April Reads

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Silence by  Shusako Endo – (*****) This was an interesting and challenging book. The descriptions and writing style were beautiful. It made me think deeply. That is why I rated it so highly. However, I didn’t really love this book. I have a longer review on Goodreads, if you are interested.

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas – (****) I loved these! A bit creepy, mysterious, and romantic. Short tales and legends with Scottish charm. Children would love these as much as I did!

The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove -(**)   Last month, I talked about the first two in this YA series. I was looking forward to this last title in the trilogy. Unfortunately, I was so disappointed!  I liked that questions where answered that had been asked earlier in the series and there were some delightful moments, but overall, this got a bit preachy for me on social issues (ie. war etc) and I thought it got a little weirder with the fortune teller and the grove of memories was too vague. Bummer.

Stillmeadow Daybook by Gladys Taber – (*****) I often read Gladys’ seasonal memoirs to coincide with the current month or season I am in. So it takes me awhile to get through her books. However, that is not a problem, as she never fails to delight! I was so enchanted and once again I found myself slowing down to notice little things about my daily homemaking, my family, and the nature around us. This is one of the three Taber titles I own, so I’m glad to read more of my delicious library shelf titles.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – (***) I loved Margaret Lea and the beginning part of this book…I wanted to just follow her around and hear more about her life and dig around her and her father’s bookshop together. Yes, I’m THAT boring. I did not like so much the mystery or Vita Winter’s life. Maybe I’m too hopelessly romantic or something or too unrealistic. Miss Winter’s life was SO dark and hopeless and I was just like, “What about you Margaret?” Also I did not like the switching of perspective between Margaret, Vita, and the character’s in Vita’s story…I got confused…a few times I skimmed over parts. The writing of this book was BEAUTIFUL, Setterfield is a fantastic writer, I just wasn’t loving the grim, darkness of the horrible life lived by “Vita Winter” and her family. I did appreciate Margaret’s sorrow over her family secret etc, but the tie in with Vita’s was strange to me and felt forced, dark, and hopeless. I don’t like hopeless fiction. The ending felt sad too, and again hand me an ice cream and a fuzzy puppy, I’m not that great with sad endings. Overall, I was drawn in and this was well-written, it’s probably just my taste.

A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge – (*****) I’ve read this title many times, so a reread for me. There is something about Jocelyn trying to find his way through his darkness and despair that just grips me. The beauty of words, the house & bookshop, the beautiful cathedral town in England, the family relationships Jocelyn fosters (especially with his Grandfather), and the mystery surrounding Ferranti, a reclusive man, draw you in. I love that Ferranti’s writings and the bookshop full of beautiful books are the bases for Jocelyn’s journey towards healing. Highly recommend.

Suncatchers by Jamie Langston Turner – (***) This book is VERY slow reading because of the heavy character driven descriptive style. However, I love Turner’s way of writing about someone outside of the Christian faith looking into it. This had a simple plot, and you spent an huge amount of time inside the main character Perry’s mind and what he was thinking about all the people who were around him. I enjoyed it, but it did not move you along, you were standing still, listening into conversations and thoughts. S – L – O – W. I appreciate Turner’s writing style and think it is beautiful and thoughtful. So far, my favorite title of this author’s is Winter Birds.

Judges, Ruth, Acts: The Holy Bible (*****)

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March Reads

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A lovely online friend of mine was talking about her new plan for a rating system. I like it, however I haven’t figured out how to make the cool stars she has for her ratings, so I’m going to follow her system, but still use asterisks.  I will put a brief snippet after each title.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (****) This book was very sad in some ways, exploring the depths of an adult woman coming out of the foster care system. Victoria is a young, aimless, and I just can feel her loneliness. The one thing she has is her knowledge and love of flowers, specifically the Victorian lore of what certain flowers convey and the messages they send. I wouldn’t say I loved this book, but I give it a high rating for making me think and for the characters feeling real.

