Friday, January 7, 2022

Read-at-Home Mom Report: December 2021 Wrap-Up

 My Month in Books

I wanted to get all my 2021 reading wrapped up before the new year, so I wound up posting my 2021 in review post, my top 21 books of 2021, and my 2022 reading plans before I got around to wrapping up December. So that's what I'm doing today for An Open Book at .   

I read 16 books in December, bringing my total for the year to exactly 200. Here is the list: 

I read aloud When Molly was Six by Eliza Orne White to my six-year-old daughter. Each chapter covers a month in the life of a little girl named Molly, beginning with her sixth birthday on New Year's Day and following through until December. This book was originally published in 1894, and it's completely charming. We read it on 

A Cliche Christmas by Nicole Deese was the first of several holiday reads I chose for the #WorldFullofBooks book club on Instagram. While All That Really Matters is still my favorite of her books, this was a really sweet Hallmark-esque story to kick off the festive season.

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne was my next read-aloud with my six-year-old. We zipped through it in a few nights, and she really enjoyed the rhyming poetry. She also started writing poetry herself not long after we finished this; perhaps she was inspired.

A Christmas in the Alps by Melody Carlson was my third book by this author in 2021,  and I expect I'll be reading more from her in 2022. I liked the European setting of this one, and the role that family ties played in the story. 

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien was my book club book for December. We met in person for the first time since late 2019/early 2020 and it was lovely. The book sparked lots of discussion about how we do (or don't do) Santa with our kids. (For the record, I do.)

Three Children and Shakespeare
by Anne Terry White
was a reread for me, but this time I read it aloud to my older two girls, ages 8 and 6. We had been reading it for a few months, but finished it before the end of the year. It's the best book I can think of to introduce Shakespeare to young kids. We were able to find a copy on inter-library loan. 

The Galleon by Ronald Welch was the next book in the Carey family series, which my husband and I are reading with a friend from Goodreads. I found I liked this one a bit more than Bowman of Crecy, because the main character had more of an interior life. Interior lives are important to me in fiction, it turns out. 

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer was a total cover borrow for me. I saw it on Hoopla, read that it was about a Jewish woman who writes Christmas books in secret, and tried it on a whim. It ended up being one of my top books of the year. I loved the way it portrayed the main character's chronic illness, I loved all the details of New York City Jewish culture, and I loved the dialogue. This was a debut novel; I am eagerly awaiting Meltzer's 2022 book, Mr. Perfect on Paper.

The Genie of Sutton Place by George Selden was a read-aloud with all my big girls during lunch. It's a bizarre New York City based story about a boy and his dog and a genie and lots of unlikely and strange fantastical happenings. It reminded me a lot of the work of E.L. Konigsburg. My kids seemed to like it; I found it quirky and a little unsettling.

The Gift Counselor by Sheila Cronin was sent to me by the author earlier this year, and I waited to read it during the holiday season. I really loved it. The premise - that psychological principles can be applied to help gift-givers - was so intriguing, and I really liked all of the characters and the ups and downs of the story. I don't often keep physical books after I finish them, but I'm not parting with this one.  

Silver Bells by Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton and Emily Duarte is a collection of Christmas novellas that I listened to on audio. It was kind of an odd mix of things. The first novella, Silver Bells by Fern Michaels, was a very sweet romance about an actress returning to her hometown and reconnecting with a high school love interest who has been left to babysit his twin nephews unexpectedly. This was the best-written of the bunch. The second one, Dear Santa by JoAnn Ross was really sentimental, but in a way that was forgivable because of the Christmas theme. I liked this one, but the graphic sex scenes were jarring and I could not fast-forward fast enough. Christmas Past by Mary Burton involved domestic abuse and a murder, and it just didn't match the mood set by the first two stories, and it also had a lot of graphic sex that was pretty gross. I would have DNF'd had it been a full-length novel on its own. Finally, A Mulberry Park Christmas by Emily Duarte was fine. It was a bit more like the first novella in tone, but my mind wandered a lot during this section of the audio. 

Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet by Opal Wheeler was our music read-aloud for the month. It's a great overview of Tchaikovsky's career and it provides some good insight into what he was like as a person, but it only talks about The Nutcracker for about two pages. That's not a problem, as we are quite familiar with the story, and the girls watched two versions of the ballet after we finished the book, along with a production of Sleeping Beauty.

A Season to Celebrate is another set of novellas by Fern Michaels and three other authors. Christmas Homecoming by Fern Michaels is the love story of a retired Air Force Pararescueman and a doctor. It was really fun seeing the missteps the characters made on their way to forming a relationship. Again, in this collection, Fern Michaels was the strongest writer. An Unexpected Gift by Kate Pearce was hard for me to follow. I couldn't keep the characters straight, and I couldn't always tell how old they were supposed to be. I realize they were meant to be older, which I appreciated, but they didn't sound their age. Christmas in Blue Hollow Falls by Donna Kauffman is apparently part of this author's larger series, but I don't know if knowing the series would have changed my reading experience. The reason I struggled with this one is that one of the characters is Ausftralian and the audiobook narrator tried badly to perform with an Australian accent. It was too distracting. Finally, Holiday Homerun by Priscilla Oliveras is about an event planner and a former baseball player who fall in love. There are lots of Spanish language phrases and references to Puerto Rican culture that really made this book stand out. I also love a good baseball book. 

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk is a Catholic novel in which Dan Malone, who is recovering from a bad relationship, meets Emily and her brother at his Christmas tree lot. Dan and Emily's brother become good friends right away, but it takes much longer - and many ups and downs - for Dan and Emily to get together. This book went to really some difficult emotional places, and it didn't shy away from the realities of how love stories can be complicated by our fallen nature as human beings, but it also provides so much hope for redemption. I absolutely loved this book, and I wish I could have read it when I was single in my 20s.

To Sir Phillip, with Love by Julia Quinn was my least favorite of the Bridgerton books I read this year. It just didn't have the same charm, and I didn't love the characters the same way. It was fine, but not a favorite.

Finally, A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy was our Christmas read-aloud. It's a lovely story about the transformation of a shantytown. It's definitely sentimental, but not in a negative way. 

As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband read: Beyond the Weir Bridge by Hester Burton, The Hawk by Ronald Welch, and A Grass Rope by William Mayne.

M., (8 years, 1 month) read Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn, William Penn: Quaker Hero by Hildegarde Dolson, The Explorations of Pere Marquette by Jim Kjelgard, and Isaac Newton: The True Story of His Life as Inventor, Scientist, & Teacher by John Hudson Tiner.

C. (6 years, 3 months) read Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary and started The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting.

E. (4 years, 2 months) read Gus Gets Scared by Frank Remkiewicz, Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman, Cat and Dog by Else Holmelund Minarik, Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman, and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. 

R. (boy twin, 21 months) is currently very into transportation and construction books, especially Green Tractor by Kersten Hamilton and Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. 

A. (girl twin, 21 months) has been enjoying On Noah's Ark by Jan Brett. She also likes to build towers with board books. 

Up Next for Me

On my list for January are Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin (for #WorldFullofBooks), The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher (for book club), Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (for the Bardalong book club) and The Other Side of Silence by Margaret Mahy (for the Read Your Bookshelves challenge prompt of "quiet.")

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