Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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.

Pin It

Candy Apple Martini and a New Chilling Thriller

Monday, September 24th, 2018

This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. Thank you for supporting our sponsors! 

Are you looking for a way to escape the back-to-school chaos?

Lucky for you, I have the perfect thriller and cocktail to escape with this fall.

Today I’m sharing about the new twisty thriller from T.M. Logan called, “Lies,” and I’m pairing it with a new Candy Apple Martini recipe to sip while you are indulging in this suspenseful read

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.

Logan 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. It was the perfect way to unwind from the craziness of back-to-school season.

I know as moms it can be difficult to carve out time for ourselves, particularly during this time of year. The thing is, more than ever it is important to incorporate self-care activities that fill your cup too. Reading, for me, has always been my self-care outlet.

In busy seasons, I gravitate more towards the thriller genre because these tend to be fast page-turners and offer a much-needed escape during difficult parenting seasons.

This novel hit stores on September 11th and is available now for purchase. You can read the first 27 pages of the book over here.

I guarantee, you will be hooked.

 

I wanted to pair this book with a fall cocktail so today’s recipe is for a Caramel Apple Martini that you can sip while furiously flipping those pages.

This drink is a combination of butterscotch schnapps, sour apple schnapps, vodka, and cranberry juice. These flavors, once shaken together in a martini shaker or mason jar, taste just like a delicious candy apple.

To fancy this drink up, dip the rim in water and then dip it in a little cinnamon and sugar mixed together. It can then be garnished with a fresh apple to bring it all together.

I can’t think of a better pairing than a great thriller and a delicious martini.

Happy reading, friends!

Candy Apple Martini
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 martini
 
A delicious combination of butterscotch schnapps, sour apple schnapps, cranberry juice, and vodka make the perfect martini that tastes just like a candy apple. Dip the rim in cinnamon & sugar and garnish with an apple, to add those special finishing touches.
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce butterscotch schnapps
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 2 ounces sour apple schnapps
  • Cinnamon & sugar mixture
  • Apple slice
  • Martini shaker or mason jar
Instructions
  1. Dip rim of glass in a shallow bowl of water.
  2. Next, dip it in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Add your apple garnish to the rim.
  3. Add ice to a mason jar or martini shaker.
  4. Pour the butterscotch schnapps, vodka, cranberry juice, and sour apple schnapps over the ice.
  5. Shake for thirty seconds.
  6. Pour strained drink into prepared martini glass.
  7. Sip while reading, "Lies," by T.M. Logan

 

Purchase, “Lies,” HERE. You can follow T.M. Logan on  Twitter and Facebook!

This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. Thank you for supporting our sponsors! 

Pin It

53 Historical Fiction Novels To Escape With

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

53 of my favorite historical fiction picks that you won’t be able to put down! Bookmark this list for your next library visit!

I can admit that I was never that passionate about history so picking up a historical fiction novel, for the first time, made me realize just how much I had been missing. While some authors take great liberty with fictionalizing stories, there is always those grains of truth that lead me down the Wikipedia rabbit trail to discern truth from fiction. Basically, reading historical fiction took me right into my very own history lesson.

Today I wanted to share a few of my all-time favorite historical fiction novels that I believe you will be completely swept away with. I’m sharing 53 historical fiction novels that have moved me, changed my point of view, and challenged me.

Although many of these stories are laced in actual history, some of these were chosen simply for their beauty in a certain time period and how memorable they have been to me.

The best part?

You won’t be able to put any of these down.

P.S.- Love my book reviews? Be sure to give me a follow on GoodReads or join my free book club where we talk about books 24/7!

53 Historical Fiction Novels To Escape With

Those That Save Us by Jenna Blum

As most books take a heartbreaking look at what the Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust, this book focused on the survival tactics that many Germans had to employ to survive and stay alive.

This book follows the story of Anna who is under the thumb of her demanding and unkind father. Anna’s father is a Nazi lawyer who can’t seem to keep anyone on hand to help with the day-to-day maintenance of the home and makes Anna do all of the chores and care for him & his home.

When Anna believes her dog to be dying, she heads to a Jewish doctor for help and an unlikely friendship and love blossoms between the two. When the Jewish doctor must go into hiding, Anna keeps him in a hidden place in their home for as long as she is able.

When the doctor is captured, Anna must runaway as she has discovered that she is pregnant. Unfortunately following the birth of her daughter, Anna finds she must go into survival mode and ends up catching the eye of an SS officer who takes advantage of his position and begins to visits her weekly for trysts. When the officer comes, he brings with him gifts for Anna that can help keep herself and her child alive. Anna knows that if she does not give up her body to this officer that she could compromise the safety of both herself and her daughter.

As with all books that share about the Holocaust, it is not an easy read, but a memorable angle for discovering the story of survival from the German perspective.


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Our story 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 beautiful characters.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

You may know Kline from her #1 New York Bestseller, Orphan Train (don’t worry, that one is on my list too!)

One of the author’s favorite paintings is Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth. In this book she explores the story of Christina, Wyeth’s muse in many of his paintings, and what Christina’s life might have been like since the painting is so haunting.

This well-researched account of Christina and the disability she lived with was so beautifully told. The reader gets a full portrait of this woman from her childhood until her older years and many of the hurdles she went through in her life.

While, perhaps, not as heart-tugging as her first book, Kline’s astounding amount of research on the true story of Christina makes this a captivating read. Be sure to read the author’s notes because it really showcases the effort that Kline took to capture Christina.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I love when books introduce me to a time in history that I am unaware of. Set in 1945, Sepetys explores the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This ship had promised safety to over 10,000 people, even more than the well-known Titanic.

Uniquely told through the voices of four characters, all with different ethnic backgrounds, she explores a hidden time in history in a beautiful and heartbreaking way.

This is, perhaps, one of the most researched books I have read as the author traveled to over a half dozen countries to take accounts from passengers, their families, and even deep sea divers to round out her story.

Fans of The Book Thief will appreciate this tragic YA story.

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

Inspired by a real midwife who became one of the most controversial figures in Victorian New York City, Manning weaves a rags to riches story of Axie Muldoon. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.

Axie goes from orphan to midwife to lady to prisoner, and Manning creates a compelling story of what it would be to be like to work as a midwife under scrutiny of the law for your services in the mid to late 19th century.

Controversial in her services and notorious in her community for offering birth control to those who needed it, it’s an incredible journey to follow and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

A beautifully woven love story between two orphans (one being the infamous midwife, Axie) who met on the orphan train and find each other later in life adds to the beauty of this story as they create a business together as adults.

A couple of things to note with this one. It’s a long one (464 pages), but was a really incredible read that was worth diving into! Secondly, if you have strong opinions on women’s reproductive rights this one will give you a lot of food for thought and would lend itself really well to a book club discussion.

I had many opinions of my own about reproductive rights and this one really illustrates the necessity of birth control options during such an impoverished time in history.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

One of my proudest career moments was getting the opportunity to interview Anthony Doerr who became a Pulitzer Prize winning author thanks to his incredible writing in this book.

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks.

When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home.

When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance.

More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

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.


11/22/63 by Stephen King

This novel offers to you the hypothetical scenario, if you could change something in history, would you alter it and what would the consequences be if history was changed?

Jake Epping teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and is recently divorced from his wife and going through the everyday minutiae of middle-aged life. When he happens upon an assignment from one of his students, a brain-damaged janitor’s story of a childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father, it brings him to tears and he finds that he can’t stop thinking about what if his life had worked out differently.

When he has lunch at his favorite diner, the diner owner and friend, Al, shares that he has a secret portal to 1958 that he uses to time travel in the back pantry of his restaurant. He has been taking notes and following Lee Harvey Oswald to see if he can alter the JFK assassination.

His dying wish is that Jake can use his notes and actually complete the mission of killing Lee Oswald Harvey before he kills JFK.

Jake decides to fulfill Al’s dying wish and begins a new life in 1958 under the name of George Amberson. What Jake doesn’t expect is how quickly his life can become settled in this new era or how his life would change if he met his one true love?

I loved absolutely everything about this book and when I finished it, I wanted to read the story all over again. It has a beautiful love story, great suspense, and leads to the ultimate question, “Would you change history if you could?”

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing.

In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three.

Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

This book is so beautiful your heart aches. A coming-of-age story about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers.

Set in the ’60′s, the spitfire child narrator captured my heart. This story is a perfectly satisfying read that I believe anyone would love.

Once you finish the book, grab a cup of coffee and settle in with my interview with Susan Crandall– it is a fun one!

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Julia Win, a young lawyer from New York, is on a mission to find out what happened to her father. Tim Win, of Burmese origin, was a prominent Wall Street lawyer and had disappeared without a trace four years before, leaving Julia wondering if her father had been leading a double life.

One day, she finds a very old letter written in the 1940s by his father to a woman named Mi Mi in Burma. An address in Kalaw is all she needs to follow her instinct and begin a search for her father.

Once she arrives in Kalaw, she is approached by a gentle man in a restaurant named U Ba, who seems to know all about her even though Julia has never met him before. He wants to tell Julia a story… a story about her father. It is a story that confuses Julia and causes her to realize that the man she knew as her father, is not who he really was.

This is a love story that will captivate your heart with vivid imagery of a blind man falling in love with a disabled and beautiful woman. It  pulled at my heartstrings and was so moving that I still cannot stop thinking about it.


The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

There is a certain richness that comes with great Southern storytelling and this amazing book by Jenny Wingfield is laced with that type of richness I am speaking of and beautiful storytelling that you can picture just like a movie screen.

Samuel Lake, his wife Willadee (Moses), and their three children find themselves back home in Arkansas after Samuel finds himself out of work as a minister. When tragedy strikes, the family bands together in unlikely ways and find their faith is challenged to the core of even God’s most faithful.

The book offers the story of spunky Swan Lake (yes, her family did name her that), an unlikely little boy that the family takes in as their own, a town villain that has made it his life’s mission to make their family’s life miserable, and Toy, Swan’s uncle, who becomes her unlikely hero.

Each character is so vividly told with his/her own story line that Wingfield magically weaves together to create an incredible story that will stick with you long after you close the book.

The Snow Child by Eoywn Ivey

This novel 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!


A Good American by Alex George

I love to read books that sweep me quickly into their story line, whose words read like lyrics, and prose that reads as beautifully as poetry. Alex George offers a book that you will long remember that has been elegantly and eloquently crafted in a way that I had not read in many years.

“Always there was music.” The book opens with Frederick, an amateur opera singer, serenading an unlikely girl named Jette who is tall in stature and just as equal in her elegance & family upbringing.

Frederick quickly woos Jette in a whirlwind love affair and Jette discovers she is pregnant, forcing the couple to leave as quickly as possible from her family’s disapproving eyes.

The year is 1904, Jette and Frederick board a ship to New Orleans instead of their originally intended boat to New York when they discover that the boat is full.

“What’s the difference? They’re both new,” they say.

They end up settling in the tiny town of Beatrice, Missouri where we meet a cast of unlikely characters who all find refuge in this German speaking town. The book chronicles the journey of their family through prohibition, the Great Depression and the Kennedy assassination.

Despite the depth of the book and the plots it carries, it moves swiftly and is well-executed, leaving the reader hanging until the final page.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Tom Builder has lost commission on a home that he was to build and begins to roam England seeking work. As he is turned away from each job they find, their family begins to starve and his pregnant wife dies during childbirth in the woods.

Without food to give the baby, they abandon the child in the woods and Tom immediately comes into a relationship with a resourceful woman named Ellen and their son Jack who become a part of their family and help them navigate the forest life.

When Tom seeks shelter at a church his life never becomes the same again as he finds work through an unlikely fire that damages the church and then finds that his life is interwoven with the church in more ways than he could ever imagine. The building of a new church brings together unlikely characters and a determined character who threatens to destroy it all.

A story of good and evil that riveted me and one that will truly captivate you from start to finish, this book moved me and resides in the top ten books I’ve ever read.

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

This novel chronicles the life of Regret, whose name speaks volumes about how her father felt about having a daughter, in 20th century Korea. Regret has a strong desire to read and learn and through some unlikely assistance from her aunt, she makes friends with a prostitute who offers to give Regret lessons in reading.

As Regret learns, she begs her family to allow her to go to school, but her father has no desire to have a learned daughter.

When he discovers Regret knows how to read, he raises a hand to her and Regret knows that she cannot stay in their home any longer.

When she hears that prosperous Korean men that have moved to Hawaii are looking for mail-order brides, she decides that this will be the best way to get away from her traditional family. She submits her picture and is accepted as a bride, she looks forward to beginning a new chapter in Hawaii.

Prosperous does not begin to describe the men that meet these mail order brides though. Many are much older and much poorer than the pictures led these brides to believe and Regret finds herself with a field worker who has very little and expects no less than a traditional bride.

The reader gets to go on the journey with Regret as she is in a loveless marriage, as she struggles to make ends meet, as she makes friends with unlikely people, as she finds true love, and as she finds that her best friends and allies just happened to be her fellow mail order brides.

This is a beautiful tale filled with the politics and history of 20th century Korea, including well-documented research surrounding court battles and politics that were happening during this era.


