MomAdvice 2019 Book Club Selections

November 26th, 2018

Check out the 2019 MomAdvice Book Club Selections and join our FREE book club today!

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for more great reads for your stack!

Can you believe that I am picking our 2019 MomAdvice Book Club selections this week? This year has flown by and I have SO enjoyed sharing books and discussions with you.

If one of your goals this year is to join a book club or read more, I’d love to introduce you to our FREE book club you can join. This is  an AMAZING Virtual Book Club group filled with almost 2,000 (!!!) readers where we all share in a monthly discussion together.

The best part?

There is no commitment to participate in chats (although I love it when you do!). This is a place to get opinions about books, find out what everyone is reading, and start chats of your own about books you would just love to talk about.

I wanted to get this list up a little early so you have loads of time to make requests to your local library or read ahead on any of these selections.

How Does the MomAdvice Facebook Book Club Work?

Scroll through the book list below to see what we have in store for you in 2019.  The discussion is held on the last Friday and an Event invite is sent out at the beginning of the month to join a virtual chat. Once you RSVP, Facebook does its thing and sends out reminders to you.

Discussion questions are posted throughout the event and you are able to hop on at anytime during the day (or when you finish that book) to answer the questions at a time that is convenient for you.

How fun is that?

Feel free to join us and let your friends know about the group too.

The more the merrier!

How Much Does it Cost?

Nada.

Well, What Do YOU Get Out Of It?

I want this to be fun and free for you. I post the daily Kindle book deals and I share our book club picks though through something called an affiliate link. Basically, this link gives me a few pennies on each of your purchases that help pay for the web hosting on our website.

The web hosting currently costs me about $200 monthly and your purchases from this group basically help to offset that cost for our family at no cost to you.

I promise that I try to only share the good stuff and good books.

I know I can’t appeal to everyone’s taste, but I am really trying!! 

I also would like to think I made a lot of great bookworm friends too in this group. It’s been fun to have a place to obsess about books, to share what we are reading each week, and just hang out with other people who just get you.

I have tried to cultivate a positive environment and the group is filled with those kinds of drama-free people that you want to have filling your Facebook feed.

Escape the political nastiness and join a feel good kind of space.

I’m thrilled to share these 12 selections with you from a pool of talented writers. As always, I try to keep a good mix of fiction, nonfiction, YA, memoirs, and mysteries.

MomAdvice 2019 Book Club Selections

January- A Ladder to the Sky

February- My Sister the Serial Killer

March- The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

April- Little

May- The Friend

June- The Editor

July- In Sight of Stars

August- There Will Be No Miracles Here

September- No One Can Pronounce My Name

October- The Lying Woods

November- The Library Book

December- Virgil Wander

Join in on the MomAdvice Book Club HERE! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

MomAdvice 2018 Book Club Selections

January 1st, 2018

"MomAdvice

Is one of your goals to join a book club this year? I’m thrilled to share that we have an AMAZING Virtual Book Club group that I’d love for you to join. I’m so excited to share with you our MomAdvice 2018 Book Club selections.

Our book club now has over 1,200 bookworms (!!!) and we would love to have you join in on the fun discussions this year. I loved last year’s selections so much that they even found their way on my Best Books of 2017 list.

How Does the MomAdvice Facebook Book Club Work?

I will be your book club hostess this year and have selected the entire year of books for 2018 to round out your book stacks.  The discussion is held on the last week of the month and posted in the group with a thread for each question.

To make finding these discussions easier (and so you can hop in at anytime!!) we have moved our discussions into the Events tab. You will receive an invitation to each discussion and can find the entire discussion in the Events, instead of searching through our VERY active page.

You can jump in to answer questions at any time throughout that week, interacting with loads of other fellow bookworms.

How fun is that?

Feel free to join us and let your friends know about the group too.

The more the merrier!

How Much Does it Cost?

Nada.

Well, What Do You Get Out Of It?

I want this to be fun and free for you. I post the daily Kindle book deals and I share our book club picks though through something called an affiliate link. Basically, this link gives me a few pennies on each of your purchases that help pay for the web hosting on our website. The web hosting currently costs me about $200 monthly and your purchases from this group basically help to offset that cost for our family at no cost to you.

I try to only share the good stuff and good books.

In fact, I have been reading our book club picks before we get to them to make sure that not a moment of your time or penny is wasted.

I know I can’t appeal to everyone’s taste, but I am really trying!! 

I also would like to think I made a lot of great bookworm friends too in this group. It’s been fun to have a place to obsess about books, to share what we are reading each week, and just hang out with other people who just get you.

I have tried to cultivate a positive environment and the group is filled with those kinds of drama-free people that you want to have filling your Facebook feed. Escape the political nastiness and join a feel good kind of space.

Here are the books we will be talking about this year!

MomAdvice 2018 Book Club

MomAdvice 2018 Book Club Selections

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood January- Alias Grace

Lucky Boy February- Lucky Boy

American Fire March- American Fire

Lilli De Jong April- Lilli De Jong

The Music Shop May- The Music Shop

Everything Here is Beautiful June- Everything Here is Beautiful

Salt Houses July- Salt Houses

Little Broken Things August- Little Broken Things

Far From the Tree September- Far From the Tree

The Hunger by Alma Katsu October- The Hunger

Steal the Stars by Nat Cassidy November- Steal the Stars

Girls Burn Brighter December-Girls Burn Brighter

MomAdvice 2018 Book Club

Join in on the MomAdvice Book Club HERE! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Amy’s Notebook 01.17.19

January 17th, 2019

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Love the notebook? Sign up for my free weekly newsletter with more incredible articles!!

These sheets look adorable with a simple addition of trim?

How to build a capsule wardrobe (and not break the bank).

This was such a wonderful reminder about teaching boundaries to your kids.

I love these strategies for reducing your digital clutter.

The weight I carry– so beautiful and honest.

12 ways to style leggings.

I’m not the only one who has caught the decluttering bug.

I couldn’t love this show more (or this character).

For the record, this is the lowest price I’ve seen on these.

I thought a lot about this piece a lot and related to many elements of the burnout myself. It’s a compelling one!

7 tips for eating more plant-forward this year.

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This diy patchwork rug is adorable and made from simple carpet samples. So smart!

I always get excited to see Laura’s recommendations for best fiction.

Speaking of books, this is in my stack this week.

I love this list of practical personal finance resolutions.

I want to try this simple gluten-free bread recipe this month.

This was your top purchase this month (and MY favorite Christmas gift). Well played!!

Looking for fresh recipes to meal prep? This post has some really yummy ideas!

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I cannot wait to try this Instant Pot Rotisserie Chicken recipe.

7 ways to actually keep those resolutions.

I want to try this dairy-free cheese sauce recipe this month.

Have trouble falling asleep? This is a clever solution.

Now this is a a smart interpretation for this dish.

An effective and totally free way to clean your rugs. So smart!

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3-ingredient Trader Joe’s dinner ideas. A few of these are quite genius!

Along those same lines, here are 15 5-ingredient dinner ideas too.

How to wear dresses when it is cold out. I swear by these– you will thank me!

6 podcasts to get hooked on this winter. Sign me up!

These beautiful wedding images made me cry.

9 smart uses for expired food.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

Please note, there are affiliate links in this post- thank you! xoxo

 

Small-Budget Crushes 01.11.19

January 11th, 2019


I’m feeling that Valentine’s Day love right now! xo

skirt with tie belt

bathing beauty one-piece

rainbow loom

jigsaw puzzle roll & go mat

rattan side table (two hues)

floating bookshelves

paleo magazine subscription

striped fabric tote

over-the-door cutting board organizer

on a whim collared dress

ruffle trimmed stripes (a few patterns)

reading glasses (50% off!!)

toddler travel tray

polka dot sweatshirt (3 color options)

marled crew socks (50% off!!)

all are welcome here mat

polka dot dress

v-neck dress

willie love valentines

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links!! xoxoxo

Gixo Fitness App for the New Year (GIVEAWAY!!!)

January 10th, 2019

This post is sponsored by Gixo. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting our sponsors!

When my health challenges started to make my gym routines difficult, I began to realize that a gym membership just couldn’t be in my cards anymore. I had no idea from day to day if my body was going to cooperate and there were months that I paid for a full membership and only was able to make a class or two.

