Tag Archives: Reading to Know Bookclub

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

I read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken for this month’s Read to Know Bookclub, and I am so glad I did!  I chose to not read this one aloud to my children because I thought it might be scary, but it turns out that think this is one that we would’ve all enjoyed as a read-aloud.   Although this book has been on my radar for a while (after all, it was published in 1962!), it’s not one I’ve ever been inclined to pick up on my own.  I steer a pretty wide path around anything that seems like it might be scary or have questionably evil undertones, and for some reason that’s the impression I’ve always had of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  While this story does contain a trio of dastardly villains (not to mention some pretty creepy wolves!), there’s nothing in here that I predict would cause my ten and eight year olds to have trouble going to sleep at night.  What is does have is adventure aplenty, with a duo of spunky heroines and a helpful gooseboy who comes to their rescue.  What I particularly love are the Dickens-esque characters and characterization and the delightfully descriptive writing:

“So I should hope!  Am I right in supposing that you are Miss Green?  I am Miss Slighcarp, your new governess.  I am also your fourth cousin, once removed,” the lady added haughtily, as if she found the removal hardly sufficient.

I was pretty sure from the outset that having a governess named Miss Slighcarp couldn’t be good.

Cold in spite of their furs, the children were glad to be sat down before a glowing fire in the night nursery, while Pattern scolded and clucked, and brushed the tangles out of their hair, brought in with her own hands the big silver bathtub filled with steaming water, in which bunches of lemon mint had been steeped, giving a deliciously fragrant scent, and bathed them each in turn, afterward wrapping them in voluminous warm white flannel gowns.

Next she fetched little pipkins of hot, savory soup, sternly saw every mouthful swallowed, and finally hustled them both into Bonnie’s big, comfortable bed with the blue swans flying on its curtains.

Doesn’t that make you want to curl up in Bonnie’s cozy bed and take a nap?

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is described as an “alternate history” of England, though I didn’t really notice anything terribly amiss in this particular story.  (Read more about this in Carrie’s post about the author, or on the author’s website.)  It did make me think about the steampunk genre, something I admittedly know next to nothing about but have been intrigued by.

I loved this story of orphans and near-orphans, villainous governesses, courageous girls, and one heroic gooseboy.  The only thing that seemed a bit off to me was the title; wolves enter the story only peripherally, so the title seems odd.  I can overlook that, though, and it makes me more eager to read more of the series.  I’d like to check out more of Aiken’s works, particularly her Jane Austen sequels.   I give The Wolves of Willoughby Chase a Highly Recommended, and I offer an enthusiastic thank you to both Carrie and the bookclub hostess for the month of May, Tammy of Bluerose’s Heart.

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My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I’m usually not a fan of short stories, but My Man Jeeves hit the spot after my long and arduous trek through Gone with the Wind.  I was first introduced to Jeeves and Wooster a few years ago when I read Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, so I knew something of what I was getting into.  It turns out that I think the short story is the perfect vehicle by which to enjoy the antics of Bertie Wooster and his cadre of perpetually-in-the-soup friends and acquaintances.  I have a terrible time keeping characters straight, so the reintroductions made necessary by the short story format were very helpful to me.  One thing about this volume perplexed me, though–the appearance of two or three stories right in the middle with Reggie Pepper and his man, Voules, as the main characters.  I didn’t expect that.  This Wikipedia article sheds a little light on the subject, and for once, I wish I had read up on this volume a bit so I wouldn’t have had to pause to scratch my head in the middle of my reading.  Another thing that came to me, rather forcefully this time, is how much Wodehouse’s style (particularly his way of sizing up a character in a few wry and pithy observations) reminds me of Richard Peck’s.  Peck is a very prolific juvenile and YA author, and I’ve only read his historical fiction.  I would dare to make an assumption here that anyone who enjoys Wodehouse would likely enjoy Peck.  Of course, Peck’s works are decidedly American (and mostly about country kids), so there are many, many differences, but their styles are similar.   Here are a few of Peck’s books that I’ve reviewed here at Hope Is the Word:

My favorites of his books are A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago, both of which I read long before I started blogging.

I read My Man Jeeves for this month’s Reading to Know Bookclub.  Many thanks to Carrie and this month’s hostess, Cassandra, for the push to get back to Wodehouse sooner rather than later.  

Reading to Know - Book Club

Classics for 2014

I’m slowly making my way through some self-selected classics for the Classics Club, a challenge which I started working on last year and that runs for five years.  I updated my list last night, so I thought it worthwhile to share here in my post on classics I’d like to read in 2014.  The asterisks denote specific titles I’m going to try to read this year.



Alcott, Louisa May.  Little Men.

Alexander, Lloyd.  The Book of Three.*

Austen, Jane.  Emma.