The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Orphaned while aboard a ship from Ireland, a seven year-old Lavinia is taken in by the captain and placed in his kitchen to work among the servants. As a white girl, working in the kitchen and serving the master’s family is an unlikely place for her to be, but she is taken in and embraced by Belle, the captain’s illegitimate daughter.

As unlikely as it seems, Lavinia is taken in as part of the family and finds that she truly is loved by all who know her. Despite being white, she is treated like the rest of the children with the same amount of love and discipline that their own children are shown.

Unfortunately, her white skin sets her apart and she finds herself grappling with difficult situations as she grows older and who she must side with when racial situations arise. At sixteen, under the guidance of the captain’s family, she is sent away to get a proper education and to be among her own race.

Through an unlikely turn of events, she finds herself returning to the captain’s home, now in the unique role as the mistress of the home. Lavinia struggles with her new role and being in charge of instructing the staff (her own former adopted family) on the household maintenance and chores that must be done.

Her life takes one sad turn after another, as Lavinia struggles to find her place in a world that is so divided.

Likewise, Belle’s life is filled with sadness as she loves a man that cannot belong to her and is victim of abuse. Being the illegitimate child of the captain comes with no extra perks, and she works the kitchen as the rest of the staff, struggling to decide if she wants her papers to be set free, especially when her freedom comes with the price of losing the love of her life.

The Healing by Jonathan Odell

A Mississippi plantation mistress, Amanda Satterfield, loses her daughter to cholera after her husband refuses to treat her for what he refers to as a, “slave disease.” In turn of these events, Amanda begins to lose her mind and decides to take a newborn slave in as her own, taking her from her family that loves her.

She renames the little girl Granada, and begins to parade her around in her daughter’s clothing and allowing her to be part of family dinners, despite her husband and their friend’s discomfort.

Troubled not only by his wife’s mental illness, but by the plague that seems to be sweeping through his slave population, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave who is known to be a healer. When Polly sets eyes upon Granada, she knows that she has the gift and requests that Granada be removed from the home so she can shadow Polly.

Seventy-five years later, Granada is now known as Gran Gran and takes in an abandoned girl in her care.

To help the girl to come out of her shell, she shares with her the powerful story of learning to let go of the girl that she thought she was to be to the mistress, to the amazing road of being a healer herself.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Rachel Kalama is a spirited little girl who captures your heart immediately. Rachel is living a typical life of a little Hawaiian girl- she has spats with her sister, she dreams of getting out of Hawaii, and she is beloved by her family. When a rose colored mark appears on her leg, her mother pricks her leg and finds that Rachel does not react.

Rachel’s mother knows immediately that Rachel has leprosy. In fear of protecting her daughter, she covers the mark and hides other marks that appear on Rachel’s body. It is the family’s dark secret since all people afflicted by leprosy are quarantined and taken from their families.

When Rachel’s sister gets in a fight with Rachel, she calls her a, “leper,” and the authorities are immediately notified that Rachel is suspected of leprosy. When she is taken to the clinic for testing and the results come back positive, Rachel is taken from her family and moved to the island of Kalaupapa, a quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i.

Rachel’s life should be over, but it is just beginning. Rachel’s spiritedness pulls her through the devastation of losing her family as Rachel begins to find a new family among an unlikely cast of characters. She will capture your heart until the final page.

This book was so unbelievably good and fascinating that I could not put it down. What should have been a book of heartbreak has you walking away with such positivity about the human spirit and its ability to overcome tragedy.


East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This story takes place in California in the Salinas Valley, a home to two families whose lives are fatefully intertwined in many ways.

Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons replay out two of the Bible’s most memorable stories- the story of Cain & Abel and the story of Adam & Eve.

The story is so beautifully told and shockingly provocative for the time, it is said to be Steinbeck’s greatest work.  Although it took some convincing by my husband, I absolutely ended up loving this book and could not put this classic novel down.


The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer works the night shift as a baker, preparing pastries and breads until the wee hours of the morning. She is scarred physically and emotionally and prefers to work alone, but finds that she is leading a lonely life.

When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship that will forever change both of their lives.

You see, Josef has a secret that he has been living with his whole life, and he is about to ask Sage for a favor that he hopes she won’t refuse.

I wish I could say more, but this is one that I guarantee you will be thinking about and that would lend itself well to any book club discussion. This book, by far, is my favorite ever written by Picoult. It is markedly different from her other novels and showcases Picoult’s gift for research.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Brunt writes the angst and emotions of a teenage girl in an achingly beautiful way that is sure to remind you of your own youth.

Set in 1987, June Elbus is at the tender age of fourteen and her uncle (and best friend), a renowned painter has passed away from AIDS. At the time, it is still an illness that few people understand and there is much shame and secrecy about Finn’s death.

At Finn’s funeral though, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days after the funeral, June receives a package that has a note from a man named Toby, who claims to be a friend of Finn’s. He sends to her Finn’s teapot, a treasured item that June has always loved, and says that he would like to meet with her.

An unlikely friendship is forged, but it is a secret friendship that threatens her family in unlikely ways.


The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

This book is actually two stories told in alternating chapters.

Our first story is the one of modern-day Molly Ayer who is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. After stealing a beloved classic book from her local library, she is assigned community service. Through her boyfriend’s mom, she finds a job helping an elderly woman named Vivian sort through her possessions.

As they sort, Molly learns that Vivian was an orphan too. A young Irish immigrant orphan who was placed upon a train in the Midwest, just as hundreds of other children, in search of a home. The reader follows Vivian’s journey in and out of homes as she searches for the kindness of a family and a safe place to sleep.

It is a heart-wrenching tale, but Molly & Vivian are going to find a way to help each other through their unlikely friendship.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I have read every single book that Taylor Jenkins Reid has written and I have loved each of them in their own way. This book is markedly different than anything she has ever written and is an absolutely spellbinding book filled with old Hollywood glamour, celebrity secrets, and the power of real and true love.

Evelyn Hugo is an aging starlet who has decided to hire a magazine reporter to write her biography. As someone who has been very private, it is the chance of a lifetime for a virtually unknown writer to be given the story that is worth millions of dollars.

Evelyn’s love life has been something that Hollywood has often been speculated on, but no one could ever guess who captured Evelyn’s heart and how she was able, at times, to make her relationship work with the love of her life. Unfortunately, living in the spotlight often gets in the way of real living. This couldn’t be truer in Evelyn’s life and she is ready to divulge all of her secrets to Monique, in exchange for her writing her biography and publishing it upon her death.

I cannot rave enough about Reid’s ability to write real and relatable love stories. Each of her love stories has connected with me in some way and this book is no exception. I was swept away in Evelyn’s retelling of her life and Reid weaves smart plot twists in the end that I have a feeling you will really enjoy.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties.

This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land.

When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house.

Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.

As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left.

Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country, he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.

When a horrible crime is committed, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way.

Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Chamberlain weaves a fictional story about the very real North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program that was in effect from 1929 to 1975.

In this story, 15-year-old Ivy Hart, her mentally slow 17-year-old sister, and young nephew “Baby” William all live with their grandmother who is in failing health.

Jane Forrester becomes Ivy’s family’s social worker and she encounters the state program that seeks to sterilize “mental defectives,” among others with supposedly undesirable characteristics.

Through every choice she makes from then on, Jane triggers an inescapable series of events that thrusts everything either she or Ivy ever held to be true into a harsh light, binding them together in ways they do not immediately comprehend or appreciate. If you love this book, be sure to check out her prequel!

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Fans of Middlesex will really and truly love this debut novel by Kathleen Winter about the difficulties of gender identification and the beauty that can bring the genders together in this lovingly crafted finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

In 1968, in a remote seaside town in Eastern Canada, a child is born in a typical home birth with a midwife present. When the midwife, Thomasina, presents the baby to the parents she notices that the child is neither fully formed as a boy or as a girl.

Jacinta and Treadway are disturbed by the news and must make the difficult decision to decide if their child will be a boy or a girl. The mother wishes to identify the child as a girl or to not identify the child, letting the child choose his/her own gender. Despite Jacinta’s wishes, they live in a traditional home where the man is the one in charge and Treadway makes the decision that the child will be a boy.

The surgery is performed and hormones are given to the child, whom they name Wayne, and Treadway makes every effort for Wayne to identify with the masculine side of himself.

Meanwhile, in secret, Jacinta is quietly nurturing the female side of Wayne and allowing him to indulge in the things that make him happy, as long as Treadway is not privy to what is happening. Wayne has never been told that he was born a hermaphrodite and does not understand why he cannot seem to identify with the masculine side of himself, but finds himself drawn more to the female side.

When the shocking secret is discovered after a terrible twist of events, Wayne finally comes to the realization of why he has always felt like two different people. Inspired by the postcards he receives from Thomasina, the midwife who delivered him, from other countries, Wayne decides to leave his small town and see if he can figure out who he is on his own.


Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

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 just may have audibly gasped through a few of these shocking surprises!


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s in the Deep South where race and social standings are of great importance within the Maycomb community.

When lawyer, Atticus Finch, is the assigned defense to an African American charged with raping a white woman, he compromises his social standing by defending his case before the court. The entire story is told through the eyes of Atticus’ children as they try to understand what it means to be white during a time of great racism.

The story opens with Jem & Scout, Atticus’ two children, spying on their neighbor who is a town recluse and never leaves his home. The story of Boo Radley is how the children keep themselves entertained during those long summer days and Boo’s story is interwoven through the book. They are simple children that just love to fight, to play in the dirt, and who love to play pretend games with their neighbor boy.

Their entire world changes when Atticus is assigned the defense of an African American man who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell. While the Ewell family are the lowest in the white class, they are still accepted and believed more than Tom Robinson who has always been an honest and kind family man.

Everyone is against Tom even when all of the evidence points somewhere else and Atticus has to defend the toughest case of his career to a jury of white men.

The court scenes were riveting, the twists in the plot added depth to the story and characters, and telling the entire story through a child’s eyes was priceless to the story. The characters in this novel are so rich and beautifully written that a piece of yourself can identify with so many of them.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”

Hannah tells a beautiful story of two sisters who fought the war in their own ways when the Nazis invade France. It is a beautiful tale of the survival skills needed to survive during this time focusing on the missions of one sister, in particular, who joins the French Resistance and brings soldiers to safety.

While her story may seem bigger, the everyday struggles of her own sister who must house a Nazi soldier are just as harrowing.

The writing is brutally honest and unflinching at what women had to do to survive and she captures their journey perfectly.

This is, truly, a well-researched rendering of women in the war.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This novel follows Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in WWII who recently moved to Scotland with her husband. While they are out hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and awakens to find herself in 16th century Scotland.

Confused as to what has happened to her Claire’s path crosses with a Highland warrior named James Fraser that forever alters Claire’s path and begins a love story that rivals any other that you may have read.

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart it is violent and sexually charged throughout. At times I felt like I was reading a Harlequin romance novel as some of the love scenes were quite steamy, but the good in this book definitely outweighs the bad.

I read it as a standalone, but you can also dive into the entire series, if you want to progress through their love story more.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Letter format is usually not a favorite of mine, but there was something magical about this one.  Within a  few short pages, I felt attached to the characters and loved to see how this story unfolded.

This book is set both in London and in Guernsey Island and is a series of letters from Juliet, a budding author looking for a new story, and the people of Guernsey Island as she learns about their Literary & Potato Peel Society that is set up as a way to survive the occupation of the Germans set up on a whim to explain why a group of them were out past curfew.

Juliet is a hysterically funny and witty character and comes to know The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society when one of the members happens upon a book of hers and inquires if she has anymore books to share with his book group.

Juliet asks for more details about this group and the members in it and through the letters comes to know more and more about them.

After much correspondence, she decides to visit the Guernsey Island and begins a personal relationship with each of them and corresponds to her friends and literary agent about her special time there.

This one is charming!


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This book was 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. Fun fact, this is the book I hunt for at every bookstore so I can have a copy of it from its different printings!

This story is about Mary Frances Nolan (also known as Francie) and shares of her life from the tender age of eleven until she turns sixteen. Growing up as a poor girl in Brooklyn, it delves into 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 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.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

This is an endearing story about Henry Lee, a Chinese American living in Seattle, who has just lost his wife to cancer.

After he hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants were found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the book begins a journey through his life currently and flashing back to his childhood where an unlikely friendship began with a Japanese girl named Keiko that has carried with him through his adulthood.

Henry Lee’s father desires for him to have the “American dream,” and he receives a scholarship to attend an all-white private school where he can get the education he needs to succeed in America. The other students taunt him mercilessly and his only reprieve from the taunting is when he is serving food in the cafeteria.

While serving the food, he finds the only other student of minority, a beautiful girl named Keiko, and they develop a fast friendship. Unfortunately, Henry’s father wants nothing to do with the Japanese and his growing love for Keiko has to be kept a secret.

When Keiko is shuffled over to a camp, to protect the Japanese from the anti-Japanese sentiments during WWII, Henry knows that he must find a way to go to her and to be with her. Through the help of the lady on staff in the cafeteria, he scores a position working on Saturdays where he can see and be with Keiko.

Their friendship and love grow through their letters and Saturdays together and Henry is forced to choose between his family or the girl that he loves.


