Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Let’s Talk About Books and TV!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

I had the honor of being a guest on The Couch Podcast with Mary Carver this week! Mary asked if I would join her to talk about TV and books and it was such a blast. My homework to prepare was to take a list of great television shows people are loving and share them a couple of books I think they would like, based on their taste in television.

When I got done piecing together my notes, I sent them off to Mary so she could create a giant reading guide for you that you can take to your local library for some books you just won’t want to put down!

We chatted about Arrested Development (bring on the quirky characters), Outlander (you know I love a good time travel story!), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (I love female characters that buck the system), Friends (specifically, Ross & Rachel), The Handmaid’s Tale (fight the power!), & Stranger Things (the weirder the better).

We ran out of time to talk about The Crown, but I managed to squeeze in my recommendations in today’s reading guide. Phew!

Head HERE to grab your free reading guide and to listen to this fun podcast! 

Thank you, Mary, for giving me a space to share about my favorite books!

 

Looking for more great books? Here are some posts you might want to visit!

53 historical fiction novels to escape with

19 thrillers to keep you up all night

the best books of 2018

join our FREE MomAdvice Book Club

grab you free reading challenge worksheet

I hope these posts inspire you to curl up with a great book this week! Happy reading!

 

March 2019 Must-Reads

Monday, April 1st, 2019

How are you? I am so excited to hear about what YOU read this past month since I didn’t get to as many book as I had hoped. March was a slow month of reading, for me, but yielded a couple of books that I can definitely see on my top ten list for 2019. Between preparations for an upcoming trip and taking some coursework for my job, I didn’t have as much free time to read as I hoped.

Next month should be a lot more fruitful now that life will be slowing down a bit after the spring break holiday. I have big plans to share about some of the most anticipated summer novels so you can start thinking about all those wonderful lazy days of summer filled with gorgeous new reads. I don’t know about you, but this Midwest girl can’t wait for that summer weather and iced tea sipping in the sunshine.

While you’re here, be sure to print out the 2019 MomAdvice reading challenge worksheet and join our free online book club! You can check out the 2019 MomAdvice Book Club picks over here!  You can also friend me on GoodReads for more great book reviews! I love connecting with you there.

Did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? Grab your FREE book over here.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections: 

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger

This month’s special: Using code APRILSHOWERS, new members can get a free book when they join today.

Here are 5 must-read books I tackled in March:

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

It has been a long time since I have read a historical fiction book that I was this swept away in, but The Things We Cannot Say, was incredible from start to finish. If you like your historical fiction to jump from past to present, told through alternating viewpoints, I have a feeling you will appreciate the format of this beautiful story.

Since Alina Dziak was nine, she knew that she would marry her best friend, Tomaz. At fifteen she is engaged and unconcerned about the reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing that they are her neighbors and not a threat.  She instead fills her head with dreams of the day that Tomasz will return from college so they can be married. Alina could never know though how the Nazi occupation would take over her rural village and how it had the power to destroy her relationship with her one true love.

Presently, Alice is struggling with the challenges of her special needs child, a husband who doesn’t get the work that goes into keeping their family floating, and her grandmother who is hospitalized. When her grandmother begs her to return to her childhood hometown, Alice begins to realize there is more to her grandmother’s story than meets the eye. Leaving is never easy, especially with her juggle, but she makes the promise and heads to find out more about her grandmother and the secrets she has been keeping.

This is a beautiful love story weaved in with the all-too-relatable struggle of being a modern day woman. Rimmel finds ways to weave this story very creatively that allows the slow unveiling of secrets to the reader.  This time in history is a heavy one and the shifting viewpoints really benefit in helping create a story that you can connect with in a myriad of ways. You can help but root for Alina and Tomaz through this haunting read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

5 out of 5 Stars

I’m Fine And Neither Are You by Camille Pagán

Thank you to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

This is just a friendly reminder to always check for those free Prime books. Lucky readers were able to score I’m Fine and Neither Are You for free this past month. Since I really loved the author’s last book so much, I was excited to dig into this next read.

Penelope Ruiz-Kar is a relatable character as she is constantly treading water at her job and with all of her duties in the family.  Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, seems to have everything together. She writes a popular lifestyle blog, keeps a tidy home, has a child with impeccable manners, and a perfect marriage.

It is why Penelope is genuinely floored when a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from what Penelope believed. In light of this turn of events, Penelope and her husband (Sanjay) agree to each write a list of changes they want to each other to make and then commit them with honestly. The plan quickly begins to backfire though as secrets and resentment are revealed and the couple must deal with them.  This experiment changes the landscape of their relationship entirely, making Penelope question if honesty really IS the best policy.

I won’t reveal the tragedy that happens, but the narcissist in me wishes that the story was focused more on Jenny and her struggles because I think it could have been a deeper discussion to be shared in a book club than what it was. The tragedy, to me, was the most compelling part of the story, despite it being a bit controversial. The truth is, Jenny’s life is where many of our Pinterest-filled heads are and it is important people see that online life a little differently.

The marriage challenges though and Penelope’s “just keeping swimming,” life are equally relatable for many. I found a lot of vulnerability in these characters and this experiment to be one that all marriages could benefit from, in some way. I have a feeling you will love this read as much as I did!

4 out of 5 Stars

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

Once in a blue moon I run across a book that I think I could put in just about anyone’s hands and they would love it. The book this year is, FOR SURE, Finding Dorothy. I did musical theatre for years and one of my favorites is The Wizard of Oz. That said, I didn’t know a lot about the history of the book it was based upon or the behind-the-scenes events that had happened during the filming of the movie. I think that is why this book was such a treat because of the meticulous research by Letts to create this story.

The book shares the true story of Maud & Frank Baum. Frank wrote the story of Oz, but the journey to success was a long one. His wife, far ahead of her time as a feminist, leaves behind her education to marry this magical man and start a life together. Their life is what shapes the story of Oz and it is incredibly beautiful.

Later in life, Maud learns that M-G-M is adapting her late husband’s masterpiece for the screen. Somehow this seventy-seven-year-old firecracker finds a way to make it into the studio for the filming, something she really feels tasked to do. It is of the utmost importance that Frank’s story is held in the same spirit that it was written. As Maud hears Judy Garland rehearsing, she recognizes the yearning that was her own yearnings as a girl. This yearning is why Maud decides she must protect Dorothy at all costs, just like she did so many years ago.

I can assure you that this book will be in my top ten of 2019. It is magical and is recommended, in particular, for fans of The Greatest Showman. I couldn’t put it down and now see the story of Oz in such a different way than I did before.

5 out of 5 Stars

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up was a fantastic audiobook treat this month and powerfully narrated by Bahni Turpin. I had high expectations after devouring The Hate U Give, and Thomas delivers once again with this beautiful coming-of-age story.

Bri’s family is always desperately struggling to make ends meet, but they seem to face one hurdle after another, especially after the loss of her mother’s job. Bri decides to pour her frustrations into songwriting and writes a powerful anthem about her struggle called On the Come Up. The lyrics are a lot harder than the way she actually lives her life and when her song goes viral, she is encouraged to be the things she is not to keep riding the success.

With an eviction notice on their door, Bri has no choice but to lean into the image people have of her.  She also feels an additional pressure to be legendary because of her father and his rap career legacy. This mounting pressure is a major theme in Bri’s life and in this story’s pages.