That, my friends, was not a good return on investment.

That is when I REALLY began to realize the beauty in online month-by-month memberships and how affordable they were. Online apps typically cost less than a single class at my gym and pay for themselves rather quickly. Even more than that, I am able to use these apps around my busy work schedule!

Haven’t tried a gym app before?

Well, today I wanted to show off a new-to-me app called Gixo! Gixo is designed for busy schedules with 15, 25 or 40-minute workout classes and include offerings like:

Cardio: walking, running (all treadmill compatible)

Strength training: core, glutes, total body

Yoga and pilates

 

Stretching and mobility

You are able to exercise wherever you are (at home, outdoors, traveling, at the gym, or on the go) and ZERO equipment is required.

 

Here are a few other reasons why I REALLY love this app!

The accountability factor- One of the reasons many people gravitate towards gym memberships is that accountability factor. Although many classes are available as on-demand options, you can sign up for class times just like you would with a traditional gym membership. Signing up for a class means that you will receive a text reminder that you have a class coming up (and what equipment you might need), and then a text that reminds you when your class is starting. Scheduling a class requires you to commit and then follow through on what you set out to do for the day.

The fun coaching- When you sign into class, you take a quick selfie to check in, and your coach has access to your screen to help guide you through your class. Having this view, they are able to help you make adjustments that help reduce the risk of injury.  I loved that when I checked in for class, I even got a shoutout from the coach, all the way in London,  to thank me for joining in. It makes the experience feel more intimate than just a recorded class and it gives you a personal trainer experience.

The incredible music- Workouts, for me, are ALL about the music and each of their classes has awesome music mixes curated by Gixo’s in-house DJ. I also appreciate that you can make adjustments to coaching and the music levels so if I want to just do my own workout to their amazing mixes, I can do that by turning down the volume on the coaching.

When would I do this?

Oh, how about when I am KILLING IT around my house or doing my laundry.

How fun is that?

They Add Variation to My Winter Treadmill Workouts- It is hard to make a treadmill workout fun, but Gixo manages to do it. Thanks to this app, I’m able to hit my goals with steps and they weave in strength routines, like a series of pushups, that make this more fun and more beneficial to your body.

It is affordable- Memberships start at just $14.99/mo (billed at $179.99/year) or $19.99/mo. This cost means that it is less than the cost of a single studio class and that you are able to get A LOT for your money. You also aren’t put into one gym class type category. I can do a strength class, yoga, run or walk (outside or on my treadmill), 

Want to try it out? How about some coupons AND a giveaway today?

Use code momadvice on the Gixo app to get a 7-day free trial and 20% off either a monthly or one-year subscription!

Follow the instructions below to enter to win a 1-year subscription to Gixo! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is sponsored by Gixo. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting our sponsors!

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The 2019 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE PRINTABLE)

January 7th, 2019

Use this free reading challenge worksheet with 26 reading prompts to help you GROW and STRETCH as a reader in 2019!

We are here and we want our MomAdvice Reading Challenge!

Bookworms, you have been heard! I apologize that I didn’t get this out on the first of the month, but today is my FIRST day without my kiddos home from their winter break. I am sitting amid a mountain of laundry and four cups of coffee, but I was NOT about to put this reading challenge aside one more day for you!

Each year I hear how much you enjoy doing these and I have loved seeing these worksheets all filled out with your pretty checks. More than that though, I love seeing how it is helping you grow and stretch as a reader.

I am sticking to our plan of having 26 categories and have added many of the suggestions made by our book club members that they were interested in tackling this year.

After all, this challenge is for YOU!!

 

designed by MJ from pars caeli!!

DOWNLOAD HERE

Missed the previous reading challenge worksheets? Check them out here!

momadvice 2018 reading challenge

momadvice 2017 reading challenge

Start your engines, friends! I hope this helps you reach your reading goals! Don’t forget to join our book club and check out my list of top books of 2018 for inspiration for this fun challenge! xoxo

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Small-Budget Crushes 01.04.18

January 4th, 2019

new year, new you!! get it, girl!

wooden keyboard rack

faux fur scarf

floral pressure cooker wrap

wire storage baskets (take extra 10% off with coupon code HOME)

reusable bowl covers

happiness planner

1-ply paperless paper towels

teddy coat

jute yoga mat

criss cross sweatshirt

reusable grocery bags

hot yoga mug

cork yoga mat

soma water bottle

rainbow hopscotch rug

five minute by intelligent change journal

sweater knit joggers

happy mail greeting card organizer

six cube organizers (take an extra 10% off with coupon code HOME)

facial rounds

racerback performance tanks (several gorgeous hues!)

prepd pack

bodyboss foldable gym

cotton tote grocery bags

patterned cushion covers

wall entry hook

weekly eats planner

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links!! xoxoxo

December Happy List

January 4th, 2019

Have you been missing the 3 little things list each week? Just so you know, this feature didn’t go away…it just moved over to my newsletters each week.

I know your time is precious and our inbox can get overloaded with a lot of newsletter junk. What I want you to know though is that I’m REALLY proud of the newsletters I craft each week and I include loads of shows, podcasts, books, and items we are loving in our home each week.

Sign up is super quick over here. I will even send you some free printables that you can put to work in organizing your home for the holidays.

Today I wanted to share what you might have missed this past month in one big giant happy list!!

My December Happy List

How was your December? I hope that you had a wonderful month filled with the people you love! We had a whole heck of a lot of fa-la-lahing this season…and I’m not complaining one bit.

Here are a few things that topped my December Happy List!

Gift Wrapping Dates

I’m in a life stage where seeing friends is challenging so weaving in those real life tasks and errands with friends means I can catch up AND get something done. I invited a friend over to wrap gifts with me and we had such a good time that this is our new annual tradition. Sipping wine, wrapping together, and singing holiday carols is amazing.

Years ago I got this table and I can’t tell you how awesome it was to wrap my gifts on it. Since it folds so small, it hardly takes up space and both of us could wrap at the same time without issues. I was reminded why this is one of my favorite things. Small space living calls for creativity and well-thought design. This one was worth every dollar.

FRESH Christmas Music Playlist

Each year, I try to create a memorable playlist and this one has been TWO years of hunting for the most obscure songs from wayyy back in the day to indie hits that should have more airplay and even some new contemporary music to mix in. I present to you, FRESH Christmas.

It is THIRTEEN (!!!) hours long and I couldn’t love each track more. The weirdest part? I am now getting musicians contacting me and sending me songs to see if I will put it on my mix. I can now add music producer to my list of talents- hahaha!

Holiday Lipstick That Sticks

For the holidays, I rely on my long-wearing lipsticks to keep me looking polished while I stuff my face with Christmas cookies. If you are looking for one that will get you through an entire day (FOR REALZ!), I recommend this one.

It’s important to know these are often vibrant (at least the colors I choose). Don’t panic, just do a few blots with a tissue and enjoy your night without lipstick on your teeth this year. Those reviews don’t lie, friends, this stuff sticks! For a holiday red, I’m loving Pioneer.

Dumplin’ the Movie

I told you guys last week that I had read this book so I could prepare for the movie and couldn’t wait to dive in. This movie was just so beautifully done and I so appreciated that they had taken out all the sexual stuff in the book so that I could enjoy it with my tween daughter.  If you have a tween that you are on the hunt for a great movie to watch together, this one fits the bill perfectly. Thanks, Netflix!

Our Smaller Holiday Tree

Last year I noticed that Hearth & Hand was offering a small Christmas tree that looked just perfect for our home. I went to the store to snag it, only to see that every unit that had been listed online was being used as an ornament display for the store. When I saw these on display, I quickly realized why. With its unique Scandinavian design, this tree allowed for multiple ornaments to be on the same branch and they all had the spacing advantage to be on display at the same time.

take a holiday tour over here or follow me on IG!

As I put it up again this year, a chore that now only takes me an hour or so to pull off, I was reminded how good it was that we downsized this and how nice it is to put out fewer Christmas decorations each year. A fresh wreath filled with holiday greenery, a big bowl of clementines (soon to be eaten), and a few handmade holiday items are all we need to make our home festive this year.