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Wingate shares the story of two little girls who become a part of one of America’s most notorious real life scandals of children being kidnapped and sold to wealthy families by Georgia Tann, a director of a Memphis-based adoption organization in the late 1930’s.

I was unfamiliar with the scandal or the heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their families and the tragic things they had to endure while under Tann’s horrific care.

This fictional story is built around the stories of real-life orphans and will just rip your heart to shreds.

Moving backward and forward through time, the reader gets to solve the mystery of two unlikely women with a bond that could never be broken and the granddaughter that must unravel it all, even at the expense of her family’s high society position.


The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This book was just EVERYTHING and reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorites , A Little Life. At almost 600 pages, I was worried if this book would hold my attention, but Boyne crafts the perfect boyhood friendship as it sprawls decades of time in this gorgeous and gripping saga.

You may be familiar with Boyne’s work, but I was not. I picked this book up on a whim and devoured it in just a few days.

A faithful Catholic Irish family casts out their daughter when they discover she is pregnant. Knowing she is not in a position to raise a child alone, she gives him up for adoption to his new parents…

That love to remind him that he is not their real son.

He is their adopted son.

This dark humor is layered so beautifully as the boy, Cyril, becomes dear friends with a boy named Julian. The problem is, as Cyril gets older, he realizes he has a deep and undying love for his best friend. Cyril must keep his sexuality under wraps and keep his affection for him a secret which ends up costing him a lot.

The book follows these two through the decades, beginning in 1945 and ending in Cyril’s elderly age. It finishes in the present day while tackling everything from being closeted to the AIDS epidemic to what it really means to be family.

I laughed and got a little teary-eyed following Cyril as he goes through this identity crisis and finds love.

I was really swept away in this story and Boyne builds a beautiful supportive cast.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

All children mythologize their birth… Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.”

So begins the beautiful debut novel of Diane Setterfield, a book that took me on an adventure that I did not want to end. It was a book that interweaves two stories together seamlessly with some of the most beautiful writing I have had the pleasure of reading.

Margaret Lea has led a quiet little life, working in her father’s bookshop, and being proud of a few small autobiography write ups that she has done. She has a difficult relationship with her own mother and harbors a secret of her birth that has caused her to not be able to be close to the people she loves and has always left her feeling incomplete in her life.

When a surprising letter comes from the world-famous and reclusive author, Vida Winter, she is shocked to discover that Vida has requested her presence at her home to write the untold story of her life.

She is famed for the surprising volume of books she has written in her life and is well-known the world over for her beautiful prose. Her most famous includes the book of thirteen fairy tales, that only held twelve, a mystery that has never been solved.

Even more famous though is Vida’s gift for the storytelling she has weaved for other past reporters about her life story.

She has never truly told the real story to anyone, but it is her dying wish to have Margaret write her life story for the first time.

She promises to tell Margaret the real story, provided she allows her to tell it in her own way at her own pace. There will be no jumping ahead in this story, but it is a story that she promises will surprise Margaret and that she will tell as truthfully to her as possible.

The story is unlike anything ever told and Margaret becomes enchanted with the life of Vida and how, in many ways, it has reflected her own life story and who she is.

The story is about her mother, a set of feral twins named Adeline & Emmeline, a beautiful topiary garden that holds deep secrets, and a tragic fire that changes her life forever.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The story is told through the unique perspective of Death, which adds a certain darkness to this book, as he shares the story of taking souls and the increase in unnecessary and cruel deaths during the terrifying reign of Hitler.

While so many books I have read have concentrated on all that the Jewish people had to endure, this book told their story, but also told the story of a poor German girl who is taken in by a foster family enduring poverty and the heartache of the loss of her family members.

Her moments of joy come when her adopted father teaches her how to read and she becomes engrossed in learning and reading the written word. In a time of great poverty and where books were scarce, the little girl becomes a “book thief” stealing books for these sweet moments of treasure during a time of aching heartbreak in her life.

When her adopted parents hide a Jewish young man, by the name of Max, in their basement, they form a fast friendship and this protection of this man becomes of great importance to their family.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

This novel is set in a remote Chinese mountain village where Li-Yan and her family work as farmers of tea. Li-Yan is unlike most girls because her parents do encourage her to go to school and believe that she is smart enough to concentrate on her education rather than farming.

When Li-Yan becomes pregnant with a child, out of wedlock, she decides to give her child up for adoption because it is tradition in their culture to kill these children.

Li-Yan now finds the course of her life has changed so much and the love of her life is not as he has appeared.

She courageously must forge a new path for herself and continues to buck tradition by becoming educated and cultivating her own business while never giving up hope on finding her daughter again.


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Set in the seventies, this novel 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.

Lucky for me, I got to partner on the launch of this incredible novel and share some tips for hosting a fabulous book club.


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Our story opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home. His days are spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home.

Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents.

Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.

Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression.

When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.

The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about.

Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.

More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth.


Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

There is so much to love in this story about two sisters who are separated from one another in such a sad way and how they are transformed by this experience and the war.

Set in 1940’s England, the book focuses on the bombings that happened in London, following the story of Emma Downtree who ends up losing everything in the bombs including her inability to find her sister after a series of bombs occurs in the building where their apartment resides.

This inevitably changes Emma’s entire life path leading her to a different career path, to find love, and uncovering some deep family secrets along the way.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom.

Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules.
In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect.

In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park.

In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her.

It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe.

The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.


Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Watson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly.

Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness.

As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book.

It reads like a well-versed literary classic.

I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.


The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

This novel is a sweet literary escape telling the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s.

While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home, thanks to one determined midwife.

It’s the birth of these two babies that begins to threaten and unravel the two families, particularly their mothers, as they carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

A strong debut novel rich with characters and the raw emotional impact of family secrets, it is one that you will be unable to put down, and a storyline rich with lots to chat about for book clubs.

If you prefer character-driven stories, this book is for you!

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two.

When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. When she falls in love, she receives some devastating news that sends her back home again where she must make painful choices about her future.

This is an achingly beautiful coming of age story that perfectly captures the struggles of growing up and leaving your childhood home and family.

The real challenge lies in moving away and then finding yourself back at home again and finding your placement in the world AGAIN when you are all that your mother has left.

Do you stay or do you go?

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

I have always enjoyed Leavitt’s books (you can read an interview that I did with her over here), but this book…this book is EXCEPTIONAL and, I believe, her best book yet.

When I interviewed Caroline she was working on this book and she had said, “Cruel Beautiful World was sold on the basis of a first chapter and a thirty page synopsis. It’s set in the 60s and early 70s, the time when all the free love movement was starting to turn ugly, with the Manson murders and Altamont. It’s about a 16 year-old girl who runs off with her 30 year-old hippy teacher to join the “back to the land” movement that began in the 70s, a so-called-paradise that turns into a nightmare for her.”

Who better to describe it than the author herself?

What I would like to say about it is that she carves such incredible dynamics between the sisters and the fear that she creates in Lucy, as she worries for her safety during the Manson murders, is so poignant as she is being held captive herself by the man she thought she was in love with.

These characters are written in a way that they feel so real and you can’t help but worry for each of them after Lucy disappears from their family.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Going into this one, I had no idea that this is based on the author’s own family’s Holocaust survival story. She was determined to share their story in this haunting debut, told from multiple viewpoints.

The cast of characters is vast and it took me a bit to get into my rhythm with each character, but once you get the voices down, you grow attached to each of their stories.

The story takes place in the spring of 1939 and follows three generations of the Kurc family as the shadow of the war grows closer. When the horrors of the war overtake Europe, each of these family members are thrown into different corners of the world, as they strive for survival in the only ways that they know how.

Hunter does a great job with the contrast between each of these stories.

Some family members have been dealt an easier road than others, but it doesn’t mean that the easier road doesn’t bring guilt and worry over the rest of their family.

Other family members must endure the horrors of the war and find a way to survive in treacherous living conditions and without food. It’s impossible to not be moved by these stories.

Although I have read so many books about this era, it never fails to surprise me how much I am still unaware of.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

I have read so many books about the Holocaust over the years, but I never feel like I am informed enough about the horrors and struggles that were faced during this time in history.

Once again, I find myself oblivious to those who suffered as Konar unfolds the story of twins, Sasha & Pearl, who became a part of the experimental population of twins that were known as Mengle’s Zoo, based in Auschwitz.

Many begged and falsely claimed that their children were twins to be part of Mengle’s Zoo because they believed they had been saved from certain death.

Unfortunately, these children were far from safe and became a part of tests to separate the twins from one another, both physically and psychologically. Konar explores this through these sisters, told from alternating perspectives, as they are brutally experimented upon.

How something so horrible could be written so beautifully is a true tribute to Konar’s writing.

Her writing style reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey’s writing in her beautiful book, The Snow Child, an almost magical quality even to the harshest of moments. It’s impossible to read Konar’s words and not feel deeply moved and surprised by her well-crafted language.

Beautifully told and based upon the stories of real victims of these crimes, Konar’s debut is strong and promising! You can read more about her writing process in my interview with the author.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Dana is a black woman married to a white man in the late sixties. After becoming dizzy one day, she finds herself transported to the South in 1815 when a little boy, named Rufus, is drowning in a river.

Dana saves him and this begins the first of many visits where he risks his life and Dana is pulled back into the 1800’s.

Her role as a black woman is not a free one though and she must work as a slave at the house and witnesses the true brutalities of an unkind slave owner.

Butler layers a great dimension by giving Dana a white husband and when they are transported together, he must act as her slave owner in order to keep her safe. The dynamics in these roles causes stress and doubts between the two.

If you are highly sensitive, this book is brutal in the telling of the treatment of slaves. It unsettled me a lot to read these horrific accounts, yet I know that I need to know them too.

The ending was a little strange to me, but reading through the reader guide helped me understand better the dimensions that Butler was hoping to achieve through this ending.

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

Shreve uses Maine as her backdrop and in October of 1947, a summer-long drought caused fires to breakout all along the Maine coast that killed many and destroyed their homes.

The book opens with the telling of a, truly, loveless marriage. When the fires break in Maine, Grace is able to save herself and her two children, but has no idea what has happened to her husband. Without money, a home, a husband, or even clothing on her back, she takes her children back to her deceased mother-in-law’s home and waits for her husband to return.

It’s through this experience of independence that Grace must find herself from getting a job to learning to drive to managing money. Of course, as she finds her footing, she knows that her husband may return at any moment to take it all away from her.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This novel tells the story of the post-Civil Rights movement through the eyes of three different women. It is told through the eyes of Aibileen & Minny, two African American maids, and Skeeter, a young white woman.

Aibileen is a gentle soul that is intent on offering the best care that she can give to the white children that she cares for. She feels it is her duty to make them feel as special and loved because she knows many of the mothers do not give their children the love they need. Her tender spirit and soft motherly ways instantly makes you feel like she is an old friend.

Minny is a spunky character who has trouble acting as a maid because she doesn’t really like to be bossed around. She has so much spunk and humor that you can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she will get into and how endearing she truly is as you get acquainted with her own difficult home life.

Skeeter is a young woman who desperately wants to become a writer. She gets the idea to write an anonymous book with anonymous maids who could share their story and struggles as an African American woman acting as a maid and (often) being treated unfairly by their white bosses.

When these three characters come together it is pure magic!

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Set in the late 1800’s, Lilli becomes pregnant out of wedlock and is banished from her Quaker home. She gives birth to her daughter in an institution for unwed mothers and will stop at nothing to keep her.

In order to provide for her daughter, she must work as a wet nurse, nursing a child that is not her own, to pay her bills.

Told in diary format, it is an achingly beautiful read about the unbelievable challenges of motherhood and the sacrifices that must be made to keep your child safe.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

When Anne Morrow travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. T

he two marry and in a rare partnership, at that time, Anne even becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States.

Unfortunately, she is always viewed as the aviator’s wife and not as the independent spirit she is.

Their fairytale life begins to crumble under the scrutiny, along with their devastating hardships as they work to weather them together.

Obviously there are SO MANY more historical fiction books that I would love to list, but that will have to be for another day!

I’d love to hear from you and what historical fiction books YOU have been loving! Please tell me what I should add to my stack for the next historical fiction round-up!

 

Compiled below is a list of historical fiction favorites from our bookworm readers, if this list of 53 doesn’t keep you busy enough!

Neverhome

The Marriage of Opposites

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Between Shades of Gray

Out of the Easy

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Shanghai Girls

The Alice Network

News of the World

Boat Runner

The Madonnas of Leningrad

The Invention of Wings

The Girl You Left Behind

A Gentleman in Moscow

LOVE reading? I think you will love these posts too!

19 thrillers to keep you up all night

quick reads to reach those reading goals

top ten books of 2017

7 tips for hosting a successful book club

join my book club (it’s totally FREE!!)

blind date book exchange (this is a BLAST!!)

how to consume more books this year

visit our whole book section over here

photo credit: anthony tran

this post contains affiliate links

 

Pin It

August 2018 Must-Reads

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

August 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about getting up the reviews for you! Having a busy holiday weekend complicated the timeline, but I’m here today to share about eight incredible books I read this month.

Last month was a CRAZY amount of reading, for me, and I think I had hit a wall when August started. All I wanted to do was lay around and binge on television shows and I was slogging through books at such a slow pace.

There is something to be said about moderation, isn’t there?