While I don’t think the lessons were as hard hitting as the ones in her first book, Thomas still gives us a true coming-of-age story that will really make you root for Bri.

I just have to say, once again, Turpin as a narrator is just GENIUS because the girl can RAP. The rap battles that Thomas writes are unreal good and Turpin handles them like a pro. They were so good, in fact, that I had my husband grab an earbud to listen to a few of these with me.

Fans of old school rap will really dig this ode to hip hop that Thomas has crafted.  The author proves that she is no one-hit-wonder and I can’t wait to read what she comes up with next!

4 out of 5 Stars

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

One thing I’m REALLY proud of us this year is really pushing people (myself included!) outside of our comfort genres through our book club. I am not a mystery reader, but when I heard about the plot of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I thought this might be just the plot ticket to get me reading one.

First of all, put your wine glasses down for this one because you will need ALL those brain cells to help solve this murder mystery!

There are three rules of Blackheath House:

  1. Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
  2. There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
  3. We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.

Agatha Christie fun meets Groundhog Day in this wildly inventive debut that will keep the reader guessing from start to finish. The reader knows that Evelyn Hardcastle will die. In fact, she will die every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. Aiden finds himself waking up in a different body and repeating the day over and over again, armed with new information when he wakes.  Some of his hosts help him while others make his job very hard. Leaving clues for himself to find, he must win the game in order to leave the property…but that’s just what everyone else wants to do to. It will be a fight to the surprising finish.

Turton crafts some unlikable characters and creates beautiful tension when Aiden has to fight the impulses of the body he inhabits. His confusion though is the reader’s confusion too so that is why the story keeps the reader on their toes throughout.

Read on Kindle, I missed one of the most important elements to the story…the map and cast of characters to flip to. Although they are there, they are not easy to read on the Paperwhite so be sure to print out the pages from the sneak peek so you can keep everyone straight.

This felt a bit like Clue in book form and I would highly recommend it, in particular, for Agatha Christie fans. We had one reader who has read her entire body of work and said this is the first book she’s read that actually delivered on the Christie hype.

This book was a confusing challenge and I loved it.

4 out of 5 Stars

Read With Me This Year

January 2019 Must-Reads

February 2019 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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February 2019 Must-Reads

Friday, March 1st, 2019

Isn’t it crazy how January was the neverending story and we, basically, blinked through February? We had a lot going on this month including a couple of crazy winter storms, a couple of power outages, launching a new product (see below), and a bug that has had me crawling to my bed all week. It definitely made my stack this month a little smaller than usual, but I promise to make up for it next month.

Did I mention we are heading to Iceland to celebrate my husband’s 40th???

Someone please pinch me because I still don’t believe it myself.

If you have any tips for our travels next month, we are ALL EARS. I am hoping to get in a lot of vacation reading on our flights and between our excursions.

Vacation reading, to me, is always the best kind of reading.

As for that product I launched, here is the scoop on that!

This has been a big year of trying new things in my business and I’m so excited to share that we have created a tee especially for our MomAdvice readers that features all 12 of the beautiful covers of our MomAdvice Book Club this year.

My hope is to offer a shirt for you each year that you can collect as you read these books.

This shirt comes in a women’s cut, unisex, a sweatshirt, and a hoodie. I picked a rainbow of hues that you can choose from as your base.

10% of the proceeds will go to the Little Free Library to help get books in the hands of ALL the people. This shirt is available through March 20th! Your purchase is greatly appreciated and helps us keep our book club free and paying it forward to the reading community! Shop it HERE!

While you’re here, be sure to print out the 2019 MomAdvice reading challenge worksheet and join our free online book club! You can check out the 2019 MomAdvice Book Club picks over here and proudly wear this shirt like a trophy. You can also friend me on GoodReads for more great book reviews!

Did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? Grab your FREE book over here.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections: 

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (read my review HERE!!)

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (read my review to this one BELOW!!)

Lot by Bryan Washington

The Municipalists by Seth Fried

This month’s special: Using code SPRINGFLING, new members can get a free book when they join today.

Here are 6 must-read books I tackled in February:

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (snag it for free from Book of the Month using coupon code SPRINGFLING)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

Queenie is one of the year’s most anticipated novels and I have to say that I enjoyed this story immensely. Described as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah, I felt it really delivered in sharing about what it would be like to be a Jamaican British woman who is navigating the world of dating today.

Queenie is a 25-year-old woman living in London and straddling two cultures while fitting into neither. After breaking up with her white boyfriend, she begins to seek comfort in all the wrong places and puts herself into terrible situations that don’t, ultimately, validate her self-worth.

Queenie is surrounded by women who do their best to help Queenie overcome her breakup, but she can’t seem to stop chasing after the wrong things. The reader is lead down each cringe-worthy scenario from unexpectedly awful sexual encounters,  to discovering that a man who seemed like he was Mr. Right was actually married,  to even the embarrassment of having to live with your grandparents because you can’t pay your rent .

Queenie begins the long journey towards healing when she begins to see a counselor and must learn to love herself, even in her brokenness.

I loved this story for a couple of reasons.

One, I think that Carty-Williams really showcases the difficulties of dating today and how many people treat dating sites like meaningless hookups instead of striving to find one’s match. As someone out of the game, I really felt for Queenie and these terrible scenarios she found herself in.

Secondly, I love seeing characters evolve and I think Queenie really grew through this experience and it helped propel our story as she finds love within and through surrounding herself with the right people.

Carty-Williams writes with heartfelt honesty, humor, and with vulnerability. I hope we can follow more of Queenie’s adventures in the future.  I highly recommend this one for fans of Insecure. It helped me get my fix until the next season comes!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann

Thank you to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

I have to say that, The Forgotten Hourswas this month’s surprise debut that I just could not put down. We all know that I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age story and this was a compelling mystery that was perfectly timed for the #metoo movement.

At twenty-four, Katie feels like her life is really looking up. She has a great job, a supportive partner, and she is finally in a place where she can put her traumatic past to rest.

You see, a decade earlier, her idyllic summer days with friends came to a shocking conclusion when her best friend accused her father of sexual assault. Katie stood by her father throughout the entire ordeal and his imprisonment. With his release in sight, reporters have been opening up this case, once again, for reinvestigation and Katie is forced to relive this difficult portion of her past.

Told beautifully through reflection of on her friendship during that summer as well as the current state of affairs, Katie must grapple with her own conviction that her father was not guilty of the crime, as she sees her dad now through adult eyes. She also must acknowledge the glaring truth as she reexamines this adolescent summer.

This would be an EXCELLENT book for a book club discussion because it is so beautifully told and because Schumann really builds mystery around this case. I think the biggest takeaway, for me, was how we all begin to see parents are human and flawed, as we get older, and how this new viewpoint can make us question the things in our past.

This story is timely and a promising debut of good things to come from Schumann.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Thank you to the publishing house for providing an advanced copy for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

If you love lyrical writing, The Girls at 17 Swann Street is one you will not want to miss.

This debut novel shares the haunting story of a young woman’s struggle with anorexia and her struggle to reclaim her life.

Anne Roux was a professional dancer that followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. Upon relocating she faces her own glaring imperfections, failures, and loneliness, and she must find a way to cope. Her disordered eating habits and depression bring her down to a mere eighty-eight pounds and she is forced to seek treatment.

