Beatrix Potter

When I was growing up, my mother took us on Awesome Great Adventures to the library. She brought home laundry baskets full of books from library sales and thrift stores and cruised through garage sales for secondhand books to fill our bookshelves. I was never short of fresh reading material, and since I started reading at four and never stopped, that was quite an accomplishment on her part.

Of all the many, many books that she brought home, I had my favorites. Bill Peet, with his clever rhymes and wacky, colorful pictures, Dr. Seuss, with his dizzying tongue-twisters, and about a hundred others. In the mornings before breakfast, we would crawl into bed with her, and she would read to us from The Biggest Bear, Blueberries for Sal, and We Were Tired of Living in a House. The books she read us then are still vastly important to me, and a few of them have found their way onto my bookshelves in anticipation of the days when I have a few small children climbing into my bed with their books before breakfast.

Several such books are the many sweet adventures of Beatrix Potter.

(Yes, that is indeed me in the picture. And yes, I was reading the book upside down. In my experience it is very important to study life upside down occasionally, in order to gain some much-needed perspective.)


Back to Miss Potter and her lovely, wonderful books.

Peter Rabbit was the first friend I made among her pages. His adventures between the rows of radishes and lettuces in Mr. McGregor’s garden enthralled me, and Miss Potter’s beautiful watercolored pictures drew me straight into the story, just as if I’d been there myself.

A whole string of friends followed after the first. The Tailor of Gloucester, who swore to finish a magnificent coat by Christmas morning and only just managed it with the help of some obliging mice. Jemima Puddle-duck, who really was a particularly foolish duck—and a very lucky one. And of course, last (in my list) but not least, Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, two of the naughtiest mice that ever stumbled between the pages of a book.

Beatrix Potter’s books remain a treasured part of my childhood, and the stories are carefully tucked away on my shelf with all of my other favorites. Waiting for a rainy day when I need to remember myself, or a lazy morning when I have children of my own to read aloud to before breakfast. Either way, I will be enjoying them for many, many years to come.

So that is the story of the two Bad Mice—but they were not so very very naughty after all, because Tom Thumb paid for everything he broke.


My sister moved in with me this month.

We’d been planning this for a while. I’ve been living alone in my little cottage for about a year now, and she was ready for a place to live with a real kitchen and a bedroom that didn’t have to be vacated in favor of guests every month or so.

It was time.

So now, my very tiny bedroom has a very tiny bunkbed in it instead of a single mattress, and she’s reading on the couch when I get home. I cook, and she washes the dishes. I chop wood, and she cleans out the fireplace. We drink tea in the evenings, light the candles and our wood-burning stove, read books and pursue our various crafts (she’s an artist, I’m an author), and generally spend a lot of time in very companionable silence. And, when things go bump in the night, I feel better knowing it’s probably her being clumsy instead of a bear trying to eat me.

Since I live in the middle of nowhere, and there have been bears around our property in the past, this is a very comforting thought.

One of my favorite parts about having my sister move in has been watching her read all the books on my shelves. She has a very large, still growing collection of books herself, but we have yet to figure out how to cram them all into my little house. So for now, she is reading my books, and I get to enjoy watching her enjoy all the books I love.

It’s great.

One of the first books she picked up when she moved in was Frankenstein. I read Mary Shelley’s classic some time ago, loved it, and—unfortunately—forgot about it. This happens when your piles and piles of books threaten to bury your house and your TBR pile is taller than your living room ceiling. Books get read, loved, and then set aside in favor of new stories.

Then, my sister picked it up. And she loved it. In a very horrified sort of way. Every so often, while she was reading it, I would hear a scream of frustration from wherever she happened to be in the house, mostly aimed at the narrator of the story and his refusal to take any responsibility for his actions.

Victor Frankenstein, a student of the old sciences and a scorner of the new, is sent away to college following the death of a dearly loved family member. Death, life, and the disproven theories of the men he has spent his life from descend from a passion into an obsession. He forgets classes, his family, the woman he loves, and the rest of the outside world in favor of an experiment that will set him apart from the rest of mankind as a creator, god-like to the being he intends to bring to life.

Life he does create, but the horror it casts over himself and the shadow that falls over his family because of it is far beyond what he could have imagined. The monster he creates is, in many ways, child-like, without the understanding or morality of an adult human. Yet, Victor Frankenstein, for all his horror and remorse at his impetuous deed, shows as little or less judgment and virtue than the ‘monster’ he created, allowing an innocent girl to be accused of his crimes and casting off all responsibility for the atrocities he himself committed. (Thus my sister’s frustrated screaming.)