I’m hoping to be much more motivated this next month!

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 over 1,600 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in September) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. I am already hearing feedback that this one is amazing. I can’t wait to do a deep dive inot it.

Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone? Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.

Book of the Month join here

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

November Road by Lou Berney

Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar

This month’s special:

New members will get a free book with code FALLFEELS. 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 8 must-read books I tackled in August:

Rust & Stardust

 

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

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

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.

5 out of 5 Stars

Neverworld Wake

Neverworld Wake by Marischa Pessl

I became a fan of Pessl’s writing after reading, Night FilmIn fact, I recently shared that one as one of 19 chilly thriller recommendations for you to enjoy this fall.  This novel couldn’t be more different from that as Pessl dips her toes into the YA world for the first time with Neverworld Wake. I’m going to recommend this one for fans of, We Were Liars, because it explores many of the same thematics, but with a Groundhog Day twist.

Beatrice and her group of friends all have been devastated by the death of Beatrice’s boyfriend, Jim. Beatrice has been estranged from her friends, but receives an invitation to celebrate a birthday with them all. After a strained night and a near-miss car crash, they receive a visitor who calls himself, “The Keeper.” He says they are actually stuck between the worlds of life and death and that in order for them to move on, they must all take a vote and unanimously choose one of themselves to save. Given the dynamics, the reader knows that they will be in for a bumpy ride.

Stuck in time, they live the same day over and over again until they can come to a decision. Of course, the death of Jim isn’t as straightforward as it seems and that is why it is so difficult to choose who should be saved in this scenario.

Pessl invents a lot of fun stories for them as they try to do the same things over and over again, but differently. The story builds to a satisfying conclusion that helps the reader understand the motivations, but I was not enraptured with this one as I had been with her last book. I loved the concept, but found it dragged a bit through different plot points, due to the repetitive nature of the story. That said, I’ll read anything she writes and can’t wait to see what she brews up next.

3 out of 5 Stars

Jar of Hearts Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts is a book that I just could not put down this month and ticked all the boxes that are required for a twisty dark thriller. Ironically, I see that Caroline Kepnes has endorsed this book and if you are a fan of her work (OH, JOE!), you are sure to love this one.

When she was just sixteen, Angela Wong disappeared from her town without a trace. No one would have ever suspected that Georgiana Shaw, a wealthy executive rising in a pharmaceutical company, could have been involved in any way back then. The truth is though that Georgiana (nicknamed Geo) has known all along where Angela has been buried.

You see, the love of her high school life is now known as a serial killer. The two of them were the only ones that ever knew what happened to Angela and now Geo must pay for withholding evidence in the case.

Geo has learned the hard way what it takes to get ahead in life and she isn’t afraid to do that while serving time. Now the reader gets a taste of the new Geo and the sharp contrast of her teenage innocence and the boy who had captured her heart.

This book goes to some dark places and is one of those stories that keeps you up until the wee hours of the night so you can uncover all of Geo’s secrets. Hillier builds a story worthy of a sequel and, lucky for us, it is another one that has plans to be on the big screen! I can’t wait to see who will play these characters and encourage you to add this one to your stack.

5 out of 5 Stars

Tell Me Lies Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

I love a good love story, especially of the unrequited variety, but this one took unrequited to another level.

Lucy Albright heads to a small California college and is excited to embrace all the newness of friends and experiences that college can bring. It is at a gathering that she meets Stephen DeMarco. Although she is not initially charmed by him, Stephen has never had to take a no for an answer and charms Lucy right into his bed.

The thing is, Stephen is a horrible person and Lucy is just one of many conquests that he likes to play games with. His bed offers a rotating spot to whoever is available and convenient, but Stephen lacks the emotional capacity to love anyone.

Lucy will do anything to keep Stephen’s attention resorting to eating disorders, partying, and drugs to mask her depression. Lovering writes about the obsessiveness of young love in a beautiful and brutal way. Although Lucy takes things to another level, that obsessive passion is something I remember and that desire to be loved and liked no matter what. I think that is what makes this story really shine.

The story alternates viewpoints and the longer it goes on, the more I hated Stephen and the spirals he took other women on.

This is not a feel-good love story… it is a sad story of a girl who just wanted to be loved and a sociopath who doesn’t have the capacity for that emotion.

Brilliantly written, but the book left me feeling frustrated, and hoping more for Lucy and Stephen’s journeys.

3 out of 5 Stars

Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

I became a fan of Lisa Jewell after her gorgeous novel, The House We Grew Up In. I had high expectations for this novel and I was NOT disappointed. Jewell has a way of developing layered and believable family dramas and this thriller still has those elements folded in with a ten-year-old mysterious disappearance.

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter and loved by all who knew her. At the age of fifteen, she leaves one day and never comes back home. It is the nightmare of every parent and Laurel has now not only found herself without her daughter, but also in a strained relationship with her other kids and a fractured relationship with her spouse.

Just as she is beginning to move forward, the police run across Ellie’s backpack and Laurel is forced to rethink if her daughter was kidnapped or actually ran away from home. Determined to move forward, she meets an incredible man at a coffee shop and decides to go on her first day since her divorce.

He is everything she dreamed of and then she meets his daughter…and she looks just like her missing daughter.

Hang on to your hands, as Jewell cleverly unfolds what has happened to Ellie through all the different eyes of these characters. The plot is smart, the pacing is excellent, and Jewell’s writing shines.

5 out of 5 Stars

Little Broken Things

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

One of the biggest joys for me is hosting our monthly book club discussions. This month Nicole joined us for our chat about her incredible novel, Little Broken Things, and our book club members just loved it (and her!) so very much. If you haven’t joined us for a chat yet, what are you waiting for?

The story starts right out of the gates when Quinn Cruz receives a cryptic text from her sister that says, “I have something for you.” 

What she could never expect is that Nora is bringing her a frightened little girl with no explanation other than to keep her safe in her absence. Quinn has been hoping for a child of her own, but not like this. Strangely, Lucy looks an awful lot like her sister and she must question if Nora’s had a secret child that she’s been hiding from their family all these years.

While she struggles to honor her sister’s wishes, she worries just what Nora could have gotten them into and if they are all now at danger.

Baart is a gifted storyteller and shared, through our discussion, that she was able to flesh out a lot of Lucy’s character through her own adoption of her daughter. The characters are relatable and believable, most effectively in those strained relationships between mothers, sisters, and daughters.

The love is real…and so are the dynamics. 

I am often asked for recommendations on clean novels for readers and I would put this one at the top of the list. If you are a fan of Diane Chamberlain, in particular,  I have a feeling you will love novels from Nicole Baart!

4 out of 5 Stars

When the Lights Go Out When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

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

Happy publishing day, Mary Kubica! When the Lights Go Out, hits stores today and I have been hanging on to my review for the big day. Mary joined us on the site, many moons ago, to talk about her first novel and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

Kubica creates an unreliable narrator by blessing our narrator with a bout of insomnia that seems it will never end. Jessie’s mother is dying and she doesn’t want to fall asleep and miss this moment with her mother so she continues to push through her insomnia at any cost. After she passes, the insomnia becomes more advanced and begins to affect her memory and cause hallucinations. She’s unhinged in a way that alarms others, but that doesn’t stop Jessie from exploring her own secret past.

I raced through this book and had many theories on what had happened to Jessie and the mystery that she was trying to solve. It had a very Woman in the Window feel, and I wondered how much was real and how much was all in our narrator’s head.

My guesses were wrong though.

The answers, for me, ended up being disappointing although she did do it in a really great way. Kubica does put together an incredible story though and it is a tribute to her beautiful writing. I am still a huge fan, but I have a feeling that the ending will be a polarizing one.

Dismissing the outcome, this was still a book that I finished in a day and made me excited to see what Kubica will weave up for us next.

3 out of 5 Stars

Monday's Not Coming

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

I’m going on the record and saying that Tiffany D. Jackson is one of the most compelling YA writers right now. Allegedly, was just so fantastic that I wasn’t sure if she could match the strength of that book, but Monday’s Not Coming, was still a beautiful read.  I listened to this one on audiobook and recommend you do too. The narration is fantastic and helps form the voice of this character.

If a wealthy white child didn’t show up for school for weeks and weeks, someone would be checking on the family and the child. It is here where Jackson plants her feet and says, why are we not showing up for the poor black children?

Monday and Claudia are inseparable friends and it is has worried Claudia why her friend had never returned her letters over the summer and then did not show up for school. It is through Claudia’s eyes (and persistence) that she demands the adults around her to look into the disappearance of her friend, Monday. With this persistence though, comes the reexamination of Monday’s life and what disturbing things she may have chose to ignore.

If you are looking for a meaty YA, this is it. Jackson isn’t afraid to talk about teen sexuality, racism, gentrification, and child abuse. I struggled a bit with the timelines, as it jumped from different places in time, and hoped the ending would redeem it. Even with the ending, I think the plot could have been smoothed a lot with just a consistent timeline.

That said, I’m always here for whatever Jackson is dishing up. I love her brashness and her fresh examinations on these big teenage issues.

3 out of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

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 from MomAdvice.com

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.

Pin It

19 Thrillers to Keep You Up All Night

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

19 Thrillers to Keep You Up All Night from MomAdvice.com

If you are anything like me, you can appreciate a deliciously twisty thriller! I will admit, I am a picky thriller reader so today’s post is for thriller readers that do NOT desire a predictable ending, appreciate an unreliable narrator, and love to flip those pages until the wee hours of the morning. I’m sharing 19 of my favorite thrillers with you and can’t wait to hear what YOUR favorites are too.

There are two essentials that have really helped me finish those thrillers a little faster. When listening to thrillers on audiobooks, I swear by these inexpensive earbuds. I get a lot of mine in over my morning chores or even a soak in the tub with a glass of wine! The other essential is either this gadget or one of these trusty lights. Honestly, who needs sleep when there are amazing books to be read?

If you want to expand that stack, I find that this subscription service offers an excellent thriller each month and you can explore our free book club group for recommendations from my favorite bookworms.

Here are my 19 thriller recommendations to keep you up all night (and not one of them is Gone Girl- hahaha!)

The Perfect Mother The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The May Mothers are a local mom’s group that meet twice a week at the park to share their challenges with new motherhood. The ladies have yet to socialize outside of this though so they decide to meet at a hip bar in town for drinks to get to know each other better and get a break from their babies.

Winnie, a single mother, is reluctant to leave her child for the outing, but is convinced that this will be a good move to get away for a bit and relax. Her child is kidnapped though and Winnie, an extremely private person, finds that her whole life has been opened up for the whole world to see.

Though none of the moms are close, they all go to risky lengths to try to help find her son. Told from alternating perspectives, each mother is carrying a few secrets of her own and as the police begin to uncover them, they began to wonder if one of these ladies just might be involved.

I recommend this one on audiobook since the narration is so great. Although this one starts pretty pedestrian, as far as thrillers go, the smart whodunit twists are clever and well-written!

Are You Sleeping? Are You Sleeping? by Kathleen Barber

Serial fans will LOVE this fantastic debut novel that explores a fictional murder and a podcast that decides to reopen a thirteen-year-old murder case. If you are looking for a fun book to enjoy on audiobook, I HIGHLY recommend it since it reads as part novel and part podcast.

Josie has started a new life in New York and hasn’t even shared her real past with her partner. It is only when her mother dies that she has to confront her demons and one person is determined to leave no stone unturned.  An investigative reporter has decided Josie’s father’s murder is worth exploring in her podcast and her family’s old secrets are exposed, forcing Josie to deal with her past and her estranged twin sister.

I really enjoyed this one and thought the pacing was so great. It also gives you food for thought on our own obsessions with true crime and what that might be like for a family who has become the topic of exploration.

The One

The One by John Marrs

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 did I mention, 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.

The Kind Worth Killing

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

This is a book of cat and mouse, mouse and cat, cat and cat…Really, the reader just doesn’t know where this one will go and who to trust. The author does a great job of weaving narrators and twisting the plot so that the reader is left guessing up until that final page.

Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

It is no secret that I am a huge horror movie fan and, Baby Teeth,” was as incredible as any horror flick I’ve seen!

Suzette has a chronic and debilitating illness and knew that if she ever had children that it would be difficult on her body. She knows though that her husband would love to have a child and that is how she finds herself with their daughter, Hanna.

Hanna isn’t like other children though and has not spoken yet, even at seven-years-old. What Suzette had discovered though is that Hanna doesn’t need words to manipulate her father and to pit her against her husband. Hanna has been kicked out of her school for her defiant behavior and Suzette has been given the impossible task of parenting a child that she tries to love, but doesn’t really like.

When Hanna begins to talk to Suzette, it is with an accent and she claims to have been a witch. As Suzette uncovers the disturbing story, that Hanna claims as her own, Suzette doesn’t know if this possession is real or if Hanna is just a remarkably manipulative child.

Stage delivers a book that should be seen on the big screen and it was just as satisfying and fun as I had hoped.

Pretty Girls

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer- do not read if you cannot handle graphic sexual abuse or violence against women!

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

As a lover of horror films and fiction, I can say that this book is the first book that has absolutely terrified me and kept me up at with nightmares at night…and I loved it. Slaughter perfectly crafts each character so well that it is as though you are watching a film. Dark, psychologically twisted, and oh-so-evil, you won’t be able to put it down.