She is admitted to 17 Swann Street, a location where women with life-threatening eating disorders live. This unlikely community of women all must tackle their own individual demons and offer a surprising amount of support to one another as they recognize those demons in each other. Zgheib writes with raw honesty about what it is like to be consumed by this disease. Never glamorized, this really gives an eye-opening account of what it is like when each day is a struggle and when each bite feels like an affliction and loss of control.

People who have never struggled with disordered eating may be able to better understand how hard it is to overcome an eating disorder. If you have ever struggled, you will find pieces of yourself in this story.  One can’t help but root for Anne as she struggles to find her way to back to herself and to the man she loves. The poetic writing adds a gorgeously lyrical layer to this surprisingly hopeful story.

4 out of 5 Stars

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a copy of this novel for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

Looking for a quick escape from reality? Big Little Lies fans will absolutely love Not That I Could TellPour yourself a glass of wine and get to know this cozy neighborhood and all their dirty little secrets.

The story opens with a neighborhood gathering, centered around the neighbor’s new fire pit, a heavy pour of wine, and the opportunity to catch up on what’s been happening around the ‘hood. On a rare kid-free evening, the wine flows and the women begin to loosen their guards and share more intimately about their lives.

By Monday morning though, one of the women has disappeared.

Despite feeling like they all know each other well, none of them can make sense of this disappearance. Kristin has always seemed happy, sociable, career-driven, and has weathered her impending divorce well. When the police come to investigate though, they find her soon-to-be ex-husband at the center of this case and have questions about what was really happening in their home.

Frankly, no one REALLY knows what goes on behind closed doors and, as a reader, you don’t know if Paul warrants sympathy or more scrutiny.

I don’t want to say anymore about the plot on this because half of the fun is finding out just what happened to this neighborhood mom. Strawser fleshes out each character vividly and all of their own emotions and guilt surrounding this woman’s disappearance.

I really enjoyed this one as a great escape, but also appreciated the reminder that many of our relationships are surface ones and just how important it is to build real relationships with the people we call our friends.

I couldn’t put this one down and I doubt you could too.

4 out of 5 Stars

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This month’s book club selection was, My Sister the Serial Killer, and our bookworms really seemed to enjoy this pick. I selected it because it was a book that could be read in a day (a modest page count of just 240 pages) and because the plot was so intriguing. Lucky for us, this one will be coming to the big screen and I will be excited to see how they interpret this interesting story into film.

Korede and Ayoola are two sisters that could not be more different from each other. Korede is the eldest and is a hard worker and disciplined. Ayoola, on the other hand, is gorgeous and a serial killer.

As I said, these two couldn’t be more different except that Korede is getting tired of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Each time she kills someone, Korede must help Ayoola dispose of the body and help with clean-up on the case.

The plot thickens though when Ayoola sets her eyes on the wrong guy. At the hospital, where Korede works, she has been harboring a secret crush on a doctor that she works with. When Ayoola comes to visit Korede at work though, the doctor can’t help but be completely captivated by Ayoola’s beauty and falls head over heels for her.

The problem?

Well, Korede’s broken heart, for one.

More importantly though, his life is now at risk because Ayoola is a sociopath and he just might be her next victim.

It’s hard to pinpoint what genre this unique book falls under, but I read it as dark satire. If you were worried about the title or weren’t on board for the gruesome world of serial killing, I think you will find that this doesn’t lean too darkly into that element and more into the complex relationships of sisters.

Overall, people seemed to enjoy this one a lot, especially for such a sparse book. She tells the story effectively without putting the reader through numerous killings or making them wade through filler to get to the meat of the story. Braithwaite also builds enough of a backstory for Ayoola that you understand where she’s coming from, even if you don’t always know where she’s going.

4 out of 5 Stars

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this novel for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

I received an advanced copy of Woman 99 and couldn’t wait to dive in. I’m a big fan of Greer Macallister (you can read an interview we did with her over here) and found the premise for her new novel to be so intriguing.

Charlotte’s wealthy parents commit her beloved sister Phoebe to the infamous Goldengrove Asylum, and Charlotte just knows that there is more to the story than what her parents have revealed to her. In an effort to save her sister, she fakes an attempted suicide and surrenders her real identity, as a privileged young woman, to become a nameless inmate. Within the asylum Charlotte is now known only as Woman 99.

The majority of our story is Charlotte trying to befriend people who can get her a step closer to her sister and to try to figure out a way that she can actually get to her within this asylum. She discovers that many of these women aren’t insane, but merely inconvenient- and they are able to become some of her most powerful allies as she discovers just why Phoebe has been locked away.

Macallister weaves a rich historical tapestry, but this is a slow burn at 368 pages. The first half felt very slow, but if you can hang with it, Macallister weaves a great mystery and has definitely done her research on what women would have been committed for, in this time period.

Overall, she weaves a believable and satisfying ending that I think any reader would appreciate. Once you read through the Q&A with Greer, you really discover what an undertaking the research was to really bring this fictional asylum to life. While pacing was an issue for me, I appreciate the work that went into creating this beautiful sister story.

4 out of 5 Stars

 

Read With Me This Year

January 2019 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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January 2019 Must-Reads

Monday, February 4th, 2019

How are you? I hope that you had a great month of reading in January and, as always, I’m excited to share a few great reads with you this month. I felt like January was a slow reading month for me, mostly because I was sweating my way to my 100 reads in 2018 goal. In case you weren’t around for all the fun last year, be sure to check out my best books of 2018 for some great book ideas for your year ahead.

Looking to step outside of your usual comfort genres? Be sure to print out the 2019 MomAdvice reading challenge worksheet and join our free online book club! You can check out the 2019 MomAdvice Book Club picks over here. You can also friend me on GoodReads for more great book reviews!

Did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? Grab your FREE book over here. P.S.- One of those freebies is reviewed below if you are having a hard time making your decision this month!

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections: 

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

A Woman is No Man by by Etaf Rum

This month’s special: Using code LOVEISLOVE, new members can get a free book when they join today.

Here are 7 must-read books I tackled in January:

Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

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

This selection is currently available for FREE for Prime members so definitely scoop it up! This is a heartwarming debut about how a child teaches two strangers to find love and trust again.

The story opens immediately with a child showing up at a woman’s temporary home where she is residing while studying research on nesting birds . Dirty and sickly looking, she says that she is an alien who has taken over the body of a dead girl and has been granted access to Earth to witness five miracles before returning to her country.

Have I lost you yet?

I almost put the book down, but Vanderah’s eloquent writing pulled me in to find out where this girl really was from and Joanna reluctantly lets her stay so so she can figure out more about her story. She recruits her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel, to help her solve this mystery. What they don’t realize about one another though is that they are both very broken in some way and the child, Ursa, really does have the power to bring out the miracles and can mend these two together through each other.

Of course, the girl was never theirs, but they become swept away in the magic and set aside the nagging responsibility of returning Ursa to her real family. These consequences loom while the reader wishes for a miracle themselves that will pull them all together.

The cover compares this to The Snow Child, which I can see in this story’s themes, but it doesn’t have that storybook quality that I think you can find in that story. That said, it delivers beautifully! I doubt you will be able to put it down!

4 out of 5 Stars

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky was our MomAdvice Book Club selection for January and, boy, did this book get people talking. I run a small local group and an online group and had several people tell me that they hadn’t read a book in years and joined in for this one and could not put it down.  I loved this novel by Boyne so much that I count it among my top 5 books I’ve ever loved, so I had big hopes for his next novel.

