Amy Clark

Great Reads for Moms: February ’10 Edition & a Giveaway

Sorry! This giveaway is now closed! We would like to congratulate Jodi (Commenter #3) on winning this great prize from BookSwim. Happy reading, Jodi!

I am so excited to share about another month of great reading for moms and to also get the opportunity to couple it with a giveaway on our blog. Despite our life being in constant chaos last month, I still got a chance to read five great books to share with all of you. I am sure having the television being inoperable for three weeks definitely helped boost more reading time for me!

These days, you will find me in the evening with some decaf coffee in my little French press and a library book in my hands. There is no better way to spend an evening than with a big stack of library books and a warm drink.

I am really looking forward to the weather warming up so I can spend it wrapped in a blanket and sitting outside in a wicker chair by our little fire pit. Spring just can’t come soon enough to Indiana!

Without further adieu, here are the wonderful books that I read this last month and ideas for you to add to your to-be-read piles!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-

I can admit that I was not exposed to a lot of classical literature. In my English classes, we were exposed to only excerpts of the classics, but not the full books. Maybe that is why, as an adult, I have an interest in exploring the classics for the first time. When I spotted an entire table of Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” at our local library, I grabbed a copy to attempt to read it!

Those that live in the Michiana area can participate in a unique opportunity called, “One Book, One Michiana.” They are encouraging everyone to read this classic and then will have community-centered activities and events surrounding this book. I am excited to participate in this and excited for any opportunity that encourages me to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to literature.

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. Admittedly, I had a hard time with some of the racist language and derogatory terms that were used towards African Americans during that time, but it shapes the story and makes you realize how horrible these times were.

I can’t rave enough about this book and wish I could share more in my review, but I don’t want to give away the beautiful plot, twists, and turns that you would experience as a reader if you haven’t read it!

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton-

Wednesday Sisters was a gem of a book that was reminiscent of some of my favorite books about friendship and the bonds that women have. The story followed along the vein of some of my favorite girlfriend literature like, “Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons,” and “The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood Club.” It is a book about friendship that spans the decades and shows the power of great girlfriends and the power that the written word has!

The book takes place in the 1960’s and tells the story of five different women who meet in the park one day and find a mutual interest in literature. Deciding to go against the obvious and form a book club, they decide to challenge each other and start a Wednesday Sisters group, where they would meet each Wednesday morning and share stories they had written with one another. Some take the writing assignment as a fun outlet, while others have ambitious dreams of being published and known for their writing.

While starting a writing club in this decade wouldn’t seem like a big deal, it was revolutionary in its own way because women were left with caring for the home, caring for the children, and caring for their man. Women with ambitious dreams and lofty goals were not the norm, yet as the book progresses each of these women finds their own voice and their own purpose in life.

It deals with some of the tough topics of the decade- racism, feelings about beauty pageants, women in the workplace, protests against government, and the stand-by-your-man philosophy that so many women were encouraged to do even in the face of adultery from their spouse.

As someone who writes, I found their journey through writing endearing and touching. When the women reached specific writing milestones, my heart would leap a bit knowing how each of them discovered themselves and their own potential for their lives.

While the beginning started a little slow for me, the beautiful story that developed held me to the beautiful ending and made me want to start a little writing club of my own.

More importantly though, it made me so thankful for my girlfriends and the power that women have to encourage one another toward our goals, to celebrate life’s great accomplishments, and to hold each other up when we face challenges.

Peony In Love by Lisa See-

I will admit that this book was nothing like I had ever expected and like no other book of Lisa See’s that I have ever read.

The story surrounds a self-centered Peony who has always been cared for and had everything provided for her. She has quickly approached the age of marriage and, as is customary, has been betrothed in marriage to a man that she does not know. She knows that it is her daughterly and wifely duty to be a good wife to him and has no trouble with this arrangement until the evening that she meets her true heart’s desire.

She meets this handsome poet one night during the performing of her favorite opera, “The Peony Pavilion.” She knows that it is wrong for her to even speak to the man, yet they arrange a meeting each night of the opera and she feels, for the first time, the feelings of true love. At the tender age of sixteen, these meetings are all that can she think about and she knows that she should marry this man.

In the days leading up to her wedding day, thinking of this man causes her to become sick, weak, and obsessed knowing that she cannot be with her true love. Much like the ill-fated lovers in The Peony Pavilion, her life takes a turn that the reader will never expect and her life mirrors the story told in this opera.

I wish I could say more, but to say more would reveal the twists and turn in the plot that makes this book an unexpectedly different read than what I had anticipated. It is a true look inside the ancient rituals surrounding what happens in the afterlife and how the Chinese view the importance of their ancestral heritage.

I encourage you to read the author’s notes after which helps to explain why this story must be told and the importance for all women to be able to tell their stories and poems to the world!

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline-

Jodi Picoult fans will appreciate this suspenseful book by Lisa Scottoline that gives us a glimpse into an adoptive mother’s worst nightmare. What if you found out that everything you thought about your perfectly legal adoption was wrong?

