Strep, Lies, and Audiobooks

41bsZf4KRFL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_By Natalie

I have been to the Walgreens health clinic four times in the past four weeks. Three times for strep and once for an ear infection. I’m sure each one of you can relate to this season of illness. And during this chaotic and mucus-covered (too gross?) time, I’ve been telling lies. Lies to myself. Lies like, “I am going to lose my mind if someone else sneezes on me,” or, “I am going to fall down dead if anyone else asks for a snack.” My inner voice tends to get overly dramatic during stressful times. Recently, I read The Happy Christian by David Murray. Murray’s premise is that our self-talk about circumstances and situations directly affects our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Murray lays out a five-step formula, illustrated through Psalm 77, to attack unhappy thoughts. It’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of unhappy thinking, especially when we’re bombarded daily by tragedy or even just daily difficulties, like waking up to a toddler screaming at you. After laying out the formula, Murray explores in detail happiness applied in each area of our lives: media, salvation, the future, giving, etc. I recommend picking up this book for the gloomy winter months.

51aLZoK4f4L._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_In the midst of the illness, I experienced a wonderful bright spot. My oldest has fallen in love with 100 Cupboards, particularly in the audiobook format. He’s listened to it three times through and listened to me read it aloud as well. After he finished listening the first time, he raced to the garage for a cardboard box to create his own 100 cupboards. My son loves when I read, but this is the first book he’s fall in love with.

The premise: Henry York’s parents have been taken hostage in the country of Colombia, so Henry moves to Henry, KS, to live with his aunt and uncle. One night as Henry lies in bed, he hears a bump in the wall and some plaster drops onto him. Peering through the new crack in the wall, he spies a door. Eventually, Henry, aided by his cousin Henrietta, chips away the entire wall of plaster to reveal 99 cupboards. And when they discover the 100th cupboard, they begin a dangerous and exciting adventure to stop a great evil from escaping into the world. With the new year here and reading lists being formed, 100 Cupboards might just spark a love of reading in even the most reluctant of children.


A Short List of Picture Books for Kids

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Autumn is a season that reignites our family’s love of reading, when we cozy up more often on the sofa with a good book. This past Sunday afternoon, my husband made hot cocoa, and he and our oldest read The Return of the King. For us, that’s a perfect afternoon.

And November was Picture Book Month! To mark this special month, we made an extra trip to the library just for picture books. Margaret Wise Brown is best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, but in recent years a collection of poems was discovered in a trunk in her sister’s barn. Part of that collection was published as A Celebration of Seasons: Goodnight Songs. Twelve artists lovingly created the illustrations for the book, and the poems celebrate the seasons, animals, and children. The book also comes with a CD collection of the poems set to music that won’t drive you crazy, parents.

Alexander Calder of the series Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists tells the story of the great sculptor and creator of the mobile. The book is engaging and interesting for children and adults alike. Other books in the series cover artists like Botticelli, Da Vinci, Monet, and Picasso, giving children a taste for art throughout the ages.

When I was Young in the Mountains is a nostalgic story of simpler times in West Virginia. It covers the activities of a family as they go throughout the day: greeting their grandfather, eating dinner, getting ready for bed, going to church. These ordinary activities take on beauty and meaning in the setting of a loving family.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn shows the changes in nature as the seasons change through the eyes of a young girl as she takes a walk. She observes the cool winds blowing tree branches, the animals searching for food, the late-blooming flowers, the rumbling thunder, and the falling leaves covering puddles. If you live in a place where the changing season doesn’t actually bring much change (Hi, Phoenix!), this is an especially good book for autumn.

In Owl Sees Owl, little owl jumps, flutters, flaps, and flies from his nest, looking for adventure by the light of the moon. This story is told in reverso poem style and will delight your littlest one who won’t sit for a longer story. You could even bring out a mirror when you read so baby sees baby.

In The Good Little Bad Little Pig (another fun book from Margaret Wise Brown), Peter would like a pet, and much to the surprise of his mother, he wants a pet pig. Not just any pig though. This pig must be a “good little bad little pig.” And his pig is sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes clean and sometimes dirty, but Peter always loves his pig.

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