Boyne writes, perhaps, the most unlikable character ever and we all know how difficult that can make reading when you are cringing in scene after scene. I think it is a real tribute to Boyne’s clever writing that he can craft someone so darn unlikable that you just have to keep reading. This novel achieves this by telling this story through different narrators that can, at times, be confusing and keep the reader on their toes.

Maurice has always wanted to be a writer, but he just can’t come up with a good story. He will do all he can though to achieve his fame and fortune by stealing the stories of others, by any means necessary, and calling them his own.

Maurice has zero remorse for any of his actions and the reader gets to witness how he manipulates and coerces stories out of others and receives the fame he has always been dreaming of.

Adding to the shifting viewpoints, we can also see Maurice age and lose his charm over others. It is when he gets older that the truth really begins to unfold to a student who wants to write a piece on him for college. No longer feeling the need to tell any lies anymore, he reveals his truth in all its glory, leading to some really smart plot twists that lean heavily into the realms of good dark satire.

I loved this story for its unique viewpoint and also found it fascinating that Boyne did craft Maurice from someone he encountered in his own life. You just knew that Maurice couldn’t have been completely fabricated, but I love the lengths Boyne takes to make him so darn despicable.

5 out of 5 Stars

Maid by Stephanie Land

If you are looking for an incredible memoir to add to your stack, I can’t recommend Maid enough.  After reading through the reviews of this one on Amazon, I am surprised to see that so many people gave it a low rating and it seems to sway into either the 1-star realm or the 5-star realm.

I think anytime there is a book though that challenges us to examine what it would be like to be among the working poor, we either lean into the world of sympathy or the world of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and quit whining.”

*Even typing that made me cringe.*

Land’s story isn’t pretty. She is a smart girl who falls in love with the wrong guy and ends up pregnant. Rather than going to college and pursuing her dream as a writer, Stephanie finds herself in an impossible situation where she can never get ahead financially and now must find a way to feed herself and her child while keep a roof over their heads.

Land takes a job working for a cleaning service as a maid and really spells out what it is like to hold this position and not feel seen by others.

Bigger problems arise as she needs a vehicle to get back and forth, childcare that won’t put her in the negative, and to also do what she can to keep her abusive partner happy.

Have you ever had to drink coffee all day to stave off your own hunger so you can feed your child? Have you ever lived in a home that was infested with mold that continuously made it difficult for your child to breathe? Have you ever had to stay with someone who hurt you just a little longer so you wouldn’t have to worry about having a home?

Most of us have not.

Land tells her story through her own journal entries of this time and it is heart wrenching. The story does hit a lag towards the last portion, but simply because being part of the working poor is a never ending saga of just trying to get ahead. It is a cycle that few can break out of and we see how broken our system is from cashing in government-funded food credit to the lack of support in the healthcare system.

I am so happy that her story was published and it made me think about my own feelings about these issues and how I could do better in my own interactions and kindness towards others in our community. It would make for a fantastic book club discussion if you are on the hunt for a pick!

5 out of 5 Stars

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

This book was absolutely brutal and has scarred my heart a lot as I have thought about this brave debut novel.

Poornima & Savitha are poor and ambitious girls. After Poornima’s mother dies, she is left to care for her siblings until her father can find another suitable match to raise them. Savitha ends up coming to work for their family and she and Poornima fall into a fast and beautiful friendship. Poornima finds herself inspired by Savitha’s bravery and independence and the two begin to imagine a life that is beyond arranged marriages.

Unfortunately, something terrible happens to Savitha that suddenly drives her away, leaving behind a heartbroken Poornima. Poornima will stop at nothing to find her friend and her journey leads her on one heartbreaking turn after another, living in the underbelly of India’s darkest corners.

This book is not for the highly sensitive reader as it explores human trafficking in the most brutal of ways. Rao is unflinching in her storyline and doesn’t give her reader a single moment of glossed over happiness within this heartbreaking world of sex trafficking.

I can read just about anything without reservations, but I had to step away from this novel at points and even had nightmares regarding this storyline.

That said, my belief system is that we should know and talk about this stuff, perhaps, not to the brutal lengths this story went, but it lead me to really read more into human trafficking and try to understand this issue more. This novel gave me a deeper understanding of how easy it is to get into and how impossible it is to get out.

My main complaint with this novel wasn’t the horrific story, but the unsatisfying ending that Rao chose to end the story with.  As a reader, I felt owed a simple two sentence conclusion that would have brought me more peace of mind with these characters. I am still stumped why Rao left this story so open ended unless it was to lead to a sequel.

Overall, I’m glad I read it and I will be thinking about Poornima & Savitha for a long time.

4 out of 5 Stars

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

After reading such heavy books this month, I needed a lighthearted escape and that is just what I found in, Standard Deviation

This book is a book that, to me, didn’t have a real plotline that was going anywhere, but instead just a fun relatable adventure that made reading it a laugh-out-loud treat.

Thankfully, that is just what I was craving!

Graham divorced his first wife to marry his girlfriend, Audra. Audra is a hilarious chatty busybody that keeps Graham on his toes and seems to know what is happening around town at all times. For Graham, a private introvert, this can be quite exhausting. Audra throws him into situations where he is forced to be social with the oddest group of characters, like the strange members of his son’s origami club,  leading to one awkward moment to the next.

When Audra decides it is time to be friends with his ex-wife, Elspeth, she throws Graham’s world into a tailspin as he begins to acknowledge the contrasts between these two women and wonder why he let Elspeth go. It is in these moments when he must face his own choices and if he made the right ones.

I laughed out loud through soooo much of this book and found Audra to be wildly relatable (for the record, my husband found Graham to be- hahaha!). I really enjoyed this story, even if the plot felt a bit thin at times.

4 out of 5 Stars

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Fantasy is, admittedly, not my favorite genre, but I had heard so many good things about Spinning Silver that I decided to snag this one with some of my book-of-the-month credit.  Named a best book of the year by many outlets, I had big hopes and dreams that this one was going to make a fantasy lover out of me.

Sad to say, but no, that didn’t happen.

In this story, Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her dad has been far too kind to those he has loaned money to and Miryem decides to step up on his behalf. Due to her ability to bring in the riches, she soon becomes known as the girl that spins silver into gold.

When her boasting leads to the attention of the king of the Staryk- grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh- she unwittingly spins a web that draws in a pasant girl whose father plans to wed her to the tsar.

But the Tsar isn’t who he seems and the secret he has threatens to consume them all. Torn between these choices, Miryem, along with two unlikely allies, embark on a quest to save the world.

Initially, I loved the story, but I found the story was very choppy and the switching of narrators pulled in so many different voices that I was confused whose point of view I was hearing the story from. At times, you even have two different narrators in single sections that lead to my deeper confusion. At over 460 pages, I was ready for the story to wrap up about halfway through and then slogged through the second half of this novel.

This girl is not a quitter.

I realize I am in the minority, but after talking with a couple of my fantasy loving friends, I heard that I should have read Uprooted instead because it was a better book from this author. I will keep that advice in my pocket for now, but am proud that I can say I at least attempted a love for fantasy this month. This one just didn’t grab me because of the changing narration and drawn out storyline.

If you have better fantasy recommendations for me, I am all ears!

3 out of 5 Stars

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Can you believe I read TWO fantasy books in a month? Well, I did and I’m happy to say that I could not put down The Hazel Wood. If you are looking for an excellent audiobook, the narration on this one absolutely BLEW ME AWAY. I really don’t think I would have enjoyed this half as much in book format so be sure to add this one to your earbuds for a really wonderful escape this month.