Newspaper reporter Ellen Gleeson became the adoptive mother of her little boy Will after covering a story about the sick little boy who was abandoned by his mother because of numerous health problems. The mother did not feel she could care for him and decides to make the heart wrenching decision to give him up. After his surgery though, the hospital discovers that his health problems were resolved and Ellen finds herself in love with this little boy and decides to adopt him and make him her own.

When she picks up the mail one day two years later though, she notices a missing child flier that has a little boy that looks exactly like her son. Even though her adoption is perfectly legal and the mother has signed off on all of the papers, could this little boy be the exact same little boy as the one in the flier?

Being an investigative journalist, she can’t shake the feeling that something may have been wrong with her adoption and decides to seek legal counsel to find out if she has any parental rights. When she finds that her adoption lawyer, a happy mother of three, has supposedly committed suicide she begins to wonder if something more sinister is to blame.

Ellen is sent spiraling into mysterious deaths, a fascination with the family that has lost their only son, and clues that lead the reader through this mysterious thriller. It makes you wonder as a mother what you would do if you were faced with the moral dilemma of turning the information in to the authorities and giving up what is most precious to you or harboring the secret so you can selfishly keep your little boy as your own.

It was a good solid read although, at times, very predictable. It was my first novel by Lisa Scottoline and was chosen because it was a new Target book club pick and I have never been lead astray by their choices. It was a really quick read that would be fun to take to the beach or on a family trip.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah-

Winter Garden is a wonderful heart wrenching and riveting read from Kristin Hannah that her fans will really and truly love. If you have not read Kristin Hannah before, this is a standout read that will have you spending a little time with your tissues and even giggling out loud at the dynamics of sisterhood and family.

The book is about two sisters who are as different as two sisters can be. The sensible Meredith has taken over the duties of the family business and remains the rock for her family. Her sister Nina, on the other hand, chooses to be a traveling photographer who finds great joy in the travel and the inconsistency of her life.

When their father brings the two sisters together on his deathbed, he makes them promise to take care of their seemingly unemotional and detached mother and to listen to one of her Russian fairy tales in its entirety. Neither daughter has a true relationship with their mother and both find spending time with her to be difficult.

Meredith is left to care for her mother, Anya, and quickly discovers that the task will not be an easy one. Her mother is becoming frustrated, confused, and her behavior is becoming more and more bizarre. As Meredith’s marriage and job are becoming more demanding, she is forced to put her mother in a nursing home to help her with the duties.

When Nina returns home and finds her mother in the nursing home, she insists that she is brought home where she can care for her. Nina forces Anya, a woman that neither daughter really knows, to share about herself each night through the fairytale that their father has requested that she share.

This fairytale takes the three women on a journey that none of them expect. What starts as an innocent story about a girl being swept off of her feet by a handsome prince becomes altogether too real as the story begins to unfold. It will leave the reader with her heart in her throat and shows the fragility of life and the heart of the human spirit.

Not enough great reads for you? Be sure to visit my past book highlights to add to your to-be-read pile:

Me Time: Making Your Reading Time a Priority

How to Get Back in the Groove of Reading (December ’09 Reading)

January ’10 Reads

October ’09 Reading

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

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What if I told you that you could read all of these books for free? Well, today we are offering a fun reader giveaway for the avid reader in you! There is a great innovative book program out there called BookSwim that is a book rental program to help feed the bookworms in your family.

For the past few months, I was given a trial membership to share with you the details of how it works. The best way I can describe it is that it is just like Netflix. They send you a stack of books that you can read, you read and keep them as long as you want, and then you drop them back in the mail to return them to the company. They will then ship your next round of books for you to enjoy and the process goes on from there. The plans start at $9.95 a month and up, which is exactly the same price you might be paying for a movie club.

For me, the rental plan would not make sense. My library is the mecca of brand new books and (it seems) has unlimited amount of copies of the bestsellers. When I lived in Massachusetts and had a dated library that was never stocked with current books, I would have given my left arm to have a membership to BookSwim.

Here’s who it makes sense to for me:

1. My readers with small children who don’t have time to enjoy a leisurely visit to the library and are instead keeping their children well-read rather than themselves.

2. My readers who don’t have a great library system or access to great free books.

3. My readers who want to switch out their movie club membership for a book membership that they can enjoy with their whole family.

Lucky for you, I am giving away a free membership to BookSwim to one lucky reader. We will be giving one reader a three month subscription on their 3-at-a-time book plan!

To enter to win, please do one or all of the following:

1. Leave a comment and tell me one great read you have read so far this year or why you would like to make reading a priority.

2.  Please subscribe to my blog. We are offering our readership full feed access into the blog daily and I would love to have our site becoming part of your daily routine. Leave an additional comment to let me know that you have subscribed!

3. Tell us one thing you would like to see offered on the site. I do my best to appeal to all of our readers, but if there is something special you would like to see, please let me know!

Entries will be taken through Tuesday (03/23) at 8PM EST. Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Published March 16, 2010 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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