Marco Polo-ing My Way Through the Holidays

With limited time to see everyone and do everything before the holidays, I have been relying heavily upon my good app friend, Marco Polo. If you are a newer to the MomAdvice community, you might not have heard me sing praises about this smart app, but it is one of my favorite app offerings for busy moms.

Install the app and send a video walkie talkie message to a friend or family member. Once you send them one, they get an alert they have a message that they can watch. When they are available, they can just send you a video walkie talkie message back. No need to coordinate at all, like on FaceTime and Skype. You just send it when you are available, listen when you can, reply when you want to.

It’s definitely something to check out and has made me feel MORE connected to so many people in my life. The best part? It’s completely FREE!

The Flip Pillow

I have been looking for a supportive pillow for my back when I am reading and decided that this pillow was the perfect solution for reading books in my shed.  It is a 10-in-1 pillow so you can flip it in all different directions to give your body support where it needs it. I had high hopes this would be a good solution and it is AMAZINGLY comfortable. If you do a lot of reading in bed or work from a couch/bed, this offers an incredible amount of support and comfort. I can’t rave enough. I’m pretty much the ladies in these infomercials– haha!

The pillow does come without a cover, but I found one over here (I bought the dark color so it will hold up better) and it keeps the pillow protected.

Adjustable Laptop Tray

Are you seeing a theme here? On my bad days, I love the option to work from my comfy bed so I read through one million reviews and submitted this adjustable laptop tray as my gift idea from my parents. The legs can go very tall, the tray can be tilted so your neck is in the right position, and the top is GENEROUS so you can use your mouse.

The design is really thoughtful. I love that it has rubber edges to keep your laptop and mouse from slipping down and the adjustability on this is super straightforward. Best of all, it is really lightweight too so it makes it easy to take it where I need it. Did I mention a lifetime warranty?

According to the packaging, it is also perfect for a picnic….just in case you need another use for it.

Who wants a lunch date with me now, huh?

A Portable Neck Massager

Massages are out of my price range right now so I wanted to find something that I could use at home. When I ran across this portable massager, I thought it would help me so much with my neck and back issues.

You guys. This thing is AMAZING!! It really does feel like someone is massaging your back and you have full control over the intensity because your arms just loop through it to move it around. It is heated so it also adds warmth while you are being massaged which has helped relax my muscles so much.

It also comes with an obnoxious car charger which I plan to use to embarrass my children and annoy my spouse when we trade off on driving. I mean, as if sitting on my phone wasn’t obnoxious enough, lemme pull out my neck massager while I wait for you to get done with your drama class.

I can’t wait to be *that* mom!

Those were a few of my favorite gifts this year!

Here are a few of my favorite captures this month! 

Aldi bouquet arranging is my jam. $3.99 for a half dozen roses? I’m in! Repurposed candles from this tablescape idea.

Junior League of South Bend gala- a blast with a few of my new favorite gal pals!

My baby turned THIRTEEN. We celebrated with this cake and mom cried a lot.

It was allll about family! This black-and-white image is me with my sister & brother. Right above it, is my sister-in-law sharing a cup of cheer at the pop-up Christmas bar that had opened.

My daughter made this gorgeous picture of us. My husband joined the table tennis club in town, I have perfected my top bun, my cat is obsessed with our poor son (who is slightly less enraptured with her- at least he pretends to be!), and our daughter’s moto pants are on-point.

I couldn’t love my people more!

What about you? What did you love this month?

Here’s what I *could* tell from your browsing this year!

Top Ten Most Visited Articles in 2018

1. Easy Burlap Wreath Tutorial
2. 3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs Recipe
3. How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker
4. How to Make a Blanket Scarf
5. How to Make a Homeless Care Package
6. How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans
7. How to Spray Paint Furniture
8. Fruit-Infused Water Recipes
9. DIY Fluffy Slime Recipe
10. MomAdvice 2018 Book Club Selections

Top Ten Most Purchased Items in 2018

1. Rissy 2 Wind Resistant Jacket
2. Hallmark Movie Watching Mug
3. Dissent Collar Baby Bib
4. Free People Palisades Off-the-Shoulder Top
5. Keysocks
6. Hanes Sweat-Free Bras
7. Yearly Reading Log Digital Download
8. Old-Fashioned Family Christmas Doormat
9. Birthstone Bar Necklace

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s in store for January! I hope my month of happy brings a month of happy to you too! If this post doesn’t convince you my newsletter is fun, I’ve got nothing. Sign up over here to get this fun weekly in your inbox.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 01.03.18

January 3rd, 2019

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Love the notebook? Sign up for my free weekly newsletter with more incredible articles!!

I love this creative hack for an essential oil diffuser for your car.

Speaking of those, this is my new favorite oil roller for bedtime.

10 podcasts to help you go after your 2019 goals.

Here are a few thoughtful tips for organizing your kitchen cabinets.

These are the buzziest wellness trends predicted for 2019. I can get behind a few of these, for sure!

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I’m digging these organizing hacks for your home.

This was really good organizing advice too.

I always like taking a peek at everyone’s favorite book lists. Did you catch mine too?

Speaking of books, this one looks like a good one to start the new year with.

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This spinach and white bean meatball soup looks like a winning soup combo to me.

This is one shopping event I try to peek at every year. You can’t beat an additional 40% off for gifts.

I’m adoring this audiobook right now while I have been taking down our holiday decorations.

I had not thought of how these cashless systems will impact people of color.

The reason the ultrarich are unsatisfied with their wealth. REALLY insightful!

30 things to read and watch this year. Bookmarking this list for myself!

I love working out at home so I’m bookmarking these workout streaming options.

Here is what a Dry January can do for you.

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This is on my cleaning to-do list and I had never thought of using one of these for that purpose!

10 ingredients to always have on hand in your kitchen. Such a great little arsenal for weeknight meals.

4 foolproof ways to tame your inbox this year!

This hack for creating a woven piece for your wall is genius.

Love the home you live in– a beautiful reminder!

Wouldn’t a set of these make a sweet baby shower gift?

Detox your home with this printable calendar.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

Please note, there are affiliate links in this post- thank you! xoxo

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Pulled Pork

January 2nd, 2019

All you need is 3 simple ingredients to make this pulled pork recipe in your Instant Pot! Learn how to make this gluten-free dish and prep it for a week of lunches for your week!

I use my Instant Pot all of the time, but I started to realize that some of my absolute favorite recipes have never even hit our website. They are the simple dishes that have become a part of our routines and older recipes that were adapted for the pressure cooker that I just have never got around to sharing…

That is, until now!

My 3-ingredient Instant Pot Ribs have been a bit of a viral sensation on our website so it makes sense that today’s pork recipe also has just a few simple ingredients and that it can feed a crowd.

Even better, you will still have leftovers for fabulous lunches.

We frequently tote our Instant Pot around with us when we book vacation homes on airbnb because I have perfected a handful of recipes that allow us to enjoy a delicious dinner without spending a ton of money.

I have also found clean-up can be a breeze because we can store our main dishes right inside for the next day thanks to this awesome lid. An extra insert is always handy too so you always have a pot to prepare in!

Less dishes AND less money spent?

Now, that’s a vacation mom’s dream!

The first time I adapted this recipe, the directions said that I only needed 45 minutes to an hour to achieve that perfectly shredded pork.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and it took a bit of trial and error for me to discover that 90 minutes on HIGH pressure is exactly how I like my pulled pork.

This amount of time yields that tender pork that I’ve come to know, without an entire day in our slow cooker.

Taking this recipe to work?

Here is one way I love to package pulled pork up for lunches.

I have found sweet potatoes are the perfect vehicle for pulled pork.

I just rinse these off, prick with a fork, rub with olive oil and kosher salt, and bake at 400 degrees for an hour, while my pork is bubbling away.

For sides, fruit and veggies are the perfect accompaniment.

Are you a ranch dipper? I used these cups for our dip and just piled my veggies on top for snacking on while I worked.

I hope you will enjoy this tried-and-true recipe at your dinner table too and consider this one a vacation staple, like we do in our family!

Be sure to SCROLL DOWN for loads more dinner ideas. I have you covered!! Don’t have an Instant Pot? Use this recipe for your Slow Cooker instead! 