Frankenstein is a classic for the ages. Mary Shelley’s book is a lasting, brilliant story that continues to send chills down the spines of its readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.


I love reading aloud.

Not reading aloud like in school, while everyone is looking at you and the teacher is waiting to pounce if you have the audacity to mispronounce a hard word like ‘anxiety’ or ‘quinoa’. (Hint: neither of those words sound the way they are spelled. You have been warned.)

No, I mean reading aloud at night next to a wood fire, with candles burning and a few select people listening. There’s something magical about an evening like that.


Once or twice a week, I invite my younger siblings to my house for just this sort of night. They bring drawing supplies, sewing materials, or letters they are writing, and we curl up in my living room while I read aloud one of my favorite books to them.

Mattimeo, picture by A.R. Geiger

Right now, we are reading Mattimeo, one of Brian Jacques’s many, many brilliant novels. This English author has been one of my absolute favorites since I was in my preteens. He was one of the first authors I dreamed of meeting, and when I found out that he died in 2011, I was devastated.

His books all revolve around Redwall, a mythic abbey buried deep in Mossflower woods. Its inhabitants—squirrels, mice, moles, badgers, and otters—live within its dusky, sandstone walls, farming the orchards and grounds and keeping their peace with the trackless forest that surrounds them. The characters change book to book, but the feel of peace in the abbey and the promise of an action-packed, thrilling storyline is always the same.

In Mattimeo, the summer feasts are upon Redwall, and the excitement of the celebration is high. But when their young ones are stolen away by a slave band from the south, the air of celebration turns to one of grief and thoughts of vengeance. Matthias, the warrior of Redwall and the father of one of the missing young ones, leads an expedition to return their missing children to Redwall.

Meanwhile, Mattimeo, the son of Redwall’s warrior, finds that the leader of the slaver’s band, a disfigured fox known as Slagar the Cruel, has a long, very bitter, past with his father. His desire for revenge on his hated enemy incites a string of cruelty against the young mouse, and he quickly finds himself fighting for survival on the long journey toward an unknown, and very dangerous, destination.

Book Picture A.R. Geiger

Brian Jacques writing is beautiful, descriptive, and fast-paced, a difficult combination to find. My younger siblings are already enthralled by the story we are experiencing together, and whenever I pause for breath or to rest my voice, they are always impatient for me to continue.

Reading aloud together is one of my favorite ways to maintain relationships. I still associate several books with my father, because he read them aloud to us when I was small. They continue to be some of my favorite books, because of the many memories packed away inside them.

“Weapons may be carried by creatures who are evil, dishonest, violent or lazy. The true warrior is good, gentle, and honest. His bravery comes from within himself; he learns to conquer his own fears and misdeeds.”

The Book Thief

Time to be a little candid. We’re all readers here, right? We all love books, we all have stayed up much too late one night or another, because we only had a hundred pages left and we couldn’t just give up.

And I would hazard a guess that we all have that one book. The book that left us stunned and shell-shocked and completely destroyed. The book we cried over and loved and read again, and again, and again. The book we have no trouble going up to a stranger for and saying, “This book broke my heart and soul, please, go read it! It will change the way you think.”


The Book Thief was that book for me.

To be perfectly honest, I did not want to read this book. I saw it many times at thrift stores, in book reviews, in Barnes and Noble, just about everywhere. And I shunned it. Who wants to read a book narrated by Death?



This book was incredible. The writing was unique and brilliantly thought out, the storyline was engaging and so interesting, and the characters were so vivid that it took my breath away. They were people. Real people. People you would meet in the supermarket, or on the bus, or in a crowded shopping mall. They were real, they were honest, and they broke my poor heart.

The story—narrated by Death, of course—follows Liesal Meminger. Or, the Book Thief. She is a foster child in Nazi Germany, the daughter of a Communist who was taken away by Der Führer. Little Liesal was left behind, and given to another family to raise. A more suitable family.

The Hubbermans.

Death encounters the Book Thief three times. And each time, he is distracted in his work by her. By her strength, her grief, her love. Her story captivated him, and it will captivate you just as strongly, I can promise you that. Her quest for books, her friendship with the boy next door, the secret hiding in her basement that she doesn’t dare share with anyone, for fear of being taken away like her mother, they all combine to create a story that is not like any other I have ever read.


I still pick up The Book Thief every so often, just to read a few pages, to remind myself how much I loved this book. How real it was. How earth shattering. WWII was one of the most horrendous chapters in world history, and yet, The Book Thief reminds me that—although it isn’t a true story—there were people who were lights among the darkness. People who cared, people who loved. I think it’s always important to remember that, in any story.