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler (***) I probably give this book a 2 1/2 stars. I moved last summer to a large Amish area. I’ve always been interested in the Amish culture, but now being closer and getting to know them, I’ve grown in my desire to understand their beliefs.  Mr. Wagler conveyed the amount of fear one raised in the Amish Church has about leaving and I found his insights interesting.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking (***) The only reason I give this 3 stars is that some of it was sweet. However, this did not in anyway live up to the crazy hype it has here in America. Sheesh. I was expecting something earth-shattering the way everyone is going on about it! I should have known better.  A lot of it was just basic commonsense, a whole book about enjoying your sweaters, coffees, and friendship. Ha. I got this Hygge thing. 😉

Water from My Heart by Charles Martin – (*****) I really, really loved the theme of redemption in this title. Charlie Finn has an extremely rough life, but he has brains, which he uses as a high-end drug smuggler. Through a series of events, he ends up in Central America where consequences of his choices catch up to him. I love Martin’s characters, they feel real to me, at times the plot felt a *little* predictable, but overall, this story really touched me.

Every Riven Thing: Poems by Christian Wiman – (***) These poems were dark, depressing, and had some language in them. However, I appreciated that I could feel the author through them, his anguish and questions.

Le Road Trip: A Traveler’s Journal of Love and France by Vivian Swift – (***) This was a fun read, I felt the need for a little French culture after having stopped in Paris for a short visit last year. It reminds me in a way of Susan Branch, but with a harsher edge of sarcasm. I like Branch much better. The little sketches and Swift’s journal of the the French country side were interesting, descriptions of food yummy. I felt like she put quite a bit of French in her text, and while I love a little, I don’t speak it, so sometimes that was a little off-putting in an English book for some reason?

The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – (*****) This is one of my favorite reads of the month, maybe year, so far. I know some people don’t enjoy conversational style memoirs. In which the author talks to themselves and chats with the reader. I love them! Laskas does that in this lovely memoir and walks us through her life with her husband, their farm, animals, and neighbors. The beginning is a bit slow, but still beautiful as she is shocked and walks through a harsh, freak illness that hits her mother. The thoughts, feelings, and things she talks of sound so real and frank. The best part though, is as she shares her growing desire to be a mother, their thoughts and feelings through one round of IVF and eventual adoption from China. She writes so beautifully on the feelings, pain, and hope surrounding all of this…I just loved it. I hope to read more from this author.

The Glass Sentence and The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove (****) I know YA fantasy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. These first two titles in this trilogy were good. The first title was a bit muddled on some points, but the second I enjoyed immensely. This story centers around a cartologer/explorer Shadrack Eli and his niece Sophia. The world is a mess after the Great Disruption, in which every country/continent shifted and now are each a different time period! Sophia’s parents are explorer’s and have been missing for some time now. This has time traveling, weird creatures, and shadowy secrets. I love most of all the maps. Exotic and magical maps. So fun! My oldest and I are reading this together, so it’s fun to chat about it. For the most part, I think Grove is a good writer, which is nice to find something well-written in this genre.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser (*****) I’ve been reading this FOREVER and finally finished it. It is a wonderful, in-depth look at writing and I love how Zinsser uses real life experiences and writing that he did as a way of teaching. This book basically ripped all my writing to shreds. So, I’m starting at the beginning, and humbly trying to learn more. I’m reading two other of Zinsser’s titles currently. This was on my shelf also, so one more attempt at reading all the beautiful books I own.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (***) This book was interesting. It is about an apartment building and a few people in it. It basically had no plot, just a plodding through their lives in a gossipy way. I liked it, but I didn’t like it, if you know what I mean. It was originally written as a series of articles for a newspaper and you can see that a bit. I could not stand the main male character, Bruce, and the young lady Pat seemed so aimless and I felt a bit irritated with her. The most interesting character to me was a small boy Bertie who I wanted to snatch away from his CRAZY mother. I felt EXTREMELY bad for him.

Called to be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order by Marlene C. Miller  (***) I liked this book much better that Mr. Wagler’s, because of the interest of a non-Amish woman joining the Amish Church. There are very few people who ever do that and stay. I really liked Mrs. Miller’s testimony of the love of Christ in her life, yet it intrigues me that she then turned to the Amish. I understand that it had something to do with the acceptance she felt from them after a rough childhood herself. In some ways, I can see the draw to the Amish, but there are so many things that concern me about their beliefs. We “English” as they call all non-Amish, think their outfits, ways are quaint and charming. In reality, it is a harsh and brutal way of life. It is like living similar to the pioneers, with the cold fear of going to hell if you mess up or leave the Church. I’m way over-simplifying this, but that seems to be some of what I’ve come to understand. I really loved Mrs. Miller’s sharing of life as a mom of 10 children (with no electricity or plumbing, mind you. ACK!)

