on someone's book, I'm giving up on their ideas, their hours of labor, and even their personhood.

But, I also realize that life is too short and my TBR stack is too high to read bad books, even ones that seem to be enjoyed by all the popular kids. So, I made the decision to pick a new fiction read for the month.

But, I'm not the only one cracking open a new-to-me book by a new-to-me author. Here's what my entire crew is reading this month:

Read aloud- everybody

The Tale of Despereaux- This book is divided into three parts--each one featuring a different main character: a mouse, a rat, and a servant girl. The three parts will eventually converge to knit all the character's lives together.

We are almost to the end of the story, and I'm still not quite sure what to think of it. In true Kate DiCamillo style, the book whispers weighted themes like courage, kindness, and perseverance but with a child-like innocence that doesn't feel overwrought or heavy-handed. However, because we've not come to the point where the three stories intersect, it feels a bit disjointed and oversimplified.

Knowing and appreciating DiCamillo's other works, I carry high hopes. I'm sure it will not disappoint. 

Jamie- that's me!

Lilac Lane- I've never heard of this author and I've never heard of this book. In many ways, this book selection was a stab in the dark. But it wasn't. Not completely, anyway. One of my lesser-used party tricks for choosing a book when I'm not sure what to read is to look at the endorsements page of the last book I really, really enjoyed. (In this case, I went back to Before We Were Yours, written by a Christian writer who writes clean and captivating secular fiction.)

Authors tend to cluster themselves into like-minded camps with the idea that in doing so, they can create cross-over readers. So when looking for potential endorsers for their books, they look to their cluster buddies. Although not an exact science, endorsement authors can generally be trusted to write books in a similar vein and with a similar moral compass as the author of the book being endorsed.

All that to say, I've only read the prologue of this book. Whether it is clean and captivating remains to be seen.

**Update**: After only one full chapter in, I've decided this book is not for me. It is not at all captivating. The lines read like a dimestore novel. And it is not quite as clean as I prefer.

My Bread- This month for the Storied Mom Reading Challenge, I tasked participants to select a book that teaches them a new skill or hobby, specifically one they've been wanting to learn. I chose artisan bread beaking. Although I've been baking homemade loaves for years, I've gotten into a bit of a rut. I not only want to add a few more recipes to my arsenal, but I also want to learn some more old-world baking practices.

When I went looking for a book to satisfy my culinary curiosities, I stumbled upon one written by the man whose basic No-Knead Artisan recipe has been a table staple in our home for quite some time. The book is one part memoir, one part baking/science class, and one part recipe index.  

Sweetie Pea- 11th grade

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus- This is the true story of a devout Muslim who discovered the undeniable love and deity of Jesus and the repercussions that he eventually experienced because of that discovery. The book came highly recommended to my daughter by a friend in her youth group. Although she says that the writing is not especially spectacular, the story is very thought-provoking and encouraging. 

Super Boy- 8th grade

No Hero- In full disclosure, I would not recommend this book to the average 8th-grader. It contains many heavy themes, graphic war-time scenes, and mild language. That said, my son has aspirations of joining the military someday, has read many military memoirs, and as a member of a local CAP squadron is more familiar with the realities of a soldier's duties than the average teenager.

This is the sequel to a book he read last year and details the early military years of Mark Owen, one of the Navy SEAL Team Six soldiers responsible for killing Osama bin Laden.

Blonde Warrior- 7th grade

Eragon- My son received this at a book swap at our co-op. It is the first in a wildly popular fantasy series written by a former homeschooler. He's only got a few more chapters left to read and has already requested to read the next book in the series. When asked, he says it's on par with Narnia and The Lord of the Rings in quality. 

Greased Lightning- 5th grade

The Eagle, the Cave, and the Footbridge- Also in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, this is the first book in the new Hamelin Stoop series, a set of novels that hint towards Biblical truths.