Blyton, Enid.  Anything I can get my hands on by her. Read aloud–The Magic Faraway Tree October/November 2012

Brontë, Anne.  Agnes Grey.

Brontë, Charlotte.   Jane Eyre. *  This will be a re-read of my favorite required novel from high school.

—.  Villette.

Brontë, Emily.  Wuthering Heights.    I remember not caring for this much when I read it as a teen.  I want to see if my opinions or tastes have changed.

Burnett, Frances Hodgson.  A Little Princess. Read aloud February/March 2013.

Cather, Willa.  O Pioneers!  I think this is a re-read, but maybe I’m mistaking reading the novel for watching the movie.

Cooper, Susan.  The Dark Is Rising.

Dickens, Charles.  Great Expectations.  I was required to read it in the ninth grade, a task which I did rather joylessly (and took a daily quiz over five chapters!), and I’m sure I missed a lot.

—.   A Christmas Carol.Read aloud November/December 2012

Enright, Elizabeth.  The Saturdays.*

Estes, Eleanor.  The Moffats.  Read aloud January 2013.

Forbes, Esther.  Johnny Tremain.

Gaskell, Elizabeth.  Cranford.

George, Jean Craighead.  Julie of the Wolves.

Goudge, Elizabeth.  The Little White Horse.  Read aloud October/November 2012.

Hugo, Victor.  Les Miserables.  I tried to read it a few years ago, but I failed.  This time I think I’ll go with an abridgement.  Finished (unabridged!) January 6,  2013.

Jewett, Sarah Orne.  The Country of the Pointed Firs.  I read something by Jewett in a graduate English class I took several years ago (maybe A Country Doctor), and I liked it.  I enjoy Regionalism, so I’m going to read what some consider to be her best work.

Juster, Norton.  The Phantom Tollbooth Read aloud June 2012.

Keller, Helen.  The Story of My Life.

L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time.  Re-read, but it has been about 25 years since the first time I read it.

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow.  Gift from the Sea.

MacDonald, George.  The Light Princess.  We listened to the audiobook of this several years ago, and I really enjoyed it.  I want to read it myself.

—.  The Princess and the GoblinRead aloud February/March 2013.

Meigs, Cornelia.  Invincible Louisa. 

Norton, Mary.  The BorrowersRead aloud August 2013.

O’Brien, Robert C.  Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHRead aloud May 2013.

O’Dell, Scott.  Island of the Blue DolphinsRead May 2013. 

Orczy, Baroness.  The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Porter, Gene Stratton.  Freckles.  Read May/June 2012.

Ransome, Arthur.  Swallows and Amazons.*

Richter, Conrad.  The Light in the Forest.

Rowling, J.K.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine.  The Little Prince.

Sayers, Dorothy.  One of her mysteriesRead Whose Body? June 2012.

Smith, Betty.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Smith, Dodie.  I Capture the Castle.*

—.  Smith, Dodie.  The One Hundred and One Dalmatians.*

Streatfeild, Noel.  Ballet Shoes.

Taylor, Sydney.  All-of-a-Kind Family.*

Twain, Mark.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.*

—.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  It’s May’s Reading to Know Bookclub pick, and I’m the hostess.  Read May 2012.

—. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.*

—.  The Prince and the Pauper.

Wharton, Edith.  The Age of Innocence.  Re-read.

—.  The House of Mirth.

Wodehouse, P.G.  A Jeeves and Wooster novel. Jeeves and the Tie That Binds.  (April 2012)

Wyss, Johann David.  The Swiss Family Robinson.*


This year I’m doing something new: I’m hosting an in-real-life classics bookclub!  There’s not much I enjoy more than talking about books, so I was inspired this past November to ask around on Facebook if any of my IRL friends were interested in starting a classics bookclub in 2014, and more than a dozen said yes!  We’ll be meeting every other month starting in February, and these are the books we’ll be discussing:

February–Pride and Prejudice
April–Gone with the Wind
June–Their Eyes Were Watching God
August–Moby Dick
October–Jane Eyre
December–The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
There’s an overlap of only two books between my Classics Club list and my IRL bookclub list because I took suggestions from the bookclub members, of course.  Roughly half of these books are re-reads for me.  (I say roughly because I think I read most of Gone with the Wind as a teen, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish it.)

Reading to Know - Book Club

This year I also plan to participate when possible in the 2014 Reading to Know Bookclub, which will, for the second year in a row, be made up exclusively of classics.  Many of the months I won’t participate because I’ve read quite a few of the selections in the past few years, but I am hosting the discussion in July, and the book comes straight off my Classics Club list–101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.
Reading through this many denser works will require discipline on my part, but I’m ready for the challenge!