Seventeen-year-old Alice & her mother have always lived their life on the road and always seem to be just one step ahead of the bad luck that seems to follow them. When Alice’s grandmother, a reclusive author of cult-classic dark fairytales, dies alone in her Hazel Wood estate, Alice realizes just how bad her luck really can get. Her mother is stolen from her by someone from the Hinterland, a cruel supernatural world where Alice’s grandmother’s stories are set. The only message her mother has left behind is that she is to stay away from the Hazel Wood.

It is then that she is forced to hit the road to try to find this magical Hazel Wood (who really listens to their mother, especially when she has been kidnapped?)  and she has the perfect guide…a classmate named Ellery Finch who has been a superfan of her grandmother’s work for years. Alice quickly begins to realize though that Ellery may have his own agendas for wanting to find Hazel Wood and they just might not be noble ones.

This is a rolicking adventure and so much fun to create a world around the dark fairytales. Since I listened to this one, it felt like someone reading ME a fairytale and I was completely swept away in this fun adventure story of Alice and Ellery. I loved absolutely every minute of this one!

4 out of 5 Stars

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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The Best Books of 2018

Sunday, 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

Sunday, 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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9 Cozy Books for Winter Reading (Plus a HUGE GIVEAWAY)

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Winter is my favorite reading season because there is nothing that fills my cup more than sitting my the fire, sipping a warm drink, and flipping pages on a cozy new read.

I am hoping you can’t think of anything better too and that is why today’s post is such an exciting one. Not only am I sharing a great reading list, but I’m also sharing the brand new Kindle Paperwhite with one lucky reader.

Today I’m partnering up with The PickUp Line to giveaway a brand new Kindle Paperwhite with all its new bells and whistles.  The new Paperwhite has TWICE the storage and it is WATERPROOF.

I mean, how awesome is that??

The Pickup Line is a newsletter that can keep you informed on the headlines, help you figure out what to make for dinner, and even provide a playlist for your ride, look no further than The Pickup Line.

If you are a book reader,  you will love knowing that each week I share a book selection for moms AND a YA book selection for tweens/teens each week with their subscribers. I would love for you to subscribe over here.

SCROLL DOWN TO ENTER TODAY’S GIVEAWAY!

In honor of today’s giveaway, I’d love to share 9 cozy reads I recommend you put on it for the winter season!

The Snow Child by Eoywn Ivey

The Snow Child takes place in 1920 in Alaska where a city-bred girl Mabel and her husband Jack are trying to make a life for themselves in the isolated woods of an Alaskan farm. More than anything Mabel & Jack have longed for a child, but have remained childless and are beginning to drift apart. Mabel is in the throes of a deep depression and Jack is beginning to wonder if their decision to move to Alaska was a sound one.

One night, amid the first falling snow, Jack & Mabel have a moment of tenderness and begin playing in the snow. They decide to make a snow child and add little additions from Mabel’s wardrobe to wrap her in.

The next morning, their snow child is gone, but they begin catching the glimpse of a child running through the woods wearing Mabel’s items that were once on their snow child.  This child  of the woods contentedly runs around the forest in the freezing cold with a red fox. Mabel and Jack are left wondering…is this a real child or is this a fairy tale child that they are simply hallucinating?

This is a grown-up fairy tale that is just so beautifully written that your heart will be aching for Mabel and Jack that they can make this child that they have longed for to be their own.  I was enraptured with the story from the first page and I have a feeling you will too!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

If you are craving an escape from the holiday crazy, I can think of no better suggestion than an evening with, Seven Days of Us.

The entire Birch family must come together for seven long days to be locked down into quarantine for the holidays. Olivia, their daughter, is a doctor and has been treating an epidemic abroad and they need to insure that no germs are spread. The family hasn’t been together this long in years and, as we all do, everyone falls back into their old roles. Children become children again, parents resume fighting, and they all must learn to live with one another again.

Each of these family members is carrying a secret that holds detrimental consequences for the entire family. Told from their alternating perspectives, the chapters begin to twist together as these secrets are revealed.

Even in the predictable moments, this made for a highly entertaining read and is a great way to unwind over the holiday weekend. It made me smile in many of the same ways of some of my favorite holiday films. I think you will love this one!

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I’m not even going to lie, this novel is absolute perfection from start to finish. Never a lag, never a dull moment, audible gasps at shocking plot twists, a steamy sordid love affair…friends, THIS is unbelievable.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

As a reader, you are taken on a Dickens-esque roller coaster ride with plot twist after plot twist. I could not put this down and can’t wait to dig into more of her books now that I finally know what all the fuss is about. This book was amazing!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I really loved The Nightingale and had really been hoping Kristin Hannah would tackle another historical fiction book, but this contemporary coming-of-age story ended up being sweetly satisfying for a winter escape.

This 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.

If you are looking for book club ideas for the winter, I highly recommend this one and even share 7 tips for hosting a successful book club all around this incredible read.

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Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Described by one reviewer as Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups, my favorite book this month 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.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Winter reading is made for classics so I had to include my favorite.
This story is one of the most unbelievably beautiful, heart-wrenching, unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny in portions, make me weep in others, and heartwarming books that I have read in my life.The story is about Mary Frances Nolan (also known as Francie) and she shares the story of her life from the tender age of eleven until she turns sixteen.

Growing up as a poor girl in Brooklyn, she shares the story of the survival that they must go through to keep food on the table and the difficulties of family life when ends just don’t meet. With a mother who is doing the best she can to keep their family afloat and an unreliable, but loving father who works as a singing waiter and takes to drinking at night to cope with the realities of his life, the family lives in a tiny flat in Brooklyn where they try to make the most on the very least.

Francie is forced to be older than she is from the very beginning of her life. Often saddled with the task of bartering at the grocery store, figuring out a way to get into a better school so she can get her education, and made to get jobs to help with the family finances or assist her mother on jobs, you can’t help but admire Francie’s resourcefulness throughout the book.

The Christmas scenes, the things that the children treasured the most, the tin can filling with pennies of earnings that would later feed them, the diary entries carefully edited because of her mother who didn’t want Francie writing about her father’s alcoholism, the impractical gifts that the children gave to each other (and their mother let them) only to discover their mother was right, those feelings of first love- all beautifully captured in prose that held me and wouldn’t let me go.

While I can’t say that there is a definite plot to the story, the book is told almost in short story format sharing the daily trials and tribulations of growing up in a poor family, it really did not need a focused plot because the writing was so beautiful. 

I would say that it mainly focused on the self-discovery that Francie makes about herself and about her parents as she becomes more aware of what is happening around her and as the responsibilities later shift to Francie’s shoulders when she struggles with wanting to be an adult and support the family, but also desires to get an education.

No words can describe what a treasure this book is to read. Despite being written so long ago, the themes are still so current- the need to keep up with one’s reputation, the importance of hard work and honesty in life, the discovery that money isn’t everything, but that it does make it easier when you don’t have to focus on it, and the importance of loyalty to your family.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Does anyone else get sucked into food shows and creating comfort food in the winter season? If you are a foodie like me, you are going to love this pick!

When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.

This book is perfectly quirky in every way. The reader gets to go on a journey chapter by chapter with different narrators who are all somehow connected to an incredible little girl named Eva, that grows into a woman of major culinary talent. As with any book with changing narrators, some chapters you are more drawn into than others, but it does not take away from the quirky hilarity written in each chapter.