O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare by Niall Williams and Christine Breen (*****) This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. However, throughout this book, I appreciated the honesty and real feelings that Niall and Christine shared about the culture shock, loneliness, daily struggle to eek out a living on a old, run down farm and cottage. The shear difference between their lives in New York with all it’s convenience and speed versus the backbreaking labor for something as simple as heat for their cottage was astounding. The slow pace of the culture was unreal to them. Mr. Williams did a wonderful job sharing the ups/downs and real feelings. I was especially touched and sadden as they walked through the realization that they were unable to have children. I was elated to find out that there are three more books on their life at this time. I’m itching to start them.

Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Luke, John –  The Holy Bible (*****) I’m continuing my reading in my favorite Book of all times. The contrast between the Old and New is always so interesting and I just fell in love with the Book of John all over again.

What are you reading?

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January & February Reads

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What did you read these past couple of months? I’d love to hear! January was spent finishing up books from last year, which if they were more than half done, I didn’t include in this list. I ended up with a lot of fantasy and YA titles these first few months of 2017. How do you read? A few books at a time? One book, start to finish? I like to dip in and out of a HUGE stack, which I have going and changing all the time. I linked to reviews if I did them and I put an asterisk if recommended and/or a note on the title. 🙂

 

The Best Man by Grace Livingston Hill

The Far Country by Nevil Shute *** (Highly recommend.)

Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and J.K. Rowling

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel*(Interesting sci-fi/dystopian read with food for thought.)

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan* (England and books. Sigh. Unfortunately, ruined by unnecessary heavy adult content. Grr.)

The Mountain Between Us by  Charles Martin*

The Lake House by Kate Morton*

A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin*** (Highly recommend.)

The King’s Orchard by Agnes Sligh Turnbull*** (Highly recommend. Historical biography following the life of James O’Hara. This is set in Pittsburgh, PA area around French and Indian Wars into the American Revolution.)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Carl Sandburg, Voice of the People by Ruth Franchere*

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp*

Until Winter Comes by Mary Jane Hathaway

Amberwell by D.E. Stevenson* (Lovely historical fiction set in England around WWII.)

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Matthew, Mark in The NKJV Holy Bible*** (Honestly, Leviticus is a hard read. 🙂 )

 

 

 

Happy Reading!

 

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2016 Favorite Reads

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I like to keep track of my reading each year, through Goodreads,  journals, or lists.  I recently changed my blog home and now I’m trying to find a good place and way to record what my children and I read. I’m still working on that,  so instead of my usually massive list of what books we read, I’ve been sharing just those ones that we have loved THIS year and in this moment. It is so, so hard to narrow this list down, but I based my decision not necessarily on just the excellence of the book itself, but also on how it impacted me at the TIME that I read it. So, here is my favorite read list for 2016!

My 2016 Favorite Reads:

1. My favorite book this year! A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich – I can’t tell you how much this book meant to me…how our dreams and reality war in our affections. Laura is a deep thinking child with dreams of writing and loving on words…an elusive dream world that can’t quite be explained. It sort of feels like a white bird flying through the air. Grandmother Deal passes away and young Laura is devastated…Grandma was the only one who really seemed to understand and listen to her…she will honor her Grandmother and never forget what she gave up by living her life grasping after her grandmother’s and her own shared dream. Little does she know that Grandmother did live her dream, a dream that lives on through the generations. Laura has choices to make, stories to live.This book is written with beautiful prose and lovely nature descriptions. The author’s love of Nebraska and the plains is woven and intricate to this story. I just love the depth of the characters and how each life is so interwoven. The beauty of generations is heavily shown here…the good, the bad, and the ugly of family relationships and how they shape us.  This starts off a bit slow, but is just so, so very lovely! I HIGHLY recommend this title.