The Dude- 2nd grade

Pirates Past Noon- Over and over again, God continues to surprise me with how well he weaves our homeschool days together, despite my original plans. Case in point: We reached the pirate section in our history curriculum at the exact same time as our local children's theatre announced they would be performing a stage production of Treasure Island. We joined with several other families from our homeschool co-op to see an afternoon matinee. Then, a couple of weeks later, at the tail end of the history unit, I stumbled upon Pirates Past Noon in a used book shop and slipped it into my son's Christmas stocking.

I'm not normally a Magic Tree House fan, but I thought this pirate-themed edition would make for an easy transition for him from leveled readers (which he has been reading up until this month) to illustrated chapter books (which he will be reading for the remainder of the school year). 

That's what we're kicking the new year off with. How about you? Watcha reading?


  1. hi Jamie,
    ive got a grade 3 boy who pretty much just reads "the kingdom of wrenly- they are light stories with a great friendship between the young prince and a pheasant girl. i appreciate the innocent adventures and kind words, "same team" relationship they have(something i find lacking in many other kids books). with that in mind, im curious if you've come across any other books similar? he reads well but isnt interested in many of the more mature themes, which i appreciate but it makes it a challenge to find other interests. the other series he likes is "the last firehawk". again, innocent enough adventures and he enjoys animal stories. just thought i'd pick your brain because you have three olders that have been thru this age already and he's my oldest. if not, no worries, just thought i'd ask. thanks so much for your posts and commitment to us, your readers. God bless-kim

    1. Kim, I'm actually not familiar with either one of those series. They sound like fantasy books??? If so, I'd highly recommend any of the books in this post>>https://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2015/07/30-books-for-christian-tween-teen.html

  2. My 11th grader chose Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus as her favorite non-fiction read last year and she read over 200 books in the year! I thought that it must be a pretty good one to compete against 200 others! ;-) Her fave fiction was the Count of Monte Cristo.

    Embarrassing moment: I wrote her faves in our Christmas letter this year (as I write a tidbit about each child) but typed The Count of Monte CRISCO instead. Printed off 100 a mailed them on there way BEFORE discovering my typo. (doh!)

    1. Oy! I've made similar goofs, usually in texts. Autocorrect is no friend of mine!

      Glad to know your daughter enjoyed Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It looks like a great one.

  3. My 2nd grade son is obsessed with Pirates this year! HE's read all the pirate stuff he can find and I just got him 2 more on a used site. So funny! ;)

    1. I love it when kids dive deep into a particular theme!

  4. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is one of my favorite books of all time and I recommend it often!

    I enjoy seeing what your boys are reading to get recommendations for my 2 boys. My 4th grade son is currently reading The Notorious Benedict Arnold and my 2nd grade son is reading Farmer Boy. I am reading The Case for Christ and just started The Boys in the Boat too. While the Case for Christ is interesting, I find reading it shorter spurts are best for me.

  5. And our read aloud is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

    1. We've not read that one. Are you and your kids enjoying it. My eldest son read the youth version of The Boys in the Boat and really liked it.

  6. Yes, we are all liking Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, even my 5 year old daughter.

  7. I am a bit late to the game since the month is half over, but I thought I would chime in. :)

    Read aloud - everyone - We are absolutely LOVING "Kingdom Tales" by David and Karen Mains. It was recommended to me years ago, but I never was able to get my hands on a copy until recently. My 11th grade daughter is especially crazy about it. She loves Princess Amanda. I think it comes from My Father's World curriculum.

    11th grade daughter - She is reading "Emma" for school right now. We have been so incredibly excited to kick off a semester of studying Austen! Since she is my only daughter, I am living it up while I can!!! :) She is also reading "Screwtape Writes Again" for spiritual formations.

    7th grade son - He cruised through "Where the Red Fern Grows", which I assigned him for school this month. He read it is just a few days. He loved it! He has also been reading "Case for Miracles for Kids" by Strobel.

    1st grade son - He reads in his ABeka reader for school and then whatever other books he gets his hands on around the house. :) We are LOVING the second edition of Louie Giglio's devotional book, "How Great is Our God." We highly recommend both it and the previous one, "Indescribable".