Bird Box

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Malerman succeeds in writing a perfectly gripping and creepy psychological page-turner that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, just as all good thrillers should!

With the creatures lurking, a woman and her two children try to flee to safety blindfolded along a river. If they see what is lurking, they die a horrific death inflicting pain upon themselves to stop seeing the horrors of what they have seen. Interweaving past (pre-creatures) and present (a post-creature world), you go along on a terrifying ride as Malorie tries to save herself and her children blindfolded, never knowing what is lurking around every turn.

I loved it and I think you will too especially if you love classic Stephen King or if you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did. Be sure to check out our interview with the author to learn more about the inspiration behind this incredible thrill ride!

Night Film

 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and was one of those books that I have to say was super fun and interactive on my iPad because of the mixed media approach towards piecing together this mystery and thriller.

Ashley Cordova, daughter of the famous horror movie producer Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

If you love a good mystery, you will love the interactive nature of this book. The reader gets to surf through web discussions, magazine articles, medical files, news clippings, and photographs to piece together the mystery.

My only critique on this one is that it was about two hundred pages too long and the build-up kind of left me feeling a defeated as to what the mystery was surrounding the death.

I still think it is an absolutely genius use of mixed media and getting to feel like a detective for a week. It was the most fun I have had with a book in a long time, but I do recommend splurging for the digital version to really enjoy those interactive features.

Self-Portrait With Boy Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon

Looking for a thriller with a plot that you probably have never considered?  Self-Portrait With Boy is also one of the most inventive plot concepts that I’ve read in a long time and absolutely captivated me.

This novel is about a struggling photographer who lives in an artist loft where she has been working on a personal photography project taking a daily self-portrait. A little boy, in the apartment above her’s, tragically falls to his death and Lu happens to be taking an image of herself when the tragedy occurs. Upon development, she sees that it is one of the most beautiful images she has ever taken and has to grapple with the decision to let this work be seen.

As the tenants grow closer together following the tragedy, she finds herself entangled in a friendship with the mother and must decide if she is going to share the image of her son with the world.

Adding to the deep moral dilemma, she is barely making ends meet and her father has to undergo a pricey surgery. It isn’t just about the fame, it’s about survival.  This image could help her become known in her field, but at what cost?

The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This is the type of book that keeps you on your toes as the plot takes you down many different rabbit trails only to realize it isn’t what you had thought all along. Aren’t those just the best?

Nellie thought she had the perfect marriage with Richard until she didn’t. Down on her luck and struggling financially to keep up, she discovers that Richard is engaged to be married again, really shortly after the end of her own marriage. Nellie becomes obsessed with this woman and talking with her and the reader is left guessing from start to finish just why it is so important that Nellie connect with his new wife.

Everything is not as it is seems, as all good thrillers should be, and this one had surprise after surprise. This dynamic writing duo really pulled together a fantastic 24-hour escape that you won’t be able to put down.

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

To set this one up,  the author’s marketing team started the hashtag #wtfthatending that you can tweet when you finish and, that, I think sets you up for an unexpected ride. As a seasoned thriller reader, I thought I had it solved and then I didn’t… And then I REALLY didn’t.

It’s impossible to talk about this book without a big reveal so let’s focus on the generic plot points and say that this is a love triangle between a gorgeous wife, her dashing husband, and the slightly frumpy secretary. When the wife decides to pursue a secretive friendship with her husband’s secretary, a game of cat and mouse begins.

Here’s the thing, the reader will never guess the cat or the mouse and I told my husband, bewildered, that I was almost finished with the novel and still clueless where it is going. And then…well, #wtfthatending.

You’ll love it or you’ll hate it and there shall never be a mediocre opinion on it. I sat in the middle for a bit, not sure what to think about it and then decided it was pretty brilliant. I will say, in the end, I appreciate that this wasn’t the same old, same old, BUT a reader must set aside a bit of reality for this genre-bender. If you want to learn more about the story behind the story, head to my interview with Sarah!

You

You by Caroline Kepnes

This book is dark, disturbing, twisted, erotic, psychotic…just try to put it down. Fans of Chelsea Cain & Gillian Flynn will love this book.

This is a twisted love story told from Joe, our obsessed narrator, who finds love in his bookshop after cyber-stalking a girl who used her credit card at his store. We watch as Joe becomes more and more unhinged as he discovers love is nothing like the books he’s read and the movies he’s watched- a fact that he is most displeased with. Twisted humor makes for laugh-out-loud moments and cleverly woven pop culture themes add a little lightness to the dark.

Lucky for you, this is the first in a trilogy so we can look forward to more antics from Joe! Be sure to check out the second book if you are hooked on Joe like I was or just enjoy this first one fully and call it done…if you can.

Be sure to check out our interview with Caroline Kepnes in our Sundays With Writers series to get the scoop behind this guilty pleasure read!

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

I don’t want to give very much away because half of the fun is the discovery of what is actually going on behind these closed doors in this captivating novel. A perfect marriage though is rarely what it seems and Jack & Grace are the perfect example of a marriage that looks beautiful on the outside, but is far different on the inside. From page one, you realize the cat-and-mouse game that Grace is in and the reader is pulled along from the first day that they met, giving you a chance to witness a rather unique marriage in a chilling way.

Please know that this one is DARK so if you prefer to keep your thrillers in the lighter mystery category, you might need to skip this intense read.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

I do love a good thriller and Bonfire is an excellent debut novel from actress, producer, and writer Krysten Ritter.

This follows the story of an environmental lawyer, Abby Williams, who has been assigned a case in her hometown of Barrens, Indiana.  She has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the company that supports and has its hand in every pie in town, to discover if any of their business practices have been causing health problems for the town’s residents.

Returning home is never easy and Abby has left behind a lot of secrets of her own and many stories of the bitchy mean girls that seemed to have it out for her. With loads of suspense the past and the present come full circle, as Abby becomes more and more unhinged and unreliable as the book’s narrator.

Fans of dark thrillers will love this gritty suspenseful page-turner. Don’t discredit this writer for her Hollywood creds, it’s definitely worth your time!

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

If you are looking for an absorbing story, you definitely will want to dive into, Watch Me Disappear.

The story centers on a mother who goes on a solo hike in the Desolation Wilderness and vanishes from the trail. Although her body is never found, they conclude that she fell to her death, never returning again to her husband and daughter.

When her daughter begins having visions of her mother, she starts to believe that she is still alive and guiding her to where she is. When she reveals her mother’s secrets to her father, her husband also becomes convinced that there is more to this story.

Prepare for a very twisted and unpredictable plot right up until those final pages. Brown captures her reader in this clever thriller and won’t let go until you have made your way through the entire spider web of mystery.

If you are looking for a fresh book club pick, I would highly recommend this one as it explores the subject of finding and sometimes the losing of our identities as mothers.

The Good Girl The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The book opens with the following words, “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. When she finds herself at a bar one night alone, after being stood up by her boyfriend,  she meets a guy. Her plans for a one-night stand quickly turns into the worst mistake of her life.

I don’t want to say anymore because the beauty in this book is those plot twists you never see coming! Once you finish though, be sure to head to my interview with Mary to learn more about her story behind the story!

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Hattie Hoffman has always spent her life dutifully doing exactly what she is supposed to.  That is why it shocks the town when Hattie is found brutally stabbed to death since no one could ever imagine something like that would happen to someone who is so perfect.

Ah, but things aren’t what they seem and Hattie has a few secrets up her sleeve that include a scandalous relationship that leave the reader guessing just who would have wanted Hattie dead more.

I really enjoyed this one and Mejia carves a few smart twists that I think you will really enjoy. It’s one of those that you just HAVE to finish in a day and if you love Shakespeare, I think you will appreciate this one even more.

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of any reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. Shocking already, right?

This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!

Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!

In a Dark, Dark Wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting to her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone. Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed knowing that someone is dead. Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would rather leave buried.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to thrillers and this one delivers beautifully.  The pacing is perfect and reads like a great whodunit mystery. Enjoy the ride and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.

To learn more about the story behind this book, be sure to read my interview with Ruth Ware!

Not enough picks? Here are a few others I have loved!

 Dead Letters

The Last Time I Lied

Allegedly

The Bullet

The Luckiest Girl Alive

Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in the Window

The Dry

The Good Widow

The Roanoke Girls

What She Knew

19 Thrillers to Keep You Up All Night from MomAdvice.com

 What thrillers kept YOU up ALL NIGHT? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comment section below! Check out what else I’m reading over here!

This post contains affiliate links

July 2018 Must-Reads

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

  July 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Well, get ready for a major brag session because I read THIRTEEN books in July.  This is a personal record for me and I attribute the acceleration on my new purchase.

I didn’t realize how motivating reading electronically would be for me, but seeing that amount of time in the corner of my reader really pushes me to keep going.

I mean, how hard is it to read just one more hour? And now that I did that, I might as well read another thirty minutes. Well, now I’m only two hours away from finishing a book. What is two hours in the grand scheme of things?

Seriously, the house is a disaster and I haven’t been making it out of my workout clothes, but look at how many books I read!

Also, that night light?

Geesh, is sleep really even *that* important?

Let me bask in my unwashed, barely dressed, dirty house smugness today.

Did I mention I read REALLY incredible stuff? I can’t wait to fill you in! This stack is, seriously, chat-worthy!

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 over 1,600 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in July) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. I understand that if you enjoyed, Big Little Lies, you probably enjoy this month’s selection.

Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone? Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.

Book of the Month

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

The Line That Held Us by David Joy

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris

This month’s special:

New members will get a free book with code HEATWAVE. 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 13 must-read books I tackled in July:

Other People's Houses

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

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

Other People’s Houses had been selected a couple of months ago as a Book of the Month selection so it had been on my radar for awhile. If you are a fan of mama drama, than I think you will appreciate Waxman’s exploration of one woman’s affair and how it impacts the people around her.

The characters are quirky and her writing is laugh-out-loud funny. As a mom, I found the book relatable as Waxman creates a lot of dynamics between the characters in this story. She also writes very frankly about the difficulties of parenting teens, which I don’t think is explored often enough in fiction.

If you just want a quick escape, pick this one up. Although the story itself was shallow, the humor outweighs the plot holes. I have a feeling fans of, Big Little Lies, will embrace this read.

3 out of 5 Stars

Limelight

Limelight by Amy Poeppel

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

Perhaps one of the best book surprises this month was Poeppel’sLimelightIf you struggled to connect with her first book (*raises hand*), I doubt you will struggle with this dishy fictional celebrity story.

When Allison Brinkley moves to Manhattan, she finds that she struggles to find her place in the big city. She can’t seem to fit in with the other parents, not to mention that she can’t fit their belongings in their very tiny apartment.

When she gets in an embarrassing fender bender at school, she ends up in an unlikely role as a personal assistant to a spoiled teen celebrity that gives her purpose (and a headache). The reader gets to follow along as Allison puts out one fire after another with a kid that is headed down the wrong path. The one fire that might consume his career though is preparing for a show on Broadway, Limelight, and Allison ventures on a quest to get him to fulfill his commitment… no matter what.

Fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing will connect with this fun escape and the peek into the difficulties of personal assistant work that just might be happening behind-the-scenes of today’s celebrities.

4 out of 5 Stars

Girl's Night Out

Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

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

Following up the success of, The Good Widow, proved to be a challenge and an inspiration to this dynamic writing duo. The writers confess that they felt pressured to deliver as successful of a book and that, in the end, it even ended up threatening their own friendship.

This is exactly what they decided to explore in this fictional friendship of three estranged friends who have some wounds to heal. The three head to Mexico to try to get past some of their difficulties and address the current decision of two of them needing to decide if they want to continue in their business together or sell it.

When one of the girls goes missing, the other two must piece together what happened to her and the mystery surrounding a local man who had decided to befriend the missing girl.

Each of them carries secrets that also cloud whether their involvement could also have been linked to the disappearance and each of these secrets is explored through their own viewpoint.

This is a fun read to pack in your beach bag and a testament to two friends who overcame their own hurdles to put another thriller out into the world.

3 out of 5 Stars

Matchmaking for Beginners

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

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

I am not much of a chick lit reader, but Matchmaking for Beginners was absolutely adorable and a fantastic summer escape.

Marnie just wants an ordinary life and she thinks she will get it when she becomes engaged to the man of her dreams. She quickly discovers though that she just can’t seem to fit in with his posh family and, at a family gathering, she finds solace in a quickly blossoming friendship with a great-aunt who refuses to fit in.

When the marriage ends, just two weeks later, Marnie is shocked to receive a letter that she has inherited the brownstone apartment from great-aunt, Blix, …on the condition she reside in the property for three months.

You see, Blix is a bit of a matchmaker and she has seen the sparkle in Marnie and the partner that she just must meet to seal her fated happiness.

I loved these dynamic characters and Dawson’s writing seems to sparkle off each of the pages. This is my first book that I have read by this author and now I can’t wait to dig into more!

5 out of 5 Stars

The One

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!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Looking for a steamy summer read? The Kiss Quotient is just the ticket!  Hoang was diagnosed in 2016 with Autism Spectrum Disorder and her own journey inspired this incredibly fun romance that is the first in a series.

