Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

by Natalie


Eleven-year-old Reuben Land shouldn’t be alive. He failed to breathe after he was born, and it was only when his father commanded him to breathe that he did. His father, Jeremiah Land, is a peculiar man, seemingly with the ability to perform miracles. The Lands live a quiet life – until Reuben’s older brother Davy kills two local villains who attempt to harm the family. Davy is arrested and tried but escapes before his sentencing. As the Lands set off in search of Davy, they’re followed by a fed who’s convinced they’ll lead him to Davy’s hideout. Providence brings them to Roxanna, whose stories and home give the family warmth through winter in the Badlands.

Leif Enger’s novel, a beautiful story of a family in 1960s Minnesota, is woven throughout with cowboy and outlaw tales as well as references to biblical stories and other works of literature. This is at the same time an adventure story, love story, and a somewhat supernatural story. I hesitate to compare anything to To Kill a Mockingbird because reading that was a formative experience for me. But as I read Peace Like a River, I kept thinking that this could be Leif Enger’s TKAM. He didn’t need to write another book (although he has). This is a perfect book to cozy up with this fall and winter. Savor a cup of tea or coffee while you drink in the beautiful, poetic sentences and endearing (but not sappy or sentimental) story.

Purchase Peace Like a River here.


The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

reviewed by Natalie

51pV4lY0MtL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgPart fairy tale, part history, and part mystery with a dash of romance, The Forgotten Garden is a story about three abandoned children, an English cottage, and a walled garden.

On her 21st birthday, Nell’s father reveals that she was found abandoned on a dock in Australia with no clue as to her origins other than a white suitcase and fairy tale book. This earth-shattering revelation leads Nell to search for her biological parents. Her search is cut short upon her death, but she leaves her granddaughter, Cassandra, a cryptic message and, in her will, a cottage in England. Continue reading

Reading Challenge Update – Natalie recaps 5 new reads 

A couple of weeks ago, my family of five expanded to a family of six – and busy is our new phase. But before that event, I was trying to get through a big chunk of my 2017 reading list. My list included 24 books, and I’ve managed to make it 1/3 of the way through. Since my reading time is limited, I chose books that I thought had the best chance of making it to the finished pile rather than the discarded pile. So far, 7 out of 8 have been big winners, so read on to find out more. Continue reading

Elizabeth Is Missing

By Emma Healey                            Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Reviewed by Natalie                      4/5 stars

513shwrvdlThe mystery genre takes up a great deal of space on my bookshelves, and my love of mystery stems back to elementary school when my 4th grade teacher read The Pink Motel (as I’ve mentioned a few times). Typically, I read Agatha Christie’s mysteries along with my fair share of Gothic-style mysteries like Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in WhiteElizabeth Is Missing is #22 on my 2017 book list – a “book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet.” I bought this book, but then read a few others before picking it up. Once I did, I didn’t want to put it down. Continue reading

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

By Robin Sloan                                Genre: Fiction
Reviewed by Natalie                      4/5 stars

From Natalie's reading list - 5. A book with a number in the title

“It was paper that saved me.”


Glow-in-the-dark cover

This line from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was the hook that kept me reading this book. I can relate to it. Books have been such a crucial part of my life, and books become a crucial part of our hero’s life in this book. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is set in San Francisco, the heart of tech country. The bookstore is a stalwart paper peddler in an e-reader world.

Clay Jannon, an out-of-work graphic designer, takes the only job he can get – as the night shift clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Clerks are forbidden from reading the mysterious coded tomes on the way-back shelves, but Clay’s curiosity gets the better of him. Clay decodes an age-old riddle that leads him on a quest to a secret, underground library in New York City. Continue reading

Maisie Dobbs

By Jacqueline Winspear                Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by Natalie                      5/5 stars

51uwylnaksl-_sx330_bo1204203200_I turned the double three this year, and, honestly, the side of me that loves order and pattern was pretty excited about that. More exciting though was that a dear, dear friend of mine went above and beyond, giving me The Pink Motel with the original pink cover. I’ve mentioned to her, oh, maybe 100 times that it’s such a fun book to read and that it’s a favorite from my childhood. And it’s quickly becoming a favorite for my kids. (See picture –  aka. the dorkiest photo of myself EVER – to see just how thrilled I was to receive this book.)received_10157564918280478

So what does The Pink Motel have to do with Maisie Dobbs? Everything. I was just talking to my husband about how much the kids and I are enjoying The Pink Motel because of the mystery, intrigue, and adventure. My husband said, “Well, there’s a little peek into your psyche.” It struck me that my love of mystery novels (Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Dorothy L. Sayers, etc.) in part stems from my 4th grade year of school when my teacher—bless her—read The Pink Motel and several other children’s mystery books to the class. Most of my creative writing assignments that year revolved around a female detective (named Natalie, of course) who kept weapons under her pillow should any of her murder suspects attempt to stop her crime-solving. Continue reading

The Green Ember

By S. D. Smith                             Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Reviewed by Natalie                      4.5/5 stars

51vzxruanl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Heather and Picket, two young rabbits with ordinary lives, are suddenly thrust into a thrilling adventure when evil wolves attack them and their family, leaving Heather and Picket alone and wondering if their parents and baby brother are still alive. In their desperate attempt to escape the wolves, they encounter their uncle and his ward, Smalls, who lead the brother and sister to safety among a rabbit community committed to fighting and defeating the wolves and hawks. Continue reading