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Pulled Pork
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: BBQ
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings[url:3][img:1][/url]
 
All you need is 3 ingredients to make this tender and delicious pulled pork recipe. Serve on a bun or stuff it in a roasted sweet potato for a filling gluten-free meal.
Ingredients
  • Follow these directions if preparing sweet potatoes
  • 1 (4 pound) Boston butt (or pork shoulder)
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle root beer
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle your favorite barbecue sauce (this is my recommendation ALWAYS)
Instructions
  1. Pour your can of root beer in the Instant Pot
  2. Place pork butt/shoulder on top and season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Lock the lid and select the Meat function (this should be on HIGH pressure), and set your timer for 90 minutes.
  4. Quick release your valve after the timer beeps and remove the pork butt from the pressure cooker.
  5. Shred the meat and drain the root beer from the pressure cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce and toss gently.
  6. Serve in buns or prepared sweet potatoes. See my full post for a meal prep day for a week of lunches.

 

Looking for more weeknight meal ideas? Check these posts out!

Instant Pot Indian Vegetable Rice from MomAdvice.cominstant pot indian vegetable rice

pressure cooker korean street tacosinstant pot korean street tacos

3-ingredient instant pot ribs

Shrimp Fried Rice from MomAdvice.comshrimp fried rice

Balsamic Pork Loin Sheet Pan Meal from MomAdvice.combalsamic pork loin sheet pan meal

sheet pan ranch chops& veggiessheet pan ranch chops & veggies

gluten-free meatloaf recipeeasy gluten-free meatloaf recipe

sheet pan lemon paprika chicken with vegetablessheet pan lemon paprika chicken with vegetables

Baked Orange Chicken Meatballs from MomAdvice.combaked orange chicken meatballs

5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust

slow cooker carnitasslow cooker carnitas

asian-turkey-and-green-bean-sauteasian turkey & green bean skillet dish

5-ingredient caprese pork chops5-ingredient caprese pork chops

Roast Frozen Chicken in Bulkroast chicken in bulk for your week

What is your favorite thing to create in your Instant Pot?

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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The Best Books of 2018

December 30th, 2018

Can you believe I stuck around and blogged for another year? Me either! Yet, I’m STILL HERE talking to you about books after all these years.

Books are magic, aren’t they?

2018 was another incredible year of reading and I am so honored to have a place where I can share my thoughts on books.

Once again, I set the lofty goal of reading 100 books. This year, I barely squeaked by and really sweated it out this last month.

It makes no sense to me because the year prior seemed much breezier. Thanks to GoodReads though, I figured out why I was barely cha-cha sliding through 2018.

A Few Quick Reflections on My Year in Reading

I am a numbers person, so please humor me for a few seconds while I reflect on my GoodReads Challenges.

In 2014, I would have been so amazed at my goal of 100 books. Just who does she think she is, kind of amazement. Like, GET OVER YOURSELF side-eye stuff.

Yet, my 2018 self is JADED because I could have done better.

I read 100 books in 2017 and I could have aimed higher.

I am such a loser.

The reason I share this is because I see how hard I am on myself and how ridiculous it is that I can’t just be proud of this enormous thing that I pulled off, in the midst of being a mother, wife, and my job. I get bogged down hearing about people cranking out twice the amount of books and their plates seem fuller than mine. I am, truly, my own worst enemy.

I had to see this though to realize that I did WAY better than 2017 and feel like I deserve a congratulations.

I read 2,763 MORE pages than I did in 2017 which means that I can now say I’m proud of myself.

It’s so dumb.

Don’t get me started.

Just ask my dad about me. He witnessed my meltdown in front of a librarian because I set a reading goal too high and she wouldn’t give me a prize when I was little.

Some people never change.

I’m setting my goal again for 100 so I can set myself up for some real disappointment (hardy har har!). If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

Looking to add some variety to your stack? Feel free to join our book club! I announced our selections and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. Did I mention that our book club is FREE and welcoming to ALL? You will be so glad you joined.

Are you ready to hear about the best books I read in 2018? I couldn’t trim my list to ten so I hope you enjoy a my list of 20 favorites this year. Please note, if the books I have read have not been officially published, they will be moved as potential picks for 2019!! 

Let’s get to it-

The Best Books of 2018 (sign up for my newsletter and never miss a book review AGAIN! No spam, I promise!):

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs. Bird, is, truly, one of the most charming novels I’ve read in a long time.

Set in 1940, Emmeline Lake discovers a help wanted ad for a job with the newspaper in town and can’t believer her luck to secure a job as a reporter as she dreams of all the important stories she is going to be able to cover during the war.

When she arrives for her first day though, she realizes she is greatly mistaken about her war correspondent duties and discovers that her job is really just a typist and the person who must screen all of the letters that the advice columnist, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, receives, to be answered in a tired woman’s publication.

Mrs. Bird has a verrryyyy long list of topics she refuses to cover (referred to as UNPLEASANTNESS)  and Emmeline is required to tear these “racy” letters up into tiny pieces as soon as she realizes what unladylike topics are being asked of her.

Emmeline knows that these topics deserve responses though, although she feels too young and unqualified to always give the best responses.  She secretly begins responding to the letters under Mrs. Bird’s name and, as she becomes braver, she begins publishing  her responses too.

Emmeline quickly discovers why giving advice isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, especially as her own life begins to unravel and the consequences of war hit too close to home.

Pearce was inspired by real letter submissions from this era and topics that were explored in women’s publications around the time of World War II and, cleverly, crafted these elements into her own witty debut.

If you are a fan of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I just know you will adore this read too.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

If you haven’t read Diane Chamberlain before, you really must! She is, truly, one of the most gifted writers.

Time travel is MY JAM so I was REALLY excited to see that her newest historical fiction novel had a science fiction spin that would be focused on time travel.

Diane Chamberlain AND time travel?

SIGN.

ME.

UP.

Set in the 1960’s, Carly’s husband has passed away in the Vietnam War before she can even share with him the news that she is pregnant.

At her routine doctor’s visit, they discover that this baby has a heart condition that cannot be treated and that her baby will die.

It is when she gets this news that her brother-in-law, a gifted physicist, shares with her that there is actually a surgery that can be done, but this surgery won’t be available until 2001.

How could he know this?

Well, let’s just say that he has time traveled a bit…

With his help, Carly time travels so her child can be part of this experimental surgery. Nothing is guaranteed, but Carly will do anything to save her daughter.

Chamberlain creates such suspense with this story that I could not put it down. This could have quickly turned corny, given the time travel aspect, but she does it with such beauty and believability, even crafting strain on the relationships of those left behind.

I hate to pick favorites, since I have loved so many of her books, but this is definitely one of my top 5 from this author!

Fans of, The Time Traveler’s Wife, will really embrace this one and the clever plot twists that surprised even me!

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua

Debut novelists are my favorite and Vanessa Hua comes into the writing arena with, A River of Stars, like a seasoned pro.

It goes without saying, but if Celeste Ng puts her stamp of approval on it, I will be adding that book to my book stacks.

I have loved reading so many books about immigrants this year and Hua tells a gorgeous story of Scarlett Chen, a scared girl who has been taken far from her home in China.

Scarlett worked in a factory where she met and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. When Boss discovers she is pregnant with his first son, he sends her away to America where she can be cared for by the top doctors and kept on the right diet and regime to insure he will have the healthy son he has always wanted.

Oh, and he needs her to leave too because he is already married with three daughters of his own.

Unfortunately, this place that Boss has sent her to is nothing like it had been described in the brochures. The conditions are horrible, the caretaker is evil, and Scarlett would do anything to escape.

In the end, that is exactly what she does, with a surprise stowaway in the back of the stolen van she hijacked.

What Scarlett doesn’t know is that Boss needs her baby in his life to fight a battle of his own. He will stop at nothing to find Scarlett and his child, because it means life or death for him. His unrelenting hunt for her terrifies Scarlett because she knows she will be punished for running away.

Scarlett will stop at nothing to keep them both safe and Boss will stop at nothing to make sure they are found.

This book is just INCREDIBLE and, again, you will see this one on my top ten list, FOR SURE. Hua’s writing has the rich qualities of Lisa See where she is able to see a story through with these characters from beginning to end.

