Amy Clark

Great Reads for Moms: March ’11 Edition

Some of my reading months are better than others, and this month was filled with a few fantastic books that I can’t wait to share with you!  I read more out of my library pile than I have in a long time and really tried to tackle some of the books that have been in my to-be-read pile for a long time.  My goal is to read one book off of my to-be-read pile each month and then tackle the newer books that I happen upon when I am at the library.

If you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

Just as a reminder, I read many more  books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! My username is momadvice and I am always happy to connect with people there too! 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.

Don’t forget to make your own commitment towards a reading challenge this year! So far I have read 14 books out of my goal for 80 books read this year. We will see if I can really make it to 80!

Without further adieu, here are four wonderful books that I recommend for this month’s reading:

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

I have heard many friends talk about this book and I have had it on my list for awhile as a book that I wanted to tackle.  The cover and the title made me think that I was diving into a book about a cookbook collector, but this book was so much more than I had expected and unlike anything I had expected.

The story follows two sisters who could not be more opposite if they tried. Emily is a CEO of an internet start-up company while Jessamine is  a free-spirited philosophy major and participating in environmental activism on the side. Jessamine falls in love with a true tree-hugger who lives a nomadic lifestyle fighting for the rights of trees while Emily finds the love of her life in another CEO of a dot com start up.

As Emily tries to make millions with her new start-up, Jessamine is happily working a used bookstore. When a customer comes in with an unusual collection of cookbooks that she would like to have appraised, it sets the stage for Jessamine to find a new passion and question her own identity of who she is and who she loves. Emily meanwhile grapples with how she can cultivate a long distance relationship and still be a success in her company. When she confesses a secret project that her company has been working on to her boyfriend (who also works in his own start-up), it sets the reader up for a suspenseful ride as Emily tries to figure out who she can trust and Jessamine figures out just who who she is.

As the two sisters are on two entirely different paths, the reader is taken on a ride along with them as the rise of the dot com happens, the fall of the stock market, the devastation of September 11th, and the realization that the sisters are more alike than they might think.

Readers may have difficulty keeping up with the sheer volume of characters in this book and the author does fail to tie up loose ends as neatly as you might hope, but you have to pride the author on the ambition of this book.

The true appeal of the book for me was how vividly Allegra was able to capture this time period and the significance of how big the dot com bomb rose and fell.  It really brought back so many memories of the start-ups that my husband & I both ventured into when we first were married.  Anyone who survived the dot com bomb will have a true appreciation for this read!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

I happened upon this book in an Oprah book list and couldn’t wait to pick this one up at our library.  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.

The story is beautifully woven together as the reader struggles with what they might do as parents and hoping that Wayne can find an identity and a world that will be accepting of him…or her.

This is a book that would make a fabulous book club book and would lend itself to really great discussion!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

If you have not read The Weight of Silence, be sure to check out my review on Heather Gudenkauf’s first novel.  Gudenkauf is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and her second novel is filled with suspense, fabulous plot twists, and a great storyline that I devoured in just two days!  Her books, to me, are like a really suspenseful movie and what I was so fond of in Jodi Picoult’s earlier books.

Allison Green was not the typical teenager, but a golden child who excelled at everything she ever did. Straight A’s, beautiful, and a strong soccer player, she seemed to have everything going for her. In a mistake that would forever alter her existence, and even cause her parents to disown her, Allison Green is accused of murder and spends five years serving a ten year sentence.  Her reputation is marred forever, but it isn’t the only reputation to be marred.

Allison’s sister, Brynn, was constantly in the shadow of her sister and never got any attention from her parents. Living in a small town and having your sister accused of murder is social suicide for Brynn, who has lost all of her friends because of her sister’s mistake. When Allison is released early for good behavior, she is the first to be called by Allison.  Brynn won’t take her calls and finds the new existence she has created at college once again is clouded by her sister’s past.

The two sister’s worlds are about to collide as the secret of one little boy threatens three families and the reader will be shocked at the twisted web that Gudenkauf  successfully spins, weaving an unlikely set of characters together and a suspenseful satisfying ending that will leave you begging for more!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

Shelter Me,” was one of my favorite reads last year and was a book that I immediately became enchanted with.  I was hoping to be just as enchanted with Fay’s latest release, but it fell a little short.  That being said, I still love her writing and loved this book, just not as much as her first book.

Dana Stellgarten is newly divorced and has found herself dealing with issues that she never thought she would have to deal with- a bulimic daughter, a moody son, a Goth teenage niece who has come to live with them, and a very tight money situation thanks to her ex-husband’s lack of sales.

As Dana’s world seems to be crashing in on her from all angles, Dana must try to find out who she really is without her husband and learn to solve the families problems on her own.  The story builds as Dana finds a job to help support her family and then must learn to juggle the needs of her children with her own needs- for love, for friendship, and the money to keep their family afloat.

Dana’s most surprising discovery though is that it is just as hard to make true friends in your middle age as it is when you are a teenager. As her daughter’s eating disorder stems from wanting to fit in with the cool girls at school, Dana finds herself being reeled in by the town’s queen bee and compromising what feels good to her to make friends.  Both Dana & her daughter must learn what really will ultimately make them happy, and find that place within themselves.

Readers will be in for a bumpy ride as you go on the journey of Dana’s love life after divorce, but the message that we all have to find that “deep down true” place, no matter how old we get, will really resonate with readers. The takeaway message was a beautiful one, but the everyday minutiae to get there might be why the book wasn’t a knockout for me like, “Shelter Me.”

(MomAdvice Rating- 3  1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!

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!

What has been in your book stack this month? Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above! I love getting new suggestions for my book pile!

Published March 22, 2011 by:

Amy Clark

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

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