Even ours.


I am haunted by humans.

Anne of Green Gables

Last Sunday, I did absolutely nothing.

Like, nothing at all.

I lit a fire in my wood stove, made popcorn, and read the whole day.

It. Was. Lovely.

The book I chose was an old one, and probably familiar enough to most of you. I mean, who hasn’t read Anne of Green Gables?

Besides me, obviously.


Oh, I’d been introduced to Anne before now. The 1985 mini series was my first introduction to her, Avonlea, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, and Gilbert Blythe. (Insert dreamy sigh.) I grew up with Anne, you might say. So it was odd that I’d never picked the book up before now, especially since I’ve been devouring every book I could get my hands on since I was about four years old.

Now, finally having read this amazing book, even I can hardly believe it took me so long. (Yes, I finished it in one day. I told you, I had popcorn. And a fire. Where else did you think I was going to be?)

Anne of Green Gables was one of the most charming, enchanting books I’ve ever had the privilege of reading in my life. Lucy Maud Montgomery gives a vivid picture of life in Avonlea, the fields, woods, orchards, gardens, and of course, Green Gables itself. I could see every bloom, every red dirt road, every cottage, every room. By the time I was finished reading, I felt as well acquainted with Green Gables as I was with my own heart.

And her mastery of the settings in this book was nothing to what she did with her characters.

Anne with an e. I loved her for her frankness, her imagination, and her authenticity when I watched the mini series years ago, and I love her no less now for having read the book. She is funny, charming, endearing, and just enough like myself to make me laugh at my own faults. She appears as a little, thin-faced orphan girl seated at a train station, but she has so much more to her than just the poor waif that no one wants. Her mind is her own, and she is frightfully clever with it. (Sometimes a little too clever?) From the mouse in the pudding to the liniment cake and beyond, I loved Anne, and it was a joy to watch her work her way into the hearts of the people around her, just as she was working her way into mine.


The story follows her through nearly four years of her life, from the moment she is dropped off at a train station to meet Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert (only to find out they had no intention of adopting a little girl when they’d asked for a boy), through her years in school, her dramas, her triumphs, her many, many misadventures, and her long standing grudge against a boy who only ever wanted her to notice him. (Poor Gilbert.)

Anne had a wonderful passion for life, and when she loved, she loved well. May we all find a part of ourselves that recognizes how lovely the world we live in really is.

“Look at that sea, girls—all silver and shadow and visions of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”

Seven Years in Tibet


Let me begin by saying that I love to travel.

I love the excitement of a new destination, the enchantment of a different culture, and the challenges of other languages and lifestyles. I have been to eight different countries (Not including layovers where I never left the airport), and I’ve loved each of them for very different reasons. Cambodia, Scotland, Portugal, they all have their own charms, their own varied cultures, their own histories and myths, people and traditions.

And I love it.

This book took me straight to the heart of Tibet, without the exorbitant price of a plane ticket.

Seven Years in Tibet is the true story of a Austrian prisoner of war during WWII. Heinrich Harrer was a part of a German expedition to the Himalayas when the war began, and he was put into an ‘intermittent’ camp to wait out the war. Not content to stay there, he escaped three times, finally making it over the mountains to Tibet.

And there he stayed. In Lhasa, the capitol city. For seven years.

His account of his time there, the nearly untouched culture of the Tibetan people, and the beauty of ‘the Roof of the World’ as he called it, is one of the most vivid, poignant pictures of Tibetan life in print. The detail that he put into this book, the personal experiences he had with the people, including the young Dalai Lama, his accounts of tradition, religion, and culture combine to make this book an incredible experience. Over and over again while I read this book, I had the feeling that I myself had been to Lhasa, that I’d seen the golden roofs of the Potala, eaten tsampa and drank yak-butter tea, and lived in the shadow of the snowy Himalayas.


It was glorious. His descriptions of everything, from the way they prepare their food to the layout of the city itself, are minute and detailed. To someone who is more interested in a fast paced thriller than in catching a glimpse of this beautiful country, it might seem a little dull.

I devoured it and found myself wanting more.

Harrer was forced to leave Tibet when the Chinese occupied it in 1950. In the last chapter of his book, he declares, “Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the wild cries of geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear cold moonlight.”

By the time I finished reading Seven Years in Tibet, I was homesick for it too. Someday, maybe I’ll have a chance to visit it too. In person this time.

Howl’s Moving Castle


“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

Really though, how can you go wrong with a beginning like this?