Stella has Aspergers, but that doesn’t stop her parents from pressuring her to get married. Stella doesn’t know the first thing about dating, choosing to focus her time on algorithms to predict customer purchases, so she decides to hire someone to help her navigate the romance waters.

She hires Michael Phan, a professional escort, to help guide her through a lesson plan she had devised to teach her everything from kissing to…Well, you get the picture.

Before long, Stella has overcome her intimacy issues and the professional relationship starts blurring into a real one.

This reverse, “Pretty Woman,” story is wildly witty and wildly steamy.

If you shy away from romance novels (*raising my hand*) I think you will find this romantic novel a lot more satisfying than, “50 Shades,” could ever be!

Reading Challenge Completed- The first book in a new series.

4 out of 5 Stars

When Katie Met Cassidy

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

I was such a huge fan of, The Assistants, that I absolutely could not wait to read Perri’s latest nove, When Katie Met Cassidy.”

When Katie finds herself sitting across from the negotiating table from Cassidy, during a business meeting, she could never imagine how it will turn her life upside down.  In a perfectly tailored suit and with an unflappable attitude, she couldn’t be further from Katie’s traditional Southern world.

After being dumped by her fiancée, Katie finds herself heading out to have a drink alone, desperate to project her own self-assuredness in her new single life. It is there that she finds herself outside of the boardroom, and in front of the very intriguing Cassidy.

What unfolds is a beautiful love story between these two women and Katie’s own self-discovery of a secret world that she has never understood or had ever wanted to be part of.  This charming romance novel showcases, once again, Perri’s humor and heart that had me laughing out loud and loving her writing all over again.

4 out of 5 Stars

Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

It is no secret that I am a huge horror movie fan and, Baby Teeth,” was as incredible as any horror flick I’ve seen this summer.

Suzette has a chronic and debilitating illness and knew that if she ever had children that it would be difficult on her body. She knows though that her husband would love to have a child and that is how she finds herself with their daughter, Hanna.

Hanna isn’t like other children though and has not spoken yet, even at seven-years-old. What Suzette had discovered though is that Hanna doesn’t need words to manipulate her father and to pit her against her husband. Hanna has been kicked out of her school for her defiant behavior and Suzette has been given the impossible task of parenting a child that she tries to love, but doesn’t really like.

When Hanna begins to talk to Suzette, it is with an accent and she claims to have been a witch. As Suzette uncovers the disturbing story, that Hanna claims as her own, Suzette doesn’t know if this possession is real or if Hanna is just a remarkably manipulative child.

I could not put this book down and read it in a single day. Stage delivers a book that should be seen on the big screen and it was just as satisfying and fun as I had hoped. If you are looking for a great book escape, add this one to your reading wish list!

Reading Challenge Completed- A book you can read in a day.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Last Time I Lied

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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

Camp was where I spent many of my own summer days so I couldn’t wait to read Sager’s latest novel, The Last Time I Lied,” and dive into this twisted thriller about the disappearance of three girls from a summer camp.

Emma is now a successful artist who has made her fame on selling paintings of the three girls who disappeared from her cabin fifteen years ago at a summer camp for girls. She is haunted by her cabinmates disappearance so when the camp’s founder reaches out to see if she will be involved in the camp’s reopening, she just can’t stay away. While there, she is hoping to uncover more clues about the mysterious disappearances and figure out who could have been involved and taken these girls from the camp.

Ironically, she finds herself in the same cabin and begins to sense that she is being watched.  As clues begin to unfold and Emma grows closer to the answers, the girls in her own cabin go missing again and she is the number one suspect.

It is hard to craft an ending that I can’t guess, after reading so many thrillers, but Sager’s plot twists are smart and kept me guessing until those final pages. I couldn’t have enjoyed this thriller more and recommend it if you are looking for a well-written mystery!

5 out of 5 Stars

Vox

Vox by Christina Dalcher

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

I am going to guess that, Vox,” is going to be a book that a lot of people are going to be talking about this month. Hot off the heels of the success of the Handmaid’s Hulu series, Dalcher explores this same topic with a bit of a dystopian slant.

Imagine you live in a world where women are only allowed 100 words per day.  Dr. Jean Mcclellan could have never imagined that the political officials would have ever been able to pass such a law, but she now finds herself wearing an electronic bracelet where each word is counted and each word overage is punished. When the president needs her expertise to help his brother recover from an accident, where his brain speech center has suffered from disruption, she decides to leverage this to have her word count bracelet removed and utilize this opportunity to help herself and her family.

Dalcher uses her background as a linguist in a really clever way through this story. This story is a really uncomfortable one and questions our own role as women and our silence during political times. What are we doing now with our voices and what would we do if our ability to use them was taken away from us?

If you are not angry about what is happening in the #metoo world, you will be after reading this book.

This controversial story would yield a passionate, and perhaps, uncomfortable book club discussion about what is happening in politics today.

5 out of 5 Stars

Salt Houses

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

I can’t believe that we are already halfway through the year on the MomAdvice Book Club! This month’s selection, Salt Houses,” was an excellent example of another book that pushed me out of my normal reading comfort zones.

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children, along with much travel and luck.  She decides not to share these predictions with her daughter, but finds that this all comes to pass when their family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967.

Alyan ambitiously writes the story of three generations, within one Palestinian family, and how each of them views different times in history, their own displacement, and what home means to them. Her background as a poet really brings a lyrical quality to this story and challenges the reader to think about these different times in history through the eyes of this Palestinian family.

I had never even heard of the Six-Day War before, and it is stories like these that make me thankful that historical fiction exists. These stories challenge my viewpoints on many times in history and also allow the reader to see the story differently as it is told through the generations.

While I enjoyed this one, the constant shifting in narrative made it difficult to follow this story. Alyan provides a family tree at the beginning of the book and you will need it to constantly reference who each of these characters are. The story would have been more effective, for me, if it had been told through just a couple of viewpoints so I could better get into the rhythm of what was happening.

4 out of 5 Stars

Sick Sick by Porochista Khakpour

I listened to the audiobook of, Sick,” and had a lump in my throat for a good portion of this story. Khakpour narrates her own story of struggling with a chronic illness and her difficulties with getting answers on her failing body while fighting the racism of others during our tumultuous political years.

The author is an Iranian-American, a writer, and a lifelong sufferer of undiagnosed health problems. After spending over $100,000 on medical bills, she finally receives her answer that she has Lyme disease. In this tell-all, she shares about her own physical illness as well as her mental illness that is uncovered as she struggles with getting the answers and treatment she needs to move forward.

Unflinchingly, Porochista writes honestly about her addiction to prescribed benzodiazepines and how her illness strips her of  her own identity as a writer as well as her difficulties in maintaining relationships with others when she is so sick.

If you struggle with a chronic illness (or have someone in your life who does), you will nod your head through large portions of this book and how your struggles often don’t feel validated by others and the encouragements to, “just get over,” your illness. Khakpour self-destructs through large portions of this book, which can be frustrating to hear as a reader, but those times of self-destruction are often warranted when you hear her raw and difficult journey to diagnosis.

4 out of 5 Stars

Emergency Contact

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

If you are looking for a YA read that is just as sweet and adorable as, Eleanor & Park, you are going to be madly in love with this charming read.  Choi’s unlikely love story between two broken people captured my heart and didn’t let me go until the final page.

Penny and Sam both have complex relationships with their mothers  and have had their own share of struggles in love. It is when Sam is having a panic attack over the news that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant that Penny enters his life and goes from becoming an acquaintance to his, “emergency contact.” The two begin texting and it is through these texts that their relationship grows and blossoms.

The world feels against them though and they have much to go through before they can meet in person. Not to mention, Sam happens to be known as Penny’s roommate’s uncle and is the one person that is deemed off-limits.

Penny is unlike any girl Sam as ever met though…crazy about science fiction, comics, black clothing, and emergency preparedness. Sam is a down-on-his-luck barista who dreams of producing his first documentary. The two couldn’t be more alike or more different, but their humor for life is what really brings them together.

Penny is a character that a girl can get behind and she makes perfect literary sense after reading that Choi has been a writer for the Marvel comics.

This debut is absolutely adorable and a YA read that even non-YA readers will love.

5 out of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

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 from MomAdvice.com

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.

Pin It

June 2018 Must-Reads

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

June 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

There is just something so awesome about curling up with the book in the summer, isn’t there? I got a little treat for myself this week and got a better outdoor chair to park in while tackling my stack. I won’t lie, I have managed to spend the last two days in it for almost the entire day. They happened to have these outdoor chairs on sale and since I have wanted one since middle school, it fulfilled a lot of life goals.

We have a family vacation this month so I am already dreaming of what I can read for July. Is there anything more exciting than picking what you plan to read while you are away from home? Lucky for me, I’ve got several advanced readers that I can’t wait to screen for you. I am also looking forward to this month’s book club pick. Have you read it?

Today I’m excited to share the eight books I read in June and, once again, have a little something for everyone. Since I’m sharing book reviews for this newsletter, I am trying to read more YA so I have a few that might even make your kid’s stack this month.

reading chair follow my reading on Instagram

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 over 1,600 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in June) 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.

July Book of the Month Selections

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

The Girl From Blind River by Gale Massey

Beat the heat with these BOTM Summer Reads!

This month’s special:

New members will get a free book with code FIREWORKS. 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 8 must-read books I tackled in June:

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

If you love magical realism, I just know that you will adore, A Million JunesThis YA read, is a sweetly satisfying retelling of the old Romeo & Juliet story with a fresh magical spin.

When June runs into Saul Angert (quite literally) she is immediately attracted to him, despite her family’s only rule that she never ever spend any time with an Angert. Each family has its own reasons for their anger, but June and Saul find that they just can’t stay away from each other, no matter how hard they try. As Saul becomes more and more connected with June’s world, they discover that there is a way to actually see and reflect back on the past of each of their families. They are surprised to discover just how layered so many of these stories are.

This is such a moving book that showcases how grief has the ability to change and shape our memories, redefining key moments in our lives. The beauty of June’s relationship with her father, in particular, brought a tear to my eye as you see a little of the behind-the-scenes for many of his actions.

If you don’t like to stretch your imagination, this book is probably not for you. For those of us that still love a little magic in our lives, this book is an achingly beautiful treat!

4 out of 5 Stars

Hey Ladies

Hey Ladies! by Michelle Markowitz & Caroline Moss

Sometimes a book just hits me at the right time and that was the case with, Hey Ladies! This is one of those books that you will either love or hate because the eight women are completely self-absorbed. I was able to put that aside though and just enjoy the hilarity of the all-too-real challenges of female friendships.

The entire book is in email format with a few text threads and hilarious illustrations woven in and the correspondence mostly centers around the planning of one of the gal’s weddings (and all the ridiculous requests that entails). You follow these friends through their correspondence throughout the year as they write back and forth to one another through dates, breakups, vacations, and the hellish wedding planning.

I feel like the writers purposely exaggerate their annoying behavior, yet, you will still find these annoyances relatable on smaller scales with the difficulties of having a large group of friends.

The email sign-offs and correspondences were so funny that I started sending screenshots to my husband.

Is this book life-changing?

Nope.

Is it a hilarious escape?

Yes.

I loved it from start to finish really hope there is a sequel when these women have kids and have to start thinking about someone besides themselves.

Just as a side note, if you are Kindle reader, it is best served up through the app on a Fire or on your iPad because of the illustrations! I found the pictures were really small, but can be clicked to expand and opened into a new window through my Kindle app.

4 out of 5 Stars

 

 

The Cactus

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

If you were a fan of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I think that you will really enjoy, The Cactus! I really do prefer quirky characters so I was excited to dig into this story about a late bloomer that doesn’t necessarily fit in (or want to) with her peers.

Susan Green, our main character,  is struggling with the loss of her mother and her own news that she will be becoming a mother after her own unplanned pregnancy.

When she discovers that her mother’s will favors her brother over her, her world is sent into even more of a tailspin because Susan is unable to exercise any control on this situation. Since her brother gets the house in the will and refuses to move out anytime soon, she decides to take legal action against him, believing that her mother would have never changed her will if she had been coherent.

All is not as it seems though and Susan discovers that her mother has been keeping a few secrets that will change Susan’s life forever.

Susan is not a particularly likeable character so some readers may find that they struggle with a connection with her.  That said, Haywood’s debut is strong, witty, original, and well-written.

3 out of 5 Stars

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

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.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

I was on the hunt for an audiobook and asked my book club if they had a favorite and several ladies said that I would enjoy, The Perfect Mother. As always, they were right and this was a wonderful thriller to listen to this summer.

The May Mothers are a local mom’s group that meet twice a week at the park to share their challenges with new motherhood. The ladies have yet to socialize outside of this though so they decide to meet at a hip bar in town for drinks to get to know each other better and get a break from their babies.

Winnie, a single mother, is reluctant to leave her child for the outing, but is convinced that this will be a good move to get away for a bit and relax. Her child is kidnapped though and Winnie, an extremely private person, finds that her whole life has been opened up for the whole world to see.

Though none of the moms are close, they all go to risky lengths to try to help find her son. Told from alternating perspectives, each mother is carrying a few secrets of her own and as the police begin to uncover them, they began to wonder if one of these ladies just might be involved.