I didn’t realize that A White Bird Flying is the second in a series and I am now reading the first, A Lantern in Her Hand, which is just beautiful. I also read Mother Mason by Aldrich and was deeply moved by the beauty, hardships, and humor of motherhood shared within that title. Highly recommend this author and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

2. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery – I’m a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery and I reread this title at a particularly hard time this year and it just blessed the socks off of me . The young girl blossoming as she serves and loves her father. She doesn’t do anything spectacular except create an atmosphere of love and home to all those around her. And really maybe servant-hood IS the most spectacular thing we can do with our life. Just beautiful.

3.  This is kind of a strange thing, two beautiful titles have melded together a bit for me. The Broken Way: A Daring Path into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp and my rereading of Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard have been just so beautifully challenging and life-altering in so many ways. I’m still slowly savoring both of these, but I put them high on favorites for the year. It’s not simple to put into words, why I love these so much, but it has to do with finding freedom in just resting and trusting the Lord in the midst of our lives. That the brokenness, valleys, and heart-wrenching things are REAL life on this sin-soaked world. We can see God in those and live abundantly even when life isn’t safe or our idea of perfect. In fact, a careful reading of the Bible reveals life as, I believe, a barren desert with Jesus as our Spring of Living water. Voskamp’s writing can be a bit tricky to get into, but if you dig deep you will find lovely gems.

4. Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner – This was hard, sad, yet beautiful read. This story is told through the 80+ year old eyes of a woman looking back over her life, looking at the Christian faith as an outsider, and explaining her life, questioning death through the observing of birds, Shakespeare, and Time Life’s obituaries. Sound weird? It isn’t. It’s beautiful and thought-provoking. I’ve always read Christian fiction and it’s hard to find well-written, non-formulaic titles in this genre, but this one is excellent. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

5.  City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo Caldwell – This fiction title is  based on a true story about Mennonite missionaries to China in the early 1900’s.  Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking. I was so encouraged and challenged in my faith. I couldn’t put this down.

6. The Gown of Glory by Agnes Sligh Turnbull –  I must share this lovely fiction title with you! A young minister and his wife arrive in Ladykirk, hoping that this is just the stepping stone to their big ministry position…only to find themselves still in the same place 25 years later. David Lyall is a humble, bookish man, who hopes his gentle sermons and life of love mean something in this world.  This follows their life and family and how simple loving can impact deeply.

7. Romancing Your Child’s Heart by Monte Swan – a beautiful, insightful parenting title. Swan challenges us to look at children as whole, wonderful people deserving of the love of the Lord.

8. The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebank – an interesting memoir about real life as a shepherd in the north of England. I read this around and during my trip in The Lake District, so it came alive to me. A bit of rough language, but I really loved this honest look at shepherding.

9. Applesauce Needs Sugar by Victoria Case – This was a fantastic memoir! This follows the life of a Canadian pioneer family working hard to better themselves and put food on the table for their growing family. I found most of the stories had a subtle humor that made me chuckle out loud, namely the ways the industrious mother went about her wild plans all while convincing the father that it was his idea in the first place. 😉 This book has an interesting perspective in that it shows a strong-willed, excellent business woman in a time when women had no say, no vote, no property…nothing. I love the relationship portrayed between the parents, not perfect but choosing love…the discipline and well-oiled way the mother runs her big family of eventually 10 has me in awe.

10. The Book of Stillmeadow by Gladys Taber – no year would be complete without a little side of Taber.  If you’ve never read her,  Gladys wrote from the 1940’s onward, on the daily and seasonal happenings of her farm Stillmeadow. I know some people think she is repetitive and slow, and she probably is…but I love her writing. I think the two things that strike me the most are these: 1. she pays close attention to the small details of life and 2. she uses words in such a beautiful way. This title started off a bit slow, but as I got into it, I was just enchanted. The beauty of home, family, animals, cooking, and of nature. The glorious bits of light and beauty we see in the midst of the mundane, if we are brave enough to just stop fretting and being disgusted by it all, we will be given a beautiful gift right where we are.  I have Stillmeadow Sampler and Stillmeadow Daybook for savoring in my book stack now.

I have a few others that I could mention here, but I’m going to try to show restraint, as I really do think these are my most favorites of this year, or at least touched me the most. I would be amiss to not mention the Book of Books, The Holy Bible,…I journaled through it this year, using a wide margin NKJV Bible, with no footnotes, which was lovely. I’m planning on using a different version next year and doing it again…the richness, life, and love in the Bible are life-changing.