Being a Midwest girl, there were many references that made me feel nostalgic about my own Midwest roots as Eva’s coming-of-age story unfolds. I had a hard time putting this one down! Fans of Eleanor & Park will really appreciate the quirk in this one!

You can read my interview with J. Ryan Stradal and read more about his passion for food & the Midwest in our Sundays With Writers series.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

When winter hits, I always crave a fun holiday read and One Day in December fits the bill perfectly. If you are looking for a fun romantic read around the holidays, I would DEFINITELY snag this one (Pssstttt- it is one of the BOTM selections this month!!)

Laurie never believed in love at first sight, but one snowy day in December, she sees a man that she just knows is THE ONE. Unfortunately, the bus takes off before she can do any of the romantic things she has dreamt of wayyyy after her chance has passed her by.

She shares about this moment with her best friend, Sarah, and each of them keeps hoping that Laurie is going to run into him again so Laurie can be with the guy of her dreams.

As the holidays approach again, the two host a holiday party and Sarah couldn’t be more thrilled to bring together her boyfriend and Laurie for the first time. Wouldn’t you just know it that Sarah has found the guy of HER dreams and it is THE ONE that Laurie has been waiting for.

The story follows the three over the course of ten years as they navigate these muddy waters.

Although it was light, it has some surprisingly deep moments that make it both fun and compelling.

If, “Love Actually,” is your favorite holiday movie too, you are going to adore this read.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Dreaming of escaping the cold? How about a romantic island adventure for your stack?

I’m a sucker for a good love story and I can’t rave enough about the beauty of, Castle of Water.

In this story, a small plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific leaving two of the passengers stranded as they both washed ashore on a small island.  If you think this sounds a bit predictable, I did too, but Huckelbridge writes a story that is anything BUT predictable as the two castaways work together to try to remain alive in the face of numerous hurdles.

The writing is surprisingly witty and laugh-out-loud funny, while still giving you that ache in your heart at all they have lost. Being stranded on an island requires a writer to really drive this story with strong characters. This character development is the heart of the story as these two seem to lift off the pages.

While the ending didn’t bring all that I had hoped, it felt truthful to the storytelling and didn’t overshadow this beautiful story! Run, run, run and get this one!

It’s giveaway time with The Pickup Line. One lucky winner will receive the NEW Kindle Paperwhite!

You have three easy ways to submit entry today!

1- Leave a comment and share your favorite winter read. Don’t worry, you don’t have to choose just one, bookworms!

2- Subscribe to The Pickup Line Newsletter. Once you subscribe, just check the button that you have are part of their mailing list

3- Subscribe to the MomAdvice Newsletter. Once you subscribe, just check the button that you are part of my mailing list.

Good luck, everyone and happy reading!

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November 2018 Must-Reads

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Looking for your next great book? Check out this stack of 6 must-reads. From YA to Romance to Science Fiction. I’ve got you covered!

I can’t believe that we are closing in on our last month of reading this year.

I am on the struggle bus for December as I try to put 11 books under my belt to reach my 100 books goal, but I am determined to make it happen. If you are on the struggle bus too, this quick reads to reach your reading goals list might be the ticket for you.

This month I had the best time joining in as co-host for the Currently Reading Podcast. If you haven’t listened to this podcast before, you are in for a big treat. Kaytee & Meredith share their bookish moments and discuss what they are reading with kindness and honesty. I loved sharing about a few of the books that I had been reading as well as some tips for starting your own book club.

Speaking of book clubs, did you see that our 2019 selections have been announced?

After a month of research and gathering, I am REALLY excited about these picks and can’t wait to share them with you. My fingers are crossed that I have found a few of your new favorites for 2019!

Speaking of great books, did you know that Prime members get a book for FREE every single month BEFORE it is released to the public? Be sure to select a free book for December! You earned it!

My Usual Reminders

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!

announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in December) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page.

Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone?

Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!! (I already read TWO of these so check out the reviews below!!)

This month’s selections:

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

One Day in December by Josie Silver

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Severance by Ling Ma

This month’s special:

When you give a Book of the Month subscription as a gift this season, you’ll get a gift for yourself: one free month! We have 3-, 6-, and 12-month subscription plans available for purchase. Give a gift, get a gift! today.

I HIGHLY recommend this one as the perfect holiday gift. It has been a hit with ALL of my friends and family. It is also SO fun when a gift can be enjoyed over a few months rather than just for one day!

Also, using code NICE2MEETU, new members can get their first book for just $5.

Here are 6 must-read books I tackled in November:

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I chose  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing as my Book of the Month selection, just knowing that this would be a book that I could pass on to my husband and son. Both of us read and loved this fun science fiction debut from Hank Green.

In this story, April May happens to be roaming her way around NYC in the wee hours of the morning when she stumbles upon a giant sculpture. It is an unusual looking ten-foot-tall industrial Transformer-type sculpture, unlike anything she had ever seen before.

Her friend, Andy, happens to be trying to make an audience on YouTube so she calls him to come and film her making a video of her with it and shares how she notices that even a sculpture of this size barely catches the eye of any New Yorker that’s passing.

In the morning, April awakens to find that her video has gone viral…and so has this sculpture. You see, this sculpture didn’t just end up in NYC.  It ended up in cities all over the world and no one knows how they got there.

The story builds out from there as April tries to be the first to discover the mystery of these metal fixtures (nicknamed Carl). She isn’t the only one looking for the answers though and this becomes a contest that the whole world seems to be participating in.

My husband loved all the geeky fun in this one, but I loved the more complex moral exploration of how social media can change us and our relationships with others.

Although this one is supposed to be in the adult category of literature, it read more like a YA read to me.

This was a strong debut (what else could we ever expect from John Green’s brother?) and the ending to this one screams sequel.

Fans of Ready Player One will LOVE this fun read!

5 out of 5 Stars

One Day in December by Josie Silver

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

When winter hits, I always crave a fun holiday read and One Day in December fit the bill perfectly. If you are looking for a fun romantic read around the holidays, I would DEFINITELY snag this one (Pssstttt- it is one of the BOTM selections this month!!)

Laurie never believed in love at first sight, but one snowy day in December, she sees a man that she just knows is THE ONE. Unfortunately, the bus takes off before she can do any of the romantic things she has dreamt of wayyyy after her chance has passed her by.

She shares about this moment with her best friend, Sarah, and each of them keeps hoping that Laurie is going to run into him again so Laurie can be with the guy of her dreams.

As the holidays approach again, the two host a holiday party and Sarah couldn’t be more thrilled to bring together her boyfriend and Laurie for the first time. Wouldn’t you just know it that Sarah has found the guy of HER dreams and it is THE ONE that Laurie has been waiting for.

The story follows the three over the course of ten years as they navigate these muddy waters.

Although it was light, it has some surprisingly deep moments that make it both fun and compelling.

If, “Love Actually,” is your favorite holiday movie too, you are going to adore this read.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

I thought I might be a bit burnt out on thrillers, but I read this twisted thriller in about 24-hours, proving that I am still digging this genre.

The Other Woman has had some pretty polarizing reviews so I have a feeling that this is one that you will really love or really hate. I joined the loving it camp because it was just what I need after a busy holiday weekend and I liked the fun twists that Jones weaved into this story.