I am picky about my thrillers and this one delivered for a light summer thriller that had me guessing the whodunit through a good portion of this story. This is a great one to add to your beach bag this summer. The narrator also was fantastic on the audiobook, if you prefer to listen to your books!

4 out of 5 Stars

Everything Here is Beautiful

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

This month’s book club selection was, Everything Here is Beautiful, and I was really excited to dig into this one for our discussion.

This is the story of two sisters and the mental illness struggles that one of them is facing and how it impacts the other.

When their mother dies, Lucia starts hearing voices and it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. Lucia plows ahead and marries an incredible man, only to leave him and have a baby with a young Latino immigrant.

Once she has her child though, she finds that the voices are beginning again, impacting her ability to care for her child. She moves her new family to Ecuador and back again, but no matter where she is, her mental illness follows her.

If you are on the hunt for a great book to discuss with your own book club, this is such a good one. It really explores what our roles are when someone we love has a mental illness and the blurred lines of caring for them while still allowing them the freedom to make their own decisions about their health.

If you are a fan of Celeste Ng’s work, I have a feeling that this book will resonate with you. Although the story could have been tightened up a bit and trimmed, this is a really incredible debut and you can see that Lee has a true understanding about the complexities of mental illness.

4 out of 5 Stars

 

 

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

I was such a big fan of, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance (you can see my interview on this one here), so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Evison’s latest novel, Lawn BoyThis YA coming-of-age story is a great one to hand to a teen to help illustrate the struggles of our different social classes and also illustrate some of the hot button topics that are happening right now in politics.

In this story, Mike struggles to keep steady employment after a short stint working as a lawn boy for a landscaping company. His family struggles financially and they rely upon Mike to help provide for their family. Despite living hand to mouth, Mike is determined to pull himself out of the hole no matter what. Unfortunately, he faces hurdle after hurdle after hurdle to just get a good job.

This is such an honest portrait of what it is like to be poor and how every time you get ahead, you find yourself behind again. Evison does an incredible job illustrating these difficulties that helps the reader find a new empathy for what it is like to financially struggle, but he writes this story with heart and humor.

4 out of 5 Stars

Something in the Water

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Something in the Water has been on my summer reading list radar for awhile now and I couldn’t wait to dig into it. This is a REALLY hard one to review because it was such a mixed bag.

This psychological thriller starts strong with a couple on their honeymoon who go scuba diving and end up encountering a plane crash and a bag floating on the water that is filled with money. They are a bit down-on-their-luck financially, and the money in this bag has the ability to completely change their lives.  The reader is left to grapple with what they would do, if given the same scenario.

What unfolds is a wild ride and, since the book opens from the first page with the woman burying her husband, you know that everything and everyone are  not as it seems.

The plot moves along as choppily as the waters in this book (pun intended) and Steadman tries to pull together a lot of plot lines with the main character making a lot of really dumb decisions that have you shaking your head throughout the story.

If you hate an ending where you are like…wait, that’s it?!?…you might want to skip this one. Steadman’s final paragraph was a bit of a let down and the ending left a lot to be desired (for me!).

I say this is hard to review though because I really couldn’t put it down and finished it in a single day.  The plot premise was such a good one, it just could have used some smoothing out of the plot in places. Steadman shows a lot of promise and I’d still love to read her next book, with hopes that the plot will flow a little smoother next time.

3 out of 5 Stars

 

Here are 8 must-read books I tackled in June:

Amy Allen Clark

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 from MomAdvice.com

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.

Pin It

7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Book Club

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

7 tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com Thanks to my sponsor St Martin’s Press, I’m sharing about Kristin Hannah’s newest page-turner!

I joined my first book club when my children were small and I remember both how rewarding it felt to use my brain again and the challenges of carving time out to read. The beauty in being a part of that group though was that it pushed me to read books that were outside of my typical genre.

Historical fiction, for example, had never been on my radar until I joined a club.

Ironically, it is now my favorite genre.

Have you thought about hosting a book club? I have had the pleasure of hosting a local group and an online group and today I wanted to share 7 tips and strategies I’ve found for hosting a successful book club.

7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Book Club

1. Create Your Book Club Circle

Book clubs can be an opportunity to cultivate existing friendships or an opportunity to widen your net. If you don’t have an existing set of close friends, this can be a great way to get to know people from other contexts of your life.  Consider starting a group through your church, with your neighborhood friends, a mom’s group, with your coworkers,  your gym buddies, or as a way to get to know other moms at your child’s school.

Keep in mind, this club does not need to be just women either because men can add another dynamic to your book club discussions. If you have couples that you love to spend time with, for example, consider asking if they might like to meet up monthly for dinner and a book chat. I know that some of my best book discussions have happened when enjoying an evening with friends.

2.  Have an Organized Kickoff Meeting

The quickest way for a book club to fizzle out is to not have a plan and get your members involved.  With everyone’s busy schedules, it can be difficult to get a committed group and keep them committed for an entire year (or more).

In the past, our mimosa kickoff usually starts in September, once the kids have headed back to school. With a little more time in our schedules (sort of), it gives us a chance to regroup and make book selections. I ask each member to come with a book in mind and a month that they would like to host our chat. Allowing each person to make a selection and host gives everyone a chance to feel a part of things and allows the group leader to just micromanage the logistics.

7 Tips for Hosting a Success Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for Hosting a Success Book Club from MomAdvice.com

3. Pick Books That Can Sustain a Discussion

The best books that we have talked about have meat to them and naturally cultivate an incredible discussion. Books with shallow plots are probably better for your beach bag than your book club discussion.

Stumped for a book selection this year?

Can I make a great recommendation for you?

As I disclosed earlier, I am partnering with St. Martin’s Press to share about Kristin Hannah’s latest novel and I TRULY believe this is a perfect pick for your book club reading.

I , honestly, would read anything Kristin Hannah writes, but her last few books have been among my favorite. The Great Alone is a contemporary coming-of-age story that is set in the seventies in rural Alaska.  In this story, a former POW father comes home from the Vietnam War completely mentally changed from his experiences there. 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 it 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.  Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran.

As you can see, from my description alone, this has so many elements for discussion. The plot brings on the challenges of PTSD in veterans, what it is like to live with a mentally ill family member, homesteading (and if YOU could survive it), and if you would stay with your partner if they were putting your family through a potentially life-threatening lifestyle.

When I say that books have to have meat for discussion, you can be assured that there would be MUCH to talk about with, The Great Alone.

Look for books like these where the description alone showcases what kinds of ideas you could discuss in your book chats.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Controversial Plots

One thing I have worried about is picking books that have controversial plots that might make people feel uncomfortable. What has surprised me though is that these are usually our very best discussions and that it is, truly, okay to have different viewpoints.

The way I lead these discussions though is that I ask that things are said with kindness and love, even if you don’t necessarily agree with one another. In an online discussion, I can swiftly delete comments that aren’t said with kindness, but that is a bit more tricky in an in-person book club.

Even in these tricky moments though, leading by asking everyone to be kind has always been a successful way to start a thoughtful conversation and I have never had any issues after stressing this importance.

It can be scary leading a controversial discussion, but I was surprised how it changed people’s viewpoints or hearing about someone’s personal story and why it made them feel differently than me. A recent discussion of a story on immigration, for example, lead to people sharing how it completely changed their viewpoint on the deportation process.

It makes me wish we had more kind and honest talks and how they could bring compassion to our discussions.

5. Prepare For Your Discussion

Discussion questions are so helpful to have, especially when first beginning your chats. I have found that selecting books with discussion questions already in place can be extremely helpful and relieve a lot of stress on leading a talk. The Great Alone, for example, already has a great discussion outlined for you.

I try to not limit our discussions to just outlined questions though. If it is a historical fiction book, for example, it helps to look up the true stories and images from that time in history. Reading or finding author interviews that explain why the author decided to write a book can also add a lot to a discussion.

6.  Have Each Host/Hostess Decide How They Want to Host

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

7 Tips for a Successful Book Club from MomAdvice.com

I am happiest when I am entertaining our friends and family. It brings me great joy to share my table with them and feed them my food. Since this book is set mostly outdoors, I set up our outdoor table for a discussion.

It doesn’t have to be complicated though. This meat and cheese board, for example, is a fun way to share food with your book club friends without even cooking.

Sharing book club in the morning? Change the charcuterie board to a bagel board and load it with bagels and toppings.

The truth is, most people don’t love entertaining. It may bring them great stress, they may hate cooking, or they may be juggling a huge plate of craziness and can’t possibly add one more thing to their plates.

I GET IT.

Let each host/hostess decide how, where, and when works for them.

Food is not required to have a gathering.

Cooking is not required to have a gathering.

Opening YOUR home up is not required to have a gathering.

Allow each person to choose their style of hosting however or wherever they want to do it.

Book club should be fun and not stressful!

7. It’s All Too Much? Try an Online Club!

Painfully introverted? Haven’t found your people? Working full-time? New to town? Homeschooling? Single mom? Full plate?

Adding one more thing to your agenda can be an impossible task when you already have so much going on. Online book clubs can be an incredible option for someone that desires a book club, but just can’t make that happen in their day-to-day life.

You can join the free MomAdvice Book Club and be a part of a monthly discussion all year long!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone is available in stores now and is highly recommended for your next book club chat!

To learn more:

Visit Macmillan.com

Like Kristin Hannah on Facebook

Follow St. Martin’s Press on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Do you have a tip for hosting a successful book club? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks to my sponsor St Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pin It

May 2018 Must-Reads

Friday, June 1st, 2018

May 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

If you have been wondering what I’ve been reading this month, I have quite the stack for you today.

JAZZ HANDS.

I won’t even lie.

I’m feeling PRETTY smug that I read ten books in the crazy mom month of May. There were just SO many incredible books that came out this month and I’ve been so inspired to get reading thanks to all of these summer book reading lists that are coming out now. Looking for a few for your beach bag too? Stay tuned for next week’s post where I break down exactly what I think you should pack in your beach bag for 2018.

If you can’t get enough of my reviews (and missed my announcement last week!) be sure to subscribe to The Pickup Line newsletter to get weekly advice on your book reading. I am teaming up with these ladies to share one book selection for moms and one book selection for your teens every single Wednesday. Plus, you can get caught up on all of the latest headline news, grab a meal idea, and even get some cool new tunes for your car too. Score!

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 over 1,600 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in June) 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.

Book of the Month

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

❃ The Anomaly by Michael Rutger—recommended by BOTM Editorial Director Siobhan Jones

❃ The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir—recommended by Guest Judge Troian Bellisario

❃ Calypso by David Sedaris—recommended by BOTM Judge Liberty Hardy

❃ The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang—recommended by BOTM Readers Committee member Celestine Williams

❃ When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri—recommended by BOTM Judge Samantha Irby

We’re also excited to offer Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl this month. Members can add this book to their box for just $9.99.

This month’s special:

New members will get a free book with code USESPF. 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 10 must-read books I tackled in May:

All We Ever Wanted

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

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

I have come to rely upon Emily Giffin as a great summer escape and was surprised by the meat and depth that I found in her latest novel, All We Ever WantedHot off the trails of the #metoo movement, Giffin explores a fictional story of an inappropriate image that is passed around a prep school of a teen girl, passed out and scantily dressed, captioned with a racist caption below the image. At the center of the controversy is one of the most prominent families and their well-respected son who took the picture that could cost him his coveted college acceptance to Princeton. The case must be brought to trial at the school and there are more twists and turns than either of them could ever expect.

This book is EXCELLENT and I finished it in just a day. It would lend itself so well to a book club discussion as we grapple with social media and the sexualization of teen girls. Giffin crafts characters that are believable and layered. She also creates a smart and unexpected ending for this story that I think you will really appreciate.

Although I’ve appreciated Giffin’s books in the past, I have to say that this one is, by far, my favorite!

Reading Challenge Completed- A book you can read in a day

5 out of 5 Stars

The Mars Room

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Are you a fan of Orange is the New Black? If so, I have a feeling that you will really enjoy, The Mars Room, a bleak and unflinchingly real look at today’s prison system. Set in 2003, Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Romy worked as a stripper at a nightclub, called The Mars Room, and has one client who ends up stalking her. To protect herself and her child, she kills the man, has a rather unfair trial, and is sent to prison.

The story that unfolds though goes way beyond Romy’s story and explores the path of many of her fellow prisoners and how they got there. With dark and unsentimental humor, Kushner develops these incredible stories of each prisoner in such a way that you can really tell that she has done her research as a writer. The stories are often brutal, sad, and laced with truth about our broken prison system.

I listened to this one on audiobook and enjoyed Kushner’s own narration of her book. Although the material was dark and depressing, Kushner does an incredible job illustrating what prison life is like and writes these stories with such raw honesty that you can’t help but feel sympathy for so many that are trapped in the prison system.

4 out of 5 Stars

Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan

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

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is a great book to add to your beach bag this summer and priced perfectly at just $3.99! I admit, the story is not a unique one. A woman is feeling great with her basic middle-age life, when her husband tells her that he wants a divorce and is involved in a relationship with another woman. What makes this book unique though is that Maggie refuses to give into drinking and wallowing away in her sorrows and instead decides to take that trip to Rome, that she had planned to do with her husband, and do it as a single woman. Her response is what makes the book so great.

