April Reads

Thanks for joining me! I realized recently that I wanted a place where I could (on probably a monthly basis) discuss the books that I’ve been reading, and share what I was thinking about those books. I had blogged previously, and I don’t want it to be like the blog I had before. Instead, I wanted to just pop in with my monthly book list and share what I’ve been reading for myself and for anyone who finds me and wants to join me along the good book journey.

So, in the spirit of beginning, let me share a little about the books I’ve personally read in April that are not attached to any children in my life or any of my graduate school assignments.

astonishign color of after The Astonishing Color of After–By Emily X.R. Pan

This was my March Book of the Month club selection, and it was the most beautiful book I have read in a while. Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, and then Leigh, in her grief, begins to see her mother appearing as a bird. After the bird brings her a gift of pictures and other items, Leigh travels to her mother’s childhood home of Taiwan to meet her grandparents and learn more about her mother, and ultimately herself.

Magical realism is one of my favorite genres so I love the pop of magic into everyday life and issues and the blending of magic with reality. There are also so many things to love about this book. Leigh finds out more about her mother’s life, and she discovers much of her mother’s history, but she also discovers more about Asian culture in a way she can embrace that part of her identity.

This book is technically a YA book, and it wouldn’t be a YA book without a little romance. She finds that she is falling for her best friend, and the day of their firs t kiss is actually the day that her mother commits suicide, placing a deep block in Leigh’s mind against the relationship. A portion of Leigh’s memories surround her memories and musings about her relationship with Axel, and honestly, the book would have been just as good without the romantic element. It was a distraction from the true storyline, and did not really add anything to the story.

This book also moved me because of the way that the book depicts the mother’s depression through her daughter’s eyes. I am prone to my own dark days and dark moods. and my children, who are most often with me, can be exposed to those days. I have only seldom thought about how my grey days and black days affect them. Then, I find this moving quote in the book:

If someone had asked me, I would’ve said that everything seemed right except for my mother, who seemed totally wrong, and that in turn made everything else feel dark and stained. I would’ve carved out my heart and brain and given them to her just so she could feel right again.

I am definitely more thoughtful now of how my moods affect my children, and I find that the exploration of depression, culture, and grief to be a very poignant one.

achilles The Song of Achilles–By Madeline Miller

I had bought this book a few months ago on a Kindle deal, so with the new book, Circe, coming out, I felt that this month was the perfect time to read The Song of Achilles. This book is a retelling of Homer’s The Iliad, however, the story is told strictly from the point-of-view of Achilles’s lover Patroclus.

I do have to warn you that historians and literary experts are pretty split on whether or not Achilles and Patroclus were lovers or if they were just brothers-in-arms, but in our over sexualized culture, it is difficult for us to imagine a close relationship with anyone that is not sexual. So Miller’s interpretation is affected but those modern strains of thought.

I really did not find this book to be as good as I felt like the hype was surrounding it. I felt like it read like a YA romance, and I found Patroclus to be weak and wimpy, much like Bella in the Twilight novels. As I wrote in my Goodreads review, it must be difficult to be in love with someone who’s a narcissist. Through Patroclus’s eyes, however, Achilles seems much more human and sympathetic than The Iliad portrays him to be. Miller has done a great job shading his character through Patroclus’s eyes, even though Patroclus seems so love-mad and obsessed with Achilles that I want to tell him that he needs to find someone to find someone worthy of the good parts of his character–like maybe the girl that is so into him that he saved from  and seems to appreciate him far more than Achilles ever will.

Still, I guess in the end, we do get a pretty good view of just how much Patrolus really meant to Achilles, so I might be wrong here.

Minds more awake Minds More Awake–By Anne E. White

This book was actually chosen for me via a Charlotte Mason bookclub that I am participating in. This book is an exploration of Charlotte Mason’s principles focusing in on the “Way of the Will” and “The Way of the Reason.” Throughout the book, the White brings the two ways into the various principles of Charlotte Mason and into practical examples of how that affects your children’s learning.

I found this to be a really helpful book, especially since I have never deeply delved into the “Way of the Will.” I have a really weak willed seven year old, who struggles to keep her temper in check and to do her duty. I found that I was reminded of how only she has the power to actually change her will, and that I needed to provide good opportunities and habits to help. In White’s words:

We can’t learn for a child. We are not to think for him. And we are not to rob him of any opportunity that he has to put his own real effort, personal power, inter moral action, whether that is remembering to close the door or keep his temper in check.

I was also reminded of the importance of diligence in habit-training. Also in White’s words:

There is nothing sacrilegious or arrogant about training children out of habits they might have to repent of later as besetting sins.

And I have to admit that White shares a quote from Comenius that I believe sums up my new vision of my homeschool philosophy.

In order, then, that these faculties may highly fulfill their offices, it is necessary that they be furnished with such things as may illumine the intellect, direct the will, and stimulate the conscience, so that the intellect may be acute and penetrating, the will may choose without error, and the conscience may greedily refer all things to God.

There are still so many quotes to explore and to add to my quote box from this book that I’m not through going through it to find quotes and to contemplate ideas that I learned from the book, and in my mind, that is the most helpful kind of book.

I am also finding that I need to continue to read “professional development” type of books at this point in the homeschool journey. The newness has worn off, and there are still many years left for me to teach my children (11 at last count). I find it helpful on the days when homeschooling is hard to have inspiration to fan my embers into flame.