Emily meets the guy of her dreams and they fall into a fast and heavy relationship in a matter of weeks. Although she seems unsure if he really loves her, Adam asks Emily to move in with him and then to be his wife.

Although Adam is reserved and Emily is unsure where she stands with him half the time, the real issue is his mother.

This woman does everything she can to sabotage their relationship and Adam is (or pretends to be) oblivious to all of his mother’s games. From snide comments to inviting someone to her hen party (gosh, I love that party phrase so much more than the ol’ bachelor party phrase) that she had a major falling out with, Pammie will stop at nothing to make sure that the two won’t get married.

Oh, and did I mention that Emily is having feelings for Adam’s brother?

I don’t want to say too much more, but things escalate quickly and Pammie is a pretty infuriating character.

In fact, I am pretty sure I can blame my jaw pain on her this week since my teeth were clenched through almost everything she said.

Although I thought I knew where this one was going, the ending surprised me a lot more than I had expected and I found this ride, even though it was predictable at times, to be worth the wait.

If you are looking for something quick and light to break up the heavy stuff, this one just might be the ticket.

4 out of 5 Stars

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.

This book is BEAUTIFUL and I loved every bit of it.  Since so many wanted to read this one, you can catch an impromptu discussion (lead by Kaytee!!) in our MomAdvice Book Club.

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

5 out of 5 Stars

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.

5 out of 5 Stars

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

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

I really enjoyed these two authors first collaboration in The Wife Between Us so I was excited to get my eyes on an advanced copy of this one.

Guess what?

You can get your hands on it too thanks to this being one of the selections for Book of the Month.

This book kept me up until the wee hours of the night and I was completely hooked within the very first chapter.

Jessica works as a freelance makeup artist and ends up doing a job for a woman that completely changes her path. When she overhears that her client is planning to turn down a psychology study that is paying a good sum of money, Jessica decides to turn up in her spot to see if she can take her place.

In a room alone, the survey on the computer begins with, “Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?”

That is just the opening question though and the questions start to become more and more invasive.

The thing is, Jessica starts to enjoy answering these questions and since she is doing such an incredible job, the doctor conducting study asks if she can assist in further research.

The money is too good to pass up and this is how Jessica finds herself becoming more and more paranoid as she worries that things happening in her daily life are really her being tested in the study.

Jessica could never guess though just what Dr. Shields is really up to and, at times, neither can the reader.

This is a smart psychological thriller with a well-thought plot.  If you love Black Mirror, I have a feeling you will love this one as it toys with the moral compass and what happens when we choose the wrong keeper to our secrets.

5 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

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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October 2018 Must-Reads

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Check out this incredible list of 7 great books to add to your book stack. From historical fiction to dystopian, this list has you covered for your next night in!

Did we blink and head right into November? I apologize I’m a bit a late with this month’s reviews, but excited to share 7 incredible books I read in October with you.

I am hoping there are a few on this list that you haven’t tackled yet and these might be added to your book stacks this month.

I am happily chugging away at my GoodReads Challenge of reading 100 books this year. According to GoodReads, I’m just one book off pace, which I am hoping I will fix this month.

How are you guys doing on your goals?

My Usual Reminders

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 can’t believe we have almost 1,900 bookworms in this group now. Each month we chat about a book, but the real beauty is getting to talk 24/7 about books with people who love them as much as you.

announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in November) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page.

Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone?

Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

This month’s special:

New members will get a free book with code FRIENDSGIVING.

How it works: Members will pay $14.99 when they sign up for a subscription that will renew monthly.

They’ll also receive a credit for a free book at the time of this transaction (redeemable at any time). Then they’ll be renewed at the end of their second month (unless they cancel).

Here are 7 must-read books I tackled in October:

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The first book I read this month was, The Great Believers, 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!

5 out of 5 Stars

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.

5 out of 5 Stars

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Our story opens with eighty-four-year-old Florence who has fallen and is awaiting help in her room at the assisted living facility, where she resides.  She has kept many secrets that have been buried, but with her dementia, she is unable to always recall the exact details or why she feels a certain way about things.

Thankfully, her lifelong best friend, Elsie has retained her memory and is able to help Florence fill in those gaps where Florence needs it.

When a new resident arrives, Flo immediately becomes distressed, even though she can’t remember why. She is convinced that this man is there to punish her and has been doing things that make Flo look unstable. Flo is already on thin ice with the nursing home director and she can’t afford to look unfit because she will be shipped off to a facility for people who cannot care for themselves anymore.

Flo makes it her mission to try to remember just why this man’s presence is causing her so much distress and Elsie will be with her every step of the way.

Cannon does an incredible job showing the true struggle of dementia and  the beauty in having someone by our side who is able to fill in the gaps on our life.

Flo is an unreliable narrator and that unreliability makes the plot more interesting, especially as they go on a wild adventure to figure out more about this mystery man.

Be sure to have a tissue handy, this story is a beautiful one and worthy of being Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year.  It’s a gentle reminder of how we all would love to leave the world with our dignity intact.

Fans of, A Man Called Ove, are sure to love this sweet read.

4 out of 5 Stars

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.

Add this to your stack ASAP!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

I always love to read a spooky book for October and selected, The Hunger, for our October Book Club selection. This novel has been listed as one of NPR’s Top 100 Horror Novels and was endorsed heartily by Stephen King.

Many of us are familiar with The Donner Party and their infamous trek across the trails that ended in death.

Katsu decides to use this story as the framework for exploring this story deeper and adding a supernatural twist to it.

What if these people were actually being pursued by something that inevitably caused the death and destruction of these families? How would this change the story?

Katsu didn’t just put together a supernatural telling of this story, but she dived deep into reading as much as she could get her hands on to fill out this story with facts about this journey. These elements really help round out the story, along with some fictionalized motives and characters that make the story more interesting.

If you love a good dystopian theme, I have a feeling you will enjoy, The Hunger. Fans of darker suspense novels, like Bird Box, will really enjoy this story!

4 out of 5 Stars

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.

5 out of 5 Stars

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I won a copy of this book in a GoodReads giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors and I was so psyched when I won a copy of her next novel, Daisy Jones & the Six (releasing March 5th, available for pre-order). I have to say, timing this book with catching, A Star is Born, this week really could not have been more perfect. Reid has crafted a fictional band story set in the 1970’s that was so beautifully rendered that you can’t believe it is even fiction.

Daisy is the girl that every girl wants to be. She is stunning and has the ability to capture any man’s attention, sneaking out to clubs when she is just a kid, and capturing the heart of anyone her heart desires. She finds she has a knack for singing, a knack that people spend years trying to train their voices to achieve.

The Six is lead by Billy Dunne and is also getting noticed in the music world. Billy is an addict who has just discovered that he is going to be a father and he feels he needs to sow his wild oats before settling down.

When Billy & Daisy cross paths, a producer realizes that putting these two voices together could be just the ticket to make them all successful.

Told in interview format, the reader uncovers the story of Daisy Jones & the Six from their humble beginnings to their explosive endings. It’s the stuff of legends, as all good rock and roll stories are.

As a reader, don’t be surprised if you don’t find yourself thinking of these people as real people. Reid is such a wildly talented writer that it should come as no surprise that this book is just as wildy fabulous as she is.

Be sure to pre-order and read this one before you see it!

5 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

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.

September 2018 Must-Reads

Monday, October 1st, 2018

What have you been reading lately? I’m excited to hear what was in your stack this month and hoping you have a few good recommendations for October!