She also told a story that I just did not want to end.

I really hope there is a sequel in the works because it is that good.

This novel is gripping and perfectly timed for understanding more of what it is like to be an immigrant. Hua dives deep in exploring the definition of home, family, and belonging.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This book selection was made for my stack after hearing that it would be a great selection for, A Little Life fans.  As you guys know, I am a huge fan of this book and even scored this amazing tee from a friend after we talked about our undying love for these characters.

Shortlisted for the National Book Award, this is a beautiful story of friendship during the height of the AIDS epidemic and offers similar themes of beautiful male friendships during the thick of a crisis in the gay community.

There are two intertwining stories being told in this story. Yale Tishman is a development director for an art gallery in Chicago and, as his career begins to really flourish, his friends are dying around him, one by one.

Meanwhile, thirty years later, Yale’s younger sister is in Paris desperately trying to reconnect with her daughter who has joined a cult. While staying in Paris with an old friend, she also is forced to deal with what AIDS has robbed of her and how it affected her relationship with her estranged daughter.

While many of us can never fully understand what the AIDS epidemic looked like during this time in history, particularly for gay men, Makkai does an incredible job bringing humanity and compassion to these devastating stories. The friendships that are weaved are beautiful and believable. I loved these characters and the gorgeous writing that Makkai brings to the table. She is definitely deserving of the National Book Award and I am so glad I got to read it this month.

If you are looking for something to fill your, A Little Life void, I highly recommend this touching read. It would be an excellent book for discussion for book clubs too!

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

I can tell you now that, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, will be on my favorite reads of 2018. I was so swept away by the vivid storytelling and the poetic descriptive language in this book.

The author uses elements of her own life story (a discovery I made after reading the author’s notes at the end) to create this incredible coming-of-age story from two markedly different Columbian girls, growing up during the time that Pablo Escobar has captured the nation’s attention.

Chula & Cassandra are sisters that grow up in a more protected gated community, although they are still surrounded my unsafe elements outside of their neighborhood walls. They are well-cared for, adored by their mother, and given everything they need.

While Chula & Cassandra are carefree and curious, Petrona (who is around their same age) is folding under the burden of being the breadwinner for her family. She ends up finding a job, working as a live-in maid for Chula & Cassandra’s mother.  Living in their home is a true blessing since she has grown up in the guerrilla-occupied slums.

When Petrona meets her first love though, she finds herself in the middle of a horrible situation that threatens her safety, the safety of her family, and the safety of the family she is working for. This relationship really sets the plot in motion as you worry for each of these girls and their safety.

I am not sure why I’m not hearing more about this novel because it is a powerful and devastating read. While I have read a lot of historical fiction, this is an era and country that I have not read a lot about so it made the story even more impactful for me.

If you love a good coming-of-age story, I have a feeling you will really connect with this incredible read.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

I didn’t know anything about this book going into it and, perhaps, that is why it shocked me in both its beauty and darkness. Although I had also known the general premise of Lolita, I had no point of reference that this novel had been based on a true life kidnapping crime. In Rust & Stardust, Greenwood pulls back the curtain on this horrific case and chillingly illuminates what all this girl had been through.

In 1948, Sally Horner is desperate to get into the cool club with a group of girls from school. As part of her initiation process, she has to steal a notebook at a local drugstore.  When a man with the F.B.I.  sees her take this notebook, he tells her that she must pay for her crime and that he won’t rat her out to her parents, as long as she follows all of his instructions.

He poses as a father from a friend from school and says that they are going on a beautiful beach vacation and would like to take Sally along with them. Sally’s mother, struggling with debilitating arthritis and pain, knows that Sally will have a wonderful adventure and begrudgingly allows her to accept the invitation. Sally knows that she must go on this trip for her court hearing and punishment for the stolen notebook.

The thing is, this guy is actually a dangerous child predator who has just been released from prison and Sally is his latest conquest.

This book wrecked me in the same ways that, A Little Life, ripped a little of my heart out. Nabbing criminals back then is a frustrating process to witness, let alone be a victim too. It takes a strong reader to read this one and I have a feeling Sally’s story is going to be imprinted on my heart for a very long time. Greenwood’s writing is poetry in motion, even in the evil bits of it.

I doubt you will be able to put this one down, but given the context of the story, know this is a dark read.

The One by John Marrs

I think I have been reading too many thrillers because they just haven’t been grabbing me in the same way. I can’t say that though about, The One, which will be my top thriller recommendation this year.

Black Mirror fans may recall an episode of the show where potential mates are matched in a very science-fiction type of way. This thriller explores the concept of DNA matching in a similar fashion, but goes much deeper into the complexities of love and lust that happen when we are told that someone is scientifically matched to you.

There are several amazing stories going on- a straight man who finds out he is matched to a man, a woman who discovers her match has died before she has connected with him, a woman who finds out that her match is terminally ill, the founder of the profiling system and the relationship with her match…oh, and a serial killer who is out on the loose and pursuing a few matches of his own.

I listened to this one on audiobook and the narration is absolutely fantastic. There wasn’t a dud in the stories and I loved, loved, loved the plot twists in this one.

If you want a thriller you can’t put down, this is better than any of the summer buzz book thrillers I have read. I think you will love it!

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Described by one reviewer as Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups, one of my favorites this year was definitely, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance. I can’t recommend this one enough for a gorgeously written escape, with equal parts myth and relatability.

Weylyn is an orphan and has been raised by a pack of wolves which is just one of many reasons why he can’t seem to fit in with others.  When he finds that he can single-handedly stop a tornado, with his own powers, he realizes just how different he really is.

Weylyn finds a sweet friendship with a girl named Mary and her devotion has never ended, even as they have gotten older. This beautiful relationship is followed as Weylyn brings magic into everything he does, even as an adult trying to hold down a regular job. The gift he has though is a blessing and a curse and we get to hear his story through the eyes of many in this book.

I could not put this one down and would recommend it for anyone who enjoyed, The Snow Child, because it has that fairytale quality to it that makes you never want to stop flipping the pages until you reach the very end of the story.

Although not labeled as a YA, I would confidently pass this one on to my children because it is a clean, sweet, and magical story. In fact, that’s just what I did. It’s the type of book that you just want to share with others, with unforgettable characters and unbelievable storytelling.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

A coming-of-age story combined with a murder mystery, Where the Crawdads Sing, has the framework for a book that anyone would love.

Kya Clark is a little girl who has found herself abandoned by her family and will do anything to keep anyone from finding out, knowing she would be taken from her home. Resourcefully, Kya finds ways to secure food and clothing, with help from a shop owner who takes mercy on her. Thanks to her love of nature, Kya never feels entirely abandoned because the animals and world around her make her feel like she is surrounded by friends.

As she grows up, her beauty and the mystery around her intrigues two local boys, that both make a way into her heart.

Years later though, one of those boys is found dead and the locals immediately suspect that Kya is the suspect. Known as the, “Marsh Girl,” no one in town likes or trusts her. How could they possibly trust her though because they don’t even know her?

The story goes back and forth through time as Kya goes from a frightened young girl to a more confident author to becoming the main suspect in a murder investigation. This story begs the question, can we ever escape our past?

If you are looking for an audiobook to enjoy this month, this one is BEAUTIFULLY narrated and should be savored. The writing is exquisite, the story is heartbreaking, and the characters are so well-developed that they lift off the pages.

Each year I get asked what book someone could confidently share for the holidays. I would put this book at the top of the list this year because it is one that I could hand to my mom, grandmother, or sister and know that they would be just as swept away as me. Buy this one in multiples for all the people you want to share a book with this year.

This book has had a lot of buzz already, thanks to being picked up by the Hello Sunshine book club, but I just had to add my stamp of approval too!  This is a buzz book that REALLY delivers and I think you will love it too.

Educated by Tara Westover

If you are looking for a gripping memoir to add to your book stacks this year, you MUST, MUST, MUST read this book. I polished this one off in a day because I had to know how Westover’s story would end.

If you haven’t heard about this one, I will try to briefly fill you in. Educated is the story of Tara Westover who was seventeen before she had ever stepped into a classroom. Born to Mormon survivalists, her parents spent their days stockpiling for the end-of-days, salvaging metal from the junkyard, and stewing herbs for the healing and midwifery that her mother did as her job.