I love this book. Really. It takes the classic, standard fairytale to new heights, adding twists and turns of its own, and gives a cheeky nod to all the stereotypes in regular fairytales. Magic is an integral part of this story, with witches and wizards at every turn, but rather than the classic ‘witch on a broomstick’ formula, it takes another style. Magic is commonplace. Witches take apprentices and raise bees to use the honey in their spells. Wizards use magic to design clothes and dye their hair. It’s common, it’s everyday, and it’s a refreshing and charming change from stories where the magic is overemphasized and overcomplicated.

I first read this book when I was traveling in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We were living right smack in the middle of the Red Light district, spending our time working with women who had escaped prostitution and playing with kids in places so poverty-stricken that I can still see them in vivid detail when I think of it.

I needed an escape.

I needed something simple and sweet, something with a happy ending and a world that didn’t make my stomach turn.

Howl’s Moving Castle fit that description to the letter. One of my friends handed it off to me, and since I was desperate, I tried it.

Then I read it again, after we’d flown back to Scotland.

And again.

And again.

When I finally got home again, after six months of traveling, I bought it. I had to have it with me. It was one of those books that you meet by chance and fall head-over-heels in love with. The simplicity, the gorgeous settings, beautiful descriptions, charming day-to-day details, and the brilliant (sometimes hilarious) characters stole my heart. When I have a bad day, this is the book I reach for.


It begins with Sophie. She is, most unfortunately, the eldest of three daughters. Since that inevitably means that she will have no luck whatsoever, and nothing interesting will ever happen to her, she settles herself quite comfortably as an apprentice in a hat shop. Her life is dull, but happy, and she expects to spend the rest of her days there, trimming hats and, oddly enough, talking to them.

But life has a way of catching us off-guard, and Sophie finds that out only too soon.

A disagreement with a powerful (and evil) witch leaves Sophie tottering about, leaning on a stick, stuck as an old lady before her time. With nothing else to do, she sets off to seek her fortune and finds it in the shape of an (apparently) evil wizard who eats hearts, a clumsy wizard’s apprentice, a fire demon, and a castle that has no desire to stay in one spot when there are so many beautiful places to see.

Along the way stars fall, seven-league boots are used, magic is attempted (and sometimes bungled), gardens are grown, flower shops are bought, princes are found, and someone falls in love. (Though I won’t say who.)

All in all, it—and its sequels—are a must read for anyone who still enjoys fairytales or just needs a deep breath from all the drama in the world. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie.

The Mistress of Crime. One of the best selling authors of all time, second only to William Shakespeare. We know her from characters like Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Her detective stories are chilling, intense, and morbidly interesting.

And Then There Were None was more so.


Considering it’s one of the top ten best selling books of all time, you’d think I would have read this book before now. It slipped beneath my radar, you might say, and I never got around to it. Until one of my friends insisted I give it a try.

Since most of my library is second-hand (because only a millionaire could afford to expand their library as quickly as I do on Barnes and Noble pricing), I had to wait around until I found a copy at one of the thrift stores I frequent.

Then I had to finish the book I was reading, because I am not one of those brilliant people who can read more than one book at a time. (Please tell me how you do this.)

I picked it up one morning before work, thinking I would read the first chapter and get around to the rest later.

Two hours later, I finished it.

Then I proceeded to panic and question the motives of everyone in my immediate family and friend group.

This book was terrifying. The characters were terrifying. Agatha Christie painted an intimate, vivid portrayal of what people are reduced to when they are afraid. Each character, men and women, seemed harmless enough—even likable—in the beginning of the book. I picked my favorites immediately and rooted for them through the whole book—only to be stunned by how twisted their minds and morality became when faced with the unknown.

The basic premise of the book (as most of you will probably know, since the book was published in 1939), is that ten people are invited to an island. Soldier Island. Some are there on vacation, others as servants or assistants to the host (who never appears), still others asked to come and ‘investigate’ some strange happenings on the island itself. The boat comes, drops them all off, and leaves again.

Within a few hours, the first two people are dead.

The rest follow.

The book is summed up quite cleverly by a poem left in each of the guests’ rooms, a morbid little ditty called Ten Little Soldier Boys. They laugh when the poem is first discovered, but within three deaths, no one is laughing anymore, and it becomes the map through the rest of the book. Clues, almost, to how the next murder will be committed.

As I said. Terrifying.


And Then There Were None was an incredibly well written, fast-paced thriller. I enjoyed every page of it and found it impossible to put down once I’d opened it. If you’re looking for a book to scare the daylights out of you, pick this one up! (Take my advice, read it during the day. Or don’t. Whatever bakes your cake.)

“Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;

One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;

One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little soldier boys traveling in Devon;

One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;

One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little soldier boys playing with a hive,

A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little soldier boys going in for law;

One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little soldier boys going out to sea;

A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little soldier boys walking in the zoo;

A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;

One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little soldier boy left all alone;

He went and hanged himself.

And then there were none.

Sagas of the Icelanders

IMG_0244Vikings. Epic journeys. Revenge. Love. Feuds. Strange gods and beautiful (very intelligent and occasionally magical) women.

What more can you ask from a book?

(Did I mention the Vikings? Real Vikings. Sold.)

I’ve been eyeing this book for a long time, tempted by the gorgeous cover and the mixture of history and myth, two of my favorite subjects. I wasn’t disappointed. The sagas all date back from between 1200 to 1300, although the actual events portrayed happened quite a bit before that. (And yes, seven hundred year old sagas, and the older men in them were still complaining about the ‘younger generation’. I’m starting to think this may not be an isolated problem.)

IMG_0248That said, this book is glorious. It’s written more in the style of a novel rather than a history, with sharp dialogue, vivid imagery, and believable—even likable—characters. Magic is definitely woven through these stories, but in such a casual, matter-of-fact way that it seemed perfectly ordinary. Men and women are said to be shapeshifters or magicians as indifferently as you might call someone a butcher or a farmer. Spells are cast, homesteads are haunted, and fortunes are told with the same seriousness as a crop being planted, a relative dying, or a woman being betrothed. Magic, or sorcery, was a part of their culture, and it was lovely to see it bleed through in the writing with so little effort and attention.

Iceland and the lands around were rough territories, peopled by men and women as tough as the landscape around them. The sagas follow a central character through their life. The voyages they take, their conquests, joys, sorrows, disappointments, and quarrels are described in vibrant detail. At the same time years or even decades are skipped over with only a few words to acknowledge them. The stories offer a glimpse into the rich culture and heritage of the Icelandic, Norwegian, and Danish people.

In conclusion . . . this book was definitely worth the read. Absolutely lovely. If you are interested in myth, history, cultures (Or Vikings,) I would definitely recommend picking this one up!

“The spinner of fate is grim to me:

I hear that Thorolf has met his end

On a northern isle; too early

The Thunderer chose the swinger of swords.

The hag of old age who once wrestled with Thor

Has left me unprepared to join

The Valkyries’ clash of steel. Urge as my spirit

May, my revenge will not be swift.”

Jane Eyre

My favorite part of reading is coming across a character who lives and breathes, one who mirrors my soul and teaches me about the way I think and feel, a character who shows me myself.

As an INFJ, it is not very easy to find a character like myself. More often, I find characters who I can admire and love, but not relate to in the same way.

Jane Eyre is one of the few books I’ve read with a main character who I feel is a mirror of my own heart.



This gorgeous classic is the story of Jane Eyre, a young woman of 19th century England. The book begins with her childhood, her poor treatment at the hands of her cruel and selfish aunt, her transfer to a charity school in Lowood, and the death of her childhood friend.


At eighteen, now an accomplished teacher, she advertises as a governess and is accepted to a post at Thornfield Hall, tutoring a young French girl who dotes on her, prattles ceaselessly about nothing in particular, and cares more for her pretty gowns than her books. The other servants in the house, an old housekeeper, a married couple, and a common, rough sort of woman living in the attic, offer very little in the way of company or companionship. So Jane is left to herself, to explore the grounds and contemplate whether or not to stay on in a place so lonely and cut off from the rest of the world.

Then, the master of Thornfield hall returns. Mr. Rochester brings with him a whirl of gaiety, of fine guests, and of dark mystery. His frequent bouts of moodiness, of dark thoughts, and impulsive departures and returns bring something of excitement to the old mansion, albeit of an almost arcane sort. Thornfield houses a black secret that its master has spent many years avoiding, but Jane’s fresh presence in the estate draws him back again and incites a chain of events that soon has her fleeing its dark walls.


Jane Eyre does not have the lighthearted romance that Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility offer. It is a darker, more mysterious kind of book, with macabre secrets, jealousies, and passions that run wilder than your average romance. This book fascinated me when I first read it at twelve or thirteen, and it is still one of my absolute favorites. Charlotte Brontë has created in Jane Eyre a woman that I can see in myself, with desires, thoughts, and habits that run very near my own. It is a book that I return to again and again and happily recommend to anyone looking for a new novel to pick up.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.