What were your absolute, favorite reads of this year?

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2016 Favorite Reads: Elementary/Preschool

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The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem – We all love this book, really good for any age. My 7 yo and I will “ooo and ahh” over the gorgeous illustrations and gently told stories. Such scope for imagination in this delightful collection.

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My Naughty Little Sister Storybook by Dorothy Edwards – These are told from the perspective of an older sister and the adventures and trouble of her little sister. Delightfully British turns of phrase, darling illustrations by Shirley Hughes, and gentle, humorous reminders of life lessons. Highly recommend.

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Read-Aloud Rhymes For the Very Young Selected by Jack Prelutsky – This is absolutely charming. A collection of poems and sayings with delightful illustrations by Marc Brown. My 4 yo and I just love reading these together and can get lost in the illustrations. Highly recommend.

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Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa – Charming counting book with the wonderful Fujikawa illustrations. My 2 yo’s favorite board book right now!

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On Market Street by Arnold Lobel – This is an unique alphabet book with hours of interest logged in our home. The delightful pictures depict a person dressed with something corresponding with a letter of the alphabet. One of our best loved books!

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The Quilt Maker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau – Another well-loved favorite here. Hours of intricate illustrations to pour over. Magical, sweet story with lovely message.

These are just a few of the many books that I could have included here. I tried share the ones that are currently being loved.

{book covers from Goodreads}

Any favorites in this genre that you’d share? I’d love to hear.

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2016 Favorite Reads for Young Adults & Middle School

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The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley – this series has been a huge hit with my 13 yo. It follows the life and adventures of a young boy and a wild black stallion. Highly recommend.

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Rascal by Sterling North – my 11 yo and I have been enjoying this book immensely. Humorous, adventurous,  crazy, and nature-orientated. We love the unique relationship between Sterling and his father. Of course, Rascal the Raccoon, is very entertaining himself. Highly recommend.

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DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul – these are my 13 yo’s favorite fantasy series this year. Allegorical, mystical, and adventurous. I’ve been reading these with her and they are light, fun reads.

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Silent Storm by Marion Marsh Brown – This lovely historical fiction title is a favorite with all ages here. It follows the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. We love that it gives us Annie’s perspective. Highly recommend.

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – a historical novel about a young girl coming to the colonies. She is having a hard time being accepted by her new family and misunderstandings and confusion abound in this Puritan world.

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Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher – I just finished reading this to my 9 yo and it was just as good, if not better, than the first time when I read it to my oldest. It follows the life of a young girl who is being raised by her cloying, fearful aunt. Circumstances change and she is sent to live with the dreaded Putney cousins, who love and live a bit differently. This is a delightful tale that I love to read as a mother, because I learn so much about parenting. It can feel like a book more for girls, but it’s not. My 9 yo boy said it was his favorite book this year. Don’t miss this one. Highly recommend.

Honorable Mention:

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – Ever wonder where the Wardrobe came from? Or the Lamp Post? Or how Narnia came to be? My 9 yo and I are so enjoying revisiting the first story in The Chronicles of Narnia tales. We love hearing about the creation of Narnia and all the interesting bits that make this series unforgettable.

These are just some of the few that jumped out to me, that my older and middle children have really enjoyed this year. I will be back soon with ones for younger children and myself!

Please share your favorites in these age groups for this year!

{Book covers from Goodreads}

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2016 Favorite Family Read Alouds

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Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen – beautiful, haunting book about a family working through the father’s PTSD. The family is drawn toward a remote, inherited cabin, the natural, seasonal rhythms, maple sugaring process, and neighbors surrounding them in beauty, love, and light. Highly recommend.

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Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – this is a delightful story of a boy and a swan without a voice. Hilarious, sweet, and subtle nature lessons woven throughout. We love this title!

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Family Grandstand by Carol Ryrie Brink – we finished this book earlier this year and can’t recommend it enough. Lovely story of a family living near the father’s job at a college, a writer for mother ;), and an interesting neighbor hood of friends and adventures.

Honorable mention is the Ralph Moody Series, which we’ve been slowly working through!

What are your favorite family read-aloud titles this year?

{book covers from Goodreads}

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