Tara’s father is mentally ill and and has a strong distrust for the medical establishment and government. She grows up never seeing a doctor, never going to school, and doesn’t even have a birth certificate. If you lived a rather normal existence, this might work, but it doesn’t work in the treacherous world that Tara must live in.

My heart was in my throat almost this entire story as Tara is physically abused by a sibling, neglected by her parents, and mentally abused through her father’s version of God and the church.

Tara decides to teach herself math, grammar, and science so she can take the ACT. It is through this act that she finds her own salvation, while trying to navigate a secular world that is foreign to her.

Fans of, The Sound of Gravel and The Glass Castleare sure to love this achingly beautiful story.

Between Me & You by Allison Winn Scotch

If you are looking for a book that you can really escape with, Between Me & You was a fantastic read that I savored this month.

Loved the plotline of, A Star is Born? This is a similar love story of two people on the search for fame and what happens when one person moves forward in their career while the other is struggling.

Ben has all the cards stacked in his favor in Hollywood. He comes from a privileged family and seems to have the right connections. Tatum, however, is a struggling actress who is working as a bartender at an NYC dive bar. When the two meet, they fall in love and get married.

The thing is, Tatum’s career takes off and Ben finds his own career is fading.

This touching love story is told from two perspectives with one rewinding history and one moving their story forward, both laced with their own bias and regret.

Told from their unique perspectives and with this shifting timeline, the raw honesty in each of their stories really pulls through in a really unique way.

Usually, I find I gravitate toward one perspective, but this wasn’t the case with this one. I loved seeing each of these viewpoints and Scotch does an incredible job fleshing these out.

I must admit, I have read all of Scotch’s books and her debut has always been my favorite…

That is, until I read this one.

 

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

If there has been one Kindle book that has consistently been top of the charts these past few months, it has been, The Storyteller’s SecretBadani graciously joined me for an interview, after releasing her debut novel, so I had a feeling that this book was going to be another incredible treat and I wasn’t wrong. This book is GORGEOUS start to finish and, as the title suggests, if you just love beautiful storytelling, this book is one I would hand to you.

Jaya is a New York journalist who has suffered her third miscarriage and has found herself in a struggling marriage and emotionally drained. Desperate to relieve her anguish, she goes to India to uncover the answers of her family’s past.

When she arrives, she is greeted by Ravi, a trusted former servant of her family, and he has been waiting for Jaya to share the beautiful stories of her grandmother’s life. Growing up in the traditional Indian culture, her grandmother is a gifted storyteller with a big heart and strong spirit. Her husband dislikes these glimmers of independence, but also gives her the space she so desperately craves.

When a school is opened in the village, she is given the generous offer of being a teacher at the school and in exchange Amisha will be gifted English lessons. This generous offer is gifted to her by a handsome soldier who is stationed there during the British occupation. He can never know what a joyful gift it is and the heartache that will, in turn, come from that gift.

Badani writes again with kindness and wisdom for Indian customs and the religious beliefs they have built upon. I always learn so much from her writing and she does a phenomenal job of showing the beauty of India while also acknowledging the harder to swallow truths of the caste system and superstitious punishments that have been gifted within the family.

More importantly, given tasked to write the poetic stories of Amisha AND the task of telling Amisha’s story…well, that would take a talented storyteller to pull off. It comes as no surprise, Badani delivers the storytelling magic with abundance.

I would recommend this beautiful read to fans of, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Fans of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda will absolutely ADORE What If It’s Us and will not be able to put this charming coming-of-age love story down.

Arthur is in New York for the summer and never expected that a trip to the post office would change his life. While standing in line though, he chats with another guy who is at the post office to rid himself of his ex-boyfriend’s items. The two strike up such a great conversation that Arthur just knows that the two were destined to meet.

Wouldn’t you know that a flash mob decides to come in to perform on that day and Arthur realizes that the boy of his dreams has left before he was able to get his name or number?

With encouragement from friends, he decides to put in an ad on Craigslist to see if he can find this newly single guy.

Magically, the universe delivers and the two find each other and end up going on some really terrible dates.

They aren’t willing to give up though and repeat their “first date” many times, getting to know each other through the process. What unfolds is an awkwardly sweet and honest teenage love story that I am such a sucker for.

I listened to this one on audiobook and it was a really fun one to listen to. The chapters alternate between Arthur and Ben and I found myself laughing out loud and even quite teary as I remembered my own dating struggles when I was growing up.

This was charming, adorable, heartfelt, and perfectly imperfect…as all love stories are.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

This gorgeous story is set in the seventies and is about a former POW father who comes home from the Vietnam War completely changed. His behavior and decision-making is wildly erratic and when a property becomes available in rural Alaska, he decides that they should seize the opportunity to live off the grid and make a different life for themselves.

Braving harrowing and life-threatening conditions is what is all about and thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the middle of it all as they attempt to carve a new life in the wild frontier.

Living off the grid is not all it is cracked up to be and neither is surviving the difficult Alaska winters.

Braving the wilderness is tough and Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran. I couldn’t have loved this more and was honored to also help showcase some fun ideas for a book club discussion around this book.

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Y. Kang.

If you are looking for a historical fiction pick that you won’t be able to put down, The Impossible Girl is a book I would HIGHLY recommend. Kang uses her own background in medicine, working as a practicing physician on the side, and crafts the incredible story of a girl born with two hearts in 1850.

Cora, born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and nameless immigrant, is the stuff that legends are made of. At a time in history where grave robbers would dig up freshly buried bodies for profit, she knows that her own body would garner a fine wage for a resurrectionist and builds her own business as a trusted resurrectionist to protect her identity and her own phenomenal medical miracle.

Acting as herself and posing as a brother, she is able to both administer the deals and help with the digging.

She isn’t the only one though looking for bodies that can serve as specimens for dissection and display. A series of murders has begun, beating Cora to her profits and worrying her that she could be the next victim.

Well-written and beautifully researched, I devoured this book and can’t wait to dig into Kang’s debut novel next.

If you are a fan of Fingersmith (please say you are!!), you are going to flip for this incredible read!

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

If you are looking for a tear-jerker to add to your book stack this month, then be sure to add Genova’s latest novel, Every Note Played.

I have read everything that Genova has written and this has been my favorite of all her incredible books.  This story explores the disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the swift decline that occurs when someone is faced with this illness.

Richard is a world-renowned pianist that has chosen to make playing music the focus of his life, even over his family. Divorced and estranged from his daughter, he bounces from one relationship to the next. When he begins having difficulties playing piano, particularly with his right hand, he sees a doctor and is faced with the devastating news that he has ALS and will soon see paralysis throughout the rest of his body.

Unable to afford the care that he needs, he must ask his ex-wife to help care for him, someone he had cast aside and cheated on during their marriage. This dynamic is quite toxic as Richard and Karina must learn to live together again and face the horrific and heartbreaking decline of Richard’s health.

Richard is an unlikable character from beginning to end and I do think that this makes Karina’s sacrifice even greater because he is so ungrateful. Some readers may struggle with a connection to him, but you definitely won’t struggle to sympathize as you see the gravity of this illness and how quickly it takes over the body.

I cry about once a year over a book, thanks to a hardened soul and reading so much.

This book WRECKED ME.

I was crying reading it and then two days later I was still crying about it. It moved me emotionally, in ways that books rarely do.

Once I came to the end and saw all of the people that Genova lovingly mentions that shared their journey with ALS with her, you see how much thought and research went into this project. Genova’s compassion in telling this story is, truly, a gift.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

So many of my readers said that this book made their top ten and I can see why! This book was beautiful from start to finish and told the sweeping story of several generations of a Korean family in Japan and the cultural struggles that they face over the years.

The book begins in the early 1900’s with the unplanned pregnancy of a Korean girl, named Sunja. Sunja faces a lot of humiliation when she discovers she isn’t the only one who has captured her lover’s eye. When her path crosses with a tubercular minister, he offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life as thanks for helping him through his difficult illness.

The story then unfolds as generation after generation deal with their own cultural challenges, the discrimination they must face, and the poverty that threatens to take everything away from them.