L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge 2014

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeOne reason I LOVE January is because it brings Carrie’s annual L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge!  This is Carrie’s fifth year to host the challenge and my fifth year to participate.  (You might say Carrie and I bonded over all things LMM.  ;-) )  Most of my long-time friends know how much I love Anne Shirley and her world, and that love includes most of L.M. Montgomery’s other books.  This year I’m jumping into the challenge with the second and possibly the third of the Emily books, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest.

Reading to Know - Book ClubThis month’s selection for Carrie’s Reading to Know Bookclub just happens to be Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, which I will re-read if time and opportunity presents itself.
If you’re looking for more L.M. Montgomery inspiration, here’s a list of links to all my book reviews and LMM ruminations, including one of my favorite posts ever, Prince Edward Island Reminiscences, which is about mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on PEI.

Emily of New Moon review

Jane of Lantern Hill review

The Blue Castle review

Pat of Silver Bush review

Mistress Pat review

Magic for Marigold review

Kilmeny of the Orchard review

A Tangled Web review

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, adapted by M.C. Helldorfer review (also thoughts on what makes a good adaptation)

PEI Reminscences, a post in which I share pictures and memories of mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on the Island

L.M. Montgomery Meanderings, a post in which I reminisce about how I became such a fan

Are you joining in this year’s challenge?  What are you reading?

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot is one of those books I’ve meant to read for a long, long time.  In fact, it is one I almost can’t believe I haven’t already read!  I’m really glad that Barbara gave me the virtual nudge to read it through this month’s Reading to Know Bookclub!  Rather than write a cohesive book review, I’m going to share my thoughts on this one in bullet points:

  • The tone of this story somehow caught me off guard.  I haven’t read a whole lot by Elliot–Passion and Purity as a young adult, and miscellaneous devotionals here and there are pretty much it, to my recollection.  I somehow expected this one to be much more heart-wrenching from a personal standpoint.  Perhaps it is because Elliot was telling the story of all the missionaries, not just the story of her little family.  I always looked at these women with such awe, as well as a little bit of dread–to be widowed at such a young age?  Unthinkable!  Elliot’s tone is very reserved, almost distant.  I never got much of a glimpse of the real impact Jim’s martyrdom had on her life.  Although I think this probably says more about me than it does about the Elliots or any of their workfellows, I just cannot imagine how devastating this would’ve personally been.  Instead, what we get from them is their devotion to the cause of Christ, with very little emotion at all.   This paragraph sums up the impact according to Elliot:
The other wives and I talked together one night about the possibility of becoming widows.  What would we do?  God gave us peace of heart, and confidence that whatever might happen, His Word would hold.  We knew that “when He putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them.”  God’s leading was unmistakable up to this point.  Each of us knew when we married our husbands that there would never be any question about who came first–God and His work held first place in each life.  It was the question of true discipleship; it became devastatingly meaningful now.
  • I was struck somehow how mundane and even boring (or at least terribly unspiritual)  much of their work in Ecuador was.  This bit reminds me a lot of homeschooling.  (I’m not in any way equating my life with theirs, but the fact is that no matter where our place of ministry, there’s a whole bunch of “maintenance” that goes into it.  It’s definitely not all mountaintop experiences!)  So much of what I do here at home is my work–“the only person who can cope with all this is the [mother] herself.”  
Although Roger had come to preach the Gospel there is much a missionary must accomplish and learn before he can expect to make successful contact with a primitive tribe.  And even after he had mastered the language, built himself a home, gained the confidence of the Indian, he still has to spend a large amount of time in what is best described as maintenance.  The jungle grows with incredible speed and therefore has to be kept at bay by the constant use of the machete.  The generators that are used for current at the bigger stations break down with irritating frequency, roofs leak in the hard tropical rain, and the only person who can cope with all this is the missionary himself.
  • I was struck by the devotion that the missionaries were taught as children–all of the ones for whom Elliot gives childhood details were brought up in very upright, consecrated households.  They understood the drive to share the Gospel from a very young age.  It really made me think about how I’m raising my own children.  
  • I really understood the importance of Nate Saint’s ministry.  Without him, really none of the ministry of the other missionaries could’ve happened.  
  • Like Kisses from Katie, this book makes me question my own passion for Christ and devotion to Him.  Could I do what any of them did?  I know I haven’t been called to do what any of them did (or, in the case of Katie Davis, is doing), but would I have what it takes?  Certainly not in my own strength.  
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I was always eager to read just one more chapter.  I have seen the movie The End of the Spear (Barbara’s review here), but I’d like to go back and rewatch it now that I’ve read Through Gates of Splendor.  I’d also like to read more of these missionaries’ stories and watch more of the documentaries that have been made about them.  Barbara offers quite a few resources in this post.
Thank you, Barbara and Carrie, for the push to read this book.  I’m so glad I did!

Reading to Know - Book Club