This month I squeezed in 7 great reads that I think you will enjoy and was excited, in particular, to share my thoughts on two buzz books that will hit store shelves tomorrow- A Spark of Light & The Dream Daughter.

You can scroll on down to read those reviews today!

I can’t tell you how much I am loving my Paperwhite this year. I am astounded at the battery life, love how much it is has helped with my eye strain, and have the best time loading it up with books from my library and those inexpensive Kindle steals.

Since it is so lightweight, I carry it around everywhere with me now!

In fact, this is the first month I don’t have a big stack of actual library books in our book bin to return.

What a time saver!

And, also…

WEIRD.

Let’s get chatting about this month’s books!

My Usual Reminders

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 can’t believe we have almost 1,900 bookworms in this group now. Each month we chat about a book, but the real beauty is getting to talk 24/7 about books with people who love them as much as you.

announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in October) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page.

Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone?

Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.

join here

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

In the Hurricane’s Eye by Nathaniel Philbrick

This month’s special:

New members will get a free book with code SUGARHIGH.

How it works: Members will pay $14.99 when they sign up for a subscription that will renew monthly.

They’ll also receive a credit for a free book at the time of this transaction (redeemable at any time). Then they’ll be renewed at the end of their second month (unless they cancel).

Here are 7 must-read books I tackled in September:

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

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

You know that magical question you get asked about who you would pick, living or dead, to share a dream dinner with? Serle decides to actually explore that in her charming novel, The Dinner List, laced with just the right amount of magical realism as she crafts a dream dinner for her main character.

If you are expecting a light read though, this one had a bit more weight to it than I had thought it would.

Sabrina arrives for her thirtieth birthday dinner and is greeted by her dream dinner attendees, all arranged by her best friend.  When we think of who would we ask to our table though, we rarely think of the dynamic that might happen between the guests and the tension that people from different sections of our past can bring with them.

Sabrina’s list includes several important people from her past…

Oh, and Audrey Hepburn.

I mean, why not?

We are talking about our dream dinner, right?

Through the alternating chapters, we really learn more about Sabrina’s love of her life, Tobias, and the struggles of staying together through the for better or worse of our relationships.

In particular, Serle does a great job exploring the resentment and difficulties that can be had when sacrifices must be made to stay together.

4 out of 5 Stars

Lies by T.M. Logan

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

It was an honor to get to partner up with St. Martin’s Press to share about this fun new thriller this month. Be sure to check out that post (along with a delicious Candy Apple Martini to pair this one with)!

If you haven’t yet heard of T.M. Logan it is because he is making his debut this month with, “Lies.”

Logan is a seasoned writer who has worked as a national newspaper journalist.

This is why, perhaps, this book does not seem like a debut at all.

In this story, our lead character, Joe Lynch, is driving home from work with his young son. He happens to see his wife’s car ahead of him and decides to follow her and ends up witnessing a secret rendezvous with another man.

This encounter threatens to tear the two families apart and Joe finds that he is being set up for a murder that he never committed.

If you are a fan of Peter Swanson’s writing, I have a feeling you are going to absolutely love this thriller.

Logan expertly weaves the plot of this story so well that you will find yourself questioning just who is innocent and who is guilty.

Even more than that though, we all know that a satisfying thriller has a twisty conclusion that we don’t see coming and Logan not only keeps the reader on their toes throughout the story, but he also manages to add smart twists that even a seasoned thriller reader just won’t expect.

The author really goes to great lengths to help us explore the question, can we ever really trust those closest to us?

I absolutely loved this thriller and finished it in a single day.

4 out of 5 Stars

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

I received an advanced reader of this novel from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Picoult’s latest is definitely one of those buzz books that many people have been looking forward to, including myself. I wanted to be sure to read this one early so I could share my thoughts with you on it!

In this novel, patients and staff are held hostage in an abortion clinic by a distraught gunman. As a hostage negotiator struggles to negotiate with this man, he later discovers that his daughter also happens to be one of the hostages. This situation becomes all-too-personal, but he refuses to allow anyone else to take the case over, especially after building trust and dialogue with the shooter.

As is her signature, the story is told through all the different viewpoints from someone who is protesting the clinic, someone who has just undergone an abortion, a doctor who performs the abortions, and a girl who just picked the wrong day to get birth control. With eight different viewpoints, the topic of pro-life and pro-choice is addressed from all different angles.

Picoult decides to tell this story in reverse chronological order which sometimes works (like this book, for example), but  can also sometimes create a bit of confusion and disconnection to characters for their readers. Since we open with the conclusion, I felt less vested in this story than I had hoped to be.

I  have no problem with the topics of pro-life or pro-choice, but in order to create a less biased slant on the topic, I felt a bit preached to, in certain sections, for Picoult to drive home that both sides have reasons for their viewpoints.

As we have come to expect with Picoult, she does weave a trademark twist, but it wasn’t enough to redeem the confusion and disconnection I had with these characters.

Even though this book was a miss, for me, I will still read anything Picoult serves up and hope to connect more with her next novel. Regardless, I appreciate and am always intrigued by her research when writing her novels and she did a lot of research, on both sides of the table, to create this story.

I can see how this one might spark a lively book club discussion though, but with such a hot button topic, you probably want to reserve it for a group that you can engage in that kind of dialogue with and still do life with later.

Curious who Picoult wishes would read this novel? You might appreciate her answer, especially after this month.

Although I find this topic a tired one, if you are looking for a fresh take on this controversial topic, I found this documentary a bit more compelling than this novel this month.

3 out of 5 Stars

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.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

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

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!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I’m not much of a romance reader, but this one came highly recommended by our online book club so I thought I would give it a spin.

I’m SO glad I did because this was an absolutely adorable read! If you can get the audiobook of it, you really should. The narration was absolute perfection and my husband found me snickering around the house a few times while I was listening to it.  I tell you, these headphones and my fanny pack are the perfect combo for listening to great books while tackling stuff around the house.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Unfortunately, their publishing house merged and they now must work together as executive assistants to the two CEO’s of the company. Since they find each other intolerable, the two engage in passive aggressive behavior towards one another, playing mean games to pass their time.

Now up for the same promotion, the hating game has elevated…as has their frustrations with each other.

As the tension mounts, so does their attraction for one another.

The thing is, neither knows if it is still a game or if these feelings are real.

If you loved this novel, I have a feeling that you are going to be completely charmed by, The Hating Game.

Thorne really lays on the humor and creates great sexual tension in this fun debut. I giggled through so many of these two and their antics, making it the perfect little romantic comedy for any reader.

5 out of 5 Stars

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

YA isn’t for everyone, but sometimes you find that YA novel that really works for adults and for young adults. Far From the Tree is one of those kinds of books. Benway tackles the broad topic of what it means to be family through different adoption stories.

Grace was adopted and now finds herself pregnant and putting her own daughter up for adoption. After going through this heartbreaking experience, she decides that she wants to know more about her own adoption story.

It is when she begins to search for her own family  that she discovers she has both a sister AND a brother. Each of them have had very, very different upbringings and experiences with their families and Benway tells these stories with so much heart and beauty.

I don’t typically get very weepy in books, but each of these stories really pulled at my heartstrings. Grace giving her baby up for adoption and Joaquin’s struggles to find his forever family really made my heart hurt.

I loved this book and just know that you will too! I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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

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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