This story is RICH in beauty and detail. Lee’s writing is just gorgeous and she weaves this tapestry of characters so very well.  At almost 500 pages, this one is a bit of a commitment, but I finished it in just a few short days because I had to know what would happen to these characters. I highly recommend adding this one to your stack!

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

If you are a Me Before You fan, you won’t want to miss this gorgeous read. Center’s builds a beautiful and believable story that I think you are going to be completely swept away with.

Imagine you were terrified of flying and, just as you always suspected, you are in a tragic accident. This is exactly what unfolds from the opening chapters of How to Walk Away, and the reader is taken along the journey as Kit’s life, as she knows it, is forever changed.

Also, imagine that the person you love walks away from the experience unscathed.

The book centers around the difficult recovery, the surprises of those who step up in tragedies, the sadness around those that walk away, and how to find love again.

I devoured this book in a single day and can’t say enough good things. Fans of Emily Giffin or Taylor Jenkins Reid are sure to fall in love with this book.

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

If you are looking for a really good YA read to add to your stack, My Name is Venus Black REALLY captured my heart this month.

Venus Black is a good kid, fascinated by astronomy and a strong student. That is why it is so unbelievable and shocking when she commits a crime that tears apart her family.

No one knows why she commited the crime and Venus refuses to talk about it, yet puts much of the blame solely on her own mother.  In the chaos of this crime, her developmentally challenged brother, Leo, goes missing.

Five years late, Venus is released from prison, but struggling to be released from her own identity. She tries to get a fresh start in a town, but no matter how hard she tries, she is unable to escape her own past.

Meanwhile, Leo is living his own challenging life and it has been doubly challenged by his environment and the person who kidnapped him. This change in residency though just might yield a different kind of family for this boy as those around him come to know and love sweet Leo.

I couldn’t put this one down and I know that these characters will be in my heart for a long time!

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

What I heard frequently from our book club members was that this was a book that they would have not picked up on their own and that it ended up being a book club reader favorite. The best part, for me, was also hearing that it changed people’s viewpoints and made them more empathetic to refugees and immigrants that have come to America.

This story is about two women- one who is in her teens and coming to the states illegally and the other who is living the American dream version of the immigrant story in Berkley. When Soli, our teen narrator, becomes pregnant on her perilous journey to the states, she decides to keep her son and do her best to juggle her job as a housekeeper and care for her child.

The other woman is struggling with infertility and would do anything to have a child.

When Soli’s little boy enters her life, she must do everything she can to keep him in it.

Our “lucky” boy is loved fiercely by two women and both will stop at nothing to keep him in their lives.

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past eight years!!

Best Books of 2017

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2015

My Top Ten Books of 2014

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge– swoon! It is heavenly stuff!

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2018 or share your links to your own round-ups!

Anything I should be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads or on IG or hang out with me in the book club!

This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I truly love!

December 2018 Must-Reads

December 30th, 2018

Can you believe that we are coming to my last month of reviews for 2018? I BARELY made it to my 100 book goal, but spent the last week and a half reading as many books as I could, amidst the holiday craziness, so that I could say that I NAILED IT!

This reading month was SO GOOD though that I am rethinking my top ten book list for 2018 because so many great books made it just under the radar. You can catch my best-of list on the blog tomorrow.

The good news is that MANY of these are priced in the $2.99-$5.99 on Kindle so many of this month’s selections are awesome AND affordable.

This week I will be plowing through two books for this month’s upcoming book club chats. I hope you will join me as we discuss this one and this one this month.

Typically, we only discuss a book each month, but the holidays were just too crazy to try to weave in a book chat there.

In case you missed it, did you see that our 2019 selections have been announced?

Let’s Be BFFs on GoodReads

If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there!

There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there!

In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Maid by Stephanie Land

Golden Child by Claire Adam

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Plus our extra book, available for add-on by members:

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

This month’s special:

Using code FRESHSTART, new members can get a free book when they join today.

Here are 10 must-read books I tackled in December:

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

I wanted to get Dumplin under my belt before the movie came to Netflix and I’m SO glad I did. If you are looking for a satisfyingly sweet feel-good message, this YA novel delivers.

Willowdean Dickson (nicknamed Dumplin’) is the daughter of a local former beauty queen and has always felt at peace in her own body,  in spite of her self-proclaimed fat girl status.

The beauty queens all look the same around her town though and she decides to submit her own application to join in the beauty queen fun. Seeing Willowdean’s bravery, peers that normally would never enter decide to also participate in this year’s contest.

Where does a girl learn some show-stopping skills and nail her stage walk down though? Well, Willowdean finds out that her aunt had a secret spot she loved to visit where some of the best showstoppers can show her and her friends the ropes.

I loved this book so much and the beautiful message in body positivity that this character embraces.

After you read this, be sure to stream the film because it captures all of the magic that this book embraces. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series after enjoying this one so much this month!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I received an advanced reader copy from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was a huge fan of Loigman’s debut novel, The Two-Family House, and so excited to see that she was continuing down the path of historical fiction with her second novel.

Loigman shines when exploring complicated family relationships, and one of the most complicated is the love of two sisters. In this story, two estranged sisters find themselves reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII.

Ruth & Millie could not be more different and their contrasts are often brought front and center by their mother who seems to find favor with Millie. Her need to pit them against each other causes them each to carry secrets from one another and to grow apart.

When Millie loses her husband and finds herself penniless though, she comes to stay with Ruth to find a job and shelter. Ruth’s bitterness has not gone away, especially as Millie seems to attract attention, just as she did when they were young.

Secrets can’t stay buried forever though and the reader is taken along the very strained journey to the twisted conclusion where each sister must own their part in the story.

Loigman weaves the chapters together flawlessly and utilizes many voices to help round out the story. It is evident that she has done a lot of research on the Springfield Armory and the types of jobs the women would have held while their husbands were at war.

Just like her first book, the story seems straightforward, but Loigman is so gifted with building a character-driven story that would give a book club a lot to chat about.

Be sure to add this one to your stack this month, it does not disappoint!

5 out of 5 Stars

Between Me & You by Allison Winn Scotch

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wow, wow, wow, this book was INCREDIBLE. If you are looking for a book that you can really escape with, Between Me & You was a fantastic read that I savored this month.

If you were a fan of, A Star is Born, this is a similar love story of two people on the search for fame and what happens when one person moves forward in their career while the other is struggling.

Ben has all the cards stacked in his favor in Hollywood. He comes from a privileged family and seems to have the right connections. Tatum, however, is a struggling actress who is working as a bartender at an NYC dive bar. When the two meet, they fall in love and get married.

The thing is, Tatum’s career takes off and Ben finds his own career is fading.

This touching love story is told from two perspectives with one rewinding history and one moving their story forward, both laced with their own bias and regret.

Told from their unique perspectives and with this shifting timeline, the raw honesty in each of their stories really pulls through in a really unique way.

Usually, I find I gravitate toward one perspective, but this wasn’t the case with this one. I loved seeing each of these viewpoints and Scotch does an incredible job fleshing these out.

I must admit, I have read all of Scotch’s books and her debut has always been my favorite…

That is, until I read this one.

This is a love story that really delivers and will definitely be on my top ten this year!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Y. Kang

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you are looking for a historical fiction pick that you won’t be able to put down, The Impossible Girl is a book I would HIGHLY recommend. Kang uses her own background in medicine, working as a practicing physician on the side, and crafts the incredible story of a girl born with two hearts in 1850.

Cora, born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and nameless immigrant, is the stuff that legends are made of. At a time in history where grave robbers would dig up freshly buried bodies for profit, she knows that her own body would garner a fine wage for a resurrectionist and builds her own business as a trusted resurrectionist to protect her identity and her own phenomenal medical miracle.

Acting as herself and posing as a brother, she is able to both administer the deals and help with the digging.

She isn’t the only one though looking for bodies that can serve as specimens for dissection and display. A series of murders has begun, beating Cora to her profits and worrying her that she could be the next victim.

Well-written and beautifully researched, I devoured this book and can’t wait to dig into Kang’s debut novel next.

If you are a fan of Fingersmith (please say you are!!), you are going to flip for this incredible read!