Women can find themselves at any age and this story shows that life, for sure, does not need to be over if your marriage fails. In fact, your life can be even better than before.

Let’s read more stories like these!

Reading Challenge Completed- a book with a strong female character

4 out of 5 Stars

The Good Liar

The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

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

Over the years, McKenzie has become one of my most reliable and well-loved chick lit authors. That’s why I was excited to dig into, The Good Liar, a  decidedly different kind of book. This thriller explores the story of a Chicago building explosion and the lives that have been altered for three women.

A year has passed and these women are taking part in a documentary series telling their very different stories. Cecily, for example, becomes the poster child, of sorts, for this explosion when an image of her running away from the building is leaked to the media. It is this photographer who decides to dive in deeper and there are A LOT of secrets surrounding this explosion. Kate, her best friend, has fled since the accident and is harboring some big secrets of her own.  Meanwhile, Franny, happened to catch this horror unfold on television and knows that her birth mom, that she hoped to one day meet, is killed in this explosion.

Nothing is at it seems though and these women are all protecting an element of themselves that they hope the world never knows. Some of these characters, like Cecily, are relatable and easy to love. Others, like Kate, gave me a bit of a struggle because her motivations were out of my own realms of understanding.

This is a captivating read that kept me guessing until the final pages about who would have started such a horrific turn of events. McKenzie’s own background in the law field (she still practices while writing books- what a powerhouse!) really rounds out this story in a believable and twisted way.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Little Clan

The Little Clan by Iris Martin Cohen

By far, one of my favorite books this month was, The Little Clan, and I would recommend it for a fantastic bookish escape this summer. This debut novel is about two old friends who decide to open a Victorian-inspired literary salon at an aging Manhattan arts club.

While Ava is quiet and bookish, her friend Stephanie is in the scheme for the fame and parties. This coming-of-age story really drives home the challenges of female friendships and the struggles of finding yourself in your twenties.

This  has great humor and Cohen’s sentences really shine, thanks to her exquisite storytelling. I enjoyed the pacing in this book and the smart nods to the great classics that Ava loves.  This book definitely does not read like a debut novel and it makes me excited to read more from her in the future.

Reading Challenge Completed- A book that takes place in a library

 5 out of 5 Stars

Our Kind of Cruelty

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

I love a good dark thriller and Our Kind of Cruelty definitely delivers with a psychologically dark story. From the first page, you realize that the main character, Mike Hayes, is quite unstable.  Scarred by a difficult childhood, it is clear that he doesn’t really know how relationships work and he becomes obsessed with repairing and pursuing his old girlfriend, Verity.

Unfortunately, the mental instability is crippled further because Verity likes to play games with Mike where she flirts and pursues other people. These games end when she gives the signal for Mike to intercept for an evening of fun together. That is why these games cause Mike to question if Verity’s new relationship is real or if she is continuing to play games with him.

He is definitely in to win it so the reader is taken on each cringe-worthy moment with Mike as he tries to coerce Verity back into his life, ultimately costing everyone everything.

I am struggling with the review on this one because I did finish it in a day, thanks to the great writing, but I found the plot to be really thin.  I also would read another book from this author, but I would have trouble recommending this one unless you are just looking for a quick thriller escape that doesn’t require a big investment.

3 out of 5 Stars

Rainbirds

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Rainbirds explores the idea of finding out that someone in your family is murdered and then the process of discovering who they really were. Ren Ishida was not close to his sister when he receives news that she has been violently stabbed and killed one night on the way home. She has been living in Akakawa and he decides to see if he can understand more about who she had become and figure out the puzzling mystery of her death.

He is quickly offered her teaching position at a prestigious school and even takes over the same lodging situation that his sister had, allowing him to really immerse himself into her life. Haunted by dreams of a young girl who is trying to tell him something, Ren has the chance to really delve into both their childhoods and who they have become. Goenawan’s prose is gorgeous, haunting, and beautiful. If you were a fan of Everything I Never Told You I think you will appreciate this book in the same way. The plot is not necessarily moving at a quick pace, it is just an achingly beautiful story.

Reading Challenge Completed- A book that is set in a country that’s exotic to you

4 out of 5 Stars

The Music Shop

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I had a really good feeling that I would love this month’s MomAdvice Book Club selection and I wasn’t disappointed. The Music Shopis a fun story set in the late 80’s and centers around an old record store  and it’s quirky shop owner, Frank. Frank is known for his gift of connecting the right people with the right piece of music, just when they need it most.

When a beautiful young woman, named Ilse, comes to his store asking for music lessons, Frank must put down his self-imposed thick wall and share parts of his heart with her.

In between these sweet chapters are the stories of Frank’s childhood where his mother would share the stories behind the music with him. As a reader, it pulls back the curtain on why Frank is the way he is and why he has been alone for so long.

The story is pulled together with some really adorable townspeople as they all love and support Frank and his shop. Although the ending is a bit cheesy and the plot unrealistic at times, I loved it in the same ways that I loved, A Man Called Ove, and the beauty in the storytelling of adorably quirky old men.

4 out of 5 Stars

laura-and-emma

Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead

I listened to, Laura & Emma, and I do think that maybe this just might be the reason why I enjoyed this one so much. This story, to me, read like a series of short stories and not necessarily as one cohesive piece. I also will say, that if the characters are quirky, nine times out of ten I will adore them, and  I found Laura to be oddly interesting.

Laura is the daughter of a wealthy Manhattan couple and finds herself in the family-way after a very odd one-night stand. She decides to keep the baby and raise her as a single mother with the help of her family and friends.

Greathead bounces around through this story going back and forth from the plot of these complex mother and daughter relationships to the thoughts that consume Laura regarding social class, sex, motherhood, friendship, and everything else in between.

If I read this one, I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did, but it was through listening to this and approaching it in short story format that I really begin to appreciate Greathead’s writing. If you liked Dept. of Speculation, I think you will enjoy this debut.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Electric Woman The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine

I’m such a sucker for a great memoir and can’t rave enough about, The Electric Woman. Tessa Fontaine shares two death-defying stories…her own and the incredible story of her mother who defied all predictions of death for many years after suffering a series of strokes.

Many of us dream of escaping it all, but Tessa actually does this and applies for a job working with the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling side show. Bravely, she tries all sorts of incredible acts within this company like sword swallowing, snake charming, and even performing as an electric woman. Surrounding herself with some of the world’s most unusual people, she shares their stories with kindness and love for this misfit family and her time with them.

Layered between these captivating moments, she weaves in the parallel life of her mother and her own death-defying act of traveling the world in the midst of health struggles that should have killed her. She reflects poetically on the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship and how we grow to understand our parents more and more as we age.

 5 out of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

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 from MomAdvice.com

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.

Pin It

April 2018 Must-Reads

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

April 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com I hope you all are having a wonderful week! Today I’m blogging to you from Pasadena at the Mom 2.0 conference. I realize that I’m a few days behind on sharing the April Must-Reads so I wanted to be sure to get these out to you and (hopefully!!) inspire you with a few new reads for your book stacks.

I have SO many 5-star reads for you this month and tried to add a lot of variety instead of just my typical book selections. I’m talking about memoirs, true crime, chick lit, historical fiction, and a little bit of steamy indulgence that you will definitely want to add to your book wish list.

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 over 1,600 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in May) 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.

Book of the Month

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s special:

❃ The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy—recommended by Guest Judge Jaime King

❃ The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner—recommended by BOTM Editorial Director Siobhan Jones

❃ How to Walk Away by Katherine Center—recommended by author Taylor Jenkins Reid

(READ MY REVIEW BELOW!!!)

❃ Small Country by Gaël Faye—recommended by BOTM Judge Liberty Hardy

❃ Still Lives by Maria Hummel—recommended by BOTM Readers Committee member Sarah Bedwell

This month’s special:

New members get a free book with code: YESPLZ.

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 April:

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Doesn’t everyone bring a book about a serial killer on their vacation… or is that just me?

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark ended up being an incredible read about McNamara’s obsessive search to uncover the identity of a serial rapist turned murderer and her tireless investigation to try to pinpoint the source of terror that haunted California for over a decade. McNamara, tragically,  passed away while researching this book and those that worked on the case with her (her lead researcher and a close colleague)  pieced together all of her incredible research that she did to try to solve this case.

Over the course of ten years, a violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California and then headed South, only to commit an additional  ten sadistic murders. He got away with the terror that he caused by disappearing and eluded his capture despite the best detectives in the area being on the case.

Three decades later, Mcnamara (a true crime journalist) was determined to discover his identity and spent the last portion of her career searching for answers for these victims. Her research is so expansive and McNamara leaves no stone unturned, becoming a trusted confidant of many lead investigators in this case.

If you are a true crime reader or became a big fan of the true crime podcast, Serial, this book is a definite must-read. McNamara remains grounded throughout her account while offering compassion and hope for justice for these victims. She was a gifted writer that, sadly, died too soon.

Bookending this story is an intro by Gillian Flynn and a touching afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, completing this as a captivating read that will keep you up until the wee hours.

Oh, and just in case you missed the news, he finally was captured, finally securing justice for these families.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Let Me Lie

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

I devoured I Let You Go when it debuted (you can read my interview with Clare over here) and was excited to hear that there was a lot of great buzz around her latest novel, Let Me Lie Mackintosh is proving to be quite the twist-maker, in the thriller genre, and this book is almost as twisty as her first.

In this novel, Anna has lost both her parents to an unexpected and unexplainable suicide. First, her father commits suicide and then, in an act of devotion, her mother also jumps form the same spot because she cannot go on without her husband.

It is only when Anna has a child of her own that she begins to really miss and wonder what the true motivations might have been for her mother. As she starts to explore the theory that there might be more to the story, she begins receiving threatening messages that she should stop.

As in her earlier novel, Mackintosh explores the story through may different points of view, including a retired detective who becomes intrigued by Anna’s case. Since Clare’s background is in the police field, she does a great job of creating a plausible story with just enough twists to make it fun for her readers.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Educated

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.

Move this one to the top of your book pile!

5 Out Of 5 Stars

We Were the Lucky Ones

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

We Were the Lucky Ones, has been on my reading radar for awhile and I’m so glad that I finally got to it this month. Going into this one, I had no idea that this is based on the author’s own family’s Holocaust survival story. She was determined to share their story in this haunting debut, told from multiple viewpoints.

The cast of characters is vast and it took me a bit to get into my rhythm with each character, but once you get the voices down, you grow attached to each of their stories.

The story takes place in the spring of 1939 and follows three generations of the Kurc family as the shadow of the war grows closer. When the horrors of the war overtake Europe, each of these family members are thrown into different corners of the world, as they strive for survival in the only ways that they know how.

Hunter does a great job with the contrast between each of these stories. Some family members have been dealt an easier road than others, but it doesn’t mean that the easier road doesn’t bring guilt and worry over the rest of their family. Other family members must endure the horrors of the war and find a way to survive in treacherous living conditions and without food. It’s impossible to not be moved by these stories.

Although I have read so many books about this era, it never fails to surprise me how much I am still unaware of.

Hunter tells these stories with beauty, compassion, and a lot of heart. You will find yourself attached to each of them, as though they are your own family.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Indecent

Indecent by Corinne Sullivan

After so many heavy books with equally heavy topics, I was looking for a fun escape this month.  If you are looking for a steamy beach read this summer, I think you will find that Indecent fits the bill perfectly.

With some Fatal Attraction elements, Sullivan crafts a story of a young teacher hired for a boarding school and her fascination with the popular boy at school. When he becomes interested in her, the affair escalates quickly and she will do anything to keep their relationship going with him, including risking her job and reputation.

Sullivan is able to capture these insecurities and the emotional instability of her character perfectly. The obsessive nature of this indecent affair escalates quickly and the reader gets to follow along from one juicy page to the next.

Appropriately named, this book was a fun escape if you are looking to add a steamy book to your beach bag this summer.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

How to Walk Away

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

I received an advanced reader copy from the publishing house. 

If you are a Me Before You fan, you won’t want to miss this gorgeous read this summer. As I mentioned above, this one is one of the Book of the Month selections this month and would be a worthy investment with your book credit.

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.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Lilli De Jong

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

If you haven’t joined the book club yet, you really missed out this month. Benton joined us to discuss her beautiful book, Lilli de Jong, and it was such a fantastic chat.

Set in the late 1800’s, Lilli becomes pregnant out of wedlock and is banished from her Quaker home. She gives birth to her daughter in an institution for unwed mothers and will stop at nothing to keep her.

In order to provide for her daughter, she must work as a wet nurse, nursing a child that is not her own, to pay her bills.

Told in diary format, it is an achingly beautiful read about the unbelievable challenges of motherhood and the sacrifices that must be made to keep your child safe.

I learned so much about what the role of a wet nurse really looked like and what these institutions really looked like for children during this time. Lilli is ahead of her time and this book shows just what an early feminist might look like.

You can’t help but marvel at the bravery of this character as she does all she can to save her baby. You also can’t help but marvel that this is Benton’s debut novel because the writing is so confident and eloquent.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

 

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2018 Must-Reads

February 2018 Must-Reads

March 2018 Must-Reads

April 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

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.

Pin It