5 out of 5 Stars

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Each time I think, “NO MORE THRILLERS,” I stumble upon another amazing one that just sucks me in! Despite my thriller burnout, I couldn’t have loved, Jane Doe more! If you are having Joe withdrawal, this thriller gave me all the same sociopathic fun feelings as I got with my addiction to the Caroline Kepnes series.

Jane is probably the most unremarkable woman ever. She secures a day job at a mid level insurance company, has zero fashion sense, and has a cheap apartment filled with cheap furniture. A girl like this might not catch everyone’s eye, but it does catch the eye of the middle manager, at her insurance agency, and Steven Hepsworth won’t take no for an answer.

Jane is hiding something though. The only person that her sociopathic heart has ever loved was her best friend, Meg. Meg commits suicide though, all because of her relationship with Steven.

Now it is time for Steven to pay.

If you love a good game of cat & mouse in your thrillers, this one is wickedly sadistic and, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Steven is a character you will love to hate and Stone builds a great complexity and layering to Jane that makes her highly intriguing.

If you need a quick page-turner with a sadistic spin (come on, I know I’m not alone!!), snag this fantastic thriller today.

4 out of 5 Stars

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I think I enjoyed this book a ton, simply for the reason that I went into this one knowing nothing about it. In our last blind book club exchange, I won this book from a friend and decided this would be the perfect month to read it. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Green’s last book, but found his earlier work to be some of my favorite YA reads.

In this story, Miles “Pudge” Halter heads to the Culver Creek Boarding School where he meets a rather hodge podge group of pals, including a beautifully mysterious girl named, Alaska Young. Alaska & Pudge bond over the holidays, when they are the only two students to roam the halls of the boarding school corridors and dig up dirt on their fellow students.

It is through this moment of bonding that Pudge realizes he would do just about anything for Alaska, including being a part of their series of infamous pranks that they are intent on pulling off on each other. What Pudge doesn’t know though is how Alaska is going to forever alter his world and separate his life into two sections: the before and the after.

If you like quirky characters with a good friendship storyline, I just know you will love this one. I thought it had the sweetness of, The Serpent King with a bit of the Eleanor & Park quirkiness thrown in, for good measure. I really enjoyed this one, mostly for this book’s humor and heart.

This book proves, once again, just how much I have enjoyed Green’s earlier works.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Veronica has been struggling with postpartum depression ever since the death of her husband collided with the birth of her daughter. Her depression is so deeply rooted that she is unable to even touch her beautiful baby girl and knows that her daughter would be so much better without her.

That is why she is horrified when her home is broken into, while her mother is caring for her daughter, and she discovers that her daughter has gone missing. Due to her fragile mental state though, she soon realizes that she is the primary suspect in this disappearance and she will now stop at nothing to be reunited with her baby girl and finally be the mother she has always known she could be.

Ah, but nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to unreliable narrators, is it? Veronica is a mentally unstable guide in our story and there is soooo much more than the reader could ever guess.

I loved the smart plot twists that Bleeker has woven into this story and found it to be a quick page turner that delivered on an ending that I could have never guessed.

Anyone who has ever struggled with postpartum depression or the guilt of not measuring up as a mom will find Veronica to be very relatable character with flaws that seem fitting for her circumstance.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

I received an advanced reader copy from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Gown is going to be one of those buzz books this winter that everyone will be talking about, I guarantee it.

Instead of exploring the story of the royal family and all of its mystery, Robson decides to explore a royal wedding through a different set of eyes. These eyes she chooses to tell her story through are those of the women that made and embroidered the dress of Princess Elizabeth when she wedded Lieutenant Philip.

Set in 1947, Ann Hughes & Miriam Dassin are talented embroiderers that have been tasked with the intricate stitching that will adorn the royal bride’s priceless wedding gown. Following the royal wedding though, Ann moves and never tells her family of her life in London and the work she did for this famous gown.

It is only in 2016, when Ann’s granddaughter stumbles upon a box of her late grandmother’s belongings that she finds a set of hand-stitched flowers with no background information on them. What she discovers though is that these motifs are the same that decorated the Queen Elizabeth II’s gown and she begins to wonder if there was more to her grandmother’s story than she realizes.

Heather travels to London to unravel the past that Ann never shared with her family and her secret friendship with Miriam Dassin, a celebrated artist and Holocaust survivor.

Robson discusses, rather frankly, her struggles with finding information on the real women behind the real gown. It was through a chance meeting that she got in touch with Betty Foster, a woman who aided in the actual embroidery of the dress, that she was able to use this interview to flesh out these characters, along with her own independent research at another embroidery house.

An excerpt of the interview with Betty appears at the end of the book and showcases how much her voice shaped Robson’s writing and these gorgeous characters that she has crafted.

Fans of, Secrets of a Charmed Life and the show, The Crown, will DEFINITELY be swept away in this gorgeous book.

I absolutely loved it!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

If there has been one Kindle book that has consistently been top of the charts these past few months, it has been, The Storyteller’s Secret. Badani graciously joined me for an interview, after releasing her debut novel, so I had a feeling that this book was going to be another incredible treat and I wasn’t wrong. This book is GORGEOUS start to finish and, as the title suggests, if you just love beautiful storytelling, this book is one I would hand to you.

Jaya is a New York journalist who has suffered her third miscarriage and has found herself in a struggling marriage and emotionally drained. Desperate to relieve her anguish, she goes to India to uncover the answers of her family’s past.

When she arrives, she is greeted by Ravi, a trusted former servant of her family, and he has been waiting for Jaya to share the beautiful stories of her grandmother’s life. Growing up in the traditional Indian culture, her grandmother is a gifted storyteller with a big heart and strong spirit. Her husband dislikes these glimmers of independence, but also gives her the space she so desperately craves.

When a school is opened in the village, she is given the generous offer of being a teacher at the school and in exchange Amisha will be gifted English lessons. This generous offer is gifted to her by a handsome soldier who is stationed there during the British occupation. He can never know what a joyful gift it is and the heartache that will, in turn, come from that gift.

Badani writes again with kindness and wisdom for Indian customs and the religious beliefs they have built upon. I always learn so much from her writing and she does a phenomenal job of showing the beauty of India while also acknowledging the harder to swallow truths of the caste system and superstitious punishments that have been gifted within the family.

More importantly, given tasked to write the poetic stories of Amisha AND the task of telling Amisha’s story…well, that would take a talented storyteller to pull off. It comes as no surprise, Badani delivers the storytelling magic with abundance.

I would recommend this beautiful read to fans of, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

5 out of 5 Stars

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

Some books just devastate you and, Waiting for Eden, wrecked me with each word.

Like, gutted me.

At under 200 pages, Ackerman shows you that you need not make your stories long for them to be emotionally impactful.

Eden Malcom is in a hospital bed, unable to speak or move.  His wife spends each day with him in the hospital with their daughter… a daughter that he has never met. You see, Eden is a very wounded soldier who was injured in a Humvee explosion, an explosion that killed his best friend.

Eden’s wife, Mary, sits with him everyday, and turns away all attempts to cause her to end Eden’s suffering. His best friend waits for Eden in a comfortable limbo-like state – ready to ease his transition.

On Christmas Day, Mary is not at his bedside and Eden’s consciousness comes flicker back to life. He is determined to communicate his wishes to his family.

Eden’s best friend, who has died, is our narrator and through his eye we can see more of these fractures in these relationships and what his part was in them. He also is able to illustrate about what has happened to Eden and which soldiers are left unattended while he is cared for .

I listened to his one on audiobook and I found myself with tears in my eyes through almost every page. You are left, as a reader, to wonder what you would do if the tables were turned and to look at the complexities of this marriage and friendship.

The ending left me unsatisfied, but I have to acknowledge that this was such a messy story that I would never have got the ending I wanted. It definitely gave me so much to think about and Ackerman has gained one more big fan of his writing.

4 out of 5 Stars

Read With Me This Year:

January 2018 Must-Reads

February 2018 Must-Reads

March 2018 Must-Reads

April 2018 Must-Reads

May 2018 Must-Reads

June 2018 Must-Reads

July 2018 Must-Reads

August 2018 Must-Reads

September 2018 Must-Reads

October 2018 Must-Reads

November 2018 Must-Reads

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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